Christian Couple Beaten and Burned For Allegedly Burning Pages of The Quran

I saw a sign outside my local church the other day that read:

Know God, Know Peace

No God, No Peace

Then I read this today:

An enraged Muslim mob beat a Christian couple to death and burnt their bodies in the brick kiln where they worked on Tuesday for allegedly desecrating pages of the Holy Quran.

And:

He said that on Sunday, Shama, wife of the deceased Shahzad Masih, was cleaning her quarters when she found some amulets belonging to her late father-in-law who used to ‘practice’ black magic.

“Shama burnt the amulets and threw them on a garbage heap. Irfan, a Muslim co-worker at the kiln, noticed some half burnt pieces of paper from the amulets and raised clamour, claiming that these were pages from the holy Quran, Soon the word spread and at 7am on Tuesday, a Muslim mob of about 3,000-4,000 people attacked the couple’s quarters at the brick kiln and tortured the couple to death. They later threw their bodies into the kiln and completely burnt them,” he said, adding that he and some other Christian families who worked at the kiln fled the kiln immediately after the incident.

He said the couple, aged between 30 and 35 years had three children while Shama was expecting a fourth child.

And:

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the country, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence. Anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

Here’s a case of real Christian persecution.

It always amazes me when religious zealots say that without their book we have no basis for morality, but then one group of them or another go off and do something like this in the name of that very same book.

Memo to religious people: burning, desecrating, destroying a book does not entitle you to murder, rape or otherwise harm someone.

Ever.

Blasphemy is not a good reason to jail, behead, torture or terrorize someone. It does not give you the right to riot. If there is a god, it wouldn’t need your defense in the first place. It would be plenty capable of defending itself.

I’m not sure how the pastor of that original church – the local one with the sign – can blissfully go around spouting such nonsense, when the evidence is so overwhelmingly not in their favor. It seems obvious to me that simply ‘knowing god’ or believing that a god exists does not guarantee peace. It also doesn’t guarantee brutality like the one described in this news story.

In fact, if you say that your religion is the thing that brings you peace, then I believe you. If you practice your religion peacefully, and use it to help you in your day-to-day life, then I completely understand your position.

But saying that if you don’t believe in god, you will know no peace is ridiculous. There are millions of atheists and agnostics that will never form a mob and terrorize people. They will likely lead very peaceful lives and they may even describe themselves as ‘being at peace’ with themselves. They may not achieve that peace using the same methods as a religious person, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t peaceful and aren’t at peace.

That Christian couple deserved better. Their unborn child deserved better. Their children (now orphans because of superstitious goonery) deserved better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy of The Day: Religious Leaders Who Claim Ebola is God’s Punishment For Immorality

Recently, I’ve seen quite a few news stories about religious leaders who claim the Ebola outbreak is God’s punishment for immoral activity here on our little blue marble.

For example, yesterday we had this from Pastor Ron Baity:

A Baptist preacher says the biblical “End Times” are upon us thanks to a federal judge striking down a ban on gay marriage in North Carolina.

According to Ron Baity of the Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., God is so angry over the decision that He’s about to send something even worse than Ebola.

“You think Ebola is bad now, just wait,” Baity warned during his sermon on Sunday.

And if that wasn’t stomach churning enough for you, here’s a quote taken directly from his sermon:

“My friend, we are meriting, we are bringing the judgement of God on this nation as sure as Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed, don’t be surprised at the plagues. Don’t be surprised at the judgement of God,” Baity said. “You think Ebola is bad now, just wait. If it’s not that, it’s going to be something else. My friends, I want you to understand, you can’t thumb your nose at God, and God turn his head away without God getting your attention.”

But hey, no one ever takes the bible literally or seriously. We ALL know that Sodom and Gomorrah was simply a metaphor used to illustrate…err…violent acts carried out by a supernatural bully?

I don’t know. I’m lost. I guess you have to twist the story around quite a bit to try and take anything positive away from a biblical massacre.

And turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for simply looking back is a symbol or metaphor for…

Screw it. I don’t know. I think it’s just another horrible story featuring unnecessary violence in a book full of such stories. Thankfully, no one takes these stories seriously.

