A pale rider

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. (Revelation 6:7-8)

Steve Hays mentions various ways infectious disease could make a comeback in the modern world in his post “The four horsemen of the apocalypse“:

Among other things, the pale horse represents epidemics triggered by infectious disease. You might think this is one of the most dated aspects of the vision. Hasn’t modern medicine done much to eradicate pandemics? True, but that could revert overnight:

i) Overprescription of antibiotics and antivirals has generated superbugs.

ii) Progressive policies funnel immigrants into the country who haven’t been screened for contagious disease. In addition, traditional Muslims have prescientific views of hygiene.

iv) The general public is losing resistance to contagious disease, due both to the diluting effect of uncontrolled immigration–as well as progressive elites at the helm of the antivaxxer movement.

iii) Likewise, welfare is a magnet for urban concentrations of homeless men and women. This leads to the breakdown of public sanitation.

iv) In addition, green policies promote composting rather than standard food disposal. That attracts rats, which multiply exponentially.

A side effect of affluence is to make many people indulge a false sense of security. Affluence creates a buffer. The affluent aren’t used to living on the edge, where there’s no margin for error. They lose their sense of danger. In addition, most folks are crisis-driven. Hazards are an abstraction. They are used to feeling safe, so they lower their guard. But the world is an unforgiving place. Just consider the following scenario:

Dr. Drew Pinsky: Entire Population of California Could Fall Victim To Bubonic Plague Due To Homelessness

The warning is focussed on LA, but all up and down the West coast, urban centers have become a haven for illegal immigrants and the homeless. While many infections diseases are curable, the system is easily overloaded. For instance, the black plague is curable, but because it’s rare, hospitals lack the resources to contain a serious outbreak.

I’d like to add the following:

1. Humans weaponizing pathogens. Biowarfare. Like the Soviet Biopreparat successfully weaponizing the plague, smallpox, and anthrax. Not to mention the Biopreparat successfully hybridized the smallpox with ebola (Ebolapox).

2. Deadly pathogens stored in facilities are accidentally released.

3. Long buried (“prehistoric”) dangerous diseases (e.g. anthrax). This could partly be due to melting permafrost reviving dormant diseases.

4. Antibiotic, antiviral, and other related R&D fails to keep up with the microevolution of pathogens. This is already happening.

5. Weakened human immune systems in subsequent generations (e.g. hygiene hypothesis).

6. It’s become trendy in certain parts of the world to eat foods that might not be safe to eat under certain circumstances (e.g. some raw meats).

7. Sexually transmitted diseases due to increased rates of sexual promiscuity. For example, syphilis was almost eradicated in the US near the turn of the 21st century, but today it’s more prevalent than ever.

What comfort is there in atheism?

My response to the comment of a friendly atheist named Gpzjrpm:

1. I don’t mean “non-intellectual reasons can really lead anyone to discover truth”. Rather, what I would say is (roughly speaking) it is necessary to have intellectual reasons in order to believe in Christianity, but intellectual reasons aren’t the only legitimate reasons to believe in Christianity.

2. Also, it is normal for a person (religious or irreligious) to look for comfort, meaning, and so on in the wake of a tragedy in their life (e.g. physical abuse, death of a loved one). A tragedy can lead them to look for answers to questions like “Why did this happen?” and “What’s the meaning of life?”. These sorts of questions are questions directed at truth, but whether or not they arrive at truth is a different story.

3. A tragic event can lead atheists to find religion, religious people to find atheism, religious people to become more religious, irreligious people to become more irreligious, and so on.

4. After all, people can find comfort in true things as well as false things and good things as well as bad things. Some people find comfort in religious practices. Some people find comfort in spending time in nature. Some people find comfort listening to music. Some people find comfort binge watching Netflix shows. Some people find comfort in gambling. Some people find comfort in the arms of prostitutes. Some people like psychopaths or serial killers even find comfort in murdering people. The list of what people find comfort in seems almost endless.

5. So there’s nothing wrong with seeking comfort, but what kind of comfort is one seeking? Many comforts are false comforts. Many comforts are immoral comforts. Many comforts are ephemeral comforts.

6. Finally, another way to put it is this. If Christianity is true, then what kind of comfort would that bring? If atheism is true, what kind of comfort would that bring? (Same for any other worldview, but since I’m Christian, and you’re atheist, I mention these two.)


