Showing posts with label Atheism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Atheism. Show all posts

Monday, November 19, 2018

"God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World" Refuted — Part 4


A few months ago over at the Catholic apologist's site Strange Notions, where I sometimes debate theists (but am now banned from), a post was written by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette that was almost entirely addressed at some criticisms I've made on the site in the past year.

This is part 4 of that criticism. For parts 1, 2, and 3, click herehere and here.

Objections Answered


In this section of the post, Bonnette tries to answer the objects he's written thus far, but on analysis he's failed to fully articulate and understand the dilemma. He starts writing,

First, some think that God being the Necessary Being is inconsistent with the contingency of his free will choosing to create this world, which did not have to exist at all. Although God is the Necessary Being, this necessity refers primarily to his act of existence, since his essence is identical to his existence – thus, making it impossible for him not to exist.

Of course, all these claims merely attempts to define god into existence. It's the word salad at the heart of Thomism's case for god. Since I've already addressed this problem in past episodes of this series, I will move on to the heart of the matter:

The term, “necessary,” with reference to the divine nature cannot be capriciously defined to suit some contrived anti-theistic argument. Its meaning originates in the context of St. Thomas’ Third Way, which refers solely to a being whose necessity for existence comes from itself and not from another.4 Such a being must be that being whose essence is its very act of existence.

When I criticize the Thomist's claim that god is necessary, I'm simply using the general, uncontrived, definition of something that is logically necessary, meaning, logic necessitates it's outcome or truth. If what the theist means by "necessity" is really just suppositional necessity, then they are making a much weaker claim under the guise of a much stronger claim. I've argued this is deceptive, and is the lie at the heart of Thomism. He continues,

Hence, God’s necessity means primarily the necessity of his existence. As shown by St. Thomas above, that necessity also pertains to God’s willing his own goodness, since it is equivalent to his own being -- but it is not necessary for God to will things other than himself.5

But again, you can't define something into existence. Now I understand Bonnette is not making the case for god here and is instead responding to objections, and so he's starting from certain statements he thinks are already proven elsewhere. I just see monstrous flaws in those statements to the extent that they are in no way proven. If it is not necessary for god to will things other than himself, that means everything god does will that is not necessary must have a contingent explanation. The Thomist's own principle of sufficient reason demands it. Hence the dilemma in part 3.

Thus, when God chooses freely to create this world as opposed to any other, this choice does not make him to somehow become a “contingent” being. He is still the one and only Necessary Being, but he makes a free choice that in no way contradicts his existential necessity.

Nothing about the above is concluded from what came before it. God never "freely" chooses anything. And if we assume god does for the sake of argument, the reason why god chooses to create this world as opposed to any other must be due to contingent reasons. Since god's essence is his will, and his will to create specific lesser goods is contingent, god's essence is contingent. Hence, god is a contingent being that cannot be fully explained in principle by necessity. He continues,

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World" Refuted — Part 3


A few months ago over at the Catholic apologist's site Strange Notions, where I sometimes debate theists (but am now banned from), a post was written by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette that was almost entirely addressed at some criticisms I've made on the site in the past year.

This is part 3 of that criticism. For parts 1 and 2, click here and here.

God Possesses Free Will


In making his argument for god's free will, immediately Dr. Bonnet says something incoherent:

Still, since the positive perfection of intellect is found among creatures, God must possess intellect – for God could not create finite intellects unless he possesses that perfection himself. Just as the intellect knows being as the true, the intellectual appetite desires being as the good. The intellectual appetite is called “will.” Thus God must have will as well as intellect. In fact, the divine simplicity requires that his will is identical with his intellect.

