Conservapedia

I’m not going to skewer the radical right’s attempt to relativize Wikipedia in full; better bloggers than me have already done so. But looking at Conservapedia’s mathematics entries is a good reminder that polemical hacks don’t usually produce any useful knowledge.

The combined knowledge of Wikipedia’s NPOV editors has produced a page about the prime number theorem that explains in length how the theorem relates to the Riemann zeta function and how the Riemann hypothesis implies a better estimate, and derives some explicit bounds. The first section, comprising only a small part of the article, says,

Let π(x) be the prime counting function that gives the number of primes less than or equal to x, for any real number x. For example, π(10) = 4 because there are four prime numbers (2, 3, 5 and 7) less than or equal to 10. The prime number theorem then states that the limit of the quotient of the two functions π(x) and x / ln(x) as x approaches infinity is 1. Using Landau notation this result can be written as

\pi(x)\sim\frac{x}{\ln x}.

This does not mean that the limit of the difference of the two functions as x approaches infinity is zero.

Based on the tables by Anton Felkel and Jurij Vega, the theorem was conjectured by Adrien-Marie Legendre in 1796 and proved independently by Hadamard and de la Vallée Poussin in 1896. Both proofs used methods from complex analysis, specifically the properties of the Riemann zeta function and where the function was non-zero.

Meanwhile, the editors of Conservapedia, constrained by the requirements of a radical ideology that displays every radical pathology in the book (for a really egregious example of symbolism, check out the Conservapedia policy on British vs. American spelling), have produced the following article:

The Prime Number Theorem is one of the most famous theorem in mathematics. It states that the number of primes not exceeding n is asymptotic to \frac{n}{\log n}, where log(n) is the logarithm of (n) to the base e.    The number of primes not exceeding n is commonly written as <span class="texhtml">π(<em>n</em>)</span>, and an asymptotic relationship between a(n) and b(n) is commonly designated as a(n)~b(n). (This does not mean that a(n)-b(n) is small as n increases. It means the ratio of a(n) to b(n) approaches one as n increases.)    The Prime Number Theorem thus states that <span class="texhtml">π(<em>n</em>)</span>~<span class="texhtml"><em>n</em> / log(<em>n</em>)</span> .    In other words, the limit (as n approaches infinity) of the ratio of pi(n) to n/log(n) is one. Put a third way, n/log(n) is a good approximation for <span class="texhtml">π(<em>n</em>)</span>.    <em>Section Break</em>    <a href="http://www.conservapedia.com/index.php?title=Gauus&action=edit" class="new" title="Gauus">Gauus</a> [<em>sic</em>] conjectured the equivalent statement that <span class="texhtml">π(<em>x</em>)</span> was asymptotic to <span class="texhtml">Li(<em>x</em>)</span> defined as:    latex \mbox{Li}(x) = \int_2^x \frac{dt}{\ln t}$.

In fact, for large x this turns out to be a better approximation than π(x).

Now, you might say I’m just picking and choosing, and other articles could be better. In fact, I’m picking and choosing here in Conservapedia’s favor; the prime number theorem is one of the few mathematical entries that even exist on Conservapedia. I could compare the articles on the Langlands program, or local rings, or global fields, or the Riemann hypothesis; on those subjects there is no Conservapedia article. Conservapedia doesn’t even have an article on mathematics.

You might also say that Conservapedia is a young project, so I shouldn’t be comparing it to a 6-year-old encyclopedia. Alright; the news on Conservapedia go back a month, so just compare the math there to the math posts I’ve put up in the month of February. On 2/1, I put up a basic concepts post that could make it to an encyclopedia. That took me maybe an hour net to write; how come the Conservapedia editors can’t come up with something better than a few stubs in a month?

Mark CC’s takedown is a good read; Conservapedia complains that Wikipedia doesn’t use “elementary proofs.” But Mark makes a slight mistake about elementary proofs:

There is currently an entry on “Elementary Proof” on Wikipedia, but to be fair, it was created just two weeks ago, most likely in response to this claim by conservapedia.

