Jesus: The Imaginary Cure for an Imaginary Sickness

In order to become a Christian one should first be convinced that that they have been “born sick and commanded to be well”, as the late Christopher Hitchens quipped. The sickness in this case is “sin”, that imaginary disease which Christianity claims we are all infected with, where it is claimed the only cure for this sickness is to accept Jesus as your savior. One small problem remains: Accepting Jesus doesn’t seem to do anything to cure the sickness.

If accepting Jesus actually cured you of “sin” we should expect to find that Christians are generally better human beings than every of every other religion. They should act better than everyone else if they’re actually cure, tet this would seem to be far from the truth.

Looking over history, how many Catholic priests have been sheltered by their criminal organization for their molestation of children, and still have yet to face any kind of consequences for the harm they’ve wrought? Why has the Catholic Church failed to accept its role in genocide, particularly in the Indian Residential Schools of Canada? Why are so many Protestant Christians some of the most bigoted people you can find on the planet, with their hatred of homosexuals, their historical hatred towards non-whites. Even going as far back as the Christian colonization of the Americas, and the evil that was perpetrated in the name of Christianity. Look at the sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. What about the suffering created by Mother Theresa’s “Little Sisters of the Poor” in India.

I think one thing is abundantly clear: There does not seem to be any significant difference between those who claim to be Christians and those who do not. So if Jesus is the cure for something, what is Jesus actually curing? If no discernible difference can be detected is there really any difference?

When one takes a step back, and looks at Christianity like it looks at all other religious ideas, it starts to become clear that this notion that we are sinners is really just an attempt to convince you that you’re broken and that somebody else has the cure for you. Like the snake-oil salesmen of the past, Christianity convinces people that their ideas somehow cure you, even though you have to wait until you’re dead in order to validate the claim. Those selling Christianity appear to be after two main things: Your wallet or a form of popularity validation of their beliefs.

The Party of No

Nan's Notebook

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The following was part of Heather Cox Richardson’s most recent newsletter in which she discussed the Senate vote to establish a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection. As expected, Republicans voted “No.”

I don’t feel I need to add any additional words to her observation:

Indeed, by refusing to investigate what is arguably the most dangerous attack on our democracy in our history, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has brought out into the open just how radical the Republican Party has become.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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Horrible Attitudes About Sex

I found this link on a site called “Biblical Sexology.” I’m pretty well convinced that it’s not a satire site, and that these are actual attitudes of the author.

Frankly, I don’t know what to say about these unhealthy attitudes regarding sex, and how women tend to be viewed within conservative Christianity. Reading this post left me feeling sorry for the women who are trapped in these kinds of subservient relationships, and angry that people still believe that women are effectively sex objects for their husbands.

The simple reality is that no woman is ever be required to submit sexually to anyone, including her husband, and should never feel obligated to consent to sex she does not want to have. Her body is her own, should be treated as inviolable. Everyone ultimately has the final say on what happens to their body, who is allowed to use it, and when. It is these kinds of unhealthy attitudes that contribute to the problem of marital rape, and why marital rape isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.

To any woman in such a relationship: Know that your life is not defined by your husband, and you are not required to have sex when you do not want to. Nobody should be treated as a sex slave, and you do not have to live to serve your husband. There are ways to escape this kind of abuse (sexual abuse doesn’t have to leave physical marks) and you do not need to tolerate it.

To any Christian man who believes that their wife is there to serve their sexual needs: You’re a piece of shit and undeserving of any woman! Grow the fuck up and learn to treat women as human beings with their own desires and feelings, rather than as a piece of meat for your pleasure.

the problem with problems

gregfallis.com

The modern Republican Party (you know what? I need to stop calling them ‘the modern Republican Party’ because at this point they’re just the Republican Party; there’s no point in trying to distinguish the cowardly fuckwits who now inhabit this aggressively ignorant cultural collective from the Republican Party that used to have consistent conservative principles) has a problem with problems. In fact, they have several problems with problems.

They lack any meaningful understanding of actual socio-political problems, they have no interest in learning about them, no ability to address them in any practical way, and no real desire to resolve them. What they DO have is a clear understanding of the political optics of being seen as dealing with problems.

Republicans have an intuitive grasp of the narrative strength of heroic problem solving. It’s one of the classic story tropes. A monster exists. A hero leaves their community and goes…

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The Evolution Denier

When it comes to the denial of evolution, or trying to discredit the Theory of Evolution, a number tactics sit in their arsenal of science destruction. The goal for these people is not truth, but to try to buttress their worldview against the mountains of conflicting evidence against it. They are trying their hardest to undermine some area of science that conflicts with their worldview. The biggest problem for these people is that even if the aspect that they are attacking is actually wrong it often wouldn’t make their worldview any more correct. The earth ancient, it’s not flat, and life has evolved from simple to more complex. These are well accepted facts within science.