First, non-intellect can "create" intellect. This is in fact what science demonstrates. Higher order intelligence emerges from lower order non-intelligence. Every single piece of data we have from science demonstrates this, from the fact that thoughts are encoded in the brain and can be read by external parties before subjects become consciously aware of them, to the fact that all the laws of physics that deal with the everyday realm (which includes all of human behavior) are known and there is no room for external forces not in the Standard Model and gravity to have any influence over us, and to the fact that memories can be seen forming in the brain. It is a false creationist trope to argue that only intellect begets intellect. Secondly, what exactly is being claimed when Dr. Bonnette says, "the intellect knows being as the true"? Is this some truism? This is hardly a justification of god's will and intellect. Blind, unintelligent forces can result in intelligence. So no argument Bonnette makes here works. He continues, including a quote from Aquinas:

It may seem odd, but it is possible to have a will that is moved necessarily toward certain objects. For example, God wills his own goodness necessarily. As St. Thomas Aquinas puts it:
“The divine will has a necessary relation to the divine goodness, since that is its proper object. Therefore, God wills the being of his own goodness necessarily, just as we will our own happiness necessarily….”1
Thus, the notion of will itself, as the intellectual appetite for the good, is not inconsistent with an absence of free choice.

How can god will his own goodness necessarily, if god defines goodness? God could will anything and it would be called "good" by definition on the scholastic view. There'd have to be an objective standard independently of god for us to be in any position to know what goodness god would necessarily will. Think about it: if we were confronted with 5 different theists who each believed in a different god that had a radically different will and we were generically told "God wills his own goodness necessarily," how would we know which of the 5 gods, if any, actually willed goodness? We also don't will our happiness necessarily, we have the strong tendency to do so. Aquinas is also, if you didn't notice, just defining god's will as good. All Thomism fundamentally is, is defining things into existence.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World" Refuted — Part 2



A few months ago over at the Catholic apologist's site Strange Notions, where I sometimes debate theists (but am now banned from), a post was written by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette that was almost entirely addressed at some criticisms I've made on the site in the past year.

This is part 2 of that criticism. For part 1, click here.

Objections to Free Will in God


Now we move on to god's free will, one of my favorite topics. Dr Bonnette writes,

For us, free will entails considering various alternatives, knowing we can choose one as opposed to others, and then finally, making a choice one way or another. This process takes place through time. But, God is not in time. He cannot choose between alternatives as we do. Since to choose freely requires that there be a real difference between the potency to various alternatives and the actuality of choosing a single option, time is needed to make the choice. God’s eternal immutability appears to preclude him having free will.
Again, if God is pure act, there can be no distinction between potency and act, meaning that there is no real distinction between what God can do and what he actually chooses to do. Since a thing’s nature determines what it is able to do, it would appear, then, that God’s nature must determine both what he is able to do and what he actually chooses, since there is no distinction between them. Hence, God’s alleged “choices” appear to be determined by his nature, and thus, not free choices at all.

Merely being able to consider various alternatives, thinking you can chose one as opposed to the others, and then finally making a choice is not in and of itself enough for free will. First, you can never know you were able to make any other choice. You can think you know, but you can never really know. It is nowhere explained in his post how this supposed knowledge Dr Bonnette claims to have is justified. Second, such a view would be possible under determinism. You'd just incorrectly be determined to think you know you have alternative possibilities. Third, if it were possible in the same exact scenario to result in different outcomes possibilities, the key factor is whether the choice was of your own accord. That is to say, if it were due to a random process, you cannot have control over it by your own accord by definition, since true randomness requires a fundamental acausality, and you can't have control over something acausal. So in no possible scenario does Dr Bonnette's justification for free will here make sense.

On Thomism it's impossible to reconcile the "free will" of  alternative
possibilities with the eternal divine will that only one possible set of events
in the universe occur.
On Thomism, god is his will: god's will is his essence and nature. Hence god's logically unnecessary will to create our universe is god's nature. The Thomist argues this is eternal, unchanging, logically unnecessary, could not have been different from what it is, and yet is free. For example, assuming god exists, god didn't create a different universe than this one. But because god didn't, it must be the case that god had no potential to create that other universe, since god has no potentials according to Dr Bonnette. So no other universes could possibly have existed, only this one. Yet god is "free" to create what he wants, even though there is only one set of possibilities that had any potential status. Hence, Dr Bonnette is saying a being can be "free" while only having one set of possibilities. This is like trying to get compatibilism. Is Dr Bonnette saying god's free will is compatibilistic free will?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

"God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World" Refuted — Part 1



A few months ago over at the Catholic apologist's site Strange Notions, where I sometimes debate theists (but am now banned from), a post was written by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette that was almost entirely addressed at some criticisms I've made on the site in the past year.

