Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Doubletalk On Verificationism


I recently tweeted:



Think about it. What kind of evidence would a theist need to be shown that contradicts their theology? For most, if not all theists, they'd have to be shown empirical evidence. That's right. Theists raise the bar to the level of empirical evidence when it comes to any science that contradicts their beliefs. But they all make exceptions when it comes to the supernatural claims which skeptics reject due to the fact that they cannot be verified.

This is a clear contradiction.

Take the soul for example. We have no evidence that we can use to verify its existence. The soul must be believed on faith. Every theist knows this, and yet, the theist will accuse the skeptic of being a verificationist, or a positivist, if he demands empirical scientific evidence for the soul.

But then the theist will demand that same level of empirical scientific evidence for anything that goes against their theology. For example, with evolution most creationists demand to see with their own eyes one species evolving into another; only then can evolution be true. And when it comes to cosmology, many theists demand to see the multiverse with their own eyes in order for them to believe it - mathematical descriptions are just not enough.

I'm just saying that if the theist wants to be a bit skeptical about things that we cannot directly see, then why not be consistent and apply that to angels, demons, the soul and to god himself?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Everystudent.com Is Full Of Lies!


I stumbled upon this site called everystudent.com recently. It's another Christian propaganda site trying to target young students. It's filled with the usual arguments from design and first causes and on one of its pages titled, "Is There A God?" I came across some really bad arguments and couldn't resist refuting some of them since these kinds of sites do reach a number of kids and young adults who probably don't know any better. 


"God himself took on the form of man and accepted the punishment for our sin on our behalf. Sounds ludicrous? Perhaps, but many loving fathers would gladly trade places with their child in a cancer ward if they could."


Yeah but you know what? Loving fathers who were all-powerful and who could wipe out cancer instantly just by thinking about it would do that instead of trade places with their child. Likewise, god could have created a world where we don't all go to hell by default, where there is no original sin, or where we were not designed as sinners and then punished for our very nature. (He could have also created a world with no cancer) These are all logically possible worlds god could have chosen to create if he exists and is indeed all-powerful. But god knowingly chose to create the world where we'd sin and deserve to go to the hell that he created for us, where he'd have to impregnate an underage virgin girl to give birth to himself to be sacrificed to himself in order to redeem the world and save us all, from himself. Sound Ludicrous? Yes.


"What proof did Jesus give for claiming to be divine? He did what people can't do. Jesus performed miracles. He healed people...blind, crippled, deaf, even raised a couple of people from the dead."


Yeah, according to the Bible! - which is completely unreliable. We have no other evidence that any of these supposed events ever occurred. Christians seem to take for granted that the Bible is accurate and telling the truth, and are blissfully unaware that non-Christians do not assume this by default.

"Don't be a fan." - Christopher Hitchens


I've been on a role blogging everyday this month, sometimes twice a day. In fact, I've written more posts this month than I did in all of 2011 (36). That's because that year I was working a really stressful job over 60 hours a week and I was often working 6 days a week. I have so many ideas in my head that I want to commit to print. I want to write more about what secularism means in practical terms. I want to take on more criticism of atheism and non-belief and take on more arguments for theism. The problem is finding the time and the patience. Most of my free time now is spent blogging. It's highly addictive. I can sometimes stay up for hours at night finishing a nice blog. And once I get started, I sometimes just can't stop until I'm done. I don't like leaving unfinished business.

That being said, I just noticed that I never wrote about the time I met Christopher Hitchens. By the summer of 2010, I had become completely obsessed with Hitchens. I had watched all his debates, interviews, and appearances on YouTube and everyday I was looking him up to see when a new video had been unloaded. I went out and bought his best seller God is Not Great. Through my obsession with him he had a profound impact on my life. I wanted to be an intellectual like him. I wanted to be an antitheist like him. I wanted to drink whiskey and smoke and be cocky like him. I was already a smoker, and somewhat of a drinker (although not an alcoholic), and I was already into politics and intellectual discussions. I had a knack for being a natural debater but I wanted to be a full on polemicist, like Hitch was.

Then came the news that he had gotten cancer. I was on vacation in Asia at the time. At first I didn't realize how serious the cancer was, because people get cancer all the time and live. But then when I returned home the news of his cancer, esophageal cancer, was grim. Only 5 percent of those diagnosed with it survival when it's in stage 4, as was the case with Hitchens. So when a Google search of his name landed me on a page that said he was going to have a debate in town on whether Islam was a religion of peace, I ordered my ticket immediately. The debate eventually sold out quickly and I got lucky because had I been another day or two late, I wouldn't have made it. The thought had also occurred to be that this could be the only chance I get to ever see him, my intellectual hero.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Keepin' It Secular (A Debate On Gay Marriage)


The other week I had a debate with a Christian over that onerous issue of gay marriage. He's a guy I've come to know through several philosophy and debate group meetups. Although he's a pretty conservative Christian of the Calvinist strip, he's actually a decent guy and I enjoy conversing and debating with him. We are always able to set aside our differences and engage each other with mutual respect even after long heated discussions. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Last month he had challenged me on gay marriage at a debate meetup. He's against it, I'm for it. Then last week, at a philosophy discussion meetup I challenged him again on it. I wanted to get to the root at what his justifications are for beings against it are. Here's what argument ultimately boils down to:

  1. Gay sex doesn't lead to the procreation of the species, therefore
  2. it is unnatural.
  3. Because gay sex is unnatural, gay marriage should not be recognized by law.

This is a common argument that many opponents are giving against gay marriage because they can try to appeal here to nature and not to their Bible. So let's break down this argument as I did during our debate on it. 

First, I made an objection to his definition of unnatural as relating to procreation with the fact that oral sex and anal sex doesn't lead to procreation, and yet it is recognized by law. He supports the right for sinful sex acts to be performed among consenting adults, but says that gay marriage is different because marriage by definition is between a man and a woman. He get's this definition from somewhere in the Bible.

So I objected with the fact that the Bible allows incest, polygamy and child brides. He said, as pretty much all Christians do, that god tolerated those things but didn't approve of them. But after debating him on the fact that the Bible does endorse those things, not just tolerate them, I said to him that we live in a secular democracy, and that there is no reason why in a secular country, we should use a Biblical definition of marriage (even though it is disputed that the Bible only endorses a one man + one woman combination). He insisted that it's part of nature that homosexuality is a mutation and is therefore unnatural. So I probed this further.

I argued that if homosexuality is a mutation, a deviation from the natural order, it is still natural. Natural means "of nature" and since gay people are born the way they are, homosexuality is natural and even found in animal species. He said this was controversial, but even if true, still wouldn't warrant the rights of gay people to marry. He also has concocted this theory that as gay people gain more power, they will teach people to be homosexual in the hopes of one day turning everyone gay. Now this absurd theory - if we can even call it a theory - diminishes his credibility enormously on his stance against gay marriage because it exposes what may be behind his real motivations.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Vicarious Redemption And Masochism


In almost all ancient cultures you had the idea that humans or animals could be sacrificed, and that this sacrifice would somehow make your situation better. The ancient Aztecs were ripping out human hearts and offering them to their sun-god in the hopes that it would keep him happy and he would continue to rise everyday and provide them with warmth and nourishment. The ancient Jews would pile all of the townspeople's sins onto an animal, and send that animal out into the desert to die of thirst and hunger, atoning for the sins of the people in the process.

Sacrificial offerings are an ancient relic of our primitive past. There is a reason why no one in the modern world sacrifices people or animals anymore: it doesn't work. Nature doesn't give a crap one way or another whether we offer it a lamb or a warm, beating heart.

