“The Four Miracles of Atheism” aren’t miracles.

thinklikemeIn a blog post last December (which I just stumbled across on Twitter) by Clay Kraby over at Reasonable Theology the argument is made that atheists take some things on faith. While that’s almost certainly true, the four things they cite as prime examples aren’t very good ones. They refer to these examples as The Four Miracles of Atheism:

For the purposes of this discussion, we will define a miracle as an event which occurs outside of the natural order and cannot be repeated or explained by the scientific process.

OK, we can work with that definition.

Consider the following four miracles which must be accepted by the atheist in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary:

1. Getting Something from Nothing. There has never been an observed example where something was created from nothing. No person would attempt to build something without materials, and there is no theory outside Big Bang cosmology which reaches this conclusion without ridicule from the scientific community

It’s a common misunderstanding of the Big Bang cosmology to claim that prior to that event there was “nothing” and that “something” came from it. The theory makes no such claims. If you trace time backwards to the Big Bang you end up with a singularity. That’s not nothing, but something. In fact, it’s everything. All scrunched up into one mind bogglingly small point of energy. The law of energy conservation tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change form. Which is pretty much what the Big Bang was. Now it’s true we’re not entirely sure why it expanded and became the Universe and that’s in part because a lot of the math involved starts to break down the closer you get to the singularity, but the theory doesn’t say the Universe came from nothing.

As for there never having been “an observed example where something was created from nothing”, well, that’s not entirely true either. One experiment that made use of the the Casimir effect resulted in photons spontaneously appearing in empty space:

Quantum physics explains that there are limits to how precisely one can know the properties of the most basic units of matter—for instance, one can never absolutely know a particle’s position and momentum at the same time. One bizarre consequence of this uncertainty is that a vacuum is never completely empty, but instead buzzes with so-called “virtual particles” that constantly wink into and out of existence.

These virtual particles often appear in pairs that near-instantaneously cancel themselves out. Still, before they vanish, they can have very real effects on their surroundings. For instance, photons—packets of light—can pop in and out of a vacuum. When two mirrors are placed facing each other in a vacuum, more virtual photons can exist around the outside of the mirrors than between them, generating a seemingly mysterious force that pushes the mirrors together.

This effect was predicted back in 1948 and the experiment has been repeated numerous times. There’s some debate on whether it’s truly something from nothing, but it’s certainly a good candidate.

These are both very high-level simplifications of the science. If you’re interested in a more involved explanation then Lawrence Krauss’ book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing is worthwhile reading. Or you can check out this lengthy talk he gave about the subject on YouTube:

The upshot is, given the law of conservation of energy, there’s really no need for faith that something came from nothing because that’s most likely not what happened. Even if it was what happened there are already aspects of Quantum Mechanics that would allow for it.

neilongodinlabYou’ll note that Kraby doesn’t bother to provide any of the “scientific evidence to the contrary” that something from nothing is impossible, he just says it’s a problem and assumes you agree with him. He makes the clever remark that no person would attempt to build something without materials and yet that’s precisely what his god must have done by sheer will alone if it is the creator of the universe and everything within it. That apparently isn’t a problem for Kraby in spite of the fact that it would be infinitely more magical than a universe just popping into existence on its own. Certainly we don’t have the full picture nailed down just yet and it’s possible we may never be able to fully explain how the universe came to be, but that doesn’t mean “goddidit” is the correct answer by default.

2. Getting Life from Non-Life. Even if naturalistic causes could have created the universe, it would still be necessary for non-living material to become living. This is also an unproven (and impossible) feat which must be accepted when denying the existence of God.

There’s really no need for faith in this either because it’s pretty self-evident that life had to arise at some point or we wouldn’t be here to discuss the issue, but let’s carry on and show the flaws in this argument.

The first problem with this argument is that it assumes there are only two possibilities: Either something is alive or it isn’t. Reality isn’t black and white. Things aren’t just alive or not-alive. Rather it’s more of a continuum from non-life to life. The more simple an organic form is the more blurry the line between life and non-life becomes.

For example, most folks consider viruses to be living things, but they really straddle the line between living and non-living things. One of the traits of life is the ability to reproduce and viruses can’t do that on their own. They have to invade living cells and hijack their systems to reproduce. Nor do viruses have any metabolic systems. Yet they do have genes and can evolve. They blur the line between living and non-living and support the theory that life could have started as self-assembling organic molecules.

Then there are Prions. These are small bits of misfolded proteins that aren’t alive in any sense of the word. They don’t contain any nucleic acids, they don’t have a metabolic system, nor genes, or a cell membrane, yet they have the ability to infect you and kill you. They are the cause of Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cows (natch) and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in humans. They do this similarly to viruses by hijacking the functions of living cells to reproduce. As they reproduce they form a plaque known as amyloid which literally drills holes in your brain (making it spongy, hence the name) destroying you slowly over the course of decades. The odd thing is, these proteins are already in you, though not in the misfolded manner that causes disease. You’ll find the normal form in the membranes of your cells. They are a part of your cellular system, but they are not alive in themselves.