And before anyone says that this is just one guy shouting crazy all by himself, keep in mind the Family Research Council awarded him the Watchman Award (top “pro-family” award) in 2012, even though he was on the record calling gay people:

“worse than maggots”, compared them to murderers, wants to ‘save’ them, claims gay people make society more filthy, says gays are “not normal” and embrace a “learned lifestyle”, says gays promote “perversion” in schools and are signing “America’s death warrant”

He sounds like a great guy. I’m sure he deserved the award.

Also recently, John Hagee had this to say on his show:

On yesterday’s broadcast of the “Hagee Hotline,” televangelist and Christians United For Israel founder John Hagee issued a stark warning to America that the Ebola crisis is God’s judgment on America for President Obama’s failure to adequately support Israel.

“I want every American to hear this very clearly,” Hagee said, citing Joel 3 to warn that God will judge any nation that seeks to divide up Israel and declaring that “our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching and he will bring America into judgment.”

You know…the John Hagee that has a church of over 20,000 members and who is worth about 5 million bucks?

Meanwhile, in Liberia:

Religious leaders in Liberia are claiming God has unleashed the deadly Ebola virus as a plague upon the country to punish “immoral acts” taking place there, such as homosexuality.

Various church leaders from the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) reportedly attended a meeting to discuss “an spiritual response” to the outbreak of Ebola, which has claimed 932 lives across West Africa.

It comes as the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced a 90-day state of emergency in the country as she warned “ignorance and poverty, as well as entrenched religious and cultural practices”, are continuing to exacerbate the spread of the disease.

And according to a Chief Imam in Liberia:

A Muslim cleric has opined that the deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus in the country is destined by Allah due to persistent violation of mankind’s covenant to be one another’s keepers in the society.

The Chief Imam of the Salafia Mosque, Sheikh Salah Sheriff, said not only is the Ebola outbreak in the country is the result of Liberia’s broken covenant made to God, he sees the disease, according to the Holy Quran, as what he referred to as “Azabolah”, meaning punishment of God.

When something bad happens, I guess we can usually count on religion to capitalize on it. Nothing like a good dose of fear to bring people into the flock, no matter how despicable the methods used to do so.

If I’m a moderate in any of these religions, I’d be wondering why these people think my God is so into slaughter and mayhem that it would visit a deadly disease on people. I thought these Gods were supposed to be loving and peaceful?

 

 

 

Women Tortured and Killed in the Name of Superstition

Just as ridiculous as other gods

Just as ridiculous as other gods

In India, thousands of women have been tortured and killed since 2002:

In places where superstition and vigilantism overlap and small rumors can turn deadly, nearly 2,100 people accused of witchcraft have been killed between 2000 and 2012, according to crime records gathered by the Indian newspaper Mint. Others placed the number at 2,500; others higher still. “Like the proverbial tip of a very deep iceberg, available data hides much of the reality of a problem that is deeply ingrained in society,” according to New Delhi-based Partners for Law in Development. “It is only the most gruesome cases that are reported — most cases of witch-hunting go unreported and unrecorded.”

Many of the killings go unreported. Some women are forced to endure eating excrement or are gang raped before they are put to death. Of course, most (if not all) of the accused women are from poor, powerless families:

“Witch-hunting is essentially a legacy of violence against women in our society,” wrote Rakesh Singh of the Indian Social Institute. “For almost invariably, it is [low caste] women, who are branded as witches. By punishing those who are seen as vile and wild, oppressors perhaps want to send a not-so-subtle message to women: docility and domesticity get rewarded; anything else gets punished.”

The article claims that while superstition is part of it, the other part is that sometimes women are accused of witchcraft so that others can settle a score or grab their land and possessions.

However, while something like this could certainly happen without superstition, their barbaric beliefs (superstition, caste system and religion) offer people an easy excuse to do what they want with these poor women.

Even the way they supposedly ‘suss out the witch’ uses superstitious nonsense:

According to Mint, an Indian publication which has written extensively on the subject, a witch is identified through various methods. The person who suspects witchcraft will often consult a witch doctor called an “ojha.” The witch doctor, who uses medicinal herbs, in part learned their skills to counter the darker powers of the witches, called “daayan.”

