Secular Planet Cinema

I am pleased to announce the opening of Secular Planet Cinema, a collection of short films on secular topics written, directed, performed, recorded, and produced by the author of Secular Planet. The first film released is The Judgement of God, an adapatation of the story and post of the same name. I hope to bring you more short films in the future.



Intelligent Design: Theology, Not Science

The following is the fifth in a series of writings which I have composed previously. It is a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. It was written and published in May 2005.

Dear Editor,

The most relevant point to the discussion about intelligent design is that it simply is not science. ID is the argument from ignorance in its purest form. Evolution allegedly cannot offer a complete explanation for some phenomenon, therefore God must have done it. This offers no more insight than just saying it's magic - it contributes absolutely nothing to our understanding. If we are unable to explain something today, one is not justified in saying that we will never be able to explain it. ID is not science but rather surrender to ignorance.

We do not fully understand the nature of black holes, for example, but in the face of incomplete understanding, no one suggests that we chalk up their behavior to a supernatural act of God and stop searching for a physical explanation. The only reason that anyone does so with respect to evolution is that his worldview is threatened by a naturalistic explanation for life. The force behind ID is not scientific, but purely religious and political.

While ID theoretically could be correct about the origins of life, such a truth would remain outside the realm of science, which deals with the natural and not the supernatural. As such, ID is a theological idea which doesn't belong in a science classroom any more than the ideas of karma, atonement, or transubstantiation.

(name removed)
It received no direct responses from other readers.


The Reason for the Season

The following is the fourth in a series of writings which I have composed previously. It was written in December 2004.

I never realized how much Christians attempt to use public institutions to promote their religion and regard any opposition as an attempt “to take Christ out of Christmas.” (I suppose Catholics could accuse Protestants of attempting “to take Mass out of Christmas.”) This perception is simply not true. Secularists do not question the right of Christians or anyone else to celebrate as they wish in their churches, homes, and private businesses. They only oppose the use of their tax dollars to finance someone else's religious observances. Why is this so difficult for many to understand? Being the majority doesn't mean one can trample on the rights of the minority. There are two basic principles, to which any person can reasonably subscribe:

  • One may use private resources to celebrate any religious observance.
  • One may not use public resources to celebrate any religious observance.
It's also frustrating to hear people say that without Christ there would be no Christmas. It's true that it wouldn't be called “Christmas,” but we should not forget that the Romans celebrated the winter solstice with Saturnalia and that Christmas was specifically scheduled in its place for various reasons. Saturnalia included public merriment and the exchange of gifts. Many other pagan traditions also relating to the winter solstice, such as the Christmas tree, were added throughout the years. Though not in its present form, “Christmas” existed before Christ as non-Christian winter festivals.

Axial tilt is the reason for the season.


An Ancient Theodicy

The following is the third in a series of writings which I have composed previously. It was written in November 2004. It has been slightly edited to maintain privacy.

I have listened to a local easy listening music radio station operated by a small private business college for more than a dozen years. Each weekday, they present a short segment by one of the producers in which he presents some various thoughts of the day. Sometimes they are philosophical, sometimes they are humorous, sometimes they are civic, and sometimes they are religious. Today's was religious or, more accurately, anti-atheistic. The basic story he presented can be found at Snopes Urban Legends, though I must acknowledge that he did not falsely identify the student as Albert Einstein. In response to today's commentary, I sent the following e-mail:

Mr. (name removed),

I am writing in reference to your commentary of 19 November 2004, the story of the atheist professor and the Christian student who silences him with an ancient theodicy that this professor has somehow never encountered in his lifetime.

If anyone thinks that he has solved the problem of evil by such philosophical legerdemain, then he is greatly mistaken. Anyone who believes that the existence of murder, rape, theft, and disease-causing bacteria can be dissolved by defining them as “the absence of good” is not being intellectually honest but is rather seeking a cheap defense of his religious beliefs. It supposedly answers the Epicurean paradox by challenging the fourth proposition, that evil exists, but it is only satisfactory to those who will accept any answer rather than consider the idea that he is mistaken in his religious beliefs. Further, if he thinks he has found some brilliant new insight, then he is badly in need of religious, philosophical, and historical education. To the best of my knowledge, this response first appeared in the famous Confessions of St. Augustine of Hippo circa 397 CE.

Occasionally the student in the story you told is falsely identified as Albert Einstein. I was pleased that you presented it without this baseless lie; admittedly, it would have not have been dishonesty on your part if you had done so, but it would have been gullible and irresponsible.

