Prof George Claassen makes a number of important points in his September 18, 2009 blog post “State schools contravene law on religious instruction“: (http://prometheusongebonde.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/state-schools-contravene-law-on-religious-instruction/ ).  South Africa has yet to publicly debate the proper line to be drawn between religious freedom on the one hand, and abuse of state institutions to promote religion, on the other hand.  In mature democracies like the USA and France, this delicate issue was settled shortly after the founding of these democracies some centuries ago.  So perhaps the time is now ripe to put this subject on the agenda of South African public discourse, as George has done. 

The subject of my post is however not the (illegal) promotion of religion in state schools, but rather the teaching of Creationism in Natural Science classes in South African schools – a very clear case of the abuse of institutions of state to promote the personal religion of the teacher. 

Creationism can be defined as the doctrine that the universe, (presumably including the Milky Way galaxy and our solar system – items strangely enough omitted from the prosaic descriptions in holy books), the earth and all life were created in their present forms by a personal, omnipotent, deity.  All as described in a specific holy book, the title and date of compilation depending on which flavour of Middle Eastern monotheism the believer happens to subscribe to. 

The Christian “Young Earth Creationists” believe this Creation event occurred approximately 6000 years ago.  Historically, many attempts at calculating the date of Creation were made, amongst others by Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler and Joseph Scaliger.  In one of the best known of these calculations, Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656) figured out that Creation must have occurred in the third week of October 4004 BCE.  Ussher’s specific choice of starting year may have been influenced by the then-widely-held belief that the earth’s design life was 6,000 years, 4,000 before the birth of Christ and 2,000 after, corresponding to the six days of Creation, on the grounds that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).  Needless to say, Archbishop Ussher’s implied prediction that Planet Earth would expire in 1997 CE did not come true. 

The latest South African “Revised National Curriculum Statement for Grades R-9 (Schools) Natural Sciences” was published in Gazette No. 23406, Vol 443, in May 2002.  The Curriculum Statement provides a definition of “Science” on p4 from which the following extract forms part: “To be accepted as science, certain methods of inquiry are generally used. They promote reproducibility, attempts at objectivity, and a systematic approach to scientific inquiry. These methods include formulating hypotheses, and designing and carrying out experiments to test the hypotheses. Repeated investigations are undertaken, and the resulting methods and results are carefully examined and debated before they are accepted as valid.”  The Curriculum Statement proposes four core knowledge areas in Natural Sciences, to wit (1) Life and Living, (2) Energy and Change, (3) Planet Earth and Beyond and (4) Matter and Materials.  I have not studied the whole Curriculum Statement in detail, but have no objections to what I read there. 

My youngest child attends a state primary school in an established middle class neighbourhood in Pretoria, Gauteng Province.  Natural Sciences is an obligatory subject.  Earlier this year (2009) the origin and evolution of life was the subject in class for a couple of weeks.  The teacher (let’s call her Mrs D) distributed class notes containing the following:

“How did the universe originate?

  • There are many beliefs and scientific theories regarding this.  The one that is generally accepted is the “Big Bang” theory.
  • Cosmologists believe that between 15 and 20 billion years ago a huge explosion known as the Big Bang took place.  Everything shot out of nothing and formed solar systems.  Our own sun and its planets were also born in this manner.”

(My translation.  The original reads: “Hoe het die heelal ontstaan?  Daar is baie gelowe en wetenskaplike teorieë hieroor.  Die een wat algemeen aanvaar word is die “Oerknalteorie”.  Sterrekundiges glo dat daar sowat 15 tot 20 biljoen jaar gelede ‘n baie groot ontploffing bekend as die Oerknal plaasgevind het.  Alles het uit niks uitgeskiet en sterrestelsels gevorm.  Ons eie son en sy planete is ook op hierdie manier gebore.”) 

The objection against the above is of course that it is expressed in the typical creationist vocabulary usually applied to conjure up the straw man version of the Big Bang.  “There are many beliefs…”   “Cosmologists believe…”   “…a huge explosion…”   “..everything shot out of nothing…”   “…born…”   and of course the wide window of uncertainty implied by the “…15 to 20 billion years…”, as opposed to the current scientific estimate of 13,7 billion years. 

The central theme of the lesson was however not contained in these printed class notes.  Mrs D proceeded to read from Genesis 1, explaining to the children that the biblical version is what actually happened, as opposed to what those ignorant cosmologists “believe”.  So light and darkness were created on the first day, the firmament separating waters above from waters below on the second day, dry land and sea on the third day, and eventually the lights in the firmament, the sun and moon on the fourth day.  It was not mentioned at all to the class that the bizarre sequence of events described in Genesis stands diametrically opposed to the scientifically well-understood and actual sequence of star and planet formation.

Needless to say, my child was mortified. 