That brings me to Christianity. Christianity is not a religion that repudiates human sacrifice. Christianity is a religion that celebrates a single human sacrifice as though it were effective. Jesus dies for the charge of blasphemy under the Jewish high court, and his followers begin believing that his death on the cross was a vicarious redemption for the sins of all mankind. Now let's set aside arguments for the historicity of this event for now, let's focus on the story. As kid growing up hearing of the crucifixion I always thought it was kind of silly. I mean why would god sacrifice his own son to us, and why would we all need a sacrifice anyway? Then I came across Hitchens' critique of the crucifixion and it got me thinking even more about it. Hitch said the vicarious redemption was the sickest aspect of Christianity, which I thought was ironic in a way, because it's the one thing Christians must believe in to be properly called Christians.

Hitch argued that the abdication of moral responsibility through being thrown onto Jesus' torture and death was morally reprehensible. I don't disagree with him that the idea of thinking you can be purified of all your faults via a human sacrifice is a gross perversion of morality and is also a relic of our superstitious and ancient ways of thinking. But talk to a Christian about this, and it all makes perfect sense. They'll say it was necessary and was an act of grace and love on god's part to sacrifice his only son for our sins. And they'll say that we all deserve to have been sent to hell in the absence of this offer without hesitation.

That's what years of religious brainwashing will do to you.

But looking at this attitude from another angle, the ease with with Christians justify our lowly state and deserve of eternal punishment kind of reminds me how many abused wives will justify their husband's abuse by saying that they deserve it, and that their husbands beat them because he loves them. And they'll say things like, "It's all my fault for not pleasing him properly." This to me sounds exactly like the excuses many Christians make for god's anger, wrath and judgement. "It's always our fault," they'll say, "we deserve his judgement and punishment." "We're sinners." The similarities here between abused wives and Christians are amazing. This all to me sounds like they are products of the masochistic aspect of the human personality. There is a part in all of us, to varying degrees, that wants us to feel like a lowly, unworthy, piece of crap that is always wrong, and in need of discipline and correction. That's ultimately where the masochistic aspects of religion and abuse comes from.

One of the reasons why Christianity was so successful, I think, is due to its amazing ability to capitalize on the guilt and masochism that lurks in the minds of its followers. It is thoroughly imbued with guilt, and what more could the masochistic aspect of the mind want more than to find an outlet to justify it's feelings of unworthiness and desire for punishment?



Questions For Atheists - Part 7 (Just Curious)


I've finally reached the end of Phil Fernandes' challenging questions to atheists with my intellectual integrity intact and unscathed. The last section of questions seems to be really just a bunch of miscellaneous questions about cosmology and evolution and morality, perhaps his last ditch attempt to damage my intellectual integrity. Considering how far I've come and how all of his questions so far seem to have stemmed from monumental ignorance about the most basic science, I highly doubt they'll be anything here remotely challenging.


JUST CURIOUS
1. If caterpillars could talk, would they argue against the cocoon-of-the-gaps with their butterfly friends?


Presumably, if caterpillars had enough intelligence to talk, they'd figure out science and answer this question using the scientific method. They'd be able to observe other caterpillars cocooning themselves after some honest inquiry and not need to resort to fantasy tales of magic. Although, they might have to all suffer intellectually through many years of ignorance until they figured this out, just like how we did.

2. If there was a Big Bang, where did the bullets come from? Who pulled the trigger and who manufactured the gun?

There couldn't have been anyone pulling the trigger given the standard big bang model because it was the beginning of time and thus no events could have preceded it. That's why it couldn't have had a cause.

See more on the cosmological argument here and here.

3. How does science weigh morality? Does ‘goodness’ expand when frozen or rise when heated?

I don't believe like Sam Harris does that you can describe morality strictly in scientific terms. Morality is ultimately in the domain of philosophy, not science. But, that doesn't mean that science has nothing to say about morality. Science can give us empirical answers as to what actions we commit will harm those affected by them. For example, Europeans used to think Africans weren't human and thus weren't entitled to be treated like humans. Science has proven that Africans are just as human as Europeans and as well as all other races. So empirical answers could be given regarding such moral concerns. The same was true about smoking. In the 1940s and 50s, doctors used to recommend their patients smoke because it was believed to be helpful. Then we learned it caused cancer. And after that fact emerged, it would have been immoral for a doctor to recommend their patient smoke, because they would've been knowingly harming their patient's health.

See more on moral arguments here, here and here.

4. If man is just an evolved animal, why have we never observed another species thrilling in the beauty of a sunset or a picturesque mountain view?

I don't see how the fact that man evolved has anything to do with whether animals enjoy sunsets. Maybe they do. Maybe birds enjoy their aerial views as they fly across beautiful landscapes. Maybe chimpanzees enjoy the mountain views from the canopies of their jungle homes. Even if they do not, our ability to enjoy beauty is most likely a byproduct of our evolved consciousness that natural selection embedded into us. And what about those of us who are mentally handicapped who'll never enjoy a sunset or a scenic landscape? Did god purposely screw them over? 

5. While you've most likely heard, “Forever’s a long time to be wrong,” have you ever considered it’s also a “long time to be right?”

If implied in this question is the vague threat of eternal hell fire, then I don't want to allow fear to cloud my mind. To me the best way to construct reality is to educate yourself on the facts as much as possible and follow the evidence where it leads. Any time fear enters the mind, you are bound to start thinking irrationally. I want to know the truth. We all do. If the evidence lead me to religion, I'd go that way. But a close look at the evidence for god and for Christianity and other religions has shown me that they all are based on logic derived primarily from faulty human intuition and leaps of faith aided by confirmation biases motivated by emotion. That's why apologetics ultimately fails. And it only ever succeeds in winning over hearts and minds when it preaches to the vulnerable and uneducated. 


Final Thoughts

Why did I do this? Several reasons. First, I wanted to challenge myself. I think no one should ever get complacent in their worldview for too long, and a good challenge is necessary from time to time. That beings said, Phil Fernandes' questions were hardly a challenged as I consider myself pretty seasoned in the realm of counter apologetics. This shows you how naive he is about his own views of religion, science and philosophy. I'm sure William Lane Craig could've provided much tougher questions.

Second, I did this for other atheists and skeptics out there who may have been hit with one of Phil's questions either online or in person and needed to look it up online to find an answer. If someone in that position hit my site and I was able to provide them with a decent answer that they could also possibly use as a counter argument, I will have considered this a success. As I come across additional challenges on the internets, I will take them head on too. If you have any questions or need me to elaborate on an answer, feel free to ask, and I will try to provide you with a more thorough response. 

Until then, this is your atheist in the city here, keepin' it secular. Over and out.

Questions For Atheists - Part 6 (Prophesy, Christianity, Jesus Christ)


In part 6 of Phil Fernandes' questions to challenge atheists, we focus on Christianity and its central figure, Jesus Christ. I've recently become somewhat obsessed with biblical criticism and criticism specifically of Christianity so this should be an interesting set of questions for me. Let's see if my atheism can maintain its intellectual integrity through this gauntlet or if it turns out that it's Phil's questions that make him lose his integrity.


PROPHESY
1. Since absolutely no Bible prophecy has ever failed (and there are hundreds), how can one realistically remain unconvinced that the Bible is of Divine origin?


