Cat’s cradle

by Kurt Vonnegut

Is a book by one man’s view of the human psyche. I am feeling quite lazy to tell you much about the book. I will however, in the spirit of good friendship share a few passages from the book that I liked.

Just a brief note. He manages to give each character enough space so that we do not have persons who do not contribute something to the story line. It is a short read, actually you can finish it in one sitting and you will thank me for it. Well thank archy for it.

Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.

There is a passage on what cult leaders many times get their followers to do, and sadly many do and do not live to tell the story.

To whom it may concern: These people around you are almost all of the survivors on San Lorenzo of the winds that followed the freezing of the sea. These people made a captive of the spurious holy man named Bokonon. They brought him here, placed him at their center, and commanded him to tell them exactly what God Almighty was up to and what they should now do. The mountebank told them that God was surely trying to kill them, possible because He was through with them, and that they should have the good manners to die. This, as you can see, they did.

There is this bit he writes about god creating man

In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness.
And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done.” And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. “What is the _purpose_ of all this?” he asked politely.
Everything must have a purpose?” asked God.
“Certainly,” said man.
“Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God.
And He went away. [emphasis mine]

I however like this the most, it is the last paragraph of the book and I think my friend nannus would agree.

If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues
of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.

The things Christians believe

This comment deserves to be given an airing. There is a post by JZ on William Craig’s cosmology knowledge and references. I will not copy the entire comment but just the portion relevant for this post. You can visit the post to see the whole comment.

The comment is a justification of the bible being of supernatural origins.

1. THE BOOK OF GOD: The book of God asserts this fact for itself many times over. The question some raise is whether it was written by a man or revealed by God and recorded by man. The structure and message of the book demand a divine author.

Man could not set out to write a book of this size. He would not have the ideas of it, nor would man be able to produce the detail and precision of it. It presents God as THE God. It presents God as having a plan. It presents God only as deserving glory. It presents God as the absolute authority.

The unregenerate man could not subdue his own pride to produce such a God, nor could he exalt his talents to a level capable of producing such a book.

This is an assertion in need of proof. The bible being a collection of many books written over a long period of time has on every page the stamp of man moving from a barbarian to a more civilized being but not getting there. Most of its commands are abhorrent to any rational being. The Muslim makes the same claim about his holy book. How do we separate which is the most authentic? Man creates gods all the time in his image and the bible is a library where god is created in the image of the man writing it.

2. THE BIBLE AND MONOTHEISM: The Bible presents monotheism – one God, not many. Mankind has always had many gods, be they wood, clay, gold or silver. Idolatry is in every civilization to some extent. The Bible presents a one-God religion. How could man devise such a thought as one God in a world of many gods?

The bible presents many gods. Anyone who has read the bible would know the idea of one god is developed only later by the priestly writers. Otherwise as we start, as early as chapter 3, we have god saying man has become like one of us. One could argue that this reference is for the royal we, but I disagree.

3. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY: The doctrine of the Trinity is so complex yet so simple as to demand a divine origin for the Bible. The Trinity is three persons in one God. Stated it is simple yet the explanation has evaded man since the subject was undertaken for study. We cannot explain the how of the Trinity only the fact of it.

The work each member of the Trinity is involved in is also very complicated – the Fatherhood of God, or the perfections of Christ. Man cannot adequately explain these things so how could he devise them?

The doctrine of the trinity is a creation of the church fathers and was resolved through violence. Those who carried the day had their way. Tertullian who is among the early church fathers to write on it, tells us nothing comprehensible. Their is an undisclosed premise in this statement that three personages represented in the trinity exist. There is no evidence for the supernatural and as such only the credulous believe such stories.

4. CREATION: The creation is the beginning of the content of Scripture. This creation is presented as fact and is described in Scripture. Man’s explanation of the beginning of the world is tied up in evolution. Even with the best product evolution could produce, that person could not have produced the Biblical account. Evolution is shot through with problems and gaps. Man could not devise a creation as perfectly presented in Scripture.

