SkepticsApprentice

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About SkepticsApprentice

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    Doubter

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    Male
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    The cold heart of the North (in the U.S.A.)
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    Anime/Manga, Philosophy, Art, Video Games (especially RPGs), Fiction Writing, etc.
  • More About Me
    Future animator/designer looking forward to learning and experiencing life

Previous Fields

  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
    No.
  1. Wonder Woman -- They did it right!

    I saw the movie and it definitely exceeded my expectations for a WW film. Definitely as good as Man of Steel or the Dark Knight, so if you saw those movies and liked them you'll probably like this one as well. I did, however, have some issues with the near-end of the film, mostly having to do with the final climactic battle between WW and Ares, the God of War. If you haven't seen the movie yet, SPOILERS AHEAD! You have been warned... So, after WW corners and kills Ludendorff (who she believes to be Ares in disguise), she is dismayed to find that the humans keep fighting World War I, even without 'Ares' around to incite them against each other. Steve, however, knows about human nature, and gently suggests that mankind is more flawed than Diana originally believed, capable of great evil and violence as well as great good and beauty. As Diana struggles to come to terms with this terrible revelation, the real Ares appears. Now, I knew that from a movie perspective, there had to be a climactic final battle between Diana and Ares, or else everyone would have left the theater disappointed. From Ares' perspective, however, I fail to see how revealing himself to Diana accomplished anything. Think about it–all this time Ares has remained hidden, while successfully persuading the countries of the world to fight and occasionally inspiring their scientists with newer, deadlier weaponry to boost the body count. Without Diana's interference, mankind could well be on the road to extinction. The ONE weapon that can kill Ares (Diana herself) believes the God of War is dead, and is prepared to return home to Themiscyra bearing news of humanity's corruption. The Amazons will give mankind up as a lost cause and remain in their safe haven, leaving Ares to finish off the humans without anyone to stand in his way. Although I loved the twist that a god of war would masquerade as an man of peace, there was really no reason for Ares to show himself at any time while Diana was nearby, much less willingly inform her that she is the God-killer who can single-handedly put a stop to his plans. For someone who has thus far manipulated things perfectly from the shadows, the filmmakers' decision to 'out' Ares just felt wrong somehow. With all that said, I still liked this movie. As a little extra incentive for all the ex-Xtians out there, the film did a wonderful job of showing how humanity can be both good and bad, all without the influence of 'the gods' (or God).
  2. Temporary Return of Cognitive Dissonance

    Thanks for the support guys. I have actually done some digging to find conversion stories from other faiths with some success, but I've found that they aren't nearly as well-known (probably because they don't fit the popular narrative that the Church wants everyone to believe in, and they simply get drowned out by all the Jesus). If anyone knows where I might find stuff from the Jewish or Hindu side of things, I would definitely be interested in looking at that; I've currently had the most success with Islam or Mormonism (which are both basically just offshoots of Christianity). One of the more interesting stories I came across dealt with a former Catholic priest who was in a coma for months (the result of a construction accident) and returned to the land of the living having seen, as he imagined, a vision from God–a god who called himself 'Allah.' After this supposed message from God, the priest converted to Islam and led some of his congregation to do the same. One thing I found interesting, especially when examining different converts' near-death experiences, was that even when they supposedly went to the same places (heaven, hell, etc.) the descriptions of those places and the details of what went on there were quite different–almost as if these 'visions' were the results of a highly imaginative brain... In a couple of cases that I read about, drugs were quite obviously at work. One former atheist credited his conversion to the incredibly 'realistic' encounters with demons he met while under the influence of drugs. Because of the way the man told his story it was so obvious that his demonic visitors were nothing more than phantasms created by his drug-addled brain, and yet he accepted the veracity of his experiences without question after the trip wore off. Emotion is a powerful thing, and even though I'm thankful for the different feelings and impressions that help color the world around me, it is nonetheless a little disturbing that emotion, if left to itself, can make just about anything seem reasonable (although the shrooms help too).
  3. Temporary Return of Cognitive Dissonance