But that’s trivial. The important thing here is that the concept of “elementary proof” is actually a relatively trivial one. It’s sometimes used in number theory, when they’re trying to pare down the number of assumptions required to prove a theorem. An elementary proof is a proof which makes use of the minimum assumptions that describe the basic properties of real numbers. And even in the case of number theory, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone seriously argue that an elementary proof is more rigorous than another proof of the same theorem. Elementary proofs might be easier to understand – but that’s not a universal statement: many proofs that make use of things like complex numbers are easier to understand than the elementary equivalent. And I have yet to hear of anything provable about real numbers using number theory with complex numbers which can be proven false using number theory without the complex – proofs about real numbers that use complex are valid, rigorous, and correct.

The concept of elementary proof is fairly relative. In number theory, it means no complex analysis, and Mark’s assessment is entirely valid. But in other subjects, it can mean something slightly different. When I took advanced group theory three semesters ago, my professor, an arithmetic geometer/number theorist, told me that to him, “elementary” in a group theoretic context meant no cohomology. There are certainly deeper techniques than just complex analysis; suffice is to say that if someone discovers a proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem that utilizes complex analysis but only at the level of the prime number theorem, his proof will likely be considered more elementary than Wiles’, which uses modular forms, Iwasawa theory, and other state of the art gadgets.

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17 Responses to Conservapedia

  1. SLC says:

    Re conservapedia

    Actually, the treatment of mathematics in this pile of horse s*** is much worse then Mr. Levys’ discussion would have one believe. Apparently, the site has the same contempt for imaginary and complex numbers that it has for the Theory of Relativity and the Theory of Evolution (apparently the home schoolers who submitted the articles therein are young earth creationists). As I pointed out in a comment on ChuCarrols’ ‘blog, it is impossible to understand why the Taylor series of functions like 1/(1+x^2) diverge for x>= 1 without introducing complex numbers. In fact, the entire subject of Taylor series analysis is impossible to understand without introducing complex numbers.

  2. Bruce says:

    “Hitler Defeated Stalin” should be inscribed into the annals of right-wing idiocy. That and the recurrent claim that the founders of two of the biggest quasi-religious personality cults in history were “atheist” when both were most distinguishable by their aping of religion’s worst murderous excesses in their rule over highly religious populations, rather than their dispassionate rational skepticism of religion in furtherance of an atheist “Golden Age” (and Hitler’s uninterrupted good ecclesiastical standing as an Austrian-born Roman Catholic until the day he died.)

  3. muppt says:

    http://wikipediareview.com/
    http://wikitruth.info/

    oh, and join Wikipedia Review and Wikitruth if you want to overthrow the evil capitalist controlled Wikipedia.

  4. SLC says:

    Re Muppt

    Mr. Muppt is obviously a willing tool of the international Zionist conspiracy.

    Re Levy

    The ignorance of mathematics of the folks writing the articles at conservapedia is even worse then is indicated in Mr. Levys’ comment. There view of complex variables is on a par with their view of relativity and evolution. It is quite impossible to understand concepts such as Taylor series expansion without reference to complex variables (i.e. why does a Taylor series expansion of a function like 1/(1+x^2) diverge for x >= 1).

  5. Alon Levy says:

    I haven’t read that many pages, I must admit; Conservapedia loads incredibly slowly. I tried loading their page on Gödel’s theorem of incompleteness just so that I could laugh at their philosophical take on it, but after waiting for a minute, I gave up.

  6. muppt says:

    slc, it’s possible to talk about complex variables without invoking the controversial imaginary number i.

    If I’m the one running Conservapedia, I would just copy everything from Wikipedia onto my server(wikipedia’s GFDL license allows you to do that as long as you license whatever stuff you copied also under the GFDL license), and then selectively modify them to remove stuff I don’t like.

  7. muppt says:

    besides, you don’t need complex variables to understand why that function’s taylor series diverges.

  8. SLC says:

    Re muppt

    Prove that the Taylor series for 1/(1+x^2) diverges for x >= 1 without invoking the fact that there are poles at x = +i and x = -i.

