Despite What The Bible Promises, Snakes Will Kill You Dead

Put that deadly snake down!
Put that deadly snake down!

Put that deadly snake down!

We all wonder what happens when we read ancient holy books and take them literally.

The answer is that sometimes people die.

Like snake handlers, who believe God is going to protect them from a snakes deadly venom because the bible told them so. For example, we have exhibit A: John David Brock.

According to WKYT, the Bell County Sheriff’s Office reported that John David Brock was bitten during Sunday morning services at the Mossy Simpson Pentecostal Church. Brock refused medical treatment and died four hours later at his brother’s home in the town of Jenson.

And why did John think he was going to walk away after being bit by a snake?

True followers of Christ, says Mark 16:18, “will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Holiness followers believe that God will stop the snakes from biting them, and if they do bite, then God will save them from the poisonous effects of the venom.

Guess what?

God was either sleeping, isn’t around to back up his biblical statements or he was talking in analogies or something, because clearly the best way to survive a snake bite is to seek medical attention. Unfortunately, if you believe God is going to swoop down and save you and refuse real medical attention, you might just die before realizing your bible was telling you a fib.

And it gets worse:

An estimated 300 churches in the U.S. practice snake-handling as a rite of worship.

So this isn’t one or two people doing this but 300 freaking churches that we know about. And sad to say, John isn’t alone in dying due to snake bite:

Jamie Coots, the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Ky., was handling a rattlesnake during a service when he was bitten on his right hand Saturday night. But when the ambulance arrived at 8:30 p.m., the EMS team found that Coots had gone home, according to a statement from the Middlesboro Police Department.

Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe told ABC News that, according to people at the church, Coots verbally refused treatment at the church. He said Coots was unconscious when he got to his house. When the ambulance crew arrived at Coots’ home, his wife Linda Coots signed a form declining medical treatment, police said.

Emergency personnel left about 9:10 p.m. that night. When they returned about an hour later to check on Coots, police said he was dead from a venomous snake bite.

Not only did the guy who got bit refuse medical treatment but his wife did as well.

Damn, imagine how she must feel now. If my wife came home with a snake bite and told me she refused medical treatment and then promptly fell unconscious on our couch, my first call would be to 911.

Despite his father dying, the son just keeps on snake handling:

Despite his father’s death, Cody Coots said he doesn’t believe snake handling is dangerous. “It’s the word of God,” he said. “We’ve always said it’s a good way to live by and a good way to die by.”

The Christian Post even tried to tell people to stop taking the bible literally:

To outsiders, mainstream Christians included, snake handling seems foolhardy at best and deadly at worst. And despite commending their desire to be obedient to Scripture, Christians have argued that snake handlers are wrong to take Jesus’ words in Mark 16:17-18 literally. His statement, they argue, is not a commandment and, what’s more, intentionally putting oneself in danger is tantamount to tempting God.

Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., suggested in a Facebook response to a reader doubtful that God “would agree with this practice,” that the passage in Mark is to be interpreted spiritually and not literally, as it “means that we as Christians are indestructible until God is done with us.”

Well, if you can’t take Jesus’ word for it, who can you believe? And although I’m glad most Christians have the sense to ignore such bad advice, I have to ask myself why they think Jesus lied to them here?

There’s no allegory to be found. He must have known some people would take his words literally and die as a consequence.

Even though Facebook Christian in the quote above thinks you’re indestructible until God is done with you, I think the snakes provided you with some evidence to the contrary.

And from good old Wiki:

Although exact records are difficult to substantiate, at least 71 people have been killed by venomous snakebites during religious services in the United States

Memo to biblical literalists: Venomous snakes kill. Seek medical treatment if you’re bit.

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Could The Terminator Be Reality?

Big_dog_military_robotsPretty crazy news story out about high profile tech specialists and scientists signing a petition to ban autonomous weapons:

Robotics experts from around the world have called for a ban on autonomous weapons, warning that an artificial intelligence revolution in warfare could spell disaster for humanity.

