Friday, August 30, 2013

Christianity As A Social Disease

I cannot help but notice that the worldview Christianity paints, really is one in which we are all born sick and commanded to be "perfect." And since we cannot meet this standard of perfection, we are to be sent to a place to be punished forever.

But there is a cure offered, and that of course, is Christianity.

So in order for Christianity to work, we need to be infected with the disease first. We first need to be convinced that we're sick, that we're sinners, that we're inherently wicked, immoral, and undeserving, and only then, once we've been sufficiently convinced that we're diseased, can the Christian offer us the cure for our new illness. But it doesn't end there. No, we're then instructed to go out and infect others with this disease by convincing them that they're also wretched, flawed, immoral beings, and then afterwards offer them the cure. And they are to spread the disease to others, and on and on until the whole world is infected.

In other words, Christianity is a social disease. It's a dangerous psychological meme that has to be spread from person to person, until the entire world is infected. That's its goal.

But there is another cure for this social disease: skepticism. That's right. A healthy dose of skepticism can inoculate one beforehand and prevent them from ever falling prey to the disease spreaders. It worked for me. Since I was fascinated by science as a kid, I learned of the naturalistic explanations before I heard the book of Genesis. That safeguarded me against its baseless and inaccurate claims, and it prevented me from getting infected. Thus, skepticism and scientific literacy are like a protective condom against the rampant spread of social diseases like Christianity.

Now a Christian might say that spreading skepticism is itself a social disease. But here's the difference: I'm not telling anyone that they're inherently miserable, wretched, immoral sinners who don't deserve the life that they didn't even ask for, Christianity is. They may attempt to use kinder words so as to not show Christianity's true colors, but that is really what the religion teaches.  

Get inoculated.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

William Lane Craig: Math Proves God Exists!

God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world according to William Lane Craig. He argues:

1. If God did not exist, the applicability of mathematics would be just a happy coincidence.
2. The applicability of mathematics is not just a happy coincidence.
3. Therefore God exists.

Craig made this awful argument during his recent three part dialogue with Lawrence Krauss in Australia earlier this month, (See link to video here). It's so bad to me that I don't even want to waste any real time trying to show how bad it is. But I'm forced to now.

According to Craig, the fact that the universe can be described mathematically proves god exists, because if god didn't exist, it would just be a coincidence that our universe is mathematically descriptive. Now is it just me, or do "professional philosophers" like Craig have a little to much time on their hands? Craig says, "the atheist has no explanation for the uncanny applicability of mathematics to the physical world." Does it need one? This doesn't appear to be a huge issue atheists are wrestling with. It seems to me like Craig is just creating another dilemma to try to erect a cheap argument for theism. Anything physical that exists is going to be able to be described mathematically, either through weight, mass, momentum or velocity. That does not in any possible way prove Yahweh exists.

I've debated with so many theists now over the years that I've come to learn that if you already presuppose your conclusion (i.e. that god exists) you will be able to find any absurd syllogism to try and "justify" it.

Take for example this argument I saw a theist make to justify original sin:

  1. If the doctrine of Original Sin is true, then Christianity is likely to be true.
  2. The doctrine of Original Sin is true.
  3. Therefore, Christianity is likely to be true.
And another one: 
  1. If Original Sin is not true, then any instance of sin must be caused by our moral ignorance (ignorance of what is truly good, ignorance of what is for the best, etc.).
  2. There are instances of sin not caused by our moral ignorance (where we know that what we do is wrong, and we do that which we do not wish to do).
  3. Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true.

Do you see what's missing here when it comes to the existence of original sin? Let me give you a hint: Evidence! There's simply no evidence that an episode of original sin ever took place. There was no Adam, no Eve, no two first people — nothing derived from the natural sciences confirm that. In fact, all the evidence goes against their existence. The doctrine of original sin must be taken by Christians purely on faith. That's it. There is no valid logic where you can go from saying "There are instances of sin not caused by our moral ignorance" to concluding "Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true." Absolutely no way. Both premises in these arguments are flawed beyond repair, and their conclusions are absurd. 

Imagine me making the following logical argument for atheism:

  1. If god existed, prayer would work.
  2. There are instances of prayers that do not yield working results.
  3. Therefore, god doesn't exist.

Do you see how fallacious and ignorant such an argument is? What Craig is offering us above is logically no better. It tries to draw a huge metaphysical conclusion using really bad and highly contentious premises. Just imagine if a highly educated person like William Lane Craig could be using his talents in other ways, instead of sitting around thinking up of bad arguments like the one he's proposing above. The reason why I spend so much time defending atheism is because it is constantly under attack. If it wasn't, I'd be focused a lot more on political activism on economics, climate change and social issues — things that offer us real tangible results. 

Let's hope this stupid argument never becomes a standard talking point that Craig's minions pick up on like a piece of mud to be hurled at the wall in the vain hope that it sticks. It won't.

Time To Talk About Ecomonics

Aside from theocratic religious fundamentalists, the next people I consider the biggest threat to the free world are corporate elitists. I'm talking about bankers, venture capitalists, corporate managers and CEOs, hedge fund managers and market manipulators. Yeah, not all of them are evil, but a great many of them exist only to get as rich as possible, while not giving two shits if it ruins the environment or the middle class. And what's even worse than merely not caring, is that there are bankers for example, who literally sit in boardrooms and think of ways to fuck over hard working middle class people with convoluted schemes to trick them out of their money.

It's sickening.

