Pharyngula

The presumption of Rick Warren

Rick Warren regularly scribbles up these cloying little messages he calls the Daily Hope — and rather than hope, they offer nothing but trite platitudes and unfounded certainty about a godly purpose that I find extremely discouraging. How can people find this lying tripe uplifting?

God deliberately shaped and formed you to serve him in a way that makes your ministry unique. He carefully mixed the DNA recipe that created you. David praised God for this incredible personal attention to detail God gave in designing each of us: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous” (Psalm 139:13-14, NLT).

Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process. David continues, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:16, NLT).

This means nothing that happens in your life is insignificant. God uses all of it to mold you for your ministry to others, and shape you for your service to him.

This man needs to spend some time doing recombination experiments with fruit flies. They’re simple and revealing. For instance, genes for body and eye color (called yellow and white, respectively) are located close together on the X chromosome of Drosophila. If you cross a female carrier for the yellow body and white eye alleles to a wild type male, you will discover that the male progeny (which inherited a nearly empty Y chromosome from their fathers) reveal the rearrangement of alleles that occurred during the production of the female egg. Most will have inherited one of the non-recombinant X chromosomes from their mother, for example, either a chromosome with two wild-type alleles, so they look wild-type with grayish bodies and red eyes, and others will have inherited an X chromosome with the two mutant alleles, so they’ll have yellow bodies and white eyes. And some will have inherited a chromosome rearranged by recombination events, so they’ll have gray bodies and white eyes, or yellow bodies and red eyes. And of course, if you do lots of crosses, you will get occasional mutations in those genes that produce completely unexpected results.

The important point, though, is that you learn quickly that the distribution of progeny is dictated by chance, not purpose. There is no benign allele sorter who recognizes that white eyes, for instance, are deleterious, and therefore carefully arranges each meiotic division of the egg so that the white allele gets discarded in a polar body. No, it’s random — chance alone “mixes the DNA recipe” for each individual. I am the product of a random assortment of half my father’s genes and half my mother’s genes, as are my brothers and sisters, and we’ve each acquired some deleterious and some advantageous alleles, all by chance. We are all a throw of the dice, or a chance hand dealt from the deck.

What Darwin revealed, and has since been explained in greater detail with our understanding of genetics, is that there is a historical bias: individuals who had the most lucky throws of the dice are more likely to produce offspring with their fortunate distribution of alleles. Again, it’s not because a god shines down upon the lucky, it’s because the lucky acquired an advantage, and that advantage can be propagated into successive generations. Nothing more. No purpose, no intent, no plan required. We look at the distribution of traits in a population, and it fits a chance distribution, sometimes modified by natural selection.

And that’s the way I like it.

I have been dealt a hand by chance, and some of my cards are real stinkers — one side of my family, for instance, has a history of early heart disease. I don’t like the bad luck there, but that it is by chance alone is far more reassuring than the idea that a meddling deity chose to give my father a battery of risk factors that led to his early death, and that he also chose to stick me with some of those, too. If a loving god were actually paying “incredible personal attention to detail”, you’d think there would have been some quality control in spermatogenesis that might have weeded out some of the defective alleles, or more precise matching of sperm and egg to make sure all weaknesses in one were compensated by strengths in the other. This doesn’t happen.

While we have all the flaws concomitant with being children of chance, we also have an advantage: we’re free. There is no cosmic fiddler. There is no domineering father in the sky who has a mission for us, who decreed at our birth that there is something we must do with our lives, who has slotted you into one specific role without your consent. You are not driven by an arbitrary external purpose, and you should find the idea of such a daily dictator of every detail of your existence abhorrent to an extreme.

It’s a real mystery to me why anyone would find the deterministic slave-philosophy of Rick Warren at all appealing or consoling, especially since the evidence all says that it is wrong, as well. There must be something some people find pleasant in surrendering responsibility to an imaginary scapegoat.

Personally, I appreciate the fact that I’m a combination of traits, some lucky and some unlucky, that are mine and not the product of the whims of some puppetmaster. I’ll make of them what I can and what I will, and who I am is my responsibility and to my credit or blame.

Comments

  1. #1 lordohio
    December 28, 2009

    I’m more concerned by the determinism notion that god plans our every day. Wouldn’t that mean he planned for us to be atheists? If that were true, and he sent us to hell for it, would that be just? Wouldn’t he plan every murder, every abortion? Poppycock.

  2. #2 Invigilator
    December 28, 2009

    I don’t think you’re supposed to think that far, number One. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “Let go, and let God.”

  3. #3 vanharris
    December 28, 2009

    The amazing thing is that these idiots put store in the sayings of a succession of editors of the rantings of Bronze Age Mesopotamian goat-herding nomads, when Science makes so much more sense.

  4. #4 CanonicalKoi
    December 28, 2009

    What version of the bible is Mr. Warren using? In the KJV, Ps. 139:13 says, “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.” Where is he getting all that blather about “complexity” and “delicate inner parts”, besides from his ass, I mean.

    139:16 says (KJV again): “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” Nothing, again, close to what he’s bleated.

    Ye gods and little fishes! If you’re going to “quote” drivel from some collection of works written by nomadic sheep-herders, at least quote the damned thing accurately!

