Saturday, February 21, 2015
In order to help some theists understand my point of view, I've thought of an analogy that might help in explaining this relationship between religion and meaning.
Suppose you were raised on a steady diet of heroin every single day. It makes you feel good, it gives your life meaning and purpose, and you look forward everyday to the warmth and pleasure that it gives you. You become utterly dependent on it everyday. So are all of your friends and family members, and as far as you can tell, everyone in your community. Life would be pointless, you believe, without heroin. And the very idea of not having it terrifies and depresses you. Then one day you meet someone who doesn't do heroin and you're completely shocked at the fact that they don't need a daily injection of smack to provide meaning and purpose to their lives and are perfectly fine and happy without it, and living a fulfilled life.
"How does your life have any meaning without heroin?" you ask them. "What motivates you to get up and endure another day?"
"Easy," they say. "I simply wasn't raised with a dependency on heroin like you were. The reason why you feel that life has no meaning without heroin is because you were raised to think that you were. And over time it became psychologically addictive, to the point where you believe that you need it to motivate you to get through life. For me, that dependency was never created and so I have no idea what it's like to need something like heroin in order to be motivated to get out of bed and go through my day. And actually, the idea of you needing heroin to feel a sense of meaning is pretty pathetic. I mean look at yourself. Seriously."
Now, I'm not saying religion is just like heroin or is just as harmful. But there is a similarity to the way some heroin addicts become so utterly dependent on their drug and how it gives their life meaning and purpose with how some theists become so utterly dependent on their religion. Karl Marx infamously said that "religion is the opium of the people". He had a good point. The demise of religion will be to a large degree due to the realization that meaning, purpose and fulfillment in life can be achieved without god or religion. And once the cycle of religious indoctrination is broken, and religion's head is severed, saying "it's tradition" won't be a viable excuse helping to perpetuate it.
Monday, February 16, 2015
David Wood is a Christian apologist probably best known for his criticism of Islam. He writes for the blog Answering Muslims and has debated many prominent Muslims on issues regarding Islam and Christianity. I saw one debate recently called Is ISIS Islamic? and I think Wood did a particularly good job in it. He certainly is well educated in Islamic history and theology and knows how to cut through most of the bullshit you often here coming from liberal Muslims who obfuscate their religion and its history to give you the kinder, gentler version of Islam that they want us Westerners to believe is true.
Some liberals that watch this may initially feel the urge to ignore Wood's criticisms and brush them off as the product of fundamentalist Christian "Islamophobia." Yes, Wood is a Christian, but that does not automatically render his criticism of Islam biased and false. Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz also recognize the same problems of the Islamic sources. If you are the kind that feels the need to believe Islam is a peaceful religion that has been hijacked by a small minority of extremists, please try and suspend that reaction and listen to the arguments Wood makes. And then do some research into the verses and their interpretations to see if Wood makes a convincing case that ISIS is indeed Islamic.
La Peste just waiting to be revived by the turn of the page. Please, know an enemy when you see one."
-From his debate with Chris Hedges
Posted by The Thinker at 5:26:00 PM
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Thursday, February 12, 2015
The internet is abuzz with the recent news of an atheist who allegedly killed three Muslims in what appears to be a hate crime. Reports have suggested that the alleged killings by 46 year Craig Hicks were over a parking dispute, but anti Islamic comments made by him on social media have lead many to think he was motivated by a hatred of Islam or Muslims.
First let me say that killing someone over a parking space is extremely stupid, and killing someone because of their religion is perhaps even more stupid. Being an atheist and killing someone because of their religion is perhaps the stupidest, and even more stupid than when religious people kill other religious people because of their religion.
But there is a difference between this incident and the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The Charlie Hebdo murderers were motivated by a religious prescription to not depict the prophet Mohammad in any way, especially not in a derogatory way. And Islam prescribes many situations where non-believers can be killed, beheaded, and forced to submit to Islamic authorities. The killers were avenging the prophet, as they shouted while leaving the scene of the crime. Their crime was clearly motivated by their religious faith.
Atheism by contrast, is just the lack of a belief in any gods. It says nothing about what moral philosophies or prescriptions one should follow. There is no holy book in atheism that says "Kill the believer where ever you find them." And while it is certainly possible for someone to kill in the "name of atheism," atheism and even anti-theism are neutral on violence. They simply say nothing about it.
So while these murders are despicable and should make everyone ashamed, this person's alleged hatred of Islam is not a prescription of atheism. On Hick's Facebook page he has a banner describing his anti-theism. I too describe myself as an anti-theist, but anti-theism, or the "conscientious objection to religion" as the banner defines it, does not entail the unwarranted killing of theists or anyone. Anti-theism is an intellectual battle against religious belief, not a physical battle. I do not condone the killing of anyone based on their religious beliefs, politics, race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else. And anti-theism doesn't stand for this. Period.
P.S. I'm glad to see so many prominent atheists coming out so quickly to condemn this violence.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Sunday, February 1, 2015
It seems that for some Christians the genocidal conquests mentioned in the Old Testament are a constant thorn in their theology. I can definitely see the need for one to want to distance themselves from actually believing they were historical events commanded by an omnibenevolent deity. The most rational interpretation of those text that I think a Christian can have, as I've said many times, is the minimalist view that doesn't regard them as divinely inspired. Thom Stark's view is a prime example. In his book Is God a Moral Compromiser? he critiques the idea that the genocide on the Canaanites was justified by any reasonable moral standard.
When theists argue that the Canaanites "had it coming to them" because they performed child sacrifice, or they performed ritual sex acts, I like to kindly remind them that the Canaanites had no pact with Yahweh to solely worship him or to obey any of the Mosaic commandments. See, the thing about divine command theory (for those theists who advocate for it) is that "the morally right action is the one that God commands or requires." This means that in the absence of any divine revelation or command, a person has no objective moral duties to abide by. Him and his society are therefore free to do as they please, whether that includes child sacrifice or ritualistic prostitution. So if the Canaanites indeed did these things, they were not violating any moral laws set down by Yahweh, and were therefore innocent of any of the charges the Israelites used to justify their genocide against them.
And Stark knows this. Aside from the fact that the Israelites also once practiced child sacrifice (exodus 22:29) as the Canaanites did (but unlike the Canaanites they did so only to Yahweh), on page 32 Stark writes:
I’ll just note two problems here: (1) God never sent any prophets to Canaan to warn them of their coming destruction; not in Abraham’s time, not in Moses’s, and not in any time in between. The only thing he sent to Canaan was military spies. (2) He had to wait until their punishment was “fully deserved”? We’re talking about baby killing here. At what point is a baby’s slaughter “fully deserved”? And if Copan is going to cite “original sin” (though I’m not claiming he will), then everybody in the whole world “fully deserved” to get slaughtered. And their slaughter would have been just as “fully deserved” in Abraham’s time as it was in Moses’s.