On May 31st 2008, the 5-year old daughter of Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman was killed. She was hit by a SUV driven by her older brother (http://entertainment.msn.com/news/article.aspx?news=315536&silentchk=1&). This is obviously a horrible tragedy. Not only did the Chapman’s lose their daughter but their own son was at fault. What makes this even more tragic is that Mr. Chapman has devoted his life to God. He was a missionary. He has sung His praises. He has done His work. He has been instrumental in bringing many into “God’s Kingdom”. His music has brought joy to thousands of believers and helped them in their faith and growth in Christ. Wasn’t this enough? What does Chapman’s God want?

Couldn’t an omnipresent, omnipotent, sovereign God have prevented this tragedy? Of course He could have. So why didn’t He prevent this? Was Chapman not dedicated enough? Did he not pray hard enough? Was his theology not correct enough? Maybe God wants to cause him pain so he can better minister to those in need? Maybe God wants him to be an example to show the world how to praise God when times get rough?

Christians, no doubt, will give lots of reasons why a loving God would do this, but the fact of the matter is that a loving God wouldn’t do this. Let’s put it this way. If I purposely ran over one of your children would your first reaction be singing my praises? Would you tell me how loving and kind I was? Would you make all types of excuses for me? Or would you see me as an evil homicidal maniac? God gets a pass, man gets jail. If a man can’t get away with it, then a loving God can’t either. A sadistic God who loves torturing his people can get away with it, but let’s not pretend that such a supernatural entity is loving and caring and merciful. Fortunately such a deity doesn’t exist – loving, sadistic or otherwise.

My heart goes out to the Chapman family for their loss.

I read something from my local newspaper the other night that made me want to scream. The article was entitled “Parents of girl who died seek dismissal of charges”. On Easter Sunday of this year eleven year old Madeline Neumann of Wausau, Wisconsin, died because her parents chose prayer to heal her diabetes rather than modern medicine. What makes me want to scream is the fact that there is a law in this state that allows parents to actually “select prayer (in good faith) as a basis of treatment for a disease” for their children. The bottom line seems to be that Madeline was allowed to die a slow and painful death while her siblings watched and her parents prayed. There is little doubt that had they gotten off their knees and taken her to the doctor, she would be with us today.

How many innocents have to die before we all stand up and say “no more”? Children are a precious gift for which we must all be protectors and advocates, sometimes even for children who are not our own. We must insist that laws are in place for children unfortunate enough to be born into families who still prefer the dark ages to our modern day program of health and healing. No child should be subject to a preventable death because of a law designed to appease the beliefs of the religious. I have no problem with people praying. Everyone has a right to pray as they please. However, if this right endangers another human being in any way it must be revoked. Many will argue that Jesus Christ is the Great Physician and that if prayer is offered up fervently enough that God will heal. In all fairness I will readily admit that God can cure the common cold in anywhere from 7-10 days and the stomach flu in about 24-48 hours. These miracles have been proved over and over again. However, for some reason we hear less about his curing cancer, diabetes, or any number of other serious diseases? Maybe it just takes longer to heal the big ones.

David Kostinchuk, in his article called “Faith Healing: Child Abuse, Torture, and Homicide” www.positiveatheism.org/mail/eml9074.htm, gives us the tragic examples of many children who have died at the folded-in-prayer hands of their parents. These parents participated in killing their children. This may sound harsh, but any parent who would watch their child die, knowing that medical treatment could ease their suffering and most likely cure them, should be prosecuted by the full extent of the law as accomplices to murder. Further, any state which has a law which sanctions prayer as a “treatment for disease” should be held in contempt. If laws are allowed in our states that favor, in any way, particular religious practices that end up costing any one their life, the laws regarding murder and/or allowing murder, in these situations, become null and void. One set of laws are broken because of another law which cannot help but usurp it. Perhaps Madeline’s senseless death will cause the state of Wisconsin to reexamine this law. Further, our states should never make laws respecting any religion – something our forefathers tried to guarantee.