  9. muppt says:

    ya like i’m pretty sure you can just derive an interval of convergence using the ratio test.

  10. Derreck says:

    I’ll gladly blow the lid off Conservapedia’s # 1 source of inspiration: Christianity.

    Challenge # 1:

    A house cannot stand unless it is built upon sturdy foundation. As this relates to our discussion, the very foundation of the Bible is the story of Genesis. And foundational to the story of Genesis is the creation account at the book’s very outset, Genesis 1:1-19.

    For reasons that baffle me, everyone seems to get hung up on the Big Bang when discussing the scientific plausibility or lack-thereof of the creation account in Genesis. Carefully reading the beginning of Genesis, it is not describing the creation of the entire Universe. It is describing, on a much smaller scale, the creation of our immediate world — the heavens and the earth, night and day, sea, sky and land, the sun and the stars, man and woman, plant and animal. And don’t make the mistake of interpreting “the heavens” as the universe. The original Hebrew word is “shamayim,” meaning “high places” or “elevations.” Thus, the word “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 denotes the sky, not the cosmos. As astronomy had yet to be conceived, the ancients had no conception whatsoever of a vast universe beyond the earth and its “firmament” or sky-dome.

    One need not go back as far as the Big Bang to scrutinize the creation account in Genesis. One need look no further than the creation of our solar system. Not the Universe. Not the Milky Way Galaxy. Just our immediate solar system — the Sun and its nine revolving planets.

    According to Genesis, God (to be more specific — the Hebrew God, Yahweh) created the heavens and the Earth on Day 1. Granted he also created day and night on Day 1, it wasn’t until Day 4 that he created the Sun, the moon and the stars. So, according to a literal interpretation of Genesis, God created the Earth before he created the Sun.

    According to our scientific understanding of star formation and their planetary by-products, the creation account in Genesis is scientifically inaccurate.

    How do stars form? It starts with a massive nebular cloud, which due to any number of cosmic disturbances, begins to collapse upon itself and contract under the forces of its own gravity. As most of the mass begins collecting toward a central point, centrifugal forces create a pancake-shaped spinning disc with a massive bulge at its center. This bulging center of highly condensed frictional matter begins burning hydrogen at an incredible rate, resulting in the birth of a star.

    Meanwhile, fragments of developing matter in the outer portions of the nebular disc begin to gravitationally accumulate until, gradually over time, planets result. Sorry for the long-winded astronomy lesson, but the crux of my point is this: planets are a by-product of birthing stars. In other words, a star must first begin to form before planets can do so.

    And it just so happens that geologists measure the Earth’s age at about 4.55 billion years, while astrophysicists measure the Sun’s age at about 4.57 billion years. Thus, the Sun is roughly 20 million years older than the Earth.

    Getting back to Genesis, it has the Earth created on Day 1 and the Sun created on Day 4. Scientifically impossible.

    The only way for believers to rationalize that Genesis is the “Word of God” is to suggest that the story is divinely-inspired allegory.

    Perhaps.

    But, I would think that Genesis’ creation account, if truly inspired by God the Creator, would still have some semblance of chronological accuracy, even if allegorical.

    Just as a house must be built on sturdy foundation, I believe Genesis’ glaringly inaccurate creation account completely undermines all the pages that follow. In that light, I don’t see the Bible as the true word of God the Creator. I see it as the creation of superstitious men in ancient times. Men who attempted to understand their origins through legend and mythology. Men who, though highly influential for their imaginative creation narratives, left much to be desired insofar as scientific understanding.

    Interesting note regarding the 7-day creation account in Genesis: the ancient Babylonians regarded the number 7 as divine. Why? In antiquity, there were 7 prominent sources of light in the sky that the ancients considered “heavenly bodies.” They were the Sun, the Moon, and the nearest five planets visible to the naked eye — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These “heavenly bodies” became deified and were incorporated by the Babylonians into a 7-day week. Each day of the week was dedicated to one of the 7 “heavenly bodies.”

