Answering Braxton Hunter – Part 2

This post is a follow up to my previous post. In the first part of this series I answered the first five of Braxton’s 10 Questions for Atheists. I’ll be continuing my answers for the remaining five questions.

6 - Of the arguments for God's existence is there one that to you seems more interesting than the rest? Is there one that for you actually does weigh in favor of theism? which one?

Honestly, I’ve never heard an argument for God that is at all interesting to me, and I find that the vast majority most of them are really bad. Every single argument I’ve ever encountered appears to suffer from some of problem that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. None of them come anywhere close to being compelling, let alone weighing in favor of theism. The best argument appears to be the fine tuning argument, but why would an all powerful God need to fine tune the universe for life?

Frankly, even if it did convince me that there is some kind of creator, at best you’d convert me to Deism, and would be unlikely to get me any closer to coming back to Christianity. Now, for the record, I see no reason to believe that the universe, life, or anything else, needs a creator God, even if I have no explanations.

Here’s my problem with presenting argument: At the end of the day, was it an argument for God that convinced you, or was it something else? How many people do you know have become believers simply because of an apologetic argument? I’m going to guess that the number is small and most believe either because they’ve been indoctrinated since they were children, or because they had some kind of religious experience.

7 - Most atheists I've met humbly admit that they don't think they can have absolute certainty about much of anything but what they want from the Christian is a demonstration that God exists. or that Christianity is true, when we offer the reasons to believe that we do have those are typically deemed "not good enough." So what sort of evidence, if any, would be enough to convince you?

I’ll start by saying that I agree that we probably cannot be absolutely certain about anything, and I think the best we can achieve is what I’ve heard referred to as maximal certainty. In the end, we’re fallible creatures and our reasoning could always be wrong, even if the risk of that is very small. But I’m not looking for absolute certainty when I’m looking for evidence that your God exists, or that Christianity is true.

I’ve stated before on this blog that there are three things that I need to know are true, or at least be able to show are very likely to be true, before I’d believe that Christianity is true. They are:
1. That Jesus is God
2. That there is an afterlife
3. What happens to me in my afterlife is primarily affected by my beliefs about Jesus

This is the Christianity I was raised with, and I would hazard that it’s the Christianity that most people are raised with. I’m sure there are extremely liberal Christians who hold some other idea of what Christianity entails, but then we’re talking about something else.

Now, if any of the above three conditions is false then Christianity (at least as I understand it) is false. This is where the problems start, because I think we have pretty good reason to believe that #2 isn’t true, and is really little more than wishful thinking (and no, NDE’s aren’t evidence of an afterlife.) Also, given what we have recorded in the Bible, I’m pretty well inclined to believe that Jesus wasn’t anything close to a god, otherwise we wouldn’t have passages like Matthew 16:28, and we’d have much better advice from Jesus. Literally nothing Jesus is reported to have said is anything that couldn’t have been said by somebody else living at the time. While the gospels are interesting literature, they are unremarkable for what they contain if they contain the words, sayings, and life story, of a supposed god-man.

Frankly, since most definitions of God go beyond the natural, and I lack any ability to access the supernatural, the only way I could be convinced that a supernatural explanation is necessary is if you can show that every possible natural explanation has been exhausted, but I’d also have to be a lot smarter than I am now to know that every possibility has been exhausted – but that’s not really my problem.

8 - To what extent did social and moral issues start you down the path toward your atheism? that is to say the typical Christian or religious views on sexuality, gender rights, and acts and commands of God in the Old  Testament, it seems that many deconversion stories online begin with, or at least include LGBT issues, purity culture, or hell, as instrumental in the deconversion process. It strikes me that what should matter most is the truth and not what we might prefer that the truth were. I honestly wonder how much those issues, and ones like them, motivate the deconversion rather than all this talk about evidence?

While I stopped attending church when I was 14, I didn’t stop believing until I was into my 20’s, largely because of who I was dating. I stopped attending church, and have described myself at the time as an apatheist[1], because I no longer saw it as being relevant in my life.

