One of the Most Disgusting Prayers You’ll Ever Hear (Yet Nobody Thinks Twice About)

Since the recent horrific tragedy in Nepal, we’ve already seen countless examples of Christians seizing on the opportunity to promote their ideology, largely through public proclamations of prayers—specifically prayers asking for the (largely-Hindu) survivors to repent and accept Jesus.

These predatory “soul vultures” have been harshly condemned in the atheist media (and to a lesser extent in the mainstream media), and rightfully so. But this brings to mind another type of prayer that’s a little closer to home, and is similarly (in some ways even more) deplorable, yet so common, almost universal, that I doubt most people even give it a second thought:

Think about when there’s a missing persons case and an unidentified body is found. What’s the most common prayer you’ll hear?

“I’m praying it’s not him” (or her).

But think about the implications of that for a second. What they’re essentially saying is, “I knew there was already one person who’s missing, and very likely dead. But now I’m praying that there’s at least one person who IS dead, AND someone else who’s missing, and very likely dead.”

They’re essentially praying for ~1.9 deaths as opposed to 1.0 deaths, just for the possibility that the person who IS dead isn’t the one they’re hoping for.

“But surely what they really mean is they’re praying it’s not him/her AND praying that he/she is still alive”, one might say. Ok, well in that case they’re still praying for one person to be dead over another. Is that really that much better?

“Please God, kill this person I don’t know.”

And I really don’t mean for this to sound insensitive, since the people quoted saying this are usually the severely traumatized loved ones of those who are missing. And I can understand how in such a moment of extreme grief it’s natural that they would pray for any possible outcome other than the discovery that their loved one is dead. So I’m willing to give them a pass.

But what about the people who have no such connection, or any connection to the victims at all? Check out the comments section of any article about a missing persons case where a body is found, and you’ll see random people chiming in with the same prayer. It’s basically the default prayer in such a situation, much like “I’m praying for the family” might be for a typical story involving a family tragedy.

And almost certainly, these people simply mean it as such: as a gesture of support that they probably consider to be a sincere expression of kindness. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are quite literally praying for more death, or at the very least praying for someone to be dead who wouldn’t have been otherwise.

Can History “Prove” a Miracle?

The overwhelming consensus in secular circles seems to be no, that whether or not a supernatural and miraculous event occurred in the past is simply outside the purview of history, and history is literally incapable of establishing an event as being “miraculous” in nature. But is that really the case?

Imagine if we were to simultaneously discover hundreds of ancient documents, unearthed from all around the world, each one dated conclusively to approximately 2,500 years ago, and each document corresponding with one of the civilizations which possessed writing during that time (including ones which had no possible means of communication with each other). Each document is written in the native language of that civilization, and on each one the message is essentially identical: “On this day, every single person in our region received a psychic message, which said to write down these numbers, and said that one day thousands of years from now we would understand the meaning of the numbers”. And when you take all of those hundreds of number strings from the different civilizations and assemble them into one long string, it matches the digits of pi starting at the billionth digit…

Yeah, it doesn’t really look 2,500 years old. But we’re talking miraculous documents here.

Of course, there’s a big difference between the above scenario and the supernatural claims in, for example, the Bible. No number of historical attestations could possibly prove the resurrection of Jesus actually occurred, right? Well let’s consider the following scenario. Instead of four grossly contradictory and plagiarized accounts written decades after the fact by anonymous sources (i.e. the Gospels), imagine if we had consistent, clear, signed accounts by known historical figures who claimed to be witnesses to the crucifixion and the resurrection, and each claimed to have spoken with Jesus afterwards firsthand. And imagine if, in these accounts, Jesus told them that while he was dead he visited God, who told him to provide each of his disciples with a different string of numbers, and each of these numbers were recorded in the documents, and when you assemble those numbers into one long string…

Such a scenario wouldn’t necessarily prove that Jesus was the Son of God or any such nonsense, but as much of a staunch atheist and proponent of naturalism as I am, if documents such as those above were discovered I would be more than willing to admit that something supernatural/miraculous occurred, based simply upon those documents alone.

Now to those who have read this blog in the past it should be rather obvious, but just to be absolutely clear: I’m not saying any of this to suggest that we should give greater credence to the Gospel accounts, or somehow be more “open-minded” to the possibility that Jesus was resurrected. Quite the opposite. What I’m saying is that it is possible–at least in principle–for “history to prove a miracle”, in the sense that it is possible to prove anything, through historical means or otherwise (in other words, not proof with absolute 100% certainty, but sufficient proof to establish a claim as true). And instead of just dismissing the “historical” claims of supernatural events in the Bible with a simple hand-wave, these hypothetical scenarios show just how high that bar should be in order to meet the evidentiary standard of historical proof for a supernatural event. And they show just how far the Bible’s gospel accounts fall short of reaching that bar.

