Metro State Atheists

Promoting Science, Reason, and Secular Values

Food for Freethought 2010

What is “Food for Freethought”?

Food for Freethought, inspired by the Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression, is a food drive that also encourages freethought, freedom of expression, and free inquiry.  We plan to accomplish this by giving “Banned” and Freethought books away in exchange for non-perishable food donations that will be going to Food Bank of the Rockies, during “Banned Books Week”, September 27 – October 2 (specific dates below).  Our goal is to raise an enormous amount of food for those in need.  Most food drives are done during the holidays and tons of food is raised and distributed.  That is all well and good, but what about the majority of the time that it isn’t the holiday season?  The hungry don’t stop being hungry after the holidays, they are hungry now too!  Given the existing goals of Metro State Atheists, it is only natural that we would attempt to help the hungry by promoting freethought, freedom of expression, and free inquiry.  With the proper support,  we can  have an immeasurable positive community impact!

The event will be taking place at the Auraria Campus (1201 5th St, Denver, CO 80204).   September 28-30th, 9am-4pm (Times Subject to Change)

Metro State Atheists will have SIGNED COPIES available at Food For Freethought 2010 by the following authors:

Hemant MehtaDaniel Dennett , James RandiMichael ShermerDan Barker, and…RICHARD DAWKINS!. If you’d like to obtain any of these signed copies, donate food!

Largest donors receive signed books!

Metro State Atheists would like to formally thank the above and the following groups  for their support:

The James Randi Educational Foundation

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science

The Center for Inquiry

Secular Student Alliance

Skeptic Magazine

Freedom From Religion Foundation

How can I help?

AMAZON.COM Wishlist

Click here and check out the Food for Freethought 2009 wishlist.  From there you can buy the books directly and they will be sent to us!

A special thanks to Tanya J. Higgins of Boulder, CO for setting this up.

Donate Books:

If you have any of the books on the banned book list (http://banned-books.com/bblist.html) and would like to donate it to the cause, please email Joel Guttormson at metroatheists@hotmail.com to set up pick up/delievery of your donation.


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July 28, 2009 Posted by | Art, Astrology, Astronomy, atheism, Awards, Bacteriology, Bible, biology, Blurb, Books, Calculus, Censorship, Center For Inquiry, Charity, Chemistry, Christianity, Chromatography, creationism, Differential Equations, Epistemology, Events, evolution, First Century, god, Group Theory, Guest Bloggers, Humor, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Language, Lecture, Mathematics, Medicine, Metro State Atheists, Microbiology, Morality, Movies, New Testament, News, Newsletter, Noah Mann-Engel, Old Testament, Organic Chemistry, Party, philosophy, Pictures, Poetry, Politics, Poll, Press Release, Pseudomedicine, Pseudoscience, Qoutes, religion, Resume, Rome, Sam Singleton, Sarah Schoonmaker, Satire, science, Scientology, Sirius, Skepticism, splendid elles, The Holy Bible, The Reed Secular Alliance, The Trickster, Troy Conrad, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Lack of Christian’s Sense of Humor

Below is a conversation I had with several people (who’s names have been concealed for privacy) on Facebook.  Watch and see why it is almost impossible to joke with committed Christians.  I didn’t edit this convo too much, besides concealing the names,  only those comments that weren’t invloved in talking to me have been removed, other than that…it’s all there.  Enjoy

Evangelical Friend (EF)- I got my license (FB Status)

Joel Guttormson

Just one more driver-less car come the Rapture…oh wait…we don’t have to worry about something that isn’t going to happen…whew…I was scared there for a second

Friend of EF #1

You put a lot of effort into things that aren’t true.

Joel Guttormson

Prove me wrong Stephen.

Friend of EF #1

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

Joel Guttormson

Stephen. The bible isn’t proof. You’re using circular reasoning. Please try again.

Friend of EF

Pearls before swine, love. Pearls before swine.

Joel Guttormson

That doesn’t make sense. If you’re calling me a pig, that is quite the intelligent, thoughtful, Christian thing to do…ad hominim.

Friend of EF #2

LOL! It’s an expression. Google it or something. 😉 Goodnight!

Joel Guttormson

Or…don’t be 7 years old.

Friend of EF #2

Oh ho ho… Ad hominim, much? Joel….

Joel Guttormson

To stick with the animal metaphors: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. But I really was talking about your conduct rather than you, so it really doesn’t qualify as ad hominim, please look up the definition of words before you use them.

Friend of EF #3

Joel, if you don’t like Christians, why do you like to start arguments with them?

Joel Guttormson

I didn’t start an argument. I said something clever, you guys got pissed. Grow a sense of humor, please.

Joel Guttormson

And for the record, I do like Christians.

Friend of EF #3

That does suck how quickly arguments get started on here…And sounds fair enough to me Joel.

Joel Guttormson

Thank you, Chris. I like you for this very reason.

Friend of EF #3

And I do have to apologize, you didn’t start an argument, one just kind of…appeared…The only reason people got upset was because you were mocking our beliefs, same as you would feel if we mocked yours about something =/

Joel Guttormson

I see and I understand. But in all seriousness I was only kidding around, as I usually am. Beliefs that are held to sacred make people crazy, stuffy and not fun to be around.