I respect everyone's right to believe or disbelieve. I spent the first twenty-five years of my life as a devout Catholic Christian before I faced my fears, questioned my reasons for believing, and realized that my belief in the divinity of Christ was an untenable tradition I had been taught since my youth. My point is that I know what it is like on both sides of the fence.

Here is my bottomline: I resent and protest your depiction of an atheist professor as an ignorant buffoon. If you want to promote Christianity or even criticize non-theism, I have no objections whatsoever. I consider unfair mockery, however, to be outside the realm of good taste and respectfulness for even a privately owned radio station. I have been a faithful listener of (station removed) for more than half of my short life and never have I been as displeased as I am today.

With Utmost Sincerity,
(name removed)
No response was ever received.


The Insatiable Demands of Religion

The following is the second in a series of writings which I have composed previously. It was written in October 2004.

Religion is unique among the phenomena of human existence in at least one very important way. Only religion can demand that individuals devote their entire lives to it and get away with it: Go to church more often. Spend more time in prayer. Eat less and go hungry. Read more religious books. Give more money to the church. Give more money to charities. Spend more time volunteering. Think of yourself as less than dirt and remind yourself that everything bad is your fault and everything good is an undeserved gift from God. Surrender your most precious desires for freedom, family, and possessions to the church and vow to God that you will do this forever.

Nothing is ever good enough for God. He always wants more, more, more. You must always push towards the literally unattainable goal of absolute perfection and never rest; if you stop trying, you might slip up and be tortured in unquenchable fire forever. Imagine if your employer always made you feel guilty and imply that you might suffer eternally if you didn't work longer each day; your school if you didn't write longer reports; retailers if you didn't purchase more products. It's unthinkable. But religion gets away with it because it's “divine” and we “owe” everything to some mysterious hidden creator.


The Judgement of God

The following story is the first in a series of entries presenting writings which I have composed previously. It was written in October 2004. A film adapation, recorded in January 2006, is available at Secular Planet Cinema.

A Christian dies and ascends to the throne of God for judgment. As he has been a faithful follower of Jesus Christ throughout his entire life, he arrives in the heavenly room filled with much anticipation, knowing that God will reward him for his faith and extensive evangelization. He steps forward toward the bright light, and he hears a loud, deep voice bellow, “I am Allah and Mohammed is my prophet!”

The Christian's jaw drops to the floor, he begins sweating very nervously, and anxiously says, “But, but, what about my sweet Jesus? He said he would testify before the Father on my behalf! Where is he?!?”

Allah responds, “Jesus of Nazareth was just another prophet. I told you so in my holy book; the message was very clear. You chose to believe the lies made up by wicked men about someone who was simply preparing the way for the greatest prophet, Mohammed. I told you that you must have faith in Islam or you would be cast into everlasting fire, but you ignored my commands. I am just and I keep my word. Depart from me, ye cursed polytheistic heathen into neverending torment!”

The Christian shouts out, “Wait! Wait! I didn't know Islam was true! This isn't fair!”

Allah replies, “Why didn't you know? I made it very clear in my book! You knew exactly what I taught because I watched you every moment of your life, so I know you even researched Islam at the library! You cannot claim ignorance!”

The Christian continues, “Yes, that is true, but I didn't think it was actually true! It looked like a myth and there were other explanations that were more reasonable, so I didn't believe it. In the Qu'ran there are contradictions, inconsistencies, atrocities, absurdities, and other things that made me think it was the work of a man.”

Allah retorts, “You filthy liar! My book is absolutely perfect! Your sinfulness blinded you to the truth and made you see difficulties where a holy man would have seen nothing but pure wisdom! I gave you the grace to believe, but you chose not to accept it!”

The Christian pleads, “What?!? When did you give me that grace? I don't remember ever consciously being offered any grace to believe, so how can you condemn me for not accepting it if I wasn't even aware it was present?”

Allah says, “Who are you to question me and my ways!?! How dare you! I am mysterious, way beyond your puny human comprehension. You should have bowed down to the ground and trembled for mercy before the Almighty Allah. If you had just believed in me and trusted in me, then you would have rewarded with paradise. But in your insolence, you exalted your reason and logic above holy faith! And you shall be justly punished forever!”

The Christian desperately begs, “But I didn't know it was true! If I had known it was true, then I surely would have followed you, your prophet, and your holy religion. But I didn't know! That's just not fair!”

Allah continues, “You despicable hypocrite! You were ready to condemn all the followers of the true religion, people of all beliefs, and people of no beliefs to the exact same fate for not following your heathen cult! You even tried to lead my faithful people away from the path of righteousness with your wretched lies by telling them they must convert to your cult or they would be tortured in hell for all eternity! I will not tolerate any more demonic arguments from you, ye evildoer! Depart from my holy presence forever and ever!”