The ojha then goes about the business of sussing out the witch. This involves incantations, Mint reports, and possibly the branches of a sal tree. The ojha writes the names of all those suspected of witchraft onto the branches of the tree, and the name that’s on the branch that withers is condemned as a witch. Other times, rice is wrapped in cloth emblazoned with names. Then the rice is placed inside a nest of white ants. Whichever bag the ants eat out identifies the witch. Another method: potions. One Indian shaman in 2011forced 30 women to drink a potion to prove they weren’t witches. The concoction was made out of a poisonous herb, all women fell ill, and the shaman was arrested.

After a witch is chosen, they are either forced to do unspeakable things or tortured. “In many reported cases recently, women who are branded as witches were made to walk naked through the village, were gang-raped, had their breasts cut off, teeth broken or heads tonsured, apart from being ostracized from their village,” reported Live Mint. They “were forced to swallow urine and human feces, to eat human flesh, or drink the blood of a chicken.”

How ridiculous. In other words, a good witch must be used to ‘suss out’ the bad witch.

Come on, people!

This is why beliefs matter. This is why criticism and conversation about religion must be allowed. Without it, we end up with horrendous human rights abuses like this one. It’s another example of religion and superstitious belief devaluing  human life, particularly that of low-income women.

And let’s not forget how religion is used to justify the caste system. Imagine a system where you are born without hope. If you’re born poor, you will always be poor. It’s a soul crushing system.

Many of the ‘witch’ cases are not reported. I wonder how many more women and families have been beaten, tortured, raped and oppressed because of superstition, greed and poverty. We need to do more when it comes to reporting on these stories.

Man Declared Mentally Ill For Being An Atheist

It would seem that in Nigeria, all you need to do in order to be declared mentally ill is not believe in a deity:

A Nigerian man has been sent to a mental institute in Kano state after he declared that he did not believe in God, according to a humanist charity.

Mubarak Bala was being held against his will at the hospital after his Muslim family took him there, it said.

The hospital said it was treating Mr Bala, 29, for a “challenging psychological condition”, and would not keep him longer than necessary.

Kano is a mainly Muslim state and adopted Islamic law in 2000.

According to the news story, Mubarak’s family asked a doctor if he was mentally ill after learning he didn’t believe in God. The first doctor rightfully told them he was mentally stable, but that wasn’t good enough for them. They went to a second doctor who pronounced him mentally ill and had him admitted to hospital.

Words can’t explain how outrageous this story is. Mubarak is being held against his will, after allegedly being strangled by his own family, simply for not believing in a God.

What can you do?

It may not seem like much, but you can take to Twitter using the hash-tag #FreeMubarak to help raise awareness. Although it may seem pointless, people taking to Twitter has helped put pressure on authorities (as well as helped raise awareness of social issues) in the past, and it certainly can’t hurt to take a few minutes to help get the message out about this travesty.

You can also sign a petition, which you can find here.

Mubarak Bala deserves better than this. Nigeria deserves better than this. In 2014, these types of stories shouldn’t exist. Being an atheist doesn’t qualify you as being mentally ill or ill in any other way either, despite what some religions may teach.

War of The Blogs: Have They Jumped The Gun?

I presuppose demon unicorns offer a coherent worldview and everyone else is corrupt

I presuppose demon unicorns offer a coherent worldview and everyone else is corrupt

I recently wrote an article addressing Presupposition. You can find it by clicking the link.

I then went on my merry way and wrote about other things.

Today, a Christian apologist who I’ve pleasantly exchanged many comments with commented on my post while I was at work.

I work in the social service field, and sometimes I have to work long, mentally draining hours, although I love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else. The people I work with are some of the most amazing and inspiring people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. They show me every day what it means to have strength in the face of adversity.

But I digress.

I really think I did a fairly good job of refuting presupposition apologetic in my original post. I think it’s based on a false presupposition that offers no way to differentiate between the truth claims of one religion over the other. Long story short, this sort of apologetic presupposes that Christianity is correct and that any way of looking at the world other than through the lens of Christianity is automatically ‘sinful in his mind’.

