Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guess What? I Saw Richard Dawkins Today!


One of the great things about living in New York is that big names swing by quite regularly. This evening I got to see the "world's most popular atheist" himself, Richard Dawkins. The event was hosted by the New York City Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America. It was rather modest: it was a small room with seating for only about 100-150 and unfortunately I missed the earlier lecture he gave about his new book, An Appetite for Wonder. I had to see the second viewing, in which he just took questions on cards we had filled out before the event. I wrote on my card my question for him, "What advice would you give to young atheists/secularists who want to carry the fight against religion and superstitions?" Unfortunately, I didn't get to have my question read in the second event that I attended, but they may have read it aloud to him in the initial event.

The reason why they had two events was because the line was so long they couldn't fit everybody in the venue, and so they had to split us up into two groups so that each group would get to see Dawkins speak for about 1 hour on his new book. At least, that's what I thought was going to happen. Instead, the first group probably got to see him lecture and then take questions, but the second group I was in just got to see him answer audience questions. But hey, the event was free and it wasn't out of my way or anything, so I can't complain much.

So now I've gotten to see three-fourths of the so called "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." I first saw Sam Harris during his book tour for The Moral Landscape, then I saw and met Hitchens at a debate over Islam, (and I also saw Michael Shermer give a lecture for his book, The Believing Brain, and I met Neil deGrasse Tyson too). Now that I've seen Dawkins, the only one left is Daniel Dennett. But to be honest, if I could meet any well known atheist and have a conversation with them, I'd prefer to meet a scientist like Lawrence Krauss or Sean Carroll. The reason why is because there are times when I'm debating a theist and I feel like I need a personal physicist to call on, kind of like a life line, when I need a highly technical question answered.

 Dawkins receiving an honorary New York City Atheists hat.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Christian Epiphany


I just recently had an epiphany about Christianity.

It started a few years ago when I was talking to a friend about the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. My friend said that he saw how Judaism and Christianity were similar to each other, like two brothers, but that Islam, he said, was like a distant cousin, very distinct from the two. At the time I concurred with him, but now I actually disagree. As I see it now, Judaism and Islam are a lot more similar to each other, and it is Christianity that's the distant cousin.

Think about it.

In Judaism and Islam, there are many dietary restrictions, like being forbidden from eating pork and fasting. It is forbidden to make engraven images of prophets, saints or god. God is purely monotheistic and immaterial, having no bodily forms. Houses of worship have no images, just words or calligraphy. Christianity on the other hand, has no dietary restrictions (not eating meat on Friday for Catholics during Lent was commutated). Engraven images abound on stained glass windows, statues, paintings, and crucifixes etc. And god is triune, coming in three forms that are separate and distinct yet all are one. That's considered blasphemy is Judaism and Islam.

It's Christianity that is the oddball of the three Abrahamic faiths when you really think about it.

This brings me to my epiphany. While watching a documentary recently about Indian shamans who are worshiped as gods by their followers, I thought to myself how odd it is for religions to be centered around people - mortals of flesh and bone, some of whom have died and are still worshiped as gods. I mean, who could worship a god that dies? And then it struck me. That's the same thing that Christians do! Christians worship a man - Jesus - as god, a man who they believe was divine and mortal.

All of these Indian religions now make more sense given this new perspective. And when Christianity is seen through this phenomenon of people worshiping other people as gods, a practice that goes back beyond the dawn of human civilization, and one that thrives in modern day India, I've been able to see it in a much different light. Christianity follows in the footsteps of those religions who had god-kings and demi-gods who were human or who took human form. In some ways, it's no different from the countless sects and religions throughout the world that worship shamans and mystics and that cling to their every word as manifestations of divine wisdom.

You can't have your faith and eat it too.



