“Striving for a better world by adopting secular values that promote a strong sense of moral ownership with a focus on human dignity and respect and having the courage to embrace reason, critical thinking, and science as the keys to knowledge and empowerment. These are the core principles that we wish to pass on to our children for a promising future, and to serve as a defense against religious dogma and intolerance.”

Allison & Rich- A Couple of Atheists

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Posts written by Allison are more personal in nature, as she loves to get out there and interact with the public. Rich’s thoughts are much more intense and sure to make you think… no matter which you prefer, there is something for everyone.

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Burn Your Bible Instead

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Our society is completely backwards. People are outraged because Nike included Colin Kaepernick in an ad and have decided to burn the products that they already paid for as a form of protest. They are outraged by a quote, a statement against intolerance… I bet it will be the hot topic at lunch after church on Sunday. Yes, we live in a society that will burn their shoes when someone stands up to police brutality but will put money in the collection plate when they learn that priests are raping children.

What did Colin Kaepernick really do that was so disgraceful that it warrants this type of outrage? He used his celebrity as a platform to peacefully protest police brutality. He wanted to stand up for those who lost their lives. Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Antwon Rose… those are just a few of the higher profile cases, but this is a problem that runs deep and if people with power don’t keep it in the public eye people will keep brushing it under the rug.

People try to say that kneeling during the anthem in memory of the victims of police brutality is somehow disrespectful to our troops. What is truly disrespectful to our troops is the way they are treated by our country once the government has taken all they need. Our vets that cannot get proper healthcare for the devastating physical wounds, that suffer PTSD and are dismissed, having to deal with a president that refers to a POW as a coward, and most importantly the ones who died in combat in wars that never had to happen. Colin Kaepernick is not the face of disrespect towards our troops, our politicians are.

Back to the outrage and misplaced anger…. Why are people so gung-ho to destroy the merchandise of this company? They haven’t done anything other than remind us that some people use their platform for good. Where was the burning of bibles when the priests were exposed for the monsters that they are? Where was the boycott of all churches for covering up the abuse? How is speaking out against a problem more severe than hiding one? What has happened to our world?

There are so many major issues happening right now. We are living under a corrupt government that wants to strip us of our rights. America is on the verge of being nothing but a joke and you are allowing yourself to be distracted by an ad. You have been so blinded that you don’t even see that by fighting against Colin you are risking your own right to speak out.  If you really think that defending police brutality is the place to direct your energy, I support your right to protest. If you want to ignore the real issues and burn Nike merchandise, just do it. But remember that this nonsense will not be without consequence and by the time you realize what is happening it may be too late.

God’s Divine Order Encourages Sexual Harassment.

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Just a few days ago I wrote about the sexist attitude of religious men. How they talk down to me, call me things like “sweetie” and “honey” and they even try to make my existence as a sexual being part of the debate when clearly it has no place being discussed. I also made a YouTube video addressing how religious men wouldn’t dictate when or where I would breast feed my child. It was titled “my breasts are not your stumbling block” and it covered how these men like to sexualize everything a woman does and blame them when they cannot control themselves. Needless-to-say this is an issue all women face at some point in their lives, whether you are an “obedient wife” or a “heathen temptress”, religious men will find a way to blame you for their actions.

When I watched Bishop Ellis fondle Ariana Grande I was sickened… not surprised at all, but still sickened. You know that oppression of women in religion has hit an all time low when the pastor thinks it is okay to fondle a young woman, in front of millions of people while at a funeral. It is just mind blowing. Of course it is horrific no matter where or when it happens, but when we’ve reached the point that you think you can just touch someone’s body that way, knowing the rest of the world sees you, things are getting out of hand.

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As of now Bishop Ellis still hasn’t apologized. He released a statement that he may have gone too far but at no point took responsibility for his actions, this is because he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong.  You see men in religion are taught from a young age that women are subservient beings. That men only have to answer to God. This is the type of dangerous teaching that I fear is being introduced to each generation of young men. Do you think it is a mistake that up until recently all of the priests, rabbis, pastors. etc were men? Men are second only to God and with that message we put all women in danger.

I have seen many people defending Bishop Ellis by blaming Ariana’s dress. To Ariana and all the women reading this, your dress is never the problem, you are never the problem. You have the right to dress any way that you wish and should be able to do so without fear that the divine order will make it okay for a man to touch you. We cannot let events such as this get brushed under the rug. We’ve all felt the chill of suggestive words or a hug that goes on for just a little too long. If you are not inviting someone to touch your body they have no right to do it. If you have invited them to touch your body and they go too far, stop and say something. We need to speak up, we need to make change, the indoctrination that women belong to men needs to be eradicated. #MeToo

 

To the believers, why does God hate children?

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I want to pose a question to all of the believers. Why does your God keep abusing and killing so many children?