When it comes to economics, I'm pretty solidly left. I'm an unapologetic populist. I'm a compassionate capitalist, who believes in free markets—but with regulations. Over the years, my economic views have been shaped by a number of people. Back about 5 or 6 years ago, I started getting into Lou Dobbs, who then was host of the show Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN. I liked his style. Every episode highlighted how the country's economic policies were destroying the middle class. Lou was relentless in his fight.

I went out and bought a few of his books. His views on corporate America out-sourcing middle class jobs, and our failing education system touched me profoundly. He was a self-described "independent populist" who held liberal social views on gay marriage and abortion, liberal economic views, but also had conservative republican views on immigration. He got a lot of flack for his hard right views on immigration, which I didn't always agree with, and he eventually got fired from CNN back in 2009. Since then he's moved over to Fox News where he's moved back to the right on economics, and my interest in him waned.

Then I caught on to MSNBC's Ed Shultz a few years ago. He was also a relentless populist who championed the middle class the same way Dobbs did, but was solidly democratic. And then his nightly show also got canceled and he was moved to a weekend time slot when pretty much no one watches TV.

All these populists seemed to be getting axed one by one. What gives? Well. Populism is a dangerous idea. The real blasphemy in America today is criticizing corporate America's tactics, not religion. The reason why is obvious: Every TV channel in the US is owned by a corporation. Getting on TV and criticizing the plutocratic system that we have is like being a kid and criticizing your parents too harshly — you're going to end up silenced and punished.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The New Testament Condemns Slavery?

Searching for verses in the Bible that condone slavery is not hard, especially in the Old Testament. But the New Testament condones slavery too. Here are just a few of those verses:

Ephesians 6:5
 "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear."
1 Peter 2:18 
"Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh." 
Titus 2:9 
"Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,"

Bring this up to any Christian in a debate and all you will hear is denial, denial, denial. They will say things like, "Biblical slavery wasn't really slavery, it was voluntary servitude." This is an outright lie that has been debunked so many times it's not even funny. Just check out for example Thom Stark's critique of Paul Copan's attempt to justify this response here in his two chapters on biblical slavery in Is God A Moral Compromiser?

Christians might also try to use Colossians 4:1 which says "Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven." They'll use this passage to say that god wanted masters to treat their slaves decent and with respect, and that slavery "back then" was different. But the Christian would of course be forgetting that 1 Peter 2:18, which I quoted above, says slaves are to obey ALL masters, both the kind and the cruel. And of course, the central objection to the New Testament is overlooked in this response—that is the issue of slavery itself. Who cares if the master is nice. The master is still owning another human being as property, and god is perfectly fine with it.

Another objection Christians will use to object to slavery is a passage in 1 Timothy 1:10, which is supposed to condemn "the sexually immoral, those practicing homosexuality, slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine."

There are at least three ways you can react to this passage in 1 Timothy. First, it still makes it OK to purchase slaves from others who may have kidnapped other people into slavery, or who have sold their daughters into slavery, or who are selling slaves they have inherited as property (which Leviticus 25:44-46 allows). 1 Timothy 6:1-2 even says that good obedient slaves glorify god by serving their masters well. So this passage doesn't condemn the institution of slavery, just one aspect of it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What Are Our Goals As Atheists?

It is important to stop and think every once in a while, for those of us who consider ourselves atheist activists in one way or another, to restate our goals so that we have a clearly defined mission. So that being said, what are our goals as atheists? Some of them are clear, while others are not so clear.

I think just about every outspoken atheist, shares the common goal that we want to see religiosity continue to decline, especially fundamentalism. We all want to see radical fundamentalists/creationist Christians, Muslims, Jews, and theists of all strips, dwindle until their numbers are so insignificant that they don't even register on the Richter scale.

For some atheists, that would be enough. Some atheists are just anti-fundamentalists and not anti-theists. They don't mind mild expressions of religious faith, they just hate its extreme expression. But, for some atheists it goes even further. For some atheists, they want to see all forms of religious belief and expression decline. They want to plant seeds of doubt that will grow into trees of skepticism that will help influence those under its branches to distance themselves from religious belief and move towards a more skeptical view of the world which will hopefully land them in atheism or agnosticism. I certainly share this goal.

However, if the ultimate goal would be to have a world filled with skeptical atheists and agnostics, where no one still sincerely believed any religious doctrines, might it be worthwhile to keep some of the harmless traditions and rituals that some religions contain? I think a good argument could be made in the affirmative.

When it comes to politics virtually every atheist is a secularist, but our exact attitudes towards the separating of church and state varies. I've been trying recently to carve out what I think is a reasonable path towards the practical applications of secularism, but like all politics there are areas where it gets difficult to balance both sides of the issues. For example, should an employer have the right to deny birth control coverage if they feel it violates their religious principles? It's not so easy. If no, then the state can force itself and trounce on the religious freedom of its citizens that it guarantees it will not prohibit the "free exercise" of. If yes, then a person's religious convictions gives them the right and the power to deny coverage to contraceptives, something many consider a universal right. What if a Jehovah's Witness wanted to deny an employee coverage for a blood transfusion? Where will it end?

The 10 Indian Commandments

I'm reposting this from part of a blog I previously wrote here because I think it deserves its own post.

Someone years ago created the 10 Indian Commandments. I have reprinted them below. I must admit that they make more sense than their biblical counterparts. If we actually lived by them we would be fully living in harmony with one another and with nature. I would advise that you take whatever wisdom it contains and make it work for you.