Monday, September 23, 2013

The Curious Case Of S.E. Cupp



OK, let's get one thing out of the way right now: she's hot. Like blood-leaving-my-brain-going-somewhere-else-so-I-can't-think hot. But I must not let her hotness influence my criticism of her. She's been called out by many atheists for her self loathing attitude towards her own worldview. (I thought that was reserved for Jews.) I don't get this woman. She proudly proclaims her atheism, but then spends much of her time criticizing atheists as "militant" (for the heinous crime of ranking politicians on their attitudes towards things like secularism and evolution!), says she'd never vote for an atheist president, and actually helps the Christian Right strategize ways to combat secularism. WTF?

Talk about self loathing. I mean Jews and Christians can be self loathing, but this is extreme. I'm having doubts that she really is an atheist, and not just a ploy to make atheists look bad. Older Fox News watching conservative religious Americans can watch her mouthing off rants against the intolerant godless liberals who are waging war to "overthrow God, and silence Christian America for good.” And they'd fall right for it and say, "Look, she's an atheist, she's one of them and she's exposing what we've been thinking is true all along! She must be right."

Does she really believe what she preaches? I'm not sure. An atheist can certainly be a conservative, although almost all atheists are socially liberal, even if they are fiscally conservative. But how can an atheist truly support the Christian Right in their attempt to destroy the separation of church and state? It's like a gay person supporting the discrimination against gay people. (She even hurts her own support for gay marriage when she helps the Right, this shows what a hypocrite she is.) That's where the self loathing part comes from. I've yet to actually meet any fellow atheists who were against secularism, at least not soft secularism. No one is advocating that all religious belief be banned and wiped clean from society. Not the American Atheists, nor the Secular Coalition for America, nor is Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. But apparently for Cupp, preserving Jefferson's meaning of the First Amendment, separating church and state, is too militant.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Science Lesson: Autumn Equinox


Today is the Autumn Equinox, and that means it is the first day of fall. On the equinox, the sun's rays fall directly onto the equator perpendicular to the earth. As a result, sunlight covers the earth equally from north to south pole (the same thing happens on the Spring Equinox). All over the world, day and night are the same length (12 hours) and the sun will set at due west on the horizon and rise due east.

As time moves forward heading to the Winter Solstice, which usually occurs around December 21st, the days in the northern hemisphere will begin to get shorter and the nights will get longer by about a minute every day. The opposite will happen in the southern hemisphere. Then it will reverse after the Winter Solstice and the days will get longer in the northern hemisphere until the Summer Solstice, which occurs usually around June 21st. This is what causes the seasons.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Nice Video Explaining The Origin Of The Universe





Watch AronRa and Friends Destroy Muslim Apologist Hamza Tzortzis






The Greatest Biblical Passage That's Actually Not In The Bible



"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."





Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cognitive Acrobatics On Slavery & Killing Naughty Kids, Once Again



The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism.

- Christopher Hitchens


This quote from Hitchens shows why I could never be a Christian. (And I've seriously tried to consider what it would be like.) As soon as I were to adopt any belief in god, I'd immediately be fraught with massive cognitive dissonance. Even the idea of a jovial god of pure love and peace wouldn't fare any less problematic. And considering my deep philosophical nature, trying to reconcile the existence of a god with the facts I'm aware of would drive me insane. Belief in god can only work if you don't think, or if you surrender your mind and adopt the mentality that whatever god does is perfect by definition, thereby alleviating you from the stinging questions of suffering and evil. But I just can't surrender my mind to anyone; I'm a thinker.

I've been debating this harebrained Jehovah's Witness recently, whose church is arguably a cult. JoHos are fundamentalists who take the Bible more or less literally. In addition to prohibitions on smoking and drinking, they believe we all descended from Adam and Eve roughly in the last 6-10,000 years, that Noah actually literally put two of every animal (including dinosaurs?) on a boat, and that every other miraculous claim in the Bible is true.