The Catholic Church had views that conflicted with my own and I felt that if they were so wrong on important social issues then I wasn’t sure that they could be believed on other supposedly important topics. When my own morality is the only compass I have on social issues, and when I feel that what the Catholic Church tells me goes completely against my sense of right and wrong, I’m left with no choice but to abandon them and their authority. I could not, in good conscience, override my moral views. I thought they were morally wrong then and I think they are completely morally bankrupt now, especially in light of the residential school scandals.

9 - Can you name the last three academic books you read by theists on the subject? How long ago did you read them or is most of your understanding of apologetics and atheism from non-scholarly internet sources, pop level books,  and let's face it YouTube videos? And be honest with yourself about this. Anyone can google up a list of books and paste them in the comments section but i want to know are you getting the best from the other side?

This will depend on what you classify as “pop level” and what you consider “academic.” I’ve read several books by Ehrman about the Bible and the history of Christianity.

I’ve also read Strobel’s The Case for Christ, which would probably be considered pop-level, but many Christians told me to read it, so I did. I regard it as absolute gutter trash that should only be read to understand what most fundamentalist evangelical Christians believe, and that’s about it. The reality is that most of the “facts” presented are not in line with what the majority of scholarship has to say on those subjects. I wish Christians would stop acting like this book is so great.

I’ve also read plenty of works by supposedly “professional” Catholic (Thomist) philosophers like Dennis Bonnette (from Strange Notions), and Edward Feser, and find they often rely on ideas that have long been discarded by modern philosophy and science. I’ve listened to professional apologists give their best arguments and they always either come up lacking or start with assumption that I do not believe are justified.

Even if I listed off dozens of books by big name academic philosophers and theologians, would it ever be enough? I know that other atheists have been accused of not reading enough material and told “just read this too.” I think that apologists will always accuse non-believers of not reading enough to understand why they’re supposedly wrong, but rarely listen to the criticisms raised by us in return.

My biggest problem is at, in the end, do you believe that God wants to have a relationship with me? You’re an evangelical Christian, so I’m assuming this is probably true. If so, why is God so hidden? Why should I need to read books when God should be able to deliver the good? Shouldn’t God’s existence be so much more obvious and indisputable than it is? I never felt any connection to the divine even when I was a believer, so should I really need to read more academic books on the subject in order to have a relationship with an all powerful, all knowing, being?

The way I see things, either God doesn’t want me to believe, doesn’t know that I don’t believe, doesn’t care that I don’t believe, or doesn’t exist. None of these should be particularly attractive to you.

10 - If you found out today, to your satisfaction, that Christianity were true would you accept God's authority, repent of your sins, and trust Jesus as your king?

In part my answer here is going to be dependent on “what are my alternatives?” Because it does not follow that if God exists that I should worship it, or obey God’s will. We certainly haven’t established that God is even worthy of being called good.

As Christopher Hitchens put it, heaven would likely be some kind of celestial North Korea, and doesn’t sound at all attractive to me. If my choices are either “be consciously tortured forever”, or “accept Jesus as king and live in celestial North Korea forever”, I think I’d almost certainly take heaven. I wouldn’t be doing that because I think God is worthy of worship, but because the alternative is so dreadful that I’d do it only to save myself from an eternity of even worse torment. Endlessly praising Lord Jesus sounds like a better alternative to all kinds of eternal torture, but that really doesn’t say much, does it?

If, however, my alternative is to be annihilated, then choosing heaven becomes much less attractive, and would depend on whether I believe that God is actually good and worthy of being worshiped. As far as I can tell the God of Christianity is not worthy of worship. After all, what kind of being stands by as so many suffer horribly, or worse has actually prescribed this suffering as a test for humanity? In such a case I would happily choose annihilation, as I have no desire to live forever. For other choices it would depend on what the consequences of not loving Jesus are.

[1] Apatheist: A person who couldn’t care less about God or religions.

Answering Braxton Hunter

Braxton Hunter, an evangelical Christian and professor of Apologetics, has 10 questions for atheists. I’ve seen other answers to these questions, but I thought I’d shine my own light on them. Since some of my answers are rather detailed I’m going to split this into two segments.