Kraby says that life arising from non-life is unproven and impossible without providing anything to back that claim up. Life is just a chemical process and spontaneous chemical reactions happen all the time — not to mention molecular self-assembly. Not only is there evidence that life came from non-living molecules, but scientists have been getting closer to creating artificial life with each passing year. In November of 2011 Martin Hanczyc did a TED talk where he showed the results of his experiments with protocells. Bonus: He also talks about how life is a continuum:

For being non-living, those protocells sure do look alive. Which is pretty impressive when you consider how simplistic they are compared to your standard human cell or even your average bacteria. Just with these basic chemical molecules there’s already lots of life-like activity taking place. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine how this could be a possible beginning of all life.

3. Getting Order from Chaos. The Laws of Thermodynamics tell us that all things tend towards disorder, not order. Left to themselves buildings crumble, gardens are taken over by weeds, and living material decays. If unguided natural causes produced the universe (from nothing) and produced life (from non-life) these processes would necessarily go against observed scientific principles in order to produce the complexity, beauty, and order that we observe in the world around us.

Ah yes! The Second Law of Thermodynamics! Always a favorite of the apologist crowd though they never seem to make use of the First Law of Thermodynamics or the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics (yes, there is a Zeroth Law). It always amuses me how readily theists will accept a scientific theory if it allows them to refute a different scientific theory they don’t like. It’s a shame so many of them don’t understand what it really says.

The first thing they don’t understand about the Second Law is that it isn’t about order or chaos, it’s about heat:

Second law of thermodynamicsHeat cannot spontaneously flow from a colder location to a hotter location.

The second law of thermodynamics is an expression of the universal principle of dissipation of kinetic and potential energy observable in nature. The second law is an observation of the fact that over time, differences in temperature, pressure, and chemical potential tend to even out in a physical system that is isolated from the outside world. Entropy is a measure of how much this process has progressed. The entropy of an isolated system that is not in equilibrium tends to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.

In classical thermodynamics, the second law is a basic postulate applicable to any system involving heat energy transfer; in statistical thermodynamics, the second law is a consequence of the assumed randomness of molecular chaos. There are many versions of the second law, but they all have the same effect, which is to explain the phenomenon of irreversibility in nature.

The second thing they don’t understand about the Second Law is that little bit I put in boldface up there: It only applies to isolated physical systems with no external source of energy. The Earth, where abiogenesis and evolution have taken place, is not an isolated physical system. It has an external source of energy. You may have heard of it. It’s called The Sun. All life is possible because of the sun inputting energy into earth’s natural systems allowing for local increases in order that allows things like people to exist.

But, you might say, the Universe is a closed system with no external source of energy and it started in a high entropy state, but went on to form galaxies and stars and DVD rental kiosks. All highly ordered (low entropy) things. Doesn’t that violate the second law? Thanks to inflation the answer is no:

The Big Bang seems, at first glance, to violate the second law. It starts off as a dense almost perfectly homogeneous gas (thus at almost maximum entropy) and then seems to separate into clumps that formed stars and galaxies. Hasn’t order increased and thus the entropy decreased, and since the universe is a closed system, hasn’t this violated the second law?

The solution here is that because the universe is expanding it keeps getting shifted out of equilibrium, and in the drive to reach a new equilibrium state, you can get pockets of order occurring without violating the second law, because the maximum allowable entropy also keeps increasing.

In more technical terms, if we consider the universe to be a sphere of radius R that is increasing, the maximum allowable entropy increases as the square of R, while the actual entropy of the universe increases less rapidly, only linearly with R. Thus even if the initial universe was at maximum entropy for its size, as the universe expands its entropy can increase while still being easily able to accommodate the increasing order we see. In fact, calculations done assuming that there exist ten planets per star, 100 billion stars for every galaxy and 100 billion galaxies (which are our best current estimates) show that the ordering of the planets produces changes in entropy of only one part in 1011 of the total current entropy. Victor Stenger (Has Science Found God?, 2003, p. 152) summarizes the situation:

No violation of the second law of thermodynamics was required to produce the universe.

It’s clear that Kraby, like most apologists who try to use the Second Law to disprove other theories they don’t like, doesn’t have a firm grasp of the subject. That’s not a criticism. Thermodynamics is a complex subject that involves some serious math and can be difficult to follow, but it helps if you actually read what scientists have to say about it and not other theists.

Finally we come to his last so-called atheist miracle:

4. Getting the Immaterial from Physical Matter. If nothing was able to produce everything, non-life was able to produce life, and chaos was able to produce order the atheistic worldview would still encounter an insurmountable obstacle. No matter how organized, it is impossible for physical material to produce the immaterial realities of human consciousness. Our morality, beliefs, desires and preferences all exist outside of mere physical matter.

Kraby is making a pretty big claim here without providing anything to support it and it’s just flat out wrong. Our morality, beliefs, desires and preferences certainly do not exist outside of mere physical matter. They’re all contained within the human brain along with the rest of your personality. This is easily provable by studying people who have had a traumatic brain injury. There are literally thousands of documented cases of people developing whole new personalities, beliefs, desires, and preferences after brain injuries. Sometimes the changes are minor and sometimes they result in what could be said to be an entirely different person depending on how much damage there is and where in occurred. Passive people become violently aggressive (and vice versa), chaste can become hypersexual, introvert can become extrovert. One of the most famous examples is Phineas Gage whose personality changed dramatically after a tamping rod was propelled through his brain in an explosion. Even your beliefs can be changed by a TBI.