    And to this day, our 7-day week and the names associated with each weekday can be traced back to that ancient theo-astrological concept:

    Sunday: Latin – Solis Dies: Translation – Sun’s Day
    Monday: Latin – Lunae Dies: Translation – Moon’s Day
    Tuesday: Latin – Martis Dies: Translation – Mars’ Day
    Wednesday: Latin – Mercurii Dies: Translation – Mercury’s Day
    Thursday: Latin – Jovis Dies: Translation – Jupiter’s Day
    Friday: Latin – Veneris Dies: Translation – Venus’ Day
    Saturday: Latin – Saturni Dies: Translation – Saturn’s Day

    What’s more, the Babylonians regarded seventh days as unlucky and avoided certain activities then. The Jewish observance may have begun as a similar custom. Living in Ur of Mesopotamia, Abraham himself would have witnessed this ancient superstition. This is where the 7-day creation account in Genesis (with God resting on the 7th day) probably originates.

    This divine regard for the number 7 in antiquity probably accounts for its frequent use in the Book of Revelation. In fact, the number 7 appears in Revelation approximately 52 times. Interesting, considering there are exactly 52 weeks in a year. Yes, the numerical references in Revelation, as with most of the Bible, are astrological in nature. Same reason the Bible commonly references the number 12. Jesus was said to have 12 disciples, there were 12 tribes of Israel, and the new Heaven consists of 12 gates. Because of the 12 signs of the Zodiac based on the 12 prominent constellations in the night sky. Also notable is that Enoch is said to have lived for 365 years — the approximate number of days in one calendar year. 7 days in a week. 12 months/365 days in a year. It’s all inter-related. The Bible is rife with astrology.

    Challenge # 2:

    This is specifically a challenge regarding Jesus of Nazareth. I have great admiration for Jesus’ legacy and teachings; however, I do not consider him to have been the divine “Son of God.” So, I don’t mean to put down Jesus in any way. But, there is a glaring discrepancy between his birth narrative and his genealogy.

    As the Bible proclaims, the Messiah was to be a blood descendant of Kings David and Solomon (Isaiah 11:1 and Rev. 22:16). This was obviously an expression of hope among the Jews for a return to the heyday of their nation’s independence and sovereignty under the great monarchy of Kings David and Solomon, especially intensified during Jesus’ time when the Jewish nation was dominated and oppressed by Rome.

    So Jesus, as the prophesied Messiah, was supposed to be descended from David and Solomon. That said, take a close look at Matthew 1:1-16. Which one of Jesus’ parents was of that lineage?

    Joseph.

    Therefore, how could Jesus have been a descendant of David and Solomon if he was conceived through a virgin birth from Mary? If he was born of the virgin Mary, then he could not have been descended from David and Solomon as the Old Testament prophesied.

    In all likelihood, Jesus was in fact a descendant of David and Solomon, with Joseph being his natural father. The story of the “virgin birth” is likely an influence of Hellenism (the spread of Greek culture and beliefs after the many conquests of Alexander the Great) in which widespread cults known as mystery religions centered on dying and rising gods, typically born through some kind of immaculate conception. Hellenism greatly popularized stories of virgin birth throughout the ancient Mediterranean world, even among legendary historical figures like Julius Caesar. Greek culture was undoubtedly influential in early Christianity, considering the New Testament was initially written in Greek.

    As I mentioned, the Messiah originally denoted the return of a great king the likes of David and Solomon who would restore peace and sovereignty for the nation of Israel. But a great and powerful human king was the Old Testament’s prophetic vision; not a deity. Such a proclamation would have been completely antithetical to the 1st Commandment and the Jewish condemnation of idolatry.

    After being crucified for sedition against Rome, those of Jesus’ followers who truly believed that he was the prophesied Messiah desperately hoped for a miracle from God — that God would resurrect their human Messiah in order to fulfill the prophecy. Within a matter of decades, Messianic hopes for a resurrection of Jesus were reconciled with Greco-Roman beliefs about dying and rising gods, re-defining the original Jewish meaning of ‘Messiah.’ Jesus was eventually deified in the likeness of contemporary gods from the Hellenistic mystery religions: gods such as the Egyptian Osiris, Greek Dionysus, Phrygian Attis and Roman Mithras. All of whom are classified in comparative mythology as dying and rising gods, or saviors whose redemptive acts brought about a sense of restoration and salvation for mankind.

