Sunday, August 26, 2018

Free Will Documentary

As I mentioned in prior posts, I'm working on a documentary about free will simply called the Free Will Documentary. It's going to be the first feature length documentary of its kind dedicated solely to addressing the question of whether or not we have free will.

We just began recording interviews a few months ago and were up in Canada recently to interview Trick Slattery, who wrote Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind. And earlier last month we wrapped up an interview with YouTuber Alex O'Connor who vlogs at Cosmic Skeptic for the documentary that was a very fun and lucky opportunity.

Free Will Documentary going to be the definitive documentary on the subject and I'm super exited to be part of a very talented team making this happen. We're going to cover the neuroscience, the philosophy, the moral, legal, and societal impacts of free will belief, and a bit of the history too.

Right now we don't have a proper trailer yet, but we do have a promo video out that covers the basic idea behind the documentary's purpose, and a few short teaser clips. We're going to be releasing new clips and promo videos periodically leading up until the documentary's release, which is expected to be in at least 1-2 years. Check out our videos below.



Here's a clip from Alex's interview:




Follow us on social media for updates on the progress of the documentary and go to freewilldocumentary.com to learn more. Our site will be continuously updated as the documentary progresses. (All of our social media is /freewillfilm)



Finally, if you'd like to be a part of the documentary or have any suggestions or questions, email us at contact@freewilldocumentary.com.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Why Is There Something Rather than Nothing? Mindscape Podcast


So, it's been a hot humid summer so far and I've been extremely busy, leaving me little time to blog. I've been working on my free will documentary, which is taking up most of my free time, and which I will have a post about soon. I'm also working on a series of posts refuting a recent Strange Notions piece that is almost entirely dedicated towards many of the arguments I've been making against Thomistic theism—popular among many Catholics. It's going to be a thorough refutation and so it'll have to be broken down into easily digestible sections, assuring you that my post will demonstrate how each of Strange Notion's claims are either false or horribly misguided.

Until then, listen to this recent episode from Sean Carroll's Mindscape podcast on one of the deepest existential questions of all time: Why Is There Something Rather than Nothing?



Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jordan Peterson



I've been wanting to make an in depth blog post on Jordan Peterson for quite some time now but I've been too busy to dedicate a whole day researching and writing such a piece. So I'm going to have to squeeze this down into an extended blurb instead.

In the past 2 years, Jordan Peterson has become an internet celebrity, largely from his popular videos on YouTube. Let me begin by saying I am both a fan and a critic of Peterson. I can see his good, his bad, and his ugly sides. And I've noticed that with most people, they either love him or hate him. I'm a little of both. I've seen events where I've thought Peterson was absolutely killing it. Like this one below:


But then I've seen far too many events where he makes the most absurd noises that he's little different from Ray Comfort. He's a complicated fella. And he can't be easily boxed into any one category. So with this brief post, I hope to do him some justice.


Let's start with what made Peterson internationally famous: Bill C-16.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Quote Of The Day: 1982 Essay By Christopher Hitchens On The Atheists Who Like Religion


Hitchens in one his his first
TV appearances, 1983
Way back in July of 1982, Christopher Hitchens wrote an essay against the "witless worship" of the religious mentality in Harper's Bazaar magazine, and penned several arguments that he would later use in his most famous godless work 25 years later: god Is Not Great. It demonstrates that Hitchens had been making such arguments for decades.

In his essay The Lord and the Intellectuals, Hitchens makes light of the problems of abject religious worship and how there's a class of people too smart to believe in god proper, yet believe in religion for its apparent utility. His eloquent prose is no less articulate than it would be in later years.

So atheism strikes me as morally superior, as well as intellectually superior, to religion. Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong. Does this leave us shorn of hope? Not a bit of it. Atheism, and the related conviction that we have just one life to live, is the only sure way to regard all our fellow creatures as brothers and sisters. The alleged “fatherhood” of God does not, as liberation theology has it, make this axiomatic. All it has meant, throughout history, is a foul squabble for primacy in Daddy’s affections. In just the same way that any democracy is better than any dictatorship, so even the compromise of agnosticism is better than faith. It minimizes the totalitarian temptation, the witless worship of the absolute and the surrender of reason, that may have led some to saintliness but can hardly repay for the harm it bas done. 
We need a general “deprogramming,” of the sort that even our churches endorse when the blank-eyed victim is worshiping the Reverend Moon. The desire to worship and obey is the problem—the object of adoration is a secondary issue. Professedly godless men have shown themselves capable of great crimes. But they have not invented any that they did not learn from the religious, and so they find themselves heaping up new “infallible” icons and idols. Stalinism, which was actually Stalin worship, could not have occurred in a country that had not endured several centuries of the divine right of kings. It is the religious mentality that has to be combated.

Hitchens had indeed been writing god Is Not Great all his life, as he said numerous times.

I also noticed that Hitchens was younger than I am now when he wrote the essay. This is something I've been noticing a lot as I get older. I'm increasingly made aware that great achievements by noted people were younger than I currently am. Why that matters to me is, apparently, derived from my constant comparison of myself to others. But it's something I must get used to.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mindscape Podcast


Physicist Sean Carroll just launched a new podcast called Mindscape. Seems like everyone's got a podcast now! I even had one 2 years ago before we gave up to devote time to the now dead atheist conference.

Carroll's podcast looks promising. I don't know if it's anywhere other than YouTube, but here's a link below. He interviews physicist Carlo Rovelli on quantum mechanics, spacetime, and reality. One of these days I'm going to make a documentary on spacetime and eternalism. I'd be interested in interviewing both Rovelli and Carroll for it. Check it out:


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won!


So, in the past 2 weeks the big political news has been that 28 year old first time candidate for New York's 14th congressional district, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, won the democratic primary by double digits.

She won to a large extent, not by playing racial identity politics, as had been reported, but by offering a targeted progressive platform that included universal healthcare (which most Democrats either don't want or are too afraid to run on) and tuition free college and trade schools (paid for, in part, by taxing Wall Street speculations).

As reported by the Intercept, she won in the parts of the district that tend to be the most gentrified (read: most white). So to chalk up her success merely to changing demographics is a bit dishonest. It's the narrative many establishment Democrats want to believe is true, since they do not want Ocasio-Cortez's progressive agenda.



I can't say I agree with her entire platform. I'm not on board with the abolish ICE position and the seemingly open borders attitude permissive on most of the Left. As Milton Friedman said, you can't have open borders and a social welfare state. I think Democrats need to have a serious conversation on their position on illegal immigration. They have to ask themselves what level of immigration enforcement are they willing to accept, since many do indeed seem to want open borders.

Aside from that there's much more I agree with Ocasio-Cortez on than disagree, especially on the free college and universal healthcare parts, and the end to our expensive and destructive drug war. It was reported that she's a pretty strong Catholic. But who cares? She's not traditionally Catholic on same sex marriage or abortion—the issues that tend to be the most divisive, and she's thoroughly progressive on every issue. Religion doesn't matter to me. It only does if religion is justifying positions I disagree with, and if it's used to violate the separation of church and state.