1 - What facts about reality, that you and I agree are real facts about the way that the world is, does your worldview account for, but my Christianity doesn't account for, or at least doesn't account for it well?

Well, I see that my worldview has no problem with suffering and evil in the world while Christianity doesn’t really seem to have a sufficient explanation beyond “that’s just the way God wants it”, or an appeal to mystery. Since, in your worldview, God exist, then this ought to be the best possible world, yet it certainly does not appear to be anything close to the best possible world.

The big problem with your worldview is that God can explain everything, and in doing so doesn’t actually explain anything. No matter what world we find ourselves we can always say that this is the world that God wants. I can explain why bad things can happen to good and otherwise innocent people, yet Christianity has no real explanation for why many thousands of children die every single day of starvation, cancer, and other horrific causes. Sometimes Christians will offer the trite answer of “it’s because of sin” – which doesn’t answer anything. In your worldview God created us knowing that we were going to sin, and that horrible suffering would follow as a result, but somehow that’s the best your omnipotent God could do. You don’t get to hand wave away the problems that an omnipotent and omniscience God should be able to solve.

Then you have the problem with prayer, which should be the most powerful evidence in favor of Christianity, where every time prayer has been studied we tend to find one of two things:
1. The studies have significant design flaws, making them useless
2. The studies show that prayer has no effect that is better than chance.

If Christianity were true then we should see tremendous evidence that prayers are effective, and that Christians have demonstrably better life outcomes than non-Christians. But that’s not even close to what we see. Nothing about prayer, or believers, shows that any kind of God is listening to them. Even in this current pandemic, how many Christians have died of COVID because they refused vaccination? This appears very difficult to reconcile with a Christian worldview (not that it stops them from trying.)

2 - If your definition of atheism is merely that it is the lack of belief in God, and you're just waiting to be convinced, but then you speak of [God] as if he is in some way synonymous with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or fairies, doesn't that at least send the message to your listeners that you actually believe that there is no god?

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: When it comes to the Christian God, I’m fairly convinced that such a being does not, and cannot, exist. I find that the God that Christians want me to believe in is incoherent and does not exist by definition. I can grant that it’s possible Christianity is true, but God is probably nothing like what they believe.

For many other gods I find that I’d be best described as a non-cognitivist – namely that I don’t know what they’re trying to describe when people tell me about their god(s). For yet other gods, like the gods of Olympus, we know that there are no gods on the top of that mountain in Greece, making those gods like Santa Claus.

3 - When atheism becomes part of someone's worldview they typically change their positions on other issues like abortion, sexual morality, and a number of other things. I actually have several videos of well known atheists saying there's nothing wrong with prostitution, that they hope their children don't save themselves until marriage, and that sex workers should be put up on a pedestal no different than the military. I didn't use those here because I didn't want to seem combative to individuals specifically the individuals who made those statements. But even if you didn't become an atheist "just so you could sin", and I believe you, do you at least understand why those moves could send that message to people who might say that to you?

Atheism is not the reason that I think abortion, and prostitution, should be legally acceptable, or that people shouldn’t need to wait until they’re married to have sex. I hold these positions because I think people deserve the autonomy to control their own lives and their bodies. I also think that most of the people who are against abortion, prostitution, or sex outside of marriage, primarily use their religion to justify these socially conservative positions. But here’s the thing: When I was a Christian many of my views were already quite liberal, even though I was raised Catholic. I thought it was a good idea to use birth control, had no problem with sex outside of marriage, and thought that, in many cases, abortions are justifiable. I left the Catholic church because I couldn’t agree with their socially conservative dogma, and felt out of place.

I can understand that, for many who become atheists, that these positions change as soon as they lose their religion when their religion was the only thing propping up these ideas. Losing the foundation tends to cause the walls to come crashing down, so to speak. The problem is that the religious have it backwards – I think their religion is generally causing many of the socially conservative attitudes, rather than atheism causing socially liberal attitudes.

4 - If it's a lack of belief sort of atheism what is it? Is it 50/50, 60/40, 75/25, and at what point do you feel disingenuous saying that you merely lack a belief as opposed to leaning towards "I believe that God does not exist."?

