Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sarah Salviander’s Reasons for Converting to Christianity: A Response


Jim Hutchison
1,918 words

Introduction
An email came across my computer earlier today from something called the “Atheist Republic”, an on-line web based community of atheists who support and educate like-minded people.  The headline read “Christian Astrophysicist Has 5 Reasons She’s No Longer an Atheist”. This undoubtedly caught my attention, as the usual pattern is the opposite - that as we become more educated, particularly in the sciences, the less likely we are to believe in anything that has no evidence or backing by the scientific method.

Admittedly,  my bias in this area had me pre-judging her reasons and motives for such a paradigm shift, but being a truth seeker with an open mind, I was very curious to find out how and why she “flipped” from one end of the spectrum to the other. My pursuit of truth and meaning keeps me on my toes, as my beliefs are from a constant evaluation of the latest and most accurate facts and evidence. Facts and evidence divorced from any emotional need to feel comforted by any kind of non-truth.  I’d rather believe in the right things for the right reasons and be miserable, than the wrong things for the wrong reasons just for the sake of feeling all cozy and comfy.  There’s nothing more sacred than the truth.

The email was actually a link to a video blog with two participants from Atheist Republic who discussed her five reasons for turning from atheism to Christianity.  Their treatment didn’t go deep enough for me, so I delved into her writings, testimonies, and various articles on her web sites (references below), and have come away with what I think is a good understanding of her reasons and motivations.  I’ll touch on each one, and add my own comments. Her reasons are:

1 – Genesis is consistent with science
2 – The legal-historical case for Jesus is strong
3 – Christianity is the source of things I cherish
4 – Christianity is the best explanation for evil
5 – Christianity gives me meaning and hope

There’s two groupings in these reasons: her facts as she describes them, and personal reasons.

Her Facts
Statements 1 & 2 are claims of fact.  Let’s deal with the fist one, as this is the most contentious between scientists and creationists.  Firstly, it is important for the claimant to define their position; i.e.: are they claiming the bible to be literal, or allegorical? It’s a very important distinction, in that the allegory stance could conceivably be shoe-horned into a natural explanation of the origins of the universe, earth, and humans, although the order of events in the bible still contradict modern science’s knowledge of our origins thanks to generations of geological, botanical, anthropological, and cosmological study.  But it suits many people who have a prejudiced belief in the god of the bible.

The second option is belief in a literal 6 day creation, which is a huge problem for the most fundamental and simple laws of science and physics.  Reconciling a literal take of the first two books of the bible with modern science requires such denial of facts that it requires them to be thrown away and dismissed as man-made foolishness; the result of man worshipping his own intellect and holding it above god’s authority.  (Their words, not mine.)  It is patently obvious that to believe this, one must possess such strong prejudice and favouritism towards belief in the god of the bible, that all else is nothing in comparison. It’s called confirmation bias, and anyone possessing it will dismiss and explain away (usually quite poorly) any and all evidence to the contrary.  The most silly one I’ve ever heard is “Well, it’s a mystery. Who can know the mind of god?”

Ms. Salviander’s interpretation of the bible is to take it literally.

“How can someone with such education have strong favouritism for something so easily disproven?” you may ask.  The answer is actually in items 3 to 5, but I’ll get to that after I address point 2.

“The legal-historical case for Jesus is strong”.  No need to spill a lot of ink (...pixels?) on this one, as the historical basis for Jesus’ existence is muddied with enough doubt thanks to the geo-politics of second and third century Christianity that even biblical scholars don’t agree on.  There are well articulated arguments on both sides - that Christ was a real character, and his followers started a massive following with enough inertia that Constantine had to declare Christianity the official religion in the 3rd century.  The flip side of this story (again, argued well by scholars) explains his existence as a contrivance of religious clerics for the purpose of controlling the masses through fear of hell.

There is a palpable lack of any history of Jesus’ life, especially considering the apparent impact he had on his contemporaries.  No Roman writings, or otherwise. The only “proof” of his existence outside of the bible are the writings of a historian named Josephus, who wasn’t born until after Jesus death. His references to Jesus are strongly suspected to be identifiable additions after his death.  More fodder for the theory of Jesus’  life being non-factual.

So with substantial evidence on both sides of the debate, the claim of item #2 isn’t so iron-clad.

Items 3 to 5: Personal and Emotional
These next points clearly indicate the absence of scientific critical thinking; they are founded purely on the emotional need to feel coddled and safe.

