The Witch Children of Nigeria

I’ve written on several past occasions about how belief in malignant supernatural forces causes real harm to real people. There are examples of this from every region of the world, but some of the most wrenching are from Africa, where Biblical beliefs about demons and evil spirits still run rampant.

In January, I wrote about the witch camps of Ghana, where people suspected of using black magic to harm their neighbors are exiled as if they were lepers. In April, there were the Pentecostals of the Congo, who seek to cure mental illness by chaining sufferers to their beds and beating them to drive the demons out. Now, via the Guardian, there’s a story out of Nigeria that is far more heart-breaking and horrible than either of those.

Driving through the town of Esit Eket, the rust-streaked signs, tarpaulins hung between trees and posters on boulders, advertise a church for every third or fourth house along the road. Such names as New Testament Assembly, Church of God Mission, Mount Zion Gospel, Glory of God, Brotherhood of the Cross, Redeemed, Apostalistic. Behind the smartly painted doors pastors make a living by ‘deliverances’ – exorcisms – for people beset by witchcraft, something seen to cause anything from divorce, disease, accidents or job losses. With so many churches it’s a competitive market, but by local standards a lucrative one.

If this were merely a case of parasitic clergy making money by preying on superstitious people, exploiting the poor by charging exorbitant sums to chase away imaginary dangers, that would be bad enough. But this atmosphere of fanaticism has taken a far uglier turn.

But an exploitative situation has now grown into something much more sinister as preachers are turning their attentions to children – naming them as witches. In a maddened state of terror, parents and whole villages turn on the child. They are burnt, poisoned, slashed, chained to trees, buried alive or simply beaten and chased off into the bush.

This bold statement would be unbelievable if the story itself didn’t provide so many first-hand examples. There are numerous children quoted whose own parents, inflamed to frenzy by Christian preachers, have thrown boiling water and acid at them, who have left them tied to trees for days, who have forced them to drink poison. The children who are not killed by this torture are invariably driven out of their homes to live as homeless orphans in communities that despise and fear them and often attempt to kill them on sight.

As the Guardian article notes prominently, the fervent Christian beliefs of these communities have created the problem, not mitigated it. As with the similar cases from Ghana and the Congo, the spread of fanatic Pentecostal and evangelical sects who interpret the Bible’s verses about witches and exorcisms literally have given rise to this outrage.

…it is American and Scottish Pentecostal and evangelical missionaries of the past 50 years who have shaped these fanatical beliefs. Evil spirits, satanic possessions and miracles can be found aplenty in the Bible, references to killing witches turn up in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Galatians, and literal interpretation of scriptures is a popular crowd-pleaser.

And the local preachers who are enriching themselves by shattering families and killing children are not in the least bit apologetic:

Pastor Joe Ita is the preacher at Liberty Gospel Church in nearby Eket. ‘We base our faith on the Bible, we are led by the holy spirit and we have a programme of exposing false religion and sorcery.’ Soft of voice and in his smart suit and tie, his church is being painted and he apologises for having to sit outside near his shiny new Audi to talk.

…’To give more than you can afford is blessed. We are the only ones who really know the secrets of witches. Parents don’t come here with the intention of abandoning their children, but when a child is a witch then you have to say “what is that there? Not your child.”

This is a dramatic illustration of the “megaphone” hypothesis of religion amplifying both the good and the bad in human nature in equal measure. At one extreme, it can produce astounding acts of courage and self-sacrificing love. At the other extreme, it can produce hatred, xenophobia and superstitious fear so poisonous that parents can be turned against their own minor children. The flip side of charity and love toward those declared to be in the religious in-group is this savage treatment toward those declared to be in the out-group, and religion is all too effective at placing people outside that charmed circle, declaring them to be less than human.

The hatred and horror visited on these children by their faithful parents underscores the immorality of believing in a book like the Bible that contains such evil superstitions. Even if enlightened believers understand the verses about devils and witches for the savage and primitive falsehoods they are, so long as we promote this book as the word of God, those verses will always be there to be rediscovered by fanatics, with the results we have seen.

This tragic story is one more example of why atheists must work to spread reason and oppose faith in all its guises. Until the day when we can empty the haunted air and banish these pernicious beliefs once and for all, human beings will continue to suffer from the irrational ideologies that teach us to view others as agents of Satan and therefore undeserving of moral consideration.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    I read the Guardian article and watched the accompanying video last week. This story is beyond horrifying and heartbreaking. I wanted to write about it, but couldn’t find a place to start.

    Christians in the west claim that their religion is very different from Islam, that the horrors inflicted by Islamic extremists would never be perpetrated by Christians. As for its own bloodstained history, Christians contend that they’ve outgrown such excesses as inquisitions. This story contradicts that claim and illustrates perfectly why religion in all its forms, liberal –> moderate –> conservative –> extreme, needs to die. Unfortunately, many western Christians will say things like, “Well, this stuff in happening in Africa. Those people are all backwards. They’re not real Christians like us and we’d never do that sort of thing.” Sorry, I don’t buy it.

    I am stunned by Pastor Ita’s claim:

    we have a programme of exposing false religion and sorcery

    What I want to say to Pastor Ita is something like, “Excuse me, sir, firstly, all religion is false! Secondly, there is no such thing as sorcery, except in the dark recesses of your seriously troubled mind!”

    This stuff is beyond sickening.

  • http://passionateatheist.blogspot.com NoAstronomer

    They’re not real Christians like us and we’d never do that sort of thing.

    I wish that I could say ‘this would never happen in America’, but it does on a regular basis.

  • Jim Baerg
  • http://MindSober.WordPress.com MindSober

    “Religion amplifies good as well as evil”
    only because it acknowledges evil and good. If there are no evils, no one is evil. To say that only those that acknowledge evil are evil is the ultimate opium.

  • http://www.anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    These nutcases are like the 21st century equivalent to the Flaggellants!

  • Alex Weaver

    “Religion amplifies good as well as evil”
    only because it acknowledges evil and good. If there are no evils, no one is evil. To say that only those that acknowledge evil are evil is the ultimate opium.

    1) Are you so immoral as to actually contend that the treatment of children described here is not evil?
    2) Are you so ignorant that you are actually under the impression that atheists do not acknowledge the existence and importance of morality?

    And, I’m wondering how we’ve gone 5 comments without someone showing up with mealy-mouthed platitudes about how the people don’t really believe in Christianity, they’re just using it as an excuse to do things they would anyway, etc.

  • Joffan

    I regret to admit that this kind of story fills me with a black desire to visit the same kind of treatment on the religious maniacs responsible for initiating this child abuse. Maybe a dose of paralysing poison from a certain pufferfish and then set the parishioners to “purifying” their “demon-infested” bodies.

    Fortunately I know that I wouldn’t do that in reality. I do hope though that, if I were on the ground there in Nigeria, I would find a way to work against these vile and murderous practices.

  • Alex Weaver

    Oh, forgot “Are your priorities so screwed up that you care more about scoring points off of atheists than about denouncing this form of child abuse?” Unfortunately, that seems to be a given with a sizable proportion of religious “moderates” as well as extremists. :/

  • DamienSansBlog

    As the Guardian article notes prominently, the fervent Christian beliefs of these communities have created the problem, not mitigated it. As with the similar cases from Ghana and the Congo, the spread of fanatic Pentecostal and evangelical sects who interpret the Bible’s verses about witches and exorcisms literally have given rise to this outrage.

    Do we know anything about what beliefs West and Central Africans had before the missionaries arrived? Were legends about witches, sorcerers, etc. already present? Were punishments, lethal or otherwise, prescribed for them? It may be that the Christians there built on pre-existing traditions, rather than introducing their own. (Although it’s torture in either case, obviously.)

  • lpetrich

    There are lots of traditional African beliefs about sorcery, including the common belief that sickness and death are caused by malicious sorcery. A belief that many Africans maintained despite also recognizing other causes of death like hunting elephants and collapsing granaries. So if someone goes out hunting elephants and gets killed by one, it’s because someone cast a spell of “Sic ‘em” on that elephant. I’m doing this from memory; I don’t know of any good sources on “primitive” peoples’ beliefs about sorcery.

    But those fundie missionaries have clearly made it worse, by demanding huge fees and making people willing to suspect their children. And not doing anything to debunk sorcery, like challenging people to cast spells on them.

    I wonder if anyone is doing anything to oppose them, like trying to bring them to justice for fraud.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    Another way of looking at this is from the view of the opportunists who pretend they can get rid of demons and witches. In a climate where the people actually believe in such nonsense, those that say they have the power to expel the witches are actually inoculating themselves from being turned on by the populace. Who’s going to claim the priest is also a witch?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    It’s particularly sick that children are being targeted. They have less power to defend themselves. If adults were in more danger, maybe they’d be more likely to feel how silly the accusations of witchcraft are. As it is, the priests have the double safeguard of adulthood and their position.

  • http://www.cogspace.com/ Katie Molnar

    It may be that the Christians there built on pre-existing traditions, rather than introducing their own. (Although it’s torture in either case, obviously.)

    Point and counterpoint in one, thank you! I love being able to cite good comments like yours. This was exactly my thought, the latter part, that it’s torture regardless, when I read the piece about these not being pre-existing problems.

    Does it REALLY matter if these are pre-existing problems or not? Was it not the mission of these churches to get rid of beliefs they found abhorrent and evil? It most certainly was, and if their religion had done nothing to fix pre-existing flaws, it would be reason enough to toss it out.

    Instead, it has either exacerbated these problems or invented them entirely. It has turned nations, towns, and even families against themselves. It has stirred up immeasurable cruelty and innumerable horrific acts of fear, violence, and boundless hate.

    Africa is ultimately our birthplace as a species, and it’s disgusting that the place we have longest been is the place we have longest continued to suffer at our own hands.

    Theists like to liken dismissing religion because of its evil acts to throwing the baby out with the bath water, as though such an analogy made sense. For all the good religious people have done, they have done far more bad. No amount of aid from the Christian Children’s Fund could ever justify the Crusades, let alone the monstrosity that has sprung up in Africa.

    Casting out religion would be more akin to sacrificing a few healthy cells to remove a cancerous tumor.

    __
    One cannot but weep, staring wide-eyed into the night sky, thinking of all the interactions that eventually brought us to be, from the big bang to the solar forges to Earth’s formation to the first sparks of life, all the way to the present day… It’s an amazing and wonderful thing.

    But turning one’s eyes upon humanity, one cannot but weep for an altogether different reason.

  • Alex Weaver

    An additional point is that most of the good things done by religious people are done out of a sense of compassion for their fellow humans – for human reasons. While most of the evil things done by religious people are also done for human reasons (greed, anger, revenge, etc.), there is a huge subset of evil things that are done for reasons that are absolutely religious and thus are unique to religions (and a few ideologies that are religions in all but name, like Communism). While theists habitually cry foul when this is pointed out, the fact is that with or without religion good people will do good things and evil people will do evil things. Religion, and a few ideologies that are almost identical in practice, are the only known ways of making good people do evil things.

  • OMGF

    Soft of voice and in his smart suit and tie, his church is being painted and he apologises for having to sit outside near his shiny new Audi to talk.

    …’To give more than you can afford is blessed.

    [emphasis mine]
    Perfect juxtaposition of quotes.

    It has turned nations, towns, and even families against themselves.

    Well, Jesus does make a big show out of how one should forsake one’s family for god.

    An additional point is that most of the good things done by religious people are done out of a sense of compassion for their fellow humans – for human reasons.

    I would argue that probably quite a few religious people do good things simply because they want to go to heaven.

  • Christopher

    So, the witch hunts are still alive and well after all… When are we going to learn to leave this kind of shit in the Dark Ages (where it belongs)?

  • shifty

    Not just Nigeria. Apparently it’s an export business.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2025330,00.html
    Quite chilling that this goes on today.

  • DamienSansBlog

    I love being able to cite good comments like yours.

    Aw shucks, etc.

    Religion, and a few ideologies that are almost identical in practice, are the only known ways of making good people do evil things.

    Alex, are you channeling somebody here? Better be careful, or we’ll have to exorcise you. BOOGA BOOGA FIRE.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    A belief that many Africans maintained despite also recognizing other causes of death like hunting elephants and collapsing granaries. So if someone goes out hunting elephants and gets killed by one, it’s because someone cast a spell of “Sic ‘em” on that elephant.

    I think it’s most accurate to say that there’s an unfortunate correspondence: the traditional religions, many of which are in decline, accustomed people to the idea of believing in sorcery and sympathetic magic. This paved the way for the far more virulent Christian traditions, now on the rise, which exploit those beliefs to enrich their preachers and are now destroying families and communities.

    Of course, I’m sure these witch-hunting Christians, if asked, would fiercely deny that their beliefs have pagan antecedents (and, in fairness, one could reinvent these ideas entirely from the Bible without any reference to traditional religions). Whatever the historical influence exerted by the older belief systems, it seems clear that, in this case, Christianity is both the proximate and dominant cause.

  • lpetrich

    I found an interesting short article on witch smelling, a traditional ceremony for hunting down whoever had allegedly caused some misfortune with sorcery.

    So those fundies are most likely building on pre-existing beliefs about the efficacy of sorcery, rather than trying to debunk such beliefs by challenging people to put hexes on them.

    In any case, belief in the efficacy of sorcery is a widespread and cross-cultural belief, making one wonder what induces belief in that. I wonder if Daniel Dennett has addressed that question in his work on what makes people believe in religions; it seems like a closely-related one.

    And extending the arguments of certain religious apologists, if we refuse to believe in the efficacy of sorcery and refuse to cringe in fear of malicious sorcery, we will not be very happy or mentally healthy, and we will become miserable and depressed.

    And as Richard Carrier has noted in his master’s thesis, Cultural History of the Lunar and Solar Eclipse in the Early Roman Empire, many less-educated Romans believed that lunar eclipses were caused by sorcerers making the Moon go away, and they would often make a lot of noise to try to interfere with those sorcerers’ efforts. Plutarch noted that education was good for women as for men, because someone who’s educated would refuse to take seriously anyone who claimed the ability to cause a lunar eclipse. Plutarch also claimed that some centuries earlier, a certain Aglaonike had used her ability to predict lunar eclipses to convince people that she could cause them.

    And nearly 15 centuries later, Christopher Columbus would do just that to some pesky Native Americans to get them to help him and his crew.

  • George Eliason

    I am a Christian. I am horrified by this. The problem as Im seeing it is actually a lot larger and more insidious. There are swelling groups of christians determined to bring in a worldwide “christendom”. They are known as “kingdom now”, “theonomists”, “reconstructionists”. They are separate groups working tward the same goals. google these terms and you’ll see what I mean. This may well be part of that.

  • http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/children-are-targets-of-nigerian-witch-hunt Kelli Stowe
  • Alfreda P. Howard

    Africa have been in fact coerce into white Catholic Christian method of dealing with mental condition ; from the bribed with food in trade for their culture and god. Performing exorcisms to deal with mental disorders of the people of Africa, is only going to enhance the mental disorder into an stage of non- rehablitaton, that can turns into a major mental disease. These people, if they are suffering from in psychological disorder; should get psychiatric treatment for the condition. More clinics needs to be established.
    Also, the person with illness, may be a resistant member; and the church is actually in sect; that is trying to retrieve the ex- member. Those thing should be observed . You should follow a process of examining, in person that is acting in an dumb nature.

    1) First, see if the person have any religious belief .
    2 )Second, if they do find out if the religion is safe and haven’t pressured them in anyway .
    3)Third , if they were not pressured , maybe they need mental health treatment
    4 )Fourth, if they were pressured , the right authority may need to notified; so they can expose the cult/sect .

    I myself was victimized by in cult ; which is Refuge Church of Christ , that is overseen by Bishop Bonner; his body is all over the United States and an Africa. They have destroyed my family life tremendously . They prompted adoption of resistant ex – members

    Please make sure that, churches are monitored when the began to sprout in your country.

    Take care Africa my descendant land of beauty and the originators.

  • Alfreda P. Howard

    Africa have been in fact coerce into white Catholic Christian method of dealing with mental condition ; from the bribed with food in trade for their culture and god. Performing exorcisms to deal with mental disorders of the people of Africa, is only going to enhance the mental disorder into an stage of non- rehablitaton, that can turns into a major mental disease. These people, if they are suffering from in psychological disorder; should get psychiatric treatment for the condition. More clinics needs to be established.
    Also, the person with illness, may be a resistant member; and the church is actually in sect; that is trying to retrieve the ex- member. Those thing should be observed . You should follow a process of examining, in person that is acting in an dumb nature.

    1) First, see if the person have any religious belief .
    2 )Second, if they do find out if the religion is safe and haven’t pressured them in anyway .
    3)Third , if they were not pressured , maybe they need mental health treatment
    4 )Fourth, if they were pressured , the right authority may need to notified; so they can expose the cult/sect .

    I myself was victimized by in cult ; which is Refuge Church of Christ , that is overseen by Bishop Bonner; his body is all over the United States and an Africa. They have destroyed my family life tremendously . They prompted adoption of resistant ex – members

    Please make sure that, churches are monitored when the began to sprout in your country.

    Take care Africa my descendant land of beauty and the originators.

  • Alfreda P. Howard

    Africa have been in fact coerce into white Catholic Christian method of dealing with mental condition ; from the bribed with food in trade for their culture and god. Performing exorcisms to deal with mental disorders of the people of Africa, is only going to enhance the mental disorder into an stage of non- rehablitaton, that can turns into a major mental disease. These people, if they are suffering from in psychological disorder; should get psychiatric treatment for the condition. More clinics needs to be established.
    Also, the person with illness, may be a resistant member; and the church is actually in sect; that is trying to retrieve the ex- member. Those thing should be observed . You should follow a process of examining, in person that is acting in an dumb nature.

    1) First, see if the person have any religious belief .
    2 )Second, if they do find out if the religion is safe and haven’t pressured them in anyway .
    3)Third , if they were not pressured , maybe they need mental health treatment
    4 )Fourth, if they were pressured , the right authority may need to notified; so they can expose the cult/sect .

    I myself was victimized by in cult ; which is Refuge Church of Christ , that is overseen by Bishop Bonner; his body is all over the United States and an Africa. They have destroyed my family life tremendously . They prompted adoption of resistant ex – members

    Please make sure that, churches are monitored when the began to sprout in your country.

    Take care Africa my descendant land of beauty and the originators.

  • thomas

    “This tragic story is one more example of why atheists must work to spread reason and oppose faith in all its guises.”

    You sound just as fanatical as fanatical Christians and Muslims wishing to spread their beliefs.

  • http://tinyurl.com/6hfs3y Elijah

    These priests are obviously frauds. Money and power is all they are concerned with. I pray that God and Jesus will help them over there, that is truly sick and disturbing.

    t
    the REAL one
    http://tinyurl.com/6hfs3y

  • chris

    enough of all the arguing about whether religion is evil or whatever!
    how do we stop this now!!!!
    has anyone got a link to a site that we can donate to or help this cause?

  • A J Willaimson

    I watched the film tonight on the so called witch children of Nigeria, and have never been so appalled and upset in my life at the sheer ignorance and blatant explotation by so called ‘ Pastors ‘ to exthort money from the needy and poor….what a load of con artists you are to blame poor innocent children as witches, when we know in this modern world that no such thing exsists…as I said that it is nothing but a bloody scam…shame on the government of Nigeria that allows this sort of thing to happen…I am sure that the rich and well to do are not interested in anything, as long as it does not upset their way of life…enjoy it at the expense of your poor down trodden people..not that you give a damn !!
    It made my heart bled to see such unhappy children, who through no fault of their, are abused, beaten and killed..!!
    May the people who carry out this sick practise, rot in hell and that their souls are condemned to everlasting hell…if any one is a witch..YOU ARE..!!!

  • http://drew3000.net drew3000

    “They aren’t real Christians”

    Wait a minute, says who?

    I watched the documentary on this topic of “witch children” on Channel 4 the other night really quite moving. Both my wife and I were really quite shocked to see how poorly adults can treat children. The documentary correctly points the finger at a particularly paranoid, mystical strain of the Pentecostal faith. But is it wrong because “they aren’t real christians” or are they wrong for the way they treat children?

    It seems to me that the above argument is a particularly dangerous path that leads to no where, because to someone else, you may not be a real Christian either, and to people like me, the book of “old Jewish fairy tales” (to borrow from Bill Maher) is just so much tripe, so pretty much all christians lack authenticity on some level. So what’s a real one?

    Maybe, instead of banging on about how this one is real and that one isn’t, you could make some bolder statements. Witches aren’t freaking real. Demon possession just doesn’t happen. I like watching a good horror romp on the late-night movie myself now and again, but I don’t think this crap is actually possible.

    While watching the documentary, it was most telling not when the filmmaker visited the far-out whacko selling videos and books on how to best torture demonic forces out of your small children, but when she went to see the head of the mainstream Pentecostal churches in the country. Instead of tackling the woman’s weird culty ways directly, all he said was that he hadn’t seen her films and that in his own opinion, he didn’t think what she was saying expressed the full story of what his faith was about.

    That’s the best you can do? I could easily imagine a similar answer from the Vatican which doesn’t exactly proclaim that supernatural possessions are impossible.

    So what would happen if your own church leaders did one day say “oops, I just prayed and heard from Yahweh that it looks like we have some possessed kids over in the Sunday school room.” Would that change things?

    Let’s fess up. The ancestor religion from which your presently cuddly faith evolved from was exported around the globe by people who did some pretty awful things and left huge messes in their wake. Christianity didn’t just pop up out of no where in Nigeria, it was brought there, installed on a people with no degree of nicety with regards to the process.

    Until modern, mainstream followers of these faiths disown all the hocus-pocus aspects of their own religions, then they aren’t so much clearing evil out of the souls of their fellow humans. They are the demons themselves, wielding some aspect of fear and intimidation as a weapon to control. Because if you go around banging on about the existence of fairies that you can’t actually prove, then other people can to, and you don’t have much of an argument to make against them.

  • Caiphen Martini

    I’m a believer in God and have a strong christian faith. But after reading/ watching about children being accused of witchcraft by ‘christian ministers’, I can understand why people become athiest.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    But after reading/ watching about children being accused of witchcraft by ‘christian ministers’, I can understand why people become athiest.

    Actually it is a good reason to be Anti-religion as many atheist are. Though this is not inevitable. Many people are atheists simply because they see no necessity for gods in the universe they experience or any evidence that they exist.

  • Caiphen Martini

    I can’t deny that there is a God in speight of children being accused of witchcraft by so called christians. When I think of the mathematical chances of a species becoming sentient, the way humanity is, by a cosmic accident I immediately realise He exists. Can any atheist say with 100% certainty that God does not exist? It’s pretty hard to considering the undeniable complexity of a living creature’s existence. The ‘God Delusion’ is seemingly arguing in favour of the unbelievable.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    When I think of the mathematical chances of a species becoming sentient, the way humanity is, by a cosmic accident I immediately realise He exists. Can any atheist say with 100% certainty that God does not exist? It’s pretty hard to considering the undeniable complexity of a living creature’s existence. The ‘God Delusion’ is seemingly arguing in favour of the unbelievable.

    You could’nt have the argument more wrong if you tried. Mathematically there are so many billions of galaxies with so many billions of suns that the probability is extremely high that life will evolve somewhere and that sentient life will follow. For us to be here it only had to happen once in one place. Evolution by natural selection is a very powerful algorithm given enough time (about 3.8 billion years on earth) and it is by no means amazing that such complexity has resulted. Yours is an argument from personal incredulity couple with a poor perception of the vast numbers and vast expanses of time involved.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Can any atheist say with 100% certainty that God does not exist?

    Does this mean we should believe in god? Can you say with 100% certainty that leprechauns don’t exist? Should we, using your argument here, believe in leprechauns?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Can any atheist say with 100% certainty that God does not exist?

    No; but I can certainly say that I’ve never seen the slightest shred of evidence supporting her existence, particularly as described by the Abrahamic faiths.

  • Caiphen Martini

    I understand the vast amount of time involved in our vast cosmos for life to come into being. I also understand the vast number of processes that needed to be in motion and to start motion for life on earth to develop. I’ve considered these and sorry, atheists have a long way to go before I’m convinced that there is no God. The more processes we discover either in the vastness of space or under a microscope, the more unlikely it is that we are a cosmic accident. 3.8 billion years of earth history is not a lot of time for me to be able to reply on this blog. Do the math, or at least read about someone who has and get their result.

    Leprechauns? I have to give you 10 points for that one. You made me smile.

    And lastly, I’m not writing this to convince anybody to believe in my Abrahamic faith. My blog is not intended to be directed from that angle.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I’ve considered these and sorry, atheists have a long way to go before I’m convinced that there is no God.

    It’s not up to us to disprove god, it’s up to you to provide evidence for this god. The default position here should be disbelief until and unless evidence is provided.

    The more processes we discover either in the vastness of space or under a microscope, the more unlikely it is that we are a cosmic accident.

    How does finding the natural processes that occur make it more likely that some being is doing it all?

    Do the math, or at least read about someone who has and get their result.

    Do what math?

    Leprechauns? I have to give you 10 points for that one. You made me smile.

    The argument holds though. If we have to disprove things in order to not believe in them, you should believe in leprechauns as well as unicorns, yetis, bigfoot, etc.

    And lastly, I’m not writing this to convince anybody to believe in my Abrahamic faith.

    It doesn’t matter. It’s irrational for you to believe in god unless someone can disprove your beliefs whether you are trying to convince others or not. The burden of proof is on you whether you are trying to convince others or not.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I understand the vast amount of time involved in our vast cosmos for life to come into being.

    No you don’t,

    I also understand the vast number of processes that needed to be in motion and to start motion for life on earth to develop.

    and again, no you don’t.

    The more processes we discover either in the vastness of space or under a microscope, the more unlikely it is that we are a cosmic accident.

    Only one “improbable” accident is required, once life starts evolution takes over. It only looks as if the odds are astronomical if you assume that where we are is where we gambled on being. But we didn’t, we are where we are because whatever the odds were: we won (whatever that means).

    3.8 billion years of earth history is not a lot of time for me to be able to reply on this blog.

    Oh come on… really? like 3.8 billion years(3,800,000,000)? Think about it.

    Do the math

    What OMGF said

  • Caiphen Martini

    I’m not even going to try to prove god’s existence. Look for yourself. I did. I find the bible very convincing. But that’s upto you to investigate, that is if you want to. An argument isn’t going to bear any fruit. I’ll say this, I’m open minded enough to cruise through an atheist website, to get an atheist perspective. I’m always open to different ways of thinking. Perhaps an atheist needs to do the same on a christian website. That person may not necessarily be ‘converted’, no true christian pushes their belief on another, but insight will be gained. I have to say, our discussion is leading me into greater insight.

    So you reckon through uncoordinated random acts, the basic building blocks of the simplest form of life, just fell into place and got going? I’ve been looking at this for years. I have actually come across calculations that give the chances of something far simpler happenning over the stated billions of years of the earth’s existence. Again I’ll say, 3.8 billion years just isn’t a lot of time. Suffice to say, I’ve been thinking of this most of my adult life. Now I’m not one to lead another to water. If you look, you’ll come across what I have. And please, no wearing of parts of a mouse trap as a tie clip.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I’m not even going to try to prove god’s existence. Look for yourself. I did. I find the bible very convincing. But that’s upto you to investigate, that is if you want to. An argument isn’t going to bear any fruit.

    Why won’t arguments work? What can I only find by myself that can’t be given to me with a convincing argument? Isn’t that exactly what you would expect me to find “by myself” if I were to re-convert to Xianity, yet you think that no one can supply that argument? How odd.

    And, yes, I used to be a Xian, just as many other atheists here. We also found the Bible convincing until we actually opened our minds and saw through the logical fallacies and the problems. You first have to assume god before you can find evidence for god, which is begging the question.

    I’ll say this, I’m open minded enough to cruise through an atheist website, to get an atheist perspective. I’m always open to different ways of thinking. Perhaps an atheist needs to do the same on a christian website.

    Most of us used to be Xians. Many of us go to Xian websites all the time to see what they say. This is pretty much normal for atheists. For theists, if you visit one atheist website and don’t actually take in any of the arguments presented to you, you’re open minded and can act as if you’ve taken some mighty plunge that us atheists would never dare do. I don’t get it.

    …no true christian pushes their belief on another…

    No Scottish Xian at least…

    …but insight will be gained.

    Such as?

    So you reckon through uncoordinated random acts, the basic building blocks of the simplest form of life, just fell into place and got going?

    Um, yeah. We already know that they do.

    I’ve been looking at this for years. I have actually come across calculations that give the chances of something far simpler happenning over the stated billions of years of the earth’s existence.

    Please produce them. Creationist calculations are notorious for being poor.

    If you look, you’ll come across what I have.

    Such as?…in places such as?

  • Caiphen Martini

    OK, it seems to me that it boils down to this. I cannot believe that something engineered can have no engineer and…… you do. I’ve got to be honest, I can’t help but smile. To think, something as highly complex as a bacterium just….. fell together. Wow, I’m stunned. I don’t know if you write, but if you do, don’t bother. Just scramble a whole bunch of letters and throw them in a heap. In a billion years, or maybe in 3.8 billion years, you’ll have your testimony on atheism.

    I’m not going to mother you. If you want the calculations, go and look for yourself.

    Actually, I’m more than stunned. I’m stultified.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Caiphen

    I cannot believe that something engineered can have no engineer and…… you do.

    This would be more coherent if you said “something that appears engineered” You are already assuming a watchmaker in your world view.

    To think, something as highly complex as a bacterium just….. fell together.

    This is not what happened, and no biologist says that it did. Although we do not have a clear idea how abiogenesis happened as yet, the likelyhood is that it involved replicating systems similar to RNA (Note to the people here who know the subtle arguments: This is an over simplification). We are talking way less complexity than a bacterium. Once you have a partially stable replicating system natural selection kicks in and complexity can emerge. I think your problem is that in seeking your own answers you have failed to properly phrase the actual question. I would agree that God may seem a plausible answer to complex life appearing randomly by chance, but it didn’t happen that way.

  • Caiphen Martini

    Thanks Steve for you response. I remember learning in biology class that we are all engineered, even if you do believe that evolution was the sole engineering process. It seems that you’ve misunderstood me here.

    Until I’m shown a more plausible explanation, I’m still going to believe in a creator. It really is going to take something pretty convincing though.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Caiphen:

    OK, it seems to me that it boils down to this. I cannot believe that something engineered can have no engineer and……

    The Argument from Incredulity. I cannot believe that humans torture and murder one another [dramatic ellipsis] … yet they do.

    you do.

    It isn’t a belief. It is an acceptance of facts culled from different fields of science which all converge onto one theory: All living things are related, and they experience descent with modification via several routes, primary of which is natural selection.

    I’ve got to be honest, I can’t help but smile.

    Condescension is a mighty petty emotion, and a mighty weak argument.

    To think, something as highly complex as a bacterium just….. fell together.

    As Steve points out above, this is not an allegation of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Your reply is, however, one helluva Strawman.

    Wow, I’m stunned

    .

    As was already apparent.

    I don’t know if you write, but if you do, don’t bother. Just scramble a whole bunch of letters and throw them in a heap. In a billion years, or maybe in 3.8 billion years, you’ll have your testimony on atheism.

    Argument by false analogy. Evolution, while having aspects of randomness, is not entirely so. Natural selection adds many mutations, weeds out the bad ones [admittedly a majority] and presserves the good. Your analogy lacks a selective factor, and thus fails.

    I’m not going to mother you. If you want the calculations, go and look for yourself.

    I.E., “I’m afriad to present them for rational study.

    Actually, I’m more than stunned. I’m stultified.

    Permit me to quote you again:

    I don’t know if you write, but if you do, don’t bother.

    To wit:

    stul-ti-fy  [stuhl-tuh-fahy]

    –verb (used with object), -fied, -fy-ing. 1. to make, or cause to appear, foolish or ridiculous.
    2. to render absurdly or wholly futile or ineffectual, esp. by degrading or frustrating means: Menial work can stultify the mind.
    3. Law. to allege or prove (oneself or another) to be of unsound mind.

    [source:http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/stultified

    I do not think this was what you meant to convey; but it is more accurate than you think.

  • Scotlyn

    Caiphen Martini:

    OK, it seems to me that it boils down to this. I cannot believe that something engineered can have no engineer…

    Caiphen, are you by any chance an engineer?

  • Caiphen Martini

    Yes Thumpalumpacus, I should have been more careful in my choice of words. I just wrote the last sentence quickly at the end. Incidentally, you were the one who started the condescension, and you’re right, it stultifies an argument.

    ‘IE I’m afraid to present them for rational study.’ MM- hardly. I wasn’t spoon fed at uni. Use a search engine. There’s a whole array of websites that you can study. Come on, isn’t it obvious that probability is stacked so greatly against atheists? Think about it. Show me a website that proves otherwise.

    Since it is faith that there is a God an atheist is against, well, if I were to become one, it’ll be one helluva jump in faith. Try and show me otherwise.

    Hello Scotlyn- after the electrical engineering course that I completed all those years ago. For me to believe in any kind of randomness at all is completely against my grain. Chance being the answer to complex life is just too improbable to even consider.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Oh well…we tried!

  • Caiphen Martini

    Hello my atheist friends.

    Can I call you guys friends? I hope so.

    To state the obvious, your efforts were not in vain. I have a deeper respect for atheists than what I did a few days ago.

    To again state the obvious, none of us are stupid. What seems to me as irrational is rational to someone else. And vice versa. I understand the position you take and can see the supposition. My supposition in just the opposite of yours.

    My reasons for belief in God are not necessarily scientific, but also what has happened personally in my life and through scripture.

    All the best to you all and take care.

    Caiphen Martini

  • Scotlyn

    Caiphen Martini – another “proof” for the Salem Hypothesis?

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    My reasons for belief in God are not necessarily scientific, but also what has happened personally in my life and through scripture.

    Caiphen. This thread has got so far off topic I’m surprised Ebon hasn’t closed the comments here, but… Very few commenters will have a problem with your belief in God (few of us will share it, but as you have discovered we are happy to debate with non-preaching theists). What most of us will find difficult to understand is how a rational person can ignore the observable facts in favour of revelation and we have little patience with arguments from ignorance. There are deistic concepts of God that are compatible with evolution and do not contradict the science. It is only if you take the O.T and the Quran literally that the conflicts appear. My sincere suggestion to you would be to engage properly with the theory of evolution by natural selection, investigate what the current theories on abiogenesis (origins of life: not the same as evolution) actually say and you could do worse than read Ebonmuse’s essays here. You should be aware that many of the commenters here are very scientifically literate and there is also a high level of theological and philosophical debate. When you are in a position to comment on the real science and not creationist strawman argument, drop in again on a relevant thread.

  • Caiphen Martini

    Steve

    Ok, I will. Thanks for the information. We’ll talk again soon. I’ve found this discussion very informative and well worth while.

    I can see your motives and arguments are challenging and reasonable. Everyone who has faith should visit this website.

    Regards

    Caiphen

  • Caiphen Martini

    I’ll rephrase the last sentence of my last comment. Anyone who has faith should visit this website.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Caiphen Martini,

    Until I’m shown a more plausible explanation, I’m still going to believe in a creator. It really is going to take something pretty convincing though.

    Once again, this is the wrong way around things. In order for you to believe in a creator, you need to have rational reasons for believing in this creator. Your personal incredulity doesn’t count.

    What seems to me as irrational is rational to someone else. And vice versa. I understand the position you take and can see the supposition. My supposition in just the opposite of yours.

    It’s not a matter of competing suppositions either. You are supposing god, we are not. That does not mean we are supposing “not god.” We are simply adopting one less presupposition. This leads to an asymmetric relationship IRT rationality. Your presupposition is not supported, so therefore it is not rational to simply believe that it is and ascribe to it. We hold the more rational position in that we have not adopted an unsupported presupposition.

    Finally, in regards to creationist “calculations” they all invariably fail for the same reason. They all pull assumptions out of thin air and they are all based on strawmen, namely that complex cells such as we see today came together and everything had to assemble all at once. This is not what any abiogenetic hypothesis says.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Caiphen,
    You should also see here for some discussion about things that are “engineered” without an engineer.

  • Thumpalumpcus

    Yes Thumpalumpacus, I should have been more careful in my choice of
    words. I just wrote the last sentence quickly at the end.

    Fair enough.

    Incidentally, you were the one who started the condescension, and you’re right, it stultifies an argument.

    I don’t see that this is so. Scroll up for yourself and tell me who employs this device first. And I wasn’t saying this argument was stultified.

    ‘IE I’m afraid to present them for rational study.’ MM- hardly. I wasn’t spoon fed at uni. Use a search engine. There’s a whole array of websites that you can study. Come on, isn’t it obvious that probability is stacked so greatly against atheists? Think about it. Show me a website that proves otherwise.

    Typically speaking, when I am asked for citations, I provide them, not because I assume others need spoonfeeding, but rather because I wish to see my argument supported and choose the courteous rouite of providing that support conveniently. Your assumption that anyone here wishes “spoonfeeding” is silly on it’s face, and another example of condescension. Furthermore, given the unreliability of websites in general, I eschew them as source material for the most part, and prefer books. It was this sort of citation I was requesting. Can you please provide such?

    Finally, when you calculate your “probability”, is this calculation done serially or in parallel?

    Since it is faith that there is a God an atheist is against, well, if I were to become one, it’ll be one helluva jump in faith. Try and show me otherwise.

    You seem to be arguing that atheism requires faith in god, in order to deny her. No such luck for you. All atheism requires is fidelity to the principles of evidence, and the understanding that one must constantly check propositions against the outside world. The Theory of Evolution responds admirably to the interrogation to which we subject it. Divinity doesn’t. You postulate god; the onus of evidence is upon you, not me.

    Chance being the answer to complex life is just too improbable to even consider.

    Again, how are these “odds” calculated?

  • Caiphen Martini

    Thumps (I hope you don’t my the abbreviation)

    Ok, I understand your position. Since these comments, as Steven Bowen states, are so far off the original topic (about Nigeria) that I really should reply on a relevant thread. I’ll continue briefly only.

    I’m about to start the process of studying abiogenetic hypothesis. And as I’m sure you can understand, it’s going to take me a while. Also since I’m currently studying something else at uni, it’ll be quite a juggle. When it happens, our next conversation will be quite interesting.

    On your ‘is this calculation done serially or in parallel?’question. It is in parallel. Multiple locations of these random events were considered. When I present the calc you’ll see what I mean when I say multiple locations. Now I was going to give you a paraphrased version of the calculation that you ask for. I don’t think I will now. I’ll also study it, or restudy it, and get back to you. I’ll present it in a format suitable to this discussion and with citations.

    Now don’t think that my whole faith rests on one calculation. Potentially this conversation is going to take years, but since it seems you guys are up to it, I’m game if you are.

    Now to explain something. When someone like me, in the engineering game, having done the AD of Elec Engineering with 20 years experience, sees an impressive product of design we straight away think, the engineer/ engineers/ coordinator involved did a fine job. What you’re asking me to say, when I see an impressive design in nature, is nothing. Because according to an atheist, no intelligence designed it because the whole universe, including the living world, is a cosmic accident. To be honest, I reckon the faith of most people is on pretty solid ground. You have a lot of convincing to do.

    We’ll talk on another thread later. I’ll cut and past our relevant conversation to
    it.

    The only response on this thread that I ask for, is a suggestion on which thread I should join.

    Take care of yourself Thumps and everyone else, you’ll hear from me soon.

    Caiphen Martini

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    The only response on this thread that I ask for, is a suggestion on which thread I should join.

    If there isn’t a relevant thread on the day you’re ready, rest assured here’ll be one along soon after. You’ll know it when you see it. Good luck with your studies.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Now to explain something. When someone like me, in the engineering game, having done the AD of Elec Engineering with 20 years experience, sees an impressive product of design we straight away think, the engineer/ engineers/ coordinator involved did a fine job.

    Not all engineers jump to the conclusion that things that have not been shown to be engineered are necessarily engineered. Take snow flakes for exmample. Is god up there engineering each one? Or, how about quartz crystals or any other crystalline structure? How about genetic algorithms that solve problems using RM+NS and come to solutions that are more elegant than anything that humans have come up with on their own?

    Because according to an atheist, no intelligence designed it because the whole universe, including the living world, is a cosmic accident.

    Please stop flogging this strawman.

    To be honest, I reckon the faith of most people is on pretty solid ground.

    Why do you continue to ignore the fact that the “faith of most people” needs to meet the burden of proof and must be evidenced? You keep taking the track that your faith needs to be disproven, or else it is completely rational and preferrable to hold it. This is the wrong way around things. If your idea were correct, then it would be equally rational and preferrable to believe in any other god, unicorns, leprechauns, etc. until someone can disprove them. Hopefully you can see how absurd that is, however.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Also, might I suggest one of the Sunday Open Threads?

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    OMGF Hi!
    Caiphen,s way too easy a target just now. Maybe he’ll come back (hopefully after researching his ground) with some interesting theistic arguments to offer, or maybe he’ll decide he can’t.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Maybe Steve, although my money is on him coming back with the same arguments as if none of this had ever happened.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    On your ‘is this calculation done serially or in parallel?’question. It is in parallel. Multiple locations of these random events were considered. When I present the calc you’ll see what I mean when I say multiple locations. Now I was going to give you a paraphrased version of the calculation that you ask for. I don’t think I will now. I’ll also study it, or restudy it, and get back to you. I’ll present it in a format suitable to this discussion and with citations.

    Don’t think you will, right now,eh? If you refuse to present this data, please stop citing it. Anything else is intellectual dishonesty. And, in terms of parallel calculations, I am not referring to areas where these reactions may’ve occurred. I’m referring to the numbers of molecules involved, likely into the quadrillions by, say 3.5bya. Now even the longest odds become attainable when just one of your factors are this large.

    When someone like me, in the engineering game, having done the AD of Elec Engineering with 20 years experience, sees an impressive product of design we straight away think, the engineer/ engineers/ coordinator involved did a fine job.

    When a musician like me hears and appreciates birdsong, I don’t assume the bird has attended Julliard; nor do I assume that a deity made it. You see, when assumptions are made, science is threatened; and while it’s true that occasionally assumptions must be made in science, they are not so broad as “god”. As OMGF has so ably pointed out, your “faith” is really just an unquestioned premise — an assumption.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    PS — Good luck with your studies.

  • Scotlyn

    Caiphen Martini:

    I’m about to start the process of studying abiogenetic hypothesis.

    If this is your intention, and you really intend to try to understand it, rather than simply rebut it, I hope you will give serious consideration to the metabolism first hypothesis.

    Best of luck.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    If Caiphen decides to return and present these calculations of his, I’d be glad to create an open thread to discuss them. If he’s put together a figure backed by an even vaguely realistic set of assumptions, that alone would be a huge leap forward over what creationists have envisioned up till now. However, comments like this don’t give me confidence:

    To think, something as highly complex as a bacterium just….. fell together. Wow, I’m stunned. I don’t know if you write, but if you do, don’t bother. Just scramble a whole bunch of letters and throw them in a heap. In a billion years, or maybe in 3.8 billion years, you’ll have your testimony on atheism.

    This kind of argument does not display a level of understanding of actual hypotheses of abiogenesis that’s significantly advanced over the standard creationist tornado-in-a-junkyard nonsense.

  • Caiphen Martini

    Guys

    Damn, I think I have that same feeling that the poor Cockatoo had the other day when I saw him being ganged up on by a bunch of Ravens. But in speight of this I shall return. Who came up with the term strawman anyway?

    I’ll see you on a relevant thread. I’ll find you! And no, I won’t be pretending that none of this ever happened. My head isn’t buried in the sand.

    I would say HELL. But I don’t think that’s apropriate with you guys.

    Caiphen

  • Caiphen Martini

    PS

    Don’t take the raven comment seriously, it’s supposed to be a joke.

    I’ll admit, I’ve never studied abiogenesis hypotheses. I’m opened minded enough to admit that it could change the way I see the world. We’ll see.

    Incidentally, I never said that I take the biblical creation story literally. Is that the impression you guys have?

    Caiphen

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Caiphen

    Incidentally, I never said that I take the biblical creation story literally. Is that the impression you guys have?

    Your opening comment contains the line

    I’m not writing this to convince anybody to believe in my Abrahamic faith

    So even if you are not proposing a six day creation as stated in Genesis you are probably looking at an allegorical equivelent (maybe the “six period” fudge found in the Quran). If you are in fact accepting the evidence for the physical age of the Universe and the Earth then your designer is pretty much by default a deistic one and scientifically un-falsifiable. If not, you will be offering some variant of the biblical creation story, which has already been falsified bt the TOE.
    As for “ravens”, if you will fly into the avery….

  • Caiphen Martini

    Steve

    I assume you meant to write for the last 3 words of the second last sentence ‘by the TOE’. What does the acronym ‘TOE’ stand for?

    About the creation story. It was taught in the church 1000 years ago that Genesis was not to be taken literally. The teaching probably goes back even further, but don’t quote me on this. Especially in view of the science of the last 150 odd years, it’s pretty hard to be a fundamentalist and completely deny evolution.

    About the last sentence, are you telling me that I should fly away? Ha, ha,ha.

    Caiphen

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    TOE = Theory of Evolution.

    Fly away? No, but they do talk about a “Murder of Crows” collectively speaking :} Seriously though, ‘cos this thread is wearing thin for me, do your homework and present your arguments in that light when you’re ready. Good luck

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    This thread has been drifting for some time and is pretty played out now. Caiphen, when you’re ready to present those numbers you spoke so highly of, you can contact me by e-mail. Until then…