With regards to the Christian God, I’ve already said that I’m reasonably convinced that God is just imaginary. If there really is anything that could be described as “God” then such a being is nothing like what most Christians believe it to be. I’m fairly confident that the Christian God does not exist, and would probably rate that confidence near an 8.5 out of 10.

Christianity, of which I’ve been an outsider for over 30 years, looks just like every other religion and appears just as false. Having been away for so long it looks just as absurd to me as Islam, or Hinduism, is to you.

5 - Doesn't it bother you a little bit that, when we come to talk about the origins of the universe, and if there's a multiverse the origin of that too, that the only real options you've got besides God is a past infinite universe - which is impossible - or the universe coming to exist uncaused out of nothing, or something far less clear than even those? It seems that for any world view that includes atheism there's a massive blind spot when it comes to the origin of the universe and all the attempts to try and circumvent that problem seem desperate and at least far less likely than theism. ... Doesn't this issue destabilize you a little bit? It seems to fit really poorly with any worldview that includes atheism.

I’m not at all bothered by the fact that I do not have an good understanding of the origins of the universe. Unlike you, I am content to stand back and say “I don’t know, but let’s use science try to find that answers.” I also don’t know if the universe is past infinite – I certainly don’t see that as impossible like you do, and others think it’s possible. Our current understanding of the Big Bang is based on General Relativity, but we know that it’s incompatible with Quantum Mechanics, which would likely take over during the earliest stages of our universe, so the Big Bang is almost certainly not the final answer as to cosmic origins.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of the Big Bang, we may never be able to know what the actual answer is, but that’s not really a big problem, and it certainly doesn’t bother me. Whatever the answer is to why the universe exists, assuming that the question even has a meaningful answer to it, I’m pretty sure that it’s not because God wanted a place to test us before we die.

Honestly Braxton, what bothers me much more than not having an answer to the questions of origins is people who think that they do have answers based on nothing more than what is in an old book, written by men who didn’t understand a lick about cosmology, or even what stars are. That people accept these stories as literally true, when they are at best metaphorical, concerns me because they seem to have no desire to investigate and discover what the real answer is. Whatever answer science comes up with they are already closed off to that answer because they are content to accept ancient traditional stories as fact without an ounce of curiosity for the marvels of nature.

Tell me Braxton, does it bother you that many American evangelical Christians think the world is only about 10,000 years old, and that the Theory of Evolution is a lie from the Devil to lead us away from God? I hope you are bothered by this, but I don’t know enough about you. I do sincerely hope you’re not as ignorant as Ken Ham or Kent Hovind.

To be continued

January 6th – One Year Later

Today is January 6th 2022, exactly one year since The Loser, along with a gang of dissident thugs, tried to overturn the results of an otherwise free and fair election.

If you don’t believe that the November 3rd 2020 election was free and fair, and you have access to all the information that tells us that it was, then I don’t know what I can do to help you understand that truth. That election was litigated to death and nothing was ever presented to show anything significant that would have come close to changing the outcome of the election. It was all a gigantic lie, crafted so that you would believe that your country was being stolen from you, so that one man could steal your country from you. You were played.

But where do we stand today? Is our democracy any safer than it was one year ago? Are efforts being made to ensure that we don’t have another January 6th come the next election, or the election after that? Will we witness Caesar crossing the Rubicon with his legion of MAGAts to declare himself emperor, while those in his party simply bow before their new king? When I think about those question I have to say that I’m not inspired with much confidence. It’s clear that we still have people who don’t even think January 6th was a coup. It was.

At least, on the bright side, the people who invaded the capital are being arrested, tried, and convicted, of the crimes they participated in. That’s at least a start to fixing the problem, but as long as one political party shows little to no concern over the actions of their fellow members, and won’t take action to prevent this for re-occurring, I fear that we’re just walking towards the next election where they either get what they want or are willing to burn it all down otherwise. I honestly fear for democracy in the United States. I think we got lucky that they crowd was so disorganized, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be disorganized next time.