In a next Natural Sciences class, still on the origin and evolution of life, Mrs D once again had the Bible open at Genesis 1.  This time the different life forms were being discussed.  No class notes were used, for reasons that will immediately become obvious.  Mrs D proceeded to draw a huge table with six blocks on the black board – respectively titled “Day 1” to “Day 6”.  The species as “created by God” on the appropriate days were written into the blocks – grass and trees on the third day, fish and birds on the fifth day, and reptiles, mammals and humans on the sixth day.  The evolution of life and speciation by means of natural selection was never mentioned, except by oblique reference to the effect that “…many people believe different things about the way life on earth developed.” 

A pupil asked Mrs D where dinosaurs fitted into the table with the six blocks, only to be told that they were merely one of the “walking / crawling” animals created on the sixth day.  The scientific fact that the descendants of dinosaurs are still alive today in the form of birds, was never mentioned.  Mrs D did however make a rather big fuss about the “huge difference” between humans and animals.  According to her, the latter were called into existence by God’s divine command, whereas homo sapiens was apparently sculpted “in the image” of the Creator.  The fossil record, the DNA evidence for common descent, the factors that promote speciation and the process of evolution by natural selection were not mentioned.  Not a word on the overwhelming evidence for the descent of homo sapiens from earlier hominid species and his relatedness to other big apes alive today.  Nothing.  Only Genesis. 

When my child reported these strange events from the Natural Sciences class to me I was furious.  A person like Mrs D is clearly guilty of gross dereliction of duty and wilful misrepresentation.  In my opinion, she ought to be summarily dismissed.  But how does one address this while one’s child is still in the school?  If the parents were to object to this type of “scientific” instruction, the child will almost certainly be subject to ostracism and possibly even stronger forms of censure.  The power of an old myth book is alive and well in 2009, in at least one South African state school.  I suspect the same holds true for most.

God’s Voice

February 10, 2009

As an ex Christian, allow me to explain the concept of hearing “The voice of God”.

We often hear people say “God warned me and I did not listen” or “God told me she was a good person” or even “God told me to stay away from that place”. There are countless examples of people claiming to “hear” God speak. However, upon investigation one might ask them the simple question: “What does God’s voice sound like?” resulting in a puzzled look from the person claiming to hear God speak. For all the non-believers out there, allow me to try and provide some more insight. Christians do not “hear” the voice of God, they feel it. Sure, some may claim to hear an audible voice, but, as any good pastor will tell you, this is a bonus and not the expectation. Of course, there are many people in mental institutions who claim to hear audible voices and so the fact remains that hearing an audible voice does not mean it came from any god. For most Christians though, God speaks with a “feeling”. There is a saying: “The soft still voice of the Holy Spirit that screams at you”. You most often hear Christians say things like “I feel God is saying…”

As a former Christian, I still “hear” the “Voice of God”. I have however discovered its real name. It is called gut feel. There is no difference. Sure, some people would claim there is a difference, but one needs to consider their motives, their beliefs and their investment in the belief that they are privileged enough to hear God speak. My gut feel and my previous experience of “The Voice Of God (TM)” is the same thing, just different names. People sometimes experience a gut feel, about a person, a place, a situation, an idea and many other things. In the same way Christians live with the belief that God speaks to them by a “feeling”, about persons, places, situations ideas and many other things. This “voice in the back of your head” is also often called the subconscious.

Considering this situation one needs to look at the implications of this. Atheists experience “gut feel”, but they are not ruled by it. It may act as an initial assumption until the situation can be assessed in greater detail. Do not judge a book by its cover, but if the cover is horrendous, the gut feel might just tell you that a horrendous book may be expected. Yet, this is not always so. Many times we judge an initial situation, realise our error and change our perceptions about it. This is a good thing. The problem arises when a gut feel is idolised as the Voice of the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth (TM). Disobeying the Voice of God is a sin. It is therefore a sin to question a gut feel. In all fairness, Christians will tell you that you need to judge the “Voice of God” that you hear against the Bible, just to make sure. The claim is that the “Voice of God” will never violate Biblical principles. Should the voice you hear/feel violate some part of the Bible, it is automatically assumed that it is an evil spirit tempting the person or just the person making stuff up. In plain words, if you hear “God’s Voice”, and it sounds in line with the teachings of the Bible, then it is the Voice of God (TM). If the voice is not in accordance with the Bible, it is an evil, lying spirit and should be rebuked, then ignored.

Major mayhem sometimes breaks out when Christians hear the Voice of God differently. “God told me he will live” vs. “God told me his time is up”. On a large scale new denominations can form because of the conflict regarding God’s plan and what people hear/feel it is. This is an even bigger problem with fuzzy areas in Biblical doctrine, because some people “hear” God say A, and another bunch is convinced God says B. It is an unfortunate fact that the Side A people will often tell the Side B people that they are deceived by a lying spirit, and vice versa. Take baptism for instance. Millions of Christians are sure God says they should baptise children while millions more feel God is saying it should only be adults. When God told George Bush to invade Iraq, one no longer has to wonder about the source. Let’s face it. Millions of other Christians were convinced he was wrong and heard God in a different way, altogether.