    Hello all, It's probably pretty obvious by now, but I'm definitely a novice when it comes to reevaluating many of the old religious claims and 'evidences' that just a year ago I would have accepted as truth without question. Although I have gotten better (I hope!) there are still times when I get niggling little doubts at the back of my mind, wondering if perhaps I was wrong to question faith in the first place. For those who've been in that situation before (and I'm guessing a lot of you have) it's extremely uncomfortable. In a nutshell, this is what I've been dealing with for the past day or so, thanks to a rather ill-advised journey into the bowels of Christian conversion testimonies (almost all of them 'miraculous' in some way), all collected and reported by Mark Ellis, pastor and president of GodReports. If you're ever looking for lots of conversion stories involving dreams and 'miraculous' healing for some reason, this is going to be your one-stop shop. I made the mistake of reading a bunch of these in one sitting without slowing down and thinking it all through, and the result was one of the worst periods of cognitive dissonance I've had for a while. Even as I realized that every story was being related by one man about whom I knew nothing and from whom I could expect little to no information so I could fact-check his claims, I found myself worrying whether these stories might actually be true. I read about Muslim leaders (even a former ISIS 'prince') coming to Christ after experiencing confirming dreams, Buddhists who were healed of stubborn physical maladies after prayer, and former atheists who converted after experiencing the horrors of hell, or the joys of heaven. Thankfully, I came to my senses and have since left that website alone. As I reexamined the stories, I noticed that everyone who had an encounter with 'Christ' had always had some prior knowledge of him–often converts' dreams would come some time shortly after the gospel was preached to them. The so-called miraculous healings were never instantaneous, as Jesus' were said to be; often it would be days, sometimes weeks after prayers were offered before a particularly stubborn illness disappeared. Partially thanks to this site, however, I have a newfound distaste for conversions post-Near-Death Experience; converts' experiences of heaven and hell were quite different and had little in common with the Bible's (admittedly) limited information on the topic. In my time perusing various testimonies, I did come across at least two that were of such dubious authenticity that I'm surprised anyone fully believed them. The first came from India via communications from an evangelist named Paul Ciniraj, a man who I later discovered has come under some fire for lying about his need for funds, as well as making unfounded and bizarre miraculous claims to keep the money pouring in. The story, 'Hindu snake goddess saw Jesus in dream and became His witness' (yes, you read that right) claims to tell the story of Nagamma, an Indian woman who as a child was bitten by a snake while feeding it milk. Although the venom was successfully treated, Nagamma afterwards began to exhibit snake-like behavior and, I kid you not, the color of her body changed. This bit was so ridiculous that it ruined any effect the rest of the story might have had on me–with such a preposterous tale, I wondered if I was reading a rejected superhero's origin story by mistake. You can read the full story here, if you want the scoop on the Stupendous Snake-Girl. Now if you'll pardon me, I have to snatch up this property before Marvel Studios gets its hands on the rights... The second story dealt with a group of missionaries who went to the interior of Malaita in the Solomon Islands to evangelize a tribe (the Kwaio) known for hostility to outsiders, including cannibalism. They arrived at the tribe's territory just as the Kwaio were preparing for the impending death of their chief. The missionaries managed to meet with the chief, who accepted Christianity just before he 'died.' Then, while the tribe was preparing the chief's body for burial, the man revived with a story of how Jesus Christ took him to heaven, where he was surrounded by throngs of worshipers, and met some Old Testament prophets. Of course, the chief also got a nice view of hell in the bargain. At the end of this vision, 'Jesus' told the chief he had to go back to earth for a short time to make sure his people knew about the one true faith. The chief died, for real this time, the next morning. Considering that medical supplies and expertise were almost certainly scarce in the jungle, it's a good bet that the chief was in a coma or slipped into a death-like state where he had a near-death experience about Jesus being the only way to heaven, which he had conveniently just learned hours earlier from the missionaries. Of course, the story could have been completely made up, but even if the details were accurate the tale wasn't convincing at all. Well, that's definitely enough out of me for one post. If anyone wants to check out this website and do some digging, I'd love to see what you come up with. I tried to find anything at all on boss man Mark Ellis to check his credibility, but I just got redirected to his blog and another ministry where he contributes once in a while, called Assist Ministries. Happy hunting!
  4. I'm Doing the Deconversion Thing