The 10 Indian Commandments

1. Treat the earth and all that dwell thereon with respect
2. Remain close to the great spirit
3. Show great respect to your fellow beings
4. Work together for the benefit of human kind
5. Give assistance and kindness whenever needed
6. Do what you know to be right
7. Look after the well being of mind and body
8. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good
9. Be truthful and honest at all times
10. Take full responsibility for your actions

Monday, August 26, 2013

Atheism Is Not Arrogance

There is nothing arrogant about not believing that the entire universe was created with you in mind and that the forces of nature conspire daily to teach you moral lessons. I never quite understood how the theist can buy into that argument that one who refuses to believe that the purpose of the cosmos is for them, is somehow arrogant. If anything, it is a lot more humble to believe you are just a rather small and insignificant part of an unbelievably vast cosmos.

To the devout Christian or Muslim theist, they cannot stand the idea that you are actually enjoying your life without giving constant praise to their invisible sky-daddy. How arrogant of you, they think, for not living your life in total submission as a slave to the will of god. Thus within the Abrahamic tradition, you have at the same time the arrogance of the human-centered universe, and the masochism of the slave mentality. At the same time the theist can declare, "It's all about me..." along with "...but I don't deserve it because I've been very naughty."

But how is not wanting to live your life as an abject slave with no will of your own, arrogant? Only from the masochism of the slave mentality could such a accusation arrive. To the masochistic theist, life is supposed to be lived in fear and submission. Any pleasure derived from life must immediately require an equally sized propitiation along with the recognition that the pleasure was undeserved. And only then, according to the theist, is the arrogance associated with atheism avoided.

Consider what this fundamentalist Christian wrote me in a debate I just had over on his website (emphasis mine):

People were made by God but then wanted to be god. They thus rebelled and came up with as many religions and worldviews as they could to calm themselves from the guilt and impending judgment that they knew would take place for their evil. The pinnacle of that is atheism which gets rid of God altogether. The atheist assumes this position and tries to posture himself as being smart for doing it and everyone else as dumb for not because he's trying to psychologically appease himself. He wants to comfort himself that he is OK for living life in such a godless manner. Hence, atheism is a psychological disorder that distorts reality, thought up to drown out the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit that the individual's evils are shameful and condemned by a Holy God.

This is the old "Atheists just want to be naughty" argument from the book of Romans that I've already critiqued here. But why must anyone accept the notion that enjoying one's life without perpetual praise - and guilt - towards an invisible being is arrogant? Life should be happy and pleasurable. Who but a masochist would want a life filled only with hardship? The stoicism evident in religions like Christianity leave one to believe that any pleasure outside of the narrow guidelines that god set forth is automatically arrogant. I've also butted heads with spiritualists who feel the need to give constant thanks to the earth for providing them with what the earth unconsciously yields. I tell them that the earth doesn't care one way or another whether they are well feed or happy, but it often goes right through them.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Is Atheism Self-Defeating?

I've been debating with this Calvinist Christian who is very fond of presuppositionalism (as many Calvinists are) and he claimed that atheism is a self-defeating position. And so I inquired:

And why is atheism self-defeating? I want to hear your knock down argument against it. If it's any good I'll write a blog about it.

And so he responded to me:

Because it denies theism on the grounds that it is not empirically evident. But neither is the metaphysic that is needed to assume the validity of empirical verificationism. It thus assumes a metaphysic for which it has no empirical evidence in order to argue that things without empirical evidence, like theism, cannot be rationally affirmed. That's just one of the self defeaters within the worldview. 

We got into a long heated debate over epistemology, scientism, faith and belief afterwards that you can check out here. If you want to go rant on his blog and criticize his fundamentalist approach to Christianity, you have my blessing. (But be warned, he's a fierce debater and a hardcore presuppositionalist.) Since I love taking on challenges to atheism, let me take on this argument and show it how is ultimately baseless.

But first, I've noticed many Calvinists are fond of presuppositionalism รก la Sye Ten Bruggencate. They presuppose the existence of their deity in order to claim that logic can even work for you to even be able to argue against it. It's the most annoying thing ever, which is why I generally avoid debating presuppositionalists. But since this theist challenged atheism as being self-defeating, I just couldn't resist this one. So let me explain why denying theism is not self-defeating.

1. Atheists don't presuppose naturalism to be true

The theist argued that atheism "assumes a metaphysic for which it has no empirical evidence in order to argue that things without empirical evidence, like theism, cannot be rationally affirmed." So do atheists really assume naturalism or empiricism as a presupposition? No. Most atheists conclude naturalism to be true after a careful assessment of the evidence for and against the supernatural. To hold the naturalistic worldview, one does not have to presume that science is the only way to know metaphysical truths; we certainly need and use logic to verify many things. When properly used, logic can be used to make valid inferences. The scientific method in fact presupposes logic, as does pretty much every worldview and epistemological theory. But we have very good evidence that proper logic works as rational discourse is impossible without it.

The theist argued that religious faith is a reliable way to know metaphysical truths. So let's do a side by side comparison between religious faith and empiricism as a means to obtain metaphysical knowledge.

  • Religious faith, as an epistemology, does not have a proven track record of furthering human knowledge on metaphysics. Indeed, the metaphysics of every religion is in conflict with what we see and observe in the natural world via science. The only way religious belief can remain tenable is if one abandons its description of the history of the world in favor of the scientific explanation. That means empiricism trumps sacred texts as being the most reliable. 
  • Empiricism on the other hand, does have a proven track record of advancing human knowledge about reality and metaphysics. So you could say that we can empirically verify that empiricism works. 