“You” do not exist outside of the confines of your brain and you can even change your personality without a TBI. Drugs are a common way to modify your personality in major and minor ways. People drink alcohol because it lowers inhibitions which results in them taking risks they probably wouldn’t if they were sober. Drug abuse can permanently alter your brain chemistry and, thusly, who you are.

Kraby concludes his little essay with the following claim:

Each of these examples go against the natural order and could be labeled as miracles. Naturalistic worldviews such as atheism, evolution, and neo-Darwinism regard this evidence for God with what Dawkins would certainly consider an unscientific approach: each item must be taken on faith.

As I’ve demonstrated, none of these goes against the natural order in any way nor do they require any faith to accept. We don’t have all the pieces to all the puzzles just yet, but what we do have points to very real and very natural processes that can be understood without invoking the supernatural. Again, even if it turns out that these theories are incorrect that doesn’t mean the only other explanation is “God”. It would be nice if Kraby could provide some reasons why a god is the explanation for these “miracles” beyond the implication of well what else would it be?

Kraby has demonstrated some startling ignorance of the topics he puts forth and provides nothing to back up the claims he makes. This could be avoided with just a little study outside the realm of Creationist websites. There are a number of good books from well respected scientists covering these topics in-depth that are still quite readable by the layman. All in all this was a pretty piss-poor argument. Hopefully the next apologist will do a better job.

SEB Mailbag: JESUS LOVES YOU ALL CAPS EDITION!

FUCK YEAH CAPSLOCKIt’s been awhile since I’ve gotten an email from a True Believer™, but that drought has come to an end in a most spectacular fashion.

I received an email earlier today from a Janet Wittek who had an urgent message for me. So urgent that it required full use of caps lock.

Warning, this is going to be lengthy:

From: Janet Wittek
Subject: Letter from Janet
Time: 7:18 AM

JESUS LOVES YOU.  I AM A GIRL FROM THE FARM WHO HAS VISIONS OF MAJOR DISASTERS BEFORE THEY HAPPEN.  LIKE 911.  EARTHQUAKES. TSUNAMIS. FLOODS. FIRES. AND OTHER THINGS WHEN PEOPLES LIVES R IN DANGER.  I AM COMMANDED BY GOD TO PRAY OVER THESE MATTERS AND TO SAVE THEM FROM DISTRUCTION.  MY REV GORDON WILLIAMS IS A PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY GRADUATE. HE IS WELL KNOWN BY CANADA AM TV SHOW.  HE IS ON ONE HUNDRED HUNTLEY CHRISTIAN TV SHOW. HE HAS A MIRACLE HEALING SERVICES WHERE PEOPLE GET HEALED OF ALCOHOLISM. AND OTHER ADDICTIONS AND OTHER PROBLEMS LIKE ATHIESM. SEX ADDICTIONS. FINANCIAL PROBLEMS. BACK PROBLEMS. ETC.   I THINK THAT U SHOULD GIVE HIM A CALL AT [number redacted]. OR [number redacted].  MY BACK AND STOMACK AND BLEEDING PROBLEMS AND OTHER NUMEROUS PROBLEMS LIKE BAD KNEES SORE LIVER.  DIABETES AND SORE LEGS AND ENTIRE BODY SICK AND CHEMICAL IMBALANCE IN BRAIN AND SKIN DISEASE AND BROKEN HEART HEALED CAUSE MEN ABUSED ME CAUSE THEY IN LOVE WITH MY ROOMATE SIZE THREE BLOND HOOKER AND I TOLD THEM NOT TO HURT HER CAUSE THEY GANG RAPE HER AND BEAT HER UP.  AND I YELLED AT ALL OF THEM TO STOP HURTING HER.  UNIMAGINABLE BASTARDS.  REPENT OF YOUR SIN OF BEING ATHIEST.  I AM A CHRISTIAN AND I WENT THRU HELL BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD AND DON’T FOLLOW HIS COMMANDEMENTS.  YOU R A SINNER.  THE FOOL SAYS IN HIS HEART THAT THERE IS NO GOD.  B U T.  T H E R E.  IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU CANNOT DENY IT NOR CAN ANYONE ELSE.  HOW COME WHEN 911 HAPPENNED EVERYONE WAS SCREAMING OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!! AND RUNNING FOR THEIR LIVES.  THE ATHIESTS SURE DO FIND GOD QUICKLY AND CRY OUT WHEN MAJOR DISASTERS HAPPEN AND THEIR LIVES ARE IN DANGER.  HOW COME THEY REMEMBER HIM THEN.  YOURS IN JESUS.  JANET.  GO AND GET YOURSELF A BIBLE AND START READING IT.  AND START EXAMINING YOURSELF NOT ONLY EXAMINING OTHERS FAULTS AND FRAILITIES.  DO YOU KNOW WHAT LOVE AND MERCY MEANS. AND STOP SWEARING.  ITS KIND OF OBNOXIOUS BEHAVIOR AND SHOWS THAT YOU ARE A JERK.

What’s odd about this message is that it was one of two that came in around that time and not the one I saw first. The first one I saw omitted the use of all caps and was relatively brief:

Time: 7:28 AM

The woman who did that to her child obviously had something wrong with her.  Any fool can see that.  Yours in Jesus. Janet.