    In essence, these gods personified the rising Sun and the seasonal death and rebirth of the crops. They further appealed to man’s own desire to conquer death and re-emerge gloriously in the afterlife. Initiates within these mystery religions believed they achieved salvation by being spiritually reborn just as the dying and rising god. Symbolic rituals like baptism were performed to represent this spiritual death and rebirth (see Romans 6:1-14 for Paul’s application of this concept to sin). The ritual of Communion (eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a sacrificial god) was also introduced in the mystery religions, as eating bread and drinking wine were symbolically tied to the celebration of the harvest.

    Are there Scriptural clues which indicate that Jesus was assimilated with deities representing the rising Sun and its contribution to life on Earth?

    “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

    “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)

    “The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:78)

    “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2)

    “But for you who revere my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2)

    “His face was like the sun, shining in all its brilliance.” (Revelation 1:16)

    “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him…” (Revelation 1:7)

    Solar worship is clearly indicated in Christianity’s roots by the fact that we celebrate Jesus’ birth at the winter solstice (when the days begin to grow longer) and his resurrection at the spring equinox (the apex of agricultural rebirth). Not to mention, the fact that Church-goers attend services on Sunday — originally the pagan day of veneration for the Sun. And since the Sun rises in the East, it’s no wonder Jesus was said to have “risen” on Easter. Easter Sunday.

    The deification of Jesus into a dying and rising savior-god likely developed through storytelling and word-of-mouth during the decades between his crucifixion (circa A.D. 30) and the writing of the Gospels (circa A.D. 70-100). Though the earliest New Testament writings are attributed to Paul (circa A.D. 50-60) Paul never even knew Jesus beyond his supposed miraculous experience on the road to Damascus. For that matter, Paul mentions nothing about Jesus other than that he was crucified, died and rose again. No teachings or miracles. No references to Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist, the raising of Lazarus, the disciples or the holy places — Bethlehem, Nazareth and Calvary. No trial under Pontius Pilate or details of the passion story. Practically nothing from the Gospels can be found in Paul’s earlier Epistles. This leads one to wonder: are the Gospels historically reliable at all? Or do they only build on Paul’s preaching with legendary and mythical development involving historical people and places?

    Further yet, Paul was from Tarsus in Asia Minor — just across the Aegean Sea from Greece. Paul seems to have taken much from the philosophies of Plato, exalting the sacred domain of the spirit over the material world and desires of the flesh. Not to mention, Tarsus was a major center of the Hellenized mystery religion which worshipped the death and rebirth of Attis. Tarsus, after all, received its name from the god Baal-Taraz, yet another deity conforming to the dying and rising god mytheme. This may likely have been a major influence on Paul’s interpretation of Jesus as ‘Messiah.’

    The mystery religions focused on salvation and transformation of the initiate not only through a sacrificial god, but also through the secret wisdom that was passed down. In Paul’s own words: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed” (1 Corinth. 15:51). Paul seems to have fused Judaism and Greek philosophy with the death of Jesus and the salvation theology of the mystery religions, creating what’s known as “Pauline Christianity” — the very basis of the New Testament and the brand of Christendom that’s known to us today.

    As one of my favorite authors states, “Modern religion is a collage: an assimilated historical record of man’s quest to understand the divine.”

    To elaborate on that statement, a good analogy to the development of religion is the development of language. Take the English language for example. Was it born from scratch? No. It is rooted in Greek and Latin, sharing similar words with French, Spanish and Italian.

    Religion develops in much the same way. The ancient Mediterranean world was a rich melting pot of religious ideas. When civilizations collided, they were exposed to new ideas and beliefs, which often merged to form new religious conceptions.