(This post is a continuation of a previous reply.)

Wow that’s an awesome reply! I might check out that book by Anderson. I actually listened to his History of Philosophy and Christian Thought course on iTunes U, which was very well done in my opinion.

The nihilistic implications of atheism are actually one of the main reasons that Christianity, or maybe religion in general, have become more attractive to me as of late. But I just have this strong internal resistance to believing in any miracles. One of the big things where I don’t necessarily see a hard contradiction, but which does seem to be very problematic, is the six day creation story. When I look through previous posts on this sub I see quite a few of people advocating for a young earth (like 6000 years old), which I understand, because an earth that’s billions of years old, with humans only existing hundreds of thousands of years is not possible if you take Genesis completely literally. That being said, I cannot see myself ever believing in the young earth theory in any way shape or form.

That means that if I were to start believing, I would have to take the creation story as an allegory. I’m currently studying history and philosophy at university, and something that struck me is that pretty much everyone accepted the creation story as historical fact for a good 1400 years. But now the story suddenly has to be interpreted allegorically, because it has been proven way beyond reasonable doubt (in my opinion) that the earth is in fact older than 6000 years.

My default position when I’m confronted with anything supernatural is to see it as bogus (I don’t believe in Bigfoot, horoscopes, palm reading or anything like that), so I feel like I really need to justify my belief in something supernatural to myself. And if the current scientific evidence is enough for a lot of Christians to see the story of creation as an allegory, the Bible as a whole loses this air of complete trustworthiness to me. I mean who’s to say that I shouldn’t interpret the New Testament stories as allegorical as well?

Sorry for the long and probably confusing reply. I tend to ramble when I start writing about this stuff.

Thanks, /u/MyUsernameHadSwears! 🙂 I’m more than glad to help sincere people asking sincere questions if I can. I’ll try to categorize my responses in the hopes of achieving improved clarity:

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Growing up Christian

An atheist named Gpzjrpm asks:

Did you grow up in a christian household? If not what lead you to investigate it?

Nope, I didn’t. I write about it here if you’re interested.

Oh yeah I read that but christians have a tendency to say they have been atheists and then became christians. But often they grew up christian and even where christians as a child/teen. So to me your text still could have meant that you grew up in a liberal christian household for example.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong for these people to say they were atheists but it often reads as if they always had been atheists so thats why I like to ask this question. Thanks for answering.

1. Thanks, that’s interesting. I can’t speak for other Christians, but speaking for myself I wish I had grown up in a Christian household. At least in my case I think I would have likely gotten along better with my family for example if they had been genuine Christian.

2. What really matters isn’t your background, but whether you have good reasons for your beliefs, regardless of your background.

3. Christianity (at least conservative evangelical Christianity) typically teaches you can’t depend on your parents for your beliefs. You have to make them your own.

Definitely agree that your background doesn’t or shouldn’t matter for your beliefs. But I think people like you are very rare.

My cynical view is that most christians either grew up in christian households, had a low point in their life (depression, drug addict, death of relative, loss of job etc.) or got a significant other that was christian.

People that got to christianity by mere intellectual pondering are very rare I think.

1. Fair enough, and even for myself, it wasn’t entirely intellectual. The intellectual reasons were part of the story, but not the whole story. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem, because we’re all humans, not robots or Vulcans or whatever, and it’s legitimate to want to have human needs fulfilled (e.g. existential meaning and purpose in life).

2. Of course, this isn’t to say there’s zero intellectual justification for belief in Christianity, let alone that it’s believing in contradiction to reason and evidence and the like. I’m simply saying intellectual reasons should be part of the justification for Christian belief but there are other (arguably) good reasons to believe in Christianity as well.

3. At the same time, there are atheists or agnostics who grew up in atheist or agnostic households. Likewise there are ex-Christians who had a low point in life (e.g. depression, death of a loved one), then deconverted. So the same or similar applies to the irreligious as much as the religious, at least from what I’ve seen.

Muhammad’s genie

I originally wrote the following here in response to a question from Rufus_the_bird.

Muslim: “The Quran is true!”

Christian: “How do we know the Quran is true?”

Muslim: “Because the Quran says so!”