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 7

“You can’t reason someone out of a belief they weren’t reasoned into.” I really could have included this in Part 1 as the very first entry, since this may well be the single most insidious, self-defeating, and quite simply wrong (and yet despite all this, maddeningly common) cliché in the entire atheist lexicon. Matt Dillahunty once served up as thorough an eviscerating of this cliché as one could possibly imagine, to which I have very little to add. But on a personal note, I will just say that I’ve spoken with hundreds of atheists about their “deconversion” stories, and I can count on one hand the number who were not “reasoned out” of religion, regardless of what their initial reasons for believing may have been.

“It is easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than for him to enter the kingdom of heaven”. While not as egregious an example as the “slay them before me” passage, this is also an example of a Bible verse that’s often unfairly taken out of context when attempting to point out the absurdity of the Bible, or simply to make the claim that the Bible says the rich cannot enter heaven. After all, the passage immediately following it makes clear that it’s intentionally describing a physically impossible scenario in order to make the point that even seemingly impossible things are possible “with God”. There are plenty of actual errors, absurdities, and contradictions in the Bible. This isn’t one of them.

camel

“If there’s a god, why does he allow so much evil and suffering in the world?” For many atheists (and theists), this is the big one. Even Bart Ehrman–who has perhaps done more than anyone else to educate the public about the Bible’s countless flaws and contradictions–cites the Problem of Evil as the main issue which led him away from theism. But the Problem of Evil is only a disproof of the traditional Judeo-Christian notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God, not all “gods” in general. And such a god concept is no more probable than a “god” which is apathetic (or even evil), or a god which has limited power. If anything, the traditional god concept is inherently LESS probable (if not impossible) simply due to the logically contradictory nature of having mutually exclusive attributes, which renders the Problem of Evil something of a moot point. In other words, while we have plenty of reasons to disbelieve in the existence of gods, just because God may be an asshole (which the God of the Bible certainly is) doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. The problem with invoking this phrase to dismiss religious claims is that it implies that the claim in question has “ordinary” evidence going for it, but simply lacks “extraordinary” evidence. But that’s FAR too generous when it comes to most religious claims, which typically fail to meet even “ordinary” standards of evidence (and in many cases lack any evidence whatsoever beyond an unsupportable claim of divine revelation).

For the rest of the series:

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 1

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 2

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 3

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 4

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 5

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 6

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 4

Saying that religious claims “don’t make sense”. It’s true there are countless religious claims which don’t make sense, and can never make sense. But I’ve always felt that saying something “doesn’t make sense” sounds a little too close to “I don’t understand it”. It’s the kind of thing one might say when trying to understand advanced calculus, not just things which are inherently nonsensical. But most of us are atheists precisely because we do understand religion, and speak from a position of having too much information on the subject, not too little. So that’s why I find myself catching myself, and instead of saying the concept of the trinity, for example, “doesn’t make sense” (which it doesn’t), I say it’s incoherent. Instead of saying that the concept of an infinitely loving God punishing people with infinite torment for finite sins “doesn’t make sense”, I say that it’s paradoxical, not to mention unethical. To me that sends a much stronger message: that the issue isn’t with us, it’s with metaphysical claims that directly contradict what we know to be true about the world we live in. Other options: logically invalid, fatally flawed, internally contradictory, unintelligible.

“When it comes to the Bible, you can’t just pick and choose what you want to believe…” Not only can Christians do this, they absolutely have to. And as I point out here, every time someone repeats this cliche they are actually giving the Bible far more credit than it deserves. Also, do we really want to imply that absolute fundamentalism is the more admirable position, simply because it happens to be more logically consistent?

“Christians believe serial killers can still go to heaven just by becoming Christians on their deathbeds”. For the most part this is absolutely true–particularly when it comes to evangelical Christians, who largely believe that salvation is achieved by faith and faith alone. But a secular argument could at least be made that it is conceivable for someone to commit the most horrific crimes imaginable, and eventually come to deserve forgiveness for those crimes before dying. But consider the same scenario in reverse: a law-abiding, devout Christian who later becomes a sadistic mass murderer, and remains one until the day he dies… How many people realize that according to the Christian doctrine of irrevocable salvation (“once saved always saved”), this hypothetical person is still guaranteed a spot in heaven while Einstein and Gandhi burn in Hell? Such a scenario is FAR more perverse than the hypothetical “deathbed conversion”, yet is every bit as consistent with the professed beliefs of fundamentalist evangelicals.