    Welcome Ataraxia! As I'm very much a newcomer to the whole 'ex-Christian' thing myself, I'm sure we will have some interesting discussions in the future. Even though I was raised under the Protestant Christian school of thought, I did have a period where I researched Catholicism fairly extensively, so while I may not be an expert on the way things are done from the Vatican, at least I'm not ignorant about it. One of the things I found most interesting about the Catholic approach to faith was its insistence that the saints continue to intercede for the 'Church Militant' on believers' behalf, this intercession sometimes manifesting as miracles that, at least at that time, seemed to me to be signs that God was still working powerfully in the Catholic Church. At one point I decided to test this out myself and tried talking to Mary a couple of times, along with requesting the assistance of Saint Blaise on one occasion. I probably was doing something wrong from a purely procedural standpoint, but at the time I was definitely sincere. I would read up on stories like the Marian visions at Medjugorje and testimonies of individuals who had converted to Catholicism after receiving their own vision or 'message' from Jesus or Mary, and wonder if perhaps there really was something to Catholics' claims. Let's just say that I wasn't always the most critical thinker back then (I'm still working on it!) Of course now I look back on it all with a fair amount of skepticism, although the miracle claims do make me want to discover what is really going on–as natural an explanation as I can reasonably expect with humanity's limited knowledge, without the extra baggage of bizarre beliefs in the supernatural. Here's hoping your journey from here on is a pleasant one (at least as pleasant as can be expected) and I look forward to seeing you on the forums!
  5. A prank caller (OwnagePranks) rings up a born-again Christian lady to ask about her Valentine's Day fair. Enjoy!
  6. Turn On Jesus! Light Switch Cover

    Is this a real thing, or just a prank? Either way it's hilarious.
  7. Indeed. The same thing happened in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub bombing in Orlando, if you remember. While certainly not the majority, there were at least a few vocal pastors around the U.S. foaming that they had no sympathy for the victims–one preacher in particular I remember reading about (I don't recall his name, unfortunately) remarked that he was sorry the nightclub bomber didn't finish the job (killing all the 'sodomites' in the area). Watching this short clip was just as infuriating. I'd heard a bit about Ted Shoebat and expected him to say some insane stuff in the video; needless to say I was not disappointed. As he repeatedly reminded his viewers how little he cares about the victims of this attack, I wondered if the man is simply unable to empathize on a mental/emotional level, or if his particular brand of religion is to blame for his sociopathic tendencies. Probably, it's both. I thought his commentary on the concert-goers' pictures especially distasteful, and it was pretty obvious Shoebat was grasping at straws when he started ranting about how one man shaved his hair on the sides, marking him as a homosexual for all True Christians™ to see. If there was any point in the video where I might have laughed, it was when Shoebat tried to reassure his audience that despite his angry, hate-filled rhetoric against LGBT folks (or anyone who dresses or styles their hair in a way he doesn't like), he totally doesn't support blowing up people who disagree with him on these things. Not sure if I believe him, though... But seriously, if you have to go out of your way to make sure people know you're not okay with bombing innocent people (including children), you are doing something very, very wrong.
  8. pastor walked on water

