I just ran across this collection of Bill Maher stand-up routines on religion. I agree with most of his observations–cleverly presented. I found myself wondering what would go through the mind of a committed conservative Christian viewing this–I assume he or she would have an response to every particular jab, but I’m wondering whether any of this would get through and cause some need to rethink things, especially after a full hour of this. I know a least a couple Christians who write off Maher by simply stating he is “snarky” or “arrogant.” That cheap ad hominem serves to kick the can down the road, and avoids the need to consider his arguments which, though they are dressed up in comedy, are serious challenges for Christians to rethink their religion from the ground up.
Then again, people don’t adopt a religion through intellectual evaluation. They don’t shop for religions like they shop for cars, critically and skeptically examining the claims. It’s not surprising, then, that they don’t re-examine religion based on intellectual grounds. Further, blunt attacks on religion of the type the Maher is delivering will cause believers to circle the wagons and dig in. It is not Maher’s sole purpose to de-convert–he’s working primarily as a comedian. But he is clearly provoking people to reexamine their supernatural (and often oxymoronic) claims. As I viewed these clips, I wondered how Maher would adapt his presentation if his sole purpose were not to work as a comedian at all, but to cause Christians to reconsider the believes they have been repeating ever since they were taught these things as babies by their parents.
I should add that I don’t consider religion to always be a bad thing. As I see it, religion serves as a tool for social collaboration, tapping into subconscious tribal instincts. Good-hearted people use religion to collaborate to do impressive social good. Cold-hearted people use religion to collaborate with people like themselves to spread their social dysfunction. I see religion as a tool for social coordination, good or bad, and it’s never actually about the core beliefs–public declarations regarding these core beliefs (e.g., dead people waking up) simply mark social territory–they serve as radar to tell members of congregation who is loyal to the group. I’ve written extensively about this elsewhere.
I do enjoy the observations of Michael Morris. He smells a big of hypocrisy in a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court. The case is Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway. Here are a few of Michael’s comments:
My strong suspicion is that Jesus has no immediate plans of coming back to Earth, otherwise he couldn’t have picked a better time to appear as a surprise witness at the Supreme Court reminding the “Christians” that Christian public prayer is an oxymoron, the very definition of “UN-Christian.”
When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. —Matthew 6:5
But wait, Jesus isn’t done yet:
But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward. —Matthew 6:6
Pretty clearly the Son of God and King of Kings says only pray in “your private room” where you’re not “seen by men.”
But if Jesus says you can’t pray at your city council meeting, where else could you possibly pray? This time Jesus leads by example:
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. —Luke 5:16
In every gospel, Jesus heads off to the desert or the mountain to pray. That’s fine for him, but he never quite imagined his followers would eventually number in the billions. It really is impractical to start your governmental meeting with a quick trip to the desert.
This man and I do have some differences of opinion, it seems. It wouldn’t bother me much except that he is the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
“Speaking at the Pastor for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures” who created us.
“They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship,” he continued. “Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.””
This Tumblr website has launched a Birther movement regarding Jesus. It’s actually a challenge.
Please provide ONE single person, along with their authentic writing, that can prove the simple living-human, historical existence of the claimed, christian New Testament jesus the christ of Nazareth, that meets both (A & B) of our 2 simple requirements listed below:
A.) A contemporary 1st century person that lived between the years of 1-36 CE, who was a first-hand eye-witness, who actually saw, met, spoke to, and knew jesus personally.
B.) Provide this person’s original and authentic: secular, non-christian, non-religious, unbiased, non-bible, non-gospel, and non-scripture writing, that is directly about jesus (with references/citations to prove that this person actually wrote the work in question), officially dated by science, between the years of 1-53 CE. Additional religious or christian writings that can’t be used: papyri, uncials, minuscules, lectionaries, didache, apocrypha, gnostic, catechism, and pseudepigrapha.
