Let’s examine the story of the birth of jesus, shall we?
Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
Luke 2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
This neatly frames the timeline of the events preceding the birth of jesus. He was born after the census of Cyrenius and during the last years of the reign of Herod the Great. It is clear, concise and unequivocal, it is also historically impossible.
Here are the facts, Herod the Great, died in the year 4 BCE.
Cyrenius became Governor of Syria in the year 6 CE, partly due to Herod’s death.
If you accept the part of the story that tells us that Joseph packed up the pregnant mizzus and made the trip to Bethlehem because of the census decreed by Cyrenius, then the parts about Herod, particularly the ‘slaughter of the innocents’, wherein Herod ordered every child under age 2 in the region to be killed become absurd. Since Herod was dead at least ten years past, the slaughter story, the wise men from the east, indeed, the reason for Joseph and family to high tail it to Egypt at all disappears in a ‘poof’ of reality.
Here is a definition of Religion drawn straight from that bastion of veracity and impartiality, Wikipedia.
“…a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.”
Or perhaps the Dictionary which assures us that Religion is "... a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: i.e., the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion."
What then, is Atheism? (from Wikipedia) "...Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist."
Once, long ago when I was working as a paramedic out of Fitzsimmons Army Med center in Denver, we got a call for an O.D. coincidentally in my apartment complex. When we arrived we found a girl, about 20, lying on the floor with the tell tale white froth on her lips. We went to work and I ripped open her blouse, cut up through her bra with my trusty scissors and initiated CPR. The girl hit the cosmic lottery, and we got her back.
A few days later, my commander called me in and informed me that the Mother had filed a complaint against my partner and I because we had 'exposed' her daughter... (he got our side of the story, and tossed the complaint in the round filing cabinet). I saw the girl on a daily basis, and I gotta say, she WAS hot... but to this day, I can't remember what she looked like 'exposed'...I had other things on my mind than 'boobies!'
I see a lot of complaints that us skeptics aren't polite... that we tend to be unfair and quick to judge 'alternate' ideas as bullshit... and say so.
A lot of 'alternate' ideas are simply dangerous. If not in themselves, then in the fact that they take time away from legitimate and effective solutions. Homeopathy... if it were just quacks peddling pure water as a pick me up...I'd just snigger and let it pass. But it's a case of desperate people wasting valuable time on utterly useless treatments.
There is no way of knowing how many have died from pursuing 'alternate' cures. Homeopathy, Orgone Therapy, Prayer, Faith Healing and other types of quackery.
I've been having the usual running discussion over the issue of Objective versus Subjective morality with a young lad on another venue.
Oh, to be young and convinced that mine was the one true way to view the world, and if I just repeat myself often enough, everyone will SEE that I'm right...
Here's how I see it.
Morality is a set of cultural definitions, most if not all of which can be and are changed as the culture itself changes.
Our current set of values, which seem so true and right to us are merely the most recent iteration...
I brought up the subject of racism, noting that in my youth, it was a deeply ingrained moral value that blacks and whites should not marry, so deeply a part of the common psyche, that there were laws written to prevent it...
The lad tried to argue that it was all an aberration, not a moral thing at all... I pointed out that he was viewing it all in a subjective moral hindsight, a sort of ad hoc moral objectivism. After all, he reasons, if it's wrong now, it was always actually wrong. The majority of the folk I grew up with would beg to differ...
I remember those times, I was a child of them and those values were hard to shake.
Slavery is wrong. I believe that to the core of my being.
There are a lot of articles I read, speeches I listen to, experts with motivational quotes that I examine that are designed to hit hard at reality and get us thinking and many scientific discoveries made every day that continue to make me delve deeper and deeper into my psyche. I try to expand every aspect of how I think and learn in any way that I can; well, sans harmful drugs, of course. For me, learning is one of the most important aspects of the human condition and those that come to this realization strive to make us all understand that.
Sometimes, however, there are some aspects of ourselves that may never be understood even through the most thoroughly organized data, tireless research and hair-pulling questions that we grapple with all the time. We can't possibly know everything; of course, theists would explain that that's when you plug a god into that gap and your worries are over. Every one here that disbelieves understands that when you cast aside your brain to a figment of man, you surrender your existence. Everything dealing with what people consider gods are centuries of limited understanding coming back to haunt us in a modern society, plain and simple. Men wrote every holy book on Earth due to observations around them and when they couldn't explain it, they invented supernatural characteristics to feed the need of knowing. What we have now is separation, confusion, disorder, violence and social disillusionment.