So given how blue the 14th district is, she will no doubt win the general election in the  November midterms. I just hope that when she gets to Washington she won't become corrupted. Her stance on not taking money from big donors will hopefully keep her working for the people.

Friday, July 6, 2018

"I Didn't Ask To Be Born" — A Reply To William Lane Craig


It's been a while since I've critiqued our old friend William Lane Craig, but I saw something on Twitter that got my eye. It was a link to a Reasonable Faith podcast from 2013 where Craig responds to a question over whether hell is justified given that each of us didn't ask to be born.

The questioner asked,

Dr. Craig, in what way is it justifiable for a single person to suffer hell when that person could ultimately say, “When did I ask to be born? I didn’t choose to be born. When did I choose this responsibility?” or “I don’t want to have lived,” as in, not suffer hell or enjoy heaven, just never have existed. Is it fair that we never were given that option?

Craig responds:

Dr. Craig: Yes, well, and we are; we are that way. But when you think about it, it could be no other way. It’s incoherent to say that we could be given the option to exist because if we are given the option to choose then we already exist – right? – so it’s logically impossible to give someone the option whether or not he wants to come into being. So it’s up to God; God is the one who chooses whom to create, whom to thrust into existence, and this is not unfair because this is a tremendous gift – the gift of existence, the gift of life. It is a tremendous blessing to exist, and to find the fulfillment of that existence in relationship with the infinite God, the paradigm of absolute goodness and love. It is what we were made for. The tragedy, Kevin, is that so many find themselves, given this gift of existence, existence is bestowed upon them, and then they squander it by ignoring God’s drawing and conviction to come to him and come to know him. They thrust life from them by holding God at arm’s length. And for them existence becomes a curse when, in fact, it was a tremendous blessing and ought to be a tremendous blessing, if they will only receive it.

As usual, I take issue with Craig's answer. Assuming a god exists with middle knowledge and divine foreknowledge, which Craig believes god has, god knows all counter factual possibilities and all future events, including what you would think and do before you're born. Which means, given god's middle knowledge and foreknowledge, god knows if you would have wanted to be born before you were born. He also knows whether or not you would "come to him and come to know him" before you were born.

Hence, it is false to say that it "could be no other way." Or that it's "incoherent to say that we could be given the option to exist." It's perfectly coherent given god's middle knowledge and foreknowledge. God would know all possible people who could be born and know if they would come to him or if they would not, before they were born. And that means to say it's incoherent is to necessarily deny middle knowledge and divine foreknowledge.

This has other implications as well. It is logically possible for god to only create people he knows will come to him, but god doesn't do that. God instead knowingly creates people that will be destined to hell (a hell that he created), and that wouldn't have wanted to be born. That is the real tragedy. And that is not a being I can say is worthy of being called the greatest conceivable being or having anyone's love, especially mine.

So in the end, Craig's response — as always — fails to address the issue.


*Middle knowledge is the view that god can know all possible future contingent events without any sort of perception of the world. Divine Foreknowledge is the view that god knows all future events before they happen due to omniscience. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Scholastic Principle of Sufficient Reason Is Rubbish


I am very confident that the oft toted principle of sufficient reason that theists tend to make, is self refuting: trying to apply it will necessarily lead to either an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or a brute fact, which is to say the PSR can't meet its own standard, not even when god is applied. (See here and here and here.)

Many Catholic theists themselves have recognized this and that's why they have to use a watered down version of the PSR to try and save them from this self refutation. But they technically can't. There's no way out of the problem. I will explain why by demonstrating this problem with a crazy Catholic apologist I sparred heavily with a few months ago over on the Strange Notions website.

 This is taken from a comment of a Catholic apologist quoting Edward Feser.

Here is the explanation Feser gives for his definition via Peter Weigel.

If your god can't meet the standards of the PSR as stated by Feser himself or that I've stated, you have no claim to say god is necessary, metaphysically or otherwise concrete extant objects and their arrangements... The demands of his model are thus notably different in scope from what in Leibniz is the principle of sufficient reason, in which the phenomena to be explained include propositions. As Leibniz presents the principle, every fact and every true proposition -- at least every contingent proposition -- must have an explanation. What is sufficient reason furthermore assures the truth of what it explains... Hence Leibniz’s rendition has a logical cast to it, whereas Aquinas is not fishing for reasons for every logically contingent proposition. For Aquinas, to say X explains or accounts for Y is not to say it necessary [sic] entails it (when Aquinas is talking about real-world causation). Aquinas thus in his model cautiously keeps in view the explanation of the existence of objects, not reasons for literally everything. Aquinas thinks truth and falsity always accrue to individual beliefs in minds. Propositions for him are thus beings of reason and do not exist as disembodied abstracta, so they are not things out there to be explained in the manner real beings are. (Weigel 2008, pp. 128-29)

Feser goes on to explain:

This point is crucial for understanding why some objections to the rationalist construal of PSR do not apply to PSR as understood by Scholastic writers. For example, one well-known objection to PSR asks us to consider the proposition comprising the conjunction of all true contingent propositions. Since each of its component conjuncts is contingent, this big proposition is contingent. In that case, the explanation of this big proposition cannot be a necessary proposition, for whatever is entailed by a necessary proposition is itself necessary. But neither can its explanation be a contingent proposition. For if it were, then that contingent proposition would itself be one conjunct among others in the big conjunction of contingent propositions. That would mean that the big conjunctive proposition explains itself. But the PSR tells us that no contingent proposition can explain itself. So, the big conjunctive proposition cannot have an explanation. But in that case there is something without an explanation, and PSR is false. (Cf. Ross 1969, pp. 295-304; Rowe 1997; Rowe 1998; Van Inwagen 1983, pp. 202-4; and the critical discussions in Gerson 1987 and Pruss 2009, pp. 50-58) From a Scholastic point of view this sort of argument is a non-starter, since on the Scholastic understanding of PSR, propositions are not among the things requiring explanation in the first place, and explanation does not require logical entailment.- Feser SCHOLASTIC METAPHYSICS. [Emphasis in original]

Now, I'm quoting him quoting Edward Feser, so I cannot guarantee accuracy of Feser's words. But I will take them as they are and assume they are accurately quoting Feser. Here's my response:

If your god can't meet the standards of the PSR, as stated by Feser himself, or that I've stated, you have no claim to say god is necessary—metaphysically or otherwise. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Cortez-Crowley Debate


Following up on my support for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's run for NY-14's congressional district, here's some of her debate with incumbent Joseph Crowley. She's fired up as you can tell. While Crowley's gotten a little comfortable.

You can also find her site here, where you can follow and contribute. Election day is June 26th. Spread the word to get this progressive in congress.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Inspirational Meme Day


I think it's very important we live in reality, and nothing is more real than being reminded that your time in this world is finite. So I created this inspirational meme to facilitate that. Live life knowing you will perish one day, and keep in mind that that day could come sooner than you think.