Any one who reads his bible should look at the commentary on Genesis. The OT where the creation story appears is a Hebrew story of how they saw the world around them. It is not a statement of fact. To take it as fact because it is mentioned in the bible to quit being reasonable. It is to ask for exclusion in the place of rational debate. The person who insists the bible gives the best creation account has evidently not read anything else on that genre. Man devised the creation story. Man is speculative and whenever we leave the abode of reason anything is possible. To not credit man with this ridiculous story is to underestimate the ability of man to come up with stories.

5. SIN: Sin is presented in Scripture. Forty authors, are in complete agreement on sin and its existence. Man could not devise such a thing as sin from his own mind. Sin is a divine statement and idea not a man made doctrine.

Sin is a creation of the bible and the priest. Without it, the priest is jobless. What does this person take man for? He devises things everyday and gives them names.

6. THE CURE OF EVIL ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE: The Bible’s cure for sin is so divine as to demand divine authorship.

Man would not devise a plan of salvation because without Scripture he doesn’t know he needs it. Even if man knew he needed salvation he could not dream up a plan whereby all could be saved apart from works or vanity.

Man could not devise a plan of salvation where the one redeeming would gain all the glory. Man could not come up with such a beautiful plan aside from having it revealed to him by God.

This is the most ridiculous part of this comment. Of course, the bible would have to have a cure for its problems. It created them and the solution it gives is blood sacrifice. It is created by a barbarian. The way of the bible is scapegoating. If this is seen as the best for the divine, I want to be divine. I have an easier solution. The Greeks writing earlier than the Hebrew barbarian didn’t see man as fallen and in need of salvation. Their gods are modeled around the best among them. The claim that the bible story of salvation, a salvation we don’t need, is a perfect thing reflects how credulous the author of this book is.

7. THE EXTENT OF BIBLE REVELATION: The extent of the Bible demands a divine author. It reaches minutely into eternity past as well as eternity future. Human authors aside from revelation could not make up such detail nor such broad perimeters.

The bible written by men and over a long period of time would capture the many different facets of life. One only need be an observer and participant in life to see how this is possible over a millenia. If we were to collect a few books written in the last century alone and combine it in one volume, one would be amazed at how much of the human story could be detailed in one book. To make this claim for the bible ignores many facts; the bible is a collection of books by diverse authors writing to different audiences over a long period of time. There is nothing unique in its composition.

8. THE ETHICS OF THE BIBLE: The ethics that the Bible produces have never even been hinted at in man’s religions. Purity and holiness of life are the divine standard while in most of man’s we find debasement and immorality.

The Bible presents man as an utter failure and unable to help himself. Man in his vanity even today has trouble comprehending such things, much less making them up.

Only a divine author could take a moral system such as Judaism and lay it aside for another system so different yet presenting the same morality as Christianity. Man could not come up with such a moral standard based on the teachings of a book without revelation from God.

This is an outright lie. The writings of Buddha do not teach debasement. The Gita do not teach debasement. The writings of Homer do not teach debasement and these are not even religious. The writings of Marcus Aurelius, Cicero, Cato, Xenophon, Epictetus, Epicurus do not teach debasement. For a rational person to make such a claim is evidence he hasn’t read anything other than the bible. The bible on the other hand teaches debasement in some of its pages. Lot sleeps with his daughters and there is no reproach. The family of Noah reproduce with each other and there is no reproach. Adam’s family must have had incestuous relationships[if they lived] and there is no reproach. There are many more examples to be found in the bible, one only has to look. We find in the life of Solon an upstanding man, the life of Socrates is above reproach, the life of divine Plato is above reproach! What do these people read?

9. THE CONTINUITY OF THE BIBLE: The continuity of Scripture declares a divine editor and revealer – 66 books, 40 authors and hundreds of years of history. The authors are separated by time, space and education. They come from all walks of life and most of them never met one another, yet they came together to form one central story of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

He is shown as pre-incarnate. He is shown in prophecy as coming. He is shown as here in His first advent. He is shown as coming again in the future.