I hear this from devout Christians all the time. They are absolutely convinced that the Bible is the 100 % perfect word of god and that all biblical prophesies came true. It's a sad testament of their credulity. The one alleged prophesy that comes to mind that didn't succeed when I hear this assertion, is Jesus' promise to his followers that the end was near and that this would happen before his follower's generation would "pass away." (Matthew 24:29-35; also Mark 13:24-31) Well his followers have long since died, and no apocalyptic sign of Jesus in the sky with angles and a darkened sun and moon and falling stars has occurred. And to the skeptic like me, isn't it more obvious that the stories in the Bible that appear to confirm prophesies were simply just insertions of fiction by the authors who knew of the prophesies written in previous books and who wanted to fulfill them? 

2. How do you explain David's graphic portrayal of Jesus' death by crucifixion (Psalm 22) 1000 years before Christ lived?

I believe you can read into religious texts what ever you want, and you can twist vague references however you want to suite your needs. This question also assumes that the gospel accounts are correct and accurate about the details surrounding Jesus' death. I hold no such views. To me, the New Testament is at least partly a work of fiction whose authors simple wrote it in such a way to fulfill so called prophesies of the Old Testament. We have no contemporary sources of Jesus's life at all. And even the gospels themselves were written 40-70 years after the supposed events they describe by people who were not eyewitnesses and who were hearing the story probably on second, third and fourth hand accounts in Greece. 

3. How do you explain that the prophet Daniel prophesied the exact YEAR when the Christ would be presented as Messiah and also prophesied that the temple would be destroyed afterwards over 500 years in advance (Daniel 9:24-27)?

We simply don't know that the New Testament accounts of Jesus were accurate in some of their details, or whether they are partly fictional or completely fictional. If you know of a prophesy already written, you can fulfill it by acting it out, or, easier still, you can create a work of fiction that fulfills it. I am certain that the New Testament contains at least some fictionalized accounts in it from the narrative structure resembling myth, and the embellishments that Matthew, Luke and John contain from Mark's gospel. Aside from that, since Phil gives us no source other than the book of Daniel itself, there is criticism that the author of Daniel's numbers add up as expected. See this link here.

4. How could any mere human pinpoint the precise birth town of the Messiah seven full centuries before the fact, as did the prophet Micah?

The alleged prophesy in question here is from Micah 5:2. Here we can cite additional criticism from infidels.org, "The "Bethlehem" in Micah 5:2, rather than being a town, was very likely intended as a reference to the head of a family clan. What many people who stand in awe of this alleged prophecy fulfillment don't know is that a person named Bethlehem was an Old Testament character descended from Caleb through Hur, the firstborn son of Caleb's second wife, Ephrathah (I Chron. 2:18; 2:50-52; 4:4)." The passage in Micah also says that the person prophesied will be a "ruler in Israel." Jesus clearly was no ruler. Any reading of the verse will show you how vague it is as are all other alleged prophesies that I've been told exist in the Bible and the Qur'an. There is also evidence that the gospel accounts made Jesus' birth take place in Bethlehem in order to fulfill the alleged prophesy. So since Phil has no other accounts to corroborate where Jesus was born, or that he even lived at all other than the gospels, why should any skeptic accept this alleged prophesy as anything other than a work of fiction?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Questions For Atheists - Part 5 (God, Disbelief in God, The Bible)


In part 5 we get to the good stuff: god himself. Because after all, that's what this is all about and that's what this is all leading up to. Let's see if Phil's questions can rattle my atheism.


GOD
1. If you ARE God’s creation, isn't it true your present attitude is unfair to Him? Insulting, actually? And you thus have very good reason to deny His existence because you deserve punishment for your utter disregard? 


So let's say the Christian god is real, like it was empirically proven to me. I'd be fucking pissed. It would mean that I'd have to live under a celestial tyrant who is so insecure about himself that he demands constant admiration, devotion and worship. Yet he's somehow perfect. I would not be able to deny this truth. Why would me being god's creation make it required to worship him forever? Honestly, even if god did exist, I would not be able to bring myself to love him. Love cannot be forced, it must come natural. The only possible way that I'd respect god, would be to avoid his wrath, but then I would technically only be doing it for my own selfish purposes. And why should I deserve punishment for my disdain of god's personality? Am I not entitled to my own opinion under his rule? If not, then god is a tyrant as I said before. 

2. Are you willing to follow the evidence where it leads, and consider the “cumulative case” for God’s existence? If not, why?

I suppose the "cumulative case" for god's existence are the cosmological, teleological, moral and ontological arguments. If so, then yes I am willing to follow the evidence, and it has lead my right where I started off - atheism. The cumulative case for god amounts to nothing more than the "leaky bucket" approach. Each of these arguments are saddled with holes and so no matter how many you pile onto one another, they still amount to a bunch of leaky buckets that cannot hold any water.

3. Are you right about God? How do you know?

I am confidently sure that the god of the Bible - or better yet - the god of Abraham does not exist. How do I know? Because that god is logically impossible. Now could I be wrong? Perhaps. Could I be wrong that some other god cannot exist? Yes, there might be some sort of deistic god, or an evil god. But without any good evidence, I have no reason to believe in any of them.

4. If you are not right about God, do you know how to GET right with God?

It depends on the god. But why should I assume the Christian god is more real than the god of Islam? What evidence is the Christian offering me that's better than what the Muslim is offering me? Both gods are taken on articles of faith that requires huge leaps of logic and reason. 

Questions For Atheists - Part 4 (Evil, Morality)


I turn now to the questions on evil and morality. Let's see what they have to challenge atheism.


EVIL
1. Do you acknowledge the existence of evil (at least in your practice if not in your beliefs)?


Some atheists do not acknowledge evil or even that morality exists at all, I disagree with them. I do acknowledge that evil exists but evil isn't some kind of metaphysical entity like the devil. Evil is simply a term we apply to certain attitudes and behaviors. I define evil in practical terms as lacking empathy and compassion. In every evil situation you can think of it will be described in those terms.

2. When you complain about the problem of evil, aren’t you presupposing God?

No, because as I said evil is simply a descriptive term we use. It would exist irrespective of whether or not there was a deity.

3. If God does NOT exist, can 'good' and 'evil' exist? If yes, by whose ultimate authority and how is each empirically measured? 

By "exist" I think the theist means that good and evil are ontological entities. I don't ground the existence of good or evil in any kind of being, rather good and evil are those intentions and actions that either positively benefit conscious beings or those that negatively harm conscious beings, respectively. I reject notions of 'ultimate authority' because the only authority to me are empirical facts, which would of course cancel out all religions and deities.


MORALITY
1. What is the basis for the common moral values Christians and non-Christians, as a whole, seem to share?

We human beings are a species of warm blooded, social primates, and as such, there will be certain behaviors that benefit us and certain behaviors that will harm us. These behaviors we generally call good and bad, respectively. That's why there exists a very basic set of moral values that are shared among all cultures.  

2. Per the atheist worldview, is society ‘really’ evolving for the better? Why?

Yes. We are generally more compassionate towards one another, to animals, and to nature than we used to. We are less racist, less sexist, and we generally care more about minorities. The rates of violence has been on the decline, as was documented by Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature. Christians will always disagree with this. They think because more people are having sex outside of marriage and homosexuality is open, that we're heading towards Sodom and Gomorrah. But liberal views on sexuality and freedoms do not translate into violence and total societal decay. A healthy compassionate society can thrive with liberal sexual attitudes. That's one of the problems of Christianity - it unfairly and ignorantly labels all non-Christian behavior as evil. That's just like thinking all drugs are equally bad, or that all religions are equally violent. 