Democracy is fragile. It only has to lose once in order to be gone forever. If we fail to uphold the values that got us what we have and instead favor political violence in the name of “patriotism” and tribalism, democracy stands to lose and nobody else stands to gain. It’s time for all Americans to see The Loser for what he is and exactly what he instigated one year ago. It’s time for the Republican party to stand up for democracy, rather than placating their base in order to protect their cushy jobs.

Why Faith?

When I think about what Christianity entails, I often find that it very much strains my credulity. If Christianity (at least the version popular with most Catholics and Protestants) is true then it seems rather befuddling to me that faith, particularly the belief that a particular god-man named Jesus died for your sins, would be the fundamental criteria by which we are judged worthy of heaven (yes, I know, Catholics also believe you also must not have any unconfessed mortal sins.) Allow me elaborate.

Regardless of what you personally believe about Christianity, there is a problem in that the vast majority of people will never convert to another major religion during their lifetime. Sure, people may switch from Catholic to Protestant, and vice versa, but a switch from Christianity to Hinduism, or Islam to Christianity, would seem much more rare than simply changing denominations within a religion. The differences aren’t that big. Basically, once you hit adulthood your religious views become much less malleable then when you were a child. Virtually all of the growth of Christianity, Islam, and every other religion, happens not because of converts, but because children adopt the religion of their parents. While there are definitely exceptions to this, very few people convert to away from the religion in which they were raised.

In light of that fact, it would seem that having the criteria of “believed Jesus died for your sins” when you died as the only way to be enter heaven would seem to be extraordinarily unfair. It essentially gives a massive head-start advantage to those who were born to Christian parents, and puts a huge systemic barrier on those who are born to parents who are not Christian. If Christianity is true then it would seem to be that those born into other faith traditions are born setup to fail. If the vast majority of Muslims and Hindus (which account for almost 3 billion people) have made the wrong “choice” and will stick with that religion until they die, and God creates all of us, then God has created them to fail. Why would God make it so much easier for some people to fail, and so much harder for others? If Christianity is true then how many people have been condemned simply because they learned the wrong things from their parents? This isn’t simply a matter of “the path is narrow”, it’s that the path is obscured by human nature and that we learn our religious beliefs from our parents. Sins of the father indeed.

I see one possible way out of this, but it also has its own problems: God could simply save whoever it wants, by giving incorrect believers what they need to convincing them about Jesus as they die, but why take the extra step? The main problem here is that God could simply declare “I choose you to come into heaven“, and drop the whole nonsense of requiring some specific belief. If God is supposed to be sovereign, all knowing, and perfectly good, then God should be able to know who exactly is wanted in heaven without needing humans to have a belief in the first place. Alternatively, God is only putting the ones that it wants to succeed into a place where they will succeed, but then why the elaborate dog and pony show?

Ultimately, it would seem that God thinks that having faith is good, but one can ultimately hold any position by faith. One could believe that the Statue of Liberty is going to come to life one day, smite all of the evil around us, and resurrect those who believed in the values of liberty and justice. It’s really no more preposterous than what Christianity entails.

Responding to: Three Sincere Questions for Atheists

Cameron Bertuzzi of Capturing Christianity posted a short video asking three questions for atheists:

  1. Do you believe that God does not exist?
  2. Do you believe in evidentialism?
  3. What is your evidence that justifies your belief that God does not exist?

Here are my answers:

  1. Yes, I am reasonably convinced that the God of Christianity does not exist. That is not to say that no gods could exist (whatever they might be), but that’s a different topic.
  2. Mostly yes, but not entirely. Most beliefs should be evidence based, but some beliefs can be derived from axioms (like in the case of mathematics), or simply accepted because they are pragmatic (like the existence of other minds.)
  3. Two reasons: Incoherence, and the evidential problem of evil (hiddenness could be a third)

Let me elaborate a little bit on my third answer. It’s pretty clear that Cameron is talking about his particular god thingy, and so I immediately have two big problems with God as Christians describe it.

The biggest problem is that God doesn’t even seem to be coherently defined. The Christian God is supposed to be trinitarian in nature (one god in three persons) but I find the concept incoherent. Some Christians also tell me that God is outside of space and time, but again, I have no idea what this could even mean as anything that I can meaningful describe as existing does so because it has a place inside of space and time. It’s seems to be asking if a being can exist outside of what it means to meaningfully exist. It’s just nonsense. Come up with a coherent definition of your God and we can start to talk.