When debating Biblical morality over on Unreasonable Faith, it just amazes me what kind of cognitive acrobatics fundamentalists like JoHos have to do to keep composure. Consider this dialogue:

JoHo: God wills something because He is good. 
Me: I already refuted that and your response was that being loving compassionate and fair is good because god is loving compassionate and fair, and god is good because he is loving compassionate and fair. It's a circular argument. 
JoHo: You're conflating moral ontology with moral semantics. Our concern is with moral ontology, that is to say, the foundation in reality of moral values. Our concern is not with moral semantics, that is to say, the meaning of moral terms. We have a clear understanding of moral vocabulary like “good,” “evil,” right,” and so on, without reference to God. Thus, it is informative to learn that “God is essentially good.” 
Me: I know perfectly well the difference between moral ontology, moral semantics and moral epistemology. You're just cutting and pasting other people's arguments without even reading my responses to you because you know you will have to make a circular argument to get out of the Euthyphro dilemma.

A Walk Through Midtown


I had to have dental work in Midtown Manhattan the other day. I took a few pictures on my way out.


This building above under construction is 432 Park Avenue and is slated to be a 90 story residential tower that will be 1,398 feet tall. That's taller than the Empire State Building and the new Freedom Tower. It will be the second tallest building in America and tallest residential tower in the Western hemisphere when completed. See here. I'm not crazy about the boxy design but its height is stupendous.






This is the famous Citicorp building.


Looking down Park Avenue towards the Metlife building.


Some kind of street art. Hopefully it is recycled material.


I love how Gothic this building is.


"DAG PLAZA 5pm #S17 #RHT -TAX WALL STREET!"

I agree.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Does Anyone Remember What It Was Like Before The Internet?


I remember back in the days I would actually get bored from time to time.

I happen to be just old enough to remember a time before everyone had the internet. In the early 90s, many people didn't have a home computer, and the idea of the internet was still a sci-fi dream for most of us, talked about by wide-eyed futurists. I remember often getting bored. I remember what it felt like not having anything to do, not having any interesting shows on TV to watch, or books to read, or friends available to hang out with.

All that's changed now, because of the internet. Now I have unlimited entertainment at my finger tips. I can stream movies, documentaries and TV online, and watch them whenever I want. I can find information about anything from frog sexuality to the list of popes, instantly. I can read up on the latest scientific discoveries, the latest discussions in philosophy, or read from millions of different blogs about a variety of topics. I can watch debates and lectures on subjects I find fascinating from world renowned professionals in the field. Or, I can waste hours on social networking sites. It just never ends. I'm never bored anymore. There's never enough time in my day to be able to do and see all the things I want online, even on days when I have nothing to do.

It's impossible to be bored anymore. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?



Monday, September 16, 2013

Life, the Universe and Nothing: Why is there something rather than nothing?




This is the second debate that William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss had in Australia this past August. This debate topic was about why there is something rather than nothing. Craig used the cosmological argument from contingency to make his case, which I think is a slightly better version of the kalam cosmological argument. They didn't really go into detail over the argument during the discussion, but one thing the contingency argument presupposes is the principle of sufficient reason, which Craig cannot logically prove. He just assumes it. And unfortunately, since Krauss is not a philosopher (and is an outspoken hater of philosophy), he doesn't call Craig out on this. Overall, I think Krauss did a pretty decent job handling the inanity of Craig and his arguments but his ignorance to philosophy and religion weaken him in areas where he could have attacked Craig a lot harder. He at least deserves props just for being able to deal with him for 3 debates in a row.


A few highlights include 29:50 when Craig accuses Krauss of equivocating when it comes to the word "nothing." But Krauss says in his opener that he's using "nothing" to describe the quantum vacuum of empty space that was thought for many years to be absent of anything, and which we now know is actually filled with some 70 percent of the universe in the form of dark energy. A good philosophical argument can be made that it's actually impossible that absolute nothing ever existed, another point Krauss doesn't make because of his ignorance to philosophy. I make that argument here.

At 1:24:30 Lawrence says to Craig that book reviews can be nonsense, like movie reviews, and he is obviously referring to David Albert's critical review of his book A Universe From Nothing, that Craig used in his opening speech. And Craig nods in affirmation.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Excellent Documentary On The Landmark American Supreme Court Case That Ended Prayer In Public School





I don't know about you, but I went to public school for 12 years and god and religion to my knowledge was never taught by the curriculum. But that has not always been the case in America. Until McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), school districts all over America had religious classes taught. Children had to opt out of the class, and were often ostracized for doing so. One Illinois woman, Vashti McCollum, took the issue all the way to the Supreme Court when her son was made to sit in the hallway and principle's office and bullied by his classmates for opting out of the religious classes. The decision by the court that this was unconstitutional lead to the banning of all religious lessons in public schools and was one of the first times the high court extended the establishment clause in the First Amendment to the states.