Christianity is the source of things I cherish.”   Someone please explain to me how the foundation of this statement in any way justifies converting to Christianity other than a need for emotional security and comfort.  Put another way, it seems her psychological requirements trump fact, evidence, and truth.  She says so herself in not so many words.

Christianity is the best explanation for evil.  People can be so sickened by man’s inhumanity to man that they disassociate the action from the person, and blame an external entity for such behaviour.  He’s called “the Devil”, and if I were him and god really existed, I’d be complaining about all this unwarranted accusation.  I jest of course, but people are quite capable of evil all on their own.  It’s easy to see as an outsider that when we and/or those we love experience incredible harm, there’s a need for an explanation; a focal point for our anger and sense of injustice.  But, shit happens, and sometimes so randomly, that finding an explanation is futile.  That irks us, so we invent “evil” as its own force and entity.

All that said, there’s an interesting verse in the old testament that was quoted in the Atheist Republic’s v-blog:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Isaiah 45:7, KJV.

Christians seems to miss this one... if blame for evil is to be placed anywhere, it’s on the god they say created everything from scratch.  So technically, Ms. Salviander is correct in that her belief indeed explains evil.  Perhaps not the way she thought, but I can’t put words in her mouth.

Christianity gives me meaning and hope.  Nice for her, but again, these are emotional - albeit legitimate - needs we all have and share as humans.  Logically though, she is putting the cart before the horse by believing in something for its selfish benefit, rather than basing a belief on its merits alone.  It’s just like Fox Mulder’s poster on his office wall in the TV series “The X-Files”.  It’s an illustration of an out-of-focus UFO, with the words “I Want To Believe”.  This is blatant confirmation bias, where evidence is filtered for the sole purpose of supporting a predisposed and foregone conclusion.  The absolute opposite of the laws of logic and science.  Discovery of facts and evidence are meant to formulate and support a postulate with eventual confirmation of a theory - which then becomes established as scientific fact.  Like I said, item #5 is just the opposite.

Ms. Salviander’s Testimony
In her own words, Ms. Salviader’s eventual conversion is hallmarked by feelings and emotions, often precipitated by loss and pain.  You know where I’m going with this... Like any and all such conversions, they stem from the experience of needing meaning, explanations for things science can’t articulate, and the comfort of finally relinquishing the fate of your own life into the hands of god.  It’s a huge relief (ask me how I know), and the resulting sense of “finally coming home” is nothing more than adult thumb-sucking.

Three quotes from her web site:

(Following her daughter’s death:)
“I finally had a clear vision of our little girl in the loving arms of her heavenly Father, and it was then that I had peace. I reflected that, after all these trials in one year, my husband and I were not only closer to each other, but also felt closer to God. My faith was real.”

“I walking across that beautiful La Jolla campus. I stopped in my tracks when it hit me—I believed in God! I was so happy; it was like a weight had been lifted from my heart. I realized that most of the pain I’d experienced in my life was of my own making, but that God had used it to make me wiser and more compassionate. It was a great relief to discover that there was a reason for suffering, and that it was because God was loving and just. God could not be perfectly just unless I—just like everyone else—was made to suffer for the bad things I’d done.”

“[But] the only way we are free is if the universe and everything in it was created, not by some unconscious mechanism, but by a personal being—the God of the Bible. The only way our lives are unique, purposeful, and eternal is if a loving God created us.”

Please visit her web site to see that none of these quotes are taken out of context, and you may gain a better understanding and explanation of her beliefs.  Most of it is based on a couple concepts.  1) The big bang is proof that Genesis is correct, in that the universe had a beginning, therefore it had to be created (quite a stretch, I know), and... 2) The first days of creation are accurately described as such because it was GOD watching the clock, not us... the expanding universe bent time enough to equate billions of years to 6 days.

All interesting theory if you’re trying to shoe-horn facts into a bias that is rife with preconceived ideas, concepts, and conclusions.

Conclusion
So yes, my initial take on her 5 reasons proved true after careful examination.  Scientists of her ilk (and I’ve known some personally) use Aristotelian logic, but with unfounded assertions and highly theoretical associations between "facts".  One example being how the stretching of time due to universal expansion explains the literal 6 day creation story.  Additionally, what’s not explained is the messed up order of creation; that the earth existed before stars were created.  I didn’t find an explanation for that one, though I’m sure the creationists find some way...