Happy inspirational meme day!



Friday, June 8, 2018

Justice Democrat Alexandria Ocasio Cortez


As I've mentioned in the past, I am a supporter of the Justice Democrats, a political action committee whose primary purpose is to run Democratic candidates who do not take money from corporations.

In New York state's 14th congressional district, where I grew up, the Justice Democrats are running a thoroughly progressive candidate to challenge the incumbent Joseph Crowley, who's decent, but is far too cozy with big business. We need members of congress who represent the people, not corporations. And the only way to do that is the get corporate money out of Washington. That is the goal of the Justice Democrats, and that's why I'm supporting Cortez for congress.

A wonderful video of her campaign has surfaced on YouTube and is getting rave reviews from many high profile progressives. Check it out below.



Now I'm aware that there's an SJW bent among the Justice Democrats and I'm aware of what they did to one of its founders, Cenk Uygur, where they forced him to resign from their board when 20 year old blog posts of his thoughts on women that were deleted were dug up, was an incredibly stupid move. But, as much as I'm critical of hard line SJWs, getting money out of politics is more important in the larger scheme of things. And so that's why I support the Justice Democrats.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Edward Feser On Thomism And Free Will


Just a few months ago Catholic apologist extraordinaire Edward Feser (whose book against atheism I've critiqued and reviewed) wrote a blog post defending divine causality and human freedom. This was linked to me in a debate I had with a Catholic theist. Not surprisingly, I think Feser makes many mistakes in his attempt to claim humans have free will given the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics of causality he espouses.

Feser's view that humans can have free will given the Aristotelian principle that whatever is caused or moved is caused or moved by another, is not convincing. Take for example his claim that the AT metaphysic view on human causality is concurrentist, and not occassionalist (like it is in Islam). On occassionalism, god directly causes everything to happen. However, concurentism, as Feser explains in another blog post, involves "secondary causes [that] really have (contra occasionalism) genuine causal power, but in producing their effects still only ever act together with God as a “concurring” cause (contra mere conservationism)." In other words,

God is in this way like the battery that keeps a toy car moving. The car’s motor really does move the wheels even if it cannot do so without the battery continually imparting power to it. It’s not that the battery alone moves the wheels and the motor does nothing.

Think of how absurd this defense of free will is. I would be tantamount to saying a puppet has free will because it hammers a nail in at the same time the puppeteer is causing all the fundamental activity. I mean, I shouldn't have to explain any further to point out why this is an abysmal defense of free will. It's self evidently absurd.


Moving on, Feser attempts to make sense of this the best he can:

God’s cooperation with a thing’s action does not change the nature of that action. Impersonal causes act without freedom because they are not rational. Human beings act freely because they are rational. That God cooperates with each sort of action is irrelevant. Suppose, per impossibile, that you and the flame could exist and operate without God’s conserving action. Then there would be no question that whereas the flame does not act freely, you do, because you are rational.

Sorry Feser, but being rational doesn't make you free. A machine learning AI-driven software program can act rationally, and it certainly isn't free. Also, being rational is perfectly compatible with a deterministic universe—you would simply just be determined to be rational, and no freedom of the will would exist. The problem here of course is that Feser's operating definition of free will is inadequate, and this is what almost all disagreements on free will come down to: semantics. He's technically a compatibilist, who thinks free will is compatible with theistic determinism, of which concurrentism falls under.

Semantic disputes are going to become more evident in my critique of the rest of his article below:

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Insanity Of Hell For Not Believing


I've written before about how the enormous complexity of god and the science, history, philosophy, and metaphysics supporting god makes the idea of sending people to an eternal hell for not believing an act of evil beyond words. The Thomistic view of god in Catholicism takes that to a new level, given its extreme metaphysical complexity. Imagine the insanity of believing in a literal hell where the Thomist's god of "goodness" sends people who didn't believe due to their failure of understanding the highly esoteric philosophy of Thomism to "properly" understand god, or for simply having no interest in it at all. I propose this hypothetical dialogue of an atheist with god at the gates of heaven.

[Pearly Gates]

God: You didn't believe I existed and now you realize I do. What have you to say for yourself?
Atheist: I had no reason to believe in you or that the idea of you made sense. So much conflicting information.
God: What? You didn't read Scholastic Metaphysics or Five Proofs of the Existence of God by Edward Feser??? He described in great detail the true nature of reality and what my true nature is and why it's impossible I can't exist!!!!
Atheist: Sorry, didn't have time for that.
God: No time?
Atheist: Yeah, I was busy working 60 hours a day and raising kids and I just didn't have the time or interest.
God: No excuse!!!!! You'll now have eternity in hellfire to think about your mistake.
Atheist: I can definitely see why you're the God of infinite love. 
God: To hell you go atheist! Next!!!

Now a Catholic might push back and say that official Catholic doctrine doesn't require strict belief like the Lutheran view does for salvation, and that those who "through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation." This comes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the profession of faith.

But what if you seek truth with a sincere heart and it leads you to atheism? And what if you're confident in that answer? The Catholic Church seems to say that you can be a disbeliever and get into heaven—so long as it's out of ignorance and you want god to exist, and not because you've done your own research and concluded god doesn't exist. That's like saying that if one does seek god with an open mind they must come to belief in god—as if to say atheism is impossible to arrive at rationally. But the complexity of god is exactly the problem. God supposedly created us to "know" god, but created us with minds incapable of properly understanding god and made a world in which the amount of work one must put in to even come close to understanding god is tantamount to having it as a full time job.

Another view is that doing "good" is the same as doing god's will, and so those who disbelieve but who do good can receive salvation. But there is as much complexity and disagreement surrounding what's "good" as there is surrounding what's "god" and so this ultimately leaves you with the same problem. Suppose you dedicate your life to doing what's "good" by giving women access to condoms, birth control, and abortion services—all things forbidden by the Catholic Church. You can easily see how this view leads to the same dead end. Hell is just as absurd in Catholicism as it is in Protestantism.

Monday, May 21, 2018

How Christianity Was Spread


The history of how religions are spread are usually violent, and Christianity's spread is of no exception. Although Europe is the continent most closely associated with Christianity, much of northern Europe beyond the borders of the Roman Empire of antiquity wasn't Christianized until the Middle Ages, a full thousand years after Christianity began.

Much of that began in the 700s under the reign of Charles the Great, better known by his French name Charlemagne. His army conquered and subjugated the pagan Saxons of modern day Germany, forcing them to jettison their religion, traditions, gods, and idols, and publicly profess their belief in Christianity. Those who resisted faced stiff punishment, including death.

Looking back at history, one can say this helped unite the continent under one religion, and to an extent that is true. Religion can act as a unifying glue that holds distinct peoples together. This is one of the reasons why many bemoan the fall of Christianity in Europe, even secular people like Douglas Murray. Once the religion becomes undone, the glue that binded the continent for a millennia gives way to shifting political tribes without a single common identity that transcends language, country, and ethnicity. That's where something like secular humanism comes into the post-theistic landscape, even though I have my reservations it has the ability to replace the unifying aspects of religion.

