I’m in an open (and loving) relationship

 I’m in an open (and loving) relationship

By David G. McAfee and Holly Samel

 

 I belong to a minority group of people that many others think of as immoral or “sinful.” Members of this group often looked at scientific evidence, as opposed to cultural norms, to reach their current position. People in this group are also regularly forced to conceal or disguise their views for fear of judgment based solely on (undeserved) social stigmas. I’m not talking about being an atheist, childfree by choice, or even a feminist… I’m talking about the fact that I’m in a non-monogamous, “open,” relationship.

What does this mean?

An open relationship could mean just about anything, as it is interpreted by the participants, and non-monogamy refers to a whole host of lifestyles and relationship dynamics. For me, however, it’s pretty simple: I am socially monogamous and sexually open. I have a long-term partner to whom I am dedicated, but I’m not limited to one woman sexually. I don’t have multiple girlfriends and I’m not going to marry anyone – let alone have more than one wife.

This isn’t what every non-monogamous person does, but it’s what I’m doing now and I am happy. I take proper precautions to avoid sexually transmitted infections and pregnancies, all people involved are consenting adults who are made aware of the situation, and it has actually brought me closer to my partner. If we are happy, safe, and more honest in life, then nobody will care what we do, right? Wrong.

Reactions.

Publicly acknowledging my open relationship is still new to me–I haven’t really spoken to many people about it and I only changed my “relationship status” to reflect the change a little more than a week ago. Even after such a short time, however, I’ve already had some interesting responses. The first notable message was from someone who said he and his wife are themselves in an open relationship and that “being able to articulate this without stigma is often difficult.” I immediately thought of the similarities between the negative stereotypes associated with non-traditional relationships and those atheists face in many regions – and how I might be able to help.

The second jarring reaction I received after I mentioned non-monogamy as “natural” was from a Christian apologist with a podcast. In response to what he called an “endorsement of non-monogamous relationships,” the apologist said, “Add that to the list that includes things like abortion, infanticide, incest, etc.” He continued to compare non-monogamy, consensually sharing multiple sexual or romantic bonds, with bestiality, sex between humans and non-human animals.

In case that wasn’t bad enough, the third response I’ll mention really missed the mark. This comment came from a Facebook friend who saw my relationship status change and implied that I was seeking sexual favors online. He thought the fact that I was honest about the type of relationship that I have, and that my relationship isn’t similar to his traditional paradigm, meant that I was soliciting my fans for sex. He even compared my status change, which was for the sake of transparency and is only visible to my friends, with Richard Carrier’s recent blog post. In that entry, Carrier, an atheist author who is polyamorous, asks his fans if they want to go on a pre-planned date with him.

Needless to say, I was confused by the onslaught of assumptions and accusations. I have never lied to my partner about my feelings and I’ve never acted unethically by treating my fan page like a dating website, so it’s difficult for me to see these as anything more than uninformed attacks. In fact, in my mind, I’m not doing or saying anything that crazy. I’m simply acknowledging what scientists have known for a long time: human beings don’t naturally mate for life.

What does science say?

Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, recently pointed out that infidelity “lurks in your genes.” He noted that, while for some people one partner is perfectly fine, for others “sexual monogamy is an uphill battle against their own biology.”

“Sexual monogamy is distinctly unusual in nature: Humans are among the 3 to 5 percent of mammalian species that practice monogamy, along with the swift fox and beaver — but even in these species, infidelity has been commonly observed,” Professor Friedman wrote in a piece for the New York Times.

Noted relationship advice columnist Dan Savage has a similar view, also rooted in scientific understandings of human biology. He told astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in a recent interview that, “we are not naturally monogamous; it is a difficult struggle for us.”

“No primates with testicles our size are monogamous, sexually monogamous,” Savage said. “The truth is if you make a monogamous commitment to someone you love, you will still want to have sex with other people. You will refrain from it. It will be difficult.”