I don’t know what else to really say about that.

Anyhow, after this gentleman was kind enough to leave a comment, I told him that I was texting a reply and that since we’d already had a lengthy discussion on the topic, I would wait and see if anyone else commented on his comment.

So here I am after a short nap on my couch thinking of what I want to tackle on my blog. Am I in the mood for a heavier topic or a light one? Happy, sad, humorous?

It’s totally up in the air.

To my surprise, I’m notified by WordPress’ magical notification window that someone had linked to my blog. Intrigued, I went to look and saw it was the Christian apologist throwing down a digital gauntlet.

So here is what he said in response to my blog post about presupposition and my response:

It’s astounding how quickly atheists dismiss presuppositions. Even if you don’t make a categorical assertion that “no god” exists, everyone has something that they presuppose. Some presuppositions *project* while others don’t. I acknowledge that some who employ this particular methodology don’t truly understand the implicit strengths or weaknesses.

Not sure why it matter if everyone presupposes something. I was talking about your erroneous presupposition that Christianity is automatically true and the dismissal of every other religious claim that theirs is true. I’m pretty sure I understand the strengths and weaknesses of this argument and I already addressed them. I think this type of reasoning is mostly full of weakness.

Some of the comments even go so far as dismissing the method because words like *epistemology* are used. This is a trite objection; and while some Christians/Atheists might not know what the word means it does not follow that one should be dismissive of the implicatures of certain presuppositions.

I agree with you in a way.

However, my Nan used to say that if someone didn’t understand your message, the problem isn’t in the receiver but in the sender. Honestly, people don’t want to engage with someone who uses million dollar words all of the time. They want to engage with someone they can understand.

For example, Stephen Hawking could talk using million dollar words and equations all day, but his message wouldn’t be received by anyone besides other physicists. One big reason he’s so well known is because he brings science to the layperson. He makes science understandable. In my opinion, you seem to fail at this in a big way.

Let me demonstrate by using your own words in your original comment:

The project of presupppositional apologetics is to ascertain whether the entailments of any particular view (including the Christian view) follow without contradiction. This is why the Christian considers the Christian God to be the necessary precondition of intelligibilty. Properly speaking a coherent worldview is a “proof”.

Okay, I think most people (including myself) would be following happily along up to this point. So far, you have not answered why the Christian God is needed for intelligibility, or why this deity is required for intelligibility, or why you’re wasting your time talking to the unintelligible, because I certainly don’t believe in this god. You have also not answered why the Christian worldview is coherent or even more coherent than other religious and non-religious worldviews.

Moving along to the million dollar word stuff:

Let me provide you with an example, if you presuppose the rationality of laws of logic (and)

1. Laws of logic are immaterial
2. Laws of logic are invariant
3. Laws of logic are universal

Can you account for (1,2,3) in your worldview? I am not asking if you use laws of logic, you have presented yourself as rational and thoughtful. I am asking you to examine your presuppositions and assess whether laws of logic can be coherent is a reductionist, materialist worldview? Are these laws a priori? If so, how can this be if on empiricist presuppositions one must experience the laws of logic before appropriating them?

Any time a presuppostion is found to be implicitly or explicitly contradictory, reason would tell us that the proposition entailed by the presupposition must be false by way of negation. I wrote an article about presuppostions and projection that details the entailments and the operators that are involved in determining whether presuppositions project. I would welcome thougthful exchange on this topic, however if the degenerates into certain people calling me a dickhead, my interest will wane.

I hate to break it to you, but you lost me (in an eyes glazing over sort of way) right around the ‘let me provide you with an answer’ part. I understand what you’re saying, but I doubt anyone in their right mind wants to sit around and engage that. It’s a bunch of questions with no answers.

So no, I don’t think anyone has mailed it in. I think you’re failing at making yourself intelligible. I think you’ve failed to even come close to explaining why your assertions, Christianity, your deity or your apologetic should be taken seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, I think you’re a hell of a smart guy. I think you cloak your message in important sounding words, which make it difficult to pick apart or engage in any serious manner. Most people just don’t have the time to sift through such literary wreckage. If you could say what you’re trying to say in plain English, I really think you’d have more people willing to engage you in conversation.