Justice Hugo Black wrote in the courts opinion:

Neither a state nor the Federal government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of and religious organization or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State." 

Although the battle had been won, evolution was still banned from being taught in Arkansas public schools as per the results of the 1925 Scopes case in Tennessee, and that didn't change until 1968. Small battles continued to erupt across the US over religion and creationism in public schools, notably the recent Kitzmiller v. Dover case that declared "intelligent design" just creationism in disguise and not a valid scientific theory to be taught in public schools and therefore, unconstitutional. Still, the faithful never rest, and the fortification of the "wall of separation" will always need constant vigilance.



Friday, September 13, 2013

The Demon Hypothesis Analogy


Consider the following analogy:


A murder has been committed. There's a dead body, a broken door lock, a bloody knife, some finger prints, foot prints, and some scrapings of skin near the victim. Two detectives arrive on the scene. After examining the evidence they each reach two different conclusions. The first detective concludes that someone broke in, perhaps trying to steal something, fought with the victim, and ended up stabbing them and leaving in a hurry, leaving the knife at the scene. The second detective draws a different conclusion. He concludes that an evil demon appeared and killed the victim in such a way to make it only look as if it was a random murder, and carefully planted the evidence there to deliberately fool anyone investigating the situation. The second detective doesn't even think they should conduct an investigation, since he's already convinced it was a demon, and thinks any further investigation would be futile. The first detective thinks it's ludicrous to assume that a demon did it, and wants to immediately run the evidence into the criminal database for matches and have neighbors interviewed as possible eyewitnesses. Same evidence, two radically different conclusions.
They both begin to argue. The second detective accuses the first detective of presupposing that demons don't exist and can't be responsible for the murder. The first detective says that there's simply no evidence to draw the conclusion that a demon is the culprit, especially when there's finger prints, a broken lock, foot prints and a bloody knife. And he adds that the demon hypotheses has never worked in the past. Not once. Every solved crime has always had a human culprit. But the second detective argues that they cannot rule the demon hypothesis out, since it could be true, and as long as it's even a possibility, it should be considered valid. The first detective looks up and sighs.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Is God good because he is loving, compassionate and fair, or is being loving, compassionate and fair good because God is good?"


I recently asked a theist who was asserting the moral argument on a blog an alternate version of the Euthyphro dilemma. I asked him, "Is God good because he is loving, compassionate and fair, or is being loving, compassionate and fair good because God is good?" And he responded saying:

Being loving, compassionate and fair is good because God is loving, compassionate and fair. It is because God is that way that these qualities count as virtues in the first place. Essentially, God is good the same way water is wet, diamonds are hard and stars are blazing hot. So if we think of God’s goodness in terms of His possessing certain virtues rather than fulfilling certain duties, we have a more exalted and more adequate concept of God.

Interestingly, earlier this same theist said that god "is essentially loving, just, kind. etc." Do you notice a circular argument here? According to this theist, being loving compassionate and fair is good because god is loving compassionate and fair, and god is good because he is loving compassionate and fair. The problem the theist faces here is obvious, although some theists obviously still don't get it. To say something is good because god has those qualities, and god is good because he has those qualities is a circular argument; the theist has failed to explain why those qualities are good, or why god is good for that matter. Nothing can simply just be good without a reason, there must be a reason why something is good or bad. The theist who is aware of this often will just assert that god is good, and will be forced to make a circular argument in doing so. To avoid circularity, they must justify virtues like love, compassion, and fairness by showing their positive intentions and effects. And in doing so, they will show that that the goodness of these virtues are independent of god. But that's exactly what they must avoid in order to hold to the notion that god is the source of all goodness.

