This blog intends to provide some balance in the religious debate by providing a counterpoint to Billy Graham's religious advice. On his website http://www.billygraham.org/ he responds to readers' questions by quoting from the bible. I am attempting to respond to those same queries by resorting to reason and rationality.

I must acknowledge a debt here to Jeff Hope who started in this vein but who has unfortunately taken a hiatus. His blog is http://atheistsanswer.wordpress.com/. Jeff has inspired me to continue.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Deteriorating Health

QUESTION: Today's comes from QR...
"My husband retired a couple of years ago, and now all he does is worry about his health. He only has a few minor problems (like anyone his age) but all he can think about is how he might become disabled some day, and things like that. How can I change this? Or should I even try?".

They say that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. It is inevitable that as we age our health deteriorates as our bodies slowly wear out. This is a reality that everyone has to face, as the human body is having to live longer than our ancestors' did. Your husband needs to come to terms with his mortality. It is not a topic that sits easily with our desire for life, but is an unfortunate reality. The human lifespan is tiny in relation to the totality of time and it is hard for us to accept how fleeting our life really is. It is normal to want to live forever, and religions often pander to our insecurity about death, but being philosophical about our demise will make it easier to accept and easier to accept our deteriorating health. Furthermore praying about health has never been proven to make any difference, and worrying about it can actually have a deleterious effect. Staying interested in other people and active in mind and body will help you maximise life's enjoyment.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wrong Question

QUESTION: Today's comes from AN...
"Why does the devil keep trying to win the battle between good and evil, when he must know that at the end of time he's not going to be the victor? God is going to win in the end, isn't He?".

Your question makes a few assumptions, such as the existence of a devil, a god, good, and evil. None of these concepts exist in anyone's life. Life is not a choice between good and evil. How often do you ask yourself "what is the right thing to do in this situation?", and how often do you fail to arrive at a satisfactory answer? You are asking yourself the wrong question. There are many actions open to us at any one time. These actions have different consequences for different people over different time frames, and a lot of those consequences cannot be predicted. Life is not black and white.
There is no point to living your life in the hope that one day a supernatural being will completely remodel the world so that it becomes a fantastical place where all your dreams come true. This would be a waste of your life and of your mind. The concepts of a devil and a god and angels and archangels and spirits and apocalyses and saints are total fantasy.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Awkward Questions

QUESTION: Today's comes from DN...
"A friend of mine claims to be interested in Christianity, but whenever I answer one of his questions, he just comes up with another question. Do you think he's sincere, or am I wasting my time trying to talk to him about Jesus?".

It is perfectly reasonable to ask questions. No discipline should be afraid of having to justify itself, however, Christians become very defensive and doubt your motives if you start asking probing questions. They have been taught that any idea or thought which casts doubt on their faith is the work of the devil and needs to be resisted. They claim the only way to accept that Jesus is really the son of god is through faith. But if a hypothesis can't stand on its own two feet then it is not worthy of our support, especially the unquestioning support that belief systems require.
Don't criticise your friend for asking questions - if your answers were satisfactory then he wouldn't have to keep asking more. Perhaps you should be asking yourself some awkward questions such as: why you need to have your faith reaffirmed every week; why you accept things to be true that you cannot prove; and why the particular god you have chosen is the only one that really exists.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Atheist Blogroll

Today's news is that this blog has been proudly added to the Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist Blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lacking Direction

QUESTION: Today's comes from JN...
"I just got out of college, and I'm in a panic because I don't have any idea what I want to do. Right now, I'm working in a restaurant, but I don't want to do that the rest of my life. I admit I goofed off more than I should have but now it's catching up with me. How can I decide?".

There's always a kid in every class that knows what they want to do for a living from a young age. They invariably go on and make a success out of it. However, don't be perturbed that you have not settled on a direction yet as there are plenty of people like you. At this stage it would be worthwhile to have an in depth analysis about yourself: what are your abilities, interests, and goals? Use a trusted person to help, preferably an older person who has more life experience than you do. What have you studied in college? Does it lead to any vocation that would be suitable? What other training could you do?
In the meantime stay with the restaurant work at least until you decide on your next direction. Any decision you make is not necessarily for life. Plenty of people change careers a few times in their life. Consider travel. Go and work in an exotic far-away place. The pay won't be much but you'll learn a lot and the resultant maturity will stand you in good stead. Keep an open mind and back yourself!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Helping Others

QUESTION: Today's comes from MWR...
"I know I ought to pay more attention to God and be more active in my church, but I'm so busy trying to keep my business going that I have a hard time fitting everything in. Does God understand this, or is He upset because I'm not giving Him as much attention as I should?".

It takes a lot of time and effort to start up a business and to keep it going. Use as much time as you need to make the venture stable and profitable. However, keep in mind that there are other important things in life, such as your friends, family, and health. Try to achieve a healthy balance in life but don't allow the business to stagnate as all of your efforts thus far will be in vain. Beware of worshipping a god who gets upset because you supposedly don't spend enough time on him. Is such a deity worthy of your respect?
As for charity, there are those who have time, those who have aptitude, and those who have money. If your business goes well enough for you to support your dependents and to provide for the future then you should consider giving a generous donation each year to a worthwhile charity. Make sure to give directly to the charity, not to a church, as the latter will use a sizeable proportion on propping up their infrastructure and a lot of your efforts will be wasted. You don't have to spend a lot of your personal time to be a charitable person - it's just as important to support those who do.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Help Yourself

QUESTION: Today's comes from LF...
"I've always tried to do my best and live by the Bible's statement that "God helps those who help themselves" because I want to go to heaven when I die. But recently a friend said she thinks this may not be what the Bible means by this statement. Is she right?".