The following documentary from a German state funded channel DW reenacts the bloody history of Christianity's spread through central Europe in the early Middle Ages. Very interesting to watch.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

This Is The Zodiac Speaking - Documentary


Back in the mid-1990s I became obsessed with the Zodiac killer case. I read Robert Graysmith's book Zodiac, several times. I collected any book that mentioned the case, watched any show that had anything to do with the case, and was delighted that they made a mainstream movie in 2007 about the killer, based on Graysmith's book, also called Zodiac.

I had something of an obsession with serial killers in my teens. The Zodiac killer was the most fascinating one for me, because he wasn't your typical breed of serial killer. He created a character with a symbol and moniker and even dressed up as his character in one of his killings. He mailed cryptic letters to the news papers that contained coded ciphers that he claimed revealed his identity. The 340 character cipher, known as the Z340, has never been cracked. Recently, in the 2016 presidential race, the Zodiac killer was trending on Twitter and I thought he may have been captured. But no, it was because Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz was being accused of being the Zodiac killer due to their similar appearance. Obviously, that's impossible, as Cruz is too young, but the incident sparked my interest in the Zodiac killer once again. I started looking online for Zodiac material, and came across the documentary: This is the Zodiac Speaking. The name is taken from how the Zodiac used to open his letters. If you've ever been interested in the case, it goes into extraordinary detail for each of the killings and it's worth a watch.




The Zodiac killer was never caught, making the case probably the biggest unsolved criminal mystery in American history, at least modern American history. Who was the Zodiac killer? It's a question millions of Americans would like to know the answer to before they die. Although no one was ever caught and formally charged with being the Zodiac killer, there were a few promising suspects. The most well known, was Arthur Leigh Allen. A plethora of circumstantial evidence linked him to the Zodiac, but not enough to formally charge him.

Then in 2003 a partial DNA profile was lifted from the back (or possibly the front) of a stamp on one of the letters Zodiac mailed to the newspapers. It was tested against Allen, who died of a heart attack in 1992. It wasn't a match. The most promising suspect was not the Zodiac—at least not according to the DNA obtained, which some people think was not Zodiac's. I personally never thought Allen was the Zodiac. I think Zodiac was so good at hiding that he was probably never a formal suspect. In his letters Zodiac claimed to wear a disguise so that in real life he looked nothing like his description. The widely known description of the Zodiac came partly from an incident after the Zodiac's last confirmed killing of cabdriver Paul Stine in the Presidio Heights section of San Francisco, where police officers responding to the murder saw (or stopped) a man walking away from the scene. Because there was a mix-up in the description of the suspect's race, the SFPD were looking for a black male instead of a white man, and they let the man go. It is widely believed that this was the Zodiac. The Zodiac even confirmed the incident in his subsequent letters that it was him. The best chance of capturing the killer slipped by, and police never came as close to capturing him again.

So will the Zodiac ever be caught? If he's still alive he'd be at least 75 years old. People live to be 75 so it's still possible. But recently a new idea has sprung up and the case is currently active. The Golden State Killer was recently caught after 40 years when DNA evidence from the killer matched one of his relatives who had submitted their DNA to a public genealogy site. Many people are now asking if the same technique could be used to catch the Zodiac. At this point, without a confession and strong physical evidence, it seems that this is the only real hope we have left of finding the identity of one of America's most notorious serial killers.

But as much as I want to see the killer identified, there's something about the enduring mystery that creates a mystique surrounding the killer. If and when the Zodiac is identified, who he is will almost surely be a disappointment to the idea of him we have in our heads. Who knows? Truth is often stranger than fiction. There's even a new show on the History Channel about the Zodiac I've just learned. Looks interesting. See the trailer below. Maybe one day in the not too distant future, the Zodiac killer will finally be unmasked.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Quote Of The Day: Tim Maudlin On Block Time


Tim Maudlin via Quantum Magazine
Tim Maudlin is a philosopher of science who is often cited as a critic of the popular view in science and philosophy known as "block time," which is just another way of describing eternalism: the view that all moments of time—the past, present, and future, are all equally real and ontological. But it's not so clear that Maudlin outright denies the block universe conception of time. In an interview he gave with Quantum Magazine last year, he seems to affirm block time, but mistakingly thinks it denies change.

A popular misconception of the block universe is that time or change isn't real. But this is just a figure of speech. In the block universe time and change are definitely real. What isn't real, however, is the flow of time and change. There is no flowing of one moment to the next coming into and out of existence in a block universe since all moments exist, but there are definitely distinct ontological states of what exists at different times. This is what time and change are in a block universe: it's the fact that the same events do not exist uniformly throughout the spacetime block. But this often gets misconstrued as "time and change doesn't exist at all" by many scientists and even by many well-intentioned eternalists, and due to that, many people reject the block universe because it seems so self-evidently true that time and change exist. (For an explanation of the experience of the flow of time in a block universe, see here.) I will let Maudlin explain in his own words his issues with this complicated linguistic aspect of block time upon being accused of bucking the the trend. For all his experience on time, he too seems to get tripped up by this.
You don’t sound like much of a fan of the block universe. 
There’s a sense in which I believe a certain understanding of the block universe. I believe that the past is equally real as the present, which is equally real as the future. Things that happened in the past were just as real. Pains in the past were pains, and in the future they’ll be real too, and there was one past and there will be one future. So if that’s all it means to believe in a block universe, fine.
People often say, “I’m forced into believing in a block universe because of relativity.” The block universe, again, is some kind of rigid structure. The totality of concrete physical reality is specifying that four-dimensional structure and what happens everywhere in it. In Newtonian mechanics, this object is foliated by these planes of absolute simultaneity. And in relativity you don’t have that; you have this light-cone structure instead. So it has a different geometrical character. But I don’t see how that different geometrical character gets rid of time or gets rid of temporality.
The idea that the block universe is static drives me crazy. What is it to say that something is static? It’s to say that as time goes on, it doesn’t change. But it’s not that the block universe is in time; time is in it. When you say it’s static, it somehow suggests that there is no change, nothing really changes, change is an illusion. It blows your mind. Physics has discovered some really strange things about the world, but it has not discovered that change is an illusion.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Abortion And Anti-Natalism Part 2: The Pro-Choice Argument


No issue continues to be as divisive as abortion. The polls on the ethics of abortion have not significantly budged in the past few decades, with no clear majorities for it or against it. As a negative utilitarian who is sympathetic to the ideas in anti-natalism (but who isn't an anti-natalist), I am naturally pro-choice as a result. I see it as excessively immoral to force a woman to give birth with total disregard to her circumstance, or the future baby's circumstance. 