Savage went on to reference sex writer Chris Ryan in saying that, in many cultures, adultery is met with the death penalty. We can’t say monogamy comes naturally to us as a species if we have to kill to enforce the rule, he argued.

“Well, no other species has to be threatened with death to do that which comes naturally to it,” Savage told Tyson during the interview. “We don’t point guns at dolphins and say swim. Right? But we point guns at each other and say don’t cheat.”

Forget what you’ve been told.

A lot of people are more comfortable sweeping subjects like this under the rug. They think that, because we have always been told things are one way, that there are no other options. But studying other regions of the world will tell you that many things are cultural and not so black and white. In many cases, we are governed not by facts but by social lies: rules, codes of conduct, or ideas that guide how we behave but are based on self-deception.

For example, do you think the color pink is really a feminine color? Do you agree that other cultures might find it masculine or even gender neutral? The fact is that we are told pink is a “girl” color and that blue is for boys, but those perceptions come from marketing – not reality. It is now a powerful connection in our minds, but that doesn’t make it an objective truth.

“Cheating” is another social lie – this one formed as a result of our jealous nature. We are told our loved ones are our property, that we shouldn’t share them with anyone else, and that cheaters deserve the worst possible punishments. These ideas are reinforced by movies, television, and other media, and are attached to religious views and marriage vows. These pre-conceived notions of what it means to cheat have even caused millions of divorces and even murders. But I don’t “cheat” on my partner because I don’t think we have to use society’s definition. I think cheating should be defined by the participants of any specific relationship and be based on desires and comfort levels.

Savage argues that social lies that surround cheating exist because we are given unrealistic relationship standards from day one.

“What we said, what we believed, what we’re told as children, is one day you’ll grow up and fall in love with someone and you’ll make a monogamous commitment to them, and that means you’re in love with them,” Savage said. “And when you’re in love, you won’t want to have sex with other people.”

But we know that, for many people, this just isn’t true. For them, no matter who they are with, sexual monogamy will always be a problem. Because humans are among a number pair-bonding animals that often have sex outside of their partnership, Savage and others often refer to us as a “monogamish” species.

Why speak out?

Non-monogamy is extremely common among humans and throughout the animal kingdom, but that doesn’t stop people from treating it like a perversion. In fact, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, 91 percent of Americans find marital infidelity “morally wrong.” That is higher than the percentage of people who opposed polygamy, human cloning, and suicide, according to the poll.

Savage says the negative stereotypes are reinforced by the fact that we only hear about the bad non-monogamous relationships and not the good ones.

“If a three-way or an affair was a factor in a divorce or breakup, we hear all about it,” Savage wrote. “But we rarely hear from happy couples who aren’t monogamous, because they don’t want to be perceived as dangerous sex maniacs who are destined to divorce.”

With all the negativity surrounding non-monogamy, despite the fact that it is such a natural and recurring concept throughout history, many people have decided to hide their true colors to satisfy the moral majority. But that doesn’t really solve anything for anyone else in that position. It won’t make it easier for them to talk about the issue because the social stigma remains strong. When asked why it’s important to speak out about this topic, I can’t help but think back to a quote from Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist:

By telling people you don’t believe, you’re making it a bit easier for the next person who has to. You are making it that much easier for the next generation and helping to change the (very false) perception of atheism as something that is anti-god or even pro-evil. More than anything else, coming out as an atheist gives you the opportunity to educate believers — to show them that it is entirely possible to be morally good without believing that we are being policed by an all-knowing deity.”

I think similar reasoning can be applied to this subject.

I cheated and this is my punishment.

I cheated and this is my punishment.

Ex-Leader of Hindu Temple Gets 27 Years for Ripping Off Followers

Ex-Leader of Hindu Temple Gets 27 Years for Ripping Off Followers

By David G. McAfee, author of The Belief Book

April 19 – The former leader of the now-defunct Hindu Temple of Georgia was sentenced April 13 to more than 27 years in federal prison after being convicted on more than 30 felony counts, including bank fraud, tax fraud, bankruptcy fraud and obstruction.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia sentenced Annamalai Annamalai, who was convicted on 34 felony counts after a two-week jury trial in August, to 27 years and three months in prison. Judge Batten also ordered him to not to engage in any “spiritual service for compensation.”