So many times, we hear of criminals that find God while in prison. For some reason it is only after the crime is committed that they can accept Christ into their heart. Some people go as far as to say that it was the crime itself that brought them to God, that he put them in that situation for the specific purpose that they needed a way to see God’s plan for their life. Fine, I can see where they are going with that. They didn’t believe in God, as a result they did wrong, the suffer the consequence and with that learn that they need God to live a life without sin. It is nonsensical to me, but I can at least follow the “logic”, but what about the victims?

There was a case here in Pittsburgh where a man named Matthew Franks killed a 12 year old girl named Tia Wright in a drunk driving accident. The driver was sentenced to 2 years in prison with 8 years of probation and that should have been the end of it. However, Matthew felt the need to push make this about his life and not the life he stole. At sentencing he stated “Throughout the past three years, I’ve become a very religious person,” and a believer in “divine intervention,” he said. “I believe that Tia Wright saved my life and was sent here to serve that purpose.”. That means that God, the same God you worship each day, created her only to have her suffer a gruesome, painful death right in front of her father and best friend. Just the thought of that makes me ill. Where is the compassion, the love that this God is supposed to possess for all those that worship him? How can you continue to support a God that creates innocent souls for no other reason but to cause them pain?

I suppose that up to this point the cases could fall under the no true Scotsman fallacy. That the Christian could say that these killers don’t have true a relationship with God. I don’t know how you could possibly prove that but for the sake of this argument I will let it slide. That being said I must ask what do you do when it is under your own roof. When the abuse is happening in the church. When the people committing the abuse are the ones that have found God, devoted their entire life to God, that have a relationship with God that the organization recognizes them as the people capable of delivering his message. How can you accept that most holy beings alive are the ones that take away the innocence of God’s children?

In the case of the recent ring of pedophile priests that spent years abusing, molesting and raping children, what did the children due to earn a lifetime of pain. Children whose only mistake was entering the house of God now have to live with trauma they endured at the hands of God’s most trusted servants. They have lost the ability to trust because not only were they hurt but when it was exposed, it was dismissed. If the God that they thought loved them could allow the ones he put in charge to cause this pain and the very highest leaders to pretend it never happened. How would it be possible to ever trust again? When the accusations are proven to be true and still there is no justice. There is not a punishment, no consequence for hurting innocent children, God knows the truth, and this is how he wants his leaders to proceed. Just today I had someone reply to this question with “God allows evil to happen to bring goodness out of evil.”. This explains a lot, of course the believers would be willing to cover up crimes and allow abuse to continue, in their minds they are actually benefiting from it. I find this disturbing and disgusting and so I have to ask again, how is this the reality that believers choose to live with.

I would really like to hear the reasoning. I would gladly listen to the justification. Please show me the evidence that makes you continue to believe in God despite all the pain he causes. How do you justify the suffering of children? How do you rationalize the pain? Feel free to message me or reply here, speak openly because if you’ve got an answer and the evidence to back to up I really do want to hear it.

Ignorance is Bliss and Sexism is Plentiful

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A few days ago, my husband posted an article to our blog on the topic of religious versus secular ethics and why secular ethics is superior. I tweeted a link for anyone who might be interested and received one particularly ridiculous comment from a believer. The twitter user, Terry Stevens wrote “If Atheism is true then why can’t scientists explain the origin of matter?”. This comment made it clear that he had not read Rich’s article but instead what to play the part of the religious troll. He quickly showed that he was incapable of a coherent discussion and at one point flat out stated that he wasn’t interested in learning about opposing viewpoints. On top of that when I said that I enjoy learning what others believe and why they believe it he made a spectacle of himself going of the grid with by making a “reading list” of all of the propaganda he felt fit into his attempt to compare Atheism to hate groups. There was some terrible titles and yet somehow he left out all of the Christian hate… interesting, don’t you think? He even added me to a list called “Atheist Commies” which showed that he had no idea who I am or what I stand for. I asked him how he could possibly justify his own set of beliefs if he doesn’t know what he is against. Again, he said he doesn’t wish to educate himself and tried to deflect from the original discussion.

At one point another gentleman started to engage him in conversation. He was supporting my viewpoint and Terry responded with the sexist words “She’s not gonna shag you mate”. Implying that the only reason a man would agree with a woman is for sexual gain. Thankfully he simply dismissed the comment and moved on but still, it was a reminder that even in 2018 religious groups see women as inferior beings. If you check out the link to the twitter thread you’ll notice in the screen shots that Terry didn’t attack the other gentlemen until it was about me. There is nothing wrong with stating that you can’t make an argument and you want to bow out. In this case Terry not only felt the need to get the last word but called me “darling”. If you cannot engage in a respectful discussion just move on. Patronizing remarks are unnecessary unless you want to remind everyone that you aren’t just close minded but sexist as well.

