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I got into a discussion on Facebook the other day on the topic of control, and I thought it might be worthwhile to share it here. The individual I was discussing this with seemed to have a focus on the AR-15, though handguns were also a part of the discussion. I had expressed that I had seen a lot of poor arguments for pro-gun ownership online, and so they asked me what I thought a good reason was.

They had posted this initially: “people would be seriously stirred up if the same attacks were coming from the government toward free religion or free speech or voting or any of our other pre-existing, fundamental, God-given rights.”

Building off that statement – I made my case:

Well, let’s look at a potential bad reason…

You seem to indicate with your statement that gun ownership – like freedom of religion, speech, or the right to vote – is a “God-given right.” Firearms of course aren’t listed anywhere in the Bible, and the example in the character of Jesus – who reportedly said, “turn the other cheek,” did so, and then died at the hands of the ruling authorities rather than retaliate – is lifted up as the model a Christian should live their life after. 

Following up after Jesus you have Paul, who is reported as saying, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2). He is also reported as saying, “Follow my example as I follow Christ’s,” and Christian tradition holds that he did so by dying at the hand of the ruling authorities rather than retaliating just as his example had done. 

So, as a Christian, looking at Jesus and Paul – how does one declare that guns are a “God-given right,” and that guns should be kept if the need to overthrow a tyrannical government should arise – when overthrowing the tyrannical government amounts to “rebelling against what God has instituted” and supposedly brings judgement upon oneself? How does one get to the place of gun ownership being a God-given right? Unless we’re talking about a God other than the one in the Bible. 

For me the gun argument stands as a completely secular issue. People on the political left are correct – if we had a complete ban on all guns like the UK, Japan, and other western developed nations – we would have fewer gun deaths in the United States. The data is clear on that. However, to do the same in the US would violate individual freedom and liberty. We already put certain restrictions on the 2nd amendment, which in all honesty has outlived the purpose of why it was created. [Name withheld] is right that it was put in so the people could revolt against a tyrannical government, and when the government was fighting with muskets and bayonets it made a lot of sense, but we’re well beyond that now. We kill people in the Middle-East with the push of a button on a remote controlled flying device, and they never see death coming. If we’re really talking about a tyrannical government, there’s nothing that would stop that same thing happening to a bunch of hunkered down hillbillies in the foothills of Alabama. An AR-15 would be more useful as toilet paper than an instrument of rebellion against an armored, air-powered, bunker-busting, smart-bombing, industrialized death steam roller. So, yeah – “the 2nd Amendment isn’t for hunting,” but it might as well be for fishing as effective as it would be in both practice for a Coup d’état, and as an argument for the rights of gun owners. 

The only argument for gun ownership, with reasonable checks and balances – is for home and self-defense. Police response time is not adequate to protect yourself from and armed intruder, and a lawful weapon is what provides you the potential added protection until officers can respond.

It’s been over 10 days since I posted that, and I’ve yet to hear a response. I doubt I will.

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Election time is once again drawing near, and soon we will be headed to the polls to elect or re-elect our public officials, as well as approve or reject various ballot proposals and initiatives. They say the two things you’re never supposed to talk about at work is religion and politics, but each election cycle these two topics seem to get more and more intertwined with one another. So, while I won’t be breaking any workplace taboos by discussing these topics here, I’d say chances are pretty good that someone is going to read what I have to say and get pissed off. Feel free to leave a comment.

A little over a week ago, Billy Graham appeared in this full page ad in the Wall Street Journal and USA today…

Do you hear that America? Billy Graham says that you need to vote for leaders that will stand on Biblical principles, and presumably they will ensure that the legislation they enact forces your fellow Americans to live by those same standards. It might be worth noting that if the issues the Rev. Graham issued were done so in order of importance, then according to him the most important issue America needs to deal with is gays and lesbians. This would especially be the case in the state of Washington where approval of Referendum 74 would legalize gay marriage in the state.

Many Christians seem to think that voting for candidates and proposals that ensure biblical values are forced upon the populace as a whole is a good thing, but they do themselves more harm than they realize. When Christians try to use the power of government to force others to live according to biblical standards – it is a public admission that their Gospel, their Holy Spirit, and their Christ – is impotent and powerless. First Corinthians 2:4 says that lives are transformed by a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, but many Christians today seem content to attempt to transform lives by checking a box on a ballot. Of course, when you don’t really have the power of a supernatural being residing inside you, forcing others to live the way you want them to is probably easier than convincing them of the validity of your message and the way you live your life.

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I’m going to steal away a few minutes from my ever busy schedule to write about the Project Reason 2012 Video Contest, that I recently participated in, and ultimately ended up taking home 2nd place, and the $4000 prize.  I’ll start off by saying that this was one of the best organized video contests I’ve ever been a part of.  I submitted my video, and was notified it was a finalist the day before the voting period started.  Once voting was over, I was notified that I had won 2nd place the day the voting ended.  If that wasn’t speedy enough – I had a check in hand 1 week later.  Video contests rarely run that smooth, or are that well organized.  My hat is off to Sam and Annika Harris for doing an outstanding job with the logistics.  Now, onto the entries…

1st Place – $10,000

I absolutely loved the 1st place winner.  The animation, the scripting, the narration (everything sounds better with a British accent), the music, and most of all – the message.  It was great.  While it was great, however, it was not my first choice, and the only reason is because it was preaching right to me “in the choir.”  I just don’t think the video would challenge the thought process of the theistically-minded enough to have an impact.  I could be wrong, but that’s just my impression.  Just the same, I’m very happy for the 1st place winner, and if I was going to take 2nd place to another video, I wanted it to be that one.  The producers did an outstanding job.