One man could produce a work with continuity but this combination of authors and times has to be divinely assembled. Man could not produce such a work.

The authors of the bible are anonymous. The bible was compiled by the church and the strongest faction had its way with what books made it to the cannon.

10. PROPHECY AND ITS FULFILLMENT: Prophecy along with its fulfillment is proof that the Bible is of divine origin. Man can think and project what might happen in the future based on knowledge, history and common sense, but man cannot accurately predict specific occurrences and have those occurrences come to pass. The Scripture is full of prophecies that have been fulfilled and which will yet be fulfilled.

It has been shown that what is called prophesy has been written after the fact. To prove prophesy, the claim can’t be ambiguous. It should give dates and an accurate description of what is expected. If it involves reinterpretation of what the bible authors could have meant it can’t be prophesy.

11. TYPES WITH THEIR ANTITYPES: The types of the Old Testament and the antitypes of the New Testament are of such splendor that they must have divine origin. The fact that the type was set to words by a person other than the one setting down the antitype, and this being done hundreds of years apart, shows divine origin. This would require divine intervention!

Bunk! What antitypes? There is still sacrifice in the NT except in this case it is god killing himself to himself. In the OT Hosea or Amos am not sure who, is made to teach that it is important to take care of the less fortunate. There is no originality in the new testament.

See comment by Liberty of Thinking below for an explanation on types and antitypes. Yours truly was ignorant of what these are.

12. THE BIBLE AS LITERATURE: The Bible is considered great literature even by the unsaved. If a man had been setting these great words down, he most surely would have left some personal opinions and pronouns to let the reader know that it was he that had written the work.

The truths are not from the men but from their God so that they left no opinion of their own or personal pronouns to lay claim to any of the truths.

Many of the church fathers have been prolific writers, however, none of these have even touched the clarity and preciseness of Scripture, nor have they touched the literary quality of the Word.

The bible is considered such in mainly the western world. This however doesn’t make its claims true. The teachings of Buddha are considered great literature by a greater majority of the world population than those who consider the bible thus. This cases of special pleading shouldn’t be used in a rational debate.

13. THE BIBLE AND SCIENCE: Science is in constant revision. The world was flat – remember – and now it is round. The scientific world is always redoing and redefining to fit the exposed facts. The Bible on the other hand has always been acceptable in all ages without revision or redefining.

Where the Bible has seemingly contradicted science in the past, the scientists have found that they were in error in later days.

No, the world has never been flat. The bible was wrong in its claims. Science is revised because every day we acquire new knowledge. There is no time I remember in my life that we have preferred a biblical explanation to a scientific one. And anyone to correct me if am wrong. I will withdraw.

14. THE BIBLE AND TEMPORAL POWER: The Bible is not dependent upon political power, or clout to get its job done. The believer can do the work of the Lord with or without the help of the governmental powers.

Man naturally, when he wants something done, will try any means to achieve his end. They often use political power, or strings with politicians, to achieve their goal.

If man had written the Bible he would not have been able to come up with the idea that man could do the work of the Lord relying on the heart and mind of others rather than political power.

The bible needed the Roman emperors to take hold. Without the conversion of Constantine and some successive emperors giving support to Christianity, the world would still be populated by numerous gods as it is still anyway! Man wrote the bible and man has spread it and mainly through fraud or violence and many times both.

15. THE BIBLE’S ENDURING FRESHNESS: The constant new blessing a person gains from the Word even when he has read, and read, and read a portion there is always something more to be gleaned from its content. No other literature can make this claim to freshness and vitality.

This is true of most books. There is nothing special about the bible except that many people think it is.

Who needs god

Here is a piece on the necessity of atheism that I would suggest each of you read.

Most people, who mention the first cause argument by Aristotle, ignore the point that he, Aristotle, chose to have just one cause for simplicity but says in his works there could be up to 56[?] causes. The believer must accept the possibility of there being many first causes.

I love Camus and his book the Myth of Sisyphus where he deals with the question of suicide. A very interesting read.