3. Would you agree with this statement: “Child pornography is immoral even though morality cannot be proven scientifically in a laboratory experiment?” If so, what is the genetic source of morality if humans have descended from apes?

Yes child pornography is immoral because children are not old enough to consent. It also has an aspect of it that is predatory in nature. Morality is not supposed to be proven in a laboratory, and although there are scientific aspects to morality, ultimately morality is a matter of philosophy. The source of our moral compass in human beings is mainly biological and philosophical. Evolution ingrained within us certain behavioral norms that lay at the foundation of our moral nature, then philosophies and cultures tweeked and customized this. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Questions For Atheists - Part 3 (Fossil Record, Archaeology, Information, The Immaterial)


In part 3 of answering Phil Fernandes' challenge to atheists, we cover several new topics like the fossil record, archaeology and information. I didn't notice until now that at the bottom of the web page it says, "Can you answer all these questions and maintain your disbelief with full intellectual integrity? We pray that many of these inquiries might nag at your atheism. If you feel so bold, we invite you to submit a full answer-set to todd(at)iLoveAtheists.com." Well I'm not done yet so we'll have to see if when I'm done these questions will be able to challenge my atheism. And I just might take him up on his offer. Now onto the questions!


FOSSIL RECORD
1. How do you account for the Cambrian Explosion? What is your evidence?


The Cambrian explosion, which occurred about 540 million years ago is the period in which most of the major phyla began appearing in the fossil record. Some creationists who've given up trying to disprove macroevolution as a whole have tried to make the case that the "explosion" of so much variety of new phyla must be evidence of god. First, the "explosion" took place over a period of about 20-30 million years. And second, we have ample evidence of the evolution of some of the phylum found in the Burgess shale in Canada and other deposits in China. There are also vast resources out there available to anyone looking to conduct research like booksblogsWikipedia and for the lazy, YouTube Given the vast amount of resources available online, there's really no excuse to be totally ignorant of evolution. If one wants to find answers, it is almost certainly out there online. 

I've written more about the Cambrian explosion here.

2. Can you provide specific evidence for species-to-species transitional forms in the fossil record?

Phil is apparently resting his personal case for theism on evolution being false, so he's not even a sophisticated theist like Dr. Francis Collins, or Dr. Ken Miller. So I guess this means that if evolution is true, Christianity is false, since it seems like Phil is making it a dichotomy. So he wants evidence for one specific fossil record indicating speciation. Well OK. Here's the evolution of the whale from land dwelling animals: 



There are additional resources here on whale evolution: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evograms_03

I must say that any theistic position that wants to lay its foundation on creationism, whether old earth or young earth, is automatically committing intellectual suicide.

Questions For Atheists - Part 2 (Science, Origins, Design & Order, Evolution)


Continuing from part 1 on my answers to the questions posed by Catholic apologist Phil Fernandes on his site, iloveatheists.com, the next group of questions concern the origin of the universe and evolution and get a bit more complex. But Phil's questions overall are mostly softballs. They'd only be a challenge to a high school kid or college kid who's never looked deeply into the reasons why they are an atheist and who is not knowledgeable of science. I am; and I show how his questions show how ignorant he is of our current scientific knowledge.


ORIGINS
1. Do you believe that the Universe expanded from a primordial hot and dense initial condition at some finite time in the past and continues to expand to this day? 


Yes. The big bang and inflationary models show that that is pretty much exactly what happened.

2. Rewinding back to the origin of the Universe, how much matter can be put into zero spatial volume? 

According to the laws of physics, as we rewind the clock back to the singularity, the energy and density levels reach infinity, while the radius of the singularity becomes zero. Physicist Alexander Vilenkin writes about this in his book Many Worlds In One.

3. If a Supernatural Transcendent Causal Agent does NOT exist, what brought the Universe into existence?

This question assumes that the universe must have had a cause. But if the beginning of the universe is the beginning of time itself, then it could not have had a cause, because the the cause would have had to precede time. That's logically equivalent of saying that I was born before I was born. It's impossible. We are simply in no position to assert that the universe has a cause because quantum mechanics shows us that things can begin to exist uncaused. Alex Vilenkin said in an interview

In quantum physics, events do not necessarily have a cause, just some probability. As such, there is some probability for the universe to pop out of “nothing.” You can find the relative probability for it to be this size or that size and have various properties, but there will not be a particular cause for any of it, just probabilities.

If you combine the probability of quantum mechanics with the B-theory of time, you can a strong picture that the universe doesn't need a cause and that it never began to exist in the true ontological sense. 

4. Can you provide EMPIRICAL evidence for ANYTHING spontaneously appearing out of nowhere?

"Nowhere" is the key word here. Nothing that happens in our universe will truly be nowhere, it will always be somewhere - because it's in the universe. So this question is deliberately worded in such a way that it cannot be answered. The closest we can get to "nowhere" is the quantum vacuum where we can observe virtual particles spontaneously appearing out of. But since theists demand verification when it comes to science that refutes their claims, I demand the same "empirical evidence" for the miraculous claims that Catholics assert as truth.

5. What is your best explanation for the origins of intelligent life? Why?

My best explanation is not the best explanation because I'm not an evolutionary biologist. But, any explanation that I can give will be better than "god did it." As multicellular life evolved, predation arose as a byproduct. Once predation arose, there was an evolutionary arms race between predator and prey. This set in motion the natural selection mechanism that favored for organisms sensing their environments because it could allow them to find food and avoid danger better. Organisms became aware of their environment and rudimentary consciousness arose. Natural selection favored those organisms whose consciousness could process more complex information and eventually one organism's consciousness got so complex that it became conscious of itself. One of those species was homo sapiens - us.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Questions For Atheists - Part 1 (Truth, Matter in Motion, Afterlife, Supernatural, Miracles)


Phil Fernandes has been a Catholic apologist for over 20 years. He has a site called "I Love Atheists - just not their worldview" which is supposed to be a site that explains Christianity to skeptics and lapsed Catholics. In his debates he basically plagiarizes William Lane Craig's standard mantra for the case for god, and does a great job doing a bad impersonation of him. After I saw a debate on YouTube of him debating Jeff Lowder, I decided to look him up and I came across his website. On it, there's a page called Questions For Atheists, with what I assume are supposed to be challenges for the atheistic worldview. So I decided that I'd take a crack at it, and offer some brief answers from my atheist perspective.


TRUTH
1. What or whom do you consider to be YOUR chosen intellectual starting point, your supreme authority for knowledge, your final standard for truth? Why?

Truth lies in the inability to be contradicted. I don't hold onto truth by authority. There are no authorities in science for example. Any scientist can be challenged, and any scientist can be wrong. I certainly don't ground truth in ancient scriptures that are full of contradictions. Evolution has equipped us with accurate senses and cognitive faculties (which I defend here), and so we have to use them to construct the best possible picture of reality we can. We may get some things wrong, as is expected, but aside from certain a priori truths, I rely heavily on science to guide my standard of truth because it is the best method we have for weeding out facts from nonsense.

2. Would you consider turning skepticism on itself and examine your own assumptions?

Of course! Everything should be critically examined, including atheism. But considering how naturally gullible the human mind is for easy answers that on close examination make little to no sense, a healthy dose of skepticism is more than warranted.

3. If God exists, could Christianity be exclusively true?

I have serious doubts that the god of the Bible is logically possible or even coherent. (See here and here) If god is defined as the greatest conceivable being, then all I have to do is conceive of a being greater than Yahweh, and that makes it impossible that Yahweh is god. Thus, the ontological argument can be used to disprove the god of the Bible. So no, even if god did exist, Christianity would almost certainly be false.