Prosecutors say Annamalai, who also goes by Dr. Commander Selvam and Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar, charged his followers fees in exchange for “spiritual services.” The adherents typically paid via credit card and Annamalai charged the cards multiple additional times without authorization, according to John A. Horn, Acting U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia.

“Annamalai perverted the sacred institution of religion by using it as a vehicle for greed and personal profit,” Horn said in an April 13 statement. “He convinced his victims that they had a problem in need of spiritual guidance, and then took advantage of their vulnerabilities for personal financial gain. The sentence rendered against him is lengthy but just and fair considering the irreparable harm he caused to his victims.”

Disputed Charges.

The prosecution says Annamalai made multiple false charges to his followers’ credit cards and, if they disputed the transactions, he submitted fraudulent supporting documents to credit card companies. Annamalai then filed “spurious lawsuits” against those who challenged the dubious charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Annamalai is further accused of manipulating audio recordings to make it appear as though his victims had agreed to the unauthorized charges. Annamalai then sent the altered recordings to police departments that were investigating criminal complaints levied against him, according to the government.

Annamalai Convicted.

Annamalai was convicted Aug. 25 of bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud in connection with the temple’s petition for bankruptcy protection in 2009. Annamalai concealed funds from creditors by diverting credit card receipts and the temple’s donations to a bank account in a different name, prosecutors say.

Annamalai was also found guilty of three counts of obstruction and false statements in relation to a grand jury investigation into the bankruptcy case. The defendant sent a fake e-mail to a special agent at the Internal Revenue Service pretending to be a witness in the criminal investigation and sent false affidavits to the grand jury and the bankruptcy court, according to the indictment.

On April 13, almost eight months after Annamalai was convicted, Judge Batten sentenced him two 27 years and three months in prison. In addition to the prison term, the judge ordered the defendant not to charge for spiritual services and not to file any more frivolous, abusive or malicious lawsuits.

Judge Batten also recommended to the Bureau of Prisons that Annamalai be housed in a “Communications Management Housing Unit,” where his telephone calls and electronic communications will be closely monitored.

Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation, said the sentence is a “vital element in maintaining public confidence in our legal and financial system.”

“Annamalai Annamalai, a self-proclaimed ‘child prodigy’ and ‘priest,’ received his fate today for the fraud that he perpetrated on the faithful followers that believed in him,” Hyman-Pillot said. “This defendant utilized the nation’s financial system to steal money from unsuspecting victims and then used the money for his own personal benefit.”

By David G. McAfee

Bio: McAfee is a Religious Studies graduate, journalist, and author of The Belief Book, a children’s book explaining the origins of beliefs and religion, and Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer. He is also an editor for Ockham Publishing and a contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.

Annamalai Annamalai Gets 27 Years

Annamalai Annamalai Gets 27 Years

Renewing the Focus on Arguments and Evidence

As many of you may know, while I always redact the identifying information of people who send me private messages, I’ve often posted public discussions on social media without censoring the names of participants. This was never an attempt to “shame” people who disagree with me, and in fact I applied that policy equally to “debate posts” as well as “featured comments” and other regular features on my Facebook page, but I don’t control the actions of others. And because of abuse I’ve personally witnessed, I’ve decided to start removing all name data from my posts. Continue reading

Religious Studies Grad, Artist Team Up To Teach Children about Beliefs

Religious Studies Grad, Artist Team Up To Teach Children about Beliefs

Secular author David G. McAfee and illustrator/writer Chuck Harrison worked together on “The Belief Book” – an interactive children’s book that helps to teach kids (and kids at heart) about critical thinking, the origins of beliefs, and religions.

