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Remember…

Most things that require more than 2 minutes or ten sentences to explain are bullshit.

This is a rule you can live by and do well. It’s not definitely bullshit, but it’s VERY likely. Almost certainly. Ask a car salesman what undercoating is and why it’s important and why it costs 900 dollars. See how long the explanation takes. Then ask a physicist what String Theory is. Just a basic understanding, please. You’ll get less than 10 sentences and two minutes. Trust me, undercoating is not more complex than String Theory.

Regardless of what you believe, you can live by this one as a rule with exceptions few and far between.

Try it yourself right now. Stop reading this, and explain, out loud, or in writing, how Santa works. Explain it as if you’re attempting to convince someone. How long did it take? Try describing a pyramid scheme in a convincing way. As if you’re trying to convince someone to get in on it with you. Try to be concise, but don’t stop until you think you’ve made at least a half compelling argument.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about something for longer than that, or if someone talks longer than that, they’re full of it. It doesn’t mean every college class is B.S. (I should probably mention that because I’m over ten now.) I’m now describing and proving this. Lot’s of things take a very long time to describe and expand upon. That’s not explanation. I did consider just making this post the initial one-sentence rule and nothing more. It can easily be done and you get what I’m saying.

Ask a physicist to teach you to understand String Theory and what we know about it in detail, and you’d be there for awhile. It’s complex. But a simple, concise explanation is possible. It’s not possible with Santa… not in a way that’s at all convincing. Explain String Theory in less than ten sentences and in response you’ll get “Whoa!” Explain Santa in less than ten and the response will be more like “Huh?”

In closing, I’m going to prove this one last time. I’m going to respond to the most complex question I can think of, with an answer that’s not bullshit, that anyone should be content with, and it only takes one sentence. When I finish that sentence, I will be content with my answer, feel confident that it’s right, and feel confident in the knowledge that anyone going through life, could use this answer as a means for having peace about this incredibly complex and relevant question. Are you ready?

John, (I ask myself.) How were we created, was it intentional, and why are we here? In fact, why is anything here?

(See? I’m not pulling any punches!)

(Here comes my answer!)

(Are you feeling the suspense?)

John, (I respond to myself…)

I don’t know. 

That just took one sentence. I’ve got nine left. What the hell? I’ll use two more, just to REALLY address the question in depth.

Just do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

Done.

Now remember,

Most things that require more than 2 minutes or ten sentences to explain are bullshit.

Have a great day…

JWAH.

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What Do We Stand For?

The Prophet Muhammed

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  -James 1:2-4

At this moment U.S. embassies around the world are under protest or attack. For once, it is not because of economic oppression, or exploitation, although those realities may fan the flames. We are under protest globally, because someone here in the U.S. has expressed an opinion that Islam, a religion, would like to suppress. A film maker produced an anti-islamic film in the United States. I have not seen it, only read about it. I can’t speak intelligently to this film’s content, or to the motivations behind it. It does sound as if the film maker is not an atheist, but a religious zealot under a different flag.

Already though, the news stories I’ve read regarding him are overwhelmingly negative. They recount his 2009 conviction for bank fraud, which seems completely unrelated to a film he made that’s sparking protest. CNN’s article refers to the film as clunky (it has no merit! Don’t see it! Two thumbs down!), and describes how it was cast under false pretenses, as actors were told they were making a desert-action film. Then they add this:

“The American-made movie, it turns out, was hardly an innocent desert action flick.”

How is expressing an opinion on a religion less innocent than any other mainstream genre of film?

Daniel Akin, the pastor of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. tweeted this today:

“Films ridiculing any religion are shameful & uncalled for. Responding in violence & murdering innocents is criminal, deplorable & worse!”

I’m glad he at least clarified that the latter is worse than the former. Thanks, Daniel. So, our blog is not a film, but I can assume that regardless of format, Daniel would describe this blog as both shameful and uncalled for. BUT not quite as bad as murdering innocents.

Daniel, this is my opinion. For my co-blogger and I, this is our best effort towards doing what we believe is right. This is our equivalent of your call to evangelize to others. It is not shameful. It completely conflicts with your views, but we don’t deny your right to worship, or pray, or to evangelize. We have an opinion that it’s wrong-headed. But I would never describe what you do as “shameful.” Shame on you though, for suggesting that while there are many different religions, to not respect religion is shameful. Gods do not corner the market on morality.

Atheists, agnostics… non-religious deists… We are finding out where we stand in some of this. While this film is not an atheist message, it is receiving the sort of push back that we can expect when we start to gain the kind of traction worldwide that will start moving cultural and religious needles.

I believe that time is coming soon. There’s too much knowledge, too much science to deny… Too much widespread information… Too many honest, good-intentioned, thinking people among the religious. We’re going to continue to grow. When we do, we can expect these warring religions to turn their attention towards us.