Godless In Paradise



I am lucky enough to have done my fair share of traveling.

In the summer of 2010 I went to Bali, Indonesia to visit my father, sister and nephew. I had just graduated college and it was an exciting time in my life. I had been there before but not as an adult and I now had the chance to understand its culture and people with a deeper meaning.

Bali is an island in the Indonesian archipelago with a population of 3.8 million people. It is home to the majority of Indonesia’s Hindu population, giving the island a distinct cultural feel apart from the rest of the mostly Islamic population of the country.

Bali is rich in culture and draws millions of tourists every year. Some people who go, never want to leave, and a community of ex-patriots has grown from all over the world. My sister is one of them.

I arrived in the early morning to my sister’s house after a long car ride from the airport. When I got to my room, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The view from the balcony was amazing. It was like being in a dream, a surrealistic tropical dream. The house was situated on a hill overlooking a valley below that contained a stream. Halfway down the valley there was also a swimming pool. I thought to myself, “This was paradise found.”


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"God Is Plain To Them, Because God Has Made It Plain To Them." An Atheist Reponds


I'm really beginning to hate the book of Romans. There are many verses from it that I see theists often using so that they can claim knowledge over you in a debate. Just like Psalm 53:1, Romans 1:19-21 says that everyone knows god exists, and that atheists are really just deniers. Theists will throw this piece of rhetoric at you when then know they can't provide any real evidence that their god exists. So let me provide some justification on why I loath this verse.

First, if everyone knows the "truth" that the god of the Bible is real, then how come most gods that were fabricated are different from Yahweh? I mean, even today only 30 percent of the world believes Yahweh is real, and the other several billion theists alive have a wide range of deities they worship. It is far from "plain" that we all have an innate sense to know that the god of the Bible is real, as opposed to countless varieties of other gods.

Second, we have very good natural evolutionary reasons that can explain why we tend to believe in gods at all. I summarized this when I critiqued Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. Attributing agency to natural events seems to have been hard wired in us as it benefited our survival.

Third, the theist who holds to this doctrine in Romans fails to acknowledge the fact that some people are simply not religious. Some people like myself are who Blasé Pascal wrote of when I affirm that I am "so made that I cannot believe." I am a natural born skeptic; I've never had a religious inkling in me, ever. From the earliest age I could see through the lies of religion, and I never fell under its spells. That's something I am arrogantly proud of.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Percentage Of Prisoners Are Atheist?


This has been a hot topic of debate and often comes up when debating morality and atheism with theists. There was a study that came out in 1997 that said the percentage of atheists in federal prison was .2 percent. But a more recent study made by the Federal Bureau of Prisons that was obtained when the "Friendly Atheist" Hemant Mehta over at Patheos filed a Freedom of Information Act. The results he got back were recently compiled into a spreadsheet that can be seen below:


Given that recent studies put the number of atheists in America at about 2.4 %, according to this study by the FBP, atheists are .07% of the prison population, far lower than their overall makeup. Interestingly, those who report "No Prefer" are 17 %, and this is slightly lower than the rate of "Nones" which is about 19.6 % according to recent Pew studies.

We don't know what "Unknown" and "Other" exactly means as this could encompass a wide range of personal theistic and spiritual beliefs.

We also don't know if the prisoners converted in prison or if their religious affiliation was different at the time they committed their crimes. These numbers were also self-reported by prisoners to the prison system, they are not the result of widespread polling conducted on behalf formal statistical gatherings.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Short Look At William Lane Craig's "Refutations" Of The B-Theory Of Time


Over at the website Closer To Truth, which is a site about an agnostic who goes around interviewing philosophers and scientists to try to find answers to the biggest and deepest mysteries of the meaning of existence and the universe, there is a profile of William Lane Craig. In it, they summarize his arguments against the tenseless theory of time. I want to quickly address them here.

Craig's done his homework to try to put this theory to rest, but I think he ultimately fails. I'm not going to go into detail here, but I will add a few thoughts how I think each of his refutations are ultimately baseless.


I. Arguments for the Tensed Theory of Time

A. Tensed sentences, which can neither be translated into synonymous tenseless sentences nor be given tenseless, token-reflexive truth conditions, correspond, if true, to tensed facts.


Craig here is making the case that since our language is constructed around tensed perception (e.g. before, during, and after), then it means the tensed theory of time is likely true. But this is baseless. Yes languages make temporal distinctions, but linguistic social constructs like tensed words do not dictate what the ultimate physical nature of time is, and function merely as a pretense to the tensed theory of time. Under a tenseless of time, we can still use tensed language out of convenience and practicality.

B. The experience of temporal becoming, like our experience of the external world, is properly regarded as veridical.

Our perception of all kinds of things are intuitively based on our limited knowledge and our subjective experiences of the world. Craig here relies so heavily on his intuition, as he often does, but science has shown us time and time again that our intuition and perception of reality is not sufficient to understand it. That's why we need science to understand how it really is.


II. Refutation of Arguments against the Tensed Theory of Time


A. McTaggart’s celebrated paradox is based upon the misguided marriage of a tenseless ontology of events or things with objective temporal becoming, as well as the unjustified assumption that there should exist a unique, complete description of reality.


McTaggart's paradox can be summed up with the following argument:

1. Future, present and past are incompatible properties, but
2. in time every event appears to possess them all, and
3. these two propositions entail the contradiction that events have incompatible properties.

I think what Craig may be saying here is that an event's properties are time dependent, as a tensed theory would entail, but that McTaggart is holding a tensed view of events to a standard that is best explained in a tenseless view of events where all events are ontologically equal and thus a completed description of reality is found. My rejection of the tensed view is not based on any paradoxical semantic argument, whether it is well founded or not, it is on the data we get from physics that lean towards the tenseless view being true.

B. The passage of time is not a myth, but a metaphor for objective temporal becoming, a notion which can be consistently explicated on a presentist metaphysic.

But presentism cannot explain the relativity of simultaneity and the equations of special relativity and quantum mechanics. Physicist Paul Davies notes, “Nothing in known physics corresponds to the passage of time.” This is why most physicists and a large percentage of philosophers see time in the tenseless view. "We do not really observe the passage of time" Davies writes, "what we actually observe is that later states of the world differ from earlier states that we still remember. The fact that we remember the past, rather than the future, is an observation not of the passage of time bit of the asymmetry of time."*

Friday, July 19, 2013

Disproving The Unfalsifiable


It is important to remember as atheists that we can never really disprove god per se with science. At best, science will be able to show that god is redundant by providing a natural alternative explanation. As our scientific knowledge increases and natural explanations grow greater and greater, the theist who stakes his foundation for god on a current gap in our knowledge, like the origin or DNA, or consciousness, has his days numbered. And if you think about it, resting your "proof" for god in a current gap in our knowledge is a pretty lousy reason to believe in god anyway.

But there exists the world of logic and philosophy. And through this medium, I think we can indeed disprove certain specific concepts of god on pure logic alone, because let's face it, god is as far as we know, is just a concept.

I've always had trouble digesting the idea that an all-loving god could be compatible with the cruelty and suffering required by the evolutionary process, and how no loving god could prefer that such a drama unfold. Over the years I've heard many wild assertions to try to get out of this problem ranging from fundamentalist denials of evolution, to beliefs that all animals have souls and go to heaven, or that non of them were ever meta-conscious.