And by saying, "It is because God is that way that these qualities count as virtues in the first place," is just a bold face assertion. It doesn't demonstrate that “good” or "virtue" cannot exist independently of god. Even if goodness is an essential property of god, it is a property that can apply to other things independently of god’s existence. Just think of how being hot is an essential property of fire – fire must be hot, it cannot be cold. But “hot” can apply to many other things independently of fire. For example, microwaves cause things to be hot and so does friction. The Euthyphro dilemma stands as a defeater to anyone defending the position that god is the source of goodness or morality.

To Ought, Or Not To Ought?


Arguing morality with a theist, you will almost always inevitably be accused of not having an objective foundation for your moral values, or you will be accused of not being able to provide an objective foundation for moral duties. Some theists think that if we just adopt the divine command theory of ethics, we'll all be provided with an adequate foundation for what is objectively right and wrong. But the problem I've always had with it, is why should I believe something be objectively right or wrong, or a duty for that matter, if it is merely commanded by god? I see no reason to think that god merely issuing a command makes it right, especially when considering that all the religions in the world contain within them bizarre commandments that obviously reflect the ignorance of the people living at the time they were written down. If I am to remain true to being a critical thinker, I must critically examine every such moral command with the knowledge we have of the world and assess whether or not it is designed to achieve some moral goodness or emphasize some kind of moral virtue.

And why think that all of life's moral dilemmas can be answered by a single book? For example, does Christianity give us objective moral answers on everything? Like what is justice? And how do we best build and sustain a just society? What's the best way we can handle healthcare? Immigration? The economy? Civil rights? How we should best conduct ourselves when it comes to war? Jesus said, “Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Essentially, that means submit to your earthly masters as you would to god, even if they are cruel tyrants. That's hardly the kind of advice I would want to live by and it obviously doesn't make for building and sustaining a just society.

Moral obligations can stem from one's self in adherence to principles, in addition to our various social contracts. They say you cannot get an ought from an is, but how can you even derive an ought without knowing what is? Why ought I do my laundry if it is not the case that my clothes are dirty? Why ought I fix the leak in my kitchen sink if it is not the case that my kitchen sink is leaking? We all intuitively do what we ought to do from assessing the situation for what is all the time. Some theists think that moral obligations can only stem from competent authorities, such as god. But does that also mean that every German in the Wehrmacht was morally obligated to carry out the commands of Adolph Hitler, in the same fashion Jesus envisioned of - rendering unto Hitler the things that are Hitler's? What commands take precedence: Jesus' command to submit to your earthly master's will, or Jesus' command to not kill and turn the other cheek? Christians have to make a calculation in situations like this, and they have to weigh the moral severity and outcome of each and use the same basic moral calculations we all make when confronted with a moral dilemma. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Religious Belief Is Primarily Emotional, Not Logical


For most people, it's not as if I really need to tell them this, but the primary reason why people come to be religious, besides being indoctrinated into it by culture, is for emotional reasons. They may have either had an emotional reaction to a religious hymn, a religious ritual, or the dramatic retelling of a religious story. Religions are all designed in some way to appeal to that awe and mystery we all feel about the world around us through the use of rituals and stories that create a social cohesion among its believers.

I'm not sure how many people are convinced by many of the so-called logical arguments for god. I suppose an atheist could hear them and become convinced, but without that emotional connection to a particular religion, I don't really see how any of them could get an atheist passed deism. What ultimately pushes a person into a religion is an emotional connection with that religion's teachings, their founder, or the rituals associated with that religion. I had one such reaction to Hinduism when I was in Bali a few years ago. I witnessed a Hindu ceremony in which incense was passed around me with some chanting and I felt this amazing wave of relaxation and calmness come over me. It was as if every drop of tension and anxiety in me had melted away. Had I been a spiritual "seeker" that experience may have converted me. And if something like that had happened to me in a Christian context when I was younger, I might have converted.