Let’s imagine that there is a Chik-Fil-A, and a KFC. They are in a neighborhood in America somewhere, and they are across the street from one another. Their ad campaigns generally center around how one brand of chicken tastes better than the other, or is better for you than the other, or is less bigoted than the other. But then, let’s say a combination salad bar/pilates studio moves in next door. Suddenly, people get on a health kick and start skipping chicken altogether. They get a fresh salad and they get a short workout in on their lunch hour. People start losing weight, feeling better about themselves, and Chik-Fil-A and KFC both start seeing tumbleweeds rolling past their doors. Would it be any wonder at all if the ad campaigns stopped comparing two brands of chicken and started denigrating the value and flavor of a fresh salad and a workout? That’s what the media’s depiction of this represents. That’s what Christianity’s response to this represents. You don’t have to eat my chicken says God… but you gotta eat chicken. The hell I do… Pass the croutons.

Christianity doesn’t want you to choose Islam, Islam doesn’t want you to choose Christianity. (And you can substitute whatever religions you want here.) But if you do, they can despise or lament your choice, but you don’t threaten them. You’re in the game, you’re just playing wrong. But, the atheist is breaking the game. He’s choosing not to play. That creates a new option that threatens everyone. Thus a film like the horrifically violent and arguably anti-semitic The Passion of the Christ is seen by some as problematic, or even troublesome, but by most as a respectable expression of a religious opinion. But a film that disrespects a religion directly is shameful. You can bet that a film that is an expression of atheist beliefs would be seen as shameful as well.

Consider this: I recently asked if I could leave work an hour early, and was asked why I wanted to do so. I told my manager that I was signed up to work at the Atheist/Free-thinkers booth at the State Fair. His response was to sarcastically joke: “Well at least it’s for a good cause…”

If I had said that I was working a booth of ANY religious group, even a radical booth… likely if I’d told him I was going to go to a protest and shout at women going into an abortion clinic… I likely wouldn’t have received that remark. But he said it without thinking about it. The thing is, I DO believe it’s a good cause. It’s implied that atheism is a bad thing. It’s understood. Discounting the religious views of others or even arguing logically against them is disrespectful and wrong. Even if it’s part of your belief system.

Yes, atheists, I’ll say it one more time. For you to express your belief that religion is wrong, or a bad idea, or that being apart from religion entirely is a good thing that others should try… is disrespectful and wrong. 

So while embassies burn, and people are killed, and a religion tries to bully the world into shutting up and living by their rules, I want to express my support for this bank-frauding, name-changing, allegedly Coptic Christian, and his badly made film. We have a right to say what we want to say without being pushed around. When someone is murdered in retaliation, it is to the shame of the murderer, NOT the opinion-expresser.

You can have your views, you can worship your gods, but you can’t force me to respect it. The best way to combat this bullying is to stand up to the bully. No one wants to do it first, because they’re afraid of getting hit, but if everyone does it, the bully can’t beat up everyone… and eventually the bully is proven to be a coward, and he just slinks away. If we all stand up, radical islam will slink away. Don’t be afraid of the violence. Even the famously non-violent Mohandas K. Gandhi said:

“I would risk violence a thousand times rather than risk the emasculation of a whole race.”

There is nothing wrong with someone displaying an image of the prophet of Islam. There is nothing wrong with me disrespecting him. Your response as a muslim if you disagree with me should be to patiently tell me why you feel that way, and to listen to why I think we disagree. And for us to understand each other. It’s a testament to the bullying that’s taking place here that I asked my co-blogger how he felt about me posting this image before I did it. It’s a testament to the limitations of violence that we both are willing to stand up to the bully. We encourage all of you on your blogs, on your TV shows, in your art, and mainly just in your day-to-day free speech, to do the same. Speak freely. Listen to each other. Put violence away, and listen to each other. And only shout to shout down violence. Then be calm again, and let’s work together and learn.

And for good measure…

Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ.

Godammit.

Voldemort, Voldemort, Voldemort.

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.

Respectfully, as always, to you the believer, but not as a participant in your beliefs,

-John with an H.

Biblical Marriage: Let’s Vote on it.

Biblical Marriage:  Let’s Vote on it.

I, for one, certainly don’t want an omnipotent god to be angry at me for allowing citizens to “know” one another in a loving committed way.  So, the only fair thing to do is vote for the concept of biblical marriage.  But before we vote, I think it behooves us to examine our terms.  What does Biblical Marriage look like exactly?  We need some ground rules. Ten Commandments, if you will…

Rule 1: Divorce should be Illegal.

  • Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7; 1 Cor. 7:10-11, 27, Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11-12

Rule 2:  Husbands have authority over Wives. (Analogy:  God=Men, Humans=Women)

  • Gen. 3:16; 1 Cor. 11:3, 7-9; Eph. 5:23, 1 Pet. 3:7

Rule 3:  Widows under 60 years old must remarry (and I assume miraculously) have children or they will turn to Satan and become busybodies.