But abortion still needs to be argued for, especially given its controversies. I think the pro-choice crowd has in general failed to make a strong case for the ethics of the pro-choice position, whereas the pro-life crowd has vehemently made many cases against abortion. The reason why is obvious: abortion is the law of the land, and therefore pro-lifers are more motivated to make the case against abortion than pro-choices are to make the case for it's morality and legality. And this has the potential to turn the tide of opinion in favor of outlawing abortion, which could motivate politicians to implement stronger anti-abortion restrictions, despite the supreme court's 1973 decision. 

So in making the case for the ethics and legality of abortion I want to start where I think many pro-choicers fail. A common argument many in the pro-choice side make is that the fetus isn't human and isn't alive and that therefore aborting it isn't killing a living human being. I don't think it's necessary to claim this to defend abortion, and I also think it's wrong. A fetus has human DNA, making it genetically identifiable as human or homo sapien, and it is a living organism, requiring food that it metabolizes into energy to subsist. So I think this common argument forces the pro-choice position into defending two claims that are indefensible and ultimately unnecessary in defending abortion, and they should be dropped. It is simply unnecessary to claim a fetus isn't human or alive to justify abortion.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith – and for Freedom


I've been a bit too busy to blog regularly as of late because we just began production on our documentary on free will and it's been taking up much of my free time. I'll have more information on this as the project solidifies. But in the meantime, I have another guest post by author Karen Garst on her upcoming book Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith – and for Freedom. I've had her as a guest post here before back in 2016 for her book Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion.


________________


After finishing my first book, Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion, I had a chance to attend several secular events including the Women in Secularism Conference. This was excellent and I had the opportunity to meet many interesting women. So instead of going back into retirement, I decided to write another book. The result is Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith - and for Freedom.

Each of the essays in this book examines one aspect of the impact of the three Abrahamic religions on women: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In the first essay, licensed professional mental health counselor Candace Gorham, author of The Ebony Exodus Project, dives deep into the impact of religion on our psyche. She outlines the basics of mental illness that can be caused by religion, including depression, anxiety, shame, and guilt. Gorham also discusses the ineffective religious treatment for mental health problems such as pastoral counseling, conversion theory, and faith healing.

Lauri Weissman, a professor of communications at a top-ranked American university, gives an overview of the first in the three Abrahamic traditions, Judaism, and its proscriptive roles for women. As “an oppressed and isolated minority within an oppressed and isolated minority,” Jewish women have endured millennia of religiously justified misogyny.  Scriptural disgust for female bodies and demand for ritual purity enforce an essential “otherness” by which women are excluded from leadership roles and core practices of many Jewish communities. These earliest attitudes are replicated by Islam and Christianity, which hold some of the same core texts to be sacred.

Alexis Record, frequent book reviewer and blog contributor, expands Gorham’s discussion by focusing on the impact of childhood indoctrination. Record was raised in a fundamentalist household and was educated using Accelerated Christian Education. In 2001, Norway banned the curriculum for violating their Gender Equality Act.[1] A mother’s roles are discussed as “helper, cook, cleans house, washes and irons clothes.”[2] Record concludes with an action plan to help children know what is true and to give them the tools they need to distinguish facts from beliefs.

Dr. Valerie Tarico, author of Trusting Doubt and blogger at www.valerietarico.com, gives an insightful analysis of the treatment of women in the Bible and early Christianity. Her work outlines the tendency of Bible writers and subsequent Christian leaders to eliminate any notion of a feminine divine and to paint women as unclean, dirty—literally property to be owned, given away, sold, or claimed as spoils of war by powerful men. Christian apologists like to ignore the Old Testament and focus on the New Testament. Yet as Tarico outlines so well, it is hard to ignore the statements of early Christian fathers or the roots of their disdain for women in the Bible itself.

The third Abrahamic religion, Islam, is explored by Hibah Ch. Ch is a Syrian expatriate born and raised in Aleppo in a conservative Muslim family. She left Islam in her twenties and now studies chemistry and mathematics in the United States. Ch reveals that female deities in the Arabian Peninsula were initially revered but subsequently destroyed by Islam. In addition, there were successful business women and female rulers prior to Islam. Inspired by the patriarchal norms of Judeo-Christianity, the founder of Islam, Mohammed, adopted many of their negative proscriptions regarding women.

Aruna Papp, author of Unworthy Creature:  A Punjabi Daughter’s Memoir of Honour, Shame and Love, was born and raised in India. The oldest of seven children, Aruna’s formative years were governed by her father’s pastoral service, the culture of honor, and her yearning for an education that eluded her.  In an abusive arranged marriage, Aruna immigrated to Canada with two small daughters. Here she learned about rights and protections Canada offers to women. She embarked on a frightening but empowering journey that lead to two masters’ degrees, and a second, loving, and mutually respectful marriage. In her pioneering career counselling immigrant women, Aruna is recipient of dozens of awards, including the Toronto Women of Distinction. Aruna facilitates training on “Risk Assessment: How Honour Based Violence differs from Domestic Violence.” As a Canadian Delegate at the 57th Session of the UN Aruna spoke on Honour Killing in the West countries.

The next two essays, written by Valerie Wade and Deanna Adams, outline the impact of religion on African American women. Wade is a historian at Lynnfield Historical Consulting, where she assists families with genealogical research and conducts workshops on preservation and other history-related topics. Adams is the author of the blog Musings on a Limb, where she expresses her views as an African American atheist, professional, and mom on subjects related to the intersectionality of racism and skepticism. She currently serves on the board of the Humanists of Houston. Wade describes the culture in Africa prior to the Middle Passage of the slave trade. In many societies in Africa, there was a strong influence of female goddesses like Mawu, Yemoja, and Ala. The advent of Christianity, with its rampant misogyny, however, put African American women in a double bind: they were disadvantaged because of their race and because of their sex. Adams continues this history and states that during the civil rights era, Christian churches held back and many avoided involvement. Just like in the churches, women’s involvement in civil rights was more as workhorses. After this era, the prosperity gospel phenomenon took much of the women’s hard-earned dollars. Other impacts such as the prevalence of domestic violence and the lack of psychologically sound support also contribute to the struggle of African American women today.

Marilyn Deleija, born in Guatemala, and raised in Central California, gives a unique prospective on what it means to be an Atheist Latin immigrant. She has worked hard to be politically active in her community and has also helped to improve political information access to them. She is a local volunteer in Central California and has helped in moving her community progressively forward.  In her essay, her experiences reflect what she sees needs to be changed with regards to religion and how it can affect local communities, but more specifically, Hispanic prominent communities, like places she grew up in.

Hypatia Alexandria introduces herself as a multi-faceted individual, dedicated to promoting secular values as well as social, political and business interests in the US Latino community. She completed her education in an all-girls Catholic school. Thus, she is well aware of the huge impact of religion, particularly Catholicism, on the US Hispanic Population. She writes and discusses the influence religion has on Latino women and the multiple barriers they face in achieving true gender equality.  Hypatia cofounded Hispanic American Freethinkers (HAFREE), a non-profit organization that encourages critical thinking in the US. She is currently a PhD student at Virginia Tech.

