Category Archives: world affairs

The Hand of God?

I’m a listener of NPR, primarily because its commentators most rarely mouth the silliest things among those who inhabit MSM-land.   Nonetheless, facepalm moments do occur, and since this is a blog that promotes skepticism, I’m going to pick on a commentary made today by Scott Simon in his “Haiti and the Hand of God.”

By now you’ve probably heard Christian televangelist Pat Robertson’s claim that the Haitian earthquake is a consequence of that country’s “pact with the devil” some two hundred years ago.  This is standard fare for Robertson, so you’d think that most people by now would simply dismiss his blatherings as more incoherent rants of a loon rather than the outrage with which they were typically greeted.  To his credit, Simon is with the former camp, but attempts to cut Robertson deeper with the view that “[I]t’s hard to detect the hand of God, much less His loving touch, in [Robertson’s] remarks.”

Now it’s symbolic of theism’s incoherency that the irony of this statement is completely lost on believers like Simon, for where is the “loving touch” of the “hand of God” detectable anywhere in all this? If Simon–or any other believer sees it–by all means please produce it.  Because, right now, all the rest of us see is a lot of suffering.  Needless. Gratuitous. Devastating.  On a people already ground down by poverty, corruption, and horrible government.

If Simon were to delve a little deeper into his own theology, he’d realize he really has no basis to object to Robertson’s comments, because the latter could very well be right.  As Isaiah 45:7 (NIV) reads: “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things” (emphasis mine).   Makes you kinda wonder whether the loving touch of God’s hand is what produced the Haitian calamity.

Well, He did say “creature”…

Stunning exegetical breakthrough?  Or merely the latest in a string of misinterpretations that have resulted in dubious achievements such as the 2,000 year unbroken record of failed predictions of the Christ’s return? You be the judge…

In a discussion generally expressing confidence that their pets will be raptured along with them, one contributor to the Christian Rapture Ready message board (motto: Where hope springs eternal!) observed:

well I always found it weird that Jesus said in Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (emphasis in the original)

Folks, have Christians been grossly remiss in their evangelical calling?  The implications are staggering.  Billions and billions of animalian souls possibly lost due to the singular failure to preach them the Gospel as Jesus commanded.  It’s an oversight our dear contributor has fortunately not been a party to.  She continues:

Always hit me as odd…and maybe it’s even odder that I tell my cat about Jesus =)

That is one blessed cat!  It is not given to us to know whether it repented of its sins and accepted Jesus into its heart, but we can trust that it will almost certainly not die an atheist, which cannot be said for every other creature that has ever existed, including those dear pets the Rapturians hope to share heaven with.

Ok, seriously.  What would we atheists do without sites like Rapture Ready?  For one, it’s highly doubtful we’d get our recommended daily allowance of laughter.  I mean, even the master himself couldn’t make up material this good.

And who’s not a little awestruck by the willful delusion that results in this sort of reasoning?  I figure that if I can one day understand it, solving world hunger should be a piece of cake (no pun intended).

Was atheism the cause of 20th century atrocities?

A printer-friendly PDF version of this document is available here.

Introduction

It is a frequent rejoinder and polemic hurled about by religious apologists.  Yes, certain murderous excesses like crusades, inquisitions, and witch hunts may have been committed by the religious, but they pale in comparison to those done in the cause of atheism.  Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot-strident atheists all whose famines, wars, genocides, and purges created magnitudes more dead.  Consider, for example, these words from militant Christian cheerleader, Dinesh D’Souza:

These figures are tragic, and of course population levels were much lower at the time. But even so, they are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century. In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people.

Continue reading Was atheism the cause of 20th century atrocities?

Does God like to punish?

Anyone who’s read the Bible knows that punishing people took up a goodly portion of God’s time.  And it didn’t much matter if you actually did anything wrong or not, or if you were under a certain age.  Guilt by association was just as much a crime as the “crime” itself–just ask the Canaanites or the pre-Flood inhabitants.