  • 1 Timothy 5:11-15

Rule 4:  Childless widows must marry their brother-in-laws.

  • Deut 25:5; Matt. 22:24

Rule 5:  Women suspected of cheating must drink evil cursed water that damages their genitals.

  • Numbers 5:11-31 

Rule 6:  Women not virgins at marriage are to be murdered.  (In this way, only very short marriages of non-virgins are allowed.)

  •  Deut. 22:14-21

Rule 7:  Women who are divorced from their first husband, and marry a second husband, and are divorced by the second husband can never remarry the first husband.  (This law applies to no one as it violates Rule #1).

  • Deut. 24:1-4

Rule 8:  Anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  (This violates both laws #7 and #1.  However, I believe these cancel each other out. Making Rule 8 valid.)

  • Matt. 5:32

Rule 9:  During wartimes, men can kidnap any women that they want to marry.  As a favor to them, lock them up for one month before the marriage is made final.  (Back out at any time, but don’t sell her, as that would be cruel.)

  •  Deut. 21:10-14

Rule 10:  Men can have multiple wives, mistresses, and slaves.

  • Exodus 21:10, Deuteronomy 21:15-17, really any major OT character

Bonus Rule (to replace Rule 7 which is invalid due to technicality)  No interracial marriage!

  • Gen. 28:6; Exod. 34:15-16; Num. 25:6-11; Deut. 7:1-3; Josh. 23:12-13; Judges 3:5-8; 1 Kings 11:1-2; Ezra 9:1-2, 12; Ezra 10:2-3, 10-11; Neh. 10:30; Neh. 13:25-27

So what do you say?  Let’s vote for biblical marriage in America.  In this economy, we can’t afford to turn our back on god.  You know how he gets when he’s jealous.  Because at this rate, he’s surely going to make us drink the metaphorical genital shrinking water of economic recession (or the metaphorical economic recession of genital shrinking…one can never be sure).

-Jon no H

Don’t touch my God Shaped Hole

Before you can sell the solution, you’ve got to sell the problem. Infomercial formula: Black and white reenactments of ham-fisted actors bumbling around trying desperately to do some difficult household chore like cut a tomato or eat a grape.  Then, WHAMO!, the product of your dreams appears in Technicolor through the magic of television.  Those days of frustration you felt for not having sleeves in your blanket are as outdated as a Dobie Gillis episode.

In order for you to buy a cure, you need to be convinced you’re sick.  Beauty products aren’t beauty products anymore, they’ve been renamed health products.  More urgent that way, and their advertisements reflect it. –Open with wide shot of our avatar sitting on the patio of a cafe, sunlight reflecting off the glassware.  Opposite gendered person approaches in modern but professional apparrel.  Camera zooms in close to reveal startling health concern.  Everyone is so embarrassed!–  These things usually involve a woman on a blind date with someone who looks like David Beckham if he tried harder and worked out some more.   How did she get to this crucial moment in her life and not realize she has thinnish eyelashes, a skin blemish, and/or an intractable case of “not looking exactly like Sofia Vergara”.  Then, she realizes, she can either become agoraphobic and ring church bells for the rest of her life or….

For me the first time I realized how marketing worked was teeth whitening.  As a kid, I had no idea teeth were supposed to look as white as an 81/2 by 11.  (Full disclosure, I’m male.  I know I’ve got it easy when it comes to the media vs. body image thing.)  But for me, as a coffee addict, the white teeth sales pitch got me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve plenty of other hang ups, but I wasn’t around the genesis of those.  I got to see people go from archaic sepia-tones to sand-blasted porcelain in just a matter of a few years.  It’s like carbon dating.  You can tell how old a movie is by examining actor teeth.  I remember thinking to myself, I’m being sold a disease and no amount of conscious effort can forestall it infecting my brain.

Enough preamble.  The God-shaped hole is one of the laziest arguments you’ll ever encounter. So lazy you’ll swear Pascal must have thought it up.  Oh wait.  He did. (along with Augustine and CS Lewis).  It states that we have a desire to experience greater things and to have order in the world, THEREFORE, there must be a greater experience than this one.  Because we want more, there must be more.  The proof is in the problem.

1.  It’s not biblical.  The evidence to support this claim is weak with regard to the holy book.  Acts 22:27 is basically the one go to verse.  It’s Paul’s pitch to the Greeks who have a statue to “an unknown god”.  Guess what?  That unknown god is God!  He made you humans look all around for him (and then presumably give up and just call him unknown for a few thousand years).  That’s promising.  But wait… Romans 3:11 states that “no one is righteous, no one seeks god“.  Oops.  In using the sales pitch of sin, Paul screwed up his sales pitch of God searching.