The open letter, published by the Future of Life Institute, has been signed by hundreds of AI and robotics researchers, as well as high-profile persons in the science and tech world including Stephen Hawking, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Celebrated philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett is among other endorsers who’ve added their names to the letter.

Damn. Those are some big names and some smart people. But what exactly are autonomous weapons?

The article also answers that:

“An autonomous weapons system is a weapon that, once activated or launched, decides to select its own targets and kills them without further human intervention,” explains Sharkey, who is a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots — an organisation launched in 2013 that’s pushing for an international treaty to outlaw autonomous weapons. “Our aim is to prevent the kill decision being given to a machine.”

You mean giving a machine the ability to kill without human tethering is a bad idea?

I never would have guessed.

If these guys are signing a petition, we must be super close to creating autonomous killing machines. Probably some would argue that there would be less human casualties if robots went to war instead of humans, but they’d also make perfect assassins.

I’m with Hawking and the rest. Creating robot terminators is a very bad idea.

Can’t we all just get along and stop building new contraptions designed for the sole purpose of killing each other?

Chill Out PETA

lionPETA is at it again. They take a story that I’d probably agree with them about, and take it over the top.

Here’s what I mean:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called for the execution of the American dentist who killed Cecil the lion in a statement Tuesday condemning the shooting.

“Hunting is a coward’s pastime,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in the statement. “If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.”

Walter James Palmer, a U.S. citizen from Minnesota, allegedly paid $50,000 to kill Cecil, a 13-year-old male lion, on a game-hunting trip to Zimbabwe. Palmer has said that he “relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”

Message from PETA: Killing is wrong. We should kill the guy who killed the lion.

Look, I think the dentist was wrong. I think his excuse sucks ass and I don’t get sport hunting in the first place. I get hunting if you need to eat, but if you’re just killing for the sake of killing, that doesn’t make you tough and I’d argue that it’s an unethical act. The fact that this guy shot a lion and tracked it for 40 hours while it bled out makes me sick.

What makes this even worse is that there are less than 30,000 lions left on planet Earth.

All that being said, killing someone to prove that killing is wrong is ridiculous. If PETA stopped being so over-the-top-crazy-stupid when it comes to their cause, I’d probably agree with them. I agree this guy was wrong, but as soon as you declare that he should be hanged, you’ve lost me. You’ve signaled  that you’re just as irresponsible as the guy who did the initial shooting.

Keep it classy, PETA.

Kneel!

Why kneel?
Why kneel?

Why kneel?

When I watched the first Avengers movie, I was stunned by Loki’s speech when he demands the crowd kneel to him. This is what he said:

Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

It was such a powerful speech. It reminded me of how religious people (myself included when I was religious) are expected to kneel in church. I was always told it was a sign of humility, but I see it more as a sign of pleading or begging.

I’ve never understood the want or need to kneel. I don’t see what purpose it serves, other than to bruise ones knees. Would an all-mighty God really care whether you were kneeling before him or standing on your feet?

So I went to some Christian forums. I found a few explanations.

To me it is very important to kneel and pray I guess because that is the way I was brought up in my old church. We always knelt down to pray and honestly great things happened, it formed in me a strong prayer life. Standing and praying is okay I’m not saying always be on your knees because trust me they go numb after a while lol. But it is essential when you are in desperate need of something in/from GOD. I dont know about you but I am in desperate need of God each and everyday of my life.

So this person seems to be saying that if you kneel, you might get special recognition. Sure, you can pray on your feet but if you want God to take real notice, you better get down on those knees.

I do think the person making the comment was on to something with the first part of his comment – it’s more likely that you were taught to kneel.

We show our humility.
We show that we surrender to God.
We show that God is in charge of everything and his will be done, not my will.
We show our desperation.There’s certainly nothing wrong with “showing” these things if that makes your prayer time more meaningful to you. I would point out, however, that God already knows everything, and if you really do have these qualities, you don’t have to kneel to “prove it” to God.

