EBON MUSINGS: THE ATHEISM PAGES GUEST ESSAYS
Religion 101: Final Exam
by Terrence Kaye
The author gratefully acknowledges the inspiration provided by E.T. Babinski, Dan Barker, George Carlin, Richard Dawkins,, Sam Harris, Judith Hayes, James Haught, Robert Ingersoll, Adam Lee, John Stuart Mill, Pablo Neruda, Blaise Pascal, Seneca, Julia Sweeney, Jethro Tull, Mark Twain, and Mark Vuletic.
Which of the following is the most compelling evidence for the existence of an intelligent and loving Designer?
The little girl born in Egypt with two functioning heads
The screams of a baby seal as it is torn apart by a shark
The superiority of the octopus eyeball to the human
A Caribbean sunset
A Christian couple has just returned from their fiftieth anniversary celebration, when suddenly the husband falls to the ground, clutching his chest. Assuming the morally proper action is to try to save his life, what is the most morally proper action the wife could take?
Put him in the car and race to the hospital herself
Fall on her knees and pray to the Lord to spare his life
You are a product tester and frequently bring your work home. Yesterday, while dressed in a flame-resistant suit (up to 3,000 degrees) and carrying the latest model fire extinguisher, you discovered your neighbor's house on fire. As the flames quickly spread, you stood by and watched the family perish. Which of the following best describes your behavior?
One day while jogging in the park, you see a maniac with a butcher knife about to attack a six-year old girl. What should you do?
Grab the nearest rock and club the attacker
Call the police on your cell phone
Yell "POLICE!" and run toward the attacker in a threatening manner
Calmly walk away, because God works in mysterious ways, and what appears "evil" to our finite human mind, may in fact be part of a vaster plan in God's infinite mind, so it's best not to interfere
You are a loving family man who volunteers as a Big Brother and also at the local hospice when not working as the director of the community food bank. You awaken this morning to discover the global news media ablaze with the first-ever, easily understood, irrefutable scientific proof that there is no God. What will you probably do?
Quit your job and become a full-time rapist
Abandon your family and go on a murder rampage
Become a professional burglar
Continue your life pretty much as usual
Since we can never "know" whether or not a God exists - it is fundamentally a matter of "faith" - it's best to be a believer since you have nothing to lose, but everything to lose if your disbelief is incorrect. Keeping in mind that the fate of your soul depends on the right choice, in which God should you place your belief? For extra credit, include a brief essay justifying your choice, along with the reasons why you reject the other three.
The Holy Trinity
You are the Creator of the universe. Your chosen people are a tribe of nomadic herdsmen, presently in bondage on one of the millions of your planets. Their ruler is being quite obstinate. Keeping in mind that you possess not only infinite power but also infinite love, your best course of action would be to:
Cause the ruler to drop dead of a heart attack
Cause the ruler to fall off a cliff
Visit the ruler in a dream and persuade him to let your people go
Slaughter a great number of innocent babies who had nothing to do with the ruler's policies
You are a Starfleet Federation explorer in the process of cataloging two newly discovered planets. The majority of the inhabitants of each planet believe in a deity, but they are two different deities. Deity "X" is said to be not only all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing, but the designer of a marvelously complex and ordered world. Deity "Y" is said to be indifferent, absent, unconcerned with the affairs of his planet, and some even say evil. Which god rules over which planet?
Planet A: Has apparently achieved a state of advanced benign equilibrium in which there are no viruses or diseases, and only a very small number of natural disasters, which, when they do strike, always eliminate only the sinful and evil. The inhabitants, both plant and animal, have learned to maintain their existence through photosynthesis, and thus do not have to kill and eat each other in order to survive. There are no "birth defects"; every inhabitant comes into existence perfectly formed and equipped for a long and productive life.
Planet B: Adorned with many examples of beauty and order, it is also constantly beset by hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanoes, lightning bolts, viruses, disfiguring diseases, parasites, leeches, flies, crop-destroying pests and many other phenomena which afflict both the innocent and the evil. Every life form on the planet can only sustain its existence through the destruction and consumption of other life forms. Some of the inhabitants are born with a crippling condition called a "birth defect" which condemns them to living extremely limited, short or painful lives.
What is the number of children born without arms or legs that have been miraculously restored by a visit to the shrine at Lourdes, France?
Too many to count
Zero, but only because their faith was not strong enough
As we all know, there is only one true religion. What is the one true religion in each of the following circumstances?
You are born in Karnak in 3000 B.C.
You are born in Bombay in 300 B.C.
You are born in Baghdad in 900 A.D.
You are born in Mexico City in 1956 A.D.
Although you are new at golf, you have just hit a beautiful 200-yard drive and your ball has landed on a blade of grass near the cup at Hole 3. The green contains ten million blades of grass. The odds of your ball landing on that blade of grass are 9,999,999 to one against, too improbable to have happened by mere chance. What's the explanation?
The wind guided it
Your muscles guided it
There is no need for an explanation
You consciously designed your shot to land on that particular blade
Which of the following is most likely to be true, and why?
Romulus was the son of God, born to a mortal human virgin
Dionysus turned water into wine
Apollonius of Tyana raised a girl from the dead
Jesus Christ was the son of God, born to a mortal virgin, turned water into wine, and raised a man from the dead
Conceding that torture is permissible under certain conditions, which of the following would be the best justification?