I'm an empiricist only to the extent that I privilege sense data over logically derived data because data derived from observation and experiment has been shown to violate classical common sense notions of logic. For example, no armchair logician could ever have deduced the logic behind quantum mechanics. Only through observation and experiment could we know such things to be true.
    And the thing is, in order for something to be called the "truth" in the ontological sense it has to be logically or empirically verifiable. Any ontological "truth" that exists solely in one's mind that I cannot corroborate for myself, is no truth at all. It's an unsupported belief. And as long as it remains an unsupported belief, it has no authority over me and my worldview when they are in conflict.

    Thursday, August 22, 2013


    I haven't been blogging as often recently. Instead, I've been going out in the evening trying to enjoy the last couple of weeks of summer. I went to another philosophy meetup yesterday. It was the annual "Philosophy of Sex" event, always a big turn out, although last year's was better in my opinion, because there was an open bar. I got to discuss the philosophy of sex with various strangers and a few friends I've come to know. Always exciting. I also met another atheist blogger named  Dan Fincke who writes a blog over at the Patheos website called Camels With Hammers. Check it out.

    I've got a lot of ideas brewing, although considering that last month I wrote more posts than the entire year of 2011, I kind of burned out. But only temporarily. I'm going to have a post coming up about whether atheism is self-defeating because a fundamentalist challenged me on it. There are other things on the horizon too. I'm actually trying to write a book! It's actually going to be a novel. It's a fictionalizes account of my life and it incorporates a lot of my philosophy on religion, sex, drugs, living and growing up in New York. It's actually very hard to write a book. So far I only have 14 pages and I've already burned out, but the inspiration comes and goes. It's going to be called "The Thinker". I really hope something can become of it and it turns out halfway decent, even if I end up being the only one that reads it.

    Sunday, August 18, 2013

    Faith Inc.

    Let's not forget what it's really about for a lot of believers: Money. Sure I don't doubt that there are many sincere believers, but the faith industry is at least a multi-billion dollar a year industry. The Catholic Church in the US alone spends $ 170 billion annually according to a recent report;  the Mormon Church, according to some estimates, has annual revenues of about $ 5 billion and has about $ 25-30 billion in assets. Combine this with tithings from thousands of other independent churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and the money spent on the whole pseudoscientific industry that includes psychics, faith healers, witch doctors, magic crystals, and all different kinds of woo woo, and you may have a trillion dollar industry built entirely on exploiting people's credulity and faith.

    So we must think about this in the context of an increasingly skeptical and secular society that demands more evidence for the claims being made. If everyone was a self proclaimed skeptic, or an empiricist, this entire faith based industry, and the millions of people it employs, would come crashing down. There'd be no one buying snake oil, no one buying animal bones for protection against evil spirits, no one giving their hard earned money to the church, mosque or synagogue - these industries would evaporate.

    And think of where that money could go. Think of what a trillion dollars could do for humanity every year if instead of being spent on keeping the pulpits of anti-gay and anti-science clerics and pastors warm, it was spent on actual proven measures to educate the less fortunate without the proselytizing into a religious worldview. Imagine if people spent their money on actual medicine and learned how to really prevent diseases instead of paying witch doctors and psychics to milk their credulity in return for nothing but faith and hope.

    The faith industry is kept alive in large part by its economic incentive. It's hard to imagine what the world would look like filled with rational skeptics. There'd probably be less disease, less crime, less poverty, less people being scammed and a lot less overall suffering. Religions actually thrive on suffering. Tornados, floods, and diseases are blessings in disguise. They want them to happen - as long as it brings more sheep into their flock where they can milk them of their money. Every new convert can be seen as a new source of revenue, especially in religions like Mormonism and Scientology, which I think today are entirely based on making money. I don't think any of the leaders of these churches seriously buy into their creed. They know it's bullshit, but it's making money, and why stop a good business model while its working?

    I for one can't wait to see this bullshit economy come crashing down. That's just one of the motivations for doing what I do here.

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    Evolution For Creationists

    Meme time! I came across this on the internets. It outlines some basics about evolution that so many creatards and theists never seem to get.

    Around The World In 80 Faiths

    This past week I watched a BBC special called "Around the World in 80 Faiths" about an Anglican priest who travels the world to discover 80 of the world's religions and sects. If you're fascinated by religion and religious phenomenon like me, I highly recommend it. It covered some of the major religions that I'm familiar with, but many that I wasn't and it has actually opened me up to see religion from a new perspective.

    Though I'm still firmly an atheist and am still opposed to religious belief, the diversity of ways to believe shown in the program has warmed me towards some religions that are more or less harmless. "Religion" is big umbrella term that contains many diverse beliefs under it. Not all religions are harmful. Not all religions are intolerant. Not all religions are fanatical. Some merely extract the innate goodness within humanity and exemplify them through parables and metaphors, while wrapping them in rituals that attempt to tap into the transcendent or the divine.

    I have also come to a new appreciation of secularism after watching the program. In a world where there are nearly as many ways to worship as there are people, secularism is fundamental towards religious tolerance. Without it, one religion will dominate, and it will be inevitable that discrimination based on religious belief will ensue.

    The dark side of the history of religion was also on display in the program. Monotheisms like Christianity and Islam have their rigid forms of belief and their spiritual exclusivity that says "I belong to the one true faith, believe like me or go to hell." Now not every Christian or Muslim wears that message on their sleeve, but it is a basic tenant of their scriptures.