Friend of EF #4 (The Angry, Irrational One)

joel you’re seriously retarded. grow up. stop starting ridiculous arguments on something that has nothing to do with Christians at all. she got her license.. leave her alone.

good job EF! congrats! 🙂 do you have a car?

Joel Guttormson

Sara, please see Chris’ comments and my responses to them. Get over yourself and get a sense of humor. I also appreciate the very Christian, thoughtful and intelligent ad hominim attack, great stuff. It’s original to call someone “retarded”. If your beliefs aren’t strong enough to stand up to a little ribbing now and again, get some new beliefs.

Friend of EF #4 (The Angry, Irrational One)

haha. you are a retard. thats why i called you that. you have no idea what you are talking about. leave danae alone. my beliefs are never threatened by your silly little jabs filled with words you find in a thesaurus. grow up. leave young girls you don’t know alone. i will NEVER understand why danae still has you as a friend.. or puts up with the drama you start. DANAE: you can’t help anyone who doesn’t want to be helped. delete him.

Joel Guttormson

Quite judgmental for a Christian. Funny how you don’t know me at all and yet can claim all these things. I don’t use a thesaurus for my vocabulary, thank you, but I digress. For someone like you who resorts to childish ad hominim to tell me to grow up is the beginning of a good joke. Ya know, you could understand if you asked her…but since you’re a Christian I guess you’ve been discouraged from asking questions your whole life, just a guess though. I have more knowledge about your silly religion, called Chrsitianity, in my pinky, that you do in your whole body. Have a good night and be safe.

Friend of EF #4 (The Angry, Irrational One)

Christians are judgmental. they should be. there’s even a book called “Judges” in the Bible. next time do your research before claiming to know so much. And for someone so anti-judgement, you are pretty quick to say since i am a Christian, i have been discouraged to ask questions about life. man, you really are dumber than i thought…

Friend of EF # 5

Way to go! That is awesome! And I am saying that to both EF and Friend of EF #4 (The Angry, Irrational One)

June 3, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Bible, Censorship, Center For Inquiry, Christianity, Epistemology, First Century, god, Humor, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Metro State Atheists, News, Old Testament, philosophy, Politics, religion, Rome, science, The Holy Bible | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Joel on MetRadio June 8, 2009

President of  Metro State Atheists, Joel Guttormson, will be on the MetRadio show, “Take Issue”, on June 8, 2009 from 2pm-3pm .  Joel will be on for 45 mins, the first 15 mins are for news.  You may listen to the show on the Auraria Campus on 91.7; best reception is in the Tivoli.  Metro State Atheists is a Center for Inquiry affiliate.  MetRadio is the radio station of Metropolitan State College of Denver.

If you are not on the Auraria Campus you must listen to the show online.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW: (You will need Real Player, get it here)

IN YOUR BROWSER

ON YOUR COMP W/ REAL PLAYER

-SUBSCRIBE TO THE METRADIO PODCAST HERE

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Astrology, atheism, Bible, Blurb, Books, Censorship, Center For Inquiry, Chemistry, Christianity, creationism, Epistemology, Events, evolution, First Century, god, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Language, Lecture, Metro State Atheists, Morality, New Testament, News, Newsletter, Old Testament, philosophy, Politics, Press Release, religion, Scientology, Skepticism, The Holy Bible, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pro-Choice+Pro Life=Common Goal?

Abortion is one of the most controversial issues of our time.  Like most controversies, there exist two main sides that seem diametrically opposed to each other.  However, I believe that in this conflict there is a way for both sides to work together towards a common goal that will benefit both human life and society for the long term.  Before continuing it is important to clarify where each side stands.  Those on the “pro-life” side assert that abortion is morally wrong.  This is usually, but not always, based on the assertion that God (usually the Christian god) has a purpose for all human beings and that the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception.  If one holds these assertions as truth it isn’t difficult to feel some sympathy to for their position.  For those who stand on the side of being “pro-choice”, abortion is seen as primarily a medical procedure.  Further, most “pro-choicers” would say that it should be a last resort only after all other options and factors such as personal socioeconomic situation and health have been carefully considered.  This is because abortion, by its very nature, is intrusive, can lead to irreparable damage to the reproductive abilities of the woman and can have severe emotional side-effects (similar to those of women who have miscarried, ie. natural abortion).  Therefore, they see abortion as a choice but one that should be used sparingly.

One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong. Most of the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” individuals I have known through the years would generally agree with this summary of their general views on the subject. However, there are extremists on both sides. Carl Sagan[i] said of them, “doubtful arguments are trotted out as certitudes”. Thus, it would appear that there is little possibility of reconciliation between the sides. One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong.  How then could they be convinced to work together?  To what common goal could they possibly work towards? To begin, I point out that both sides can agree that abortion is at minimum, undesirable.  With this minor agreement as a foundation let us consider other procedures past and present that have either been eradicated from medical practice or are presently being phased out due to current medical therapies/treatments/advances.

