RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Creation Museum: A God That Can’t Be Killed

Posted on
How hard would it be to kill a god? Let’s take the big one. The god that calls himself God. The great I am. How hard would it be to convince the majority of those who currently believe in him and live according to his word to the best of their abilities, that he is not real? We started this blog with the famous Time Magazine cover lamenting the potential death of God. What would it mean to successfully bring the human race to an agreement that the idea of HIM is silly?This weekend I found out.It’s disheartening. It’s also astonishing.The human mind is capable of incredible things when it feels threatened.We know that religion was conceived in the minds and hearts of people who were afraid. Afraid of nature, afraid of death, afraid of losing those they loved. Of being alone. Of a life that has no large scale purpose. If you look at virtually any of the world religions, they attack all or most of these fears. Any religion or world view that fails to attack these fears on behalf of the poor mind it has infected is not long for this world. This is why deism/atheism/agnosticism have all struggled, but also why I’m cautiously optimistic about our future. Science is helping us, more and more, to understand these fears, the mind, and the world, and our knowledge is increasingly giving us an understanding that fills some of these needs.In the beginning, science began rooting out some of our simpler fears, like thunder. Eclipses. Storms and the oceans.The more we understood these fears, the less we feared them.And consequently, the less we needed hundreds of gods to represent each of them. Now science and philosophy are beginning to give us a better understanding of the greater fears. Listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson talk about our bodies as “star dust” and see science begin to assuage our fear of being meaningless. As we begin to better understand the state we assume when we die, we are only now starting to realize that it is not a state to fear. Our brain activity slows and ceases, and while we will be alone, we will have no concept of it. We will be at peace, because we simply will cease to be. The real terror is the concept of eternity. Living forever, unable to die or cease, even existence must become monotonous. Anyone enthusiastic about eternal life hasn’t given it enough thought.My co-blogger, Jon wrote a beautiful short piece on this concept of knowledge on the march, and I hope he’ll publish it here, as it is more eloquent than I’m capable of. He  it as science chasing and overcoming the many gods as they retreat to the deeper, murkier, more mysterious places. But as science continues on the march, these gods have fewer and fewer places to hide. I’ll stop there, as I’m essentially plagiarizing at this point. Thanks, Jon.

This weekend, I had a friend in town, and I decided to take him to one of the best kept secrets in Louisville, Ky., the fantastic Muhammed Ali Center. It’s a museum dedicated to the Louisville native, cultural icon, and three-time heavyweight champion of the world. Ali is arguably the greatest boxer in modern history. He was a powerful puncher, but not overwhelmingly so. The way that Ali defeated his opponents was by out-thinking, and being much, much faster than them. Watching him fight was fascinating.As his often more powerful opponent would chase him through the ring, Ali would dance and bob, and circle away. His opponent would plod forward, as Ali danced and skipped around, seeming to have unlimited energy. If he was cornered against he ropes he would slip away, or he would do the “Rope-A-Dope” and block as his opponent fired away, with punch after punch. As Ali withstood the storm, his opponent became exhausted. His head would dart back and forth like a hummingbird. It was rare to see anyone ever land a clean shot.

During some matches, if he had particular disdain for an opponent, he would talk to them during the match. During his title match with George Foreman, he was pummeled during one exchange, and then as he and Foreman locked up in a clinch, he whispered “Is that all you got?” Foreman later recalled the bout and said “Yep. That was about it.” Another fighter, Ernie Terrell had famously refused to call Ali by his newly adopted Muslim name, instead referring to him as Cassius Clay, his birth name. During the bout, Ali pounded Terrell, and repeatedly shouted “What’s my name?” at him.

The next day Jon, myself, and our friend Aaron all travelled to the Creation Museum in Northeast Kentucky. As I said earlier, I was amazed at the ability of the human mind to ignore evidence, delude and confuse itself, and maintain a belief that it sees as self-preservatory in the face of overwhelming evidence. When I began to see atheism as not just the unfortunate, undeniable truth, but as a beautiful, preferable alternative to religion, I began to understand that religion can’t just be ignored, but should be dealt with. It has negative effects on people and cultures. It distracts us from the people who love us and divides us in favor of a non-existent god. It creates rifts in families, friendships, and marriages. It is the impetus for war. It points to a “heaven” that serves only to make this amazing world around us seem tedious and broken by comparison. I was convinced that a good punch in the mouth with a balled up fist of reason was all most people would eventually need to come around. What the Creation Museum has taught me is that thought, like most of my initial thoughts about things, was foolish.