    The fluidity of religious belief was front and center in the program. One can see how new religions emerged from political and social struggles, and how old religions have merged to create various great mixes of old and new. There are numerous depictions of animal sacrifices done according to different religions in many different ways. I'm not at all a fan of animal sacrifice. Although I'm not a vegetarian, I think it is a horrible thing to kill an animal because you think its blood and its life are going to wash away your sins and give you good fortunes. Animal sacrifice is one thing I'd rid the world of right now if I could.

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    4 Facts That Aren't Really Facts

    Until recently I didn't have enough knowledge about the historicity surrounding Jesus and the resurrection to properly critique it. But after reading and watching many lectures and debates on the reliability of the New Testament and the Bible in general, I'm pretty convinced that the case for Christ and the resurrection are founded on little more than pillars of faith on very shaky ground.

    But that's not the case according to William Lane Craig. According to him we have firm evidence that Jesus was a historical figure, that he was crucified by the Romans, that his tomb was found empty and that his followers had post mortem appearances of him indicating that he had been resurrected. In his many debates, Craig offers four lines of evidence he calls "facts" to support this story. But are these really facts? I want to spend the rest of this blog critiquing his argument for the resurrection.

    Craig's "facts" are as follows:

    FACT #1: After his crucifixion Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.

    FACT #2: On the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.

    FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

    FACT #4: The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

    In his collaboration with philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God? A Debate Between A Christian and An Atheist, Craig offers several lines of evidence to support these four "facts," so all the material from him that I will be critiquing will come from that book. 

    And before I begin, I first want to say that I resent that Craig insists upon called these claims "facts." I think at best they are reported facts. Actual facts are things that we either know are true by definition, or things that are supported by empirical evidence. None of Craig's "facts" meet any such criteria and it's interesting to note that his only source material to back up his claims is the Bible. That's it. There is no empirical evidence that has been produced to support Jesus' entombment, his resurrection, or even that he actually existed, and until there is, these are not facts and I will not be treating them as such. 

    So let's begin by examining "fact" number one:

    FACT #1:After his crucifixion Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.

    Craig supports this claim with 5 lines of evidence. Let me look at each line by line.

    1. Jesus’ burial is attested in the very old information (ca. < AD 36), which was handed on by Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth, Greece.

    The Pauline epistles were all written in the AD 50s, not in the not AD 30s, but many scholars believe the accounts they describe occurred within a few years after the purported resurrection. Since there aren't any contemporary corroborations, this is speculative. Although Paul mentions that Jesus was buried (1 Cor 15:4), we get no description about whether it was in a tomb or a simple common grave. There is no indication from Paul's writing that Jesus was a physical man who lived and preached to followers. Paul never mentions in his letters that anyone saw Jesus while he was alive; Paul never mentions Jesus' ministry or any of his disciples or anyone having ever met him. Jesus only ever appeared to various people after he died through visions. The Egyptian god Osiris was a spiritual god who was also died, was buried and was reborn. It is not inconceivable that Paul thought of Jesus as a purely spiritual being who died and rose from the dead in the same fashion that many pre-Christian pagan gods in the ancient Near East had. This could have been the early Christian narrative before Jesus was "euhemerized" decades later by the writers of the gospels by having Jesus placed into historical contexts.

    2. The burial story is independently attested in the very old source material used by Mark in writing his gospel.

    Craig here seems to be referring to a document called Q, which is supposed to have been the inspiration of Mark's gospel that was written in about AD 70, 40 years after the alleged crucifixion. We don't know if Q ever existed and there is much debate over it, so Craig appears to be resting this line of evidence on a hypothetical document that might have existed.

    3. Given the understandable hostility in the early Christian movement toward the Jewish leaders, Joseph of Arimathea, as a member of the Jewish high court that condemned Jesus, is unlikely to be a Christian invention.

    We don't have any records of the members of the Jewish high court at the time of Jesus from any sources. It is entirely possible that Joseph or Arimathea could have been an invention in Mark's gospel in order to place Jesus in a grand tomb as opposed to a common burial. The gospels aren't even congruent about whether Joseph was a member of the high court as Matthew's account states Joseph is simply a "rich man" from Arimathea. (Mat 27:57) Outside of the gospels we have no independent evidence that Joseph of Arimathea existed.

    4. The burial story is simple and lacks any signs of legendary development.

    Mark's account of the burial is pretty straightforward and simple, but it is merely one detail of an early account of a story that will later go on in the other gospel accounts to contain numerous signs of legendary embellishment. Early accounts of legends are almost always the most simple and straightforward. Then, as the accounts are retold and transcribed they become adorned with embellishment. Peter Kirby on notes, "It is no stretch of the imagination to think that legend makers or fiction writers would be aware that there were and are tombs hewn out of rock and that some of these tombs had benches. This does not make these legends or fictions into history. The only thing that might be remarkable would be if the description of the tomb matched the tombs of the early first century but not the tombs of a later period. However, there are no details about the tomb that could not be provided from the author's experience with tombs in his own time. Indeed, when the author could have specified that the stone sealing the tomb was not round and thus demonstrate knowledge of tombs in the Second Temple period, the author does not do so. The bare description of the tomb hardly improves the credibility of the story."[1]

    5. No other competing burial story exists

    This is an argument from silence. If there never was a physical burial to begin with but only a celestial symbolic one, and the burial narrative was entirely fictional, written decades later and invented by the writer of Mark, we would not expect any competing stories to exist. Now arguments from silence can be inductively correct. [2] But as Jeff Lowder notes in A Reply to William Lane Craig, "Craig has not shown that the alleged lack of competing burial traditions is unlikely on the hypothesis that some alternative to the Markan tradition is true. Indeed...there is no evidence that the Jewish authorities were even interested in the matter."[3]

    Conclusion: I don't think Craig's claims have been able to sufficiently establish the burial of Jesus in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb to be factual. If we had independent Jewish sources attesting to Joseph's existence and position in the Jewish high court, or if we had physical evidence of the tomb, then I think we'd be in a much better position to establish this claim as truth. Although, of the four "facts" Craig is trying to make, I think this one has the most probability of being true.