    Even the biblical god of the Old Testament, Yahweh, is a result of religious syncretism. Yahweh was originally an ancestral tribal-god among the nomadic Hebrews — literally the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When the Hebrews conquered Canaan, they absorbed the religion of the Canaanites and Yahweh became assimilated with El, the chief god among the pantheon of Canaanite gods known as the Elohim (much like Zeus was the chief god among the Olympian gods of ancient Greece). El was a creator god, and so too became Yahweh. The original Hebrew Scriptures refer to the biblical god interchangeably — sometimes as Yahweh, sometimes as Elohim. Both names can be found in the prefaces of modern-day study Bibles, though they dare not delve deeply into the original nature of these inconsistencies.

    Challenge # 3:

    But wait. Weren’t the miracles of Jesus prophesied in the Old Testament well before any stories about dying and rising gods in Hellenistic times? The early church father, Justin Martyr, certainly thought so:

    “For when they say that Dionysus arose again and ascended to heaven, is it not evidence that the devil has imitated the prophecy?”
    - Justin Martyr, church father

    Is Justin Martyr suggesting that the Old Testament prophesied a god who would undergo death and resurrection for the sake of mankind? Thus, the mystery cult gods like Osiris and Dionysus were pre-meditated, diabolical mimicry? That’s the position usually put forth by Christian Apologists (defenders of the Christian faith). Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t hold any water.

    The majority of alleged prophecies about Jesus are usually not prophecies at all, but Old Testament passages that have been completely taken out of context, many to seem as if they’re predicting Jesus’ suffering upon the cross. Passages such as Isaiah 53 (the suffering servant “pierced for our transgressions”) and similar passages like Psalm 22 and Zechariah 12:10 are not predictions of Christ’s suffering. Properly understood within their historical and biblical context, they are merely expressions of the Israelite’s suffering during the Babylonian captivity. An event that took place nearly 600 years before Christ.

    And what of the Old Testament passages that are said to be prophetic birth narratives about Jesus? Let’s examine them:

    Isaiah 7:14 – “a ‘virgin’ will be with child.” The original Hebrew word that is used here is “almah,” which only means “young woman” or “maiden.” If Isaiah meant to refer to the young woman as a virgin, he would have used the Hebrew word “bethulah,” which literally meant “virgin.” Strange that if Isaiah was making a prophecy about Jesus’ birth, he would not have chosen to use the word “bethulah” (virgin) – a word which we know Isaiah was familiar with because he uses it in other passages, but with no relation to prophecy.

    Furthermore, this is yet another passage that is completely taken out of context. The “unborn child” was to be a sign to King Ahaz of Judah that he would not be defeated by King Rezin of Syria. Further yet, the “unborn child” is most likely a reference to Hezekiah, the son of King Ahaz himself. Whereas King Ahaz had allowed his people to slip into idol worship and polytheism, his son, King Hezekiah, would restore faith in Yahweh and abolish idolatry. Thus, “he learns to reject the bad and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15). I will elaborate on King Hezekiah in my examination of the next passage.

    Isaiah 9:6-7 – “unto us a child is born, a son is given….And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This is indeed a prophecy about the Messiah. Christians love this one because, even though the Messiah was only supposed to be a human King descended from David who would take up his throne and bring peace to Israel, this particular passage actually seems to equate the Messiah with God. However, that is of little significance. Kings 1:31 states “May my Lord King David live forever!” Yet King David was clearly not considered “the Lord,” nor was his life everlasting. “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father” are examples of divine titles often bestowed upon Kings in ancient times, most likely borrowed by the Jews from similar references of divinity toward Pharaoh in ancient Egyptian court rhetoric.

    Once again, Isaiah in 9:6-7 was most likely referring to King Hezekiah, a great Jewish King who happened to be a contemporary of Isaiah’s. As an accomplished leader who further glorified the Davidic dynasty (2 Kings 18:1-8) King Hezekiah was thought by many in his day to be the prophesied Messiah, including Isaiah himself. Thus, the present-tense birth coronation, “unto us a child is born, a son is given,” makes more sense than if it had been written about Jesus, who wouldn’t be born until hundreds of years later. Furthermore, the title “Mighty God” would certainly apply to Hezekiah, as his name literally meant “God has strengthened.”