Kayley Margarite Whalen, digital strategies and social media manager at the National LGBTQ Task Force, adds yet another dimension to the subjugation of women by religion¾that of a transgender woman. In her essay, she weaves her personal journey both as a transgender woman and as an atheist along with current research on gender identity. It is an issue that virtually all religions have not yet come to terms with.

Dr. Abby Hafer, author of The Not-So-Intelligent Designer, takes up the discussion of evolution in her essay.  She points out that evolutionarily speaking, females are the first, original sex.  She contradicts the argument from nature by showing the many different gender roles and forms of sexual expression that exist in the animal kingdom, and points out numerous fallacies in the idea of intelligent design, in particular with regard to women’s reproductive systems.  She shows how the Abrahamic religions go out of their way to trap women, and reveals that the natural rate of spontaneous abortions makes the evangelicals’ God by far the world’s busiest abortionist.

Gretta Vosper, author of With or Without God and Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief, leads a congregation in Canada’s largest Protestant denomination, the United Church of Canada. She is in the middle of a controversy and may lose or leave her position because she is an atheist. She explores how her congregation developed around her after her declaration of atheism and how she has attracted congregants who want the community that a church provides but none of the doctrine.

If you have a chance to read the book (it is available for pre-order here), please go to my website and vote for Faith or Freedom (and a short review on Amazon would be much appreciated). The book will be available June 1.

Karen Garst
March 24, 2018

[1] Jonny Scaramanga, “Norway Banned ACE. Could the UK Follow?” Patheos, August 4, 2014, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2014/08/04/norway-banned-ace-could-the-uk-follow/.
[2] http://faithlessfeminist.com/blog-posts/exposing-accelerated-christian-education/


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Twitter's Policy Violations Are A Joke And Biased Against Atheists


When you're losing a debate with someone on a social media platform, a common tactic is to report them as being in violation of the platform's policies. Recently this happened to me as I engaged in a debate on whether Islam is a sexist religion with a "Sunni Supremacist."

We went back and forth for an hour and I hit her (or him) with devastating facts that her cherished religion is chock with sexism, to which she initially denied, then accepted, but then said it isn't sexist if men can dominate women. Well there's Islam for you. Then right in the middle of the debate she reports one of my tweets as violating Twitter's stated policies. Twitter's policy is:

You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.

And here is the tweet that she found so offensive:


And Twitter agreed with her despite my protest. This is sheer lunacy and anti-atheist bias on the part of Twitter. At worst, I called a person retarded. But that happens every second on Twitter and clearly this person is not actually retarded, although their fanaticism could suggest otherwise. The tweet is referring to a verse in the Quran in chapter 2 verse 228. It says that when it comes to divorce, "men have a degree (of advantage) over them [women]." This women actually used this verse to try and argue that Islam is not sexist when it comes to divorce and all I simply pointed out was that this is simply not the case. The verse demonstrates my point that Islam is sexist.

So because she couldn't accept the fact that her own evidence against my view actually affirmed my view, like a typical person who loses a debate, she reported my tweet as being in violation of Twitter's policies, and Twitter stupidly agreed. She by the way called me a moron, and espoused anti-atheist, anti-Western, and anti-American bigotry in several of her tweets, calling atheism a "mental disorder" numerous times. I reported her in retaliation because that is my only option and it does not appear Twitter has done any temporary blocking since she's still tweeting.

This opens up a question. If theists (or anyone for that matter) use insincere tactics like this to try and shut someone down on a social media platform, should atheists do the same? Should we be reporting all anti-atheist bias out there—which by the way is rampant online, especially among Muslims? I would like to say no. But if companies like Twitter and Facebook and others are going to have a double standard against atheists who criticize religion while they turn a blind eye to theists who regularly demonize atheists and atheism, then I think we should.

So please find an anti-atheist, anti-gay, and sexist tweet by this "Sunni Supremacist" (which will be very easy) and report this person to Twitter to give them a taste of their own medicine. And please voice your concern to make social media aware of their biased double standard against atheists.

The Naturalistic Fallacy And How It Creeps Into Our Thinking


The naturalistic fallacy can refer to a few things. It can refer to the idea that something is good if it is natural, or bad because it is unnatural. In the context of morality and politics, the fallacy pops up a number of ways and affects our ability to reason. Here are two examples.

Conservatives will often argue that homosexuality is unnatural, and that it's therefore morally and politically wrong to allow it. Catholics who espouse natural law theory are very privy to this kind of reasoning. But it's simply false, on two levels. First, it makes the naturalistic fallacy. What is unnatural is not bad, because plenty of things are "unnatural" in the sense of being man-made, like technology, nose jobs, or medicines, and they can be positively good. Second, it is simply wrong that homosexuality is unnatural. Homosexuality is in fact, natural. But that also doesn't make it good either, since plenty of things are natural and aren't good, like cancer, HIV, poisonous mushrooms, and gamma ray bursts from the sun. The goodness or badness of a thing does not depend on its naturalness.

For liberals, it is very popular to say that there are no fundamental differences between men and women other than the obvious physical differences, and this leads many of them to argue that the low number of women to men in particular fields like science, technology, and engineering, are necessarily due to systemic sexism. But there are good arguments against this. Psychology and biology shows that men and women are not the same in our general preferences. Men tend to prefer working with things, and women tend to prefer working with people. That's why there are so many men in the physical sciences, engineering, and technology, and so many women in the social sciences, healthcare, and education.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

I've Been Busy...


I've had to put blogging on hold in recent weeks because I've just been so busy. I started working on a documentary about free will and in the past few weeks begun all the planning and organizing that goes along with making a feature length documentary. This is going to be a big project for me and one that could take me several years to complete, but I'm very excited and I'm looking forward to the challenge. I will have more details as things get more fleshed out, so stay tuned.

I am also going to put the finishing touches on my pro-choice argument. I've been almost done with it for weeks but had to put it on hold because of the documentary. That should be done by the end of this weekend. I also have many blogging ideas in the pipe that I will hopefully get to in the next few weeks, although for the remainder of this year, as production on the documentary gets started, I will have to blog less frequently than at my usual rate, which is typically around twice a week. I will try and make it happen as much as possible.

I can do things a few different ways. I could focus on quality and do infrequent posts, but ones that are in depth on the topic, or I can focus on quantity and do frequent short posts that just brush up on topics and that could rely on videos and imagery. Or I can do both. I will probably do the latter.

So in the spirit of filling up content, check out this video I stumbled across from Redacted Tonight, an internet show I occasionally watch. Lee Camp, the show's host spends the first 15 minutes pounding our torture industry known as factory farming and its impact on climate change. He makes some great points.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stephen Hawking On Star Talk


As we all bid farewell to the passing of physicist Stephen Hawking, the most famous scientist of his generation, we can appreciate his humor as well as his intellect. Here he was on a recent episode of Star Talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, demonstrating a bit of that. Interestingly, he died on Pi day (3.14), also Einstein's birthday, and was born exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo (Jan 8, 1942), often considered the father of modern astronomy. A life started and ended by mathematical coincidences indeed. What a universe!