It really boils down to this – by law murder is a crime punishable by death or imprisonment and watching another human being die, when you could have prevented it, makes you an accomplice. I strongly believe that parents should have rights regarding how they raise their children. However, their rights must end when it comes to harming their children. If the parents of this poor girl had beaten her because their religion said they were supposed to, the law would have come into the home and removed her as well her siblings as beating children is not sanctioned by the state of Wisconsin. If these parents are not ultimately charged with reckless homicide, I will have to believe that our good state, while not allowing parents to beat their kids, does in certain situations, allow parents to kill them.

“MADISON, WI — Two children and their mother lived for about two months with the decaying body of a 90-year-old woman on the toilet of their home’s only bathroom, on the advice of a religious “superior” who claimed the corpse would come back to life, authorities said Friday.” (http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/national_world&id=6134344)

The two children, ages 15 and 12, were subjected to seeing grandma (Magdeline Middlesworth) decay in their one and only bathroom. Their mother, Tammy Lewis or Sister Mary Bernadett, believed God told her that if she had enough faith and prayed hard enough Middlesworth would come back to life. It is unclear whether God spoke to her directly or through her religious superior – “Bishop” John Peter Bushey. Bushey apparently told them that “demons were trying to make it look as if Middlesworth wouldn’t come back to life”.

While I doubt most religious people would allow grandma to decay in their only bathroom as they pray for her resurrection, this story does show what happens at the extremes of religious belief and faith. But how extreme is it? Doesn’t Jesus say: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14) There is no qualification or exception except having faith in Jesus. How much faith? Apparently not much as Jesus also said: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Luke 17:6) Of course, these blanket literal promises are not true and any sane person knows this. Therefore, evangelical Christianity has made a lot of plausible excuses for why a literal reading of these verses is not really what Jesus meant. (You would think an omnipotent God could get the wording correct and say what He means!)

Yet, some people do believe them and the trauma it can cause is no minor thing. Did Tammy Lewis have enough faith? Pray hard enough? Believe strong enough? Were the demons to strong to overcome? Was there unbelief in their house? Did the children undermine her prayers? Maybe she also needed to fast?

What about her children? What kind of nightmares are they going to have? A decaying corpse not only smells bad, it isn’t a particularly pleasing sight.

Are Lewis and Bushey insane and deluded OR do they just believe a literal interpretation of the bible? Both, but isn’t there a touch of insanity in everyone who believes in counterintuitive worlds governed by supernatural agents”?

At our societies last breakfast meeting we discussed the subject of how to deal with evangelical Christians. I thought in my first “Religious ReEducation 101” blog post I’d touch on a couple of aspects concerning this subject and continue to build on it in later blogs. Today I will reiterate a couple of the things I shared at the breakfast.

Many atheists have been so all of their lives and know little of why the religious are, well, so religious. What makes them tick? Why do Christians feel compelled to share the gospel with unbelievers? For those of you who have no religious education or, perhaps, have a religious background limited to one group or denomination, take time to learn a little about these folks. I believe that the first step to knowing how to deal with the religious is to understand them. With the internet at our beck and call we have a plethora of information at our fingertips.

Try going to conservapedia.com where, interestingly, the article of the month is on Atheism. This is a website made by conservative Christians to counter Wikipedia. Or how about Livingwaters.com. This website is a Bible dictionary of sorts which allows you to look up Bible verses from 21 different Bible translations. It also allows you to do a “word search” in any of those translations. I typed in “godless” and was given many different Bible verses on this subject. If you Google “Christian beliefs” you’ll get all kinds of websites that are anxious to explain to you just what it is they believe. Google the word “evangelism” and you’ll find the same.

I found something quite striking on the website evangelize.com. It has a “counter” at the bottom of it’s home page which allows you to see just how many people have perished since you personally opened the webpage. Here is what it says next to the counter: “150,000 People Will Die Today: The counter to the side is ticking off the number of people who have died since you opened this webpage. The vast majority of those people are entering Hell. Christ commanded his followers to share the Gospel with those who are perishing… who have you shared with today?

Fascinating. This little paragraph alone will help you understand why many Christians are compelled to try to “save” you. Understand that many of these people are extremely loving and well meaning. Many of them have been taught, or what I call “brainwashed”, all of their lives to believe in a literal hell in which you and I will burn in for eternity. If you have any family members who are of this persuasion you’ll understand that they love you and are horrified that you may be going to hell. It is commanded of them scripturally to warn you and, hopefully, save you from that hell.