Over at SkepticInk, I've been going back and forth with a theist named Vincent Torley from the intelligent design site Uncommon Decent, who responds to my Evolutionary Argument Against God:

1. Any creature capable of third-level pain awareness is self-aware and therefore has an immortal soul of some sort. 2. The claim that it's wrong to create humans using a method that involves conscious suffering is not necessarily true, if the creatures that consciously suffer also have an immortal hereafter.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

“The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”


I was reading the Bible recently and came across 2 Thessalonians 3 where it states a few warnings against idleness, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Since we are a "Christian nation" largely by culture, I now understand why the Republicans favor economic policies that cut social services. They take cue from this passage where they interpret those who need federal assistance as those trying to sponge off of the system without working for it. And all this time I had wrongly conceived Christianity in my head. I thought it would support social welfare programs, but it doesn't. It all makes sense now why conservatives think no one should be allowed to take any money from the government. A Christian conservative does technically have the biblical justification for saying that those on welfare or those on any kind of government assistance should be thrown off the rolls.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Alan Watts On Christianity




A few years ago I came across the British-American philosopher Alan Watts. He was one of the foremost interpreters of Zen Buddhism and Eastern schools of thought in his day during the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Although he was for a time an Episcopalian priest, he left the church and was often critical of Western religions like Christianity. His criticism of Christianity is not typical of the brash New Atheism we are accustomed to today. He does not slam the church and the scriptures with the wield of a sledgehammer like Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins does, but in his remarks you can pick up some of the precursors that these contemporary critics deploy.

He wasn't even an atheist as far as I know but he did accept that there was some sort of higher power in the universe. Nonetheless, I am not so hardened an atheist that I cannot respect someone who accepted into his life something beyond pure materialism.

Watts believed that there was some sort of a transcendent nature to reality. I personally interpret this transcendent phenomena as simply just being an aspect of our consciousness that we often interpret in the language of spirituality. "God" is just a word we use to express these feelings we sometimes get in the context of the religions we were raised in, and Watts was perfectly aware of this as he says in this lecture. Listen to this critique he gives of Christianity from a slightly different perspective from what we are used to today.

Why The "Inner Witness To The Holy Spirit" Is Evidence Of Nothing


When all else fails for the theist, many decide that they can always fall back on the "inner witness to the holy spirit." This is true among Christians but other theists and New Age types that I've debated with in person have similar justifications for their beliefs. For example, I remember one time talking to this woman who described herself as "spiritual" who told me she knew for a fact that the spiritual force behind the universe had put certain situations into her life for a purpose. All attempts to inject a little skepticism to the conversation were futile. But people like this I think highlight what is at the core of religious/spiritual belief  that there is at heart, primarily an emotional basis for belief in god or one particular religion and things like the "inner witness to the holy spirit" are really just manifestations of strong emotional triggers contextualized in a Christian environment.

It seems that some people just "know" that god or some higher power exists because they "feel" it, and nothing can come in their way. But it always seemed obvious to me that the fact that Christians, Hindus, Mormons and New Age spiritualists alike can all have these amazing emotional/spiritual experiences, that their experiences were indicative of nothing more than just our natural tendency to attribute deeper meaning to our emotional experiences and hallucinations. For example, if the Christian god existed, why would he be giving Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims amazing transcendent spiritual experiences when they meditate, chant and pray? These experiences often lead to the faith of those believers increasing, and as a result often takes them further away from ever becoming a Christian. It seems odd that the Christian god would give any non-Christian a spiritual experience that strengthens their non-Christian faith.

Christians have two general answers to this dilemma: (1) The spiritual experiences of non-Christians are mistaken or are possibly caused by the devil; or (2) in the Calvinist tradition, these people are being purposely mislead by god because god has predestined them to hell where he wants them. Since I think Calvinism is intellectually bankrupt, I will focus on (1).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Refuting William Lane Craig: William Lane Craig Fails Again On Gratuitous Evil


I wrote my Evolutionary Argument Against God partly in response to Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, and William Lane Craig's fuck up on animal suffering.

On a recent Q&A on his website, ReasonableFaith, Craig addresses the problem of gratuitous suffering. A writer asks Craig about his debate with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (which I reviewed here) where Armstrong made an argument that gratuitous evil is incompatible with god:

your response to the problem of gratuitous natural evil seems to create a problem for people who want to be moral. I perceive a baby dying of a painful disease as a moral evil and I judge God to be an immoral monster for allowing that to happen. But your response suggests that my judgment is in error: how do I know God does not have some greater reason for allowing that suffering?       

 Now onto Craig's response. He says,

There’s just no good reason to be a moral sceptic unless you’ve got some sort of really powerful argument for atheism, an argument whose premises are attested even more powerfully than the existence of objective moral values and duties. But what could that argument be? You yourself recognize that the argument from apparently gratuitous evil in the world will not do because of the infeasibility of proving that the evil we see is, indeed, gratuitous. So what justification is there for being an atheist and, hence, a moral sceptic?

In my review of Craig's debate with Armstrong, I pointed out that Craig's rebuttal didn't even begin to address the problem of conscious animal suffering. This is clearly a case of gratuitous suffering. Also, Craig justifies human suffering by saying it is the fault of man's sin and rebellion against god, but how does that account of millions of years of evolution that required suffering long before humans arrived on the scene? Craig's appeal to animals not having meta-cognition has been debunked numerous times, and even Craig admits primates have meta-cognition. 


Then Craig says,

Given our historical and cognitive limitations, I think that we are simply not in a position to say with any sort of confidence that the evil we observe in the world is pointless or unnecessary.

This is the old, "The Lord works in mysterious ways" adage in modern form. If the atheist cannot say gratuitous suffering exists, then what information does the theist have that the atheist cannot know that allows the theist to say that it doesn't? Scripture? Unproven dogma written by Iron-age people full of superstition? I have not heard a reasonable case that didn't deviate tremendously from standard Christian ethic to justify millions of years of animal and pre-human hominid suffering with god, none of which was necessary. Now the issue Craig is addressing here is a human baby suffering. Craig says it's perfectly consistent with god's character and has justified this belief elsewhere because he says that baby can get a chance to go to heaven. But here he's equating compensation with justification.

Then Craig offers a critique of consequentialism:

On consequentialism if your torturing and raping a little girl would somehow ultimately redound to the benefit of mankind, then not only is this action morally permissible for you, but you are morally obligated to do it!

On Craig's divine command theory, if god commands that you sacrifice your son or commit genocide against the neighboring tribe and take their land and underage girls, "then not only is this action morally permissible for you, but you are morally obligated to do it!" Craig willfully ignores how absurd his divine command system of ethics is.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Stand Your Ground


Are the stand your ground laws moral? That's a tough one for me. I can reasonably support the idea of a person having the right to defend their home from an intruder and to use lethal force if necessary. Most reasonable people understand that self defense is a situation that can warrant the right to kill someone. The George Zimmerman case is a bit different. While he was acquitted of all charges, he did act the part of a vigilante. He approached someone he thought looked suspicious because that person looked like the kind of people who had committed robberies in his neighborhood.

I did not watch the trial in detail but it seems to me that in the wake of the verdict, we need to take a closer look at the stand your ground laws. It is a little excessive to say that anyone has the right to pursue anyone else who appears suspicious and threatening and that they can shoot or kill that person regardless of whether they are on their own property or anywhere they have a "right to be." It is defined on Wikipedia as allowing a person to "justifiably use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, without an obligation to retreat first." It is that clause that takes away the "obligation to retreat" that is what's bugging me and many critics of the stand your ground laws. This means a person like George Zimmerman can follow perceived trouble in a confrontational way and incidences like his encounter with Trayvon Martin can be legalized.