Hitler Was NOT An Atheist



“I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”


[Adolph Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936]





Let us never forget that Adolph Hitler was no atheist. He believed in god, and an Aryan Jesus, and he thought god had appointed him to cleanse the European continent once and for all of the Jews. And yet, despite these facts being easily obtainable, theists still today have the nerve to try to pull a fat lie and say that Hitler was an atheist who was motivated by Darwinism to exterminate the Jews. They say that if you tell a lie enough times it starts to become the truth. That Hitler and Nazis were all atheists seems to have become a "truth" to many theists who have bought into this lie.


Let's start with a few facts about Hitler and the Nazis:

  • Nearly every German soldier during World War II wore a belt buckle that had inscribed on it, "GOTT MIT UNS" (God with us)
  • Ever member of the German armed forces took an oath that started with: "I swear by God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath."
  • Hitler's birthday (April 20th) was celebrated from the Catholic Church every year from 1939 to the very end of the Nazi regime in 1945
  • The first diplomatic accord by Hitler once he rose to power in 1933 was with the Vatican 
  • The Catholic Church opened its genealogical records to the Nazis so that they could trace a person's Jewish ancestry, aiding in the holocaust 
  • Antisemitism existed in Europe for hundreds of years before Darwin, and one of the primary influences on Hitler was the German Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, who wrote the treatise, On the Jews and Their Lies (1543), in which he argued among other things, that European Jews should be forbidden to practice their religion, that they should have their synagogues burned and razed, and that they should be forced into servitude 
  • Nearly half of the Nazis were members of the Catholic Church, as was Hitler 
  • The only Nazi ever to be formally excommunicated by the Catholic Church was Joseph Goebbels –  not for war crimes, but for marrying a divorced Protestant 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yes Dr. Craig, You're Still An Apologist For Genocide


I love pressuring Christians to justify the numerous genocides that god commands in the Bible. They will usually respond with things like, "The Canaanites were wicked and deserving of God's judgement." Or they'll say, "You have no objective moral foundation to call out genocide." Oh right, like being an atheist somehow prevents me from censuring the mass slaughter of ethnic groups, and somehow only theism gives people the ability of condemning it. Sure. Remember, it's the theist here that's defending genocide. Only religion it seems could make a rational person defend mass genocide in this day and age.

So, when it comes to the apologist extraordinaire William Lane Craig, I paid extra close attention to his attempt at justifying genocide when he was called out on it in a debate a few years ago during his 2011 UK tour. His justification was a shocking spectacle into the mind of an apologist trying ever so hard to make sense of mass slaughter. And his numerous other podcasts and written justifications for it just seem to add insult to injury to him.

On a recent Q and A, he attempts once again to explain why the Canaanite conquest was justified. Craig says that a lot of the criticism against him is just heated emotional rhetoric lacking intellectual substance, and that none of it refutes the moral argument for god. Speaking of substance, Craig's justification boils down to this: "God has the moral right to issue such commands and that He wronged no one in doing so." In other words, god can do whatever he wants; he's the boss. If he wants you to commit genocide for him, then so be it. He has the right to do so because he makes the rules. 

This is basically the best Craig has come up with, and it's sad. But he also warns, "If it is the case that God could not have issued the commands in question, that goes no distance toward proving atheism or undermining the moral argument for God; it at most implies a liberal doctrine of biblical inspiration, such that inspiration does not imply inerrancy." So even if we're right that no such commands were ever issued by a perfect god, according to Craig, god and the moral argument are still intact.

Let's examine this.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Argument From Contingency Vs. The Block Universe & The Principle Of Sufficient Reason


William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith sight is such a treasure trove of misinformed logic and bad arguments for the existence of the Christian god, that any intelligent atheist would have a field day picking it apart. On a recent Q and A titled the Argument from Contingency, Craig responds to a question about the argument's potency in light of the B-theory of time which posits an eternal 4-dimensional block universe. Craig rightfully admits that the kalam cosmological argument is basically rendered impotent on a B-theory of time, but says that Leibnizian argument from contingency still packs a punch. (To see the argument from contingency click the link about it above as I will not be dissecting the actual argument here.)