Is this perhaps one of religion’s most dangerous sides? In a world where people worship their gut feel as God, a God that commands all obedience, the danger of enforcing one’s gut feel on other people is enormous. Christians often walk up to people because “God told me to minister to that person”. This is annoying and not dangerous, but when people think God commanded them to invade other countries, it really does become a major problem. Why? Because people die. Soldiers die, woman die, children die and many that does not die suffers in horrible ways. The crusades were full of people that “heard” God tell them to go on a crusade and kill unbelievers. In fact, obeying the gut feel, or, the Voice of God, is encouraged as part of the “personal” relationship with God. This is ironic, because it might just be a “personal” relationship with your gut feel, coupled with your desires and some indoctrination. Reasoning with emotion is a futile enterprise and a gut feel may very well be an emotional response. Thus, what some people think they “hear” God say can be a very real threat to other people and as history has taught us, it has been the cause of much suffering and carnage.

If you think you “feel” or hear god speak to you then I would encourage you not to blindly follow the “voice”. For one, you do not possess magical powers that allow you special communication with god that other people do not have. Please don’t ever forget this.

I should also point out that many preachers exploit the gut feel concept. Preaching on how God wants you to give money to the church or ministry and then asking you to listen to the voice of god, listen if it tells you to make a contribution. Now, people generally want to do good things and if they are convinced that giving god some of their money is a good thing and a desire of god, then they will act on it. The gut feel to give is an emotional response to the pleas/threats of the pastor/priest. If people can be convinced that the emotional response, the “gut feel” is the voice of God then they will act the way the sermon preacher manipulated them.

A perfect God?

November 21, 2008

The three mainstream monotheistic religions make a common claim. They claim their god is perfect. Apart from the obvious issue that the concept of perfection is subjective I have been thinking about this idea, the idea of a perfect god.

Since Christianity is the main religion that I come into contact with I would like to consider the concept of “the Christian god is perfect”. The actual existence of such a perfect being is not within the scope of this discussion because it is a discussion all on its own.

What is perfection? Perfection means it cannot be better, for if something could be better, then it would not be perfect. We can look at biological organisms and their functions. Human eyes for instance are not perfect. Why? Well, a squid’s eyes are closer to optimum. We only see three colours, namely red, green and blue. A mantis shrimp has the ability to see eight. Seeing eight colours is better then seeing only three colours. There is therefore no way we can claim that human eyes are perfect since we have examples of better eyes in other animals.

But comparing gods is a bit more difficult. The reason is that gods cannot be differentiated from mere ideas that humans have. We have not caught any god(s) so we cannot study them/it. Searching for a god’s interaction in our universe has also proven to be fruitless so far. But perhaps we can compare ideas to see if an idea is better than another one and therefore closer to perfection. The better something is, the closer it is to perfection. To a certain extend one can evaluate a god in the same way we evaluate ideas. There is no other way to evaluate a god and his/her/it’s worth, as far as I know. We can only compare ideas and opinions.

So the Christians make a claim about their god. They claim he is perfect. But, if I can think of a god with better properties, then my idea of a god is closer to perfection than their idea or concept of god. Since a perfect god has perfection as a property it should therefore be impossible to think of better properties or attributes for such a god. If it could be better, then it is not perfect. If a person can think of better properties or attributes then the first concept of god no longer has any claim to perfection.

We see this concept of perfection active in the Christian concept of god. All-mighty. Yes, that sounds perfect. Omni-present. Yes, that also sounds also very perfect to me. All-knowing would also be a requirement for a perfect god. All-good would be a requirement for a good god if it is also claimed that he is perfect. Since I cannot improve on concepts such as all-mighty, all-knowing and all-present it means that I cannot imagine a more perfect god. On the surface, the Christian god appears to be a perfect god.

The Christians also have another claim, apart of the claim for a perfect god. The claim is that the Bible tells us something about this perfect god and his actions. There are also references in the Bible describing God as all-mighty, all-knowing etc. But the Bible goes into more detail. At certain places it describes god’s motives behind some of his actions. In other places only actions are discussed without the motives behind them. The Bible is full of concepts about god, his actions and his motives. Jesus was send because the all-good god had a plan to sacrifice his son to save mankind. This is the basis of the Christian faith.

There is a problem though. By reading the Bible and its alleged revelation about god we can continue to think about the concept of the perfect Christian God and compare it to the concept of perfection. So, let’s start at the beginning.

According to the Christian holy book, the Bible, God made everything (universe) in six days. Why six days? Would a perfect god not have made everything in the blink of an eye? If we compare two gods: One makes the universe in six days and the other god makes the universe in a split second, who is the better god? Well, the one who created in the least time of course.