Unfortunately this isn’t a new experience for me. I’ve seen it many times during religious debate, a woman is not worthy of the same respect as a man. We must explain our views tenfold. It happens a lot on the Facebook page that Rich and I share for all things related to Couple of Atheists. Since we share the account people don’t always know who they are speaking with right off the bat. There have been many times that halfway through a conversation they will realize which one of us it is and suddenly the tone completely changes. I am spoken down to. Suddenly Rich’s arguments have more merit… it’s bizarre to see. Personally, it doesn’t upset me, I know that I am just as capable as Rich is when it comes to defending the secular point of view. What does bother me is to think that there are women out there who have to deal with this every day. Women that stay in relationships, join organizations, work for companies that look down on them only because they hold faith in a God that say that is the way it is supposed to be.

If you are reading this and you are in an abusive relationship with God, please know that you are just as important as any man. That despite what you have been told you deserve the same respect as anyone else. If you are reading this and are the one that is abusing in the name of God, please know that by dismissing so many people you are cutting yourself off from full life. If you don’t treat the people that care for you with respect, eventually there won’t be anyone left that supports you. If you are the type of person that closes their mind to all other viewpoints you are missing out on a world of knowledge. You are making it impossible for you to truly understand the views you hold because you don’t even know what else is out there. Blind faith will lead you right off the cliff into a life of ignorance. And though it might be nice to not have to think for yourself, this bliss can only last so long. Eventually you won’t be able to hide behind God and you won’t know what to do. Educate yourself, that knowledge may be the only thing that truly saves you.

Religious Vs Secular Ethics: “Where Do I Get My Morality From?”

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We cannot abandon the idea of human well-being and pretend that our moral discourse make sense.” – Philippa Foot[1]

“Where Do I Get My Morality From?” This question simply doesn’t seem to suffice. It doesn’t get to the crux of the matter. I think the questions that would be better suited are “what is the foundation of our morality” and even more importantly, “how do we develop our morality?”[2] In this blog I’ll attempt to briefly summarize my argument as this topic could easily take several books to cover. Here I argue that a secular moral framework is the only way to understand and develop a proper moral system. Whereas religion (or God as the argument goes) not only cannot provide the foundation for morality, but actually undermines it.
Broadly speaking, morality has a naturalistic foundation as we evolved as a social species that can reason. And how we develop our morality is from the recognition and reasoned reflection of the human condition we find ourselves in and the states of affairs that affect it. It is the critical analysis of the various data that inform us about the correct and incorrect actions that affect the current state of affairs in such a way that is most conducive to human flourishing, thus improving the overall human condition. Then we implement these principles in everyday human interaction, so much so that they can become character traits. This is then in turn passed on to the next generation. Our actions have positive and/or negative effects on other people. And by extension, these actions affect or create states of affairs that are either beneficial or detrimental to well being, societal health, etc. that are necessary conditions for overall human flourishing. This is an objective moral fact and what we mean when we speak of “morality”.
Now a common objection to this is to say that there’s no “authority” from preventing me from doing otherwise, that may be, but we have a word for that… it’s called “immoral”. To suggest that “torturing for fun is moral” is a nonsensical statement. The word “moral” has a specific usage (which I outlined above). It’s this basis of what we mean when we say “moral”. It’s also how we can judge acts and ideologies (such as religion) as “immoral” as they don’t conform to any sense of the term properly applied.
Another common objection isn’t really an objection at all, and that is to ask “why should I care about human flourishing?” But this is a different question than what we are addressing here. However, this question when applied to religious morality does expose the real nature of the religious moral framework as being a self-serving consequentialism. Because when we pose the question to the believer, the answer is typically along the lines of “because God knows what’s best for us” or “this is God’s moral law” and by following these laws there are rewards and disobeying these laws result in consequences. Whether the consequence for disobeying God is eternal torment in Hell, the complete annihilation of the soul, or simply not being in God’s presence and experiencing him.[3]

“For our values to have universal appeal, they must be rooted in our common humanity, not in the faiths that divides us.” – Minette Marrin[4]

This shallow, self-serving consequentialism is ultimately predicated on blind obedience and thus an abandonment of our rational faculties. It destroys the very foundation of ethics and the means in which we develop them. It provides a cheap and hollow understanding of morality that doesn’t provide a means to get to the core of the issues and cuts us off from delving deeper. And this deficiency of religious morality is revealed when we attempt to apply it to real world moral problems we face today.
Religion, being an authoritarian ideology (and the most widespread and thus influential), lends itself to the forming of beliefs that have metastasized in some of the most evil acts imaginable. It’s primary fault is the psychological consequences of the beliefs it fosters. It gives justification for attitudes and worldviews that often result in actions that are detrimental and corrosive to any civilized, modern society and on a global scale.[5] Given this, the believer can no longer make any moral judgments beyond “what did god command” or “is this in accordance with God’s nature”. Within a religious framework, we are left without the ability to weigh “goodness” against other “goodness” or “evil” against other “evil” as these terms no longer have a demonstrable foundation in humanity. Good and evil become an outside standard that you cannot participate in, only obey.