So, the current world view I adhere to has been undergirded by yet another poor attempt at using the bible to explain everything by a mindset firmly grounded in god-belief.  Justification for this belief is so full of logical fallacies, that someone seeking truth outside themselves, free of bias and need for comfort, can only conclude that Christianity (well, all three Abrahamic religions really), base their foundation on centuries old fables, fiction, and regurgitated legends written by (perhaps) well-meaning authors trying to understand the age old archetypical search for meaning and purpose.


~~~~~~~~~~

Quotes and research from:

  • https://jamesbishopblog.com/2015/05/23/former-atheist-astrophysicist-sarah-salviander-explains-her-journey-to-christianity/
  • https://sarahsalviander.com/
  • https://sixdayscience.com/
  • http://evangelicalfocus.com/science/881/Sarah_Salviander_The_journey_of_an_atheist_astrophysicist_who_became_a_Christian


Monday, January 8, 2018

Of Cottages and Paradise

Sometime about 1970 or so, I overheard my parents talking about buying our humble little cottage in Beachgrove, Quebec. Dad said to the real estate agent something like "Ah, what the hell, life is a gamble!" So their goal for the next few years was to pay off this little two bedroom summer home on the Ottawa River. Not just for them, but for their kids. Us. I found out later in life that it was the reason mom went back to work after raising nine young'ins.
Didn't realize it till now, but what mom and dad modelled to me was that it was worth taking risks for a dream, as humble as that dream was. See, every year we'd rent a cottage for the summer. Dad would spend his 2 weeks holidays lazing about, swimming, drinking beer and wine, fishing, trying like hell to teach me how to operate an outboard motor. But then he'd commute for the rest of the summer so we could stay till the end of August. Tons of good memories growing up on beaches and in the woods as children. Mom and Dad wanted to finally have a summer place to call their own...
Beachgrove was heaven to me. The trunk of Dad's car was a literal Tetris game of cramming in the weekend's supply of food, supplies, and other things, but Dad wasn't all that good at it... or, at least wasn't fast enough for my liking, so I became the official "Trunk Packer". I couldn't wait to get out of town, so this scrawny adolescent would have the car ready in under an hour. I think Dad was proud of me.
Before and after our long summer stay, we'd go for weekends - we did what we had to to get there before Friday nightfall, and sulk when we had to pack up to go home on Sunday. Life on the Ottawa River in our rustic little cottage was paradise.
I'm still not sure I can operate an outboard motor, but I can pack up a vehicle like nobody's business.
Some irony: I used to despise having to come home from high school right after class (and miss extra band practice, etc.) to babysit the younger ones till mom got home from work. At the time, I didn’t put two and two together, but I see it now. Mom was working to help pay off this piece of heaven we all loved so much.
Thanks mom.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Let's expose all the creeps.

With all the accusations of late about sexual harrasment by people in positions of power and authority, I'm surprised at the lack of stories coming from churches and bible colleges.  From first hand experience, I've known directly of the following stories.  Not all stories are about abuse, but the hypocrisy is astounding.  Read on...

- A pastor fucking a 17 year parishoner.  He had an addiction to porn, which the church board knew about, but kept to themselves.  The church was called "Capital View Community Church"; they owned an office building in Bells Corners, Ottawa. Circa 1989.  After the shit hit the proverbial fan, the pastor packed up and moved his family back to his home town somewhere in the states.

- A janitor fucking his daughter who then squealed on him... got sent to prison for a month.  Location: Breircrest Bible College, Caronport Saskatchewan, circa 1991.

- Another janitor stealing student's leather jackets and selling them to Moose Jaw pawn shops.  Location: Breircrest Bible College, Caronport Saskatchewan, circa 1991.

- The CFO of Briercrest Bible College fucks his secretary, and leaves his wife and kids to marry her.  First name Cliff; can't remember his last name.  Circa 1992.

- The husband of the secretary mentioned above fucks HIS admin assistant, and they also marry. A foursome made in heaven!

- A computer systems admin (Ben) framed a part time helper (my ex wife) with computer fraud, which I disproved.

- A bible college instructor (first name Peter, same time frame as above) admits to me his addiction to porn, and his sexual attraction to his young  daughters.

- While I attended a church in Calgary, I moved in with my girlfriend (now my wife), and was asked by the music director to stop playing guitar on Sundays because I was a bad role model.  We actually got married in that church, and a few weeks later, it's revealed that all this time she was having an affair behind her husband's back.  This was at the Free Methodist church, circa 1995.



Lovely, eh?



Sunday, April 30, 2017

Liberals VS Conservatives... Stop the Madness Please!

I'm amazed at the number of people I know that fall for the false dichotomy of partisan politics. While Rome burns, we all lose as we argue over such stupidity.

Conservatives want jobs at any cost by supporting coal, oil, and big business.  But - we have to adapt or die. Important example: the Saudis are slowly shifting away from fossil fuels and are now investing in solar technology, simply because the old-school resources have reached a tipping point of economic unsustainability...  Solar farms now produce power cheaper than oil, natural gas, or coal.