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    Excavating The Empty Tomb

    If you've got a few hours to kill, check out TruthSurge's documentary on the historicity of the New Testament surrounding the empty tomb narrative.

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    I Want To Believe

    I am sometimes so utterly bemused by many religious believers who are absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they're a member of the one true religion. I think to myself how utterly delusional they are in the face of so much evidence against their beliefs and by the amount of faith it takes them to maintain composure.

    But then I think to myself, "Who am I kidding? I used to be a believer just like them too." No seriously, I was. I was a believer. Not in god - you know that silly idea that there's an invisible man in the sky who cares about whether your penis is snipped. No. That's ridiculous. I mean, come on. Who could actually believe that

    No, I was a believer in something else. Something I once thought was a lot more plausible and logical. I was a believer that extraterrestrial space aliens were abducting people and taking them aboard spaceships and conducting all kinds of experiments on them like human/alien hybrid cloning. You know, something rational

    When I was a kid I really did believe this. In fact, I was terrified at night that I would get abducted. I remember sleeping in bed afraid to open my eyes because of the fear that if I opened them I'd be staring into the large black eyes of an alien being. This would especially happen right after I saw a TV program or movie about aliens. I remember hearing about the famous Travis Walton case, which seemed to me like a very plausible abduction story. And I thought to myself, if it could happen to him, it could happen to me.

    Yup. I was a true believer. I watched every show and movie that I could about UFOs and alien abductions. I was addicted. Whenever they had a show on TV about alien abductions and government cover ups of the "truth" and they brought out a skeptic who tried to explain away the phenomena as mere hallucinations, lies or false memories triggered by emotional or physical abuse, I thought to myself, "No, there has to be something more to these encounters, they can't all just be made up." I was totally convinced that intelligent extraterrestrial aliens were real and that they were abducting us to be used as guinea pigs for their cruel experiments and that the government knew about this and was covering it up.

    wanted to believe. I wanted it to be true, despite how terrifying the idea was. 

    Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    Irreducible Stupidity

    If you've been in several debates with creationists over the existence of god or whether evolution is true you will undoubtedly have come across the same tired old argument again and again: Dr. Michael Behe's "Irreducible Complexity" argument.

    The irreducible complexity (IR) argument was defined by Behe in his book Darwin's Black Box as:

    A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.

    IR has become the poster child of the intelligent design movement and played a leading role in the Dover PA trial on whether intelligent design was actual science, which the trial determined it wasn't.

    But intelligent design advocates like Behe and the folks at the creationist thinktank the Discovery Institute never seem to stop touting IR as an argument against evolution, despite it having been repeatedly refuted over and over again, most famously by Christian biologist Ken Miller (see here).

    So I came up with a term to describe such people who use refuted arguments over and over:

    Irreducible Stupidity: Using the same refuted argument again and again and failing to learn from it

    It's short and easy to remember. So if you come across a creationist who brandishing IR as a "knock down" argument against evolution, tell them we have numerous examples of biological systems whose parts can be removed that function for other things, including the often cited example of the bacterial flagellum itself. And if necessary, kindly remind them that using the same refuted argument again and again and failing to learn from it is textbook example for irreducible stupidity.

    Tuesday, August 6, 2013

    A Funny Irony About Life

    Isn't it funny how atheists tend to be more interested in religion than most religious people are? I mean, almost every atheist's blog (mine included) is plastered with rants and raves about this god and that god and this religion and that religion. The very people who disbelieve all these things tend to be the most obsessed with them.

    Oh what would life be with out irony?

    But the reason why atheists tend to be obsessed with religion is the same reason why black people tend to focus on race relations, and women tend to focus on gender relations, and gay people tend to focus on sexuality: You tend to focus on what you're passionate for and what you're against. So black people are focused on racism and racial equality; women are focused on sexism and gender equality; gay people are focused on oppression of homosexuals and equal rights for the GLBT community.

    Atheists tend to be passionate about secularism and defending their worldview from hostile and ill-conceived attacks from those who are religious. One way to fight for secularism, besides being active in the political arena (and voting!), is to promote a healthy naturalistic worldview as the rational alternative that makes the best sense of the evidence against stereotypes and misunderstandings.

    Less religious people will mean more secularism. Period.

    The Most Plausible Explanation Is...

    Talk to just about any sophisticated theist about whether there is indisputable proof god exists and they will likely say, "no." God doesn't want to give us proof, they'll say, because if he gave us proof we wouldn't have the freedom to deny him, and that would defeat his whole purpose. It seems from statements like these, that god really does want us all to take that leap of faith without the parachute of certainty. But why would having proof that god exists somehow ruin his plan? Well, it depends on which theist you ask.