“We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live.” – Socrates[6]

When I use terms like “moral” and “ethics”, I am talking about something of substance, something demonstrable. Religion can’t make even this most basic of claims about morality. Whereas religion destroys the very foundation of morality and thus results in a deficient and shallow ethical system, a secular moral philosophy grounded in humanistic principles and informed by science provides us with a robust moral system with the ability to grow and develop as our understanding grows and develops. It provides the solid foundation necessary to make proper moral judgments and not a system of simply following “laws”. This makes it the only viable moral framework and eliminates the faith-based religious framework from contention. I take it as my duty to challenge such ideology as it undermines morality, and morality is arguably the most important topic we as humans need to understand if we are to continue to progress towards a better future for all of humanity, here now and for generations to come.

-Rich

Notes:
[1] Virtues and Vices, Philippa Foot
[2] I will use our instead of I as our refers to an objective standard that would apply to every human universally, whereas I would simply be referring to the subjective acceptance (or not) of this standard.
[3] There have been many variations on punishment as apologists have been attempting to reconcile the concept of an eternal Hell with a supposedly omni-benevolent God.
[4] Minette Marrin, Twitter, 02 Jul 15
[5] The argument isn’t about whether religion once was wholly beneficial to developing a society (which I reject) or not. Only that we see the problems that arise in today’s societies.
[6] Republic, Socrates

Victims of God

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I have always loved living in Pittsburgh. It is a friendly city with deep roots and lots of unique qualities. However, something happened just this week to cause me to feel intense shame, Pittsburgh was tied to a ring of pedophile priests. It was a massive cover-up that went back decades. It was made possible by local priests, various clergy, the once highly regarded bishop, now Cardinal, Donald Wuerl among many others. A plethora of information has now been released. You can read all 1356 pages of the report online, you can watch interviews and hear the sobs of those directly affected, you can read the gruesome and heartbreaking details of what these children endured. Though I recommend it, as I do not think post people understand how absolutely horrifying this really is,  I will also warn you- that it is not for the faint of heart.

One quote that jumped out at me came from a letter written by one of the victims. He has since died of an overdose as he became addicted to the painkillers he was prescribed after suffering an injury to his spine while he was raped by his priest. The words of the victim were as follows. “He killed my potential and, in doing so, killed the man I should have become.”. To me this serves as a reminder that though the physical pain of abuse is significant, the psychological components are what can destroy your entire life.

I can’t imagine what it feels like to be physically or sexually abused as a child. I was fortunate to escape my younger years without this time of trauma. As an adult I was not as lucky, but still, there is something different about it being a child. The innocence that is stolen away. Preying on someone who thinks you care for them. Destroying their ability to trust. I think most of us respond differently to child abuse versus the abuse of an adult… unless you are a part of the Catholic church.

Within the walls of the church anything is possible. You can rape a child, confess it and you are forgiven. Sure, you might get sent off to another church, but that just means a new group of children to abuse. In one article it was stated that after finding out about his sexual misconduct, including the abuse of an 11 year old boy, Pope Francis sentenced U.S. Prelate Theodore McCarrick to “a life of prayer and penance” which  means that absolutely nothing happened. It amazes me how many of the rapists can have their names redacted from the list and the paperwork. If a regular citizen sexually assaults someone not only will it be all over the news, but they will have to register as a sex offender. For Christ’s sake there are people who dated a 17-year old when they themselves were 19- years old that have had to register as sex offenders, but the priests can save face because religion has its own rules and are treated special in our society. This must stop.

Another thing that has boggled my mind is where is the public outrage over this? Where are the protesters? Where are all the Catholics denouncing their faith? How can anyone still want to be involved in the Catholic church (or any church) after hearing about this?  I am unable to comprehend it. My brain does not have the ability to flip this around into a positive experience. Lots of people say that they still identify as Catholic but simply don’t attend church anymore. In fact, during an online chat I saw someone say “I don’t go to church, but I hold much of the catholic faith still, even after being one of the victims of molestation by a catholic priest who they moved around. I still have faith I just keep my faith away from the buildings.”.  So, this person knows firsthand of the abuse that can come as a result of the corruption within the church and still believes that Catholicism is the standard on which to base your life. They believe the same bible these priests read from is the best book from which to learn what is right and wrong. They have had the fear of God beaten into their brain to the point that nothing, not even this, can break the grip religion has on their life. The power that religious indoctrination can have over an individual is simply outrageous. And if people keep finding ways to justify it, those in power will continue to do it.

Don’t be fooled, this is not a new problem and it is not a problem that will go away just because some 300 priests have been outed. The abuse of children has a deep and dark history within religion and it isn’t just the Catholics that are at fault. Do not be naive, this is not the power of the priest at work, it is the power of “God”. There are individuals from all religions that have been guilty of this crime, and all of those criminals know someone will cover it up and that they can likely shame their victim into silence or simply threaten them with the wrath of God. Most of the victims and their families will never receive any justice. The statute of limitations has made it possible for these men to walk away with no punishment at all. So, what can we do? We can push for our legislators to change the laws that involve child abuse. We can let victims know that they matter and that regardless of how long it takes them to speak out their strength is meaningful, and something will be done. We can stop letting churches make their own rules and hold them to the same standard as everyone else. We can make more resources available for our children to report abuse, even if doing so anonymously, so that these abusers are being watched and not flying under the radar.