Your prisoner is the only one who knows the date and time of an assassination attempt on the Pope
Your prisoner is the only one who knows where a nuclear device has been planted in Washington, D.C.
Your prisoner is the only one who knows where a vial of nerve gas has been placed in the London water supply system
Your prisoner has announced that the earth revolves around the sun
We know that Christianity is true because the Gospel writers, inspired by God who can make no error, recorded the founding events. For example, on the first Easter morning, the visitors to the tomb were greeted by which of the following:
A young man (Mark 16:5)
No, no, it was no man, it was an angel (Matthew 28:2-5)
You're both wrong, it was two men (Luke 24:4)
Damn it, there was nobody there (John 20:1-2)
Only human beings have souls, and thus only human beings can go to heaven. What is the cutoff point for entry into paradise?
According to at least one sainted church father, one of the pleasures of the saved in paradise will be to behold the agony of the damned in hell. What would be the best time of day in heaven for a mother to behold the agony of her only son who didn't make it?
Early in the morning before it gets too crowded
Mid-day when she can compare notes and share the celebration with other mothers
Late at night when she can enjoy the flames in starker contrast
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we always look to the Bible as a guide. In this example, your teenage son has returned home from the prom intoxicated. If you want to follow the Bible, you should:
Sit him down for a heart to heart talk
Enroll him in AA
Take away his driving privilege for one month
Smash his head in with rocks
In this example, your son-in-law, returned from his honeymoon, has just told you he suspects your daughter was not a virgin on their wedding night. Wishing to abide by God's holy rules as laid out in the Bible, you should:
Ask him if he was a virgin before you do anything
Advise him to forgive her
Talk to your daughter
Go find those rocks
You are eating lunch at a crowded fast food restaurant, occupied mostly by children, when suddenly a gunman bursts in, screams "Do not question or test me," and sprays the room with bullets. Ten people are killed instantly, many more grievously wounded, but somehow you escape unharmed. His ammunition expended, the gunman heads for the door. What should you do?
Call the police and wait for them to arrive
Call the police and leave
Risk death by asking the gunman why he did it, even though he told you not to
Fall on your knees and give thanks and praise to the gunman for sparing your life
Why did God show his backside to Moses, as described in Holy Scripture, Ex.33:23?
He invented everything, and this was simply the first mooning
He was really ticked off when Moses dropped the tablets
He was piqued, having just discovered His almighty powers were useless against chariots of iron (Judges 1:19)
Moses was too serious and needed to lighten up a little
Jesus was God, and God knows all things, including all the medical knowledge that will ever be known. Why did Jesus blame demons for the case of epilepsy he cured?
He was suffering from a temporary case of "brain freeze"
The Aramaic word for "demon" is the same as the word for "cranial malfunction"
Neurology was not his specialty
In first-century Palestine, demons really did cause epilepsy. This affliction only began to be caused by electrochemical brain activity after about 1850 A.D.
Today's paper carries a story about a suburban father who became so enraged with his disobedient children that he carried all nine of them to the backyard pool where he drowned them, along with their puppies, their kittens, and their hamsters. How should this father be treated?
He should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law
He should be banished from the town
He should be lynched to save the taxpayers' money
The townspeople should gather together to sing hymns of praise to him
This morning I started my day by insulting my mother in public, then punched out my father, my brother, and my sister. Then I gathered up all my clothes, sold them to a second-hand store, and with the proceeds bought a used assault rifle and 50 rounds of ammunition. Next, I went down to the animal shelter and injected all the dogs with a drug that caused them to go insane and dive into the nearby canal where they all drowned. By this time I was hungry, so I went over to my neighbor's apple orchard and burned it down, because I wanted an orange and there weren't any. On the way home, I stopped at the local steel mill to discuss my philosophy of life with some of the guys. They laughed at me and said to stow it, so I tossed them all into the blast furnace. That night I discovered my son looking at a copy of Playboy. Concerned for his future welfare, I cut off his right hand. What historical character did my activities today most resemble?
Down through the ages, who has been most responsible for the medical discoveries that have relieved untold amounts of suffering and pain, and extended the length of that most sacred of creations, the only species made in the divine image, human life?
The Catholic Church
A great sadness has come into your life which you feel you cannot bear. A friend informs you of a free counseling service which has never failed to aid and comfort many others. You call the counselor; the phone rings and rings with no answer; you finally hang up. What is the most likely explanation?
The counselor is sitting by the phone but not answering in order to test your faith in him
The counselor is fully qualified and able to help you, but just doesn't feel like it right now
The counselor will not answer because he wants you to profit by the spiritual strength that only comes through suffering
The counselor is not home
While it is true that there have been and still are many different gods and many different religions, they are really just different names by which various cultures approach the same God. Explain how and why each of the following is the same God:
Quetzalcoatl, who wants you to skin a young virgin alive, then put on the skin and dance;
Shiva, who wants you to pray over his penis;
Allah, who wants you to fly airliners into buildings;
Catholic God, who speaks directly through the Pope;
Hebrew God, who most definitely does not;
Jesus, who wants you to castrate yourself to ensure arrival in heaven
Jehovah, who any day now, is going to kill everyone on the earth except for his Witnesses
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