For simplicity, let us consider another undesirable medical practice that is less controversial, at least ethically; amputation.  Surgical amputations “date back at least to the time of Hippocrates (c.460-375 B.C.), amputating limbs to save lives did not become widespread until the sixteenth century.”(Source)  Obviously, amputations “were performed mainly to remove tissue that was already dead. The reason for this limitation is that early surgical techniques could not control the blood loss.” (Source)  Advances were made in surgical practices to prevent this hemorrhaging such as tying off the arteries. (Source)  Amputation is an extreme medical practice which, over time given medical advances, decreases in use relative to the population.  In a 1998 article in the journal “Diabetes Care”, Andrew D. Morris, MD et.al.[1] found that “rates in the U.S. Amputation rates appear to have decreased significantly since 1980–1982.”(Source)  The reason given for the decrease was education about diabetes and advances in care.  Another study found that “[t]he frequency of major amputations in the country in 1986-87 of 40.9 per 100,000 per year declined by 25% to 30.9 per 100,000 per year in 1989-90.”(Source), stating further that “vascular surgery reduces the number of major lower limb amputations.”(Source)  Given these and many other examples, it is clear that medical advances both in practice and education are responsible for a great deal of the reduction in the use of such an invasive, life-altering, and extreme medical procedure.

How does this relate to abortion?  Not only is abortion undesirable, it is also invasive, life-altering and extreme.  Thus, just as with the case of amputation; where instead of targeting the practice itself the causes were targeted, we should strive to eliminate the causes of abortions as much as possible.  Abortion is obviously necessary in certain cases such as fallopian-tube babies, that if left to go to term, would kill the mother.  Furthermore, just as education about diabetes helped in the reduction of amputations, so too can better sex education and the elimination of “abstinence-only” education reduce the need for abortions among ignorant or accident-prone young people. The following quote from Carl Sagani drives this point home: “Shouldn’t opponents of abortion be handing out contraceptives and teaching school children how to use them? That would be an effective way to reduce the number of abortions.”  Though it is true that you can’t prevent or solve all amputations, so too will we not be able to end all abortions. That is where technology and research is vital.  However, we can, if we work together instead of fighting about who believes what, we can end most abortions by using sound judgment and trusted preventative practices to treat the causes rather than the treatment.

At this point I anticipate some resistance from those extreme pro-lifers who view contraception as evil and won’t have anything to do with it citing that it is God’s will that we end abortion.  This argument seems fraught with logical problems.  1) If God chooses when we are born and when we die, then why couldn’t abortion be a tool of God? 2) If it’s God’s will that abortions end then shouldn’t he be offering a solution to us without us asking? 3) If it’s God’s will that we end abortion, could it be that his will includes research as described above and through His divine grace provide us an answer via data collected in such studies?  In any case, it would seem to be in the best interest of even the most hardcore pro-lifer to work together with pro-choicers and to utilize sound and moral science to reduce the number of abortions. Instead of killing abortion doctors why not try putting them out of business in a more constructive and less violent way, and donate to an organization or research project that is attacking one of the many causes of abortions.  That will accomplish far more than squabbling amongst each other about who’s right and who’s wrong.  The truth is, neither group is right by themselves, they are only right together.

In summary, my hope is that I’ve made it clear to pro-choicers that pro-lifers are not all a bunch of scripture-spouting nut-bars that are out to turn the country into a theocracy.  Also, pro-lifers are truly concerned about human life, just as much as any pro-choicer. The problem lies in the question of when “human” life begins. This question is not as clear-cut as both sides would like it to be, therefore the concerns of the pro-lifers about ending human life is a painful decision that is not completely baseless from a scientific point of view.  Also, I’ve hope I’ve made it clear to pro-lifers that not all pro-choicers are malicious baby killers that care only for the reproductive rights of women and care nothing of potential human beings.  There isn’t a single person that is truly for abortion, but one way to rid ourselves of it as much as possible is embracing science and giving medical research a chance to find the cure for the causes of abortion in an effort to greatly reduce the practice.­


[1] ANDREW D. MORRIS, MD; RITCHIE MCALPINE, BSC; DOUGLAS STEINKE, BSC; DOUGLAS I.R. BOYLE, BSC; ABDUL-RAHIM EBRAHIM; NAVEEN VASUDEV; COLIN P.U. STEWART, MD; ROLAND T. JUNG, MD; GRAHAM P. LEESE, MD; THOMAS M. MACDONALD, MD ; RAY W. NEWTON, FRCP.


[i] In an article that first appeared in Parade magazine on April 22, 1990 entitled “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers”, quoted here from his book Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death the Brink of the Millennium (1997). The article appears as Chapter 15 entitled “Abortion: Is it Possible to be both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?

April 23, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Bible, biology, Christianity, creationism, Epistemology, evolution, First Century, god, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Metro State Atheists, Morality, New Testament, Old Testament, Pseudomedicine, Pseudoscience, religion, science, The Holy Bible, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Creation Museum to Open Natural Selection Exhibit

 

This is straight from Answers in Genesis

 