There's not a human being who has not done something wrong in their lives. Thus there is no totally good person and no totally bad person. We are all a combination of these to varying degrees, which changes over time. Patently any religion that preaches that good people go to heaven will end up with an empty heaven, and empty pews. So Christianity gets round this by proclaiming that Jesus Christ died for our sins and if you accept this you will go to heaven. On the surface (like most religious dogma) this appears to be just and to make sense, but on examination it is extraordinarily arrogant. According to it any member of another religion, or indeed atheist, who leads an exemplary life cannot go to heaven, and anyone who leads a rotten life will only need to sincerely accept Jesus on their deathbed to ensure a berth in heaven. Furthermore those people who never even hear about Jesus throughout their entire lives are doomed to the fires of hell forever. Christianity appeals to people's vanity by convincing them that they have chosen the right religion whilst all the other belief systems are made out to be phoney. Christianity preys on our fear of death to offer us something that is arrogant, unjust, and cannot be proven.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stand On Your Own Two Feet

QUESTION: Today's comes from NR...
"In my view, religion is only for weak people who can't stand on their own two feet. Life isn't easy, but it's useless to lean on some imaginary "God" for help. We have to fight our own battles and can only depend on ourselves. I don't have any use for religion."

Life isn't easy. There are pitfalls and pleasures, setbacks and triumphs. It's hard to negotiate life's journey by yourself, so we all need the support of friends and family. Some people like the idea of there being an ultimate authority to help them. This is a parallel to when we were children and we could always run to our mummy when the going got tough. However, it is part of growing up to take on responsibility, and anyone who leans on an absent being is abrogating their responsibility to themselves. Saying prayers into the cosmos has never brought any tangible results, and is patently a worthless waste of time. You have obviously thought about things and made a decision. Congratulations. Many do not have the strength to do so, particularly when it involves going against what they have been taught since childhood. Don't let a run of misfortune weaken your resolve to be in charge of your own destiny. There is no god to intervene in your favour.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Onward Christian Soldiers

QUESTION: Today's comes from JE...
"Our son is planniing to enlist in the military in a few months. I know we're supposed to believe God will take care of him, but right now we've got a bad case of nerves and our fears are a lot stronger than our faith. How can we get over this?".

There's no denying that doing military service is dangerous. The main purpose of the job is to kill others and put your own life on the line for your country. No amount of praying will change this fact. Furthermore there are no statistics that show religious soldiers have a lower casualty rate than others. Unfortunately for your family there is no divine spiritual being to take care of your son.
The mainstream religions preach peace and loving your neighbours. However, it doesn't seem to be put into practice as every army has their chaplain to bless the troops as they go into battle. How often do you hear priests condemn war?
Instead of wasting your time praying, how about thinking about the issues at stake. What battles will your son be expected to fight? Do you support these conflicts? Does he? Do the supposed enemy belong to another religion? How will these conflicts be viewed in decades to come? If you feel strongly let your political leaders know your feelings. They are very susceptible to public sentiment.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Extrapolation From Nothing

QUESTION: Today's comes from MG...
"Did you read about those scientists who think they've uncovered the image of Jesus from what might have been His burial cloth? Maybe now we'll know what he looked like. Or do we already know?".

We do not know what Jesus looked like because no one recorded it at the time. Trying to reconstruct his image from a cloth two thousand years later is such an inaccurate exercise that it is not worth pursuing. That a cloth can survive this long engenders a high level of scepticism. Beware of this supposed scientific venture. Invoking scientists to try and recreate someone's image from a cloth lends no credence to whether he actually was some deity. There is no scientific evidence for Jesus or that his alleged miracles actually happened.
There are major figures from long ago who had their image recorded, and if Jesus was really the great leader that his followers profess then it follows that many people should have drawn his face. However, they didn't and you have to ask yourself whether he was such a prominent person or has his reputation become enhanced with the passage of time by people desperate for a concrete sign from god. Having a religious belief that is founded on faith is constantly problematic as the followers always have a nagging doubt in their minds as to its veracity. So much so that they desperately latch onto the slightest shred of evidence.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pointless Food Rituals

QUESTION: Today's comes from CC...
"I'm very committed to making sure our family eats healthy foods and gets lots of exercise, but my husband says I'm overdoing it. Does the Bible say anything about living a healthy lifestyle?".

There's not going to be anyone who could argue against healthy foods and lots of exercise being a worthwhile guide. However, what exactly this means is not cut and dried. As we learn more about nutrition and how the body works we modify these guidelines. One of the key words in a healthy lifestyle is balance. Don't become too fanatical about diet. Eat a bit of everything and enjoy your repast without guilt.
The Bible lists animals that should be eaten and vice versa. However, these rules do not apply now as farming techniques have changed and our perceptions have changed. For example pigs were forbidden to be eaten because they were unclean animals, but this does not apply now. Don't deny yourself the luxury of eating bacon - it is one of life's pleasures! Some religions instruct their followers to eat unleavened bread at certain times. There is no nutritional reason for this. Outdated rules such as this prove the worthlessness of following an ancient text that was written for a time long gone. Most belief systems have pointless eating rules which serve no useful purpose: Don't eat certain foods; Eat particular foods on particular days; Kill animals in a certain way; etc.