    It seems to me that if knowledge of god's existence was certain, we could still reject him or choose not to worship him. But the theist will sometimes say that god's presence is so powerful, that if he revealed himself to us, no one would be able to reject him. And why exactly is this a problem? Wouldn't god want us all to worship him properly? After all, wasn't he very concerned over whether his people worshiped other gods and engraven images? And isn't his character naturally jealous as the Bible says? Why then would god chose to be so silent while billions of people worship different gods, or no gods at all? You'd think that this would cause a massive jealous tantrum and enrage god's wrath. It just doesn't seem to be in keeping with his character. I mean, after all, if god is all powerful, he could set the record straight and reveal himself and his will to all of us without any effort.

    Now theists are aware of this problem and they've been able to come up with a smorgasbord of explanations of why god is so silent. But we have to keep in mind that all of those explanations are competing with the explanation that the god of the Bible simply doesn't exist, which I think is always going to be the more plausible explanation.

    A god that didn't exist would also be silent.

    Or, to put it another way.....

    Sunday, August 4, 2013

    Taking Atheism 'Out Of The Closet' So To Speak: A Call To Arms

    They say the internet is where religion comes to die.

    I hope they're right.

    It does seem like the internet is dominated by atheist media. When I first started becoming more vocal about my atheism around 2009, I'd spend hours on YouTube watching videos that poked fun at religious belief. The amount of entertainment seemed endless. And it inspired me to start blogging about my disbelief.

    I came to know Richard Dawkins who I had previously knew little about. He has his out campaign encouraging atheists to be open and public about their atheism. I think it's a great idea. Atheists, freethinkers, and all nontheists, should be as open as possible in much the same way that gay people have come out of the closet. It's worked wonders for the gay rights movement and gay acceptance.

    If enough atheists came 'out of the closet' to their families, friends and coworkers so the world could see we're by and large decent moral people, we might in 10 or 20 years time not be the most distrusted demographic in America anymore.

    That brings me to the fuzzy topic of accommodationism. An atheist who is an accomodationist is someone who thinks that science and faith can be reconciled and that religion may have merits to it, and should not be vehemently opposed. I for one am not an accomodationist, but as I've written before, hardcore militant atheism can hurt the cause for atheism being accepted.

    But just like I outlined in my guide to militant atheism, "When it comes to the internet, the blogosphere, social networking sites and forums be as anti-theistic and confrontational as you'd like - that's what the internet's for." I think the internet is the single biggest reason why atheism is spreading, and so for atheists who care about the cause for secularism and desire to see religion on the decline like I do, we need to be relentless on our critiques of religious belief. Every time a theist asserts a fallacious argument about their religion online, they should be pounced on by ten atheists who pick apart its faulty logic. A basic code of decency should be maintained, but there should be no mercy spared on destroying the theist's argument itself.

    The goal here is to saturate the internet with atheist media, blogs, videos, podcasts - you name it - to make it so that religious views are drowned out by criticism and the atheistic perspective continues to dominate the web. It's the least you can do as an atheist in a free society where you wont be jailed for expressing your disbelief like they do in some other countries.

    Friday, August 2, 2013

    Secularism & The City: Dispatches From The Wall Of Separation

    I've been wanting to write a bit more about secularism recently because debates with theists always seem to come down to the roles between religion and government. At any given time I may be engaged in 1 or more simultaneous debates with different theists on various websites, forums and blogs. I was on a Christian website recently and found myself in a debate with a fairly conservative Christian Baptist over the separation of church and state. Our disagreements fell along familiar lines where we felt religion's place in public society should be. And I have to say that once again I had all of my stereotypes confirmed: people who are devoutly religious, almost always think that it is perfectly alright to impose their religiously based morals onto other people.

    So let me address some of our disagreements and outline some of my views on secularism because in practical terms, the debate over church and state has serious real world impacts, and is not to be taken jokingly.

    Freedom of religion

    I think I speak for most atheists when I say that a secular society should protect the rights of those of religious faith to believe what they want without undue persecution and for them to have the right to be open about it. But those of religious faith must realize that freedom of religion cannot exist unless there also exists the freedom from religion. I don't have the right to prevent you from worshiping your chosen deity in your private life, and you don't have the right to impose your religious morals on me in my private life.

    Now where this gets complicated is in government. Your right to freely practice your religion must encounter some reasonable restrictions if you're employed by the government. This means that as a public school teacher you cannot lead prayer services while on the job, and as an elected official who crafts public policy, you cannot pass legislation that is favorable to any one religion, or religion in general. This is where I notice that many devoutly religious Christians favor a bias for their religion. For example, some Christians will say that it is OK for a Christian teacher to lead a Christian prayer service in a public school, but they're adamantly opposed to the idea of a Muslim school teacher praising Islam in the classroom and leading Muslim prayers. They'll also support the 10 Commandments perched on government property, but would also adamantly oppose the 5 Pillars of Islam on government property. Clear religious bias and religious discrimination against others. If your religious views force you to adopt a stance where you're for openly discriminating against other religions, while favoring yours, then my main thesis as an atheist that religion is divisive and harmful to society is vindicated.

    The Law Of Causality

    YouTuber Steve Shives made a good point that I had not actually thought of before about the cosmological argument while critiquing Norman Geisler's and Frank Turek's awful book I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist: If the law of causality states that everything that beings to exist requires a cause, then before all of space and time and all the laws of physics existed – if you can believe that there was such a thing as "before" time when absolutely nothing existed  then how could the law of causality apply to the universe if it did not yet exist? In other words, before anything existed, the law of causality itself must not have existed, and so how could it have applied to the universe's origin? And if the law of causality somehow already existed, then we cannot say that "nothing" existed before the universe, because the law of causality surely isn't nothing.