Where Darwin Got It Right

While creationist organizations like Answers in Genesis strongly disagree with Charles Darwin’s ideas about all of life evolving from a single organism (macro-evolution), his theory of natural selection actually meets with more widespread acceptance as it relates to how species adapt and change over time—but, as we observe in nature, only within their own kind. Such changes, however, and as we point out frequently on this website, are not evolution in the “molecules-to-man” sense. The Creation Museum here in our Cincinnati area (in northern Kentucky) will open a new exhibit this Sunday, March 15, to help explain what natural selection can and cannot do, and how this is supported biblically and scientifically. “Evolutionists use natural selection as evidence for evolution, believing that given enough time (millions of years), natural selection could account for the larger changes required for molecules-to-man evolution,” museum founder and president Ken Ham explains. “Our new exhibit will clear up the differences between natural selection and what would be required for evolution to occur in the molecules-to-man sense—for example, reptiles to birds—as one kind of animal turns into a totally different kind.” The exhibit, entitled “Natural Selection is Not Evolution,” includes an aquarium that resembles a real cave. This cave aquarium will feature live blind cavefish, showing how natural selection allows organisms to possess characteristics most favorable for a given environment—but again, it is not an example of evolution in the molecules-to-man sense. There is also a series of wall displays with professionally produced models that examine, among other things, antibiotic-resistant bacteria (which are commonly cited as an example of “evolution in action”). Instead, the Creation Museum exhibit will point out how antibiotic resistance in bacteria points away from macro-evolution, rather than toward it. The new display also contrasts evolution’s “tree of life,” showing that all organisms have descended from one single-celled creature, with the “Creation Orchard,” which illustrates the family tree of each original kind of created plant or animal life of Genesis chapter 1. A display entitled “Three Blind Mice” will show the devastating effects of mutation and how natural selection works to preserve animal kinds. A dog skull display will demonstrate how natural and artificial selection has led to variation within the dog kind. The exhibit will also include a mounted display of Darwin’s finches based on Darwin’s own studies and observations from the Galápagos Islands. The new exhibit is located near the museum’s popular presentation regarding the geologic evidence for a global Flood. Its proximity to the Flood geology room in the museum was deliberate, as this exhibit also lays the groundwork to understand how Noah could fit representatives of all the animal kinds (not species) on the Ark. “I think one of the reasons evolutionists give creationists such a hard time is that they don’t think we believe in good science, which we absolutely do. In fact, we have several full-time staff with earned doctorates. I’ve read and heard many news reports and columns stating that creationists don’t believe in natural selection, and that is simply not true,” Ham said. “Our new exhibit will help to explain these valid theories and show that we agree with the proven science of these processes. Most people don’t realize that speciation is not evolution—it has nothing to do with changing one kind of animal (e.g., fish) into a totally different kind of animal (e.g., amphibian).” Ham continued: “Our area of disagreement with the evolutionists comes when they start using bad science to state that natural selection could eventually lead from one plant or animal kind changing into another, finally making the leap to humanity.” Not only is this in direct contradiction with the Bible, which states that God created all the various kinds of plant and animal life, including humans, but it also has no scientific validity. “Many Christians are surprised when they learn that valid observational science confirms the biblical accounts of creation and Noah’s Flood,” Ham added. “Our mission at Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum is to spread that message

in order to uphold all of Scripture and therefore reach non-believers with the gospel, which is based in this history in Genesis.” The exhibit opens as the secular science world has been celebrating Darwin’s 200th birthday this year, plus the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book On the Origin of Species. Go to http://www.CreationMuseum.org for more information on the exhibit, and then plan to visit this new, fascinating addition to our Bible-affirming center.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Bible, Christianity, creationism, evolution, god, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Metro State Atheists, New Testament, News, Old Testament, religion, science | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

“The Jesus Fraud” Blog Series-Con Argument #1 (Flavius Josephus)

The writings of Falvius Josephus have been touted by Christians and some non-Christians alike as being indisputable evidence that the Jesus of the New Testament, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, was a historical figure that actually existed.  The evidence for this view has be stated in a previous blog.  In this blog, I will critically examine this claim and show that not only is it not sufficient evidence to show that Jesus of Nazareth really existed but the evidence for the claim has been cherry picked and greatly flawed and thus isn’t all evidence for the existence of the historical, real Jesus of Nazareth.  The sentence that is cited as evidence is “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James” (Source:http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/text/josephus/ant20.html#EndNote_ANT_20.24b).  I was astonished by this, until I found the sentence in the paragraph in question.  In order to make an objective test, let us examine the paragraph in full, not it part, as the proponents have done.

“1. AND now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, (23) who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. (24) Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.”(Source: The Antiquities of the Jews, CH20, Paragraph 9:1)

One should take notice of something quite striking; the bolded text above doesn’t say “Jesus of Nazareth”.  It says “Jesus, the son of Damneus”.  Strictly deriving from context, there is nothing inconsistent in asserting that the James mentioned in the line in question, which is italicized and underlined in the text above, is the bother of the Jesus mentioned in the bolded line.  Context dictates this since they are not separated explicitly (ie Josephus didn’t say that Jesus, the son of Damneus is not the same as Jesus brother of James who they called Christ).  Also, there exists no break in the story such that anyone could assert they are different people in the context.  It is quite common for writers to be general about the mention of a name, in this case of Jesus in the italicized and underlined line, and then when the story begins to center around that aforementioned character, to be far more specific about the character, as in the bolded line.  Furthermore, Christ is Greek  means nothing more than “the anointed one”.  Literally, this means that one would be blessed with or covered in [holy] oil. (Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_anointing_oil, Greek meaning of Christ)  It wouldn’t be out of the question, as far I know, that a “high priest” such as “Jesus, the son Damneus” was, would be called a Christ, an anointed one.  So from this line of reasoning, we have a different Jesus than the one of bible who is contemporary of Josephus who not only could very well had a brother named James.