Religion is superstition writ large, fear of the outer darkness made manifest. Assuaging the unearned guilt with false forgiveness and seeking comfort in emptiness. The lazy mind has no need of questions, filled as it is with spoon fed certainties. Faith is the light that blinds.
And, those of us who have thrown off the shackles of superstition, do we ever fear?
I’ve seen over and over the act of dieing, and it fills me with some small dread, yet, that which comes after has no horror, because it is the same as what came before… Simple non being.
The universe holds abundant wonders and nature alone is worthy of awe. I am an atheist. LC >;-}>
I need no mouldering tome of savage tales to guide me, only reason.
I need no fantasy forgiveness for my offenses, no reward for the good things I have done, they have all made me who I am, and I would not change them.
"It ain't necessarily so, It ain't necessarily so, the t'ings dat yo li'bal to read in de Bible, they ain't necessarily so... "
About Charlotte's Web, from Wikipedia "The novel tells the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praising Wilbur (such as "Some Pig" ) in her web in order to persuade the farmer to let him live."
We've been told all our lives about how 'good', 'perfect' and 'without sin' jesus was said to be. The truth is, we don't know because the four pamphlets that comprise his only biography are at best sketchy about his personal life and decidedly slanted for the public view. He may have been (if he existed at all) a pretty good guy. Or, he may have been given to banging two shekel hookers by the dozen while swilling his own miraculous wine and performing the epic 'pull my finger' miracle for the boys... we just don't know.
Let's see how 'good' Jesus was.
"Luke (2:43-49) When Jesus' parents begin the long trip back to Nazareth, the twelve year old Jesus stays behind, without asking their permission. Mary and Joseph search for him for three days and when they finally find him, Jesus doesn't apologize. Rather, he blames them for not knowing that he was doing his father's business."
I don't know about you guys, but if one of my kids, at 12 had disappeared for 3 days, 'good boy' wouldn't have been one of my descriptives. Thoughtless, arrogant, and narcissistic all come to mind.
And how about this?
The priest holds the heart of the victim dripping blood up to the gods as an offering, an appeasement. They believed that this act would bring the rains, make the crops grow, make the land and the people prosperous. Other cultures such as the early Canaanites would offer up their children to their god, burning them on a ritual fire. The Celts favored fire as well, burning criminals in huge constructs called 'wicker men'. The Etrusions, the Minoans, the Gauls, even the Romans believed that the gods could be swayed by the offering of human life. We shake our heads at the barbarity, the cruelty of these acts.
Sometimes we make them into a cliche, a joke... the cartoon of a group of Islanders about to toss a girl into a volcano with a caption "Wait!, I'm NOT a virgin, ask Mobimbo, ask Huwali, ask...." We shake our heads and marvel at the primative and superstitious nature of these murderous beliefs.
Unless of course, we are talking about the human sacrifice that is the root of our most prominent western religion, Christianity. Then it becomes a beautiful and moving act. One that essays, books, even entire careers have been built around, extolling the virtue of a death on a Roman torture device. A favorite of the artist, thousands of paintings have lovingly detailed the blood and gore, the sense of suffering. Millions of little children wear the image of this near naked man hanging in torment, dieing on a torture device, around their necks.
I hear it all the time...
"What keeps you from being a child raping axe murdering drug addict if there is no god?"
Homo Sapien Sapien is a herd animal, tribal and needing to function in groups to survive. Survival depends on certain ingrained principles, the primary of which is to not allow members of the herd to kill each other willy nilly. All the other 'moral' injunctions follow this simple imperative as violating them can lead to violence and killing, thus wrecking the group cohesion.
My ethics and morality derive from the culture in which I was raised and reinforced by the pressure of my peers. As I grew, I incorporated much of what in had been taught into my world view, rationalizing and reasoning out the purpose and place of the various ideas, making them part of my essential character. On top of my personal ethic, we have laws, society's way of codifying a common ethic. Even if one lacks an ethical stance on certain issues, the fear of societal retribution tends to keep most in line.
Morality is mutable, changing with time and custom. I knew several people in my youth who were only a generation removed from slavery. Once slavery wasn't immoral, it was in fact validated by the holy scriptures as right and moral. Once, a wife could not refuse her husbands sexual advances, the concept of marital rape was unimagined. We've changed, we've grown as a people.