There are examples in the Bible of people speaking to God without being on their knees, so it can be done. Just so long as you don’t consider it a requirement that would otherwise invalidate your prayer, then you are free to “approach the throne of grace” in whatever manner you feel is most appropriate. 🙂

This person sites humility but I know I don’t have a hard time being humble while on my own two feet. Why would kneeling make me more humble?

Why would this God need a speck like me to surrender? And why would it need to be shown it’s in charge of everything. This being would already know that. Me kneeling and groveling isn’t going to make it any more aware of its own power.

I like the desperation part. It really shows the willingness to beg and plead if you don’t like the outcome or truth of something.

However, why would a being of immense power need you to show it anything? After all, it supposedly created you and everything around you. Do you really think the creator of a universe would need you to show it a damn thing?

If you do think God needs you to show it something, maybe you should revisit the whole humble thing.

And finally, if you don’t need to kneel (as this person seems to think) then why bother?

Maybe there is a section of our population that, like Loki says, craves subjugation. They don’t want to take responsibility for their actions or face the bad stuff that sometimes happens to us as human beings. They would rather believe they’re powerless and in need of subjugation. They would rather be told what to do because it’s easier.

It also reminds me of the Milgrim experiment, where most people did what they were told as long as someone they perceived as an authority figure told them to do it.

Isn’t it time we got off our knees, took responsibility for our own bad decisions and started thinking for ourselves?

Does Split Brain Surgery Show There Is No Soul?

Cerebral_lobesI’ve been recently reading up on split brain surgery, and how it effects behavior. What made me originally curious was Sam Harris’ newest book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.

In that book, Sam Harris talks about consciousness and what makes us who we are. He describes (paraphrasing) how we feel as if we’re something riding around in our heads and looking through our eyes. He explains what consciousness is

 “an experiential internal qualitative dimension to any physical system.” Put more simply, consciousness is what it’s like and how it feels to be you.

He then goes on to talk about the ego or the sense of ‘I’ that we experience as human beings:

“The sense of being an ego, an I, a thinker of thoughts in addition to the thoughts. An experiencer in addition to the experience. The sense that we all have of riding around inside our heads as a kind of a passenger in the vehicle of the body…. Now that sense of being a subject, a locus of consciousness inside the head is an illusion. It makes no neuro-anatomical sense. There’s no place in the brain for your ego to be hiding.”

Later he talks about a medical procedure called calloscotomy, which inhibits the right hemisphere from communicating with the left. They have done this procedure to people who suffer from severe epileptic seizures.  They’ve also performed this procedure on various animals, including cats and monkeys.

So here’s the really interesting part. In my opinion anyways – when they do this procedure, it’s as if they create two consciousnesses in one skull. It’s creepy but it’s almost as if two people are sharing the same body.

In one test, they showed a subject who had undergone this procedure a set of four different colored blocks. Then they showed him a picture of the blocks in some arrangement in front of him and asked him to duplicate it with his blocks. The subjects right hand (the left hemisphere controls the right side as well as visual-motor capacity) was easily able to complete the task, but the left hand (controlled by the right hemisphere) could not.

However, it gets even stranger:

But more surprising was this: As the right hand kept trying to get the blocks to match up to the picture, the more capable left hand would creep over to the right hand to intervene, as if it realized how incompetent the right hand was. This occurred so frequently that Gazzaniga eventually asked Jenkins to sit on his left hand so it wouldn’t butt in.

When Gazzaniga let Jenkins use both hands to solve the problem in another trial, he again saw the two brain hemispheres at odds with one another. “One hand tried to undo the accomplishments of the other,” he wrote. “The left hand would make a move to get things correct and the right hand would undo the gain. It looked like two separate mental systems were struggling for their view of the world.”