Craig asks: why does this four-dimensional spacetime block exist? He goes on to say that if the naturalist says the block universe just inexplicably exists, he's then committing the "taxicab fallacy." I've heard this fallacy being thrown around before, so let me explain it for you now. From street apologetics we get a definition:

The “Taxi-Cab Fallacy” is committed when one hops in and assumes a certain system of thought or worldview in an attempt to make a particular point but then jumps out of the system of thought when it suits their fancy.

Craig argues that the naturalist "treats the Principle of Sufficient Reason like a hired hack that can be dismissed arbitrarily once one has arrived at one’s desired destination. No, the existence of a contingently existing spacetime requires explanation, too, just as do planets and dogs and periwinkles."

Let's examine his response. First, the naturalist who doesn't hold to the principle of sufficient reason acknowledges that certain facts may indeed be brute facts and at some point there might be something that simply just is. So why should we hold him to the PSR? The PSR is also not a logical law. The theist cannot logically prove that there must be a sufficient reason or cause for everything, they just assume that there does. Second, we don't know if the universe is contingent. It might be possible that every physically or mathematically possible universe exists. It's a theory called the mathematical universe, which is the level-4 multiverse. Now no one knows if this theory is true; it's a possibility. But if every physically possible kind of universe exists, then ours is guaranteed to exist as one of them. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Is God A Consequentialist?


Whenever I come up dry for material for this blog I can always turn to William Lane Craig bashing for inspiration. I get such great pleasure from deflating his dubious arguments. His new Q and A has him arguing that god isn't a consequentialist, when the record clearly indicates that he is. You can see the question here, I will focus on his answer below.

Craig starts out making a point he often makes in his writings and in his debates:

... on my view God has no moral duties to fulfill. Moral duties arise in response to imperatives issued by God. Since God does not issue commands to Himself, God has no moral duties. Rather God’s acts must simply be consistent with His perfectly good nature. So consequentialism cannot apply to God, having as He does no moral duties. His actions, such as permitting some evils in view of overriding goods, must simply be consistent with His being all-loving, punishing evil, etc.

If god's actions must be "
consistent with His perfectly good nature," and god's nature is perfect goodness, then why is god admittedly jealous and wrathful? Why can he essentially do what he wants and cause suffering and take life as he pleases? It seems to me that theists like Craig admit that their god is a god who can do whatever he wants because he "does not issue commands to Himself." In that case, if god's actions can violate his own commandments to us - commandments which are supposed to reflect his "perfectly good nature," then god cannot logically be perfectly good and all-loving. In other words, if my commandments are perfect, and I violate my own commandments, I cannot be perfect.

This upends the core of divine command theory since according to Craig, "it grounds objective moral values in God as the paradigm and source of moral goodness." If this supposed source of all moral goodness can act in ways contrary to his own commands of perfect moral goodness, the source cannot be perfectly good. Hence god plays a sort of "do as I say, not as I do" ethic. 

But it seems Craig fails to get this. He says:

God’s having no moral duties does not imply that He can do just anything; rather His actions must be consistent with His own nature.

Let's see what god can do. He can command child sacrifice, genocide, slavery, the killing of adulterers, witches and homosexuals, and he can take his anger out on people for not worshiping him properly and for offering inadequate sacrifices. Sounds to me like god can pretty much "do just anything." If all those things I mentioned above are consistent with "good nature," then I'd hate to see what bad nature is.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dispatches From The Wall Of Separation: Military Proselytizing & Ex-Gay Therapy


Being an atheist, I am deeply concerned about issues related to secularism. I recently asked a conservative Christian blogger if he could name a few issues regarding secularism and religious freedom that concerned him and I told him that I would write about them. So the two issues he came up with are the issue of the US military threatening servicemen with a court martial if they talk about their faith, and the recent law passed in the state of New Jersey criminalizing therapy for minors even when they want to resist same sex attraction. So let's take a look at these issues in relation to the separation of church and state.


Issue # 1 - the US military is planning to court martial service members for publicly sharing their faith. 