    The first thing I thought of after reading this story (beyond the obvious stupidity of the pastor trying to walk on crocodile-infested waters) is that the surviving congregation is going to have quite the interesting time rationalizing what just happened. Of course, I'm sure plenty will dismiss any doubts with 'He just didn't have enough faith' or 'Who are we to understand God's will?', but I suspect that at least a few will be introduced to cognitive dissonance, perhaps for the first time. The article portrayed the pastor as a man totally dedicated to showing God's power to his church, and if the man had actually managed to pull off a successful water-walk, that would no doubt have been a huge boost to the congregation's faith, perhaps on the level of the Pentecost story reported in the book of Acts. God seems more than willing to strut his stuff in the pages of Scripture, so why not now? Even if he wasn't willing to perform the miracle because he hates to be 'tested,' why wouldn't God at least rescue the pastor who took such a major step of faith, instead of letting him get ripped apart by crocodiles? This story reminds me a bit of the classic tale of Daniel in the lion's den, where God sent an angel to shut the mouths of hungry lions to rescue the faithful Daniel. Perhaps all the angels were on a coffee break when this pastor tried to walk on water, or maybe none of them had experience shutting the mouths of crocodiles? You'd think that there'd be at least one who got a little practice with baby Moses floating in the Nile River...
  9. It doesn't get any better from there, trust me After that enlightening little bit about how God is the only source of morality, and thus atheists have no standing when they accuse God of doing evil, the speaker (Frank Turek, for those who were wondering and don't want to watch the video) fires off a number of points that are supposed to make Christians feel good about themselves for worshiping a god who has 'Canaanite genocide' listed as one of his major accomplishments on his resume. Turek asks if God can be immoral for taking a human life. Since this is your local apologetics hour where God can do no wrong, the answer is No. Turek argues that God gave everyone life in the first place, so of course he is the only one who is morally able to take life back. Of course, you can probably see plenty of problems with this argument. I personally feel that if a god manages to create a sentient being capable of reason and emotion, imbued with an immortal soul that is supposed to be designed in that god's specific image, then this creature deserves a little more respect than to simply take its life without any justification. Turek realizes that his audience probably won't like the idea of their beloved deity killing people left and right for no reason, so he claims that the Canaanite people were actually evil enough to warrant total destruction of their entire race (more on that shortly). He even tries to make God seem patient by pointing out that according to Genesis, God was willing to wait four hundred years before he went on a killing spree. Sorry, but even if God waited a few centuries (which would probably feel more like a few minutes for him anyway), it wouldn't change the fact that he committed genocide. If Adolf Hitler waited a few decades after taking power before initiating the Holocaust, he would still be considered one of the most evil men in history. Expectedly, Turek's attempt to cast God in a good light actually makes God look worse, since it implies that God knew that the Canaanites were committing horrible atrocities for four hundred years, and did nothing to stop it until the Jews showed up. When they did, God's best solution to fix the problem that he had allowed to get out of control was to slaughter everyone within a certain distance of the Promised Land. In order to prove his point that the Canaanites were evil people in need of killing, Turek informs the audience that the people of Canaan committed horrible sins like bestiality and child sacrifice. I couldn't see the makeup of the audience, but I would be at least a little surprised if most of the people listening hadn't heard this stuff before. In my experience whenever someone starts to question the morality of killing entire tribes of people the apologists will helpfully remind everyone that the Canaanites killed their children for god (no similarity to OT god there :P) and had sex with their pets (so that's where all the centaurs/satyrs etc. came from...). At this point some people in the audience might have been nodding in agreement with God's plan simply so all those children being sacrificed would be saved, and I can understand that. When it comes to crimes that deserve death, slaughtering innocent children makes a pretty high spot on my list. Anyone who thinks that God had any interest in saving the kiddies, however, are in for a rude awakening. While God didn't explicitly command the slaughter of children everywhere Israel went, the stories of cities like Jericho (where God literally told the Jews not to leave alive anything that breathed) paint quite the grim picture indeed. Even if by some twisted logic you were able to justify killing every adult man and woman in town, I can't even imagine the warped mind that could slaughter children. Christians will often respond that those children were steeped in the sinful culture of their parents from birth, and as a result would have led the Jews into rebellion against God if they had been allowed to live. Every child was a sin-crazed monster? Even the toddlers, or infants? If that doesn't strain your credulity, I don't know what will. Not to mention that God could have had the Israelites adopt all these kids and raise them to love and obey Yahweh (ignoring the years of PTSD and other mental issues they'd no doubt have to deal with after seeing their mothers and fathers brutally stabbed to death in front of them). Near the end of his talk, Turek claims that atheists demand that God do something about all the evil in the world, but then complain when he does step in, as with the Canaanites. Turek seems blissfully unaware that while it might be nice to see God do something about evil for once if he actually does exist, knowing that his solution of choice is a violent death should make any sane person ask whether we really want God's help until he goes back to the drawing board and comes back with a better solution. Failure to do so would be like asking a tutor to help you get an 'A' in your English class, knowing that your tutor's modus operandi is to murder all of your classmates so they can't outshine you (a flawed example, I know, but hopefully worth something). When you're dealing with a God who supposedly can change the hearts and minds of an entire nation without violating free will, I don't think it's too much to expect that he eliminate evil nonviolently. Is it?
  10. Antioch Hub