In case some folks are tempted to reach for some of the classic “proofs,” the site offers this scorecard:
The site also offers links to many other sites that challenge the existence (not merely the divinity) of Jesus, including:
Bible Scholar: Robert M Price – Extrabiblical evidence for Jesus ► 8:44
Debunking the Fraudulent christian Apologist List of Extra-biblical but non-contemporary, claimed “sources” used as jesus “evidence.” (Jewish, “Pagan,” Non-christian, “Secular”)
The jesus Birther Movement (jBM) Research Database Directory
Research Articles, Evidence and Videos that Prove a Historical jesus, NEVER Existed
66 Famous Historians and Writers From The 1st and 2nd Century, Who Never Mentioned Fictional jesus – The Screaming Silence of Real History
Freedom From Religion Foundation has made a straightforward Challenge for those who consider themselves Christians:
My challenge is simply this: tell me what happened on Easter. I am not asking for proof. My straightforward request is merely that Christians tell me exactly what happened on the day that their most important doctrine was born.
Believers should eagerly take up this challenge, since without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. Paul wrote, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.” (I Corinthians 15:14-15)
The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul’s tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.
The trick is that the Bible is riddled with contradictions on this alleged story. Many of those contradictions are outlined in the article. Here are a few:
Who were the women?
Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1)
Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome (16:1)
Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (24:10)
John: Mary Magdalene (20:1)
What was their purpose?
Matthew: to see the tomb (28:1)
Mark: had already seen the tomb (15:47), brought spices (16:1)
Luke: had already seen the tomb (23:55), brought spices (24:1)
John: the body had already been spiced before they arrived (19:39,40)
Was the tomb open when they arrived?
Matthew: No (28:2)
Mark: Yes (16:4)
Luke: Yes (24:2)
John: Yes (20:1)
Who was at the tomb when they arrived?
Matthew: One angel (28:2-7)
Mark: One young man (16:5)
Luke: Two men (24:4)
John: Two angels (20:12)
– See more at: http://ffrf.org/news/blog/item/20393-leave-no-stone-unturned-an-easter-challenge-for-christians#sthash.sy6ke72V.dpuf
According to Alain De Botton, Atheists should steal the best parts about religion and ignore the rest. If religions are, indeed, cultural products, things made by humans, then there is nothing wrong about atheists selecting the good things offered by each of religion and leaving the rest. “Pick and mix” without guilt as we do with any other creations of culture. “We naturally rifle through the buffet of cultures.” We can create our own cultural “playlist” and this can include some things offered by religions. At the 7 min mark, De Botton mentions that he likes the perspective of education that it is more than an attempt to feed the capitalist machine, but we also value it insofar that it makes us “better persons.” Check out the 10 minute mark, where he criticizes the common view that education can be narrowly construed because it is ASSUMED that we all know how to navigate the ethical dilemmas of life–he criticizes the view that proper university academics don’t soil themselves with the notion of how to live a good life. Religions take a very different view — that we are all broken creatures barely holding it together and we need constant help and guidance. Consider the notion of original sin, that we are all fragile and broken. DeBotton doesn’t agree with most of the advice religion offers regarding this fragility, but he agrees that we are all largely in the dark, struggling with what we should be doing with our lives, and it is important to recognize the human condition as such.
At 14:30, he touches on weakness of will, the fact that we are so often unwilling or unable to conform our behavior to what we know we should be doing. Religions recognize this as part of the human condition, and offer suggestions for strengthening the will. Secular approaches scoff at the repetition of moral lessons encouraged by religions, assuming that once you “learn” something there is no need to revisit it. But, as he points out, we are incredibly forgetful beings, and we need repetition. “Our minds are like sieves.” We totally forget the inspiring books and movies we read and see. Many of our ideas are “theoretical possibilities that get left along the wayside.”
Religions reinforce their central ideas through repetitive rituals. An example is the springtime ritual of Judaism, Zen Buddhism offer calmness in the form of an annual appointment whereby one is looks and celebrates the moon to put life in perspective.
Another mechanism for reinforcing is the repetitive oratory of religion, which often drives in the message deeply with an emotionally engaged audience, especially compared to the “dry oratory” of academia. (min 21).
I’m only at the 25 min mark, but I’m very much enjoying this presentation. De Botton offers many clearly expressed ideas delivered with humor and conviction.
Neil deGrasse Tyson begins this by mentioning that he noticed a “Atheism” book section at Borders.
I agree with NDT on the issues he discusses. There’s no need for cultural wars over religion. Perhaps some people are biologically wired to make them prone to religious beliefs. He is against scientific ignorance rather than against religion. Einstein’s view on “God” is restated toward the end.