First time you heard this?  Stop using Fox News and Breitbart as your source for information.  Harper totally devastated the environmental policies of Canada for the sake of short-term support of the businesses that benefit from the changes he made (...and lobbied him to do so).  Think Trump and the EPA.  Extremely short-sighted, and irresponsible.

On the flip side, the Liberals have failed on a number of promises that were integral to their election platform. Pardon me while I choke: get these numbers... as of the date of this post, Justin has been in office for 544 days, and has achieved 44 of 224 promises, overtly broken 30, and hasn't started the rest. Sounds like a typical politician to me, saying what he needed to get in power. His spending practices reflect his father's approach to deficit budgeting, and has even carved out a far bigger piece of the pie than he promised.  Again, an irresponsible attitude towards the future generations that have to clean up this mess.

So, you're a Harper fan? Or a Trudeau fan?  You're a conservative die-hard that refers to the "other" party as libtards?  Or you're a hippy liberal supporter that likes Trudeau's selfies? Then you're naive and willingly ignorant of the shit they cram(med) down our throats.  So please stop this Conservative versus Liberal immature rhetoric, and join hands with those who want a sustainable future for us and our children and grandchildren, whether it's in the form of responsible budgeting, or the environment. Complain. Write letters. Be vocal. Make a stand.

If you're interested in knowing who really runs this world, look no further than the multinational banks and corporations that supply everything we own and consume.  They are the REAL puppet masters.  This web page is well worth the visit if you have the stomach:



--jim

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Critical Thinking is at Risk...

The discipline of critical thinking is taking a shit kicking these days.  Just look at the latest in American politics and the religious right’s support of it.  Those who willingly lack this discipline stay at the mercy of the manipulators, controllers, and fear mongers because to them, their arguments make sense. Religion and belief in god is at the root of so much garbage. Pls read on.

(For the sake of brevity in these few paragraphs, I’ll use the word “bible” to also mean the koran and talmud... they all come from the same root Abrahamic writings.)

By the basic rules of truth, logic and philosophy, the god of the bible cannot exist. The mass of contradictions in each of the Abrahamic “holy” writings is too overwhelming for the serious inquirer to take seriously, unless they are picking and choosing what they want to believe. 

See, there’s this little problem of evidence of god’s existence.  When challenged with this point, many immediately reply “Prove to me he DOESN’T exist.”  Oh please... it’s like me asking you to prove the easter bunny doesn’t exist.  Can’t do it, can you?  It’s a fundamental law of logic: you can’t prove a negative. Therefore, when all is said and done, when someone claims that god exists, I can as easily dismiss that claim due to the lack of evidence. 

The burden of proof is on the person making any claim without evidence; it isn’t up to the other person to prove they’re  wrong.

An inherent and significant fallacy of any faith and religious belief is as follows: say I settled on a particular interpretation of the bible (there are thousands by necessity...)  stating mine was the right one...  have I not placed myself in a position of unquestionable authority over the bible, god, and everyone else? Yes I have.  Simple logic, because I have claimed that my “take” is right one.  I’ll agree with others that agree with me, and reject all others with differing views.  Instant logical fallacy.

Sorry, we can’t wiggle out of this one by saying there’s “your” truth, and “my” truth because THAT my friends is broken, faulty, childish logic.  Terms must be defined: there can be many interpretations,  but there can only be the ultimate undeniable, provable, untenable final truth.  Like the law of gravity.  No arguments there!

The last protest to this logic is always “It’s a mystery. We cannot know or understand the mind of god.”  Well, isn’t that convenient?  Believers use this as their last argument; their last resort to demolish any kind of challenge to their beliefs.  They pull the rug out from under us by saying they have no need to provide proof because of the nature of god... that he can make and brake rules as he sees fit.  Funny how they are experts in total non-logic, contradictory facts, and claim to be best friends with the author of this universe that has no rules. They get to make up them up as things progress.  THAT is the purest definition of total non-accountability, and is the reason why religious faith is dangerous...


Please THINK critically.  It’s becoming a rarity these days.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Is Islam a Peaceful Religion?

Let's once and for all settle this idea that Islam is a peaceful religion.  The media calls Jihadists "terrorist extremists", intimating they take their religion too seriously and too far.  The majority of Muslims are peaceful, and are called "moderates"; i.e. they don't take their religion too seriously because they believe in peace and harmony.  Good on them.

