Friday, April 27, 2007

11 atheist arguements

On the 'Faith and Freethought' podcast last week, Richard Spencer offered 11 arguements that he thought were compelling reasons to believe that there is no God. I will list them here without comment and then consider each in turn in future postings...

"Atheism offers the best explanation for..."
  1. the physical forces that cause natural disasters
  2. the presence of unjustified pain and suffering in the world
  3. God's silence in the face of adversity
  4. the physical dependence of the mind on the brain
  5. the hiddenness of God
  6. religious history (i.e. why God does not seem to favour followers of any particular religion and why horrible things have been done in the name of all religions)
  7. religious confusion (i.e. why the 'true path' is not obvious)
  8. the uniformity of religious experience
  9. the evidence of evolution
  10. the scale of the universe
  11. seemingly poor design in nature
More to follow...

Sunday, April 08, 2007


An awful lot of atheist arguments seem to rely on the omnibenevolence of God.

"If God is omnibenevolent then..." [the world wouldn't be the way that it clearly is]

Is God omnibenevolent?
Where does it say so?
How do we know this from experience?

The other part of the argument is often omnipotence. The argument often goes like:

"If God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent then why is there suffering?"

I'm afraid I find that line of reasoning fairly compelling. But I don't conclude from that that there is no God, only that maybe he isn't either omnibenevolent or omnipotent...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Creation Science

Where is the 'science' in Creation Science?

Science is: "The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena." (thanks

'Creation Science' starts with its conclusion ('God did it') and goes round in circles repeating the same conclusion, trying to find evidence to support that statement and trying to find explanations for other phenomena which appear to be consistent with the main conclusion.

At no point does it offer any explanation as to how God may have done it. There is no attempt to propose a mechanism. 'God said "let there be light" and there was' is not science. How did the light come about? What was the initial source? What was the initial power source? Was it instantly at maximum intensity, or did it slowly increase in luminosity? If so, how long until it reached the maximum, if indeed it has yet reached the maximum? If creation science was actually a science there would be speculation about these sorts of questions.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Jesus and the family

The sixth commandment:
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20v12)
Is it just me, or does Jesus appear to break this one on a few occasions and even appear to encourage others to break it?
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."

Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." (Matthew 8v18-22)

Here Jesus seems to be telling the disciple to dishonour his (dead) father. On another occasion, Jesus says:

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14v26)
On one level, this appears to be an anti-family statement too. And when Jesus's mother and brothers come looking for him in Matthew 12, Mark 3 and Luke 8, he appears to ignore them and keeps teaching the disciples. And what about this:
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her motherinlaw—
a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' (Matthew 10v34-36)
That's about as clear as it gets.

So you've got to wonder when you hear folk talking about 'Christian family values'...

But does Jesus break one of the ten commandments here? I wonder if he broke any of the others?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Samson and astrology

As I've explained (at great length) in this blog, there is a lot in the bible that I have difficulty accepting as being historically accurate, or even true. Some stories seem to me to simply be myths, legends, or so embellised with false details that it is hard to tell what the original, true, story might have been.

The story of Samson (Judges 13-16) is one of those highly mythological stories which makes me wonder if there is any truth hiding under there at all.

The compiler of the book of Judges lived many hundreds of years, perhaps a thousand years later than the time of the alleged events. His view of the world was very much defined by the world around him. It was alsmost certainly a completely different world view to the originator of the Samson story, hundreds of years earlier. Crucially, if the story was of mythological origin, the compiler may not have known this and simply shoe-horned it in to the historical record at a point where he thought it fitted.

The story of Samson sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of the book of Judges. Most of the 'Judges' were leaders of the people of Israel and had at least some redeeming features. Samson on the other hand is a selfish, violent, lusty brute who does everything on his own.

One school of thought goes like this: the story is included there, simply because it happened and was recorded. Just because something is odd, doesn't mean that it is untrue. This is fair enough.

However, another school of thought about Samson connects the story to similar astrological stories from other cultures. Here Samson (which more-or-less means 'Sun') is either the sun god or, in some other variations, Orion. The incident with the lion relates to the story of Orion defeating Leo. The whole 'jawbone of an ass' bit (which is perhaps the most odd part of the entire story) makes sense if you look at the constelations near to Orion - in astrological terms, the jawbone is actually the Hyades star cluster. This crops up in other myths from other groups in around the same era or earlier. For example, in Babylonian myth, Marduk used the Hyades (jawbone) as a weapon and killed thousands.

So what's with Samson's hair? Well, in these astrological stories, the hair of the sun god represents the rays of the sun. The story of Samson having his hair cut and losing his power, only to have it return when the hair regrows is alegorical of winter and the return of the sun in spring. Indeed, Delilah, who is instrumental in that 'death and rebirth' story is either Aquarius or the moon, depending on which interpretation you go for.

From what little I've heard and read, there is quite a good case to be made for believing the story of Samson to be nothing other than an astrological myth turned into a historical account by a compiler who simply didn't know better. But I'll need to read and think more on this...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Old maps

I love old maps. They give a fantastic insight into how people saw the world around them. The map above is my favourite old map of Scotland, from 1558 (see it in more detail on the National Library of Scotland web pages). The thing about this map is that much of Scotland is mapped out reasonably accurately. If you wanted to travel from Edinburgh to Aberdeen by sea, this map would be of some use to you. But the islands on the west and north coasts are completely wrong - the map maker knew that there were islands there, but not anything about them.

So far, you are probably thinking I am posting this on the wrong blog...

I think I've come to an understanding of the books in the bible as being a bit like old maps. The people who wrote (or compiled) them knew something about God, but not everything. Obviously, if God is infinite, or at least very big, then we cannot know everything about Him, there is always more to find out - there is always unexplored territory. These people could only write with authority about what they knew - from their experiences or the experiences of folk they had spoken to. They could also always speculate about what they didn't know.

I'm not even saying here that the bible writers weren't inspired, I'm just thinking that, being human, they probably filled in the blanks in their understanding with speculation. This is why I think the inspired word of God contains errors and inconsistencies.

Another way I think of the bible as being like an old map is that it helps me think in terms of exploring God. The old maps are useful, but there are things you can find out without the map - by exploring for yourself.

Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34v8)