However, I think it plain to anyone reading this that I don’t view non-engagement as a ‘mailing in’. Perhaps they didn’t notice your comment. The article is a few days old. Perhaps they felt like they already said all they had to say on the subject. Perhaps they didn’t feel like engaging or were unable to at the time. Perhaps they didn’t want to sift through the verbiage.

I don’t know. There are other possibilities other than ‘mailing it in’. It really boils down to what I said in my last post – with evidence, there would be no need for apologetic. And like I said, I think I already exhausted what I had to say on the topic in my fairly lengthy blog post about it.

But don’t take my word for it. After all, my fallen nature prevents me from seeing the truth. *wink*

Presupposition: When You Assume…

God_the_FatherOver the last few days, I’ve run into a few Christians who use ‘Presuppositional Apologetics’. They threw around big important sounding words like ‘presupposition’ and ‘Epistemology’. Having never run into this sort of apologetic before, I decided to do some research to see if there was anything to this philosophical view or whether it was just smoke and mirrors.

Turns out it was just smoke and mirrors.

So here is what this type of apologetic involves in layman terms:

This form of Christian apologetics deals with presuppositions.1 A Christian presuppositionalist presupposes God’s existence and argues from that perspective to show the validity of Christian theism.2 This position also presupposes the truth of the Christian Scriptures and relies on the validity and power of the gospel to change lives (Rom. 1:16). From the scriptures, we see that the unbeliever is sinful in his mind (Rom. 1:18-32) and unable to understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14).  This means that no matter how convincing the evidence or good the logic, an unbeliever cannot come to the faith because his fallen nature will distort how he perceives the truth.  The only thing that can ultimately change him is regeneration.  To this end, the presuppositionalist seeks to change a person’s presuppositions to be in conformity with biblical revelation.

In other words, this type of apologetic assumes that the Christian worldview is the correct view, and that every other view is distorted by their fallen nature. Non-Christians are unable to see the truth clearly.

Of course, any religion can use this same argument. Muslims can say they presuppose Allah. Hindus can presuppose Vishnu. Any religious person can presuppose that their religion is true, and every other one is flawed. Considering there are thousands of gods and religions, the presupposition apologetic doesn’t offer us a way to figure out which claims are true and which are not. The Christian in this case, has already jumped to the conclusion their scriptures are correct, their deity is real and their brand of religion is the truth. If you don’t accept that this is true, then you lack the presuppositions required for reasoning.

Man, what a tangled web we weave. This has got to be one of the funnier apologetic I’ve run into. I thought perhaps there was something to it, but it’s nothing more than an attempt to stick  fingers in their ears, and pretend everyone else lacks the means to reason because they don’t necessarily believe in their specific deity.

Why not this god?

Why not this god?

When this apologetic is turned against atheists, the Christian often asserts that the atheist’s presuppositions all suppose there is no god, because we deny or refuse to believe that god exists and sometimes, that god isn’t even a possibility.

Of course, this isn’t the stance of many, many atheists. I’d go so far as to say the vast majority of atheists wouldn’t say there is absolutely no possibility of a god. Speaking for myself, I don’t presuppose there is no god. I merely see no evidence for one and I won’t believe a Christian’s claims (or any other theists) without evidence that their deity exists. If I wasn’t open to the possibility, I wouldn’t have bothered to do the research on this article. I would have ignored the idea that maybe there was a form of apologetic that made sense of god.

Instead, I found flawed reasoning, mixed with big words to make a relatively simple concept seem too complex to handle. The first inkling I had that this was some more woo on the part of theists was the word ‘presupposition, which literally means, ‘a thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action.’

In other words, this isn’t a technique for debate or to try and figure out the truth. Anything the theist doesn’t agree with can chalk it up to their opponents flawed view, and they’ve already arrived at their conclusion and they suppose everyone else is wrong.

Ganesha

Can I presuppose this is the correct god?

I can see why this apologetic would seem attractive to a theist. It allows them to comfortably ignore any other point of view, excuses them from having to satisfy the burden of proof, and gives them permission to view the majority of people as flawed and fallen – it even gives them the chance to use fancy words so that their apologetic stance seems more sophisticated than it really is.