The Bible says that god rested on the seventh day. Now, people claim it was done that way so that humans could understand that the seventh day is a holy day and a day of resting. But does that really mean god rested? If god did not rest, then the Bible is lying because it clearly says that god rested on the seventh day. A better god would simply not require rest.

It is claimed that Adam and Eve lived in a perfect garden. No death, no maintenance required and not even clothes required. It sounds pretty perfect to me. But there was a tree planted by god. That tree had the potential to cause major disaster. This does not sound like a perfect idea to me. Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat the fruit from that tree. We all know the rest. Satan came, chatted to Eve and convinced her to eat from the forbidden tree. Adam followed suit and God promptly kicked them out of the perfect garden. This story is the so called “fall of man” or original sin. Yet, looking at the story as a whole we find some problems ascribing this god’s action in the light of perfection. A perfect garden with a temptation (evil) is not perfect. Since a perfect god is all-knowing, he would have known Adam and Eve would have eaten from the forbidden fruit, so why plant the damn tree there in the first place? Did he expect a better outcome? Would a perfect god not have been smart enough not to plant the tree causing the majority of humanity to be condemned to eternal torture? A perfect god would have avoided this pitfall that allegedly caused humanity all its suffering. In short, humanity’s suffering is the direct result of the actions of this god who planted the tree that made this big mess possible in the first place. A better god would have done better since the situation is clearly a bad one. Any situation ending up in the majority of people having to suffer is a bad one.

The Christians claim there must have been a choice for evil else there could be no free will. Free will is a requirement for perfection and it is claimed that Adam and Eve was made perfect. One has to wonder if their eyes were perfect too, way back then, able to see at least as many colours as the mantis shrimp. And yet, if they were perfect then why did they have the tendency to fall for temptation? The very first temptation that came along they fell for. Would a perfect god not have left out this obvious error in his design? It is like building an aeroplane and deliberately building in the possibility that the engines could overheat, causing the plane to crash. Such a plane would not be perfect, since a better property could be imagined, i.e, the property that it would have a fail safe not to overheat. A better design, in short and therefore the first design cannot be described as perfect.

One also has to wonder about the Noah’s flood story. God drowned all the people on Earth except for eight of them. It is claimed that all people on earth (except the Noah eight) was just too evil and the only resort was to murder them all. Are these the actions of a perfect god? Would it not have been better to do something else? Surely an all-powerful god could not have had as a last solution the murder of all humanity, except for a chosen eight people. Could he not have thundered a voice from heaven? The Christian god, it is claimed, interfered with a Pharaoh’s attitude. It is said that he hardened the heart of Pharaoh, leading to the deaths of all first-born Egyptian children (innocent). Could he not have used a reversed tactic and softened the hearts of the people in Noah’s time? And if he was really committed to killing them all, then why not just make them disappear into total non-existence, instead of having them (children too) suffer the horrible death of drowning? Could he not have given them a more merciful death, like teleported an overdose of sleeping tablets to the intestines of the ones he disliked? Why the whole drama of a flood? Could he not just have disintegrated the people and things he had an issue with, sterilising the earth from evil? Since I can conceive how a better god could have handled the whole flood drama in a better way, can the Christian god still be claimed to be perfect?

Now, people might say: “Whoa, wait a minute. Our idea of perfect is not God’s idea of perfect so we cannot judge what is perfect or not”. If so, then *you* cannot claim your god is perfect, since you invalidate your concept of perfect in one blow and therefore cannot lay claim to a concept of perfection at all. If only your god knows what is perfect, then you cannot claim to know he is perfect. You cannot claim we don’t know what perfect is and then claim you know god is perfect.

Looking at the whole story of Jesus having to suffer as a sacrifice for our sin I also have some questions. If god is all-mighty then why did he need a scapegoat in order to forgive humanity? Punishing the wrong person for a transgression committed by another is a really bad/poor law system. Why did he not just say “You are all forgiven and have a clean slate as result”? Would a god that simply forgives not be better than a god that needs to see something innocent suffer in order to forgive? It would by any reasonable standard. Punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty cannot be an attribute of a perfect god. We can even ask if the need to punish belongs to the concept of a perfect god at all. Would a better god not be free from a desire or even need to punish? Would a perfect god not be free of any needs, even self imposed ones? So why this need to see something suffer?

Now, Christians say that God is all-just and all-lawful, and therefore he requires that a wrong deed be punished. Sure, but then he is bound by this need, he cannot violate it, right? A perfect god would not be bound by anything and least of all self-imposed restrictions. His concept of law is also questionable. Even humans don’t allow an innocent person to be punished for the crimes of another. It is like crucifying the neighbour’s child if your own has been up to mischief. Or, more in line with the Biblical story, it is like crucifying your own child because the neighbours’s kids stole your apples. And somehow torture is also required by this just god, simple death is not enough. Jesus was tortured and if you don’t accept his torture as your own fault, well, then you will be tortured in fire for all eternity. This is not “just” in any reasonable sense of the word. A perfect god could do better, like simply forgive or simply rectify the situation once and for all so that no more people need to suffer or be tortured. My concept of a perfect god is that such a good and perfect god would have found a way to deal with the issues to everyone’s satisfaction. Or, even better: A perfect god would have planned well enough so that all this torture and suffering was never *required* in the first place.