February 7 – Religious Studies graduate and skeptical author David G. McAfee teamed up with Chuck Harrison, an illustrator and writer, to create The Belief Book, which helps kids of all ages on their journey toward understanding the world’s most important beliefs and how they are formed. Children young and old who embark on this quest will learn many things they may have always been curious about, including where the first ideas of “gods” came from and how the earliest religions were created and spread.

This first-of-its-kind children’s book has mental exercises and puzzles that can help anyone understand what beliefs are and how they affect everyone and everything. More importantly, The Belief Book outlines the difference between good beliefs, which are supported by evidence, and bad beliefs, which are based on emotion or biases.

With interactive activities and vivid illustrations, The Belief Book teaches children how to examine evidence and form their own ideas. They will learn the importance of definitions, of language in general, and of the scientific method. The book strives to show readers how to think about things in a way that will get them to the right beliefs, and not just which facts to memorize.

Readers will look at some of the most important questions ever asked, including “Where do we come from?” and “Who made us?” and “Why can’t I have ice cream for breakfast?” By the time they are done with the book, children will not only understand the answers to many of their biggest questions, but they will also see why their questions – and all questions – are so incredibly important.

 

The Belief Book

The Belief Book

For interviews or questions, contact:

David G. McAfee | PO Box 9661 | Canoga Park, CA 91304 | United States | David@DavidGMcAfee.com

About David G. McAfee: McAfee is a Religious Studies Graduate, journalist, and the author of two other titles: Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also a contributor to American Atheist Magazine and an editor for Ockham Publishing. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions. He believes strongly that religious education and history should be taught in public schools, including and especially in the United States of America – where general knowledge about those topics is severely lacking. It is only by understanding how the religious systems work, and not by ignoring them completely, that McAfee says we can help others to make rational decisions about them.

About Chuck Harrison: Harrison is an illustrator and writer who lives with his son called Puff and his cat named Monkey in New York. His caffeine fueled works have been printed by DC Comics, Color Ink Book, The South Wedge Quarterly and in many other fine publications. Everything else you may wish to know about him can be discovered at iLikeChuckHA.com.

David G. McAfee interviews ‘Spirit Psychic’ Noah Alvarez

David G. McAfee interviews ‘Spirit Psychic’ Noah Alvarez

I have always been fascinated by people who claim to have supernatural or mystical abilities, including so-called psychics. While I can’t say I was ever a believer, the idea that some people could read others’ thoughts or see the future has interested me all my life. In an effort to learn more about this phenomenon I studied cold and hot reading tactics and, when reading about them wasn’t enough, I even implemented those methods myself as Suroh the Seer. But that still wasn’t enough. I wanted to find out even more about the people who claim to have these fantastic abilities, so I did the next logical thing: I asked them questions.

I decided to interview a psychic in my area and, after some online research, I stumbled across “spirit psychic” Noah Alvarez. Alvarez advertises that he is an internationally known psychic medium with a sixth sense, specializing in counseling and “healing.” I chose Alvarez as my first interview subject primarily because of his dozens of five-star reviews. Clients insisted that Alvarez’s readings were “dead on” and “the real deal” but, perhaps just as importantly, they said he was friendly, open, and transparent. For my purposes, that’s ideal.

I met Alvarez at 10:00AM on a Saturday at his psychic studio in Chatsworth, Calif. Noah greeted me and my first impression was that his reviewers were right: he was personable, friendly, and empathetic. I also took a moment to scan his studio, which featured a number of (often conflicting) religious and spiritual symbols. There were dozens of Buddhist statues and monuments and relics – something you might expect from a psychic who also calls himself the “American Buddha” – but there was also a single dramatic statue of Jesus Christ being tortured on the cross. Understanding that Noah was likely trying to appeal to as broad a base as possible in his work, I proceeded to the back room for our discussion.