To the denier it doesn’t matter that the vast majority of experts, upwards of 97% of scientists, accept the Theory of Evolution as the best current explanation for the diversity of life. To me it’s a bit like going to 100 mechanics asking for an opinion on the state of your car, and when 97 of them tell you that your care is a dangerous clunker that is unsafe to drive, the denier will simply point to the handful who say that it might be safe, and feel assured that their assumed conclusion is correct. There are always some experts who agree with us.

It also most definitely not about the evidence that the experts have used to come to the conclusion that the Theory of Evolution has great support. That evidence can simply be denied, as they already believe that what is being claimed is possible. In my experience the actual evidence is something that is to be avoided, and the focus is put into muddying the waters as much as possible. Better to dispute how good the evidence is, or to quote mine some expert, than to admit what the fossil record actually shows. As far as they’re concerned the evidence is nowhere near as strong as what it actually is. It helps to support the lie that they have been told and that they continue to tell themselves.

Listening to what real experts have to say, rather than somebody with dubious credentials like Ken Ham, or Kent Hovind, is simply not in the interest of preserving their beliefs. It’s difficult to get people to honestly evaluate a topic when their religiously based worldview depends on some particular status of that topic. Showing them the evidence and arguments that convinces experts will never be enough for somebody who simply doesn’t want to hear it. Unless a person is willing to be honest with the evidence they will never be convinced otherwise.

As an interesting side note, I think everything I’ve said about the evolution denier also applies to the people who deny Donald Trump’s (and other Republicans) involvement in inciting the insurrection of January 6th. Protecting the belief that Donald Trump is going to save America doesn’t hold together well when he’s the one trying to destroy the Republic.

I’m also working on a page of short responses to the nonsense that creationists love to trot out. Not that I expect anything there will ever change their mind. It does make me feel a little better to address their tripe.

Zero COVID Deaths in Texas Yesterday?

ZERO Covid deaths in Texas yesterday… The state is WIDE OPEN… Big winner: FREEDOM… Big loser: FEAR!
🙌🥳🙌

The Conservative Hammer

It is apparently true that Texas did not have any deaths attributed to COVID-19 yesterday. If you want to take a myopic view of what’s happening with COVID in Texas then reading far-right conservatives on Facebook certainly seems like a good way to do it.

The main problem with this view is that it ignores the bigger picture. It’s like reporting that on one day there were no people shot by police in the United States. It certainly doesn’t mean that police aren’t shooting people, or that police violence has isn’t still a problem. It’s simply a snapshot over a very short period of time where variation has the opportunity to create swings and dry spells. It also fails to look at what is happening with trends overall.

Once one bothers to dig a little bit deeper you can find that the 7-day rolling average death rate in Texas is currently sitting at 41, or about 0.15 per 100,000. These numbers are certainly far from the worst in the nation (that honor currently goes to Michigan), but it’s not the rosiest of pictures either.

So why look over 7-days you may ask? It has to do with trying to smooth out the data so that statistical anomalies don’t cloud the picture. By looking at the average over 7 days we get a better sense of what is actually happening over a short run, but also allows that view to be altered by new trends.

There is good news for Americans about COVID. Case rates are falling and that means that death rates will fall as well. Between vaccinations, the number of people who have been infected, and the warming weather which allows people to spend less time indoors (where the virus is more likely to be transmitted), the number of people who are getting sick and dying is going in the right direction.

There is hope to be had, but the fight won’t be over until we can reach a level of herd immunity, which will probably somewhere when around 80% of the population is vaccinated (which I doubt will happen in the US, given that evangelical Christians are much more likely to refuse the vaccine) or has been infected. I also hope that new strains don’t come along which are unaffected by existing antibodies. A new viral strain could put us right back to square one (but we can roll out an updated vaccine fairly quickly.)

Insanity Grips the Republican Party

If you haven’t heard, today the GOP has decided that it no longer wants Liz Cheney to be part of its leadership, or to have any kind of leadership role in Washington. If you’ve never heard of Liz Cheney she is the daughter of former Vice-President Dick “what was that rustling in the bushes” Cheney, and a very staunch conservative. Why is she being punished? What terrible crime has she committed? She wants nothing to do with the continuation of Donald Trump’s sob story that it was because of election fraud that Joe Biden was elected as President. If you’re not on the “Trump was robbed” train, the Republican party doesn’t want you.