However, this could also be where the Gospel writers got their Jesus of Nazareth who had a brother named James.  This proposition isn’t all all out of the realm of possibility in the slightest, for several reasons.

  • Around the time Josephus was writing, it has been well established that there was rampant Jewish Messiahism among some groups of Jews in modern-day Israel.
  • Although the earliest possible date for the first Gospel, of what would become the New Testament, is 70ad; the earliest, physical, dated Gospel of Mark dates, approximately, to around the year 90ad.  This would give ample time to the author of the Gospel of Mark to construct his Jesus character based on the high priest, Jesus, the son of Damneus.  The author of Mark obviously would have embellished the story, which is also not out of the question.  Further, as the above point indicates certain groups were actually looking for the Messiah and thus had a bias towards those who appeared to have the features of the Messiah.
  • The name of Jesus was quite common in the first century, and even before.  This can be demonstrated by the fact that there exists an apocryphal Old Testament book called “Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach” which is considered part of the “Deuterocanon”. (Source: Early Jewish Writings)  Although this writing isn’t in the canonized bible, Jewish or Christian, it does show that the name Jesus wasn’t a particularly unique name in the biblical scheme of things.

However, let us take an aside and begin by assuming that this passage does refer to Jesus Christ.  What does this mean exactly?  Suspending what has previously been said in this work and simply starting with the assumption that the passage does, in fact, specifically refer to Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition, we can better understand the positive implications promoted by believers, namely, that this passage is definitive evidence Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition was a real historical figure.  The problem with this idea is that it is not “definitive” evidence.  Such a claim is vast overstatement.  This is due to the fact that one cannot assert the following isn’t a real possibility: Josephus may very well have been writing about a healer, seer and “moral teacher” being talked about and believed in at the time her wrote the passage above.  Problem is we have the first Gospel, Mark, being written about the same time, nearly 40 years after the supposed death of Jesus Christ, in the year 70ad (as said before this is earliest date scholars can agree upon based solely on context and the fact they are disregarding the notion that Mark was writing prophecy; how could he since he was writing history?  Furthermore, how reliable is a 40 year old, unverified story about a traveling preacher, of which there were many for a good part of the first century. (Source: Michael Shermer, from his appearance on Penn & Teller: Bullshit)).  If this is the case, then, like the first paragraph of the first book of the Antiquities of the Jews (discussed later in this paragraph in more detail), Josephus could simply be writing the story down as if it really happened when he had no way of knowing whether or not it really did or not.  This doesn’t say much for Josephus’ credibility which, as far as I know, has gone unchallenged.  Although it is true that Josephus was a fairly accurate and reliable historian, it should be pointed out that in the first paragraph of the first book of the Antiquities of the Jews that Josephus copies, nearly verbatim, the first chapter of the book of Genesis of the Torah (and/or Old Testament).  This is no surprising given that Josephus was a devote Jew.  However, the Genesis is not in anyway history.  At best it’s mythology.  It should be further pointed out that if the passage in question is authentic and speaking about Jesus Christ of Nazareth as spoken about in the New Testament, it is the only one from the First Century.  All other “historical” references to the figure, known as Jesus Christ, come to us much later, the earliest of these being the beginning of the second century, coming only with more Gospels which were mostly copies of the Gospel of Mark, with minor changes and embellishments.

Further, if the both the passage of Josephus is authentic and the Gospel tradition are to be reliable (which they are most certainly not, given the historical inaccuracies in them, which will discussed more detail in the next blog)  then, Jesus (according to the aforementioned tradition) would have caused quite a stir in then Roman province of Judea; claiming to be or having it claimed of him that he was the King of the Jews (direct challenge of Roman authority which wasn’t tolerated), claiming to be or having it claimed of him to be the Son of (the Living) God (same issue as the last), and causing a social disturbance in the Temple (which the Romans watched closely as to be able to quell any uprising or rebellion of any kind, no matter how small).  Also, Josephus leaves a majority of the story out, suggesting that it wasn’t a large or important movement of the day, given that, as mentioned before, there were many such “messiahs” walking the Earth in the first century.  However, assuming it was a big deal and Jesus was a real threat to Roman authority, there were a great many Roman historians who had a opportunity to write about him (and the fact that the Romans prevailed by killing him).  The Roman historians had every reason to write about him, insofar as they were able to defeat him and his “movement”, which it should mentioned constituted of, at minimum, 12 other men, 11 excluding Judas later in the story, and about 2 women, Mary his mother and Mary Magdalene.  So, this “world-changing-messianic” movement, had at most a total 14 people (not including Jesus himself).  This wouldn’t have been  much of a threat and one Roman historians would have been very inclined to record since the Governor of Judea, a member of the overall Roman governance system, was successful in stopping him and his “movement”.  Yet, to date, not a single document, produced by these many Roman historians of the day, has been provided to me or anyone else in the study of this issue, that mentions Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition.