According to two reports from Fox News (the most fair & balanced name in news by the way) and from breitbart.com, I was astonished to read that they said the military is considering a policy that will court martial service members who publicly professes their faith in any context, even in private conversations among friends. This would presumably also apply to military chaplains, pretty much preventing them from performing their job. But this seemed too outrageous to be true. And I've had several close friends who were in the military and they all said that military proselytizing is rampant. 

So I looked around further, and according to factcheck.org, the Fox News report was a sham. It took a statement from the military out of context and sensationalized it, no doubt to appeal to conservative anti-Obama viewers just looking for a reason to validate their fears that he's really a secret Muslim who hates Christians. According to Factcheck:

The Pentagon merely restated its long-held policy that military members can “share their faith (evangelize)” but “not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others … to one’s beliefs (proselytization)."

They also reported that a Pentagon spokesperson named Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen clarified the initial report after the Fox News fuck up saying, "If a service member harasses another member on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, then the commander takes action based on the gravity of the occurrence. Likewise, when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case by case basis."

So it is not the case that the mere mention of one's religious faith gets one court martialed, one has to essentially harass another service member with their religion for any action to be taken. And even then such instances are handled on a "case-by-case" basis. So the concerns of the Christian blogger are likely based prematurely on a misinformed news source.

O Goddess




Sing, O Goddess, the ruinous wrath of Achilles,
Son of Peleus, the terrible curse that brought
Unnumbered woes upon the Achaeans and hurled
To Hades so many heroic souls, leaving
Their bodies the prey of dogs and carrion birds.
The will of Zeus was done from the moment they quarreled,
Agamemnon, son of Atreus, and godlike Achilles.




- The Iliad 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

International Cat Day: My Sheba


Today is apparently International Cat Day according to what Jerry Coyne's blog is reporting. So here's my cat of 18 years still alive and well. Her name is Sheba. She's a beautiful Russian Blue. I got her back in 1995 when I was a tween from the North Shore Animal League on Long Island. And now I'm 31 and I still have her. Amazingly, she still likes to run around like a little kitten after she eats. She's my little angel.


If I Were A Christian, What Kind Of Christian Would I Be?


An interesting thought experiment recently occurred to me. If I were a Christian, what kind of Christian would I be? The idea popped into my head while recently debating a few different Christians on several fronts. Now mind you, I don't think I could ever actually be a Christian, certainly not without actual evidence that it's true. But if I somehow converted, what possible kind of Christianity could I embrace, given my life-long atheism?

Well first, there's the idea of denomination. What denomination would I pick? I was raised in a culturally Catholic environment, but I dislike the Catholic Church so much, that I don't think I could ever call myself a Catholic. The same is pretty much true of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is pretty much just another form of Catholicism. I actually think that Protestantism would appeal to me more, and there are over 40,000 varieties of it. I do like the openness of the Episcopal Church, but it does resemble Catholicism a bit too much. It could be said that the Episcopal Church, which is just the American branch of the Church of England, is Catholicism lite.

The evangelical churches bother me a lot, especially because they're so fundamentalist. And I'm not crazy about Baptists. In fact, pretty much all the Calvinist denominations sicken me. So it seems to me that if I were somehow a Christian, I'd have to be non-denominational. I'd essentially have to have my own theology, and interpret Christianity my own way.

Being a scientifically literate person, I'd of course have to keep what we know about cosmology and biology into my theology. So I'd be a Ken Miller/Francis Collins type of theist. I'd believe in a god who simply created the universe, then stepped back and let it all happen according to the natural laws, and who then stepped in when the time was right. I'd probably also be spending my time trying to convince other Christians as to the truth of evolution and big bang cosmology. But, I'd have a problem with this because evolution is so necessarily cruel that I cannot imagine any all-loving god deliberately choosing this as his desired way to bring about human beings. So I'd have a theological problem here: I would not logically be able to believe in an all-loving god. My god would have to be capable of cruelty that is not necessary for any reason at least through his indifference to animal suffering. That would actually fit into the character of the angry Old Testament god.

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