The post, entitled God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World, tries to defend the scholastic notion of god as coherent, with free will, and timelessness, yet able to interact with time. I had argued that such a god is incoherent, can't possible have free will, and would be causally impotent if timeless.

In the the following series of posts I shall refute every section of Bonnette's post, paragraph by paragraph, where ever I see a fallacy or incorrection. So let's get right to it.

God's Immutability and Eternity


Dr. Bonnette starts the first section arguing for god's divine simplicity.

As has been shown previously, a key inference of St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for God’s existence is that God is the Uncaused First Cause. Since God is uncaused, he cannot be the subject of motion or change, because whatever is moved or changed must be moved or changed by another. Hence, God is immutable.

Let's take god's simplicity for the sake of argument: God can't be the subject of motion or change. OK. So what about Jesus, who is god incarnate, and a person in time? If the response is that Jesus has a human and a divine nature, and his divine nature doesn't change, how does the divine nature enter a female womb? Bonnette doesn't mention Jesus at all in his post, but this is an inconsistency left unanswered that undermine's his Christianity. Also, as I like to remind Thomists, the Aristotelian principle, that "whatever is moved or changed must be moved or changed by another" necessarily negates free will, since humans would always be moved by something outside them (ie. by another). I addressed this in more detail in my post on how Thomists like Edward Feser fail to defend free will. Bonnette continues,

Moreover, the Uncaused First Cause must be pure act, since change would require moving something from potency to act. But, if no change is possible, God must have no potency to further act. Hence, he is pure act, which means pure being. In fact, as the absolutely simple first being, God is not even composed of essence and existence. He is pure act of existence without any limiting essence, that is, the Infinite Being. Only one such being is possible, since if there were two, one would limit the infinity of the other.

Of course, there's no need for an uncaused first cause to the universe, since the universe exists as an eternal block that never comes into or goes out of existence. Hence, to borrow Thomistic terminology, the explanation of the universe is in the nature of the universe, because something eternal can't fail to exist. And it hasn't been established (and certainly not from Bonnette's post) that god is not moving or changing. The whole argument that tries to deduce god as unmoving and unchanging is predicated on movement and change in the universe in the sense of things coming into being, often referred to as becoming in philosophy. But as I've argued numerous times on this site, this presupposes the A-theory of time, also known as presentism. If one can't defend the truth of that presupposition, the argument is begging the question. Bonnette on Strange Notions has tried to defend the falsity of eternalism before, which is the antithesis of presentism, but he makes a fool of himself misunderstanding the very basics of the debate. He naively assumes (like almost all people do) that eternalism means timelessness—as if all events would be happening at the same time. This is of course wrong.

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.

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. 

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.

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/


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.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A United Atheist Community Is Impossible


It's been nearly a month now since The Atheist Conference collapsed and I've been thinking about the fallout and it's implications for the broader atheist community.

First, I want to clarify a misconception. It seems that many people thought that having Steve Shives at the conference lead to its demise. This is not true. What killed TAC was entirely due to the director's immoral behavior, which lead to many of our major speakers pulling out. Shives had nothing to do with it.

Second, the rift created by having Shives at our conference has lead me to completely abandon any hopes of atheist unity. The atheists community is irreparably divided and this is an inevitable consequence of the individualist atheist mindset. We're not divided over doctrine like the religious are, we're divided over politics and social issues. Since atheism has no doctrine, there's nothing to unite atheists other than disbelief in god. But that's hardly something to be united under. There's no organization or community dedicated to non-basketball players, or non-chess players, nor is there any reason too. It just isn't a thing.