Here we saw a multi-million dollar altar of self-deception. In the face of overwhelming evidence, this museum created an expensive, colorful, interactive argument that was paper-thin and full of holes. But it serves it’s purpose. The majority of it’s attendees desperately want it to be true. They have taught their children based on it’s truth, they have lived based on it’s truth, they have given up very much, and stand to lose very much, should this paper-thin argument full of holes ever break to pieces inside their mind. They are rooting for the Creation Museum to work on them. God help them (literal translation) if it fails.

So when the PHD from Vanderbilt who’s either the master of self-deception or an outright snake-oil salesman (I’m not sure which. Perhaps both?) tells them that fossils are virtually worthless as sources of evidence, they laugh and nod in approval. And later when he builds an argument against the real greatest story ever told, Jurassic Park, by listing all of the systems of dinosaurs that would need to change for them to become birds, like the respiratory system, the digestive system, and the scales on their skin; no one reminds him that all of those assumptions he’s just made about respiratory systems and scales all come from, well… fossils. We are told that the theory of an earth merely 6,000 years old is just another interpretation of the evidence, augmented of course by an important source of information, the Bible. Of course in their mind, the Bible is a primary source, written by a single entity (God) who was present for all of this. Cave-drawings that resemble dinosaurs prove that men lived alongside dinosaurs. How could a man draw something he’d never seen? We can know dinosaurs existed just like we know Spiderman and Calvin & Hobbes all existed. Because no one can ever just imagine anything. Except here at the Creation Museum, we’re experts in imagination. It’s holy fan-fiction, as credible as the tightest, most thoroughly researched argument from the most unbiased scientist on the planet, as long as both sides, seller and buyer, are working together.

Now, let me turn my attention for a moment. You there. Yes, you. The christian in the corner. I see you. You’re the one who’s forward-thinking. You with the liberal interpretation of the Bible, seeing Genesis as figurative, and likely enjoying this read. The simple-minded literalists are nothing like you, right? Yeah, I see you over there. How can you laugh at this? This is all being presided over by your god. Your perfect god who provided the perfect book, and has the perfect plan, and never leads one of his sheep astray, has allowed his message to become so convoluted and open to interpretation, that he reigns over the lives of literalists and liberals. Fanatical abortion-clinic bombers, and humble charity workers both do so under his obscure guidance. Where is your god when this Confusion Museum and it’s patrons are fooling each other with convoluted twists of logic to make a god-shaped peg fit into a logic-shaped hole? When the world stands by and mocks them because it’s just so foolish, where is he? How can you believe in God when he presides over this kid-centered funhouse of deception as his kingdom? He created it all. You’re ignoring just as much basic evidence and simple common sense as the literalist. I was right there with you. I understand. But reason is calling you, calling you home.

You look away. Maybe you roll your eyes, but you can’t tell me why. You sheepishly (double pun!) mutter that God isn’t responsible for the behavior of his followers. That you can’t let bad christians divide you from God. And now you’ve chosen your side. And herein we find why I was so foolish to think that a mind could be changed so easily. God living within our mind is Muhammed Ali between the ropes. He is brilliant. Stunning to watch. Mesmerizing. Our basic understanding of science and history can swing at him with an iron-fist and his head will dart like a water bug out of the way. We will chase him, track him, and cut off the ring, but we will find that in most minds there are no ropes. Nowhere god can be cornered. He backpedals from our arguments, popping us in the mouth here and there with cliches and logical fallacies. The home crowd is rooting for the champ, and they cheer as we stalk him with our better and better understanding of this world, aiming to deliver a blow that will turn out the lights on his reign. He is laughing at us and mocking us. “What’s my name? I AM THAT I AM.” He derisively shouts. He throws weak jabs at us that don’t really sting, but the audience is enthralled with his skill. Once we’ve discussed carbon-dating, and fossil evidence, and rock layers, and the size of the universe, and string theory, and simple psychology that explains your love affair with this false savior, we find ourselves out of breath. God whispers through the delusional mouth of the trapped fundamentalist… “Is that all you’ve got?”

We shrug our shoulders, and sigh. “Yup. That’s about it.”

Creation Museum: First Impressions

I’d say the Creation Museum is an apt name for a place that completely makes things up as it goes along. The curators there have created for themselves a temple to confirmation bias, to the reduction of cognitive dissonance, and to all the definitions of the word parochial.  Frankly I was shocked and a little disappointed to see no anthropologists lurking between the plastic ferns hastily jotting down analysis on us paying customers. (Although, on second thought that animatronic Noah’s laughter did seem slightly more lifelike and derisive than seems technologically possible…)

Breaking News: Atheist Goes to Christian Thing, Doesn’t Care for It.