Continue reading

My talk for Houston Oasis – “How to Discuss Controversial Topics”

On Nov. 16, I spoke for Houston Oasis, a freethought community in Texas. It was my first experience with what the media has labeled an “atheist church.” I didn’t know what to think before, but now I know that this group is nothing like a church. There was no charismatic pastor-figure, no prayers or hymns, and no rituals. It is a large group of like-minded thinkers who meet weekly and provide free daycare. Here is my presentation on how to discuss controversial topics in a friendly and effective way.

Letter Urges Hotels To Promote Diversity In Religious Material

In February, I launched a public funding campaign with the goal of purchasing copies of Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings for distribution in hotels, libraries, book stores, and more. Thanks to all of you, we reached (and surpassed) our $1,500 goal and I am now reaching out to hotels in my local area in hopes of getting their permission to place copies alongside their Bibles in each hotel room.

Here is the first draft of the letter I intend to send to hotel owners:

 

Dear hotel proprietor or manager,

I hope you’re well. I’m writing today to inform you of an outreach campaign aimed at providing a balance to the types of information available to hotel patrons.

As you are likely aware, the evangelical Christian group Gideons International is well-known for its efforts to ensure Christian Bibles are distributed in great numbers to hotels all over the world. While I understand that the group’s intentions are likely positive, as a non-Christian and advocate for secularism, I can’t help but see how diversity in reading material would be beneficial for everyone involved.

One option to address this disparity would be to allow other religious organizations to place their sacred books, too. Admittedly, this move may not be very practical. A second action, of course, would be to remove the religious reading material altogether. This would buck tradition, I’m sure, but would keep any group from being excluded and would enable you to perhaps allow Christian patrons to “opt in” to having a Bible placed in their nightstand. If neither of those methods work for you, and you sincerely seek to address this issue, you could also provide secular material to go alongside the Bibles already available.

As the result of a public funding campaign, I’ve recently purchased more than 300 copies of Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings, a critique on biblical literalism with an admittedly provocative title. The book cites chapter and verse throughout and examines the world of Christianity while attempting to refute many of its key principles. Because of the generous donations of hundreds of secular activists and fellow non-believers in the area, I am able to offer you free copies to accompany the Bibles, if you so choose.

Regardless of your action or inaction on this matter, I hope to hear your thoughts on this important and controversial issue.

Yours in reason,
David G. McAfee

Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings

Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings

If You Love Jesus, You Are Religious

If You Love Jesus, You Are Religious

By David G. McAfee

It’s perfectly understandable, in my opinion, to find good things in the teachings of Jesus Christ or any other figure, mythical or otherwise. But to base your life on the teachings of Jesus as they are portrayed in the Bible and claim that you are not religious is disingenuous.

“It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship!”

Without the religion, without the archaic and flawed holy texts, there wouldn’t be anything for you to manufacture a “relationship” with. Without the wars and forced conversions key to the religion’s spread across the globe, it may have died out long ago like so many others have. If that were the case, you wouldn’t know the characters of Jesus or God or Muhammad or any of the tales and myths associated with a particular faith. Religions concern themselves with preserving and worshiping these myths as realities, without regard to substantial evidence to the contrary.

If not from ancient religious texts, where does one glean knowledge of Jesus’ teachings? Can’t one simply be a good person without doing it in Jesus’ name or because he would have done the same? The fact is that without cultural indoctrination, all of us would be atheists or, more specifically, while many may dream up their own Gods as did our ancestors, they would certainly not be “Christian” or “Jewish” or “Muslim” or any other established religion. That’s because, without the texts and churches and familial instruction, there are no independent evidences that any specific religion is true. Outside of the Bible, how would one hear of Jesus? The same goes for every established religion.[1]

More importantly, what are Jesus’ unique teachings that are so crucial as to be valued above those of all others? I often challenge Christians to give an example of any of Jesus’ alleged ideas that were new to humanity, never used by anyone who lived before, without a definitive and novel answer. For many Christians, Jesus is worshiped in such a way that his followers actually change his teachings, sometimes to an extent that his original (biblically-attributed) claims are forgotten or marginalized. It is for this reason that, if a person needs a life advisor, I usually recommend a living person with fluid ideas over archaic and stagnant scriptures for guidance.