For the rest of the series:

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 1

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 2

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 3

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 5

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 6

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 7

Atheist Cliche’s to Avoid – Part 3

“The books of the Bible were just decided by popular vote”. The Da Vinci Code has probably done the most to perpetuate this myth, and even went so far as to claim that the Biblical Canon was voted into existence at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD under direct order from Roman Emperor Constantine. In reality none of that is true. Yes, the canonization process was in large part subjective, and often based on faulty premises (the alleged authorship of the texts supposedly going back to Jesus’ disciples, for example). But the process of canonization took place over hundreds of years, as a result of many decisions made by many individuals, and to this day it still has not been truly “settled”: Different branches of Christianity still recognize different canons, with many of them—even the Catholic canon—not being formally ratified until the 16th-18th centuries.

OK, just kidding. This is what Jesus actually looked like.

“The Bible has gone through so many translations we don’t know what it originally said”. There are indeed many translations of the Bible, and in some cases the specific translation you read can make a pretty big difference. But it’s not like the Bible was written in one language, then translated into another, then translated from that into another, and so on and so on until it eventually reached “English”. We actually have existing manuscripts in the languages the Bible was originally written in (primarily Hebrew for the Old Testament, exclusively Greek for the New Testament), and we’ve translated those texts directly into English. But the irony is, this is actually MORE damning to the trustworthiness of the texts than if it weren’t the case.

That’s because Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic, not Greek, and they were largely if not entirely illiterate by the Bible’s own admission (with the exception of Paul, who let’s face it was not one of Jesus’ disciples). So the fact that the books attributed to Jesus’ disciples were actually first penned in Greek (and not just Greek, but in many cases highly literate and fully fluent Greek) means they could not have been written by their alleged authors, or anything resembling first-hand witnesses. At-best they were oral accounts passed down for decades before being committed to paper; at-worst they were literary creations based on a kernel of historical truth but written for the first time decades after the fact.

“Pretty much anything from Zeitgeist”. It really says something when an atheistic documentary has been thoroughly and independently debunked by just about every atheist/skeptic website, magazine, and podcast out there. Here’s a good one from Skeptic Magazine.

For the rest of the series:

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 1

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 2

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 4

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 5

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 6

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 7

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 2

“Jesus never existed”. Not only is there overwhelming scholarly consensus that he did (even among non-Christian scholars), but any atheist making this claim is ultimately doing themselves a disservice–not only by setting the bar artificially and unnecessarily high and essentially flipping the burden of proof onto themselves, but because the strongest arguments for Jesus’ existence are also arguments against his divinity and his status as the so-called Messiah.

“Jesus said bring them and slay them before me”. This is “true” to the extent that the Bible claims Jesus uttered those words. But Jesus was actually telling a parable–in an attempt to justify the doctrine of Hell–of a hypothetical king who says those words within the context of that parable. In other words, Jesus did not literally order any men to be killed before him. Of course, the irony here is that this is actually more damning (ha) than the alternative: If Jesus had truly ordered these men to be killed, an apologist could find some way to rationalize their deaths as morally justified, or claim that the story was only applicable to that specific instance at that specific point in time. But parables are by definition intended to be universally applicable, and the orthodox doctrine of Hell (if it were real) is infinitely more morally abhorrent than the mere execution of a few men.

Ridiculing Genesis. The Genesis stories are prime fodder for atheists and standup comedians everywhere, and for good reason: They are the most ridiculous stories in the entire Bible. But everyone already knows that, and most Christians will simply dismiss such ridicule by saying that the stories are meant to be taken metaphorically.
So instead of Genesis, how about ridiculing the problems with the Bible that people don’t know about, and which aren’t as easily written off as “metaphorical”? Think Jesus destroying a fig tree because it wasn’t fig season. Animal babies being born with stripes because of what their parents were looking at while mating. Jesus saying the end of the world would come within the lifetimes of his original followers. Or my personal favorite, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on two donkeys at the same time because the writer of Matthew sucked at reading Hebrew. No more Noah’s Ark jokes please.

This is what Jesus actually looked like.

“How the hell could they have fit two of every animal on the Ark?” OK, sometimes taking jabs at the Ark story is just too hard to resist. But if you’re going to do it, at least don’t make this mistake: Despite the popular conception of “two of every kind” on the Ark, the Bible is clear that there were actually seven pairs (or just “seven”, depending on which translation you read) of every “clean” animal–which includes the VAST majority of animals–and two of every “unclean”. That’s right… the Noah’s Ark story is even more ridiculous than even most atheists realize, by a factor of three to seven times.

For the rest of the series:

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 1

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 3

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 4

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 5

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 6

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 7