It's all the creationists' fault

Pharyngula mentions a letter in Science which talks about how a creationist motivated an unmotivated high school student to become an evolutionary biologist. This struck a chord with me: it was creationism that turned me into an atheist.

There was a time during my teenage years when I was a Christian. I tended to take things in the Bible literally, although I did allow for words being mistranslated or fudged. As I always had an interest in science, I even tried fitting the known history of the universe to the first creation narrative in Genesis. This all changed when I read Henry Morris' Scientific Creationism. Even to my teenage mind, so much of the book was just so obviously wrong that it finally occurred to me that not everything anyone says is the truth. This made me dig into the evidence supporting religions, and I found out that religions ultimately had nothing more than just "someone said so" backing them up, which was rather pathetic as evidence.

While I doubt I would have grown up to be a fire-breathing fundamentalist Christian, I think I would have been a liberal Christian or a deist if it were not for creationism. The funny thing is that I had never read any atheist literature nor heard any arguments advocating atheism until many years after I had become an atheist. Until some time during university, I had not even really known what "atheist" meant besides that it was a type of person some people disliked. Incidentally, this is why I prefer saying that I am not religious, which is clear in its meaning, rather than that I am an atheist, which might face the sort of ignorance I once had.

The moral of the story could be: If you lie for Jesus, some people might realize that Jesus is a lie.

Religious schools and abortions

If you have a daughter and do not want her to have an abortion, then you should not send her to a religious school, because women who go to private religious schools are five times more likely to have an extra-marital abortion.

Of course, I'm not being entirely fair since correlation does not necessarily imply causation. However, it is odd how places where you would expect stronger anti-choice rhetoric have more abortions. Perhaps the way to get rid of abortions is to make access to birth control easier and get rid of misogynistic attitudes, instead of trying to outlaw abortions or kill obstetricians/gynecologists ...

Killing the firstborn

If you're trying to help your chosen people move out of a country by killing the firstborn of everyone else in the country, you might have a small conundrum:

You have promised your chosen people that you would kill all the firstborn except their own. You know that you will not have to kill a child in every family because of high mortality rates: there are not as many firstborn alive as would be expected. And you know that you will be sparing the firstborn of those other than your chosen people: some of your chosen people will convince their neighbors to put blood on the door frames, and you are willing to overlook this exploitation of a loophole.

However, there are certain people whom some argue that you should kill and others argue that you should not. These people had a father or mother who had children before, but are the first child of their other parent. Some of them are the result of men taking in multiple wives, some are the result of remarriages, and others are the result of adultery. They can be argued to be either firstborn or not, which ties in to whether you should kill them or not.

What should you do?

Conversion between theism and atheism

When a religious person encounters an atheist who used to be a devout follower of the same religion, a response that is all too commonly heard is that the current atheist never used to be a believer. Complete rubbish in almost every case, it's hardly impossible for a theist to become an atheist or vice versa.

Not that I always believe it when a theist claims to have been an atheist in the past. I would take it at their word if it was just that, but often enough the claim is accompanied by "I was angry at God", which completely demolishes the credibility: it is a little hard to be so angry at something one does not even think exists. I put slightly more credence to claims for someone to have converted to a religion out of intellectual reasons, except the claims almost invariably undermine themselves as the intellectual arguments put forward tend to be really bad, not even passing the "the same sort of reasoning would not apply to another contradictory religion" filter. There have been exceptions, although the religious concepts have been so watered down that they may as well not have been religions.

Without extraneous and dubious claims as the above, I would usually take a theist's claim that they used to be an atheist at their word. Oddly enough, it's much rarer to see a current atheist with a dubious claim to having previously been a theist. It might be because I'm biased ...

Nonsensical criminalization of religious criticism

Dozens of Islamic nations show how little they actually care about human dignity as they attempt to pass a UN resolution restricting religious criticism. Really, criticizing a religion is more of an affront to human dignity than incarcerating or even executing people because they criticize a religion? This is such a thinly veiled attempt to shield Islam from valid criticism, and they know it. Somehow I doubt the Islamic nations would be so eager to restrict the public censure of a religion for free speech: I suspect many of them would actively suppress anything like this, in fact.

(Anyone want to establish a religion worshipping free speech?)