If Cameron wants actual evidence against God’s (assuming it’s otherwise coherently defined) existence, then the problems of evil and grotesque suffering would seem to be a major blow to a being that is claimed to be all knowing, all powerful, and perfectly good. Sure, God might have some reason why it refuses to stop the horrendous suffering that happens every day, but whatever that reason is I simply do not know how to make sense of God being perfectly good while allowing conscious beings to seemly suffer unnecessarily and gratuitously. To me “God doesn’t exist” makes much better sense of suffering and evil than “God does exist.”

As a final point, I want to highlight the obvious problem with Cameron’s line of questions: Tell me Cameron, what evidence would you expect to find for the non-existence of something which makes almost no testable predictions in the real world? Should we remain completely agnostic about whether there is a teapot floating around somewhere in deep space outside of the view of all human observation, or should we be able to take some informed stance given what we know about teapots and human technology? Unfalsifiable claims can generally be dismissed because they are useless.

Further, I don’t see any reason to believe that minds can exist without brains, since minds are a product of brains, yet Christians want me to believe that there is a spaceless, timeless, all knowing, all powerful, disembodied mind, that wants me to worship it? Get real! Some ideas are so silly that they can be dismissed as absurd until good evidence is presented.

Life Without God

Some time ago, I saw a sign in front of a church which read “Living without God is like trying to dribble a football.” The message is curious, because I’ve tried dribbling a football, and I’ve had very little success but, as a secular humanist, I’ve really had no problem living without the Christian’s God for over 30 years. I find myself living a happy, and fulfilled, life without needing to believe that there’s some powerful personal agent guiding the world just for me. I really don’t need that to get through my days.

I’m also forced to wonder if the person who felt the need to write this sign even understands what it’s like to not embrace their god beliefs every single day? I find that it’s really not that hard. After all, prayer doesn’t really do much that cannot be accomplished via other means, like meditation, or exercise – nobody appears to be listening anyways. There’s no good reason to believe that any events are somehow being driven by divine beings, mostly because there’s no good reason to believe that any divine beings even exist. How would I even know if they did? The only purpose I can see for this sign is to try and attract other like minded people who also cannot see past their indoctrinated religious beliefs.

To me, as a non-believer, there is nothing about living life that is even remotely comparable to the difficulties of trying to dribble a football. Living without God is a bit like riding a bicycle – it’s difficult at first but becomes automatic over time. Eventually the religious rituals that you once held onto fade away. If you were indoctrinated to believe that God is going to send you to hell for not believing, when you can learn to see this as nothing but a tool of fear and manipulation the fear you had will start to melt away. You just go about your day and you don’t care that the people of your old religion think you’re wrong – after all, people of every other religion also think you’re wrong, so what’s a few more people to add to the list?

The Vaccine Holocaust?!

I’ve been thinking about how many anti-vaxxers are saying that the governments reaction to the pandemic is much like the holocaust. Let’s look at some of the analogies I’ve heard.

We’ve had lock-downs, where people told to stay home, and avoid socializing, in an effort to help stop the spread of a deadly virus. During the holocaust Anne Frank was forced to live in an attic, hiding from the Nazi’s because she was Jewish, was eventually discovered and sent to her death. It’s practically the same thing, right?

In much of Canada, in order to go into restaurants and bars, you need to present proof of vaccination. During the holocaust, Jews were forced to wear a yellow star with “Jude” written in it, so that everyone would know that they are the undesirables of society. The parallel is so remarkable, right?

Vaccine mandates are being considered (although mandatory vaccinations seems very unlikely) for those who have so far been holding out against getting vaccinated. Since these vaccines are considered “experimental” by those with no expertise in immunology, or even medicine, let alone medical research, isn’t it just like we’re being experimented on if we are forced to get these vaccines? During the holocaust, those in the concentration camps were sometimes subjected to cruel, and often unethical experiments, so clearly that analogy works well too, right?