Of course, this is not newsworthy.  But in that this is a blog and I can’t just write the word parochial and be done with it, here is a brief review of sorts.  Quick word of warning:  I’m going to do the ironic detachment thing and use “love” and “hate” interchangeably as it suits my whim.  If I was a more sincere and earnest man, well, I wouldn’t be going to a creation museum sardonically, now would I?

LOVED

  1. Production Value.  The place is amazingly well funded.  So many museums I’ve been to were not as well designed or as well maintained or as interactive as this one.  (Side note in case you missed it: I’ve been to sooooo many museums!!)
  2. Learned that incest is acceptable. But only when there are a few hundred people on the planet.  The explanation is that back in bible times people had less “mutations”, so “seeing” your sister was fine.  

Cannonball: “Hey, Wolverine, who’s the new X-Man recruit”.  

Wolverine: “Oh him? That’s ‘Can’t-Bang-his-Sister-Man’.” 

Cannonball: *Backs Away Quickly*

3.  Dinosaur with a Saddle on it.

4.  The Hall of Dystopian Present.  They have a hallway dedicated to how awful the world has gotten without god.  They present you with videos wherein a guy wears a T-shirt that insinuates he might like beer, a girl talking on the phone about abortion, and a woman telling secrets about other people.  I’m not at all joking.  It’s happening right now. 

HATED:

  1. While I was there I overheard priests and Penn State football coaches saying that this place should tone down the child grooming. The creation museum accidentally (I’m sure) leaves out things like giant God-People and zombies that walked the Earth after Jesus died.  You know, things that are actually in the Bible.  In favor of making the whole thing a showcase for dinosaurs. Which, even if you were generous, are mentioned in the Bible less than Unicorns (accidentally left out).  And if you wanted to be literal (and they do) dinosaurs are not in the Bible at all.  I went to a seminar there and was told they focus on this aspect because kids love dinosaurs and it’s the best way to indoctrinate them.  I will say though, the petting zoo and ice cream were pretty awesome.
  2. They HATE the movie Jurassic Park.  (I’ll let my blogging buddy John describe this in more detail. They spent like 45 minutes hating on his favorite movie of all time. Upshot is that by carefully watching his face during the lecture, I now know how aneurysms occur!)
  3. Wall of Evil Scientists.  Evil=Smart.
  4. All the survivor’s guilt.  I used to believe all this stuff.  And just like I used to be, these guys are clearly terrified that if one single thing in the bible isn’t true, it could ALL NOT BE TRUE.  If we can question one story, why not question them all? So they did everything they can to make it all true.  Every last weird giant zombie word of it.  I escaped this worldview, but I feel like Kenneth and I’m telling Jack Donaghy/Ken Ham the story of evolution, and he can’t crush it with his mind-vice.   

Today’s Bible Lesson: Noah, The Ark, and a Crapload of Eggs

Posted on

Today I’d like to piggy-back somewhat off yesterday’s blog. This seems like a good time to let our readers know that there are two of us here blogging on Jesus Christ, Pooperstar. Jon wrote yesterday’s blog, and I wrote the initial two before that. Together we’re going to be battling God on a day-to-day basis in a handicap match. It’ll be myself, Jon, and basic reason on one side. On the other side will be God, Allah, Jesus, Shiva, Zoroaster, and all the flawed logic, psychological and social pressure, and empty threats they can muster. We hope you enjoy reading us as we take on all comers here. We invite you to join in the fight in the comments and emails, regardless of which side you’re on.

 

Jon did a great job priming us for our trip to the Creation Museum in northeast Kentucky. I want to continue on that note. So join me as we dig into a Bible study. Today, we’ll be studying the first chapter of the story of Noah. This is the King James Version of Genesis Chapter 6:1-22. As we know from yesterday’s post, dinosaurs were not wiped out in the flood. They were spared, just like all other creatures, to randomly die out on their own within the following few thousand years. Because of this, I’ve taken the liberty of adding appropriate text to include the dinosaurs we know were a major part of this story. That text is in BLUE. In addition, my own personal commentary is in RED. Enjoy.

The Sy-fy channel’s movie based on this story is called “Dinosaur Boat.”