  5. #5 cameron
    December 28, 2009

    Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process.

    So god predetermines everything we do and everything that happens to us. But all evil can be sourced to human free will…?

    With consistency like this, who needs schizophrenia?

  6. #6 Abdul Alhazred
    December 28, 2009

    The traditional theological debate is between free will and determinism. Randomness isn’t ever considered.

  7. #7 raven
    December 28, 2009

    Not only is it bad religion, it is bad philosophy.

    Hard to tell exactly what he means without shoveling off the sugar, but Warren seems to mean god is a micromanaging ultimate dictator.

    So everything is planned out by god and we are just a movie being run in a universe projector. Not even Zombies.

    Not much room for free will in those paragraphs. This is some sort of fatalism or Cartoonism.

    God uses all of it to mold you for your ministry to others, and shape you for your service to him.

    Hmmm. So I’m charged by god to laugh at and oppose fundie Death Cult Xians and Creationists. Dobson and Robertson were vaguely humanoid toads sent to earth to drive xians out of the religion. Bush was a moron on purpose.

    Making a little more sense here. I always thought a just god would hate what xianity has turned into in the USA. If I was Warren, I’d be scanning the heavens for lightning bolts heading his way.

  8. #8 Walton
    December 28, 2009

    I don’t honestly think that most religious believers stop to consider the full implications of the notion that “God made us as we are”. If we are the product of God’s design, it follows that all the things wrong with our bodies – cancers, allergies, parasites, mental illness, rotting teeth, and the like – are also part of “God’s plan”. And when Christians sing “All things bright and beautiful”, they rarely seem to consider the fact that if God created the butterfly and the orchid, he must also have designed the tapeworm and the influenza virus.

    The more intellectual type of believer tends to brush off this kind of criticism with some platitude about how suffering is good for us (in that we can’t experience joy without having experienced suffering), or about how it’s all part of a mysterious divine plan that we mortals can’t understand. But this is incompatible with the notion of an omnipotent God. By definition, an omnipotent God could have created a world in which suffering was not necessary. It therefore follows that, if there is an omnipotent God, he deliberately chose to make us suffer. Such a God would not, as far as I am concerned, be worthy of worship.

  9. #9 Zeno
    December 28, 2009

    Rick Warren was beaten to the punch more than a decade ago by a spiritual leader of greater credibility: Troy McClure of The Simpsons. In a special educational video (“Someone’s in the Kitchen with DNA”), he explained to Billy, his youthful foil, how DNA is a recipe:

    DNA is God’s recipe for making you. You take a dash of Dad, a pinch of Mom, then we bake for nine months and… mmm! That’s good Billy!

  10. #10 Abdul Alhazred
    December 28, 2009

    By definition, an omnipotent God could have created a world in which suffering was not necessary.

    That doesn’t follow at all.

    You are assuming the definition of God requires niceness. Isn’t that some sort of heresy? :)

  11. #11 Screechy_Monkey
    December 28, 2009

    Another demonstration of that legendary Christian humility. “I was personally made by an all-powerful lord of the universe, and my every belch and fart serves some grand purpose!”

  12. #12 Tulse
    December 28, 2009

    when Christians sing “All things bright and beautiful”, they rarely seem to consider the fact that if God created the butterfly and the orchid, he must also have designed the tapeworm and the influenza virus.

    As usual, Monty Python was there first.

  13. #13 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2009

    The combination of genetics and determinism reminds me of the video about a family that had a baby with Tay-Sachs. The disease is caused by a point mutation, and both parents were unaware and unrelated carriers.

    Their young son was healthy and looked normal — at first. Then the symptoms that result from the disease started to manifest. The normal child development stopped.

    A slow and torturous death inevitably followed.

    If a God existed that intended for that to happen — well, words fail.

  14. #14 Whore of All the Earth
    December 28, 2009

    Realizing that my life is my own and that I’m under no cosmic obligation to fulfill some divine purpose has been one of the most liberating things about atheism.

  15. #15 AJS
    December 28, 2009

    And when Christians sing “All things bright and beautiful”, they rarely seem to consider the fact that if God created the butterfly and the orchid, he must also have designed the tapeworm and the influenza virus.

    Ugh. I’d forgotten about that song.

    As for the verse that goes

    “The rich man in his castle
    The poor man at his gate
    He made them high and lowly
    And ordered their estate”

    What a lovely sentiment, indeed.

  16. #16 Dania
    December 28, 2009

    Not much room for free will in those paragraphs.

    Don’t worry. I’m sure as soon as someone mentions the word “evil” Warren will produce an entirely different set of paragraphs with plenty of allusions to free will, the Fall, and how it’s all humans’ fault. Consistency has never been their strong point.

  17. #17 Techskeptic
    December 28, 2009

    Koi #4,

    Perhaps he is using a prereleased version of the Conservapedia Bible

  18. #18 Owlmirror
    December 28, 2009

    What version of the bible is Mr. Warren using? In the KJV

    There are numbering differences depending on which translation/tradition the psalms come from.

  19. #19 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    December 28, 2009

    You are assuming the definition of God requires niceness.

    No, he’s saying an omnipotent god that deliberately creates or allows (is there a difference?) suffering is a prat, not a non-god.

  20. #20 Kathy Orlinsky
    December 28, 2009

    Walton #8,

    You could have just stopped after ‘I don’t honestly think that most religious believers stop to consider…. ‘

  21. #21 Abdul Alhazred
    December 28, 2009

    No, he’s saying an omnipotent god that deliberately creates or allows (is there a difference?) suffering is a prat, not a non-god.

    :)

  22. #22 Walton
    December 28, 2009

    That doesn’t follow at all.
    You are assuming the definition of God requires niceness. Isn’t that some sort of heresy? :)

    No, I’m not. I said an omnipotent God could have created a world with no suffering, not that he (or she) would have done so.

    The “Epicurean dilemma” is not, per se, an argument against the existence of God. It merely illustrates that if there is a God, he cannot be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. If a Creator of the Universe exists, he is either incompetent, or has deliberately chosen to inflict suffering on all his creations for unknown reasons of his own.

  23. #23 David B
    December 28, 2009

    I wonder if the Rev Warren would think that his God had planned every day of my life, and hence moved me to write that Warren is a stupid shit, who is either brainwashed or dishonest.

    As the great Omar said –

    ‘After a momentary silence spake
    Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make;
    “They sneer at me for leaning all awry:
    What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”‘

  24. #24 Will E.
    December 28, 2009

    If God can do anything, what the hell does He need DNA for? Can’t He just make people out of the ether without a middleman?

  25. #25 tuckerch
    December 28, 2009

    No god. No satan.
    No heaven. No hell.
    No eternal salvation. No eternal damnation.
    No son of god. no anti-christ.

    No jehova. No yaweh. No allah.

    You’re born. You live. You die.
    No supernatural predestination.

    Between birth and death, don’t be a dick.

  26. #26 https://me.yahoo.com/a_ray_in_dilbert_space#6e51c
    December 28, 2009

    Abdul Alhazred says, “The traditional theological debate is between free will and determinism. Randomness isn’t ever considered.”

    Well, randomness is scary. You can’t control or preduct randomness…by definition. BF Skinner once published a paper in which he recounted observations of very involved ritualistic behavior in pigeons related to a food pellet dispenser. He theorized that the pigeons had developed superstitious practices to try and control the behavior of the pellet dispenser, which was programmed to give food at regular intervals regardless of pigeon behavior.

    One of the toughest things for people to come to terms with is that if there is a God, he shoots craps and we’re the stakes.

  27. #27 MrFire
    December 28, 2009

    an omnipotent god that deliberately creates or allows (is there a difference?) suffering is a prat

    You are being way, way too generous there ;)

  28. #28 dutchdoc
    December 28, 2009

    #4:

    What version of the bible is Mr. Warren using?

    It’s right there in PZ’s post: NLT.

    at least quote the damned thing accurately!

    He did.

  29. #29 bastion of sass
    December 28, 2009

    Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process. David continues, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:16, NLT).

    Ah. So God decided before I was born that I should be an ornery, obstinate, wayward, blaspheming, irreverent, and, yes, sassy, liberal rational freethinker and atheist.

    See? It’s not my fault; He’s to blame!

    And, Yay, God! Thanks for the genes that gave me all those great traits. Not so crazy about some of the others, but I do like the ones mentioned above.

    (BTW, Tried repeatedly to sign in with TypePad, but couldn’t.)

  30. #30 airbagmoments
    December 28, 2009

    I thought that psalm sounded a little weird too. It seems to be from something called the “New Living Translation”. http://www.newlivingtranslation.com/

    Google “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex” and you’ll find many citations.

  31. #31 airbagmoments
    December 28, 2009

    Also Warren appears to be regurgitating material he initially vomited into the world as part of a “ministry toolbox” in 2004.
    http://legacy.pastors.com/RWMT/?id=182&artid=6002&expand=1

    I hope there’s some anti-nausea medication in that toolbox.

  32. #32 george.w
    December 28, 2009

    So God made me from the inside out to want to smack Rick Warren upside the head with a copy of The God Delusion?

  33. #33 https://me.yahoo.com/a/TFf9DNIRr5IxiuU4XzuND1L9RFlnEFg-#17b0e
    December 28, 2009

    “Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane – like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell – mouths mercy and invented hell – mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him!” . . .Mark Twain

  34. #34 Abdul Alhazred
    December 28, 2009
  35. #35 Legion
    December 28, 2009

    Rick Warren:

    God deliberately shaped and formed you to serve him in a way that makes your ministry unique.

    Translation: You are a slave.

    Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process. David continues, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed…

    Translation: Self determination does not exist, as god has already preordained that you will go on a kidnapping and serial killing rampage. Since there’s nothing you can do about it, you might as well try to enjoy yourself.

  36. #36 Kagehi
    December 28, 2009

    All of these contradictions are easy to work out. All you have to do is step back into bronze age thinking as well, just as some of the **truly** wacko types do.

    1. Anything you are doing, unless a priest says otherwise, is what god wants you to do anyway, so anyone telling you its wrong is wrong.

    2. Disease isn’t a product of disease, but sin, therefor there are no such things as genetic disorders, and if there are, they must be punishment for something.

    3. Since its hard to imagine punishing an unborn child for something, the Bible must be right, and either the parents are being punished, or *tested*.

    If you look at it that way, then, for **most** believers its a comfort. They are not being “tested” or “punished” at the moment, they are obviously doing what ever it is that god wanted them too, and their pusher, uh… I mean priest, says so, so they must be right about it.

    This all falls apart at some point, for most people, unless they are truly unhinged, but there is a whole nice support group, ready to help them understand how its all *true*, and they should feel proud that god picked them to be “tested”.

  37. #37 redmonster
    December 28, 2009

    If God is responsible for combining my DNA, my allergies, attention span, eyebrows and skin would like to have a word with him.

    (Alyson Miers)

  38. #38 mumonjmk
    December 28, 2009

    Nice post.

  39. #39 CanonicalKoi
    December 28, 2009

    @ #17
    Techskeptic, you’re probably right. It’ll have Charlton Heston on the cover, stone tablet in one hand, AK-47 in the other, mowing down Egyptians (who, luckily, are not using iron chariots. God fears iron chariots.). There’ll be many, many verses “re-translated” to make them “clearer” about god hating Jews, homosexuals, liberals, women, Blacks, Asians…well, pretty much anybody who isn’t a straight, white, christian male. And the intended audience will lap it right up.

  40. #40 CunningLingus
    December 28, 2009

    This snippet, from an interview David Attenborough to a UK magazine, sums up all that god crap succinctly.

    Telling the magazine that he was asked why he did not give “credit” to God, Attenborough added: “They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”

    The Guardian Science

  41. #41 M31
    December 28, 2009

    Don’t forget, PZ, that when differing combinations and/or mutations of genes confer “advantage” that the advantage itself has a large component of luck as well.

    The large beaks of finches only pay off with reproductive success when the wind/rain patterns of the islands favor the vegetation that large beaks can get food from. Those same large beaks starve birds on the next island over, so ‘advantageous’ is a local phenomenon.

    The large brains of our ancestors only pay off because the terrain in which they lived had food sources that took large brains to exploit (or it needed groups to intelligently band together to exploit them, resulting in complex social systems which needed big brains to navigate).

    Luck, luck, luck.

    “Advantage” is a word that smacks of ‘better’ or ‘more evolved’ in the careless ‘survival of the fittest’ sense.

    Didn’t Darwin come to regret the word ‘fittest’?

  42. #42 TheDean!
    December 28, 2009

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! So, wait, are we seriously supposed to believe that a just and caring god carefully maps out every detail of our lives for us, and then proceeds to punish us oh so severely for what we do in life? WTF

  43. #43 sbh
    December 28, 2009

    The New Living Translation (NLT) is intended as a replacement for the Living Bible insofar as it renders the original into something resembling modern English. But where the Living Bible was an uninformed paraphrase of the King James Version, the New Living Translation is (as the name implies) an actual translation from the original tongues, and, unlike the King James, it is based on the best available texts rather than some of the worst. This is why the guys at the KJV-only link Abdul Alhazred supplied above (@34) are bent out of shape about it; some of their favorite passages are late interpolations or corruptions of the text and so don’t appear in it.

    Of course the KJV-only nuts may be onto something; if Yahweh really intervenes to determine an individual’s DNA, maybe He (in His infinite wisdom) uses scribal corruption and interpolation as a form of Divine revelation. Why not?

  44. #44 CanonicalKoi
    December 28, 2009

    @#28, Yes, he did. In much the same way that someone quoting Hamlet’s soliloquy from “The Family Shakespeare” could be said to be quoting “correctly”. It isn’t what Shakespeare actually *wrote*, mind you, but it was quoted correctly from a bowlderized literally, in this case) version.

  45. #45 raven
    December 28, 2009

    jesus-is-savior.com:

    New Living Translation EXPOSED!
    by Robert J. Stewart

    The New Living Translation (NLT) is straight from Hell. On their official website, NLT advertises with the slogan, “Accuracy you can trust.” Unfortunately, the NLT is not very accurate. The fact that the word “begotten” has been wrongfully removed from John 3:16 should be enough reason for every Christian to trash their NLT. In fact, I would rip it into shreds first to ensure that no one else is poisoned by it.
    Deleted:
    Let’s face it, the corrupters who are publishing demonic bibles are all out to make a fast buck,

    Large amounts of babbling idiocy deleted.

    Billy Graham is Mr. ecumenical himself, who has done more to unite apostate protestants with the Great Whore of Catholicism than anyone else. 2nd Corinthians 6:14-17 commands us to separate from the unbelieving world, NOT yoke up with them. Ephesians 5:11 tells us to reprove the works of darkness, NOT fellowship with them. Billy graham is on the Devil’s side, a friend of the world, and the enemy of God (James 4:4). The Catholic Church is straight out of the pits of Hell and it’s about time that ALL the preachers around the world start proclaiming it. Billions of souls are headed for destruction because of compromised and cowardly pastors and preachers who are afraid to offend anyone. Speak the Truth! Offend them! Their souls are at stake!

    I’d never heard of the NLT. Mr. Taylor seems to think it is demonically inspired. He also doesn’t seem to like Billy Graham or the Catholic church. It is time for a favorite xian sport, sectarian warfare again.

    Reading his rantings reminds me a lot of a Moslem suicide bomber on his way to explode himself for Allah. Just what we need, more Xian Jihadists than we have now.

  46. #46 JBabs073
    December 28, 2009

    Here, here!
    Well said, PZ!

  47. #47 Steve Jeffers
    December 28, 2009

    I’ve read The Purpose Driven Life and it’s just horrible. It’s literally page three of the book before he’s trying to sell you Purpose Driven Life merchandise, and all the ‘further study’ involves giving him further cash.

    He paraphrases the Bible into sort of groovy psychobabble and he says he has to do that to get God’s message across.

    Phillipians 3:19 – ‘Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’

    becomes

    ‘All they think about is life here on Earth, but we are citizens of Heaven, where Jesus lives’.

    That’s not a joke, by the way.

    At first I thought all the really creepy ‘know your place’ stuff was basically telling African Americans to STFU and women to lie back and think of Jesus, but it’s actually even worse than that: Warren’s appealing to white middle class people, telling them it’s OK to be consumers and drive an SUV and not to worry about the world. God put us in the leafy suburbs so don’t go worrying about anywhere else. As in that quote above, the endgame is that we all get to live in the ultimate gated community, Heaven, where Jesus is your neighbor.

    As PZ says in the next post, there is this whole industry now of pap like this. Half-Christianity/half-self-help, all of which is designed to shift product, all of which casts abject submission as empowering. And it’s such weak beer, that’s the thing. The arguments are so banal and driveling. If people have gained strength from it, well, that’s probably a good thing. But if they gained strength from something so weak, then perhaps their problems weren’t all that big a deal in the first place.

  48. #48 redrabbitslife
    December 28, 2009

    The point has been made repeatedly, but this benevolent god planned for 20% of pregnancies to end in spontaneous abortion (aka miscarriage)?

    Really?

    Oh.

    Then I guess this god isn’t all that opposed to abortion after all. We need to tell the fundies!

  49. #49 Ray Moscow
    December 28, 2009

    @#4: Warren typically browses dozens of Bible translations to find the one that says what he wants it to say.

    A really good chapter-by-chapter rebuttal to Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” (which is total, offensive nonsense) is Robert M Price’s “The Reason Driven Life”.

    Finally, in case no one else has yet mentioned it, Rick Warren is a dick: http://www.dickipedia.org/dick.php?title=Rick_Warren

  50. #50 Legion
    December 28, 2009

    An omnipotent and omniscient god who has planned every aspect of every life that ever was and ever will be must be indescribably bored by now.

    We mean, imagine that you made the world’s longest movie. Everything, even the most infinitesimal details have been meticulously planned by you. You know every line of dialog, every character’s motivation and action, everything.

    And then you’ve got to sit and watch the damn thing for, what, thousands, millions of years? This may explain why so many prayers go unanswered. god’s probably not even watching the movie. So what does he do to keep from going barking mad — Masturbating to alien porn maybe?

    Seriously, Dr, Manhattan from the Watchmen is a far more realistic god, in that the more time spent with humans, the less interesting they became, until he couldn’t take it anymore and left to go do something more interesting.

  51. #51 redrabbitslife
    December 28, 2009

    PS: @jbabs073 #46:

    The phrase is “Hear, hear.”

    It’s original use is, I believe, parliamentary debate, and the meaning is essentially: listen to what this brilliant speaker is saying.

    /pedantry

  52. #52 MrFire
    December 28, 2009

    Translation: Self determination does not exist, as god has already preordained that you will go on a kidnapping and serial killing rampage. Since there’s nothing you can do about it, you might as well try to enjoy yourself.

    …And to me, this is a far more salient point than the inverse accusation that atheists have no source of morality.

  53. #53 RBH
    December 28, 2009

    cameron wrote

    Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process.

    So god predetermines everything we do and everything that happens to us. But all evil can be sourced to human free will…?

    Hey, it only says god planned it. Doesn’t say he does anything to execute those plans. And besides, the best laid plans … gang aft agley. :)

  54. #54 Sastra
    December 28, 2009

    This means nothing that happens in your life is insignificant. God uses all of it to mold you for your ministry to others, and shape you for your service to him.

    What it means, is that it’s perfectly fine for you to go on thinking of your life as if it were the plot of a book, and you the main character. You serve God and others; that’s so the main character is really admirable.

    To be fair, this egocentric approach to reality is certainly not confined to Warren and/or Christianity. Getting into the details of how DNA forms into random combinations is useless: spiritual people think that pretty sunsets were put into place to give them a message about whatever is going on in their life. Remember, it’s all a narrative about them: they think real small. For all their talk of grandeur and holism, there is no Big Picture. People — specifically, them — are front and center, getting all God’s attention for being so meek and humble.

    “Everything happens for a reason.” When secular humanists say this, they’re just looking for cause and effect relationships. When the spiritual say this, they mean it all relates back to the significance of their lives. Minor characters who act as plot devices don’t have to be accounted for in the same way the story accounts for the main one. That’s why there’s so little cognitive dissonance.

  55. #55 flyonthewall
    December 28, 2009

    I watched a show recently about some birth defects around Chernobyl. Oh thank you god for putting together the DNA so precisely that a childs brain actually formed outside the skull and the child was born like that. You are such a loving god. Indeed your workmanship is “marvelous”

  56. #56 MadScientist
    December 28, 2009

    @Tulse: That’s why the best version is the Monty Python version (by Eric Idle): All things Dull and Ugly – it’s far more realistic, more entertaining, and more inspiring.

  57. #57 Sioux Laris
    December 28, 2009

    Supposedly in the Koran, there is a wonderful bit of truth, though still expressed as if “God” was doing something]

    “These to Heaven and I do not care. These to Hell and I do not care.”

    That would be an expression of “His” attention to detail and yje depth of “His” love for humanity – indeed for all things.

    An indifferent “God”, but still vastly superior to the Xian one Warren pretends to worship ^ whom Dawkins described so simply and accurately at the beginning of TGD.

  58. #58 craig.mcgillivary
    December 28, 2009

    This is interesting on several levels. Many theists have abandoned the predestination ideas implied here which suggest for instance that atheists were destined from the start to go to hell which would be pretty mean of god. On the other hand as a atheist I don’t have a big problem with determinism. I don’t think the bible is evidence for it, and I think that there are valid interpretations of quantum mechanics which don’t require it as compared to classical mechanics which can only be interpreted in a deterministic way. At any rate determinism has nothing to do with free will. You are a certain set of processes and you are responsible for what you do regardless of whether those processes have a truly random element or not. Moreover there is nobody who knows the future or who created a plan for all of us. The question of whether chance is part of the laws of nature is an interesting physics question, but it isn’t a hugely important one.

  59. #59 Hannah
    December 28, 2009

    Reading Warren’s nonsense, something occurred to me for the first time: I wonder how a Christian explains the fact that there are millions of sperm in a single ejaculation? Surely, if god intended your parents to conceive YOU specifically, and not one of millions of other possible children, then there would only need to be one sperm. In fact, from this perspective, much of our reproductive system seems quite wasteful. If god meant for each couple to have a certain number of particular children (say 2), then why not have the woman ovulate twice in her life, and the man ejaculate twice, with one sperm each time? That would seem to make more sense.

    The implications of Warren’s ideas are kind of humorous. :)

  60. #60 Antiochus Epiphanes
    December 28, 2009

    If god meant for each couple to have a certain number of particular children (say 2), then why not have the woman ovulate twice in her life, and the man ejaculate twice, with one sperm each time?

    It seems as if I have been following God’s plan all along. Damn.

  61. #61 Bribase
    December 28, 2009

    Guys, this has all been very interesting but I think you’ve missed the point. PZ just dropped the ball by giving some lucky faithhead a chance to explain away why PZ might have a heart condition.

    I wonder what those pious morons will come up with?

    B

  62. #62 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnwXI9zO__2HL6snd0W3TDYl5vgcUKuqNg
    December 28, 2009

    Excellent post, PZ. I’m printing it out to share with the wife during dinner prep. Nicely put, good sir!

  63. #63 reyfox
    December 28, 2009

    Free will or determinism. Seems like an awfully important underpinning for religious thought. Telling how none of them can agree on it.

  64. #64 Twin-Skies
    December 28, 2009

    So in short, I have Warren’s god to thank for the history of diabetes and lung cancer that is so prevalent, and in fact took the lives of my mom’s parents when she was only 18, and my uncle (one of the nicest guys I know) last year.

    Thanks, Warren’s god, and fuck you.

  65. #65 Twin-Skies
    December 28, 2009

    Arrgh, minor correction:

    “…history of diabetes and lung cancer that is so prevalent on my mom’s side of the family, and in fact took the lives of her parents when she was only 18″

  66. #66 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 28, 2009

    Apparently it’s god’s design when something good happens and teh debil’s design when something bad happens. So why doesn’t god not invent teh debil in the first place?

    First god sets up a bunch of arbitrary rules. Then he sends teh debil around to tempt people into breaking the rules. So god is setting people up to fail. But wait, there’s more. As Rev Rick informs us, it’s god’s will that people do specific things. So god intends for people to fail and causes them to fail. And when they die, because they’ve failed, they go to hell.

    It certainly says something about Christians that they willingly worship such a sadistic god.

  67. #67 WowbaggerOM
    December 28, 2009

    It certainly says something about Christians that they willingly worship such a sadistic god.

    If Christians were prepared to admit the truth – that they worship their hateful lord out of fear that (if he does exist) doing so might decrease the chance he’ll punish them in the same unjust fashion he’s punished humanity over the centuries – then I’d have a little more respect for them.

    That they instead have to try and rationalise that an evil monster could possibly still be considered ‘good’ is just laughable.

  68. #68 BoxNDox
    December 28, 2009

    My tolerance for this sort of twaddle rises and falls in sync with how well my polycystic kidneys are doing. Recently my tolerance has been pretty low, more’s the pity.

    Even more joyous is the 50-50 shot my son has of inheriting this autosomal dominant condition.

  69. #69 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 28, 2009

    Of course there’s the old gybe: “God is a lousy engineer. Who in their right mind would put a playground next to a sewer outflow.?”

  70. #70 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    December 28, 2009

    But if everything is God’s handy work, then why the need for sex?

  71. #71 Twin-Skies
    December 28, 2009

    @jcmartz.myopenid.com

    Because even God needs pr0n.

    And given very strange ways he “engineered” life on earth to reproduce, he’s got some serious fetish issues.

    “Like private parts to the Gods are we, they play with us for their sport”

  72. #72 WowbaggerOM
    December 28, 2009

    DNA alone is another nail in the magical creator god’s coffin – why does he need something physical to control things when he’s got unlimited magic powers? If DNA didn’t exist and we could find no means whatsoever that explained how characteristics are passed on then ‘godsdidit’ would be a more reasonable answer.

  73. #73 Cath the Canberra Cook
    December 29, 2009

    BoxNDox, you have my sympathies. We had to have one of our cats put down just before Xmas when his PCKD got too bad. His brother has it genetically, but so far is almost symptomless. We decided against kidney transplants for our little chaps, as I don’t think a cat could appreciate it. What’s the religious explanation for the same genetic disease happening in different species?

    Anyway, I wish you much luck with managing your condition, and getting yourself a transplant as appropriate. And do have fun breaking the brains of the health nuts with the “whole grains bad, white bread good” thing.

    While we’re on the subject of lame apologetics, has anyone got a link to a really good fisking of Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ?

  74. #74 Cactus Wren
    December 29, 2009

    I can’t help but find it infinitely amusing that Mr. Warren has conveniently skipped over verse 15.

    Verses 13 and 14 are routinely spewed by anti-choice activists: in the KJV (the version I’m most familiar with) they’re rendered, “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

    Then, inexplicably, he jumps ahead to verse 16: “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

    Perhaps he couldn’t help but feel that verse 15 — “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought IN THE LOWEST PARTS OF THE EARTH” — didn’t sound quite so credible as he would have liked.

  75. #75 hje
    December 29, 2009

    “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    It occurs to me, since human dissection has been somewhat taboo in the past, they must have seen this kind of embryonic & fetal anatomy stuff during their endless slaughter of the pregnant women among their enemies.

    Or as a result of miscarriages (another issue: poor knitting skills).

    “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed”

    I guess the bible comes down on the side of determinism, Calvin-style.

  76. #76 hje
    December 29, 2009

    “DNA alone is another nail in the magical creator god’s coffin – why does he need something physical to control things when he’s got unlimited magic powers?”

    Exactly–if we were comprised of foam rubber, now that would be curious.

  77. #77 John Morales
    December 29, 2009

    hje,

    It occurs to me, since human dissection has been somewhat taboo in the past, they must have seen this kind of embryonic & fetal anatomy stuff during their endless slaughter of the pregnant women among their enemies.

    Funny thing is that, during time immemorial, at least some people must’ve seen the innards of humans as well as those of other animals, yet the similarity never struck home.

    Pretty stupid of us.

  78. #78 Baccala
    December 29, 2009

    Did you ever hear the apologetic that uses the supposed words of a child Einstein answering a Prof who proposed “if god exists and is master of universe and god is all love then why does evil exist?” with a discourse on how as with darkness – that is the absence of light and as an absence does not exist per se, or as cold does do not exist (rather is an absence of heat) – so is evil just our allowing absence of god’s love and thus does not exist.

    Well as a physicist AE was brilliant for sure but as a child he had a child’s immature logic evidently.

    Good FSM! how can they not see the major fails in that line of reasoning? This god is all love – trust Him – do his work – worship Him – bla bla bla is immature – but worse is so unreal – they do not live their lives in the hands of god – they don’t! If they are sane they go to doctors for illnesses, demand qualified pilots fly them to their rallies, etc. etc.

    I say real believers in the fairytale would really put themselves in god’s loving hands categorically! No sane person who is modern knowledgeable and capable, and who is sane does when the chips are down!

  79. #79 Ray Moscow
    December 29, 2009

    Baccala (#78): Surely that Einstein attribution at the end of that apologist video was bogus?

  80. #80 Forbidden Snowflake
    December 29, 2009

    The more intellectual type of believer tends to brush off this kind of criticism with some platitude about how suffering is good for us (in that we can’t experience joy without having experienced suffering), or about how it’s all part of a mysterious divine plan that we mortals can’t understand.

    I really hate to reference Mohammed Jones about every damn theological topic, but this dialog does say it neatly:

    Barmaid: How can God be supremely good when there is so much evil in the world?
    Jesus: He gave us free will!
    Mo: If there was no ugliness, we could not appreciate beauty.
    Jesus: The experience of evil and suffering helps us to become what God wants us to be.
    Mo: Ultimately, it is all a mistery – we cannot know the mind of God.
    Barmaid: Couldn’t you make exactly the same arguments for the existence of a supremely evil god?
    Jesus: No, – that would be ridiculous.
    Mo: How can God be supremely evil when there is so much good in the world?

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2008/10/08/world/

    @ #78, #79: Please go to http://www.snopes.com for all your debunking needs. Of course, the shallow little apologetic tale was attributed to Einstein only to appeal to authority. It most likely never happened at all, to Einstein or otherwise.

  81. #81 Baccala
    December 29, 2009

    Ray Moscow #79

    I saw this stupidity here: http://www.rai.tv/dl/RaiTV/programmi/media/ContentItem-9dc0e866-f757-4765-bc0f-2246089130c0.html?p=

    The words in English (something about religion is knowledge – is bogus as in poppycock I would say – yes.

    Do you have another reference? This is my source of the apologetic. thanks.

  82. #82 Forbidden Snowflake
    December 29, 2009
  83. #83 Ray Moscow
    December 29, 2009

    Baccala (#81): I don’t have the link, but a religious friend on Facebook posted a German-language video showing a young student supposedly besting an atheist teacher with the attribution to Einstein at the end. As it read almost exactly like a Chick tract, I thought it was just some clumsy propaganda.

    Here’s the debunking on Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/religion/einstein.asp

    (Thanks, Forbidden Slowflake!)

  84. #84 Baccala
    December 29, 2009

    Oh I am getting dense in my old age. Do I think AE made such an argument? – NO – I assumed it was bogus.

    My point was it on its merits is immature and fails miserably – and that even if someone later in life brilliant did such a thing it still is childish and stupid on its merits. Shows the shallowness of their thinking – and that they have no shame – I’d be embarrassed to display such stupidity as my best argument.

  85. #85 Darreth
    December 29, 2009

    Rick relies on his followers to have no knowledge of the Bible, and also relies on non-followers to ignore him.

    That’s how he can get away with his lies.

  86. #86 gr8hands
    December 29, 2009

    In Hosea, you can see that god causes women to miscarry (that’s the word used there), so god was/is an abortionist.

    I guess there wasn’t any purpose driving their lives.

  87. #87 David Marjanovi?
    December 29, 2009

    “New Living Translation”
    http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Bible/NLT/nlt_exposed.htm

    lmao

    LOL. The author of that one doesn’t even notice that godhead is just English for divinity! Apparently you need to know German to understand the King James version these days.

    Also funny how he defends the Textus Receptus against manuscripts that weren’t even known when the Textus Receptus was compiled in the 16th century.

  88. #88 Owlmirror
    December 29, 2009

    @Baccala/Forbidden Snowflake/Ray Moscow:

    I wonder if that whole thing with Einstein arose because some dolt misheard/misremembered the name Augustine (who did indeed argue that evil was an absence of good), and confabulated the story from that and other fatuous religious glurge making the rounds?

  89. #89 gr8hands
    December 29, 2009

    David Marjanovi?, a lot of denominations translate ‘godhead’ as meaning ‘trinity’.

  90. #90 debg
    December 29, 2009

    “Personally, I appreciate the fact that I’m a combination of traits, some lucky and some unlucky, that are mine and not the product of the whims of some puppetmaster. I’ll make of them what I can and what I will, and who I am is my responsibility and to my credit or blame.”

    PZ, this quote is beautiful, and makes me proud to be an atheist. Thank you so much – it’s going on my desktop.

  91. #91 balloonguy
    December 30, 2009

    God deliberately shaped and formed you to serve him in a way that makes your ministry unique. He carefully mixed the DNA recipe that created you. David praised God for this incredible personal attention to detail God gave in designing each of us

    In that case, thanks for the deviated septum and the nearsightedness, asshole.

    -the user formerly known as truthspeaker, signing in from Google because TypePad isn’t working

  92. #92 Gregory Greenwood
    December 30, 2009

    ‘God deliberately shaped and formed you to serve him in a way that makes your ministry unique. He carefully mixed the DNA recipe that created you.’

    I have a creation story for Rick. I can just imagine god in a pinny with ladle in hand sipping some of the primordial soup.

    God might say;

    “Hmmm, needs more adenine. Then I will let it simmer on a low heat for a few years (but not 3.5 billion years. No siree!) and it will be ready. Thank me for Ainsley Harriet’s ‘Creation Cookery for Dummies’.”

    Unfortunately, god’s pet Jabberwock, Fluffball, (trust me, god has a pet Jabberwock and it is called Fluffball. It is in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Honest.) snuck in while god was out fiddling with the light of stars to make the universe seem older than it is and urinated in the soup. God was horrified, the batch was surely ruined! God was about to discard it in a nearby star when a thought occurred to him. If he was going to be worshipped he would need idiots on Earth to spread his ministry. So the batch was saved, and that is how little Rick Warrens came to be.

  93. #93 Jack Carlson
    December 31, 2009

    What fairly brings us pride or shame is what we?ve made of ourselves with what nature gave us. We are judged by our attitudes, our beliefs, our statements, our behaviors. Those are what divide and unite us.

    It?s not our fault I?m white and you?re Black. We can?t help that you?re a woman and I?m a man. But once I?ve formed an opinion about Blacks and women I am fully responsible for those opinions.

    I don?t accept the excuse that ?God made me this way?. You?re perception of god is not to blame for your racism, your smug superiority, your callous disregard for your fellow human. We choose our beliefs, they are our responsibility for better or worse.

    To own your attitudes and beliefs is to be fully human. To realize that natural handicaps come in all shapes and sizes, aren?t always obvious and say nothing of the human inside is to be fully human.

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