Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hey Satan

I saw the pic below recently on Facebook. Apparently it passes as humor. A clever dig or putdown against Mr. Evil perhaps? Smug comments from Christians suggest they find this gratifying and reassuring, as if they had sleuthed some great truth, and boy will they have the last laugh, because other sacred texts are false, but not our bible. Just read the last chapter and there it is, baby. And of course it's true, it's the bible. It must be true. Satan might lie, but not our sweet Jesus.

Other interpretations come to mind. For example, how did the perfect, omniscient entity, the one that Jews and Christians call Yahweh, get into this cosmic pissing match with one of his angels? Heaven is marketed as a perfect place run by the perfect guy. So how does history's biggest moral crime and catastrophe, one from which we are all supposedly still suffering, happen in Heaven, of all places, with one of god's own creations, and right under god's nose?

Of course, if you insist that your god is truly omniscient, you must conclude that he knew this would happen, planned for it to happen, and indeed, wanted it to happen. Don't like the sound of that? Then he is not omniscient nor omnipotent. And he certainly is not all-merciful. And it should be clear that Satan is actually scoring some major damage. All those souls, the ones god says he loves, are really piling up, doomed for all eternity.

It is also a reminder that, according to most Christians, most of us are not going to make it to Heaven. It is not open admission, according to most believers, and only a select few will actually get past St. Peter. He'll have a list you see. Most of them will tell you, sometimes with a sneer, that god will send you or me to hell, for all eternity, according to some, though only for few thousand years, say others, because, well, god is merciful.

Even if you believed god would prevail eventually, Satan is making a good show of himself as he inflicts pain and suffering across the globe. God cannot seem to close the deal on that second coming promise. Satan makes it tough for Yahweh, what with his claims of perfection.

Talk about a Pyrrhic victory.

Now here's the fun part, the stuff they never get to in the sermons. Seems likely that at one time religious doctrine held Yahweh and Satan to be one and the same. Not literally, of course, because neither of them is literally anything; they are concepts, theological conceits. Others suggest that Satan's role had to change so all the obvious suffering in the world could be pinned on him and not Yahweh. If you dig through Christianity's epistemological backroads, you find good evidence not only that Satan has gotten a bad rap (as has Judas), but his identity as the ultimate evil demon, the supernatural bogeyman from whom only Jesus can save you, is an add-on not to be found in the earliest christian documents. The video below gives an idea of the evolution of Satan and how his role and very identity have changed over the centuries to suit theological sensibilities. And they thought we wouldn't notice.

And by all means read Elaine Pagels on the subject, perhaps The Origin of Satan, or her earlier work: Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. You might also try The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots, by TJ Wray and Gregory Mobley.

Do I need to point out that Christians have no assurance, not within the confines of their cobbled theology, that a similar disaster won't happen again? Lucifer was in Heaven, ferchristsake, and that was not good enough? Someone is going to bitch about this or that, just as Lucifer did, and then what? Another cosmic shit storm?

And for those who find the idea preposterous, remember you are the ones who insist it happened once. Your entire theological identity is tied up with Yahweh's monumental fuck up and Lucifer's fall from grace. Your reward for your devotion to Jesus is a trip to Heaven, where it all started, where you can only hope god has better controls in place the second time around.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Party's Over for Evolution

The Jesus and Mo panel below is from last year. I came across it again recently and it made me smile. It obliquely refers to a particularly inane film by the equally inane Ray Comfort, who, upon releasing his cringe-worthy affront to reason, apparently really said "kaboom", "party's over," and more. Film aside, the bearded boys accurately parody how fundamentalist christians often think. For them it is all about faith, obedience, and holding the line against secularists and their scary science. Evidence has nothing to do with it.

(Original is at

And to think, religionists still say with a straight face that there are no transitional fossils. They might try reading just one scientific text on the subject, such as Donald R. Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters; a detailed but accessible account of the many transitional fossils found so far, and evolution in general.

But they won't.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I have always considered Pat Robertson to be a hideous ass, but the video below shows him about as vapidly inane as I have ever seen him. He has been more aggressive, vicious and hateful at other times, but this segment brings "laughably wrong" to a new level. Perhaps it is his advanced age that makes him incoherently lash out at all that he hates, much like Justice Scalia, who is in his own cognitive downward spiral. If so, I would cut him, and Scalia, some slack. But if he is going to remain on TV and spout his nonsense, then he can forget it.

First, Robertson calls for a revolution. He could have stopped there, but I should have known bullshit would follow. You can seen from the video that Robertson is recounting a recent visit to his doctor. He complains that the nurse was asking him many questions, but he admits they are medically related. So the problem with this is what, exactly? The nurse should not be asking you such questions? Really, Pat?

And she, the nurse, was typing the answers into a computer, and thus, a database. What are you saying, Pat? That she should not bother to record the data? And it took a long time, what with all those questions and all that typing? Perhaps medical professionals should skip asking and recording medically relevant information? Because you know better, Pat?

The implication I draw is that Robertson wants us to think his horrific experience was the direct result of Obamacare. He wants you to feel the Affordable Care Act has created new levels of big-government intrusiveness while draining him of his last bit of freedom. Apparently even the omniscient power of his ever-loving god is not enough to save us. I thought we were supposed to pray and leave everything to god, who knows best and always guides us, never lets us down, should always be relied upon, ad infinitum. Revolution is what those secular guys do, 'cause Jesus doesn't whisper in their ear. Hey Pat, millions claim their prayers were answered when the ACA was passed. I guess those prayers don't count.

The inane implication in all of this is that he wants this revolution because: 
   Nurses never asked those questions before Obamacare; 
   They didn't record your medical history before Obamacare;
   Health care didn't use computers before Obamacare;
   There wasn't a lot of paperwork before Obamacare;

Perhaps Pat has forgotten that medicine has been switching to computerized medical records for some time, and for good reason. Who wants to go back to pen and paper? I mean, besides Pat?