Now, go read the piece.

Who needs god?

6 reasons to believe

This post was originally posted here. Some responses can be found here for those who are interested. We would want to add our two cents worth of commentary to it.

Reason 1

Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

To claim design, one must know the end or be in a position to know the end to which something has been done. There is no evidence anywhere the universe was designed not that it is sustained by any power other than those inherent in nature. Where is the evidence that the universe needed a creator.

We are given examples why this is the case and I will only deal with one. They write

The Earth…its size is perfect. The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter. Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.

The earth just is.  We have found ourselves on earth, we can speculate about how it would be if things were different, but that doesn’t change the fact that the earth just is. Thinking of how I would act if I were the world dictator doesn’t make me one. We are capable of speculation and most times we are misled by it as we forget to ground our speculative reason on what we know and can verify.

Reason 2

Does God exist? The universe had a start – what caused it?

This assertion is in need of proof. It would be a leap of several magnitude to come from the universe having a beginning to god did it. To rule out the universe always existing in some form or other is a case of special pleading.

Reason 3

Does God exist? The universe operates by uniform laws of nature. Why does it?

We don’t know. All we can infer is that order seems to be inherent in nature.

Reason 4

Does God exist? The DNA code informs, programs a cell’s behavior

Being part of nature and in nature, we wouldn’t expect it to behave other than it does.

Reason 5

Does God exist? We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him

Last I checked it is proselytes knocking people’s doors selling faith. No one I know of has met this supposed god. All those who claim to hear him say they hear a voice in their heads. I don’t know, but how can we tell they are not hallucinating. Why should we take the claims of one over that of another?

Reason 6

Does God exist? Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God revealing himself to us

Bunk! Honestly I didn’t see this coming. I don’t think the Jesus figure as claimed in the bible existed. This is wishful thinking and not a reason to believe.

I find this very disappointing. I was hoping to be convinced there is some reason to hold onto belief in the supernatural, and then this is all! How sad.

On Christian charity

Give me, O Caesar! give me the earth purged of heretics, and I will give you in exchange the kingdom of heaven. Exterminate with me the heretics, and with you I will exterminate the Persians.

May those who divide Christ be divided with the sword, may they be hewn in pieces, may they be burned alive!

E. Gibbon in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Postscript: Please see Ark’s comment below for details.

Is atheism more comforting than theism

People ask odd questions and they get more odd by the day!

Enquiries on Atheism

By a show of hands, how many of you are atheists because it is comforting? I will be counting.

This question is a bit challenging, simply because to answer it correctly, I would have to make a generalization on theism which may not be universal. The Judeo- Christian sects believe that they will survive their death in one form and spend this time in eternal bliss, for those who are lucky, with their god in a heaven and the rest who don’t qualify will be BBQ’d for eternity.

The second belief they have and I think this is universal in theism that the gods they worship are concerned with their daily affairs and listens to their petitions.

It is held in the Judeo- Christian sects that man is born fallen, with freewill to or not to follow their benevolent dictator so that in the event they are condemned to be…

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On freedom

Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not choice. It is man’s pretence that because he has choice he is free. Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence. In observation one begins to discover the lack of freedom. Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.


God and the problem of evil

Problem of evil revisited

Enquiries on Atheism

Many atheists contend that the problem of evil demonstrates God’s non-existence, or that he’s malevolent and/or impotent.  How does that follow?  Christians maintain that Freewill is the reason for evil, and Freewill is the product of the Divine.  If God does not exist, evil would not exist because objective moral values do not exist. So, evil proves God’s existence.

Many atheists contend, and rightly, that evil is not consistent with a benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent god. Further, we argue that given what we observe, it is more rational to conclude that  god[s] do not exist.

How does it follow? Easy answer.

Assume you powerful, not omnipotent, just powerful and you see someone in the act of sexually abusing another, would you let them continue? If no, why not? It has been argued by apologists that god has a reason unknown to us why he permits such evil to occur. I call it bunk…

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