 

 

An Atheist Mother’s Positive Message for Kids (My response to Ken Ham)

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I personally don’t follow Ken Ham on twitter, so I thank Luciano Gonzales for drawing attention to this ignorance and issuing the challenge for bloggers to reply. It’s funny that Ken Ham would question what type of positive message an Atheist could pass on to their children, because unlike religion a secular life is limitless. No one aspect is held back because of what someone else says is true. Every opportunity is available, and no God can tell you that you don’t have the right to learn. Living a secular lifestyle gives us the opportunity to show our child that there is a big world outside of our little community, and she should embrace every chance she gets to create a new experience.

We are not forced to teach our children that those that disagree with our beliefs are not as good as we are. That their lives are not worth as much because they do not follow the same path. No, instead we get to teach our children that it is these different paths that make it possible to embrace our differences and use them to expand our minds. We can teach them that by engaging someone new you open yourself to a chance to gain knowledge you may otherwise have never encountered. When you teach your child to have an open mind when meeting someone new they allow themselves the opportunity to have a wide range of people to influence their journey.  Unlike a believer that must engage, proselytize and if unsuccessful, move on. Atheists can choose who they want in their life without restriction and I can’t imagine anything more positive than that.

The positive message doesn’t just stop with one-on-one contact.  This freedom that we receive as Atheists allows us to teach our children that there is no limit on how much they can learn. When they go to school they learn facts, not falsehoods. We can let our children know that while they are exploring the world of science they are not confined to only those things that do not conflict with their religion. Secular children can research cancer treatments, rates of success, how treatment has evolved and what is to come without having to believe that Jane Doe was saved by a miracle of God and John Doe died because it was part of God’s plan. What is more positive than teaching our children that there is always a chance that things in life will change. You never have to give up because advancements in science and technology are constantly bringing in new information … it’s up to us as a society, not God, to find the answers.

A positive, secular message is also quite prevalent in politics. As soon as we can begin to teach our children about the legal system in our country we can teach them about justice and equality.  Instead of sending the message that people who hold different beliefs are automatically wrong and undeserving of the same rights as everyone else, we can teach them the truth. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how much money you make, the color of your skin, the gender you identify with, who you choose to love or your faith (or lack thereof). You are still an American and still deserve all of the freedoms are country was founded on. If we allow believers to use their faith to make our laws, we lose everything that this country is supposed to stand for. You may have the right to worship as you please, but you do not have the right to make it public policy and that is a positive message I will absolutely pass onto my child.

So if Mr. Ham really believes that a positive message is one that is built on discrimination, ostracization and dehumanization, I am proud to say that we disagree. The fact he thinks pushing this onto children before they are even able to question it, I cannot even comprehend. I will never teach my child to hate, teach her that there are limits to what she can do in her life and that she shouldn’t respect those that are different than she is. I will make sure to teach her that reason and critical thinking will get you much farther than blind faith. I will make sure she knows that she is responsible for the choices she makes and that the impact she makes on the world will be there long after she is gone… so she should try her best to make it a positive one.

 

Reflecting on the Jesus Question

“What Have I Changed My Mind On?” I was asked by my Christian interlocutor when I stated that I have in fact researched the topic of the historicity of Jesus. It’s a great question in general. One I probably haven’t reflected on in a while. It can be enlightening and something that I urge anyone who values intellectual honesty to do. However, I don’t think the answer I have is quite what he was expecting.

I had long since rejected the biblical stories of miracles and the divinity of Jesus. However, for years I just took it for granted that a historical person named Jesus was the actual person being referenced in the Bible and his life was chronicled in the New Testament. But when I started actually looking into it, I quickly found that the New Testament itself has some real problems that simply couldn’t be ignored if I was to remain intellectually honest[1]. And these challenges were fully exposed when I began reading the work done by mythicists[2]. The works of Richard Carrier, Robert Price, and Earl Doherty provided convincing scholarly arguments to the mythicist position. When I cross-referenced these arguments with the work published by theologians and Christian historians, I found that the evidence for a historical Jesus is much weaker than I had ever considered. It became glaringly apparent that many of these Christian Scholars were simply writing in there own religious beliefs wherever these difficulties were found. They simply glossed over many of them as not being difficulties at all. Ignoring that from a historical standpoint, these issues are actually quite devastating to their particular reading of the history[3]. Given all this, I began to realize that the mythicist position has real credibility to it.