The take away from this experiment and many more that they’ve done since is this:

“The demonstration that you could in effect split consciousness by splitting anatomy—by just making a tiny change in anatomy … It was one of the most remarkable results in neuroscience, with huge implications,” said Patricia Churchland, a philosopher at the University of California, San Diego, whose work focuses on the relationship between philosophy and neuroscience. “If you thought that consciousness and mental states were independent of the brain, then this should have been a real wake-up call.”

Helping to illuminate the relationship between the mind and the brain, according to the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, is one of split-brain research’s most important contributions to modern psychology and neuroscience. “The fact that each hemisphere supports its own coherent, conscious stream of thought highlights that consciousness is a product of brain activity,” he told me. “The notion that there is a single entity called consciousness, without components or parts, is false.”

We have often described our ‘self’ as something separate from our bodies. Most of our religions describe some sort of soul that leaves or changes as we die, but this experiment shows that by simply cutting off communication between our two hemispheres, we can create two consciousnesses that are independent of one another.

While you’re reading this, you could have two different opinions of this piece, depending on which hemisphere you asked.

How creepy but fascinating is that? And are there more ‘I’s’ lurking around in our skulls that we haven’t discovered yet?

No matter how you look at it, I think this shows that the soul doesn’t exist if you think your consciousness or the thing that you describe as ‘I’ or ‘you’ is essentially what your soul is.

What do you think?

Rationale approach to affirm the Existence of God: Erm, I Don’t Think So

I prefer putting real people above all else
I prefer putting real people above all else

I prefer putting real people above all else

When I clicked on the link for an Islamic blog, I was hit with the title above, which linked to a paper that supposedly affirms the existence of God. Not surprisingly, the comments on the blog were turned off and the next line in the post read:

Take it or leave it. I will not argue with an atheist.

In other words, you aren’t interested in discussion.

However, thanks to the internet, anything you post publicly can be responded too. That’s exactly what’s about to happen.

*wink*

The paper he links too can be read in its entirety (all 8 pages of it, which I did) by clicking on the link. Just as an aside, I love that the line beneath the title reads:

A certified presenter of Islam (BCII), a member of online dialogue to present Islam

Here I thought a ‘dialogue’ took place between two or more people. Silly me.

Anyways, let’s take a look at this evidence.

His first point is that belief in God seems to be innate:

Believing in God it seems to be something built in the human mind and heart. Consequently, it is not surprising to find that all human societies throughout human history, with very few exceptions, have believed in the existence of God. If we look throughout the history of mankind, definitely we find that the majority of people have believed in God. Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle rationally concluded that God must exist.

He goes on to conclude that non-belief in God is unnatural to the human-being.

If it happens in nature, it’s natural. Since there are people (atheists) who don’t believe in your god or any other god, we can conclude it’s natural. It happened in the natural world.

You even say that there are a few exceptions to believing in god, which shows you that you don’t even believe your own words. You’ve admitting that not everyone or every society has believed in a deity. So while you might argue that belief in a deity is innate in some people, it doesn’t seem to be the case in all people.

Also, no matter how many people believe in god, it still doesn’t prove you’re right. I’m still waiting for this rationale approach, although I’m assuming you meant ‘rational’.

His second point is literally that ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’.

In the time of extreme stress or fear, all people seek help from higher power and search for hope. They moreover pray supplications to God and they invoke God to save them at that hard moment. It plainly means that people really affirms God‟s presence and believe in Him. This situation is described in one of God‟s Book (Holy Quran).

Well, that’s clearly and demonstrably not true. You can easily do a Google search and find tales of atheist soldiers who recount their experiences. For example, you could find this one:

The radio man sputtered, “Oh, Lord! Lord! Help us!” My response to him was to stop praying. I exclaimed, “To hell with God! You help us! You radio back for mortar and artillery fire support!” Fortunately, he regained his composure and radioed the forward observers for fire support to be directed at our map coordinates. Common sense dictated that staying alive was more important than wasting precious time praying. Consequently, he saved our lives.

Well…there goes that theory. I guess there really are atheists in foxholes. But again, even if there weren’t, you’ve yet to provide a lick of evidence that your god exists.