Being that I saw this second missive first and that it was somewhat vague (I assumed she was talking about something I’d written on SEB, but wasn’t sure what) I replied asking her to clarify what she was referencing. Being the jerk that I am I made a somewhat sarcastic statement that I’m not a psychic because, like God, they don’t exist.

Hours passed and I thought that was the end of it. She had said what she needed to say and had gotten on with her life. Boy, was I ever wrong about that:

Time: 2:26 PM

THE WOMAN WHO ABUSED HER CHILD FOR NOT SAYING AMEN AND WAS NOT GIVEN ANY MEALS AND STARVED THE 2 YEAR OLD TO DEATH.  I HAD A VISION OF A SIMILAR OCCURANCE TO 2 CHILDREN WHO WERRE ABUSED IN TORONTO WHO WERE IN THE CARE OF CATHOLIC CHILDRENS AID SOCIETY AND A TORONTO POLICEMAN SAID THAT IN ALL OF HIS LIFE HE DID NOT SEE ANYBODY TREATED THAT BADLY ABUSED CHILDREN.  IT WAS A BOY AND A GIRL WHO WERE SEVERLY ABUSED. THE BOY DIED BUT THE GIRL ESCAPED.  I HAD VISIONS OF THEM DAYS BEFORE THE LITTLE BOY DIED IN A HOUSE IN TORONTO. THE HOUSE WAS AN OLD VICTORIAN HOUSE LIKE MINE RED BRICK WITH UGLY GREEN PORCH.  THEN DAYS LATER I SAW THE CHILDREN ON TV ON W FIVE TV SHOW AND W FIVE TV PRODUCERS WERE EXTREMELY MAD AT CATHOLIC CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETY FOR NOT TAKING CARE OF THESE CHILDREN. THE LITTLE GIRL WAS SAVED AND PUT IN ANOTHER HOME.  THE LITTLE BOY DIED A HORRIBLE DEATH.  POOR THING. I SHOULD OF ASKED GOD EXACTLY WHAT STREET HE WAS ON AND WENT THERE AND TAKEN HIM OUT OF THERE WITH THAT NICE POLICEMAN WHO WAS HORRIFIED WITH THAT CASE.  IT WAS ON CANADIAN TV SHOW ON W5.  REV GORD WILLIAMS KNOW THE PEOPLE ON W5 AND HE IS WELL KNOWN BY CANADA AM AND CTV NEWS AND ONCHRISTIAN RADIO TV STATIONS AND ALL OVER THE WORLD.  HE IS FROM PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY.  HE IS ON ONE HUNDRED HUNTLEY STREET TELEVISION CHRISTIAN SHOW.  YOURS IN JESUS. JANET. HOW CAN YOU NOT BELIEVE IN GOD. I SEE THAT YOU HAVE SOME BRAINS AND FEEL BAD FOR THE LITTLE BOY CHILD WHO WAS ABUSED BY HIS MOTHER BECAUSE HE DIDN’T SAY AMEN AFTER PRAYERS AND WAS THOUGHT TO BE DEMON POSSESSED AND SHE STARVED HIM TO DEATH.  AND THEN THE CHURCH PEOPLE SAID THAT THEY WOULD RESURRECTED HIM FROM THE DEAD.  HE WAS 2 YEARS OLD.  POOR LITTLE BOY. GOD HAVE MERCY ON THESE LITTLE CHILDREN AND SEND ANGELS TO SAVE THEM FROM THE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!!!!!! YOURS IN JESUS. JANET.  THE PSYCHIC GIFT THAT I HAVE IS CALLED THE GIFT OF PROPHECY.  IT IS EXPLAINED IN FULL DETAIL IN REV GORDON WILLIAMS BOOK. LIKE A MIGHTY RUSHING WIND.  AND ALSO IN THE BIBLE.  IST CORINTHIANS 12 AND 14.

Then a half hour later I got this:

Time: 3:05 PM

IN THE OLD TESTAMENT PEOPLE DID BAD THINGS TOO.  IF EVIL EXISTS THEN SO DOES GOOD.  YOU KNOW THAT BAD THINGS HAPPEN WELL SO DOES GOOD THINGS HAPPEN .  YOU KNOW THAT WHAT HAD HAPPENNED TO THE LITTLE 2 YEAR OLD WAS BAD AND EVIL.  DO YOU NOT.  SATAN EXISTS BUT SO DOES GOD.GET A COPY OF THE BIBLE AND START READING IT.  DO NOT SAY THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A GOOD KNOWLEDGE OF THE BIBLE. I BELIEVE IN GOD AND BEING GOOD LIKE HE TELLS US TOO.  I BELIEVE IN WHAT HE WRITES AND SAYS IS TRUE.  I HAVE LAID HANDS ON THE SICK AND THEY HAVE RECOVERED. MY FRIENDS BACK WAS COMPLETELY HEALED WHEN I PRAYED FOR HER AND SHE WAS SHOCKED THAT HER PAIN WENT IMMEDIATELY AWAY.  SHE IS A HOUSECLEANER AT THE CHURCH.  ANOTHER WOMAN GOT HER BACK HEALED AT THE CHURCH ON CHISTMAS EVE SERVICES WHEN I HUGGED HER.  MY DEAR MAN. GOD DOES EXIST JESUS DOES EXIST.  HE WILL PROVE IT TO YOU.  MIRACLES DO HAPPEN EVERYDAY THROUGHT THE WHOLE WORLD.  I BELIEVE THAT YOU EXIST THATS WHY I AM TALKING TO YOU.  GET IT.  YOU BELIEVE THAT I EXIST. THAT’S WHY YOU ARE TALKING TO ME.  DO YOU UNDERSTAND.  I KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT PSYCHIC. MAN.  I AM TRYING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE WHO EXISTS JUST LIKE GOD AND JESUS EXISTS.  YOU EXIST !!!!!!!!THEN WHY DO YOU THINK THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST!!!! IF YOU EXIST.  R U REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT THE FACT THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST.!!!!!!!!! A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU. EXIST IN THE WORLD. ATHIESTS. I MEAN. A LOT OF THEM.  MANY MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND THE BIBLE.  THEY HAVE NO ACCESS TO THE BIBLE IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE IN NUMEROUS COUNTRIES.  ALL OVER THE WORLD AND ARE NOT HOLY SPIRIT FILLED.  I BELIEVE YOU EXIST EVEN THOUGH YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD. CALL REV GORDON WILLIAMS AND HE WILL PROVE TO YOU THAT GOD EXISTS.  [number redacted] OR [number redacted].   GO AND GET A COPY OF THE BIBLE AND READ IT SEVERAL TIMES.  AND YOU ARE NOT STUPID. BY THE WAY.  STOP TELLING YOURSELF THAT.  GOD GAVE YOU BRAINS FOR A REASON!!!!!!!  YOURS IN JESUS. JANET.

Then 20 minutes later:

IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THAT I EXIST THEN WHY DO YOU BOTHER TO TALK TO ME AND OTHER PEOPLE . AM I A FIGMENT OF YOUR IMAGINATION.  ARE OTHER PEOPLE?  I DON’T EXIST OR GOD DOESN’T EXIST. HE SURE DOES JUST LIKE YOU KNOE THAT I EXIST THAT’S WHY YOU ARE BOTHERING TO TALK TO ME.  MY DEAR MAN. YOU MADE MY DAY. I KNOW THAT YOU EXIST. YOU MADE ME LAUGH ALL DAY EVEN THOUGH YOU AR. AN ATHIEST. I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE AMAZING.  ONE MINUTE YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE AMAZING AND THE NEXT MINUTE YOU CALL YOURSELF STUPID.  YOU KNOW THAT YOU EXIST.  YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE AMAZING AND THEN SOMETIMES YOU R STUPID.  IF YOU EXIST AND OTHER PEOPLE EXIST THEN WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS.  WHY. YOU TELL ME ONE GOOD REASON THAT TELLS ME THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST THAT MSKED SENSE TO ME..  IT IS TRUE THAT IN MANY PEOPLES MIND GOD DOES NOT EXIST BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF HIM.  IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS.  YOURS IN JESUS. JANET

Then 33 minutes after that:

Time: 4:58 PM

I BELIEVE IN GOD AND YOU ARE TALKING TO ME AND YOU BELIEVE IN ME. YOU BELIEVE THAT I EXIST THAT’S WHY YOU ARE TALKING TO ME AND I BELIEVE IN GOD.  SO THEREFORE YOU AN ATHIEST REALLY DOES BELIEVE IN GOD BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE IN ME AND YOU ARE.  TALKING TO ME BECAUSE I EXIST

And, finally, 22 minutes ago:

Time: 5:16 PM

I BELIEVE IN GOD. YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE TALKING TO ME BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE THAT I EXIST.  AND I BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS AND I AM CONNECTED TO HIM SO THEREFORE YOU AN ATHIEST BELIEVES THAT I EXIST BECAUSE YOU ARE TALKING TO ME A BELIEVER IN GOD AND YOU ARE AN UNBELIEVER IN GOD AND I KNOW THAT YOU ATHIESTS EXISTS THAT IS WHY I AM TALKING TO TO YOU.  TO PROVE TO YOU THAT HE DOES EXIST. BECAUSE IF HE DOESN’T EXIST THEN WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT HIS NON EXISTENCE?     YOU ARE RIGHT. IN YOUR MIND AND MANY OTHERS GOD DOES NOT EXIST EVEN THOUGH YOU ATHIESTS ARE TALKING ABOUT HIS NON EXISTENCE.  WHY R U TALKING ABOUT HIS NON EXISTENCE. IF HE EXISTS AT ALL YOU SHOULDN’T BE TALKING ABOUT HIM.  YOU ARE RIGHT. YOU ARE AMAZINGLY STUPID BUT GOD STILL LOVES YOU EVEN THOUGH YOU ATHIESTS DON’T EXIST.  YOU ARE NON EXISTANT JUST LIJE GOD.  YOU HAVE NO SIGNIFICANCE AND YOU DON’T EXIST EVEN THOUGH YOU KNIW THAT YOU DO EXIST.  DON’T YOU. YOURS IN JESUS. JANET.

About three emails back I had started in on a reply to answer a couple of her questions and make a point or two about the assumptions she was making about me (which is an odd thing for someone gifted with Divine Visions to do), but as I typed away these additional responses came in and I was no longer sure there was much point in bothering. It’s really hard to argue against the logic she’s using because there’s no logic to it. It’s just a bunch of wild claims and silly circular arguments.