Another obvious problem I found was that most of the prominent biblical scholars are already believers in the divine Jesus and how this belief can be clearly seen to taint their investigations into the historical Jesus. Religious and supernatural language can often be found peppered throughout their work and miracles and/or the divinity of Jesus are commonly invoked to mask the dubiousness of their conclusions drawn. Not surprisingly, this goes largely ignored by christian readership. Such a grandiose presupposition (that Jesus is their God in human form) can’t help but to impose upon the very method by which they build their hypothesis. Historian Richard Carrier points out a number of these flaws in the methods used by these mainstream scholars[4]. These are methods that are not permitted (or at least not held as very credible) in other historical investigations, least not if the historian wants to remain credible as a historian[5]. Much like in other fields in science, the bias towards their deeply held religious convictions couldn’t be more obvious. An easy way to spot these biases is to read some of their investigations of other religions. Needless To Say, you won’t find any even-handedness in method there.

We can hear the bias (and profound ignorance) echoed in the rhetoric of the average Christian. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that “the resurrection is the best attested fact in history” or “there’s more evidence for Jesus than for Julius Caesar” and nothing offered to support it. It’s simply just not taught that there is very strong evidence pointing to the gospels[6], and several of Paul’s letters, being forgeries. Or that many of these accounts were written well after the events supposedly took place. That there is evidence of scribal error, omissions, redactions, and not to mention a lack of contemporary outside (non-biblical) sources. While the majority of biblical scholars don’t much contest this, the general public seems oblivious. I too, was unknowingly influenced by such obscurantist rhetoric and misinformation. I grew up believing that the historicity of Jesus was a foregone conclusion and NO scholar disputed it (which in hindsight should’ve been a red flag). So I was quite surprised to find that there were, in fact, even prominent theologians that not only doubted the evidence for a historical Jesus, but actually argued against such a claim. Take theologian and philosopher Albert Schweitzer for example. He is one of several prominent christian scholars that argues that the quest for the historical Jesus is hopeless[7]. His work on this topic is never mentioned by these mainstream apologetic historians and go largely unknown in the Christian community.

But is this enough to cast the credibility of a historical Jesus into doubt? I think so. However, this brings me to the most significant issue that I have changed my mind on, and that is that the question simply isn’t that important of one. Not in regards to the claims of Christianity. Historically speaking, it’s not really a particularly interesting question, either. Let me explain…
First off, we can demarcate between a historical Jesus and a divine Jesus that performed miracles and such. The parts that ARE entirely myth are those stories of a divine Jesus (for reasons other than just the criteria we use for a historical, human Jesus). These dubious claims can be refuted wholly apart from a historical Jesus. So could there have been a person at that time claiming religious divinity, or claiming to be acting on behalf of the divine, that people found believable enough to follow? Sure, I don’t find that to be particularly controversial or all that improbable. We have countless accounts of such people doing that very thing, even today! Are there some stories in the Bible that are a reference this same person? Maybe, maybe not. We may never have conclusive evidence of this. But if we are to honestly engage in such an investigation, we must also consider that many of the stories in the Bible could be embellishments of what may have taken place. Perhaps to give Christianity a foothold? Seems plausible. Could many of these embellishments be borrowed from other myths? Of course. Given the evidence, this line of thinking seems highly likely. Or could many of these stories justifiably be complete fabrications with no connection to a single person? Absolutely!

The question is, without being weighed down by the baggage of the “divine”, where does this leave the historical Jesus? Well, it seems that when stripped of the exaggerations and embellishments of what very well could be references to a historical person in the character of Jesus, then we’re left with a quite unremarkable figure. Just one of many such figures in antiquity. The true “power”, influence, and interest surrounding Christianity is in the myths and propaganda of Jesus and not in the historical living human that people came to know as Jesus. Without the myths of the miraculous, then there’s just not much to talk about. I, like many, used to think that the existence of a historical Jesus was somehow one step closer to “proving” the existence of a divine Jesus and this was one step closer to proving God exists and to verifying Christianity. I came to realize that that is not the case. Jesus, a human, the son of a carpenter, a preacher and prophet from the ancient times, is not the what Christianity is built upon. Jesus, the son and lamb of God, 1/3rd of the trinity, the crucified and resurrected savior, is the foundation of Christianity. The existence of a historical Jesus has no bearing on the existence of the Divine Jesus of the Christian faith. It does not take us one step closer in any way to the existence of a god anymore than the existence of a historical Muhammad brings us any closer to existence of Allah and vindicating the miracle claims found in the Quran.

– Rich

Notes:

[1] I think it is uncontroversial to state it as philosophy professor Matthew McCormick does. He writes “…we have learned that a well-justified conclusion must be based upon a wide, objective aggregation of evidence followed by a balanced evaluation that adequately explores possible counter-evidence, alternative hypotheses, an error checking.” and then goes on to correctly point out that the process whereby the Jesus story was recorded and transmitted to us failed miserably on these criteria. The religious goal of fostering belief is at odds with the epistemological goal of believing only those conclusions that are justified by the evidence.” Atheism and the Case Against Christ, Matthew S. McCormick, p12.

[2] (Broadly)Those who argue there is not enough evidence to support a historical Jesus and posit that it is more likely that the whole story is a myth and no such person existed.