Thus, from the evidence and analysis given above, it is not likely that Josephus was writing about Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition.  Also, even if it was truly authentic, it is not clear that it wasn’t written in a contrived way (just hearsay, as what he wrote in book 1, paragraph 1) or that it is terribly important given he is the ONLY source, outside of the Gospel stories, to “prove” Jesus Christ existed.  The bar I have set for the evidence that would definitively prove  the existence of Jesus is no higher than it is to prove that other ancient figures existed.  For example, for Alexander the Great, we have many  records of him that are not Greek or Egyptian in origin, which lends a great deal of credibility to the claim that Alexander the Great existed; this is of course aside from the monuments that bore his name and the military victories he oversaw and orchestrated.  Further, if this one reference by Josephus is not speaking of Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition, then the one solitary piece of evidence outside the Gospels that he existed is no longer valid and it further unlikely that the Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition never existed at all.

Joel Guttormson

President

Metro State Atheists

Sources are listed inline with the material or linked inline.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Bible, Center For Inquiry, Christianity, creationism, First Century, god, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, New Testament, News, Old Testament, philosophy, Politics, Pseudoscience, religion, Rome, science, The Holy Bible | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Joel’s Commentary on appearance on Bob Enyart Live 1/7/09

Introduction

As many of you know, I was a guest on the KGOV program, Bob Enyart Live.  Bob is the pastor at Denver Bible Church and host of the show bearing his name.  If you missed the show you can listen to it here.  Since the show is only half an hour, there were things I didn’t get to explain or talk about in the detail I would have liked.  Further, since Bob is the host, he is obviously going to control the speaking time and thus I was left with less than he had, further added to the lack of time I had to explain and expand on my points.  However, this is not way a swipe at Bob or the way he conducts the show, it’s the way it is with any radio show regardless of topic.  The topics I wanted to address are: the discussion towards the end relating to my statement that design and beauty are subjective, that “Bob and Joel agreed that Christians do not assert that God came into existence with the writing of the Bible. Thus inconsistencies, even if they were shown to exist in Scripture, would not disprove God’s existence.”(Source: http://www.kgov.com), and that “being a person has more to do with the non-physical realm of ideas, logic, relationships, and reason, than it does with chemistry and physics.” (Source: http://www.kgov.com).  I was going to tackle the Einstein quotation, but a comment left on a previous blog addresses the topic/point well enough that I don’t not feel that further elaboration is necessary.

1. Beauty and Design are subjective

“The eye may be useful, and apparently well adapted for vision, however it could also serve as a moderately good tetherball for some appropriately sized people or sophisticated mice.”

As previously stated, this discussion occurred toward the end of the show and left neither I nor Bob the sufficient amount of time necessary to address each other’s point to the extent they deserved.  In an effort to state this correctly I will quote directly, both myself and Bob.  Bob begins by claiming “there is a universe of extraordinary beauty and sophistication and obvious design”.  To which I responded “…everything you just said, design and beauty, those are subjective claims”, to which Bob said “design is not subjective”.  Here is where the discussion prematurely ended due to time constraints.  Thus, this is where I’d like to begin my expansion of my claims and a refutation of Bob’s.

Bob and I agreed that beauty is subjective but disagreed with me about my assertion that design is.  When it comes to object of human manufacture, this is true.  However, to reverse the ‘watchmaker’ example, suppose one does in fact come upon a watch.  One who is ignorant of clocks and watches and possibly the idea of time itself may derive a alternative idea of what the device, that we call a watch, is designed for.  This may be stretching a bit, given we must assume the person finding the watch is more or less an idiot.  Therefore, let us examine my claim only using examples to drive the point home.  When I say design is subjective, I obviously do not mean it literally.  What I mean when I say that is observations of some structure or object cannot lead one to infer design automatically or because something “looks complicated”, which is what Bob and most creationists mean when they say something is designed.  Further, if design isn’t subjective then creationists should stop using the term as in the following sentence: “the eye looks designed”.  The word “looks” has a contextual sense of subjectivity; its a word that, used in this context, implies that the viewer/speaker is offering his/her opinion of the observation, not stating a fact of any kind.  However, one need not include the work “looks” in the statement;  such is the case with Bob’s statement “there is a universe of extraordinary beauty and sophistication and obvious design”.  He means design in the way I described above.  This is, in fact, a subjective use of the word design.  Bob used the eye example, like most creationists do.  He says that the eye is designed for vision.  That’s a subjective claim, because evolution wasn’t trying for an eye that has vision, per say.  Vision is an incidental by product of the arrangement of the different “parts” of the eye working together.  I will now attempt to drive home my point using my own example.  Let us suppose we have an ordinary hammer.  There are those that would say that a hammer is “designed” to drive nails into wood, or some other equally pliable material.  Now, suppose further that we happen to find this same hammer used as an axle for a toy truck.  Now, although the hammer works as an axle for the toy truck, it wasn’t designed for this purpose; or was it?  The fact that it works as the axle for the toy truck might be used as evidence that the hammer was, in fact, designed for this purpose.  However, this assumption is baseless and is flawed because it is fraught with the bias of seeing it work this way in this particular, specialized instance.  To bring this back to the famous eye example brought up by Bob; the eye may be useful, and apparently well adapted for vision, however it could also serve as a moderately good tether ball for some appropriately sized people or sophisticated mice.  So, to wrap up my point.  The appearance of design can be and is, most of the time, quite deceiving.  This is precisely because the human brain is wired such that it seeks out patterns and logically systems in things that may not have them at all, such as clouds.  Therefore, it will also seek out a “reason” for something being the way it is; its design.