Monday, March 12, 2018

The Problems Of Free Will As Explained In Waking Life


Back in 2001 a fantastic movie came out called Waking Life that explored numerous philosophical issues in a way few movies have done before or since. It was also distinct in that it used a technique called rotoscoping, where animations are drawn over live action video. I first saw the movie almost ten years ago and loved it. At the time, I hadn't done any serious research into the free will topic, but since then I've studied it intensely. And given all my current knowledge on the topic (which I think is very extensive), I can say that the part on free will is very good at quickly summarizing two of the known problems inherent in free will belief that many casual thinkers overlook.

Check it out, and watch the full movie if you can. If you're a philosophy lover, you will enjoy it.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Abortion And Anti-Natalism Part 1: Anti-Natalism Analyzed


It recently occurred to me that I've never made a formal argument for abortion on my blog, although I've certainly touched on the topic in various posts. I've been inspired to write about abortion because of my recent interest in the idea of anti-natalism. So I plan on spending two blog posts writing my thoughts about each topic, culminating in an argument for the ethics of abortion.

Anti-natalism is the view that not procreating is preferable to procreating because life necessarily involves some degree of suffering and there is an asymmetric relationship between suffering and pleasure such that the experience of suffering outweighs the experience of pleasure. So for example, on that latter part, imagine you were offered a week long vacation to anywhere in the world where you can do anything you wanted and all expenses would be paid for you making it totally free. But, in order to get the free vacation, you must submit to a certain amount of physical torture first. This physical torture would involve massive amounts of pain but not include any life lasting physical defects, like broken bones, scars, etc. Just pain. You also get to negotiate how long the torture will be, with the ability to bargain it down. The bargaining starts at 1 week in length, the same length as the vacation. The question is: what would be the longest amount of time you'd be willing to be tortured for a week long all-expenses paid vacation in paradise? Would you be willing to be tortured for a week? A day? An hour? A minute? A second? None at all? Chances are the maximum amount of time of torture you'd be willing to endure is not equal to the amount of time of pleasure you'd get on the vacation. In other words, if you were forced to endure an equal duration of torture to the pleasure of the vacation, you would likely not agree to the deal.

And that's because you recognize that there's an asymmetry between pain and pleasure. 1 minute at the spa getting pampered is not equal to 1 minute of torture. Now what exactly that ratio is between pain and pleasure is perhaps subjective, but virtually all of us recognize that there is an asymmetry, and we factor that into our calculations for ourselves and our loved ones when we make a cost-benefit analysis of difficult ethical conundrums.

And therein lies the basic argument for anti-natalism:

  1. Suffering is guaranteed in every human life. 
  2. Because there is an asymmetry between suffering and pleasure, such that the impact of suffering far outweighs pleasure, 
  3. In the moral calculus to have a child the heavier weight of the potential suffering overrides the weight of potential pleasure.
  4. And thus, it is better to not have a child than to have one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Video I Made Last Year On The Pro-Truth Pledge


This is a video I made last year for my friend John Kirbow on him taking the pro-truth pledge. I made several videos like this, most of them were for The Atheist Conference that is now dead. But some of that footage is still usable, and I will find a way to repurpose it. For now, check it out. I plan on creating a YouTube channel (or several) to make videos like this in the future.



Sunday, March 4, 2018

Economist Mark Blyth On New Economic Normals


For the past year or so I've been listening to economist Mark Blyth break down the rather complex and esoteric field of economics. Despite his thick Scottish accent, he's a skilled communicator at making it somewhat digestible. He's particularly good at criticizing the ineffectiveness of right wing ideas like austerity and showing the problems that come as a result of middle class wage stagnation for 40 years. This is a recent talk of his at the Global Financial Markets Forum on those topics.


Follow him on Twitter here: @MkBlyth

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Secular Humanism: What Is It, And Can It Replace Religion?


There are numerous ideas in modern social justice philosophy and tactics used to achieve its goals that are counterproductive and that are fueling a resurgence and interest in the political Right. Many people on the Left are completely unaware of this because they live firmly surrounded by the ideological bubble cocooning them from any views they might disagree with.

And so in the sea of alternatives to traditional religion, a large segment of the Left has turned to social justice in a way that resembles all the hallmarks of a traditional religion, just without the deity. This alarms many, including me, which is why in my last post I argued why we have no better alternative but to double down in our efforts to replace traditional religion with something like secular humanism. But this won't be easy, and secular humanism is fraught with problems if it is to replace religion. And that's what I'm going to explore in this post.

What is secular humanism?


First, what is secular humanism? The name gets used a lot by atheists, but what does it mean? While there are numerous definitions, I'll focus on two. From secularhumanism.org, it's a "comprehensive, nonreligious lifestance incorporating:
  • A naturalistic philosophy
  • A cosmic outlook rooted in science
  • A consequentialist ethical system"
So secular humanism commits one to a basic consequentialist ethics, according to the Council for Secular Humanism. According to Wikipedia, secular humanism is a "philosophy or life stance that embraces human reason, ethics, social justice, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the bases of morality and decision making."

The international symbol
of secular humanism
So let's examine the definitions above. First, secular humanism is naturalistic, meaning, it's atheistic. And that means it can't be religious in any traditional way. So far so good. Second, it's rooted in science, meaning, it's a worldview with an epistemological framework "relying on methods demonstrated by science." A critic could argue that this is scientism. Scientism is the view that science alone can render truth about the world and reality. The problem with that is it's wrong. There are other ways to know truth besides science, like for example, philosophy. It's not clear from the secular humanist's site that they are saying science is the only way to truth, but it is implied. Science is certainly the most reliable way to know truth about our world, as I've written about in the past, but it isn't the only way. This is a modified view known as weak scientism. Third, strict consequentialism as a normative ethical theory is too restrictive. The best approach to ethics is the tool box approach: a combination of consequentialism, virtue ethics, and deontology. So demanding that secular humanists must abide by consequentialism is a potential problem. It can alienate people, like me, who think there is no single normative ethical framework that works perfectly in all situations.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Should Replace Religion In A Post Religious Society?



I just wrote a few blog posts last week about how traditional religious belief is rapidly declining in the US, particularly among the younger generations, and how in its absence "social justice" increasingly has become the new "religion" of the Left, adopting along with it many of the negative attributes one typically associates with traditional religion: dogma, tribalism, group-think, purity.

I am certainly not alone in noticing this, nor am I the only one concerned by it. I see this as a huge problem. The Right has made somewhat of a comeback in recently years with its fresh faced new internet superstars Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Southern, and Paul Joseph Watson, all gaining notoriety riding the growing wave of criticism of the Left's extreme PC culture and identity politics. It's quickly becoming "cool" to riff on the Left's insanity — as well as a good way to make money. Notorious critic of the Regressive Left, Dave Rubin, for example, makes over $30k a month just on Patreon donations.