Christians claim that only a small percentage of humanity will escape eternal damnation or in other words, eternal torture in hell. If Jesus was God’s plan to save humanity from hell and only a small percentage is saved, then one has to question whether the plan was really a good plan after all. A better plan would have saved more than a small percentage, lets say 50% at least. An even better plan would have saved more, say about 80%. Yet it is clear that a perfect plan would have saved 100%. Since 100% is not saved by god’s plan it leaves us to conclude that his plan was not perfect. A perfect god would have had a perfect plan for salvation. Actually, no. A perfect god would have planned well enough so that salvation was not required in the first place. The doctrine of salvation is after all very simple. God made man, and made him curious. God planted tree and said: “Man, do not eat from that tree”. Curious man ate from the tree, as was to be expected. Suffering and mayhem follows. God tries to rescue man by torturing his own son. Son dies. Son is alive again. Man is only rescued if man believes all of this. Why? Why does man have to believe that innocent Jesus was tortured by God in order to be saved? After all, Jesus was tortured as was required and so the deed is done. God’s requirement to see someone suffer was fulfilled. God’s torturing requirement is fulfilled. Why then another requirement, the requirement for man to believe all this *and* worship the god? Why not just do the rescue plan and leave it at that? It’s like handing out food to the dying hungry, but only if they worship you. Not a moral act at all.

Speaking about worship. Why would a perfect god require to be worshipped anyway? Would a god that does not require anything and worship in particular not be a better god? It would. Person A wants to torture everyone that does not worship person A. Person B does not require people to worship him and have no desire (or demand on himself) that people be tortured. Person B is the better person. Since I can conceive of a better god than the Christian god that requires worship and total submission, well, then my concept of god is closer to perfection and therefore the Christian concept cannot lay absolute claim to perfection anymore.

It is assumed by the Christians that their god is good. If there are two options to us: A god who deceives people and a god who has no deception. What option would be the better option and therefore closer to perfection? Yes, the honest god is the better god. Yet, the Bible says this about the Christian god:

1 Kings 22:23
Now, therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.

2 Chronicles 18:22
Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets.

Ezekiel 14:9
And if a prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet.

2 Thessalonians 2:11
For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.

A better god would not deceive people in a bad way or in any way for that matter. Plain and simple. I mean, it’s hard enough trying to figure out this life. A god that complicates things by deceiving us and causing us to harbour falsehoods is not a good thing, not a good thing at all. Even worse is the problem that people who get confused about what god wants might just end up in hell for it. God wants good works. No, god wants you to accept Jesus. No, god wants you to love other people above all. No, god wants you to love him above all. What if the whole Jesus thing was just a clever deception by the Old Testament god so that he could punish the people? After all, based on the above scripture you cannot claim that god would not deliberately deceive you! Maybe Christianity was the Judean god’s revenge on the Romans for conquering the Israelites?

Looking into detail at various parts of the Bible it is easy to see ways where the god could have been a better god. There are a multitude of examples to be found. Killing children with bears because they laughed at an old prophet is a bit extreme, even for an uptight god. Ordering the murder of woman, children, males and even animals is not the perfect way to deal with anything. In fact, humanity has recognised this for many years now and are trying their very best to stop these type of murderous practices. Are we perhaps more compassionate than the Christian god? Yes, we are. Who wishes guilty people to suffer an eternity? Not even the worst of human evils deserves an infinite punishment, because their crimes are simply finite. A perfect god would be better than us, would have more mercy and goodness, not less. We don’t torture people who steal and yet god is fine with torturing people simply because they do not worship him. You can say, yes, he is god, so he is allowed to. Why would you praise in your god that which you would hate in yourself? It simply shows that you are better than your concept of god.

There is therefore no good reason why any person would claim the Christian god is a perfect god. A perfect god would leave us in awe of his every action. It would leave us unable to wish for something better because he would simply be the best. But this doctrine of heaven for a few and eternal torture for the vast majority leaves us with the conclusion that it would be better (for humanity) if there was no god at all instead of the Christian concept of god actually existing. Since it is preferable to have no god than the Christian god, it is clear that having nothing is better than having the Christian god. A perfect god however would not leave us wishing that he did not exist. In all fairness, the things humanity would wish away are the more “evil” things in life. If a god is wished away we could perhaps wonder if there is any good in the concept to begin with.