2nd Place – $4000

I won’t add anything new on my video seeing as I’ve already given the background on it here.

3rd Place – $1000

This was probably my least favorite of the 6 finalists.  Had it been shortened into a 30-second video, I probably would have liked it a little better, but I’m just not one for long, text-driven (small text at that) videos.  Obviously there were others who liked it, and overall the message is a good one.  Dogmatism really IS NOT patriotic.  I just would have like to have seen that message driven home in a slightly different format.

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I’ve been insanely busy the last couple of weeks, but I wanted to take a moment  to let all two of you who read my blog know that my video Genesis Creation Visualized – Scientifically has been selected as a finalist in the Project Reason 2012 video contest.   My video is up against 5 other finalists for one of three prizes ($10,000, $4000, $1000), and you can visit the site and register to cast your single vote for your favorite video through 7/23/2012.  Once voting is over, I’ll post about what I like and dislike about the other videos, but I don’t want to taint anyone’s opinion before the contest is over.

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As promised, I’m following up on my previous blog post where I revealed the first video I’ve produced here at TheSkepticalMagician.com – “Genesis Creation Visualized – Scientifically.”  I put a considerable amount of thought and energy into creating this video, and I wanted to give you a behind the scenes look into the reasons why I made it the way I did.

Why re-write Genesis?

A common response one gets when talking to Christians about the origins of the Universe and the lack of specificity and accuracy of the Genesis account — is that the complex laws of physics would have been lost on bronze age peoples, so God had to dumb it down so humans could comprehend all that he had done.  In other words, the divine creator had to be vague, and not quite as accurate because the concepts were not there to explain it fully.  This seems to make a lot of intuitive sense to believers, and it is something that enables them to continue believing what they want to believe, so they don’t take that next crucial step that everyone should take when determining whether or not something they believe is true… They don’t try to prove themselves wrong!  And just like a scientist who submits something for peer review without first trying to disprove their ideas, if they don’t do it — someone else will.  By re-writing the Genesis account as I did (and I could have been far more detailed were it not for my time limits), I was able to show that one could give a scientifically accurate portrayal of the evolution of the Cosmos that a bronze age human could understand, while still maintaining certain poetic liberties.  Had the first 18 verses of Genesis been something similar to what I created, we in present day would have to stop and ask, “How in the heck did these bronze age illiterates know about things like fusion and the forging of the elements within stars?”  “How did they know the Earth orbits the Sun, and how did they know it rolls upon the fabric of space like it does?”  Instead of having to answer difficult questions like these, we’re left with undeniable evidence that the Genesis account of creation is just one more in a long line of creation myths.

Now, I fully admit that the Genesis account as currently written could have happened just like the Bible says, and I say as much in the video.  There is no way for me to disprove this, though I don’t think most Christians would be comfortable with what this would tell us about the creator.  If the Genesis account of the Bible is a literal, historical account of the creation of the Universe, then the creator is a deceiver.  He’s a trickster.  He’s a hoaxer.  In order for the Genesis account to be true, it would mean that creator would have had to intentionally alter time and space itself to make it look like things had occurred completely different than they actually had.  In essence,  that God is one who not only tricks people, but tricks people into not believing in him, or in his written text, which plainly goes against the idea in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

A track that many liberal Christians take is that the Genesis account is not a literal history of creation, but that it’s a symbolic or metaphoric account of man’s relationship with his creator etc, etc, etc.  Again, I can’t disprove that either, though I don’t think people who follow that line of thinking consider the greater negative theological implications for the Christian faith later on down the line.  Without a literal Genesis, or a literal Adam and Eve – there is no basis or necessity for a literal 2nd Adam (i.e. Jesus) to undo what they did in Genesis.  For these types, much of the Bible is looked at as metaphorical or symbolic, and these issues aren’t of any great concern to them, and they are happy to believe just the same.  Again, trying to disprove their perspective is a bit like trying to nail jello to a wall, and there are so many ad hoc fallacies, and so much special pleading injected into the conversation that one can find themselves quickly frustrated.  In general, these types of believers aren’t usually trying to get Biblical creation crammed into science classrooms, and are often times just as against their fundamentalist brethren in that regard as secularists are.  So while I don’t agree with their conclusions, and can no more disprove their claims than I can disprove Russell’s teapot, I can at least respect their ability to accept the clear evidence of origins instead of dogmatically clinging to ideas that are either false (my position), or the product of an omnipotent trickster. (more…)

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And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for — I give you the first video production for TheSkepticalMagician.com…

Blog post to follow in the next couple of days talking about what went into the making.  Enjoy!

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I don’t typically use a lot of profanity on my blog, particularly not in my titles, but this one seemed spot on and would probably make a great name for a rock band.  Whoever snags the name, just make sure I get a cut.  Of course, what I’m really referring to is the lawsuit that is being pursued by Catholic Bishops in regards to the birth control mandate.  Their argument boils down to them claiming that they are being forced to pay for something that violates their religious sensibilities, which if one just follows this idea out a little bit further, it’s easy to see why they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Medical benefits are a part of an employee’s compensation, just like a person’s paycheck is also part of their compensation.  Let’s say you spend $50 per paycheck at the bar, and your employer is a Mormon who is against all alcohol consumption.  Your Mormon boss finds out about you spending that money at the bar, and then docks your paycheck $50 from there on out to keep you from participating in that activity, and from having money from their business (through you) going to an activity they do not support.  See a problem here?  Me too.

Whether it’s monetary compensation, or compensation through medical benefits — employers do not have the right to limit compensation based upon actions their employees might take that violate the conscience of the employer.  It’s easy to miss the fact that medical benefits are compensation when everyone’s eyes are focused on a tiny little pill.  So, Bishops — quit yer bitchin’.

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