What I think should be done is to reform the stand your ground laws so that an obligation to avoid any perceived threat is required so long as a person is not under a personal threat.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”


This is one of Jesus' most famous lines from John 8:7 and is shown in nearly every portrayal of him. But according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, world renowned New Testament scholar, there is a textual variant of this passage. This story was not originally in the gospel of John, and was added by scribes many centuries later.

In the earliest manuscripts of the gospel of John, this story simply doesn't appear. "The Greek authors who wrote commentaries on the gospel of John over the centuries," Ehrman says in a lecture on his book Misquoting Jesus, "don't mention this story until the tenth century, a thousand years after the days of Jesus." He continued that the writing style in this passage differs from the writing style of the rest of the gospel. "Scholars have known for years that this story did not originally belong in the gospel of John."

But the question arises, where did the story originate from if not from the text? No one knows for sure, but Ehrman suggests a theory. "Some scribe had heard the story, they heard the story and decided that it illustrated some of the teachings in John chapter 7 and so they wrote out the story in a margin. A second scribe came along, saw the story in a margin and thought that it belonged in the text, and then wrote his manuscript by writing the story in the text. Another scribe comes along and copies that manuscript and that manuscript gets copied, and so on until it becomes part of the textual tradition."

And that's how these kinds of variants get added into the "holy" Bible.

It is amazing how so blatant an alteration and how so gullible a mind can be fooled into faithfully observing the text of the Bible as the wholly inspired word of god. But in truth, the average Christian will not know this. You have to in some way have been a person who's done some research into the historicity of the New Testament in order to know such a thing. But after having done so, I cannot see how any believing Christian can still think the Bible is the perfect word of god.



Tokyo For Foreigners



Watching a few documentaries recently on YouTube about the experiences of culture shock of Westerners in Japan got me thinking of the time I visited Tokyo in 2010. Now I love to travel, but I truly hate that experience you get when you're in a foreign land and cannot speak the language. It almost turns you into a toddler, unable to communicate the most basic of needs and wants. I once got terribly lost in the Tokyo subway system and asking people for help was virtually futile as hardly anyone spoke English. Nonetheless, the Japanese people I asked were very nice, and they tried their best. I somehow eventually found my way.


So what was my experience like in Tokyo? Well, I remember the first night in Tokyo I went to the Shibuya district, which is kind of like Tokyo's Time Square. It's a very trendy district and full of Japanese hipsters. I felt a bit out of place because I wasn't stylish enough. I hadn't really brought any stylish clothes with me because the main destination that I was going to was Bali, and Bali is a tropical resort where you really have to dress as minimally as possible because of the heat and humidity.

And so I spent the night ogling at the people...

Now I come from New York, and we have plenty of Asian people, so being around tons of Asians is not something new to me. But in Japan it's a different story. I was on their turf, their land, where their history goes back centuries, uncorrupted by strong Western influence. Although Japan was occupied by America after World War II, the Japanese, being a very secretive people, and living on an island, have been able to retain a strong core to their cultural identity. Whatever American or Western influences you see there are mainly on the surface.

So of course I headed over to Starbucks for a drink.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Logic - The Structure Of Reason




Dealing with arguments for god has made me a lot more accustomed to the study of formal logic. Here's a nice educational video of the history and structure of logic that also highlights some of it's shortcomings. It always amazes me when I catch wind of some over-enthusiastic theist who hears the cosmological argument or the ontological argument and thinks it's "proof" that god exists. They are obviously unaware of the problems of induction (which the first premise of the kalam cosmological argument relies on) and the problem of equating the possible with the actual (which the ontological argument relies on).

As Kurt Godel, the Austrian logician said, "One cannot claim with certainty of any formal system that all conceptual considerations are represented in it."

A Question To A Theistic Evolutionist On Lust


If god used the evolutionary process to make human beings, then why would god use a process that would knowingly embed lust into our very nature and then make it a sin to have lust?

For example, in virtually every species, especially mammalian species, there is one gender that is sexually aggressive, usually the male. There must be one gender that initiates reproduction in order to ensure the survival of the species. The impetus of this initiation is sexual lust. Lust is necessary to ensure the survival of all species. A male must desire more than he can ever have to increase his odds of his chances of finding a mate. That's built right into the evolutionary process - naturally.

If god designed it that way, then his blue print for sexually reproducing species included the necessary requirement of lust. God would have known that humans would be no exception to this rule, and that sexual lust would be the impetus driving our species as well. But then, according to theists, after millions of years of a lust driven survival-of-the-fittest routine, god decides that with humans it is a sin to have lust in one's heart and to even think about a women who is not your wife in a sexual way, much less act on it. And this only applies to males.

Does this honestly make sense? Why would god use evolution, knowing that it would embed certain behavioral traits into our very DNA and nature, only to suddenly tell us that these very traits that god designed into us (via evolution) are sinful and forbidden? Why not just create humans without lust? Or without evolution? And when it comes to homosexuality, why not just make it so that no humans have homosexual desires? Why make some people born with homosexual lust only to forbid its practice under penalty of death? God would have to be at least partly sadistic in order to have designed it this way. The easy option for me has always been to delete god out of the picture. But for theists who refuse to do that, how do you explain this dilemma?
 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Creationists Will Never Learn


It is amazing how many creationists there are out there still clinging on to the idea that god created us all and all the species of life at some point in the past. There's so much variety in their fantasy beliefs. Some are young earthers who take Genesis 1 literally word for word. Others are old earthers who think god created each species separately but made them each successively distinct from one another in chronological order that gives the appearance that they evolved, but are each separate creations.

The young earthers are obviously crazy, the old earthers are a small step closer to reality, but why would a god create all the world's species over millions of years making it look as if they evolved? That makes no sense and it points to a god who intentionally deceives. Old earthism seems to me like another insincere and ad hoc explanation of reconciling creationism with the fossil record and age of the earth.

A quick Google search will show anyone that there are numerous websites that cater to the quote mining needs of some disingenuous creationists who needs a bunch of cut-and-paste sentences of a few scientists expressing "doubts" about evolution. They're ready-made for the creationist to plaster on their website or blog, and function as the lazy man's way to outsource the debate to so called "expert testimony."

A Theist Responds To "How To Destroy Any Theist Making The Moral Argument For God"


A rather ill-informed and logically impaired theist responded to a recently post I made where I showed the proper use of the Euthyphro Dilemma against the moral argument for god. As I wrote in the post, you absolutely must respond to the most common objection that theists will give - that it's a false dilemma and that god is good.

I wrote, "If God is the standard of goodness, by what means can we know this to be true? So we can ask, why is God good?

The theist responds, "Because He is... Good, The only Good is, God(YHWH: The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit)"

He obviously is not aware of this thing in logic known as circular reasoning. "God is good because he is good" is a textbook example of circular reasoning. We hear this all the time as atheists dealing with logically impaired fundies. They'll say, "The Bible is true because the Bible says it's true." Same circular logic. You can't prove the Bible is true using the Bible, you can't define a word using the same word, and you can't demonstrate god is good by saying god is good, because then the word "good" becomes meaningless, something this theist apparently didn't register when I wrote it. It gets annoying dealing with so many bad arguments for god it's not even funny.