2. Biblical/Scriptural inconsistencies do not disprove God’s existence

“God is then, at best, reduced to a highly intelligent extraterrestrial capable of creating life on a planet and futilely attempting to affect that life by writing a book.”

This, on the surface, appears to be true.  In fact, on some level it is.  This is useful for getting out of the circular logic of “God wrote the bible, the bible asserts that God exists, therefore God exists”; for if God didn’t write the bible, then what it says about God’s existence is irrelevant to some degree  and since it’s the not the foundation of the argument for his existence, one has broken free of the circle.  However, Bob asserts that the bible is “the infallible word of the living God”.  Starting with this premise, the following are also true (written in order of implication): God exists, God is perfect and thus infallible, God wrote the bible, the bible then is perfect and infallible as a prefect being cannot beget imperfection.  Therefore, any imperfection, however slight, would ,at minimum, call God’s perfection into question.  But, following the implications of this, we see that the following would then be true if any imperfection were discovered in the bible: God exists, God isn’t perfect or infallible, God wrote the bible, the bible isn’t perfect or infallible.  Thus, we’re left with an imperfect, fallible God.  What good is this?  God is then, at best, reduced to a highly intelligent extraterrestrial capable of creating life on a planet and futilely attempting to affect that life by writing a book.  In other words, God would be a super intelligent cosmic mad scientist bent on power, self satisfaction and the cessation of boredom.  Of course, this doesn’t disprove God exists but it sure lends quite a bit of doubt.  In fact, it creates enough doubt to make it more reasonable not to believe in such a deity.  (Notice that this line of reasoning can be applied to all three monotheisms, not just Christianity.)

3. Being a person has more to do with the non-physical realm…than it does with chemistry and physics

“Then with this 60% of soul and spirit, shouldn’t all dogs go to heaven? “

This is hefty claim, even by theological standards.  I’ll start by taking a tally of those things “about us” that are physical, aka comprised of tangible matter and energy.  Our DNA, made of amino acids, which are molecules composed of atoms; our nervous system is made of nerves and energy in the form of electrical impulses which are generated by internal and external stimuli which are themselves are physical; lastly, and most importantly, our brain, composed of tissue, fluid and neurons which are themselves are physical matter. Further, these neurons “communicate” with one another via chemical and electrical signals, which are also physical.  The brain receives information about the world via stimuli provided by the aforementioned nervous system and its various specific subparts (ie eyes, ears).  So far, we’re looking like pretty material beings.  However, Bob asserts that things like memories, personality, consciousness and ideas are non-physical and thus are proof of, at least, a realm beyond the purely material.  I attempted to point out on the show that memories are stored in the brain via the chemical and electrical impulses that the neurons use to communicate with each other.  Personality can be seen in what is commonly referred to the “animal kingdom” (though I don’t care too much for this distinction as it implies that we’re higher than animals when we clearly are animals).  For instance, any individual of our closest evolutionary cousin the chimpanzee exhibits what we recognize as personality.  To “move down” , so to speak, the “animal hierarchy” (again these terms are misleading) to our more distant relatives; dogs are said to have personalities of their own.  Their owners tend to use words and emotional descriptors usually and generally reserved for humans.  Some dogs also have a uncanny memory that we humans have attempted to harness via artificial selection.  So if dogs have memories and personalities, shouldn’t they have, at least 2/3 of soul and spirit, as Bob claims we do because we have these properties.  Then with this 60% of soul and spirit, shouldn’t all dogs go to heaven?  No.  They don’t because they haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior.  Poor dogs.   But I digress. The only property, as far as science can tell thusfar, that we have attained that is different from the rest of the animals that cohabit this planet, is consciousness.  What is consciousness exactly?  Its not easily defined, is it?  Let us examine what it means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Consciousness is “The state or faculty of being conscious, as a condition and concomitant of all thought, feeling, and volition; ‘the recognition by the thinking subject of its own acts or affections’” and “The state of being conscious, regarded as the normal condition of healthy waking life”.  What is conscious, you might ask?  It is “having internal perception or consciousness: a. of a fact. b. of one’s sensations, feelings, thoughts, etc.”  However, as far as science can tell us to this point, this is also a manifestation of the matter and energy of the brain;  similar to memories and personality, described earlier.  This leads to an interesting thought concerning the story of Adam in the bible.  In the traditional bible story, Adam and Eve are walking around naked without a care in the world.  That is until, according to the story Eve eats the apple and all the sudden they become “aware” of themselves.  So one could in a sense posit that Adam and Eve weren’t conscious until this point.  According to Bob consciousness is an important, if not the most important part of what he called the soul and spirit.  So, Adam and Eve weren’t conscious human beings until they ate from the tree of knowledge.  The last of the non-physical things Bob brings up is ideas.  It is true that ideas are nebulous.  However, what can be said is that not all ideas are 100% original.  Ideas stem from combining, sometimes consciously and subconsciously, memories, stimuli, and logic.  Thus, like the other things our brain does ideas are also is a manifestation of physical matter.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped clarify some of my points and my refutations of Bob’s points.  This isn’t in anyway intended to be an attack on Bob Enyart, his show or anyone close to him.  I don’t want this to be misconstrued as me “getting back at him” nor is it saying that I was shortchanged during the show in terms of time.  This was simply an expansion of my views and thoughts on certain topics of the show I didn’t feel got enough explanation or attention.