    The thing I find most disturbing about this inane rant (besides the fact that there's someone out there legitimately trying to rid the church of a 'spirit of Jezebel') is that this writer is telling his readers that compassion is bad. People who take this guy (or others like him) seriously would normally feel sorry for others who don't fit the 'perfect church' mold (i.e. the LGBT community, members of other religions and even more liberal Christians) and perhaps begin to question the reasonableness of their faith, but now they will squash those feelings because they've been taught to interpret them as the wiles of a demonic space witch. If only this writer hadn't left his night job as a Ghostbuster, we (and countless others) wouldn't have to read this kind of drivel.
  11. Speaking something into existence?

    Now let's not be too hasty here! The man on the phone might have sounded crazy, but the weird bit is that this sort of thing actually happens in real life. Strange, I know, but it's true! Using certain words in a particular order makes good things happen, but someone can just as easily call upon dark, forbidden words to annoy you or make your life miserable. Want proof? Try shouting 'Accio, money!' or 'Accio, Jaguar (the car, not the big cat)!' As long as you speak these words in faith, whatever you want will magically appear, right in front of you! All your desires will be filled and your needs met forever. Just make sure your tongue doesn't slip so you 'accidentally' mutter Avada Kedavra when you next meet your annoying in-laws, or unintentionally Obliviate your significant other's memory of you and your children. If you're still trying and nothing seems to work, you apparently don't have enough faith in the power of your words! That, or you're just another Muggle. Okay, you're probably tired of the sarcasm (and Harry Potter references). I'll stop now. My family had a couple of years during which we met quite a few charismatic-type Christians. A couple of them made a big deal about the importance of 'speaking blessing' into our lives. Similar to the phone guy in the OP, they also refused to speak about disease or other unfortunate occurrences because they didn't want to speak that into existence. I think these people believed that talking about bad stuff gave the Devil an opening to bring the pain; I wonder what their excuse was when bad things happened anyway. Even as a believer I thought this was insane, and if someone said something similar to me today I'd have a hard time holding back the laughter (or shouting Crucio at them just to see if I get a reaction). It's just as superstitious as throwing salt over your shoulder so the demons don't get you, or saying 'Bless you' after someone sneezes so their soul doesn't escape through their nostrils and float away.
  12. A Game: Identify the kinds of mental illness of the Bible God