I do have to give Cheney some credit, because she’s literally one of a handful of Republicans who are willing to publicly go against the hard embrace of Trump and the continued lies to the American people. While there may be others that don’t accept the lies, she’s at least willing to call them what they are, and risk her career to help make sure that a man who incited an insurrection doesn’t get to return to power. I heartily applaud her, even though I otherwise strongly disagree with her politically.

It would also seem that this problem isn’t going away either. Many Republican voters want to punish those who don’t fall in line, kiss the royal ring of Dear Orange Leader, and sell their souls for a red hat. A poll done in Cheney’s home state of Wyoming indicates that more than half of those Republican voters don’t want her re-elected, and she has very low support overall. I predict her time in politics may be coming to an end, and she will be replaced with some conspiracy embracing whack-job.

Trumpism is alive and well in the Republican party, even if Trump doesn’t have any direct power right now. A cult of personality has swept in and taken control of a party that once freed the slaves. That party is, as far as I’m concerned, dead, doesn’t seem to know how to do anything but embrace DJT. The message being sent today is clear: Embrace the Orange Clown or we don’t want you in our circus.

Frankly, I don’t know what is going to happen going forward. 2022 and 2024 are going to be important election years, and will help decide the future of the Republican party. From what I’ve seen, many Republicans are angry that they’ve lost control of the federal government, and that they are already doing everything they can to make sure they take back power. One only needs to look at the voter suppression laws that are being enacted in Republican controlled states to see how they intend to take that power back. I think it’s a fairly safe bet that 2024 will see another Biden-Trump battle.

While I’m glad I’m not an American, the far right seems to have completely jumped the rails and started trying to fly to space. I’m not sure if there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of politics in the US when the party of utter insanity would seem to have a reasonable chance of retaking power. American politics just seems to be the kind of affair that should make any sensible person want to cry.

COVID-19, a Hypothetical, and a Rant

I see a lot of people on the internet making claims about the survival rate of COVID-19, often claiming that it’s 99% or higher, and that we are therefore taking COVID way too seriously, that there’s no reason to get ourselves injected with the COVID vaccine, or that they’ll never wear a mask to help reduce transmission. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the internet it’s that there’s no shortage of ignorant people who spout off alternate facts.

For the moment I’m going to assume that the 99% survival rate is factual, and that there is a strict binary dichotomy of those who are infected: Either they die or they completely recover with no ill effects whatsoever.

Let’s imagine a standard 747 jetliner, that is able to carry 366 people. But this is no ordinary jetliner, rather this one is powered by human deaths, and every trip 1% of the passengers are violently thrown off at 30,000 feet (without a parachute of course), so that they can splash onto the ground horrifically.

Here’s the hypothetical question: Would you be willing to fly on one of these jets, for free (or perhaps for an extremely low cost)? Are you willing to be sacrificed to the ground so that you have a chance at a low cost flight, or put another way, are you willing to allow somebody else to be sacrificed horrifically so that you can get a cheap flight? I doubt that I would.

COVID is actually probably worse than the hypothetical jet in my scenario. We know that the case fatality rate from COVID is pretty consistently between 1-3% (so 1% is probably the very low end of the fatality rate), and we also know that some number of people end up with severe complications from the disease, including possible hospitalization, lung scarring, stroke, organ damage, chronic fatigue, blood clots, brain fog, and myopathy. Even if this is another 2-3%, that adds a serious degree of risk to infection. These complications are no laughing matter, and even if you don’t die you may be dealing with the consequences of your infection for long time to come.

Fortunately, we may have a way to significantly reduce all the risks associated with COVID, and it comes in the form of vaccines. While there are certainly risks associated with all vaccines, the small risk of complications from a vaccine would seem to vastly outweigh the risks of an unvaccinated infection from COVID. With the rise of new variants the young and otherwise healthy are the ones who are clogging up the medical system with new infections.

Please, my dear readers, I implore all of you to get vaccinated as soon as you can, if not only to protect yourself but to help protect those around you. Herd immunity from this virus is the only way we’re going to return to normal, and getting vaccinated is the easiest path to achieve that herd immunity.

Vaccine hesitancy really shouldn’t be a thing, but alas, we live in a world where people like Jenny McCarthy makes money selling people fear of well established science. And that’s what makes some of this so sad. People will end up infected, and dying, because they didn’t want to be vaccinated when the overwhelming evidence shows that vaccines work!

Response to STR: Is Hell a Solution to the Problem of Evil?

Some time ago I came across a blog post on Stand to Reason titled “Hell: A Solution, Not a Problem.” The author claims that hell is somehow a solution to the problem of evil, but seems to miss some key marks that turns an essay into a work of obfuscation and sophistry. Quite honestly, to say that hell is somehow a solution to the problem is evil seems much like somebody saying that walking is a solution to the flat tire on my bicycle. Frankly, the author just doesn’t seem to understand what the problem of evil is, or why it’s a problem for Christian theism.