January 11, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Bible, Center For Inquiry, Christianity, creationism, Events, First Century, god, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Language, Metro State Atheists, Morality, New Testament, Newsletter, Old Testament, philosophy, Politics, religion, Rome, science, The Holy Bible, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Joel Guttormson on Bob Enyart Live 1/7/08

In case you missed the show, you can listen to it online here.

Soon, Chalmer and I (Joel) will have blogs up commenting on different aspects of the show.  Watch this page tomorrow as we’ll be posting links to the blogs in this post, in case you don’t see them on the main page.

Joel’s Commentary

Chalmer’s Commentary

Thank you!

Joel

President

Metro State Atheists

January 8, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Bible, Calculus, Center For Inquiry, Christianity, creationism, Differential Equations, Events, First Century, god, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Lecture, Mathematics, Metro State Atheists, Morality, New Testament, News, Newsletter, Old Testament, philosophy, Politics, Press Release, religion, science, The Holy Bible, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joel Guttormson debates radio show host Bob Enyart (AM 670)

From Theology Online:

“Atheist Billboard spokesman, Joel Guttormson, (“Don’t Believe in God, You’re Not Alone”) will debate Radio talk show host Bob Enyart this Wednesday on Bob’s radio and Internet show (AM 670, Internet www.KGOV.com) .

Both sides have been sent information on the other (Bob’s show with his interview of Dan Barker was sent to Joel, and Joel’s website https://metrostateatheists.wordpress.com/ was sent to Bob).”

The show will at 3pm MT, Wednesday January 7th.

Here is the  link to Bob’s interview with our friend Dan Barker.

Commentary on the show can be viewed by using the links below:

Joel’s Commentary

Chalmer’s Commentary

Metro State Atheists

January 6, 2009 Posted by | Art, Astrology, Astronomy, atheism, Bacteriology, Bible, biology, Blurb, Calculus, Censorship, Center For Inquiry, Chemistry, Christianity, creationism, Differential Equations, Events, First Century, god, Humor, Interview, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Language, Lecture, Mathematics, Medicine, Metro State Atheists, Microbiology, Morality, Movies, New Testament, News, Newsletter, Old Testament, Organic Chemistry, Party, philosophy, Pictures, Poetry, Politics, Poll, Press Release, Pseudomedicine, Pseudoscience, Qoutes, religion, Rome, Satire, science, Scientology, Sirius, splendid elles, The Holy Bible, The Trickster | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Think you know the 10 Commandments? Think again.

One doesn’t have to look far when searching through the Bible’s skeleton closet to find some major inconsistencies, outright absurdity and downright cruelty.  However, even I thought I knew about the 10 Commandments.  Most people know the 10 Commandments to be as follows:

Exodus 20:2-17

ONE: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.

TWO: ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

THREE: ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

FOUR: ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

FIVE: ‘Honor your father and your mother.

SIX: ‘You shall not murder.

SEVEN: ‘You shall not commit adultery.

EIGHT: ‘You shall not steal.

NINE: ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

TEN: ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.‘ (Source: http://www.allabouttruth.org/10-commandments.htm)

Although this list is well-known and considered the “official 10 commandments”,  nothing in the context surrounding this list ever mentions the words “Ten Commandments”.  There is a list in Exodus though that does mention this somewhat official phrase, Ten Commandments.  Although, this list will be a shock to some as it is a list that most people wouldn’t follow (because it has very little to do with morality or the workings of today’s society, some perfect being eh?).  So, without further ado, here is the ONLY list called the Ten Commandments, in the Bible:

Exodus 34: 14-27

1 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

2 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

3 “Do not make cast idols.

4 “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt.

6 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.  “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.

7 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

8 “Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. [b] 23 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel. 24 I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.

9 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Feast remain until morning.

10 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.
“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. (Emphases added) (Source: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus%2034&version=31)

What exactly is the prohibition on cooking a young goat in its mother’s milk doing on what is supposed to be the most profound moral list in all history?  Did god forget the first list? (mentioned above).  There are some similarities but they have far more striking differences; and if this god is supposed to be perfect, this shows he isn’t.  For he can’t even remember a list of ten things he is commanding to his supposed chosen people.  It seems more like it was written by an ancient Joseph Smith; or better put, it was written by insecure, men concerned chiefly with themselves and about no one else.  The rest of the Old Testament is a tribute to the old adage “history is written by the victors”.  But I digress.  Being that the real 10 commandments are laughable at best, I am not at all surprised that the early Jewish theologians claimed the first of these lists (again the first mentioned) to be the “official” 10 Commandments.  So let’s put these in 10 in the courthouses of America and see how seriously people take Judaism and Christianity.

Written by Joel

Metro State Atheists.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, god, Metro State Atheists, Old Testament, religion, The Holy Bible | , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments