Saturday, 25 January 2020

Reconciling the Stations of the Exodus

My stories began as standalone narratives, which I was writing as longer versions of my joke Twitter verses. When I decided to turn them into books, I had to consider the overarching narrative and ensure that the stories fit together cohesively. For ‘The MisreadBible: Genesis’, this wasn’t much of a problem because the Book of Genesis consists mostly of narratives, which are in more or less chronological order.

My next book (tentatively titled ‘The MisreadBible: Exodus’), will cover the Books of Exodus to Deuteronomy. Turning this particular collection of stories into a long narrative hasn’t been an easy task.

For a start, there are lots of non-narrative chapters covering laws and the bizarre blood rituals the Israelites performed for everything from atoning for sins to curing leprosy. They seem to have been scattered willy-nilly throughout the books, sometimes right in the middle of stories. My solution? Put them to one side and keep only the narratives. I am considering having a section at the back of the book where I’ll parody them in a different way.

The next issue was that the main narratives are found in Exodus to Numbers, and Deuteronomy, for the most part, just glosses over the stories, sometimes with additional or contradictory details. My solution? Base the narratives on Exodus to Numbers and use Deuteronomy as a supplementary source.

I often use spreadsheets to lay out ideas because I find it easier to process information in table form. I created a spreadsheet, listed the main narratives from Exodus to Numbers in one column, put the corresponding passage references in the next, and marked which of them I had written. Each time I write a new story, I replace the traditional narrative name with my own title.

After a while, it occurred to me that this whole narrative is about a journey, and while I had been including the names of various places in the stories, I was ignoring the fact that the Israelites were moving from place to place.

Numbers 33 contains a passage known as the Stations of the Exodus, a list of the various locations (or stations) that the Israelites visited on their journey. I made another table based on this list and tried to match the locations mentioned in Exodus to Numbers against it. I did the same thing with Deuteronomy. Ah! There’s an issue. Each list contained places that weren’t in the others.

‘Okay,’ I thought to myself. ‘Maybe some helpful Christian has sat and made a list of all of these locations in order, or maybe they’ve made a map.’

I looked for lists of all of the places mentioned, but I was unable to find one. I also looked at several different ‘Route of the Exodus’ maps, but no two were the same.

‘Okay,’ I thought to myself again. ‘Maybe people have worked out where some of these places are, and I can make my own map in order to work out the order.’

It turns out that only a handful of places have been identified, lots more have multiple proposed locations, and most are completely unknown. Even Mount Sinai is hypothesised to be in several distinct locations.

‘Bugger!’ I thought.

I put in hours of work trying to make the three sources fit together, so much time, in fact, that I hadn’t spent any writing new stories. My book was stagnating.

Then a realisation hit me: I am writing a book of fiction. Books of fiction don’t have to be accurate in every detail. Besides, making fun of the contradictions in the Bible is something that I do in my stories all the time.

So, at the end of all this, I do have a crude list of places the Israelites visited. It might not be completely accurate, but I can use it as a rough guide.

The lesson from all of this is that the Pentateuch (that is the first five books of the Bible) is a patchwork of multiple sources that were never intended to be combined. The source documents were composed of stories that were cobbled together into longer narratives, and these documents were combined despite the fact that they contradict each other. Trying to get a literal or even coherent picture from them is a fool’s errand.

My job as a satirist and an author is to accentuate the absurdities, poke fun at the contradictions, but at the end of the day, tell an entertaining story. If, when I release my next book, you think that I’ve got the places in the wrong order, kindly write down the order in which you think they should appear, put the list into an envelope, and shove it all the way up your arse.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

War on Christmas

According to certain American conservative Christians, we atheists are waging a war on Christmas. Apparently, nobody deemed it necessary to tell me this when I went through atheist boot camp. Although this fear that Christmas is somehow under attack seems to be a uniquely American phenomenon, and I’m British and therefore unqualified to comment, I thought I’d weigh in on the issue anyway.

Both the UK and US have a predominantly Christian populace, and, as a result, Christmas has become part of the culture. However, in both nations, there are people who follow other religions with their own festivals, and people who are non-religious.

Here in the UK, that’s not really a problem. Christmas is the most popular festival, so people generally wish each other a merry Christmas, even if they don’t know which festival the other person celebrates, and this greeting is well received, because it’s understood that Christmas is what most people celebrate.

In the US, people also wish each other merry Christmas, but some people opt to say ‘happy holidays’ instead, as they are aware that Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated at this time of year. That seems reasonable, right? In a country that was built on immigration by people who came from all corners of the globe (side note: American globes are actually cube-shaped), using a more inclusive greeting seems very fitting.

WRONG! You see, even though wishing somebody happy holidays is a sentiment that translates to, ‘I hope that you enjoy whichever festival you celebrate; I don’t want to assume, but I wish you well anyway’, according to some people, not specifically using the word ‘Christmas’ at the time when they celebrate Christmas is like taking a huge dump on their face, the faces of their children, their sincerely held Christian beliefs, the American flag, and blue-eyed white American Jesus!

Some even go as far as to claim that people are trying to ‘take the Christ out of Christmas’ in the same way that not displaying the Ten Commandments (laws from Judaism and Christianity) in schools and other public buildings is, in some way that nobody can quite explain, evicting the omnipresent God from those places. I bet it never occurred to you that if even one person gives a festive greeting to a Christian that doesn’t include the word ‘Christmas’, they are forced to take down all of their decorations, the Christmas ham is ripped from their mouths, and all of their gifts are confiscated and burned on a pyre built out of the branches of their Christmas tree. Well, you know now, you inconsiderate prick!

The fact of the matter is Christmas, as it’s celebrated today, has little to do with the birth of Christ. The nativity story doesn’t include a scene where Santa flies in with his reindeer, and there were no decorated conifers in the manger. Jesus wasn’t even born in winter, and even if he had been, it’s unlikely that the land would have been covered in snow. And when the magi decided to bring Jesus gifts, it wasn’t after spending several gruelling hours in a department store fighting off other shoppers as they tried to procure the last bottle of myrrh.

The majority of the traditions we associate with Christmas are a product of the cultures that celebrate it, either as continuations of pre-Christian practices or later secular additions. But none of these non-Christian trappings prevent the religious from celebrating Christmas as a religious festival. Churches still have midnight mass, shops still sell manger scenes, and you can still crack open your Bible and read both of the nativity narratives. You can even do all of the secular things and pretend that they have something to do with the birth of Jesus if you like! None of us atheists will hold you at gunpoint and force you to stop, I swear!

I know I’ve treated this topic with my usual sarcastic and cynical tone, but in all honesty, I quite enjoy Christmas. I love spending time with my family, indulging in a bit of gluttony, and giving people presents with the hopes that it will bring them some joy.

No matter what you celebrate this time of year, or even if you don’t celebrate anything, I wish you happiness, religious liberty, and a credit card bill that you can easily afford to pay off in January.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Wouldn't You Prefer to Believe?

Before we get into the post, I’d like to announce that Courtney Heard, who writes the Godless Mom blog, is doing a giveaway of my books. Visit Enter to Win These Hilarious Books About The Bible to enter. And check out her blog; it's awesome.


I’ve had a pretty shit month. My grandmother died a few weeks ago, and this past weekend my dog had to be put down. I wrote a blog post about the passing of my grandmother where I discussed how I as a non-religious person deal with death, but there are still some points to address.

One point is in relation to something that was said to me several times in the past few weeks: ‘Wouldn’t you prefer to believe that your grandma is in Heaven?’ It’s quite an odd question. I’m sure that the people who said it were trying to console me, but I found it pretty irritating.

Have you ever tried to believe something? Have you ever managed to convince yourself that something you don’t believe is actually true? I spent the last years of being religious trying to believe things that no longer made sense to me and found the whole process agonising. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t escape the fact that I honestly didn’t believe anymore.

If we were able to force ourselves to believe things, there are lots of things I’d like to believe. I’d like to believe that there are no kids dying of starvation. I’d like to believe that crime only happens in TV police dramas. Hell, I’d like to believe the adverts that say that single women in my area are eagerly awaiting my phone call because I’m such a super stud.

I’d love to believe that death isn’t the end and I could be reunited with my loved ones in some paradisiacal afterlife, but I don’t. Maybe the idea would bring me comfort and I’d mourn less; I don’t know.

The fact of the matter is life isn’t always pleasant. Pretending that everything is fine doesn’t change that. In fact, I think that we have to acknowledge the negative aspects of life in order to strive to make things better. If you know that there are hungry people out there, you can donate food to a local food bank. If you know that crimes happen, you can do your best to secure your house. And if you know that life comes to an end, you can do your best to make the most of the time you have and value the people you love. The time you have with them is precious. Treat them well, not because you think there’s a reward in it for you like some mythical afterlife; do it because it’s the only time you have with them.

Monday, 7 October 2019

My Grandmother

My 83-year-old grandmother is dying. The news came unexpectedly. She hasn’t been ill, she hasn’t been slowing down, she was fairly healthy and active for her age. Last week, she went to visit my uncle down south. While she was there, she took a tumble down the stairs and had a brain haemorrhage. The doctors have said that she won’t survive.

There’s nothing that can be done now apart from making her comfortable until she finally slips away. I’m not in a position where I can be there to say goodbye, and I’m not really sure what I would say if I were.

It’s not a pleasant thing to be faced with. No matter what your views on death are, it’s difficult.

Some people believe that death is not the end, and that people will continue on in one form or another. Admittedly, the idea that our loved ones are not truly gone is appealing, and it brings some measure of comfort to those who believe in it. I would dearly love to believe that this isn’t the end for her. I would love to believe that she is going somewhere happy and peaceful and that we’ll meet up again someday. However, I don’t believe in an afterlife and I cannot force myself to believe in one even for the sake of finding solace about my grandmother’s death.

I’ve heard some religious people argue that without the hope of an afterlife, atheists’ lives must feel pointless and joyless. While I can’t say that my current situation is a picnic, and I have had loved ones die before and most likely will again, my life isn’t defined by death.

Life is a mixed bag; we have good times and bad times. We form bonds with people around us, we spend time with them creating new memories, and we try to have as many positive experiences and as few negative experiences as possible. The fact that someday it will come to an end is no reason not to share this time with them and enjoy it now.

The religious will often talk about life having meaning and purpose as though it’s this mysterious gift bestowed upon us by an external being. It isn’t. The meaning and purpose we have in our lives are decided by ourselves. For me, the time I spend with loved ones is a big part of that purpose.

For a while, I’m going to feel pretty shit about the whole thing. In the long-term, I’m going to have a sense of loss and be aware of the empty space in my life that she used to occupy. But I’ll continue to live, I’ll continue to spend time with the people I care about, I’ll continue to have happy times as well as sad, and I’ll try to fill my life in the same way that I did before.

My grandmother’s life is valuable. It’s valuable to her and everyone who loves her. All the time I spent with her is precious and I have many happy memories of it. It was a privilege for me to know her and to have that time with her. As I continue to live my life, I will carry those memories with me. The impact we make on other people’s lives and its continued influence on them is the closest thing we have to an afterlife.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Eight Bloody Pages!

I recently started the process of publishing my second book, A MisreadBible Christmas, which will be released on the 4th October.

Last year, I began writing short stories for my website. By the end of the year, I had decided to compile the stories into my first book, The MisreadBible: Genesis, so while I was still writing short stories to go on the website, I was also editing the manuscript of what would become the book. As Christmas approached, I decided to write the nativity story and publish it on my website.

Early this year, I worked hard to complete the first book, and I knew that I would write a sequel focusing on the Book of Exodus, possibly extending all the way to Deuteronomy. However, I knew it would take some time to complete the sequel, so I decided that first I’d turn my nativity stories into a book.

Unfortunately, the nativity story as a whole wasn’t very long, so I decided that I’d try to include other things to make the book worth the money. I’d written some parody Christmas carols, so I put them at the end of the book. I’d also written a parody of A Visit from St. Nicholas, so I included that too.

In the first book, I had included a story that wasn’t based on the Bible, but which was thematically linked. I thought it would be nice to do the same thing in this book. I considered a few different stories that I could parody, and at first, I intended to write a parody of It’s a Wonderful Life, but I couldn’t come up with an effective way to use it. I ended up settling on A Christmas Carol, a story which I’ve liked since childhood, and I thought it would be interesting to cast King Herod as Scrooge.

As you may know, the Bible’s portrayal of King Herod is pretty two-dimensional (though, admittedly, it portrayal of most people and situations can be) and the slaughter of the innocents is most likely a myth, so if I was going to write about Herod, I wanted to know more about the real historical figure. I incorporated a lot of facts in the story, but I included the premise of the slaughter of the innocents as a plot element. I also took creative licence with some things to fit it all together. When it comes to A Christmas Carol, I know the story well enough to tell it in my own words, but I wanted to capture the feel of the original, so I used a copy of A Christmas Carol the same way I would the Bible, in some cases, re-writing sentence by sentence, keeping any phrases that I liked, and in other places, just freewriting and seeing where it took me.

As with all of my writing, some jokes come out of the source material, but some come from me thinking, ‘It might be funny if this happens,’ and experimenting with the idea. I spend a lot of time working on dialogue because it’s a great way to illustrate two sides of the same issue. Sometimes the characters are essentially putting across my point of view.

I used to work as a copyeditor at a newspaper, and I am very critical of my own work. It’s taken years of practice to take off my editor hat in order to write without stopping to correct myself. I now divide my authoring into the writing stage, the editing stage, the reading my stuff to a friend or family member to see their reaction stage, the compiling stage, and the polishing stage. The compiling stage is essentially copying the text into the final manuscript, applying styles, and setting up the layout. The polishing stage is having a final read and edit to make sure that I’m happy with it.

Now, you might be wondering why I named this blog post ‘Eight Bloody Pages!’ Well, after writing the book, I had to submit it for publication. I currently use Lulu and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). KDP is good because they are part of Amazon, which is one of the biggest online book providers nowadays. Lulu is good because they distribute to companies like Ingram, Google, and Apple.

So, anyway, I was busy uploading my manuscript for the paperback edition of my book to KDP, filling in all the necessary information in their wizard-like webforms, and at the end, there were two options: ‘Save draft’ and ‘Publish’. Even though I wasn’t ready to publish, as the release date is next month, I accidentally clicked ‘Publish’. Shit! KDP doesn’t have an option to halt the publication process once it starts, so I sent them an email. Apparently, they don’t have that option on their end either. Basically, I had to wait until the book was approved and essentially published, and click ‘Unpublish’ when the option became available.

The next day, I was checking my emails when I found one from KDP. My book had been rejected because it had writing on the spine, and they don’t allow writing on the spine of books shorter than a hundred pages. I had written 92. By the way, due to the way that modern books are produced, the number of pages in a manuscript has to be a multiple of four as one sheet of paper is folded in half to be bound creating four sides (which word processors call pages).

Anyway, due to my preference to start ‘chapters’ on odd-numbered pages, and the necessity for the total page number to be a multiple of four, I already had a few blank pages, so I didn’t want to just stick another eight at the end of the book. And, as I mentioned in the first part of this post, I had striven to pack the book with quality content, so I didn’t want to add anything that was just filler.

Well, it just so happened that when I told my friend Joshua Saxon that my book was close to publication, he said to me, ‘I guess that we’re going to need to make an audiobook of this one.’ Joshua had narrated my first book, but he works full-time, and he wasn’t sure if he could commit to narrating any other books, so I was surprised and delighted that he was willing to narrate this book for me. Anyway, when he told me he would narrate this book, I had started to produce a script for it.

There are certain things in a book that don’t translate well to an audiobook, for instance, I like to replace the long boring genealogies of the Bible with family tree diagrams, and you can’t really narrate one of those. So, again, in this book, I’d created a family tree diagram covering the genealogies of Matthew 1 and Luke 3. For the audiobook, I had started to turn this into a readable script. I decided that I liked the script version so much that I would include it in the book as well as the diagrams I’d drawn, so I completed the story, calling it ‘Plot Interrupting Genealogy’ (because the Bible authors have a habit of sticking their begat lists right in the middle of the narrative) and it gained me six pages.

Now, for the other two pages, I had come up with a few Christmas carol ideas that I either hadn’t started or hadn’t completed, so I decided to write those and add them to the book. I came up with three. Well, if you remember, the total page number has to be a multiple of four, and I had included a couple of blank pages for this reason, so an extra carol was easy to fit in.

Now that the book is finished, the table of contents reads as follows:

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • The Nativity
    • The Dumbfounding of a Religion
    • Holy Mother of Christ!
    • Prepare Ye the Way
    • Plot Interrupting Genealogy
    • What a Load of Non-census
    • Jesus Christ!
    • While Shepherds Got a Shock by Night
    • Wise Guys, Eh?
    • There Can Be Only One
  • Herod’s Christmas Carol
    • Stave 1: Humbug!
    • Stave 2: The Ghost of Herod’s Past
    • Stave 3: Horn of Plenty
    • Stave 4: What in the Fuck are You Pointing at?
    • The Final Stave: And this Time, It’s Stavier!
  • A Visit from St Anger
  • Carols
    • Away in a Saucepan
    • Frosty the Snowman
    • Hark! Harold the Angel Sings
    • I Saw Mommy Riding Santa Claus
    • Jesus Christ is Coming to Town
    • Jingle Bells (I’m going to Hell)
    • King Herod was a Mental Man
    • Cum, Got a Faceful
    • Randolph the Brown-nosed Reindeer
    • Soylent Night
  • A Christmas Tweet

If you’re interested in buying the book, visit http://www.misreadbible.com/page/a-misreadbible-christmas.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Atheism is Not Dead: Consider this a snarky rebuttal

I recently saw this post on Twitter and was astounded by stunning display of modesty.

It turns out that this guy, J. Allen has written an article entitled, ‘Atheism Is Dead. Consider This The Obituary.’ It can be found at https://rightsmarts.com/atheism. I was curious to see how he ‘ended’ atheism.

His opening argument:

Atheism is not “a lack of belief in God,” as atheists are so fond of saying. If you lack belief in God, but don’t deny God’s existence, you’re agnostic (neutral position), not atheist (negative position).

Words have more than one usage. A lot of atheists (myself included) use ‘atheism’ in the sense of ‘lack of belief’ and ‘agnosticism’ in the sense of ‘not knowing for a fact’. Therefore, we identify as both atheists and agnostics. Some atheists do believe that there is no god; these atheists are often called ‘strong atheists’ (or ‘hard’), and those with a lack of belief are termed ‘weak atheists’ (or ‘soft’). I wouldn’t call the hard atheist position ‘denial’ either, because that implies that there is a god who is proven to exist and that they’re refusing to admit it.

Regardless, when an atheist tells you the usage of atheism they’re using, it’s arrogant of you to assert that their position is actually something else. If your article is attacking the belief that there is no god and lumping all atheists into that category, that’s called a strawman.

When asked to defend it atheists must play make-believe agnostics, retreating into the safe space of neutrality. This allows them to dodge their own burden of proof: offering a stronger explanation for existence than God.

If any particular atheist makes the claim that there is no god, they have a burden of proof. However, those of us who don’t make such a claim, do not.

If simply lacking belief in God makes one an atheist, then all agnostics are atheists. And if all agnostics are atheists? The U.S. (and the world) has a lot more atheists than we thought.

No, actually. There are people who identify as agnostic theists too; they believe in a god (or gods) but don’t claim to know it for a fact. Those agnostics who also lack a belief in a god would be atheists by the sense of the word I use, but I don’t like to impose labels upon people. As long as it’s clear how they’re using the word, there needn’t be an issue.

To be credible, a worldview must offer a positive, testable argument.

This one is easy to answer: atheism isn’t a world view. Even if you’re using the definition, ‘the belief that there is no god,’ it still doesn’t qualify as a world view. A world view is a philosophy or conception of the world. A single belief or position doesn’t qualify.

In claiming that God does not exist, atheism logically entails that something other than God must be responsible for why something (rather than nothing) exists.

If God didn’t create existence, then something else had to. Makes sense, right?

And if you deny that God created existence, as atheists do, then you must believe something else did, right?

If a person doesn’t accept one explanation for something, it doesn’t mean that they have another. For example, if the police had someone in custody and after interviewing him, they determined that he didn’t commit the crime, that doesn’t mean that they know who committed the crime.

  • Fact: existence exists (if I didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this right now).
  • There must be an explanation for this fact.

We may never know the explanation. Maybe existence rather than non-existence is the default. We don’t know.

  • Atheists deny one possible explanation: God.
  • In denying the God explanation, atheism entails that some explanation other than God must be true.

No, ‘denying’ one possibility doesn’t mean that one has to accept another.

  • Atheists refuse to say what this other explanation is, let alone offer evidence in support of it.

Nor do they have to.

  • Thus, we’re left with a cold, hard conclusion: Atheism is a blind faith; a position with no evidence supporting it.

That’s a non sequitur. Having no explanation for why there is something rather than nothing isn’t the same as having no justification for believing there is no god. You can ask somebody who holds the hard atheist position what their justification is and weigh each argument on its merit. You can’t, however, assert that their position should address issues that are outside of its scope.

Atheists like to pretend that science is their domain.

There are many scientists who are theists and many atheists who have no interest in science. It’s possible that there are some atheists who think that ‘science is their domain’, but that’s certainly not true of all atheists. Sharing a position on a single issue doesn’t mean that we agree on everything. Making blanket statements is lazy.

Science “works” for two reasons:

  1. The universe is comprehensible. That is, it follows a set of orderly guidelines (laws) which allow it to be understood by cognitive observers (that’d be us).
  2. Cognitive observers exists [sic] (hi, mom!).

Scientific laws are descriptive; that is, they are our description of how things work. They aren’t prescriptive. The laws of gravity aren’t guidelines that bodies with mass follow in order to know how to be attracted to one another. Bodies with mass are attracted to each other, and the laws of gravity describe this phenomenon.

‘Being comprehensible’ isn’t a property of the universe, rather ‘being able to comprehend things’ is an ability that we as thinking agents possess. Would you claim that pebbles have the property of ‘being countable’, or that a ball has the property of ‘being able to be thrown’? The reason that pebbles can be counted by us is that we are beings who can count things. The reason that a ball can be thrown is that there are organisms capable of throwing. The reason the universe can be comprehended is that we are capable of comprehending things. In essence, you have it ass backwards.

Theists believe that God is the designer of the universe; a “cosmic engineer,” so to speak. Most theists also believe that God wants to be discovered. This would mean that science is the reverse engineering of the cosmic engineer’s work.

Sure enough, reverse engineering the universe perfectly described what science is and does. We study the various parts of nature and figure out how they work. That’s reverse engineering.

This is defining God into existence, and it’s no different from Ray Comfort’s argument, ‘Painting implies painter. Creation implies creator.’ Only by presupposing that there is a ‘cosmic engineer’ can you consider science to be reverse engineering.

Atheism entails mindlessness. Mindlessness entails chaos. Chaos is the opposite of science. Our minds are not chaos, and our universe is not chaos. If they were, science would be impossible.

You mean, the way that planets mindlessly orbit the Sun and chaotically stay in those orbits? Gravity is a mindless force, it doesn’t result in chaos, and science has a thorough understanding of it.

Is it any wonder, then, that God-fearing men have built science over the centuries? From the scientific method, to nearly every branch of science, they’ve all came from the blood, sweat, and tears of God-believers.

It’s not surprising that in a world where the majority of the world is religious, a lot of scientists are and have been religious. Did they reach their conclusions through prayer or by using science?

Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Max Planck . . . name a great scientist throughout history, and I’ll show you a believe [sic] in God.

Albert Einstein identified as agnostic. When he spoke of ‘God’ he was referencing Spinoza’s God.

In fact, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that atheists have done more evil than theists, despite being significantly outnumbered by them (sometimes by a factor in the thousands) throughout history.

Don’t believe me? Take a look below.

He then lists the murder rates in various countries without taking the populations of those countries into account, and without any indication of how many of those murders were committed by atheists.

Here’s an article that says that only 0.1% of the Federal Prison Population are atheists: Atheists Now Make Up 0.1% of the Federal Prison Population. A survey of individuals is a lot more meaningful than one of countries. I could look at this, pretend that correlation equals causation, and claim that atheists are more moral, but that would be ridiculous. Putting that aside, what does being evil have to do with whether or not a person has reached the correct conclusion about the existence of something?

To the atheist, human life is just a cosmic accident; pond scum which has, through a long series of beneficial mutations, evolved consciousness.

The universe has no purpose, nor does anything in it, including humanity. Any purpose we may think we have is just illusory; a lie we tell ourselves to better cope with the cold, dark, nihilistic reality of our existence.

Strawman! Look, I understand that Christians believe that there’s a special purpose bestowed by their God that makes everything ultimately meaningful, but things needn’t be ultimately meaningful to have meaning. I value my life. I value the lives of others. I don’t need a god to tell me that I and the other humans I co-exist have value; I can do that myself. My life is meaningful to me, my family, my friends, etc. That’s enough for me. I’m sorry that you can’t find meaning in your own life without the idea of some god to tell you that you’re his precious little snookums. That’s your issue.

Atheism, in a nutshell:

  • I know of no evidence for God. (this is the ignorance)
  • Therefor [sic], there is no evidence (here’s some more)
  • Therefore, God does not exist. (atheism’s argument from ignorance)
  • Therefore, the universe self-created via magic. (the logical consequence of atheism’s argument from ignorance)

Let me correct this for you.

  • I know of no evidence for God (or any other gods).
  • I don’t assume there is no evidence.
  • I don’t assume that a god doesn’t exist, but thus far I have no reason to assume a god does.
  • On an unrelated note, it’s my understanding the Big Bang Theory is the best explanation of how the universe came to be as it is, though not necessarily its origin. The Big Bang Theory doesn’t say that the universe ‘created itself’, nor does it say it’s ‘magical’. As to what came before the Big Bang, we don’t know. However, there are people who have expertise in this matter investigating it using the scientific method.

The preceding was me speaking for myself and not all atheists. Fancy individuals within a larger group having opinions of their own, eh?

What about biology? Surely Darwin solved all of that back in the mid-19th century, right? Atheists tell us he did.

No, Darwin didn’t ‘solve’ biology. He came up with a model for evolution, which has since been refined and contributed to by countless others. There are things about evolution that Darwin didn’t know, but which we know now. Science isn’t the work of any single individual; it’s a group effort.

Defending Darwin is tantamount to defending atheism.

Tell that to the countless theists who accept evolution.

So, that settles it, right? Darwin’s theory means atheism wins.

No, Darwin’s theory means that we understand how things evolved… My atheism isn’t dependent upon evolution.

He goes on to try to poke holes in evolution. He also points out that Dr. Jonathan Wells is like really really smart, and he has issues with evolution, therefore he must be correct. It’s really beside the point, because evolution has nothing to do with atheism, nor would disproving it do anything to substantiate the claim that there’s a god.

He then issues this challenge, ‘Show us the evidence for atheism,’ by which he means, ‘Show us evidence that there is no god.’ It’s not my position that there is no god, and despite your distaste for people saying that they lack belief, I do indeed lack belief in any gods. Call it intellectual cowardice all you like, but I find nothing cowardly about not accepting a proposition until it’s met its burden of proof. I find nothing cowardly about admitting that I don’t know everything, and that there are matters on which I am unqualified to speak.

Is Atheism A Religion?

No, religions are belief systems not a single position on a single proposition. There’s no atheistic view on these things. The ‘atheistic view’ addresses a single issue: the proposition that a god exists. But even if atheism were a religion, what of it? Are you trying to argue that religion is a bad thing, and we’re being just as illogical as you?

So, if stringently imposing your preferred usage of the word ‘atheism’ on all atheists, creating a strawman of their position, misunderstanding the implications of not believing in a god, and making a lot of inane unsubstantiated assertions in a poorly written cocksure rant is ending atheism, I guess you’ve ended atheism.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

In Retrospect

The audiobook of The MisreadBible: Genesis has been submitted for retail approval, and it should be available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes within a couple of weeks. Joshua Saxon did a stellar job narrating it, and I’m extremely happy with the result. I’m very excited to be able to share this with you.

At this stage, I am able to look back and reflect on the experience. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? What will I do differently? It’s been a great learning experience.

I’d heard a lot of authors harp on about the importance of proofreading, but I went into the process thinking, ‘I worked as a copyeditor; surely I’ll be able to do it all myself,’ and I was eager to finally publish. I tried my damnedest to catch every error in my book. I used the built-in spelling and grammar check, I used Grammarly, I re-read each chapter until my eyes were bleary, and I used text-to-speech software so that I could listen to it…

After the proof copy had arrived, and I’d read it and approved it, I gave the book to my sister who opened it and found a mistake in the dedication: ‘You’re no longer with us, but your guidance gave my life a foundation without which this book would not possible.’ The word ‘be’ was missing. Oops. There may be copies of my book out there that include this error.

So, it cannot be stressed enough how vital it is to thoroughly proofread yourself and to find others to do it for you. You may think you’ve gone over your book with a fine-tooth comb, but it’s easy for mistakes to slip through the cracks.

Producing the audiobook was an experience in itself. I thought it was just a case of sending Joshua a copy of the book, and he’d do the rest. It’s not that simple.

For starters, in a book of fiction, there are many different characters, and they all need voices. Joshua and I had to agree on what type of voice and accent to give each of the main characters. Another issue is that there are character and place names that the narrator may not be familiar with. The Bible especially has all kinds of weird names in it. Joshua actually cursed me for writing ‘Whatever Became of Esau?’ (luckily, we’re both atheists, so it didn’t take).

After Joshua had recorded hours of material, it felt awful to tell him, ‘You know that name that you’ve used dozens of times? I’d actually like it to be pronounced this way,’ and have him re-record whole sections of the book. To his credit, Joshua took it all in his stride.

Now I’ve researched writing audiobook scripts, and for the next book, A MisreadBible Christmas, I’ve begun preparing a script with pronunciation and performance notes to make the whole process easier for Joshua. The more information he has before recording, the less likely it is that I’m going to ask him to re-record. He works really hard on all the books he narrates, and giving him extra work on top of that is pretty shitty. If I want the audiobook to be a certain way, it’s up to me to put in the work.

Another thing I learned about that I feel is worth mentioning is promotion. I didn’t give it enough thought before I published, and as a result, some of the promotional material I produced afterwards was written in a panicked hurry. For the next book, I’m preparing things ahead of time. I’m writing the synopsis I want to use in various online shops, preparing templates to use for various covering letters, writing a document containing all the information that book sites require, and compiling a list of people to contact.

Hopefully, the process of producing the next book will be smoother, and the next one will be smoother still.