2.  It’s lazy as hell.  Imagine a commercial that said you had a cheese pizza shaped hole in your life.  You could try and fill it with hamburgers and tacos, but you will never be satisfied.  That’s as subtle and well thought out as a Robin Williams punchline.  BUY PIZZA, WHY?  BECAUSE YOU WERE MADE TO EAT PIZZA!  Na-Nu Na-Nu.

3.  It’s condescending.  Christians are whole.  I’ve got a hole.  They have joy, I’ve got to settle for being happy.  Basically, christians have the Renee Zellweger of God to complete them.  All I’ve got to settle for is “Kwan”.

4.  It’s ineffectual.  Christians don’t stop buying things.  In fact, they LOVE shit.  They can’t get enough of it.  Bigger churches, houses, cars, everything.  Step one in “planting” a new church is hiring a minister with designer jeans and an Ipad to stand up in front of an IMAX screen while rock music shakes the coffee in the cup holders.  How am I the one who is desperately trying to fill my God shaped hole with what the material world has to offer?  (Feel free to counter with Christians are imperfect or those are bad Christians.  Or that they are using those tactics only to lure in non-believers.  Sacrifice = For christians so love the world that they eat a free donut for you.)

5. CS Lewis (I like his writing) wrote one embarrassingly bad thing with this: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”  Seriously. He used the word PROBABLE.  Hey CS, those Occam’s Razors aren’t disposable.

6.  (Anecdotal, I know) I’m happier now than when I was a christian.

7.  It’s quite vague.  People say that materialism and the fact that lots of cultures have established gods are proof of a god shaped hole.  These seem really different to me.  Which do you find more convincing?  Then it’s that one.

8. Teeth whitening wouldn’t have worked if there wasn’t some truth to it.  Social shame, a desire to be young, and sexual attractiveness are real things and when they are associated with bleach trays, it moves bleach trays.  I’m not arguing that.  But it’s backwards.  Sexual attraction isn’t proof that bleach trays exist.  As my blogmate John quoted, that fact that I desire something isn’t proof that it exists. I almost don’t have a problem with them using the fact that humans have problems and frustrations to sell god (if there was a god and he could demonstrate a decent percentage rate of fixing those problems).  But showing me a problem and then using that problem as proof of the existence of a solution is naive and not very realistic.  Just think.  How did all those people live for thousands of years without Crest Whitening Toothpaste?  Surely, their yellow teeth was a sign that gel exists with which to cure it!

All that said, sometimes I think people do have God shaped holes.  And only christians fill them. We all have two of them, and they led to our eardrums.  (I kid!)

Prove me wrong.  Leave a comment!

The Bad Shepherd

Posted on

I was recently offered this verse from scripture by a christian friend.

Matthew 18:12-14 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

This verse tells us that God is our good shepherd. That he watches us closely, cares immensely for us, and he is all-powerful, all-loving, and perfectly good. This was my response:

If someone who can’t be stopped is trying to save every individual person in the world, and billions of those people are NOT saved, then how is that someone unstoppable? The words say he is not willing that any should perish. But they perish.

If a shepherd had a flock of 7 billion sheep (number of people worldwide) , and he had them enclosed within a gate where they could not escape his sight, and he returned in the evening with about 2.1 billion sheep… (number of Christians worldwide.) is he a good shepherd, or a bad shepherd?

Let’s say no one ever sees him. The farmer just opens the gate in the morning, believing the shepherd will come, the sheep leave, presumably with him. The 2.1 billion remaining sheep return in the evening. 4.9 billion of them gone and lost. The next day you talk to the farmer and he gushes about the greatness of the shepherd who has lost 3/4th s of his flock. He tells you the story of opening the gate and of the great loss, and continues to praise the greatness of the shepherd. Would you start to wonder if that shepherd is real?

Let’s say you were curious so you wandered out to the field, and as you walked the path you saw sheep. Dead. Eaten by wolves. Broken upon rocks after falling off a cliff. Snatched up by birds of prey. They are almost literally everywhere. So many sheep. The streams are nearly clogged with sheep who wandered in and drowned. Some still limp along, lost in the forest, bleating for help.

This is what I’ve seen. I can draw two conclusions. One is that the shepherd is a bad shepherd. That he is ambivalent towards the sheep, and outright malevolent towards them. You could argue easily that he hates them.

The other is that the farmer may be a good man, but he is mistaken. There is no shepherd. You mentioned the other day that I was disrespectful towards god. Out of the two choices I have above, I have chosen the one that is MOST respectful towards him.

Just my thoughts,

-John

Those were my thoughts. Now I’d love to hear yours. Christians and Non-Christians, what are your thoughts on the verse? What are your thoughts on my response?

-John with an H