One also cannot help but note that Christians claim their god is fair. Why do they claim this? It is based on the assumption that god is good and perfect and therefore perfectly fair. Any evidence to the contrary (as is found in the Bible) is argued away by saying we are not perfect and therefore cannot judge god’s actions. The assumption is that a perfect god would be perfectly fair. Since we established that the Christian concept of god is not perfect I am left to wonder why they assume he would be fair towards them, once they are dead. If there was a perfect god, and he was perfectly good, then one also has to wonder what his reaction would be to people who attributed evil deeds, such as killing an innocent (Jesus) to satisfy his own bloodlust, as good deeds to him? Would he perhaps be perfectly upset? A non-existing god is preferable to an upset god. Pascal’s wager is not the safe bet it seems at all. Can there be such a thing as perfect at all, let alone a perfect god?

A letter from God.

September 9, 2008

From the beginning people assumed I must be perfect. It is a hard burden to bear when it is clear that I have made mistakes. And a perfect being… is a perfect being really perfect and all-mighty when it is incapable of being imperfect?

I made mistakes, big mistakes. What earthly parent would put a big chocolate tree up and forbid their children to taste it. What earthly parent would loose suffering, pain, shame and death when a child acts according to its curious nature? Yet I did it. It was my first mistake, but not my last.

I tried to rectify the mistakes I made in the Garden of Eden and made an ever bigger mess of things. I exterminated humanity because I blamed them for my own failings. Only Noah and his family I saved, because if I killed them too I would have had to admit I made a mistake in making humanity in the first place. I could not admit it then, but I must admit it now. Is a “perfect” being not allowed to say sorry for being imperfect? I made a mistake in exterminating humanity, save for a few. Why was it so important to me that people worship me and not the sun, the stars of nature? Could I not have loved them and left them in peace to be free? They did not harm me when they adored the sun and stars, yet I harmed them because I wanted to feel important.

I made a mistake when I sowed division amongst humanity at the Tower of Babel. Why should I have felt threatened when humanity wanted to stand together? My double standards showed again. They had unity and I destroyed it. Ever since that time humanity has never recovered from the divisions I engineered. People killed other people because they were different, different customs and different language. I engineered those differences and made a mistake in doing so. I sowed discord and humanity are still reaping the sorrows thousands of years later. I never fixed my mistake. I am sorry. I wanted to divide humans and ever since have been incapable of undoing my mistake. Now, I am sorry, because harmony would have been a much better choice. I was too self-important to see.

I am sorry I used the Israelites to exterminate groups of people that did not bow down to me. In my arrogance I decreed they should suffer and die because they did not worship me. I am sorry for the woman who had to see their children murdered before their eyes, to the husbands who had to bear the horror of their loved ones being raped, families condemned to a life of slavery because I was arrogant. I am sorry that my irrational anger even wanted their innocent animals dead. I am sorry I never dealt with my wrath, my hatred for those who did not adore me, my disgust in those who could not love me. I am sorry I made humanity suffer for my mistakes. I am sorry I expected the impossible and tortured humanity when they could not achieve the impossible.

I am sorry I made the Israelites suffer when they could not be perfect. I am sorry I visited wars, plague, famine and destruction on them because they could not worship me in the way I desired. I am sorry I did not see my own arrogance as the root for all the suffering and that I justified my horrid actions on the grounds that I am ultimate, more special, more valuable than humanity. It was always all about me. I was selfish and unreasonable. Ever I asked more from humanity than what I gave them. I made them imperfect and then made them suffer for it. I am sorry someone always had to suffer because I was always unhappy. Even a third of the angels quit heaven because they could not stand me. I am sorry I was to arrogant to consider the possibility that the fault was mine, not theirs. I was the problem, both for humanity and for the angels.

I am sorry I never stood up for woman in a time when males even sold them into slavery. I am sorry I did not intervene when they were shamed, raped, enslaved and treated like mere cattle. I am sorry I never stood up for females when priests claimed it was my will that woman should submit to men. I am also sorry that I impregnated Mary without her knowledge, without her consent. When a human does the same it is called rape, but when I did it I called it holy. I am sorry I violated Joseph’s fiancé, that I spoiled his love and shamed him in the eyes of his neighbours and family.

I am sorry that I was a dictator, a tyrant that demanded respect, love and unconditional obedience without earning any of it. I am sorry I was vindictive, petty and jealous. I am sorry for my arrogance and all the mistakes I made that I blamed on humanity. I am sorry about Sodom and Gomorrah. I made man’s sexual instincts and then punished man for it. I am sorry I murdered the first born Egyptian children, innocent children that could not have offended me. I could simply have spoken a word and the Israelites would have been transported out of Egypt to the promised land. But no, I had to make a scene, I had to demonstrate my power and in doing so once again demonstrated my desire to see someone suffer. I had to make the Israelites suffer for 40 years in a harsh desert because I wanted them to cry out to me. I am sorry I always demanded to be recognised as the most important thing ever.