But I continued...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Maps Of War


Check out this really cool site that allows you to see the history of empires of the Old World going back to 3000 BC. One interesting thing to note as it begins is that the Kingdom of Egypt around 2,000 - 1,000 BC controlled the land of Israel - showing you that the Old Testament stories of the Jewish Exodus is nonsense - the Egyptians already controlled the land of Canaan (Israel), so the Jews could not have fled there to evade them.

www.mapsofwar.com


Spread of ancient near-eastern empires:



Spread of world's major religions:

Can't We All Just Get Along?


It just recently occurred to me what being an antitheist has made me. At the slightest hint of someone expressing religious faith I can't help but have this urge to pounce on them and argue and debate them on how their religious beliefs are absurd and unsupported by evidence. What kind of person has this made me? What would a world be like if everyone were adamantly polemic like myself about their beliefs?

Now when I'm in public, I don't confront people who I suspect are theists and challenge them. Not at all. I mostly let people's public displays of religion slide. Occasionally, I will ask them a few thought provoking questions just to see what kind of reaction I will get to see where it goes, but I am not at all the atheistic equivalent of Ray Comfort doing his "man-on-the-street" style confrontational interviews. When I get drunk at bars I do sometimes get cocky and want to debate religion and politics, but in liberal New York, most people already agree with my atheistic and liberal slant.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Real Actors Read From Christian Forums


I came across these videos several months ago and found them hilarious. They take real transcripts from Christian forums and have them read by actors. They dramatize the logical absurdities that many Christians say about secularism, evolution and atheism.


If Atheists Ruled the World:



On Evolution:



Atheists versus computers:



On evolution again:



On evolution yet again:




Monday, July 8, 2013

How To Destroy Any Theist Making The Moral Argument For God


I just debated a very incompetent opponent on debate.org over whether the moral argument for god is sound. I hit him with the very well known Euthyphro Dilemma to see if he could handle it—and apparently he couldn't because he almost completely ignored it.

Now when making the Euthyphro, you absolutely must preempt the most common response that theists are going to use—that god is good. If you cover that before they make it, as I have below, then you leave your opponent no room to get out of it, and they're logically backed into a corner.

So the following passage from my debate below is how to do that properly, in case any theist pulls the moral debate on you:

One counter argument to the moral argument is called the Euthyphro Dilemma. It was posed by Socrates 2,400 years ago. It asks, “Is something moral because God commands it, or does God command it because it is moral?” 
The person who believes objective morality is founded in God here has two options. If something is moral because God commands it, then morality is arbitrarily decided by God. God could command that we murder our children or own slaves and it would be good – merely because God said so. The actual commands would be meaningless and we’d have no way to gauge whether something is morally good or not except on whether it was commanded by God. This would be a “might makes right” ideology.

In the other option, God is merely a messenger who alerts us to what is right or wrong independently to whether God exists or not. Morality is not decided by God, God is simply the enforcer of what is naturally right or wrong.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

An Atheists Reads "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist" & "Reasonable Faith"


I came across YouTuber Steve Shives a few months back. He critiques some of the most popular apologetics books out there and does a pretty good job doing so. Check out his videos and channel on YouTube for an insightful look at the underbelly of Christian apologetics.


An Atheist Reads I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist:




An Atheist Reads Reasonable Faith:

Cargo Cults


The fascinating phenomenon of the "cargo cults" that emerged on various South Pacific islands during World War II provides us with a modern example of how religions can grow. According to the reports, when American military planes began arriving with cargo during the war effort against the Japanese, the natives thought the airplanes were from the gods and that the cargo they were carrying were sent from their dead ancestors and intended for them.

But the white men, with their runways and their air traffic control towers, lured the airplanes away from the natives, and thus were taking what belonged to them. So in an effort to lure the planes to their rightful beneficiaries, they built mock runways and air towers hoping that a plane would descend from the heavens and bring them cargo and make them all rich and prosperous. They emulated military routines: marching, formations, saluting, some even would write "USA" on their chests—all to do what they thought the white man was doing to attract the attention of the planes.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Possible Worlds And Divine Options: Another Look At The Problem Of Suffering



When I occasionally debate theists on the problem of suffering they will sometimes say that god had no choice but to create a world in which there is suffering. Or they will say that for every possible world that god could have created, there will always be one that is better, and so no possible world will ever be ideal. Given this constraint, god decides to create whatever world he sees fit. He's motivated, according to some theists, to create the possible world in which the maximum number of people freely enter into a loving relationship with him. Since this is often espoused by the likes of William Lane Craig, I want to add a few thoughts to this concept.

First, when I say "possible world" here I'm simply talking about a possible state of affairs or a possible reality that could exist. So one possible world could be a world where I was ever born, or it could be one where everything is exactly the same but there are no humans, or one where everything is the same but the Nazis won World War II, etc. It's just a possible alternative reality that god hypothetically could have created.

Now given god's omnipotence for all things logically possible, he could have created many other possible worlds if he so desired. So why create the one we live in? Why create man using a long multi-billion year evolutionary process, that required millions of years of conscious suffering? Surely god is not constrained by natural forces to create his objectives. He must have chosen it beforehand for some reason. What that reason is, is open to conjecture on the part of the theist, but if he entertains the notion that god takes pleasure in the evolutionary process unfolding like an artist taking pleasure in the composition, then god would have to take pleasure in watching millions of animals consciously suffer for millions of years.

"Who Created God?"


You hear this question posed all the time by atheists. If god created the universe, then who created god? I once stumped a Catholic friend of mine with this question. He literally was unable to find a way to answer it. Now if you're a theist who does their homework, then you'll know that the answer to this question is that god is uncaused, uncreated and eternal.  God just always is.

Now I don't really use this question when debating god, unless I'm feeling really lazy and I know I'm dealing with an amateur apologist. But the question is not one to be immediately dismissed. The theist will generally defend the uncreated god two ways. First they'll say that god is a necessary being and invoke some aspect of the ontological argument; or they'll argue that god is timeless, eternal and therefore beginningless.

Necessary beings to me sound like a load of sophistry. When I try to think of necessary beings, the closest things I can think of are numbers and logic. But they aren't beings, they're not alive, I wouldn't even go so far to say that they exist in any kind of platonic sense. They're constructs that we use to describe reality; they would exist as concepts independent of human beings, like if there were perhaps, intelligent alien life somewhere out there, they'd come to the same mathematical truths we have. But numbers and logic don't exist in the same way that god does and plus the god concept is not fully logical.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Science Vs. Philosophy


Many of my fellow atheists are very quick today to discard philosophy in favor of science. Science has made philosophy irrelevant, they say, and philosophy no longer contributes anything useful to understanding reality. This is a problem in my view. Atheists hold science up in such high regard because we know it's largely been science that has cast light onto the darkness of man's ignorance, and has given us the best way of understanding reality that nothing else comes close to. But, we can not deny—we should not deny, the fact that in order to make sense of anything, you need philosophy.

Sure, science is the empirical methodology that we should all use to guide our philosophy, but science should not be used to replace philosophy altogether. To do so would be an egregious error on the part of the atheist. For example, how do you argue morality without using philosophy? It's impossible! Science is not going to give us definitive answers when it comes to ethics. Science can be used to guide our ethics when it comes to giving us empirical information about certain moral issues, but you will need philosophy to make any sense of that scientific data. And what about interpreting quantum mechanics? Science can allow us to predict quantum particles to eleven decimal places, but how do you interpret quantum weirdness properly? We have many theories, including the Copenhagen interpretation, and the many worlds interpretation. But science is not—at least not yet—going to give us definitive answers to these pressing issues. The philosophy of science is what guides these theories because the scientist who entertains such possibilities has left the realm of physics and entered the world of metaphysics.

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