Now for all I know this is just someone trying to pull a Poe in hopes I’ll write about it. If so, mission accomplished. It could also be someone who’s not entirely playing with a full deck through no fault of their own due to illness or injury in which case it would be bad form to make fun of them. Then there’s always the chance that this is someone who has so much faith that it’s made them just a little bit crazy. As too much faith is often wont to do.

Being as it’s difficult to distinguish which of the three this is, or if there’s much of a point in the messages to discuss, I’ll just leave it here without my usual snarky comments. If nothing else, it’s an interesting example of the sorts of emails I get from time to time.

Pat Robertson explains why miracles tend to happen in other countries…

… and not in the United States. His answer? People in other countries are idiots.

OK, he didn’t actually use the word “idiot”, but he may as well have. Instead he said that they are “more simple” and “humble” compared to us “sophisticated” Americans. Which apparently are the qualities God looks for when determining who to show miracles to.

Really. He said just that:

Truth be told, he’s kinda right. The more educated you are the less likely you are to believe, not just in miracles, but in God(s) of any kind. This is part of the reason that various religions have been hostile to education of the general public over the millennia. This is why so many on the Religious Right encourage their fellow believers to homeschool their kids and rail against the evils awaiting at most non-religious universities. Knowing too much can be dangerous to your faith.

DearGodSo, yeah, if you don’t know any better you’re probably more likely to accept “it’s a miracle from God” for whatever phenomena you can’t readily explain otherwise.

Hell, if you’re unsophisticated enough you’ll even accept mundane events as miracles from God. Every so often on Facebook or Twitter I’ll see the image to the right. I asked someone about it and they told me that the fact that they woke up in the morning proves that miracles really do happen. I had to ask them just how shitty their health was. They said they were perfectly healthy. Then how, I asked, is it a miracle? Barring major health issues or some unforeseen accident there’s really no reason to not expect to wake up the next morning. It’s really setting the bar pretty low for what qualifies as a miracle.

And I won’t even get into how it’s an ironic thing to be thankful for given how so many Christians consider this world to be a shithole compared to what waits for them in the afterlife. You’d think they’d be eager to kick off and get to the good bit.

I guess the secret to experiencing the really impressive miracles then is to do your best to stay as stupid as possible. One way to achieve this is to watch nothing but FOX “News” 24 hours a day. Or, if you’re impatient, a semi-major head injury would probably work pretty well too. If you go the latter route be sure to make a recording of it for a chance to be on a TV show like World’s Greatest Injuries and Dumbfucks.

Debunking a Catholic “miracle” crucifix could land Indian skeptic in prison.

Catholics can be a tetchy bunch. Especially when you ruin their miracles. Over in Mumbai they were all excited about a miracle crucifix that was dripping water at a local church. The True Believers™ were convinced that it was of divine origin and were collecting it to drink thinking it was something more than ordinary water.

Turns out they were right, but not in the way they were thinking:

Indian skeptic faces 3 year prison sentence for explaining dripping crucifix | Secular News Daily.

Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association and Rationalist International, inspected the site and pinpointed the source of the water. A leaking toilet drain.

For explaining that the only “magic power” the water has is to transfer gastrointestinal infections and other disease, Edamaruku now faces up to three years in prison for “blasphemy”.

You’d think they’d appreciate being told that they were drinking toilet water, but instead they just get all pissy about it.

Apparently this was just the straw that broke the Catholic’s back because it turns out Edamaruku has been a bit of a thorn in their side, and a lot of other believer’s, for awhile now:

Accusing him of spreading “anti-Catholic venom” during televised debates on the crucifix, outraged religious groups in Mumbai have filed police complaints that could see Edamaruku jailed for up to three years under India’s blasphemy law.

Joseph Dias, general secretary of the Catholic-Christian Secular Forum, lodged one of the complaints, claiming it was the result of Edamaruku’s “very obvious and stridently anti-Christian bias”.

Edamaruku, who has spent the last 30 years debunking India’s mystics and gurus who attract massive followings (and fortunes), welcomes the charges as an opportunity to challenge India’s blasphemy law.

With any luck Edamaruku will get the blasphemy law — a hold over from India’s days as a British colony — overturned.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Raising The Dead edition.

Meet the folks from Extreme Prophetic. They’re a group of Christians led by a woman named Patricia King who has apparently been spreading her nonsense for some 25 years. The group appears to be an attempt to turn evangelizing into something cool and edgy – you know “extreme” – and they make some bold claims.

For example, they claim that they’ve managed to not just heal people through the power of faith, but have successfully raised the dead. Really. They have a video up by some fellow named Randy in which he discusses how he raise two dead people in Africa not too long ago. You can watch it here if you wish.

Don’t get too excited, though, they don’t have any actual footage of Randy raising the dead people. It’s just Randy talking about it, but you can take his word for it that they were really dead and he really did raise them because, well, you don’t think he’d lie about it do you?

They also have a YouTube Channel with a ton of videos of people talking about all manner of miracles they’ve personally experienced. Though, again, there’s a stunning lack of any actual footage of said miracles. There’s also a lot of prediction videos, which are always fun to watch after the years have passed.