And if you think the punishments have stopped because we live in some period of grace, think again.  With every calamity–natural or not–some “man of God” dutifully proclaims it divine retribution for one human “sin” or another–gay pride parades, gambling, abortion, dancing–you name it.  Some even believe calamities are a herald of the imminent end times–the fact that the same things have been occurring for millions of years doesn’t seem to phase these people, however.

The funny thing about these prognosticators of doom is that they also believe in a god who sends the unrepentant (read: those who don’t belong to their particular sect, in their particular religion) to eternal suffering in the fiery pits of hell.  Their god, apparently not simply content with punishing us forever and ever after death, also feels it necessary to mete out punishment during our lifetimes.  And if we poor SOBs should die as a result, then tough shit.  Out of the fire, and into the frying pan!

So, you can see, God really likes to punish. And, I gotta hand it to him, in a number of really inventive ways.  A virus which progressively destroys your immune system, leaving you to die a slow and miserable death?  Who da thunk it?!

But what about the the innocent casualties?  You know, those who’re did everything right, muttered the correct magical words, dutifully contributed to the collection plate every Sunday in the red brick church.  Is God punishing them too when they get run over by a hurricane or tidal wave?

Oh, no!  They are merely being “called home.”  At the worst, they should recall that this is a fallen world, righteously susceptible to God’s carpet-bomb justice.  ‘Cause, you know, sparing the good and innocent is too much to ask of the Omnipotent Creator of the Known Universe.  If I was one of those Rapturians–people who believe they’ll be magically beamed into the sky before the real shit hits the fan–I would feel a little worried about this divine tendency to simply blow everyone away.

The really curious thing is the response of these men of God and their fellow believers.  They sometimes actually help the victims. WTF? I can think of no more sinful act than working against God’s justice.  They may think that poor, hungry child in Somalia deserves food, but they should remember, that kid has got sin-tainted blood and is almost certainly headed for hell.  Best to send ’em a Bible instead (only the KJV1611 version will do).

You can’t help but get the impression God is chomping at the bit to annihilate His creation as soon as possible, and is blowing off a little steam in the meantime.  With divine love like this…

The Potemkin Olympics

In 1787, as the story goes, the minister in charge of the successful Russian campaign to conquer Crimea, Grigori Alexandrovich Potemkin, erected fake villages to impress the visiting Empress Catherine II with the new conquests.  Thus a new expression entered the lexicon: Potemkin village.  It means to give a false veneer of progress or success in order to mask an undesirable reality.

Anyone who has followed China’s preparation for the 2008 Olympic games will immediately appreciate the parallels.  The Olympics are tremendously important to the country, in the eyes of its leadership. They are a chance to show the world how far it has advanced toward modernity.

To be sure, China has indeed made huge strides, but as story after story has amply documented, the underlying reality apparently is not quite up to the standard China’s leaders hope to convey.  And so, no effort has been spared in order to correct the “deficiency”.

The latest example to come to light is the performance of the little girl who sang “Ode to the Motherland” during the Opening Ceremony.  It turns out her voice was considered not suitable, in the minds of China’s supremely image-conscious leaders, and so another was subsituted in its place.  Only her face was fit, so she was required to lip-sync the performance.  It was “in the national interest,” rationalized a member of the Chinese ruling circle.

Small potatoes, you may think, but this is merely the latest string in a long pattern.  Just a few days ago, we learned that parts of the Opening Ceremony were actually computer generated.  China’s Potemkin efforts have not been restricted to simple enhancement.  Entire sections of Beijing have been walled-off as too unseemly for foreign eyes.  Information on the Internet considered unfriendly to the country has been blocked by the Great Firewall, even to visitors.  Even some Olympic athletes had their visas revoked for fear they would speak critically of the hosts.

And so it goes.  Our view of China during these Olympics has been carefully managed by its censors and propagandists.  The real China?  Who knows.  But a country which needs to manipulate its image more carefully than a Hollywood star is not a modern one.

I’m skipping these Potemkin Olympics.