[3] In his book, Jesus is Dead, Robert Price systematically dismantles several of the most influential of modern biblical Scholars, such as N. T. Wright, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, et al. Taking apart their arguments with surgical precision.

[4] Why I Think Jesus Didn’t Exist: A Historian Explains the Evidence That Changed His Mind – Richard Carrier
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwUZOZN-9dc

[5] Here Robert Price details the Historical Method and why these popular apologists, theologians, and Christian biblical Scholars are mistaken and why we can’t honestly reach the same conclusions they do.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITq6Cv-R8JM

[6] It is important to point out that the gospel authors we not historians, they were writing to serve their theological motives
The Case Against Christianity, Michael Martin – p38

[7] The Quest for the Historical Jesus, Albert Schweitzer
*It must be noted that Schweitzer challenges the secular view and the traditional Christian view.

Still proud

pride

Every year I march in the PRIDE parade with my local atheist group which to believers is probably the worst imaginable scenario. Just like I have believers scold me for pushing an atheist agenda onto my child I have also had people imply that attending PRIDE is promoting a gay lifestyle. Well first of all I don’t know what a gay lifestyle is. People are who they are and they live their life just like everyone else. Second, if they mean that I am promoting acceptance of the LGBT community, how exactly is that a bad thing? I want Arabella to be open-minded and supportive of people. I want her to see that we go to events such a PRIDE not just because we identify but also as allies. Rich is heterosexual and still attends PRIDE every year to support me and the rest of the LGBT community. I cannot imagine how people find something negative about this.

I believe it is never too early to start promoting love and acceptance of others. I am often asked if Arabella knows that I am bisexual and to that the answer is no, but only because she is four years old and the topic hasn’t come up. When she does show an interest I will gladly discuss it with her, though the level of detail I go in to will depend upon her age and maturity at the time of the discussion. I really don’t see how explaining that bi-sexual means that mommy has had relationships with both men and women could be interpreted as a negative thing, but then again I don’t comprehend irrational concepts.

I feel that being open with Arabella about who I am and what I have experienced will help us to start an open line of communication. I never want her to be afraid to tell me things about herself. As a teenager I wasn’t afraid of my sexuality but I also didn’t sit down and have a heart-to-heart with my parents about it. I have casually mentioned it to them as an adult but they seem pretty indifferent to it. I suppose the fact that I am not actively in a homosexual relationship, but instead in a heterosexual marriage has something to do with it. Though I will say that I 100% believe that my parents would have supported me had it been a woman that I decided to marry. They have supported me through every other choice I have made and have loved me unconditionally my entire life so I would expect nothing else.

I’m sure that people see me in my hetero-sexual marriage and wonder why I care so much about expressing my sexuality. Well for as long as I can remember I have identified as bi-sexual. Yes, I am in a hetero, monogamous marriage, but that does not change my sexuality. For some reason there is this concept that as soon as you are in a relationship with a man or woman you become gay or straight, but as is the case with most things in life- it isn’t black and white. Try to imagine if you entered into a marriage and suddenly you couldn’t identify as gay or straight you had to choose a new group because this one relationship was to define your entire being, that is how I feel when people say that being with Rich makes me straight, not bi. People do not stop feeling attraction just because they are in a relationship, the relationship just provides guidelines as to if you will or will not act on the attraction.

If I was to do a top 5 break ups (High Fidelity, get it?) I think that likely the number one break up would be the first woman I ever dated, and mainly because of the repressive, religious based fear that caused it to end. It took place in college. We’d know each other for a long time but were nothing more than friends until sophomore year. I won’t go into the mushy and eventually heartbreaking details other than to say that religion and politics were what inevitably ended our relationship. She was closeted due to religion and her family was incredibly conservative. She chose to not rock the bigoted boat that had been set to complete her life journey. Because of this reasoning, because it is too risky for it to even come out now, she doesn’t acknowledge me this day. We went our separate ways and moved on, met our husbands, started families- she went on to join a group of extreme religious radicals and I became part of “Couple of Atheists” so we couldn’t really be further apart in our lives. It is a shame that denying who you are has to be a contingent part of some religions. I am not saying that we were meant to be together or that things didn’t turn out for the best (at least here) but it saddens me to think that there is a part of her she can never express. Hopefully one day believers will accept that people are people. We exist on a spectrum and there is nothing wrong with living a life true to who you are. If your God doesn’t love you as you are, out and expressing yourself, well he doesn’t deserve your undying devotion. To hide your own truth just in case a myth turns out to be true is no way to live and I feel so sad for those that do.

So as another PRIDE month comes to an end I have to reflect on how lucky I am. Lucky that I am able to participate in PRIDE events as a bisexual, female, atheist without ridicule. Lucky that I am raising my daughter in a society that is finally beginning to understand LGBT. Lucky that I have been able to express my sexuality my entire life and grow from each experience. This is all part of what makes me who I am and the fact that I don’t have to hide those qualities is amazing. So many people are still repressed but hopefully acceptance will continue to grow and equality will be come the norm. Until then, let’s stay strong and keep marching.