But saying Islam is peaceful is a blatant fallacy. Those "extremists" are ONLY following what their Quran tells them to do; the moderates are simply not following all of the teachings of Mohammed. The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule.  Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding.  Muslims who do not join the fight are called 'hypocrites' and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.  Tell me what you think after reading these translations from their holy book:

Quran (5:33) - "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement"

Quran (8:12) - "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them"

And finally:

Quran (47:3-4) - "Those who disbelieve follow falsehood, while those who believe follow the truth from their Lord... So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah's Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives)... If it had been Allah's Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you). But (He lets you fight), in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost."


I could go on, but I think you get the point.  The Quran is very articulate and specific about how unbelievers and hypocrites are to be treated. These verses are not metaphors, or constrained by historical events. They are literal instructions that are to be obeyed, or else be called a hypocrite.

So, no, Islam is NOT a peaceful religion. To say so is uninformed and naive, and to call anyone "Islamaphobic" (a term recently used by the politically correct) is bullshit for the above stated reasons; I say call a spade a spade.

Last point: if anyone thinks this article is generating bias against Muslims, you haven't fully understood what I have written.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Just today, 12 people in France were slain by Islamic terrorists.  The world is tiring of the bloodshed in the name of Allah...






Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Jesus and Sugar Pills: They have more in common than you think.

In the last couple of days, there's been some very overt Christian content in a couple of reality shows that I enjoy.  In one case, the person was in a physically demanding situation that required him to gather up enough courage to jump from one cliff edge to another. His safety was assured by the climbing ropes his guide had provided for him, but this was his first experience at such a physical and mental challenge. So he paused to pray and speak in tongues, describing it as his direct line to God. Earlier in the show, he described how as a professional sportsman his life of status, power, and sex had become shallow and unfulfilling, so he turned his life over to God.  Following that, he became fulfilled and happier.



The second person on a different show, though not faced with an immediate physical threat, spoke of a need to give his life back to God, because whenever he did this, his life would straighten out and things went better for him.  Later in the show, he rededicates his life back to Jesus, and was baptized.

What both of these people have in common, and what attracts people to, and holds them in, this life of faith in God is a sense of emptying oneself and letting God take over.  This need to have a crutch and let someone much bigger and powerful than you take control is the lure of this mindset. Watching these TV shows put me in mind of my own journey into, and out of such a belief; a belief that required total dependence on something larger and greater than myself.

The question that burdens me mostly is this: what would have convinced these people in their time of need that the strength they sought was already available to them? Courage comes from within, but somehow having a dependence on something outside ourselves seems more attractive.  Having lived this life myself in the past, I can best describe it is a lack of gumption; "intestinal fortitude".  It's easier to throw the responsibility onto someone (something?) else when you feel at the end of your rope. We feel the need to reach out in crisis, so God becomes a convenient resource, particularly if you're convinced he is omnipotent, and happens to be the creator of the universe. The religious message is to just give up and let God take the reigns.



Another factor that explains the "letting go and letting God" phenomenon is the pervasiveness of the message, thanks to evangelists and mass media.  The success stories of celebrities, ex-cons, ex-drugies, etc. who gave their life to God in a church meeting, or in a cell, or a hospital bed have been turned into movies and books, forever enshrining - and legitimizing - the born again experience.  It helps us feed on our need to believe in something bigger than ourselves.  I frankly refer to it as adult thumb-sucking.

So back to my question: what do we have as a society that can replace such unfounded beliefs and behaviours?  The truth is, we have nothing as potent and as powerful as religion, and this is thanks to the placebo effect.  The believer is truly convinced that their treatment will work, and it in fact does. Even sham surgeries used in scientifically controlled studies have resulted in healing heart disease. So it is with any closely-held belief system in which the outcome of healing, strength, and comfort is most desired.

I'm convinced that we're at a place in our evolution as a species where the perceived challenges to our survival are strong enough that they elicit a powerful attraction to superstitious beliefs in unseen forces, no different than how our ancestors worshipped various gods, sacrificing to them for the purpose of better weather, crops, health... in essence, prosperity and protection.  Until our fears and stress are addressed and rooted out with logic, evidence, and common sense, our dependence on superstitions will continue. As will the trappings of old-school religion that plague our society and hold us back from real advancement and progress.


Till next time,

Jim