[1] And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, hiding deep within caves and huddled together in great fear of the great and awful lizard monsters everywhere, and daughters were born unto them,
[2] That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
[3] And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years, provided his delicious flesh be not fodder for the gargantuan monsters I created, as is often the case. [4] There were giants (Yes, giants.) in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. (I didn’t change that part. That’s ACTUALLY IN THERE. If you’re a christian, go back and read that again. You believe that.) [5] And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. He was taking for granted the world full of lizard monsters and giant hairy elephants, and giant monster-men, and sabre-tooth cats that GOD had provided him.
[6] And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. He much preferred the Dinosaurs. They were amazing and cool and he couldn’t stop playing with them and making them fight. He wished constantly he had put the souls in them and not men.
[7] And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. Nothing is even close to being as cool as these dinosaurs are. Yes, I am sick of everything I created. I’m going to destroy it all. Except two of everything. And then those two of everything will repopulate the earth. And it will somehow randomly work out and be different. (Or everything will just be the same. God destroyed the world because people were bad, and this was supposed to fix it. Does anyone ever question why it didn’t fix anything? Why people were still bad? And ARE NOW still bad? This is a documented case in the Bible of God murdering millions of people for a specific purpose and it NOT working out.)
[8] But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
[9] These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. (Or God carried him around the beach like a creeper. Scholars are unsure.)
[10] And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
[11] The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. (That God had nothing to do with of course. He created a world that with a single bite from a single apple would devolve into being FULL of violence and would be REVOLTING in his eyes. But it’s not as if HE bit the apple. Right? Right?)
[12] And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh (that he created) had corrupted his way upon the earth. (Not unlike a Kardashian making herself a pita, and then whining “I don’t even WANT this anymore… eeeeeeehhhhhh… Here Lamar, feed it to the Corgi… eeeehhhhh…”)
[13] And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (And none of this is on me, Noah.)
[14] Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
[15] And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. Leave a lot of room for giant dinosaur eggs. As long as I’m being very specific with this instruction, make holders for the eggs, so they don’t roll around and break when the seas get rough. Yes, the key to this whole thing will be the eggs.
[16] A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. Egg holders on all three levels. There are thousands of species of dinosaurs and we must save them all. Noah, I can’t stress this enough: There’s going to be a LOT of eggs on this boat.
[17] And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. (Except of course for the two representatives of each species, who will redo everything exactly like the first time we did this and it will all randomly fix this mess. The Flood was God’s way of powerdown/powerupping his router.
[18] But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And a buttload of eggs.
[19] And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Bring male and female eggs. Just hold them up to the light and look for dicks, Noah… this isn’t that hard.
[20] Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
[21] And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.
[22] Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

Will Noah find all the animals of the world including penguins and sea gulls, and fire ants, and mountain goats? Will the Woolly Mammoths keep to themselves? What about the thousands of eggs? What will become of them? Join us next time on “Dinosaur Boat!” to find out.

 

-John

Creation Museum Visit Pre-Work

Creation Museum Visit Pre-Work
I am journeying to the Creation Museum this weekend.  It’s like I am challenging myself to pick a fight with a stranger. I am Ken Ham’s smirking revenge.  
 

So, to better prepare, I thought I’d do a little research. First question: What happened to the dinosaurs? Science disagrees on this point, and I thought it’d be a great opportunity for the Ken Ham and his museum to step in and clear things up for me.

On his blog, he states that evolution has many theories:

Dinosaurs starved to death; they died from overeating; they were poisoned; they became blind from cataracts and could not reproduce; mammals ate their eggs. Other causes include volcanic dust, poisonous gases, comets, sunspots, meteorites, mass suicide, constipation, parasites, shrinking brain (and greater stupidity), slipped discs, changes in the composition of air, etc.

Good to know that God killed the dinosaurs but still allows the straw man to roam free in its natural habitat. After setting up these supposed oppositional arguments, he finally reveals the truth. And it’s not what you think.  You are thinking God just drowned those stupid, nearsighted, coughing, Metamucil drinking, chiropractic needing dinosaurs in the flood aren’t you?  So did I…

If you remove the evolutionary framework, get rid of the millions of years, and then take the Bible seriously, you will find an explanation that fits the facts and makes perfect sense:

At the time of the Flood, many of the sea creatures died, but some survived. In addition, all of the land creatures outside the Ark died, but the representatives of all the kinds that survived on the Ark lived in the new world after the Flood. Those land animals (including dinosaurs) found the new world to be much different than the one before the Flood. Due to (1) competition for food that was no longer in abundance, (2) other catastrophes, (3) man killing for food (and perhaps for fun), and (4) the destruction of habitats, etc., many species of animals eventually died out. The group of animals we now call dinosaurs just happened to die out too.  In fact, quite a number of animals become extinct each year. Extinction seems to be the rule in Earth history (not the formation of new types of animals as you would expect from evolution).