Take this one on Divine Insights for 2008 by Julie Meyer of IHOP (International House of Prayer). In it she says she has a vision of George W. Bush signing a law declaring life begins at conception and banning all abortions just before he leaves office. She believed that was likely to happen because she dreamed about it and she believed that Bush was put in office by God specifically to make this legislation come to pass. But she also cautions this isn’t guaranteed so everyone needs to pray that it does happen. Also it seems the election wasn’t about change, but mercy and it wasn’t about the Presidential candidates, but the Vice Presidential candidates. She never comes right out and claims that McCain and Palin would win, but it’s clear she’s suggesting that’s what needs to happen and that Palin’s election would prove monumental in history.  That was from October of 2008. McCain/Palin didn’t win the election and Bush never banned abortion. I can only conclude they didn’t pray hard enough.

Patricia herself likes to dabble in predictions. She had no less than 11 videos of prophecy for 2009. She manages to pull a little John Edwards routine in the first video where she speaks to a specific, unnamed, person who’s watching and has been having trouble for awhile. She uses a lot of buzzwords and similes such as the Lord has “downloaded” prophecy into her and she’s going to “unfold or unpack” it for you. He also wants to “upgrade” his believers. Also God wants her to help raise up a Media Army to spread the word. Holy crap, but this woman can talk for hours without saying anything meaningful. All the while pausing to ask for donations.

I gave up after three videos. I was only watching to see if I could catch any solid predictions that we could examine to see how far off they were, but I was starting to fall asleep and her droning on and on. Most of it’s your standard True Believer™ nonsense, but there’s plenty of videos with the claims of major healing or raising people from the dead.

But I’m willing to be convinced. If these people truly can raise the dead that would revolutionize not just theology, but medical science. I think they should contact the James Randi Educational Foundation and apply for the $1 million prize. Considering how much time is spent begging for donations it sounds like they could use the money and imagine the look on Randi’s face when a dead person suddenly sits up full of life. Hell, let’s make it easy on them and just see if they can manage to heal an amputee. If they can bring people back from the dead then restoring a lost limb should be easy-peasy. A little video documentation wouldn’t hurt.

Somehow I don’t think they’ll be taking on the Randi challenge anytime soon. You see, when I started this entry I was pretty sure these folks were a classic case of people made a little crazy by too much faith, but now that I’ve looked into them a bit I’m not entirely sure that’s the case for all of them. My skepticism is spurred by the fact that they offer acting classes. What the hell would they need acting classes for? Well, to make money apparently. A two-month class covering everything from acting to writing to voice-over work will set you back $2,800 (non-refundable) in tuition. Or you can take eight week classes covering each of the topics individually for $200 each.

So, yeah, some of them have clearly drunk a little too much of the Kool-Aid, but I think they’re leader is a bit more shrewd than she first appears. That’s just speculation on my part, though. She could be just as nuts as the rest of them.

Found over at Pharyngula.

Half of Americans think prayer can save the terminally ill.

This just in: 1 in 2 Americans is a total idiot:

More than half of randomly surveyed adults — 57 percent — said God’s intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared treatment would be futile. And nearly three-quarters said patients have a right to demand such treatment.

When asked to imagine their own relatives being gravely ill or injured, nearly 20 percent of doctors and other medical workers said God could reverse a hopeless outcome.

“Sensitivity to this belief will promote development of a trusting relationship” with patients and their families, according to researchers. That trust, they said, is needed to help doctors explain objective, overwhelming scientific evidence showing that continued treatment would be worthless.

So they’re saying you have to kowtow to their beliefs in order to be able to tell them that continued treatment is pointless? How? By telling them “Folks, it’s time to start praying cause there’s fuck-all left that I can do”?

What’s really odd is the next few paragraphs talk about a Michigan woman by the name of Pat Loder who lost her two kids in a car accident who says that you need that belief at the time in spite of the fact that her kids still died and now she doesn’t buy into the idea as much as she did. Wait… what?

She said her beliefs about divine intervention have changed.

“I have become more of a realist,” she said. “I know that none of us are immune from anything.”

Loder was not involved in the survey, which appears in Monday’s Archives of Surgery.

She’s not involved with the survey, her views on divine intervention have changed, why the hell are they talking to her again?

Anyway, one doctor in the article basically seems to be saying that with today’s medical technology it’s possible to keep a body “alive” with no chance of recovery and that a lot of people think God will provide them a miracle. So they key, he says, is to not dismiss that belief, but show the family members that said miracle is unlikely given the condition of the patient:

Jacobs said he frequently meets people who think God will save their dying loved one and who want medical procedures to continue.

“You can’t say, ‘That’s nonsense.’ You have to respect that” and try to show them X-rays, CAT scans and other medical evidence indicating death is imminent, he said.

Relatives need to know that “it’s not that you don’t want a miracle to happen, it’s just that is not going to happen today with this patient,” he said.

Which is an odd argument to make because they very definition of a miracle is the impossible becoming possible so you’d expect that someone who was truly hoping for a miracle wouldn’t be dissuaded by a bunch of scientific evidence. Some aren’t, but they seem to be the exception to the rule.

Yet another doctor goes on to suggest that miracles aren’t all they’re cracked up to be:

Dr. Michael Sise, trauma medical director at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, called the study “a great contribution” to one of the most intense issues doctors face.

Sise, a Catholic doctor working in a Catholic hospital, said miracles don’t happen when medical evidence shows death is near.

“That’s just not a realistic situation,” he said.

Apparently miracles are susceptible to reality.