Christian: “What if I say the Bible is true because the Bible says so?”

Muslim: “No! The Bible is false because the Bible is corrupted!”

Christian: “How do we know the Bible is corrupted?”

Muslim: “Because the Quran is not corrupted! Therefore what we say about the Bible being corrupted is true!”

Christian: “How do we know the Quran is not corrupted?”

Muslim: “Because the Quran was revealed to Muhammad by Allah though Gabriel so the Quran could not have been corrupted!”

Christian: “How do we know the Quran was revealed to Muhammad by Allah through Gabriel?”

Muslim: “Because that’s what the Quran says and what the Quran says is true!”

Christian: “How do we know what the Quran says is true?”

So we restart the cycle again.

I guess the question is how do we break the cycle? There are probably lots of different ways to break the cycle. I don’t know if this will help, but here are some possibilities:

1. The Muslim dilemma

a. On the one hand, a central argument in Islam for Islam is the Bible prophesied Muhammad would come. Muslims argue Muhammad is the prophet God raised up “like Moses” in Deut 18:15-19. And Muslims argue Muhammad is “the spirit of truth” in John 16:12-14.

b. On the other hand, Muslims argue the Bible is corrupt. However, if the Bible is corrupt, then it’s possible the Bible did not prophesy about Muhammad or the Bible prophesied wrongly about Muhammad.

c. Hence, Muslims can’t have it both ways! If the Bible is corrupt, then that disqualifies Islam’s predictions about Muhammad based on the Bible, which is a central argument in Islam for Islam. Moreover, if Islam is mistaken about predictions about Muhammad, then that opens the door to Islam being mistaken about other things in Islam.

d. If, however, the Bible is not corrupt, then that means Islam is mistaken about what it says about the Bible, which again opens the door to Islam being mistaken about other things. So, according to Islam, this could includes the possibility that the Bible is in fact reliable.

e. And Muslims can’t say these parts of the Bible are reliable, while other parts are unreliable, since they’ve already said the Bible as a whole is corrupt.

f. In short, if Islam is right about the Bible being corrupt, then Islam is wrong about Muhammad being a prophet “like Moses” and Muhammad being “the spirit of truth”, which quite falsifies Muhammad as a prophet. However, if Islam is wrong about the Bible being corrupt, then Islam could be wrong about Christianity, and Christianity could be true, which would then make Islam false. I think Islam has put itself in a dilemma.

g. By the way, why these two passages, one from the Torah/Pentateuch and the other from the Gospels? That’s because Muhammad wanted to convince the Jews of his day that he was the prophet “like Moses” and he wanted to convince the Christians of his day that he was “the spirit of truth”. Muhammad wanted to be regarded as a prophet in the line of Moses and Jesus.

2. The law of abrogation

Something else you could bring up is the law of abrogation. This in essence means what was written later in the Quran cancels out what was written earlier in the Quran. That sounds awfully convenient, especially when earlier things in the Quran conflict with or contradict later things in the Quran! However, as far as I can tell, Muslims simply take it as divine mandate. See Quran: 2.106 and 16.101 for the law of abrogation.

3. The case of the missing variants

There is only one version of the Quran. That is the version of the Quran produced by Uthman. Uthman produced an edited “official” copy of the Quran. In doing this, Uthman had all other variants of the Quran destroyed. That was intentional. No variants exist anymore. Of course, Muslims say there were insignificant differences between the variants, but since there’s no other evidence to compare, no one knows if that’s true or false! We just have to accept it. See Sahih Bukhari 6.61.510 for the story.

4. Muhammad’s genie

According to Muslims themselves, Muhammad’s first encounter with the angel Gabriel left Muhammad believing he had become possessed by a jinn (malevolent spirit) and/or he had become insane. In fact, Muhammad wanted to commit suicide as a result. The Muslim scholar Al-Tabari describes Muhammad saying:

There was no one of God’s creation more hateful to me than a poet or a madman; I could not bear to look at either of them. I said to myself, “Your humble servant [Muhammad] is either a poet or a madman, but Quraysh shall never say this of me. I shall take myself to a mountain crag, hurl myself down from it, kill myself, and find relief that way.”

Others had to calm Muhammad down.

However, what if Muhammad’s initial thought was correct, that he was possessed or insane?