What other baggage does Jesus have?

Jesus claimed to be God incarnate  (John 10:30). It is taught in the Bible that “Jesus” and “Yahweh” are the same omnipotent Creator, that the former was simply the latter’s physical form while on earth. This was no doubt a way for Christians to justify the blatant worship and idolization of Jesus, in light of the Old Testament God’s warnings not to worship “other gods” – an idea that is common in the Hebrew Scriptures and is highlighted in the first four of the Ten Commandments, which leave out such atrocities as rape and slavery.

This means that, according to Christian doctrine, and according to the vast majority of modern Christian denominations, Jesus IS God. Jesus is the same jealous and angry God that abhorred homosexuals and condemned them as “an abomination.” He is the same deity that gave instructions on how to beat slaves and the same divine Creator that suggested the stoning of non-believers and disobedient children. You have to accept the good along with the bad… after all, he came not to abolish the Hebrew laws, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The jealous and angry God that justified the killings of millions and set plagues on first borns is the same God that Christians believe came to earth in Jesus. Whether Christians choose to obey early Old Testament laws or not, the deity hasn’t changed.

“But that’s the Old Testament!”

What we consider “moral” has changed greatly since the days of the Old Testament. The outdated moral laws present in the Hebrew Scriptures demonstrate Bronze Age ideals – and it’s understandable that modern Christians distance themselves from that era as much as possible. But to discount the entirety of the Old Testament is to discount the religion’s history and the actions of God “Himself.”

So, before you claim to hate religion and love Jesus, take a look at what Jesus claimed and understand that the Christian religion was built upon those teachings.

David G. McAfee is a journalist and author of Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also a frequent contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with dual-degrees in English and Religious Studies, with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.

"I hate religion, but love Jesus!"

“I hate religion, but love Jesus!”


[1] Quote from Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide To Coming Out as a Non-Believer.

David G. McAfee Interviews A Member of Westboro Baptist Church

David G. McAfee Interviews A Member of Westboro Baptist Church

Religious people claim that it’s just the fundamentalists of each religion that cause problems. But there’s got to be something wrong with the religion itself if those who strictly adhere to its most fundamental principles are violent bigots and sexists.

Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based fringe religious group headed by Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps Sr., has become synonymous with extreme Christian fundamentalism especially as it relates to the group’s attitude toward homosexuals. WBC purports to represent primitive Baptist and Calvinist principles, and its members travel the United States picketing funerals of soldiers, well-known members of the LGBTQ community, and anything else likely to gain media attention. They have held more than 50,000 pickets in more than 915 cities, according to their website.[1]

WBC often preaches against the “God loves us all!” mentality that some cultural or liberal Christians have adopted, instead choosing to highlight the many times in the Bible in which God expressed his “divine hate.” Here are just a few of the church’s frequently cited biblical passages[2] about the hatred of God:

*Leviticus 20:23 – “And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.”

*Deuteronomy 32:19 – “And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.”

*Psalm 5:5 – “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.”

*Romans 9:13 – “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

On Jan. 12, 2014, members of WBC made stops throughout Los Angeles picketing various “Whorehouses,” “Dog Kennels,” and “Child Rapists” also known as liberal protestant and Catholic churches before making it to the Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, where they protested those who will “try and preach Paul Walker into heaven.” During the WBC’s exhibition, I met up with lifetime member Isaac Hockenbarger to ask a few questions about cults, faith, and science.

David G. McAfee: Would you consider the Westboro Baptist Church a cult in any way?

Isaac Hockenbarger: I don’t care what you want to call us. If we’re a cult, well then our charismatic empathic leader is Christ.

McAfee: So, you don’t have a problem with the technical term “cult”?