Unfortunately for the Christian who uses this form of apologetic, the burden of proof still lies with you. Not only must you provide evidence for your deity, but you must explain and provide evidence that your god is the right god, instead of the thousands of other gods we’ve dreamed up as a species.

Assuming your right and everyone else is wrong isn’t good enough.

The best form of apologetic would be to come up with some form of evidence for the existence of your specific deity. Then you wouldn’t need faith or apologetics.

 

 

 

The Great Long Island Medium Argument

There’s this show out called Long Island Medium, where a house wife says she can talk to the dead. The first season averaged 1.3 million viewers, which makes it a fairly popular show.

To make a long story short, my wife likes the show. She doesn’t watch it religiously, but she enjoys the personality of the supposed psychic, Theresa Caputo.

On Sunday night, she began to watch it. I hadn’t seen it before. I was dabbling on my tablet and listening half-heartedly, and my wife turned to me and asked if I believed she could actually talk to the dead. I sighed and said I didn’t – that I thought it was a load of malarkey.

My wife then asked (this is where it gets hairy) how I found it possible not to like the personality of Theresa. Without thinking much about my answer, I looked up from the tablet and said I thought what she did was unethical. I also said I thought she was taking advantage of people in a fragile emotional state and basically robbing them, and using their time of weakness to cash in on a TV show.

To my surprise, my wife got pretty upset with me. She asked why I would ruin the show for her. She asked if I considered her unethical for watching the show.

I asked her why she asked me the question if she didn’t want an honest answer, and that no, I didn’t think she was unethical for watching the show, because she probably hadn’t given it much thought. However, I don’t want to support the show, or what I consider to be unethical behavior.

What really interested me was how upset my wife got. She’s normally pretty laid back and we rarely argue. Religious people get like this when talking religion with me. It’s usually after I start poking holes in their theology or asking uncomfortable questions that they’d rather ignore, and here I was, getting the same reaction when doing the same to a ‘reality’ TV show that my wife enjoyed.

So anyways, the show came back on and my wife started pausing it intermittently to ask me questions. After the medium said a name or event that the person she was talking too knew about, my wife would ask how she’d know that if she wasn’t psychic.

I told her to pay attention to the questions the medium asked. They’re unusually vague and open-ended. I told her to pay attention to how her customer answered those questions.  They would usually nod their heads and start crying, then give her lots of information she can use. The medium usually has had the time to research her clients before seeing them – the Internet is full of information on almost anyone, if you know where to look.

I admit that she’s good at what she does, but that doesn’t make it real. Even in interviews, she uses vague language to describe what she does.

For example:

Most communication in these sort of exchanges is the deceased person reassuring the living. Are the dead ever angry at the person who’s still alive?

Caputo: I’ve never had that experience. I was taught and the way I choose to use my gift is I protect all my sessions in God’s white light. My rule is if they’re angry or they’re upset they’re not allowed to talk about it. If it can’t help us or prevent something, then I don’t want know about it. My wish for all my clients is that they receive the most healing or closure if they come, or just comfort, to continue to embrace their life without their loved ones.

On these shows, there’s conversations with the deceased, but the viewer doesn’t often get a sense of what the ‘other side’ is like. Do you have a sense of that?

Caputo: [Spirits] will bring me to like a park or a field or ponds, and then sometimes somebody will show me a beach or a brook. I don’t know if that’s exactly what it’s like. I say ‘I’ll find out when we get there.’ I can only tell you what they show me.

It sounds like religious babble. She uses language that means very little and skirts the edges so that she can’t be pinned down by skeptics.

So I took my wife outside and pulled up a few James Randi videos, where he exposes these frauds for what they are. I explained that the James Randi Foundation has a million dollar challenge that can be claimed by anyone who can who can ‘show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event’.

No one has claimed the prize yet. I wonder why? I’d love to see the Long Island Medium take the challenge, but that would probably be the end of a very lucrative career.

I may have ruined the show for her, but it really was unintentional. She’s not upset with me anymore. I think she wanted to believe, but in the end, reason, logic and healthy skepticism won out.