The problem of evil is not the problem for Christianity people think it is. It’s a problem for atheism, but not for us. Why? Because our entire story is about the problem of evil. It starts in the third chapter and doesn’t get solved until 66 books later. But it does get solved.

Well, technically I guess the problem of evil is solved in the sense that eventually there will be no more evil, but it certainly doesn’t really deal with the problem in the here and now. Evil is still a problem today, and who knows how long (assuming that this Christian view is actually correct) we would have to wait before God finally decides that it’s time to pull the plug on evil. That could be 200 million years in the future, or even more – we simply have no idea.

As for the problem of evil being problem for atheism, I really fail to understand this point. It simply makes no sense to say that the not believing that gods exist makes the problem of evil a problem. Sure, we can’t wave a magic wand and make the problem disappear (Christians can’t seem to do that either), but it really is something easily explained on a naturalistic worldview. When we look at our closest cousins, the chimpanzee, we see that they will kill other chimps, including members of their own tribe. Frankly, on a naturalistic worldview, evil and suffering are not really are that surprising given that we live in a world with limit resources and where evolution is blind to outcomes other than what produces survival. The problem of evil is only a problem when you start positing that there’s some all knowing, all powerful, perfectly good, consciousness behind our universe and that this was all created with a perfect plan, because the world we live in doesn’t seem to jive with what we should expect if “good”, “all knowing”, and “all powerful” have any semblance of meaning.

Frankly, that anybody would suggest that hell is a solution only shows how poorly the author understands what the problem of evil represents. In fact, when we look at the theistic explanations for evil they are always ad-hoc, and very hypothetical. Rarely, if ever, do theists give concrete explanations that jive well with our understanding of the world and what it means to be “good.”

Christianity has a lot to say in response to evil. We won’t get into all of that here. But one part of our larger response is that, in the end, evil is defeated.

Well, sure, but it shouldn’t be here in the first place. That’s the point of the problem of evil. Now you (as a theist) must explain why the evil is present and explain would even allow for it in the first place. A perfect God ought to be able to create beings who have no desire to act selfishly. In a world created by a perfect God evil would simply be a byproduct of our lack of understanding rather than any conscious desire to inflict harm on others.

The other problem is that pretty much any religion can come along and say that in the future evil will be defeated and it also solves the problem of evil, but just claiming that in the future it will be solved doesn’t actually do anything to solve the problem. It just pushes it back.

Many people have no problem with a God who forgives. The problem is a God who punishes.

My second biggest problem with Christianity (the first being that I don’t think it’s correct) is that it presents God as someone who forgives based on the incredibly arbitrary criteria of “did you believe that Jesus died for your sins?” It means that those who commit incredible evil in this world, do nothing to help rectify it, but believe on their deathbed that Jesus is their savior, will end up in heaven, while those who try to live as well as they can, help to actually rectify the harm they cause, but happen to be of the wrong religion, will end up in hell. That doesn’t even begin to resemble anything that I would call just, or good.

If Christianity is correct then by the very lucky coincidence of being born into a Christian family (where childhood indoctrination can take place), in a largely Christian society (where that indoctrination is unlikely to be challenge), you have the best chance to attain salvation, while those who are born in say India, Pakistan, or China, where you’re very unlikely to be born into a Christian family, and have few Christians around you, means that you’re unlikely to believe that Jesus is your savior in this life and wind up in hell.

If this is the best solution that God can come with to for the problem of evil then I’m at a loss for words, because it doesn’t actually do anything to solve the problem of evil. If God created hell and what you believe is what sends you there, then each and every person who ends up in hell is ultimately a reflection of the gross incompetence of God in the first place.

On the Historicity of the Resurrection

When I listen to Christian apologists I often hear that there is very good evidence in favor of the historicity of the resurrection. I don’t think this claim is true, and don’t think that secular historians generally support the idea of Jesus’ resurrection for secular reasons.

So let me ask this simple question. If the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so good, can anyone name me at least a dozen historians, who do not come from a faith tradition that already affirms the resurrection, but agree that there is a very strong secular case for Jesus rising from the dead?

Furthermore, I’d be curious if somebody could name me some actual secular historians who came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead based solely on the historical evidence for the claim. It would seem to me that if this claim about the historicity of the resurrection were true then we should see all kinds of professional historians coming to believe that Jesus rose from the dead from purely secular historical reasons. Yet this doesn’t really seem to materialize. So either the evidence isn’t as good as they claim, or secular historians are already committed to a position against the resurrection. I would tend to think the former is stronger than the latter.

So I’m forced to ask: Is the historical evidence for the resurrection really as good as Christian apologists like to claim?