The first step to knowing how to deal with anything or anyone is to read some their guidebook for yourself. Take a little time to do this and your understanding of them should strengthen both your resolve and your compassion for these poor frightened souls

Veritas Omnia Vincit — “Truth Conquers All”

05. May 2008 · Write a comment · Categories: News

From SamHarris.org:

We are preparing to run another fMRI study of belief and disbelief, and we need volunteers to help us refine our experimental stimuli. This promises to be the first study of religious faith at the level of the brain. By responding to the four surveys I have posted online, you can make an enormous contribution to this work.

Head on over to: http://www.samharris.org/ to fill out the surveys.

On Friday May 2nd, violent weather once again ripped through 4 states with up to 25 tornados touching down leaving destruction in their wake. This time 7 died in Arkansas. Were these people worst sinners than those people in VA who suffered destruction and injury but no deaths?

Surprising, the Bible asks a similar question for the tragedies of its time:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)

Jesus answers the question by telling those who asked it that they were essentially asking the wrong question. The correct question was: “Why haven’t you perished too?” Wonderful! Repent or you too will die.

One Christian site says that the real reason for natural disasters is: “Yet, there remains another possibility—one that many do not want to hear: that these incredibly destructive storms are punishment from the hand of a loving God who is trying to get a nation’s attention. Throughout the Bible, God warned that punishment would come upon the peoples descended from the patriarch Israel in the “latter days,” due to their stubborn rebellion and breaking of is Law.” (http://www.realtruth.org/articles/362-advgs.html)

Now any reasonable person can see that a loving god naturally punishes his creation and teaches them eternal lessons by death and destruction. Right?

Let’s put this in perspective. A loving father kills one of his children to teach his other children a valuable lesson. He beats another and destroys all their possessions. Lesson learned? Loving father? I think not and I don’t think any judge in the country would say that this was a loving thing to do. But God gets away with it. God gets a pass that no human would. Is this love or just a temper filled maniac that thinks death and destruction are valid methods of discipline and punishment?

This is just another reason showing the implausibility of God and that the Christian concept of God is simply barbaric.

02. May 2008 · 2 comments · Categories: Atheism

On Monday April 28th 2008, 6 tornadoes touched down in VA causing 200+ injuries and damaging or destroying at least 140 homes. Suffolk, VA was particularly hard hit, but miracle of miracles God was merciful. Beth and John Catania found a wet, tattered, open Bible in their home. God miraculously had opened their Bible to Psalm 75:

We give thanks to you, O God,
we give thanks, for your Name is near;
men tell of your wonderful deeds.

You say, “I choose the appointed time;
it is I who judge uprightly.

When the earth and all its people quake,
it is I who hold its pillars firm.
Selah

To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns.

Do not lift your horns against heaven;
do not speak with outstretched neck.’ “

No one from the east or the west
or from the desert can exalt a man.

But it is God who judges:
He brings one down, he exalts another.

Suffolk Mayor Linda Johnson echoed the miraculous provision God has done for her town:

“We have had some injuries. Most of them are minor, so in many ways, we are blessed”.

So, what type of “wonderful” God do we have here?

One who caused 200+ injuries?

One who caused at least 140 people to lose their homes?

One who wanted to show his power and might and majesty by bullying his creation? By destroying their homes? By showing them how frail their bodies are? By showing them that they are nothing but grasshoppers to Him and that he can take everything and anything from them at a moment’s notice?

If this God exists, He is nothing but a big bully in the sky.

Wouldn’t it be more wonderful for 6 tornados to hit a populated area and NOT cause injury or destruction?

Wouldn’t it be more wonderful to show God’s protection and grace in spite of the full fury of a tornado? Who then would be more powerful – the tornado or God?

At least no one was killed you say? That’s a small comfort to those who have to rebuild their lives and recover from their injuries, when a sovereign, omnipresent, omniscient God could have so easily protected his creation.

When you praise God for these types of tragedy, you are praising a glorified bully.

“Thank-you God for destroying my house and harming my body, I needed that!”