    Pathological jealousy–to the point where God actually says that his name is Jealous in one instance. The theme of a jealous god looms heavy over the entire Old Testament, and although it is somewhat toned down in the New Testament it is still present. This has to be one of God's character traits that I most often hear Christians discussing in positive terms, as if jealousy was a good thing! There's even a song that celebrates this aspect of God written by the David Crowder Band called "How He Loves." If you haven't heard the song before, the opening chorus goes like this: He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are And how great Your affections are for me A year or so ago, I would have said that this song was a beautiful picture of God's intense love for His people. The last time I checked, however, jealousy is never an ingredient for a healthy relationship. Jealous behavior is borne out of fear and a lack of trust, where one partner in the relationship constantly suspects (often without reason) that their significant other might betray them if he/she isn't kept in line. Throughout the OT we see God committing terrible acts against his own chosen people in an effort to 'persuade' them to repent and turn back to worshiping him, instead of all the other gods who totally aren't real but still incur God's wrath for...what? Not existing? Since I've started looking at the Bible from a more neutral perspective, God's actions seem more and more like the abuses of an angry ex-boyfriend or husband (or an angry mafia don who offers 'protection,' but shakes you down whenever he feels like you haven't shown enough loyalty). He might ask you nicely to give in and come back, or he might just go straight to Plan B and beat the everliving crap out of you until you come crawling back to him like an abused spouse, repentant and ready to obey once more. Oh, and speaking of that whole repentance thing, you have to take all the blame for everything that's happened to you, even the stuff that God supposedly did. After all, God is perfect and can do no wrong, and if you aren't sure about that he can always send a few more calamities your way until you see things from his perspective.
  13. Thoughts on Xenoglossy?

    So last night I got into a conversation with family about supposed mystical experiences in the Christian faith, and while I never mentioned that I pretty much consider it all 'woo' at this point I did make it pretty clear that all of the stories about speaking in tongues, demon possession, and being 'slain in the Spirit' could easily be the products of a mental imbalance or some other natural phenomena. This didn't exactly dissuade the fam (nor did I expect it to), and my mother briefly described a time about seventeen years ago when she was taking the Alpha course and a woman got up and started speaking in tongues. The thing is, this apparently wasn't your garden variety glossolalia babble, since someone else in the group actually understood what was being said. Things got even more interesting when the tongue-speaker revealed that she'd never learned the language that she had been speaking, and of course it was all attributed to God. It reminded me a bit of the Agnes Ozman story, where a woman (Ozman) reportedly had hands laid on her and suddenly began to speak and write Chinese for three days, helping to kick off the Pentecostal movement. I didn't press for too many more details, as I was trying to find a nice way to close the conversation without sounding rude or unreceptive, but later I did some searching and discovered that this phenomena–known as xenoglossy–has actually been reported many times throughout history, by Christians and nonbelievers, in both religious and non-religious situations. Of course, there's usually no way to accurately validate these claims, although a number of psychologists and linguists have tried. Outside of Christian circles, xenoglossy seems to often be associated with reincarnation, another concept that I am extremely skeptical of due to a lack of conclusive evidence to support it. Has anybody here had an experience with xenoglossy in the past, and if so what were your thoughts? Also, how might I reconcile the issue with a close relative who sincerely believes that she witnessed an instance of xenoglossy?
  14. Ice Cream Truck Playing Xtian Music

    Sometimes when I get stuck in a situation where Christian music is playing and I don't want to rock the boat too much, I'm surprised by how easily the songs (especially some of the older hymns) fit into a more, shall we say, irreverent theme. It's hilarious how so many of these songs sing about Jesus' love and how he wants to come inside everyone (homoerotic undertones much?) In your particular case, I remember the song 'Jesus Loves Me' quite well; the lyrics, re-imagined slightly, put Jesus in a hilarious (albeit creepy) light: Jesus loves me this I know For the Bible tells me so Little ones to Him belong They are weak but He is strong! It sounds like the Son of God is very fond of children. Maybe the Catholic pedophile priests are actually following in his footsteps after all? The song later talks about goodies like a 'heaven's gate' that will open wide so Jesus can 'wash away' sin. That doesn't sound dirty at all, now does it? Likewise, the song 'Deep and Wide' is all about a fountain flowing, as the title suggests, 'deep and wide.' I'm pretty sure you can guess where this is going...
  15. Joel Osteen's tweets - "god" replaced with "your dick"

    What if 'the Lord' was Eve's nickname for Adam's abnormally large package?