Hockenbarger: I don’t care what you call us because, quite frankly, what Christ said was “If you love me, the world is going to hate you.” How awful a thing is it to call someone a cult? It’s pretty bad. The world hates us.

McAfee: I for one don’t hate Westboro Baptist or any other church. And there’s a factual definition that determines whether or not it’s a cult, but I argue that any major religion is just a larger version of that.

Hockenbarger: The brainwash of God loves everyone is sad. It’s spelled out so many times in so many different ways across the Bible.

McAfee: Do you think that your sect of Christianity is more biblically literate than the majority of other denominations?

Hockenbarger: I don’t think you can call yourself a Christian without being biblically literate, and it’s an everyday thing. It’s constant learning. The most fundamental law of logic is that if there is but a single counter-example to your theory, you are wrong. As it is written, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” We can’t just change definitions of words because we don’t like them. Hated means hated, but we aren’t talking about human hate. We are talking about a fixed determination to punish those who don’t follow his commandments.

McAfee: I agree that the Judeo-Christian god is portrayed in most of the Bible as hating homosexuals, or whatever your version of hating is, but you’re working under the presupposition that Christianity is true and that all that exists. You’re really just working with ancient texts like everybody else.

Hockenbarger: We could work under the presupposition of atheism being true, and what then?

McAfee: Since there’s no evidence to support the existence of any deities or supernatural entities of any kind, not believing should be the default position.

Hockenbarger: We can all think that we’re the smartest people in the world and ‘Stephen Hawking it up’ and what would it gain us?

McAfee: Intelligence, intellect, and education. By pursuing scientific advancement we can understand how the world how it actually it is.

Hockenbarger: If you’re right, so what. If I’m right, you’re screwed. That’s the simplistic version.

McAfee: That’s called Pascal’s Wager, and it’s long been debunked. But the typical wager there would be that you lost nothing. You guys have kind of lost your whole lives, following this really extreme sect.

Hockenbarger: What would you have gained?

McAfee: Living an evidence-based life is great. You don’t just listen to whatever your family tells you, or your culture or anything. You just look at facts.

Hockenbarger: You keep acting like you don’t want to offend me by saying cult, but you tell me I listen to my family. No, I don’t.

McAfee: Just like any Christian, you were born into a family and you listen to them. It’s still indoctrination if it’s a small cult or a big religion. You teach your children something and you don’t allow anything else other than that.

Hockenbarger: That’s a lie. We live absolutely normal lives.

McAfee: Are you encouraged to question your actual faith and interact with people who have left the church?

Hockenbarger: Absolutely, people leave all the time. Most of my family doesn’t belong to the church anymore.

McAfee: And you have nothing against them for that?

Hockenbarger: No, absolutely not. But I’m not buddy-buddy with them.

McAfee: Why not? They’re still your family. Have you been taught not to be “buddy-buddy” with them?

Hockenbarger: Because it’s simple. They went their way, I’m going my way. It’s in the Scriptures.

McAfee: But what if you look at the Scripture from another religion? Why is your religion’s Scripture the “right” one?

Hockenbarger: It’s what you choose to believe, just like you can choose to believe in the Big Bang, or whatever.

Click for video.

Click for video.

A Christmas Gift for William Lane Craig – Five Reasons Your Specific God Probably Doesn’t Exist

A Christmas Gift for William Lane Craig – Five Reasons Your Specific God Probably Doesn’t Exist

By David G. McAfee

On Friday, Christian apologist and philosophical theologian William Lane Craig published “A Christmas gift for atheists – five reasons why God exists,” in which he insists that most atheists “have no good reasons for their disbelief.” He then lists five numbered statements he says are meant to answer atheists’ “repeated slogan” that “There’s no good evidence for God’s existence!”

But Craig’s time-tested “defenses of Christian theism” fail for a number of reasons. His statements do not represent “evidence” for the existence of a God – and certainly not for his particular deity. Instead, his age-old “proofs” consist mostly of long-debunked arguments from ignorance and appeals to philosophical assumptions.