I'm mostly on the Left politically (even though I'm increasingly weary of labels), but I do have to say, many of these popular critics of the modern day Left do have a point. Their criticism isn't completely unfounded. In the larger picture, it was never just religion simpliciter that was the problem, it was always the kind of thinking endemic in religion that was the main problem: the dogmatic, tribalistic thinking that puts feelings-before-facts. Religion is just a product of that kind of thinking; it's not the cause.

Here is where I will predictably tell you that we need to replace religion with critical thinking, secular humanism, and skepticism. But I'm not sure anymore that this is even possible. I'm very skeptical skepticism will prevail. That's not to say we shouldn't encourage these three things as paramount, it's just to say that achieving them as a replacement for religion may not be feasible because human nature is antithetical to them. (More on that later.) Secular humanism is also too vague an idea to unite us. What is secular humanism? That's a topic I will tackle properly in a future post, but for now, suffice it to say that it's not going to unite people as easily as traditional religion did. Not even close. And yes, I'm aware that religions divide, even from within via competing sects, but I don't see secular humanism even coming close to the unifier that any major religion ever has.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Social Justice: The New Religion Of The Left?


Traditional religious belief is dying, especially among younger generations like millennials (AKA Gen Y) and the new generation below them, Gen Z, as I just blogged about. And the Left in particular is jettisoning traditional religion at a phenomenal pace. Between 2007 and 2014, disbelief in god grew among liberals from 10% to 19%, according to PEW. While this is all music to my ears, a growing concern I share with traditionalists is what is going to replace traditional religious beliefs?

In recent years, it seems that an answer is starting to emerge. Traditional religious belief is being replaced by social justice philosophies as religions. Social justice is in a way becoming the new religion of the Left.

Social justice is a broad term generally referring to "a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society." Legitimate social justice is perfectly fine and reasonable, but in recent years "social justice" has morphed into a new ideology based on an obsession with exaggerated perceived "victimhood" and "oppression," where getting the right gender pronouns are as important as actual racism. Today the pejorative "social justice warrior" (or SJW for short) refers to the kind of person for whom social justice is important, but who is gravely mistaken as to what real justice and fairness is, and how it pertains to individuals and society.

For example, an SJW will argue for "equality" but then insist that all differences in equality of outcome are due to racism and/or sexism and not other factors. So the fact that there are more men in physics and engineering, or more male CEOs, they will argue is due to cultural or institutional sexism, and not because more men simply like those professions and strive for those positions. They will insist that we have a 50/50 representation of men to women in all fields that women don't already dominate and that "fairness" means equality of outcome. And any challenge of this as an idea, or as a practicality, will get you tarnished as a sexist who's enabling the patriarchy.

And this is when social justice starts to become a new religion: there's an idea of the way the world works and the way it ought to be regardless of the facts, these ideas are held with dogmatic fervor, and anyone challenging them will be ostracized and effectively accused of heresy, which encourages extreme tribalism, group-think, and ideological purity.

Here are some of the dogmas of modern day social justice philosophy:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z - But Are Only 6% of US Adults Atheists?


A new Barna poll has come out recently which reports that Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z from 6% of all US adults to 13%. This is no surprise to many who pay attention to cultural trends as it's well known that religiosity is dropping precipitously.


But I do take issue with the idea that only 6% of US adults are atheists. Technically, the 6% comes from people who identify as atheists, not those are are atheists. That is an important distinction. Many people who are atheists don't identify as atheists for a variety of reasons, and that means the number of people who identify as atheists will always be lower than the number who actually are.

PEW Research's numbers from a few years ago stated that, "Nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults overall (9%) now say they do not believe in God, up from 5% in 2007." But only 3.1% of Americans are "atheists" according to their 2014 Religious Landscape survey. So 3.1% of American adults reported themselves as atheists, but 9% don't believe in god, which would make them atheists. So PEW's own numbers show that there are nearly 3 times as many actual atheists than reported atheists.

As someone who wants the world to be less religious in the future, I'm excited about the results from the new report. But I take issue with the idea that only 6% of US adults are atheists. The real number is much higher, and may be as high as 26%.

I hope that in the not-too-distant future, as millennials become the largest voting block in the US, their higher rates of irreligiosity will change the political landscape to finally once and for all get influence of religion out of American politics. And then, hopefully, we can have real policy debates with facts and evidence without religion ever interfering, like they do in many other first world nations.

But given traditional religion's decline, this brings up the next question: what's going to replace traditional religion? And that will be tackled in my next post.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Religion At Work


The other day I saw this ad on the internet advertising a 1 day conference called "Faith at Work New York" that according to its website is a "dynamic, one-day conference on how we, as Christ-followers, can engage in everyday work as a sacred calling from God Himself, and thereby become agents of grace in workplaces everywhere."

It seems to me like it's trying to teach people to preach the gospel and proselytize at work, and it got me thinking: is it appropriate to proselytize at work?

I would say the answer is no. One should keep their religious beliefs out of the workplace as much as possible. Here's why.

Work is a place you have to be (unless you want to go broke). And most people don't have the luxury of just being able to quit their jobs and go somewhere else. Millions of Americans are a few paychecks away from being homeless, and so work is such a special kind of environment. It's not like a shopping mall, or a street corner that you can leave without severe consequence. Because of this, when people are at work, they shouldn't be subject to religious proselytizing as it could make them uncomfortable with undue pressure to respond a certain way.

This is heightened by the fact that there are many power imbalances at work. Managers have the power to fire workers. What if a manager tried to preach the gospel to a subordinate? The subordinate might feel as if accepting their manager's enticements might get them favors, or worse, rejecting them might get them fired. Just as with workplace relationships, power imbalances at work make religious proselytizing a big complication. Big enough that I think it should be avoided altogether.

Every work environment is different and I have no idea what kinds of tactics will be taught at this conference. I would hope these concerns are taken into account. At my job, religion is almost never talked about, certainly not in a way where it's presumed to be true. My manager is actually a theist, but he's critical of religion, and so whenever it comes up, he's never preachy about it. If I was put under pressure at work to believe Christianity, I don't know how I'd react. The anti-theist in me would lash out and tell my coworkers their religion is nonsense. The accommodationist in me would be more diplomatic. Thankfully, living in the secular metropolis of New York, I've never had that experience. But I know my fellow atheists in the south are not as lucky.

I don't think religion nor atheism should be promoted in the workplace. In other words, there should be a separation between business and religion. Now if your business is religion that's another story. But in general, in most businesses that are merely selling a product of service that has nothing to do with religion, and so religion should be kept out.

I hope that the faithful don't think it's a good idea to bring religion into the workplace as a tactic to increase their numbers. That will likely backfire in our increasingly secular culture. There is no going back to pre-2000s levels of religious belief. That's just not happening Christians, sorry to burst your hopes. And the increased irreligiosity of generation Z ensures that.

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