    Now one possible answer to this dilemma is that the law of causality is a law of logic, and logic is eternal in the platonic sense that abstract objects like numbers are also timeless and eternal. That would, I suppose allow logic to somehow predate the origin of space and time, and perhaps allow causality to apply to the universe. But if logic and numbers exist in the platonic sense, then it may be true that fundamentally all the physical laws are numbers, an idea some physicists entertain called the mathematical universe. That means that the laws of physics can be eternal in the same sense that the laws of logic can be. And the thing is, we are pretty certain that the laws of physics allow something from "nothing" – or the ultimate free lunch as it's called.

    So if the law of causality can be invoked to say the universe requires a cause, maybe the cause of the universe was made possible by eternal timeless laws of physics. Otherwise, you'd have to ask yourself, what caused the law of causality? If god did it, then it is a contingent law that cannot be said to be on par with the laws of logic, because logic cannot be violated and cannot therefore be created. Maybe there is some intrinsic logic behind the fundamental laws of physics in the mathematical sense that is as yet discovered. Right now we just don't know.

    Some say that the laws of physics can't actually cause anything and that they're merely just descriptions of what happens between forces acting upon matter. There is no agreement on this. Quantum mechanics and general relativity allows universes to be created without the need for a material cause and perhaps even an efficient cause. Quantum tunneling models allow for quantum fluctuations to tunnel through towards inflationary periods where infinitely dense singularities with a radius of zero can rapidly expand to extreme macro scales.

    But philosophically speaking, a point that I want to make and that I think nobody can deny, is that the universe cannot be said to have emerged from a state of absolute nothing. Something preexisted at the moment the universe began, whether it be the laws of logic, or the laws of logic perhaps along with the laws of physics. Even a dark empty vacuum isn't nothing – it's a dark, empty vacuum – which is something. And the fundamental laws of logic would apply to it. And I'm still not convinced that there ever was a "before" the origin of our universe if the big bang is the absolute beginning of time and space – a claim no one can currently make with certainty.

    Thursday, August 1, 2013

    Craig Meme (Plus Bonus)

    OK I cannot resist anymore. Memes are addictive. Here's my first official meme above. Please tell me what you think. It's making fun of my most hated apologist. Use it as you like, spread it, memify it. 

    P.S. Here's a bonus below:

    William Lane Craig: Evolution Is Evidence For The Existence Of God!

    If you ever find yourself in a debate with William Lane Craig and try to use evolution as evidence for naturalism, you can expect him to make the following counter argument below. He's made it in several debates now and it's become one of his all-too-often repeated talking points. This one is transcribed from his debate with Peter Atkins from way back in the 90s:

    In their book, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Barrow and Tipler lay out 10 steps necessary to the course of human evolution, each of which, each of which is so improbable, that before it would occur the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and would have burned up the earth. Now it seems to me that if evolution did occur, then it would have had to been a miracle. In other words evolution is literally evidence for the existence of god!

    That's right creationists, evolution now is evidence for the existence of god, so stop denying it and embrace full on macroevolution. (Sigh) Craig wants to be able to deny Darwinian evolution and instead support a sort of hybrid old earth creationism/theistic evolution, but just in case that becomes too much of an untenable position, he's carefully made naturalistic macroevolution safe for Christians because it's a "miracle."

    So I wonder, is Craig blissfully unaware that everything that happens in our universe is improbable? Every single person born is improbable if we were to try to calculate the mathematical odds of any of us being born. For example, the average man will make about 4.3 trillion sperm cells in his life (200 million per day on average for ~60 years). The only way you could have been born is by a single sperm cell from your father, and a single egg from your mother. Right there the odds of you being born are at least 4.3 trillion to one, or 1 in 4.3 x 1012.

    But according to Robin Baker, who wrote the 1996 book, Sperm Wars, only about 1 percent of the sperm cells a man produces actually are involved in fertilizing eggs. These are what he calls, "egg-getters." Most of the other 99 percent of sperm cells are designed to kill off sperm from other men. So if we recalculate, 1 percent of 4.3 trillion is 43 billion. That leaves the odds of you being born from your father at 1 in 43 billion. Not exactly odds you'd want to bet your money on.

    For most men the rate of sperm production decreases with age, so let's round that down to about 36 billion egg-getter sperm cells over the average man's lifetime. The average man will have about 2-3 surviving offspring during his lifetime, if we round up to 3, the average chances of you being born are 3 x 1 / 3.6 x 1010  or 1 / 1.2 x 1010.  That's 1 in 12 billion, slightly better than before but remember we're only going back one generation.

    If you include two generations, your dad and his dad, the odds of you being born will be 1 /12,000,000,000  x  1 / 12,000,000,000 = 1 / 144,000,000,000,000,000,000  or 1 in 144,000,000,000,000,000,000  or  1 / 1.44 x 1020. That's 1 in 144 quintillion in just two generations.

    To calculate the odds for 10 generations that would get you (1 / 1.2 x 1010)10 = 1 / 6 x 10100. That's a 6 with one hundred zeros after it. And we've only gone back 10 generations! To give you a sense of how large that number is, the total number of atoms in the universe is estimated at just 1080 which is far lower that the odds of just you being born going back only 10 generations.


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