    There are many more alleged prophecies I could cover, but these are the ones most often appealed to by believers.

    Challenge # 4:

    I have two little sisters adopted from China: Lily (7) and Lia (9). They are the absolute apple of my eye. I adore them with everything inside of me.

    Granted they’ve been adopted into a Christian home, and therefore will most likely gravitate toward the Christian faith, what if they had not been adopted into a Christian family? What if they had never been adopted at all and lived their lives in China? If that had been the case, there is a 99% chance that they would have been Buddhist rather than Christian. On that note:

    Exodus 22:20
    “Whoever worships any god other than Yahweh must be destroyed.”

    I cannot look into my little sisters’ beautiful, innocent eyes and imagine a god who would advocate their destruction or eternal damnation had they been Buddhist or had they not been indoctrinated with the Christian Gospel. What kind of a loving god would rule in such a way? If there is indeed a God, are we not all God’s children, regardless of religion or creed? Think about that.

    Oh, I know, I know. You’re thinking, “But God did intervene by ensuring that your wonderful sisters were adopted into a Christian home.”

    Well, what about all the thousands of children who are not so lucky? What about the ones who are either never adopted or adopted into non-Christian homes or cultures? On a larger scale, what about all the many people in this world whose faith is largely determined by the predominant religion of the culture in which they’re raised?

    As one of my favorite authors succinctly put it, “We worship the gods of our fathers.”

    Let’s face it. Had you been born in Tibet, you would most likely be Buddhist. Had you been born in Iran, you would most likely be Muslim. Had you been born among the Mayans, whom I visited on a recent trip to Mexico, you would still worship the god Kukulcan, despite the forced spread of Roman Catholicism by Spanish invaders in the 16th century.

    Furthermore, what about all those who died before the coming of Christ? After all, Jesus’ time here on Earth was only 2,000 years ago, versus homo sapien’s existence of roughly 200,000 years! Thus, Christianity has been present for only 1% of mankind’s existence. Think of all those who never had the opportunity to place faith in Jesus’ supposed salvific act. To argue that Christ’s sacrifice was retroactive is nonsense, because the same rules obviously don’t apply to the 99% of mankind who pre-existed his coming. Were they automatically saved out of ignorance, whereas those of us who are aware of his sacrifice must choose between faith and doubt, with the dreadful consequence of Hell hanging over our heads? How does one explain this matter logically or rationally?

    As an agnostic, I lean toward the belief that there is something greater than what we are. Something beyond our comprehension — beyond our scope of understanding.

    Call it God, call it Nature, call it what you will. But, whatever the case, I hope that it truly is a benevolent force — something far more humane than the fiercely vengeful and ethnocentric Yahweh who intimidates with fire-and-brimstone. Who hurls those who don’t fall at his feet into an eternal lake of fire, regardless of their predisposition toward the predominant religion of their culture. Who hypocritically condemns murder in the 6th Commandment by stating “Thou shalt not kill,” then condones the Israelites going on a violent spree of war, murder and bloodshed in order to seize their “promised land” in Canaan.

    Why do I pose such challenges to believers? Because I want people to rise above the culturally-influenced beliefs they’ve been indoctrinated with since childhood and attempt to come to a greater understanding of that which is truly beyond our understanding. I want to engage people to think critically about age-old questions and rethink age-old dogmas. Above all, I want a world where peace, rationalism and open-mindedness outweigh ignorance, intolerance and needless destruction.

    Furthermore, a world which looks to a God that would indeed say, without contradiction, “Thou shalt not kill.”

  11. Jamie says:

    Derreck,

    Christian mythology is interesting, but it’s so overdone these days. I much prefer Greek mythology. (And their creation story has *nothing* on some of the Native American tribes’. Much more fascinating pieces of fiction, if you ask me.)

  12. Kirts says:

    There is no Christian mythology. Read the writings of Maria Valtorta and you will find out the real biography of Jesus – with stunning details of even the name of flowers, type of land; now a warning: unless you read at least one volume and give yourself a chance to find anything wrong no opinion is acceptable because it is not a religious book but a scientific one. However it is not speculative.

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