In case you haven’t realized it yet, the questions in previous paragraphs were indented as sarcastic and rhetorical questions. Sadly, these seemingly absurd questions aren’t so absurd to some. As far as I can tell there really is no justification for claiming that government measures, intended to help control the spread of a deadly virus during a pandemic is like the holocaust, yet some people clearly believe this. Such arguments are a stretch to say the least, yet that doesn’t stop people from buying into the manufactured outrage, or trying to find ways to justify their mistaken ideas. It still floors me that trying to get people to do their part to help end a deadly pandemic is somehow akin to rounding up people of a specific ethnicity and killing them, but then again these are the same people who act as if vaccines are ineffective because they are not 100% effective. I can only shake my head at their stupidity.

Back in reality, so far the number of people who have been killed for their refusal to help end this pandemic: Zero. Number of people who are ever likely to be killed for refusing to help end this pandemic: Zero. Number of people who were rounded up and killed because of their ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs, during the holocaust? Somewhere around 17 million. There really is no comparison. It’s an absurdity. Don’t compare current government responses in this pandemic with the holocaust.

So far a little over 5.2 million people have died from COVID, and that number will continue to rise. Those who are dying are almost all those who were not vaccinated. The covidiots will ignore this little fact and act as if a government working to protect its citizens (including those who cannot get vaccinated) is somehow the greatest tragedy in the world.

I support Vaccine Mandates

Unvaccinated healthcare workers in Ontario and Quebec got a bit of a break last week as news was made that Doug Ford and Francois Legault (the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec respectively) indicated that they would not be looking to suspend healthcare workers who had not yet been fully vaccinated. I am, to say the least, disappointed that these politicians wouldn’t put their foot down harder on this issue.

As I understand the issue, the concern from the governments was that, because of already existing staff shortages, suspending these workers would have created an extra (and potentially unbearable) burden on the other already overworked healthcare workers. While this is an understandable concern, and Canada has long faced a shortage of nurses and doctors, I don’t think this is a good enough reason to potentially risk the lives of patients during a pandemic.

The simple truth is this: Those who are not vaccinated are the ones leading the infections of COVID, and as already seen in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, the COVID hospitalizations, and ICU admissions. Even though the unvaccinated represent a relatively small portion of the population, they are vastly over represented among those who are infected, in hospital or dying. Western provinces (that happen to be the most conservative) are also the ones who have had to transport their COVID patients to other provinces because they did not have the capacity to support them. Given this I fail to understand how any healthcare worker could look at what has happened over the last 20 months and feel that it is acceptable to go without getting a jab? It simply boggles my mind that there are any healthcare workers who haven’t yet gotten vaccinated.

While I’m not in charge of any government, if I was I would be looking to impose a vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, support staff, whatever.) If you work in a healthcare setting there is absolutely no reason to not do whatever you can to protect yourself and others from this virus. The only difference with my mandate is that I would impose strong cutoff dates (for a first and second vaccine dose), after which any employee would be promptly fired and I would ask the medical boards to revoke their certifications. My reasoning is simple: You clearly aren’t working in the healthcare field because you care about others, so go find yourself another job, because I don’t care about you any more. We, as a society, have the right to demand people make certain concessions on their individual freedom during pandemics and personal liberties are never absolute.

I’ve been living at home, with very little physical social contact for the last 20 months, waiting desperately for this pandemic to end. I’m tired of the fact that there are still people out there who have access to a free, potentially life saving vaccine, that would also help to end this pandemic, and yet they elect to remain unvaccinated. I’m willing to use a blunt hammer in such a situation. I want nothing more than for this pandemic to end, and I don’t want to see any more death and suffering than we need to have. If my position sounds harsh towards these healthcare workers, good, because that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. Do your job, protect yourself, and protect the community around you that you’re supposed to be working for the betterment of. My patience runs very thin.

On the Question of Having Children

I am child-free by choice. I’ve never had the desire to have children and for more than 20 years I’ve had the desire to have no children. It’s a position that I’m very comfortable with and have never had any regrets about. I’ve never sat up at night and worried that I haven’t procreated, or wondered what my children would have been like. I’ve never worried that I won’t have created the child that cures cancer or solves some other huge problem that we face. I’m quite certain that if I had any children that they would be quite ordinary and otherwise unremarkable. There are several reasons behind my position and this piece is an attempt to document those should anyone ever be looking to question me on the topic.