The whole article is kind of strange in that the doctors being quoted are basically saying that they need to be sensitive to the fact that people are idiots who put a lot of stock in wishful thinking and so long as they pay lip service to that wishful thinking they can usually convince said idiots that further treatment is pointless. So, really, all the article says is half of Americans are idiots.

Woman credits God for allowing bullet to hit only one of her great-granddaughters.

A woman by the name of Charlotte Thompson of Indianapolis is driving along with her two great-granddaughters in the car when shots ring out and a stray bullet rips through the car. The rogue missile ends up wounding one of the two girls in the backseat. You know what happens next, right?

Yes, the woman claims its a miracle from God:

Police later showed Thompson the path the bullet took through her car. She now believes that path was guided by God.

“Came through the door, hit her, then it went to the Bible,” she said. The Bible was sitting on the seat between the two girls. “It went in here and come out here and it shredded my Sunday School book. The word of God slowed the bullet so that it didn’t kill anybody.”

A watermelon Jaelyn was holding in her lap eventually stopped the bullet.

“Right in the watermelon. Didn’t come out of the watermelon,” Thompson said. “The word of God and the Lord’s power saved. He sent the bullet into the watermelon.”

This would’ve been more impressive if the bullet hadn’t hit the younger of the two girls prior to the Bible and the watermelon. It’d be particularly impressive if the path of the bullet showed that there was no way it couldn’t have not hit the first girl before hitting the Bible and the watermelon, but now I’m left to wonder what the first girl did to piss off God. I can see the conversation in Heaven now:

    Guardian Angel Captain: God! God! We’ve got an emergency broadcast coming in from Charlotte Thompson’s Guardian Angel, Shirley, in Indianapolis. She says some random gunfire in a neighborhood is about to hit the car Charlotte is driving with her two great-granddaughters in it. What do we do?

    God: Does she have a Bible and a watermelon in the car?

    GAC: Yes! Yes she does!

    God: Yeah, I knew that. Good. I want you to have the bullet moved so it hits the Bible and then the watermelon and then stop thus showing how awesome I am.

    GAC: There’s a problem, one of the girls is still directly in the path of the bullet. That would require a major miracle as opposed to a minor one.

    God: What’s the girl’s name?

    GAC: Shyann.

    God: Yeah. I knew that. As I recall she put up quite a fuss about going to Church last Sunday and she hasn’t said her prayers before bed the last couple of nights. Fuck it, let it hit her and do some minor damage as a lesson not to cross me.

    GAC: Yes my Lord! Right away!

The poor girl is expected to survive the wound, but may carry some psychological scars from the event:

However, she now worries about the emotional scars the girls will carry with them.

“It took away her innocence,” she said of Shyann. “You know, she trusted everybody. Now she trusts nothing and nobody.”

Huh, you’d think God would’ve protected her from something like that.

 

More people blind themselves looking for Jesus’ mom in the Sun.

Is there something about being Catholic that makes people of that particular Christian denomination more stupid gullible than the Protestants? There must be because we keep getting news items like this one:

Indians blinded looking for vision of Mary – UPI.com

KOTTAYAM, India, March 11 (UPI)—Reports in India of a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary in the sky have led about 50 people to blind themselves by staring at the sun.

The visions are said to appear over the former home of a hotel owner in the Kottayam area in southeast India, The Daily Telegraph reported. One hospital in the district reported 48 patients had been admitted with burned retinas since last week, the British newspaper reported.

Churches have warned their congregations that looking at the sun will cause permanent blindness and have told them the supposed miracle is not one.

Before moving out, the hotel owner reportedly had also claimed to have statues of the Virgin Mary that cried honey and bled oils and perfumes.

If you can’t believe a hotel owner’s claims of miraculous honey-crying statues well then who can you believe? I mean there’s no way in hell they’d make ridiculous claims like that for fame or money, right?

Warning to gullible Catholics: DON’T STARE DIRECTLY INTO THE SUN!

Even if one of your fellow Catholics tells you that you’ll see Jesus’ mom if you do:

Zackey claims she has been experiencing spiritual sightings of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at her home since May 7. She also says that on May 23 the sun began spinning at sunsets, allowing believers to see Mary appear in it.

But, in light of the tragic accident of Amal Nassif, 37, who, at Zackey’s behest, stared directly into the sun and damaged her eyesight, the Church is advising people to be extremely careful and to practise common sense.

Tragic accident? Self-inflicted idiocy is more like it. Sadly the newspaper article doesn’t help spread any of that much needed common sense around:

The phenomenon of a spinning sun is not new – it was seen by thousands, and verified, when the Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.

The Catholic church is apparently going to launch an investigation into whether or not the 17 year-olds visions are genuine, probably by having a few nuns try staring into the sun, but the spokesperson refused to give a deadline on the final decision with what has got to be one of the greatest understatements ever made:

The priest warned that the investigation was not bound by a deadline as there was no “scientific formula” to use in performing the probe.

Well no shit, Sherlock.

Additionally the last paragraph is quite amusing in light of the above statement:

The last Catholic investigation, which revolves around sightings of the Blessed Virgin in KwaZulu Natal in 1971, are still going on.

After 36 years the Church hasn’t had the balls to say one way or the other on the issue. Miracles are fragile that way.

Link found via Angry Astronomer.