His next point is the causality law:

The Big Bang Theory states that the universe was in a very high density state and then expanded. After the initial expansion (sudden explosion), the universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies. It seems that The Big Bang Theory may explain the origin of the universe, but it does not have an explanation for the sudden explosion and it doesn’t explain the origin of the primordial dust cloud and. So where did that come from? Who, or what, created the primordial dust cloud?

Must be Allah! Or Zeus, Mithra, Odin, Jesus, Yahweh, Loki.

Just because we don’t know something, doesn’t mean you can stick your god in the gap of knowledge and proclaim you’re right. Besides, billions of other people are doing the exact same thing, and none of you can explain why you’re right and they’re wrong.

Your jumping to conclusions is not helping.

I find theists do this quite a bit. They’ll say you believe or don’t believe this, therefore you MUST believe this.

Um, no. It merely means I don’t believe what I said I don’t believe. This person is basically saying we must have been created from something, we didn’t create ourselves, therefore:

The only remaining possibility is that humans and the universe were created by a being which is not itself created (God).

Nope. We could be a computer simulation. There could be a scientific explanation for it. There are plenty of other potential or unknown explanations. Your explanation doesn’t automatically become the default one and you don’t get to tell people what they believe.

The next point is intelligent design.

This is such a weak argument. If you were a creator creating something specifically for one species, would you make 99.999999% of it uninhabitable by that species?

The Earth is mostly hostile to human life. Our planet is literally surrounded by an irradiated vacuum! Does that sound intelligently designed to you?

Then he plays the morality card.

If there is no God, there is no value for morality and our lives do not have any ultimate meaning and significance purpose. If there is no God, everything is permitted.” Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist.

This is the same argument made by many a Christian. I don’t get the connection between god existing or not existing and morality or value. Of course it has a purpose. We are all conscious beings and how we treat each other and how we experience this life is reason enough to evaluate our own morality. That’s the purpose.

Last but not least, he puts down his trump card: miracles.

A miracle is defined as an extraordinary event that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is attributed to a supernatural cause (God). This miracle usually happened on the hands of the prophets.

Miracles, when investigated, often have completely natural explanations. James Randi put out a challenge in 1964 that would pay one million dollars ‘to any person who demonstrates any psychic, supernatural, or paranormal ability under satisfactory observation’, and it’s always resulted in an embarrassing display from people claiming to have extraordinary powers.

Every religion has its own set of miracle stories. None have been corroborated and your miracles are every bit as believable as another religions.

If that’s all you got, I can see why you don’t want to field comments on your blog. Your ‘dialogue’ is to yourself and those who are easily convinced or who already agree with you.

I Freaking Love This Pastor

It’s not often I give props to religion or religious institutions, but this guy is amazing. he even says something that atheists have been saying for a long time. Give it a watch, but if you don’t have time, I’ll quote the best part below.

The whole clip is awesome but here’s the part that most struck a chord with me:

Vocal opponents of homosexuality will cite Leviticus, Smith went on to say, but the same book of the Bible also prohibits eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics and sharing a bed with a woman while she’s menstruating.

“Here’s my point. We pick and choose the scriptures that we want to use to beat folk up with, rather than look at our own lives.”

“Look at your neighbor and tell your neighbor, ‘I don’t condemn you. I don’t judge you. I will preach Christ to you,'” he said. “You can’t evangelize and antagonize at the same time.”

Exactly!

If you’re going to quote one of the books in the bible, and ignore the other bits in that same book, then you’re a hypocrite. It’s likely that you’re a bigoted hypocrite to boot.

He also goes on to say:

‘We have done what the slave master did to us,’ he said. ‘Dehumanize us, degrade us, demonize us, but then use them for our advantage.’”

Can I get an Amen?

Christianity needs more Pastors like this guy, who are willing to go out on a limb and preach love and acceptance rather than whip up hate against minorities. He’s also able to reach out to people that secularists and atheists might not be able to reach.

Good job, Dewy Smith.