The first reason is that I don’t actually like being around children. Even as a child I always preferred the company of adults, or others who were older than me. I simply would rather not spend time with or around children, even if they were my own. I don’t enjoy children and for that reason I’d rather not have them in my home.

Secondly, there are a lot of people who could use my assistance in some way. Given the choice I’d rather spend my time making the lives of other adults better, rather than creating more lives on this planet and dealing with them. I’d feel much better about my contributions to the world if I spent my time mentoring and helping those who are already here, rather than spend it on my children. While I’m sure I could be a good father I can also be a good role model to others who are already here.

But I think the most important reason that I have is that when I look at the environmental impact of having children, one of the biggest decisions I can make to reduce my footprint on this planet is to not have children. Let’s face it, if you live in a Western society you probably have a huge ecological footprint on this planet. The average North American is a consuming machine that spews out around 15-20 tonnes of CO2 per year, and is helping to fill up our landfills with the stuff we feel the need to to have, all in the name of powering our economy. For the environmental reason that reinforced my choice to be vegetarian, the environmental impact of children has strongly reinforced my view of being purposely child-free.

I have no delusions that the world needs my children. My genes don’t need to be propagated and I think the same is true for the vast majority of us. As far as I’m concerned, children are often a glorified vanity experiment where couples go and create little copies of themselves, all while being unconcerned about how that decision affects the future.

Lastly, I don’t see that we, as a species, are going to be able to solve our looming climate crisis. Our planet is only able to support the 7.8 billion people we have today because we borrow so heavily against the future with fossil fuels, but it’s not a sustainable model. Worse, I fear that climate change will only make feeding our world even harder. Even with all of the progress that we achieve it doesn’t seem to be making the situation any better. I don’t see how bringing more children into this world will do anything but exacerbate these crises.

What Would Jesus Do?

Back before the pandemic times, which sometimes feels like ages ago, I would occasionally see people wearing little bracelets with WWJD stamped into them. It would seem a curious question to ask: “What would Jesus do?” Strange to try to peer into the mind of a being that many Christian’s believe has “ways that are not our ways”, and does not seem to think like we do.

Let’s remember here that Jesus is, after all, the same God as the God of the Old Testament. That guy had no problem smiting entire towns, or even allowing Satan to make Job suffer just to show off how faithful he would remain. Do you really want to think about what that guy would do?

But let’s assume that we’re only talking about the Jesus of the New Testament. The gentle being who never lost an argument, and always had a quick retort for those who asked him trick questions. WWJD is essentially asking “what would God do?” in a particular situation, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that people love to project their own opinions onto others who may or may not agree with them. Projecting your worldview onto others is just something that many people like to do, but it doesn’t necessarily represent reality.

Take this study about assessing the will of God with respect to same-sex marriage. It’s still a divisive topic for some even though it’s been legal in most of the industrialized world for years. When people are asked to pray and assess what God (who is Jesus according to Trinitarian Christians) would think about same-sex marriage what we find is that people come to a conclusion based on what they already believe. Social conservatives agree that God dislikes same-sex marriage, while social liberals agree that God would allow sax-same marriage.

Isn’t it strange that God agrees with everyone? It’s a curious result because both cannot seemingly be true at the same time, unless God is like Mr. Rogers, who when asked a question by a child would typically ask them what they think, and would then agrees with whatever answer they gave. God being like Mr. Rogers might be possible, but that doesn’t do much for the WWJD question. It would seem that asking “what would Jesus do” is really just a fancy way of asking “what do I think of X”, with the added benefit that your opinion would seem to be backed up by God rather than just your opinion.

While I have no significant problems with the WWJD bracelets (I’m certainly not about to tell people that they shouldn’t wear them), I do hope that when they ask this that they realize they are just projecting their own opinion onto the situation and treat it accordingly. Believing that you have God on your side doesn’t mean that you do, or make you right, and does not mean that any actions you take are laudable.

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