In October, Craig gave some advice to a Christian who read Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings and was subsequently finding it “hard to believe in God.” Craig’s response was to tell the confused person to, “Quit reading the infidel material.” So, in honor of Craig’s own efforts to limit the availability of secular material to Christians, I thought it would be appropriate to republish Craig’s best defenses of the Christian God in their entirety and make them (and my responses) available to everyone. Since I don’t generally speak in absolutes, I’ve called my response, “A Christmas Gift for William Lane Craig – Five Reasons Your Specific God Probably Doesn’t Exist.”

1.  God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe.  Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

Craig makes a number of assumptions in this point, the first of which is that philosophical arguments constitute real evidence. When asked for evidence, for instance, that a particular person committed a particular crime, would a prosecutor merely assert that, philosophically speaking, the crime must have been committed? Craig then uses these vague “philosophical arguments” to misrepresent all atheists’ various positions by asserting that they believe the universe “merely popped into being,” while ignoring the logical conclusion that his deity would have had to do the same. In essence, he makes the centuries old mistake of claiming that the universe is too complex to exist without a Creator. But what is by definition more complex than the universe? A being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfect. He somehow doesn’t see the need for a designer there, though.

2.  God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life.  That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range.  There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature’s laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.

Craig’s (and others’) assertion that the universe is “fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life” simply plays on the very basic and well-understood illusion of apparent design. It ignores that the fact that earth is our only data point for life, and that even here the environment could easily be less harmful, less wasteful, and much more conducive to life. It also ignores the fact that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes with different physical constants. In the end, this argument is best-refuted by Douglas Adams, who says, “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”

3.  God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

Saying we get our morality from religion is like saying we get our trees from houses, because it’s completely backward. Religion gets its morality from humanity, not the other way around. We have morals because our ancestors realized the importance of cooperation. Without it they wouldn’t have survived on a long-term timeline. But cultures throughout history fused their religious origin mythologies with their local laws in order to ensure adherence. These various religions’ holy codes are nearly impossible to change, which is why it’s often the religious groups that hold back scientific progress and civil rights progress. The so-called holy books provide moral codes that necessarily become antiquated and irrelevant after a period of time, which is why the stagnant morals of any holy book will always work to inhibit our own moral evolution. Today, in modern times, we have a system in which people are employed by the government to investigate, arrest, prosecute, and detain offenders based on the violation of laws that are as fluid as our ideas and can be amended as such. So, when Craig asserts that the Christian God best explains morality, I’d be forced to ask why, if God gave 10 fundamental rules that outline how human beings can live happy and moral lives, rape and slavery are mentioned in none of them and the first four are about preserving God’s name?

4.  God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact.  Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave:  God raised Jesus from the dead.

Occam’s razor states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Aside from the fact that Craig has attempted to misrepresent the understandings of “most historical scholars,” his problem lies within assuming that the most likely result of an empty tomb is a being miraculously resurrected from death through a mysterious connection with its father/self. More likely scenarios include a stolen body, a mismarked grave, a planned removal, faulty reports, edited scriptures, etc. No magic required.

5.  God can be personally known and experienced.  The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.

“Down through history [Muslims] have found through [Muhammad] a personal acquaintance with [Allah] that has transformed their lives.” Your personal religious experience can and should be disputed in the same way you might dispute the alleged personal experience of a Bigfoot believer or someone who claims to have been abducted by aliens. Your strong feelings, anecdotal accounts, emotional reactions, and scripture are not evidence of the supernatural. Believers often forget that most atheists used to be religious, that many non-believers used to think they had a personal relationship with their God and they used to “feel” the power of prayer. They’ve since learned that it was all a farce, that their feelings were internal emotions and not some external force.

The Vatican Christmas tree is lit up after a ceremony in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 14, 2012. (REUTERS)

The Vatican Christmas tree is lit up after a ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican December 14, 2012. (REUTERS)