Much like the Ten Commandments, I’m pretty sure this is maybe one idea reworded into several bullet points. So for the sake of clarity lets simplify as George Carlin would. God devised a plan to flood the earth to murder all the humans but rescued two animals a piece on a boat, only to have those animals die because he forgot the world was going to have no food/habitats and have “catastrophes”. Also, let’s throw in humans Buffalo Billing (Cody or Gumb!) all the dinosaurs just to make sure they are good and dead. Plus, that makes humans feel worse about themselves while not making it ALL God’s fault.

I am Ken Ham’s cold sweat.

Blue Posts:  http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/1999/11/05/dinosaurs-and-the-bible

Saying Goodbye to Your Imaginary Friend

Posted on

The world, large and white, like a blank piece of paper. And God’s not the artist. You are.

I gave up God a few months ago. This was not a frivolous decision. It was definitely not a choice. I became a committed, active believer in a fluid, but fundamental, maleable but malevolent strand of Christianity at the age of 13. Within months of my commitment, I began to find things that I questioned. I began to find things that made no sense to me. I tried to ignore them but couldn’t. God is mysterious. God is mysterious. God is mysterious. He saw in more dimensions and from more angles than I could comprehend. Like a spider with eight eyes. He may have been part spider. He was said to be terrifying so that would make sense. I understood how evolution worked from the time I was six and discovered that dinosaurs were the most badass, respectable things that had ever been. (At no time did my strain of Christianity ever mutate into the kind that claims that dinosaurs never existed. If it had my heart would have been torn in two. I have a passionate respect for dinosaurs. You should too.) I was told that evolution was a big “False,” and believed that for a few months, because I was believing anything I was told, finally I found a mutation of Christianity that allowed me to understand that God had created everything, Genesis was a poetic explanation, but not a scientific one. My intellectual white blood cells had begun attacking the disease. I felt a little better. There would be so much more battling though. My mind would become exhausted from the mental gymnastics I was about to put it through. If my mind was a ball of playdough I was about to shove it into that weird spaghetti-maker tool.
It is now almost 20 years later. I can describe some of that time and the valiant fight my intellectual immune system waged against the invading nonsense, and the emotional, mental, financial, psycho-sexual toll it all took on me. I will do so here and there as I write. Suffice to say that within the last six months, Jesus Christ, living within me took a deep breath, exhaled, and was no more. My velveteen rabbit religion hopped merrily into the woods to find some other poor boy to fuck with for twenty years.
(Very negative, angry language. I have a feeling I’ll wander back and forth between whistful remembrance and vitriol, both in my writing and in my mind for years.)
Now I’m starting to learn what life is like, alone in the universe. Earth, full of it’s legions of latch-key kids, most thinking Daddy will still be coming home from the gas station with the carton of cigs and the “Yoohoos for everybody!” that he’d promised so long ago. But wait. It’s FUN to be left alone. When the teacher would leave the classroom- just for a moment- and order all heads down on the desks for a quick, short nap. That was the BEST time. That’s when you could do what you want. When mom and dad went out for the night and left you 30 bucks for pizza. Those were the BEST times… if you did them right. Some of you recovering from your religion ain’t doing it right. (I humbly suggest.)
And I get it. To an extent, I was and am still dealing with it. So much time wasted. Hell, I MAJORED in ministry. I studied the Bible. It’s a book of psychotic fairy tales. I recently was informed that there are god-monsters called Nephalim that are giants, descended of angels and humans. This is scientific fact, according to nearly half the U.S. population. And now the phrase “newly atheist” really wrecks my pastoral resume. So many friends and family I can’t talk to. Can’t tell. Everyone has a story about it. Who doesn’t ask “What now?” But that question isn’t rhetorical, and it has many good answers.

Evidence that everything is awesome.

Life can be good. It can be amazing. We live on the planet that grew dinosaurs, afterall. It’s a beautiful planet with lots to offer. It’s very, very ruined in many places, but not, at least, for the majority who will read this. For the majority of us, there is a national park within an hour drive. There are museums with insanely awesome science, history, and sometimes outright strangeness. There are arenas and ballparks where people have dedicated their lives to honing their athletic ability and are, day after day, doing insanely athletic things, and waiting for you to stop in and see them. Anything and everything that was awesome for you back when God made it, is still awesome now that it’s just here. Usually it’s more awesome.
There are people around you way more interesting and mature than God ever was. Non-imaginary people. You may have seen the title of this post, and the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon and assumed that Hobbes was the imaginary friend. Maybe not. Maybe Hobbes is real. Maybe you have tons of good people in your life you’ve been giving all the respect of a stuffed toy because of your love affair with an egocentric, angry god. Maybe you’re married to one of those people. Maybe if you take them outside and play with them, you’ll discover they’re real.
I know. It’s sappy. Whatever. I liked it.
-John

Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light

Poke him with a stick. See if he moves.