Antwon Rose did not deserve die

This week another unarmed  black man was killed by a police officer, this time right here in my home town of Pittsburgh. From the massive protests taking over our city and the response on social media, it is clear that people are outraged. However, there are also some people that seem apathetic to it all, perhaps because it has become so common in the past few years. We can only hope this death will not be in vain if we make the demand change and don’t let this get brushed under the rug like so many other crimes committed by cops have been.

I cannot imagine the fear that is experienced when you fit into a demographic that is constantly being targeted. A friend of mine from high school made a powerful statement comparing the cops behavior to them trying to receive a prize “What’s on my mind? Being a black man in America!!! Why do I say this? The reason is because black woman men and children are being slain left and right and treated like we’re the biggest prize too shoot.” I had never really thought about it like that but he does make a point. The bigoted, irrational, emotion driven officers do seem to treat human life as the newest form of trophy hunting. In another group I saw a woman say   “as a white woman I wouldn’t run”. Well big fucking surprise there. White woman don’t have to run because the odds of them meeting a fate like Philando Castile did when he stayed in his car and was killed in front of his child are virtually zero. Anyone who wants to try to argue that young black men are not targeted is clearly ignorant to the world and needs to educate themselves before speaking out again.

I cannot even imagine the pain Antwon’s mother must be feeling. The thought of losing one of my stepsons is incomprehensible. A few years ago it was around midnight when we received a knock on the front door. There were several cops and my stepson standing on the front porch. It turns out that my 16 year old stepson decided to take a walk in the middle of the night and it just so happened that at the same time there were reports of people breaking into cars. We were living in Arlington at the time, anyone who knows the city of Pittsburgh will know that it is not the best neighborhood. Well the cops saw my stepson and ordered him to stop. He ran. Was he shot? No. Tased? No. Chased and tackled? Yes.  He was also not arrested, cuffed or seriously injured… he was returned to us safe. Don’t get me wrong, even as an Atheist I wanted to thank God that he was brought home to us without more than being a little sore and incredibly scared. Had an officer like Michael Rosfeld been on duty that night it could easily have turned out much differently.

I keep seeing people saying this is “anti-police” and this is just ridiculous. No rational person believes that all cops are bad. What people do see is that cops need to be held accountable. They cannot be judge, jury and executioner (dear lord, stop being the executioner). What we need is for it to be clear that a cop cannot break the law , just as a civilian can’t. If a cop commits a crime, he is held accountable, period. The type of officer who reacts this way is certainly not the majority. There are good officers out there and I am thankful that they want to protect the citizens. In my life I have had officers help me and was so grateful that I took the time to call the commander and make a statement as to how much their compassion meant to me. That being said, we cannot keep letting the bad cops tarnish the reputations of the rest of the force. The new recruits coming in year after year are seeing that they are not just enforcing the law, but are above it, and this will only make things worse. We need to find a way  to ensure that all officers are  mentally and emotionally capable, educated and equipped with not just a gun, but with cameras, audio and respect for human life. In this case the officer was a veteran. There were a bunch of headlines declaring that he had only been sworn in hours before this homicide took place- and while true, it is misleading. He had just been sworn in as an East Pittsburgh Police Officer but he had worked at other departments, including the University of Pittsburgh, for over  7 years. So this was not some freak rookie accident, he should have known how to conduct himself.

The protesting in Pittsburgh has been intense. It has gone on every single day since Antwon died. I have seen people complaining online that these protests are an inconvenience to them. That people blocking a road lengthens their commute. Well too damn bad for you. One of the most ridiculous things I witnessed was someone saying that we should wait until all the evidence is in before protesting… um…. there is a video of an unarmed kid getting shot in the back, what more do you need? Honestly, had a civilian not been filming the slaying of Antwon Rose all we would hear is that it was a car stop gone wrong and another trouble maker is off the street. Considering that the cars were not equipped with cameras and the officer wasn’t  wearing a body camera it would have just been his word. Even with the video we have people saying that we don’t know what happened before that video but guess what IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT HAPPENED BECAUSE HE NEVER SHOULD HAVE SHOT AT HIM. One of the most disgraceful things that happened was when one of the major Pittsburgh news stations decided to make headlines with a false narrative that there was a video of Antwon Rose committing a drive-by shooting and that gun powder residue was found on his hands. The Allegheny County homicide team had to speak out to say that all of that is false… but the damage has been done. Everyone reads the headline but almost no one sees the retraction. What was really pathetic was how many people seemed to be disappointed that it wasn’t true. It is like they just wanted it to be over, no justice necessary… but that is not how it works.

I don’t even know how to end this except to say that Antwon’s loved ones are in my thoughts and that I will continue to spread the word in hopes that it will bring justice. Keep exorcising your right to peaceful protest and know that there are lots of people supporting you. R.I.P. Antwon Rose.