I am sorry for the Bible. I inspired the writers but failed because my message was obscure, vain, unreasonable and unclear. Ever since people have been confused over what I meant, and ever since people killed other people because I did not provide them with a clear and coherent textbook for life. People died because I was not clear about my message, it is thus my fault. At times my promises to humanity was sincere and I really did intend to keep them, but always my anger and arrogance made me make excuses for why the promises never got fulfilled. I always blamed it on humanity. I avoided the truth. A perfect god would have found a perfect way around the imperfection of humanity. I never did. I thought if I punished them enough they would change and love me more. I was wrong. I punished them for their nature, the nature I gave them. I was to blame, not humanity. I started seeing my fault in making humanity suffer for my own mistakes and came up with the plan of Jesus. My followers became more like me and even to this day causes suffering and strife on Earth. I could have stopped it all, but did nothing.

Yet, even with Jesus I failed again. By the laws I decreed the vast majority of humanity will still suffer in hell, suffer because they are human, suffer *because* I made them human, suffer because *I* made mistakes. It seems every time I tried to intervene in the affairs of humanity I made it worse. They were not allowed to make mistakes and yet I punished humanity for every mistake that I made. The morals I demanded from humanity not even I could uphold. Not even I could love like I commanded. I tried to force humanity to love me by giving them fear. I am sorry for all the children’s nightmares about the tortures of hell. I am sorry for the agony the parents felt when their children could not adore me anymore, the nightmares of their children suffering in hell. I am sorry for all those death bed moments where the fear of hell could be seen naked in they eyes of those who were dying. I am sorry for their agony, for the fear they suffered. I tried to force humanity to worship me not by merits but by bribery and blackmail, heaven and hell. I am sorry for all the fear I authored. I am sorry for trying to break humans so that they could worship me. I was a tyrant and of the worst kind. I am sorry. My Jesus-plan was a failure, because once again I demanded that people worship me, and *only* me. My Jesus-plan was a sham. I thought if I tortured Jesus enough that I would not want to make anyone else suffer. I was wrong. I still made people suffer. In my dishonesty I tried to hide my tyrant nature and convince people that Satan caused the suffering. I smeared a fallen angel to take the blame for my actions. My Jesus-plan fixed nothing, the world is still the same and people still suffer and die. My PR plan failed.

I am sorry that I made viruses and bacteria, disease and cancer. I thought that if humanity suffered that they would see how small they are and how big I am. I wanted them to see how unimportant they are without me and how very important I am. I wanted their adoration. Millions of innocent children died from painful diseases, diseases that I made. They died because I made mistakes. They died because I wanted to force humanity to love me. They died because I wanted the love I never gave. I am sorry for every natural disaster I ever sent to harm humanity. I now realise that fear is not the fruits of love, that killing people as a lesson to those who survive is not love, nor moral, nor fair, not justice and not divine.

I am sorry for every loving prayer, every honest request that I ignored. I ignored the prayers of those who cried out for me to ease the suffering, on themselves, their neighbours or even their children. I did not heed it because I am god and do not answer to anyone. Yet, they prayed for relief, they prayed in human love and I did nothing because I had none. They were better than I. They begged for relief and compassion while I caused suffering. They begged me to stop making them suffer and I did nothing because someone had to suffer for the imperfections I left behind.

I am sorry that Jesus had to suffer. He suffered for one reason only, because *I* needed to see someone suffer. I could not accept responsibility for my own failures and wanted to see someone else die, to take the blame that belonged to me. Jesus did not die for humanity’s sins, he died for mine.

To this world: I am sorry. I have wronged humanity and this world. I am beyond forgiveness. I am sorry I made you imperfect and then blamed it on you. I am sorry I gave you a nature and then condemned you for having it. I am sorry I tried to force you to worship me by giving you the blackest fear you could imagine. I am sorry I bribed you with heaven. I am sorry I blackmailed you with hell. I am sorry than even to this day people die because of what I wrote in the Bible and I am sorry that to this day I did nothing to fix my mistakes. I am sorry for my own nature, my nature that demands it’s daily dose of suffering in others. I am sorry I demanded on pain of death that you control your nature (that I gave you) and yet I could not control my own. I am sorry that I am imperfect and wanted you to suffer because of it. I am sorry that I am your god because you deserve a better one. You would have been better of without me in the first place. You would have been better off with no god at all.

No proof for evolution?

August 26, 2008

Often on the blogs we see a religious person claiming there is no proof for evolution. While such a statements is in effect a clear indication that said person has not been doing their homework it is still fairly easy to give them a very simple example. I have a sort of standard copy/paste reply to such statements of ignorance. It is one argument that made a big impact on my road from fundie to sceptic. It goes like this:

Imagine you write a book. It is a book about sound and how it behaves. You publish the book and have copyright on it. A couple of months later, you pick up another book about sound. You are furious when you notice that someone else has copied your work, and you promptly take them to court.