And one of the reasons why health care in the US has been so expensive for so long, long before the ACA, is the incredible amount of paperwork brought on by what, liberal bureaucrats? Wrong again, Pat. We have been choking on paperwork beyond what other nations do because of the privatized nature of our health care system, dominated as it was, and mostly still is, by a profit-seeking insurance industry.  Europe and Japan provide coverage for all; it's cheaper and it is better. They have not had many thousands of their citizens die each year because they didn't have health insurance. And they didn't have many thousands more file for bankruptcy every single year because they couldn't pay their medical bills, or lose their insurance just because a private insurer didn't want to pay. It is these unacceptable realities that have defined the United States for generations, and that the Affordable Care Act has begun to change. 

So Pat, is it asking you too much to do some homework? There is a reason, whether you like it or not, why France is often regarded has having the best health care system in the world. France! Not the US, and quite frankly, we are not even close, even though circumstances have improved, thanks to the ACA, for America's poorest -- those who had no insurance at all. You forgot about them, didn't you Pat?

For the record, I had good insurance before the ACA went into effect. I have not had to do anything different because of Obamacare. I didn't have to switch, I didn't have to change doctors, no premium hikes, nothing. I'm guessing multi-millionaire Pat Robertson also had good medical insurance before the ACA kicked in. Nothing has changed with his insurance plan; no new doctors, no hike in premiums. Nothing. If he had real issues to complain about, the kind of disaster ideological fucks like Robertson claimed would happen, you know damn well he would have enumerated them in whining detail. 

No changes with Pat Robertson either. Same asshole he has always been. But he loves Jesus, so it's OK.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Prager's Theodicy

A recent video of evangelist and talk show host Dennis Prager was recently posted on my Facebook page. I have included the video below. Comments were invited, so here are mine.

At the outset I should note that Prager's views were not meant to be a thorough exegesis of theodicy, but he did want to make a specific point about why he thought critics were unfairly interpreting the concept. He went on to make a separate point at about the 3:00 mark, where he talks of how hugely impressed he is with an argument by Rabbi Milton Steinberg. The present post addresses only the former argument and not the latter one attributed to Rabbi Steinberg. That one will have to wait for another day.

In a nutshell, Prager first conceded what some of us would see as the central critique: If god, Yahweh at least, is all good, loving and perfect in every way, why would he allow so much suffering in the world, such as war, disease, and natural catastrophes?

Prager says that is a fair point; he concedes that pain and suffering are evidence against a god advertised as both omnipotent and all-merciful. However, and this is the gist of the video, he considers this a one-sided argument. If one insists on listing all the pain and suffering in the world--the bad-- then it is only fair to consider all the good in the world as well.

Really? And if you just learn to add it all up right, and give the credit to god, Prager's god, the good outweighs the bad. So there; god is good after all. Take that, atheists. Lots of suffering, yes, but hey, all that good stuff. Give god a solid B.

Theodicy doesn't claim that everything in the world is negative; this is not a popularity contest, nor is it courtroom application of a legal standard, such as preponderance of evidence or reasonable doubt. Christians make some grand claims about their god; they are stuck with the ramifications. We're not talking about whose bag has the most marbles, who can create the longer list, or whether your good "jumps-cancels-captures" my bad. Remember, the claim is that the christian god (or for Prager, Yahweh) is perfect, omniscient, and omnipotent. Saying "there may be ebola in Africa, but hey, look at that beautiful sunset," just doesn't make it. Prager may not realize it, but that is essentially his point; god has let a lot shit happen that he could have stopped, but sunshine, food, pretty things, so let's call it a draw.

Prager has shifted the argument even as he loads up his goody bag. He talks of the world we live in as mostly good, and then insists that all that good stuff be entered as credits on god's ledger.  So he commits yet another fallacy when he declares good things as proof of god. He is using a second fallacy to support the first. Now you may share his view; you may claim that your god is the creator of everything---don't leave out Lucifer---but that argument is not only scientifically vacuous, and highly contestable, it is also a separate one. "God did it" must be proven and stand alone before it can be used as evidence for a separate argument about how to add up god's scorecard. Along the way you must be willing to ignore the vast and demonstrable record of how humans have improved their lot in life, by themselves, through unremitting effort. Prager wants you to think yeah, sure, but prayers were tossed up, and ceremonies, and look, the bible, therefore god, the real reason. More points for Yahweh, so rack 'em up.

And after all that, Prager still has all his work ahead of him. The critic--atheist, skeptic, or whomever-- need not prove causality for any of the pain and suffering, e.g., the bad. This is not a pro and con framework; nor is there any need to weight, rank, or categorize any attributes we have come to call bad or good. We are asking why a perfect and all-merciful god would allow all of of this. It is not we who are making the claim that this painful and flawed world is the handiwork of celestial perfection.

If this were war, as some christians like to frame it, we would have to concede that Satan is inflicting heavy damages, for the souls keep piling up in Hell. But no matter, it is moral perfection, and it is the christian god's plan of redemption, so who are you to argue with god?  Sounds asinine? You just don't understand, son. If it sounds great, hey that's god. Sounds inane? The devil has hardened your heart. Sounds hopelessly random, as Prager admits, well, who of us can understand god?

The most christians can say is that they really don't understand the concept they call god (as some do), instead of claiming to know what they cannot possibly know, not to mention the rather tawdry insistence on speaking for a god that never speaks for himself.

Now might be the time to invoke that tiresome bromide about how god works in mysterious ways. Admit that Yahweh of the Old Testament, or version 2.0 of the New, is too remote and ineffable to understand.

And then stop pretending as if you do.