Now, how will you prove that the other person copied your book, since all the facts about sound, and how it behaves, are stated in the same way in both books? The other person could of course get the facts right too! In fact, the 2 books appear about 95 percent the same (factually)! You cannot tell the judge: “Well, your honour, I wrote the speed of sound is 330 m/s, and the other person wrote the same!”. The judge will laugh at you, since you claim that because the other person got his facts right, that he must have got it from you.

But, if there are errors in your book, errors about known facts, and they appear in the other book too, then you have a strong case for copyright infringement. If you made a mistake in your book, and wrote that the speed of sound is 632 m/s, and the other person repeats the EXACT SAME mistake, then you can prove that he copied from your book. Your case would be even better if you could come up with 37+ errors that you made that were repeated in the impostor’s book!

Humans must eat Vitamin C. They cannot fabricate their own Vitamin C. Why is that? It is because our gene for Vitamin C (GULO) fabrication is broken. It was a mutation that destroyed the function of the Vitamin C gene, therefore we have to eat stuff with Vitamin C in it, or else we would die (Skeerbuik/Scurvy). You know who sits with the same problem? Chimps! They also have the broken Vitamin C gene, and it is broken in the SAME sort of way that ours is. Why is that?

We know our DNA and Chimp DNA are VERY close to each other, about 95% and possibly even more. But apart from the entire DNA that works, that are the same, in both our species, we ALSO share ERRORS, like the Vitamin C gene (and many others, called pseudo-genes), with Chimps. To me, this is good proof that we and Chips evolved from the same type of ape thing. We share common ancestry (Thus, we did not evolve FROM Chimps; we simply share a common ancestor). We BOTH inherited the DNA that works, AND the various ERRORS from the common ancestor.

Relate this back to my copyright story at the start of this post and you will understand. But take it further. The 2 books are WORD FOR WORD, FACT AND ERROR, the same and even ordered the same, except for about 5% max, that differs. It is copies (imperfect) from the same source, the common ancestor.

Furthermore, this kicks Intelligent Design Creationism in the nuts. Did the designer make the same mistake in humans and in chimps? Well, not so perfect then, is he? Jokes aside, the above example is just one of many things that are explained by evolution in a clear and simple way. People who claim there is no evidence for evolution obviously have not made any effort to research and challenge their own views a bit. It is always better to form your world-view based on evidence than your “evidence” based on your world-view.

I know this is an old issue, but I feel like rambling about it a little.

I received a rather unconvincing post a while ago about cellphone fraud.  The thing that bugged me was that it was being spread at my work place.  Firstly, by people who have no idea about cellphones and how they function.  Secondly, by people who don’t really understand that they are being the spammers here.  And finally, by people who don’t realise that their standard naive outlook on these things can be rather costly for them.

I reproduce here in full the email as I received it:

Subject:  FW: Urgent Warning from Cell C & Vodacom

Dear All,

If you receive a phone call on your mobile from any person, saying
that, he or she is a company engineer, or saying that they’re checking
your mobile line, and you have to press # 90 or #09 or any other number.
End this call immediately without pressing any numbers.

There is a fraud company using a device that once you press #90 or #09
they can access your ‘SIM’ card and make calls at your expense. Forward
this message to as many friends as you can, to stop it. All mobile user
s pay attention if you receive a phone call and your mobile phone
displays (XALAN) on the screen don’t answer the call, END THE CALL
IMMEDIATELY, if you answer the call, your phone will be infected by a
virus..

This virus will erase all IMEI and IMSI information from both your
phone and your SIM card, which will make your phone unable to connect
with the telephone network. You will have to buy a new phone. This
information has been confirmed by both Motorola and Nokia.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS PIECE OF INFORMATION TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS HAVING A
MOBILE.”

My first observation about this email was that apparently only two of the four cellphones providers in my country is effected by this phenomenon.  This immediately made my bullshit alarm start tingling.  Why on earth would ONLY those two companies be effected and not the others?  In an attempt to start figuring out an answer to this question I decided to start searching for some answers.

I did a cursory search for cellphone fraud and almost immediately came up with these hits:

http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/jailcall.asp

We can see that there is a partial truth to the claim if it were for telephone fraud.  Sadly, the claim in the original email is for cellphones.

http://www.issafrica.org/PUBS/CRIMEINDEX/99VOL3NO5/Cellular.html

This is the results of a poll on cellphone fraud.  We can clearly gather that the original mail is rather untruthful about it’s claims.  I personally can’t help but be suspicious with the poor appeal to authority by adding a picture of a “Special Investigating Unit”.  Also, at the end of the email the appeal to “a better nature” by asking the email to be spread around is a dead giveaway.

I firmly believe that not being skeptical about claims like these is to a person’s detriment in the long run.

/end ramble

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