The only thing that unites an atheist community is extreme persecution by the religious, like the kind happening to atheists in Muslim majority countries. But atheists by and large just don't experience that kind of persecution in the West. This is why there is little reason to have a strong organized atheist community in irreligious parts of the world like Denmark or Sweden, or New York or San Francisco. It is only where religion dominates and persecutes the non-religious that atheists feel the motivation to unite, which is why atheist communities in the American South tend to be much stronger than those in the North.

As atheism becomes more and more normalized and the rights of the non-religious become more and more secured, the need for an atheist community becomes less and less. Basically, the goal of the atheist community is to make itself obsolete. Perhaps the efforts of the atheist community for the last 15 years, which saw the rise of the New Atheism cultural movement, has become a victim of its own success. It's become so good at normalizing atheism that the need for it to continue existing at the size it was simply isn't there. And once religion ceases to be the threat that it once was to atheists, other issues will take center stage, and that's exactly what happened.

We were hoping that Trump's election would have a uniting force on the atheist community, and the main goal of TAC was to help facilitate this. But it didn't. The persecution of atheists even under fundamentalists like Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions just isn't bad enough to warrant such a unity. Most atheists across the US saw no difference in their lives once Trump took office. On top of that, the social issues that divide atheists today, like radical feminism and extreme political correctness, only seem to be getting worse by the day, and they have a much greater tangible effect on the live of most atheists in the West than religious fundamentalism does.

I've accepted this reality and I will no longer call for the futile idea of atheist unity. A united atheist community is impossible; that's just the way it is. But I'm definitely not going to stop being an active atheist. With TAC out of the way I can now focus on other projects. I will continue writing on this blog about atheism and related issues. I will continue working with my local atheist community in making more atheist related content, especially video content — something I haven't explored deeply. This will be in the form of documentaries and videos about atheist related subject matters, science, philosophy, and social issues, in both a scripted and unscripted format. I'm also planning on making a documentary about free will this year, something I'm uber excited about. This will necessarily reduce the number of blog posts I can make, so my frequency might be reduced, but there will be videos! Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Most Difficult Questions When It Comes To Being Saved By Faith


The major religions of the world, particularly Christianity and Islam, emphasize the importance of belief in the right god and right religion at the moment of death. Christianity is split between whether belief alone gets you saved, or whether belief plus the right deeds and behaviors gets you saved. Either way, the right belief upon death is almost always part of the equation.

So what does god do when you have a person with two heads? Consider the Hensel twins of Minnesota. They have one shared body with two heads. If one was an atheist and the other was the right believer, what would happen to their soul? Do they have two souls or one? What makes the soul unique? Is it the brain? They have two brains, but one body. If one went to heaven and the other didn't, what kind of body would that one get in heaven? Would they be bodily separated? What if they were both the right kind of believers? Would they stay conjoined in heaven forever?


It's these kind of questions that make the idea of being saved by faith so perplexing.

And if that's not difficult enough, consider the scenario below. Neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran describes a scenario where a person whose brain was split in half developed two distinct personalities. One was an atheist, the other a theist! Same brain, same person, and presumably the same soul. If such a thing can happen, how is the idea of being saved by faith logically preserved? The same person can't go to heaven and hell. Does one half go to heaven and one half go to hell?


This opens up further questions for the theist: Is the soul divided when the brain is divided? How can an immaterial thing be divided when a physical thing is divided? If one's personality can be split when a brain is split, that indicates personality is dependent entirely on the brain, not an immaterial soul, and as such, we have no control over what brain we're born with. Given the relationship between belief and the brain the idea of salvation by faith in any way (whether by faith alone or not) is completely moronic. 

Thanks to Atheist Republic's tweet for inspiring this post.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Atheist Conference Is Dead



As some of you may have read, here or elsewhere, I was co-organizing an event this upcoming summer called The Atheist Conference, or TAC for short. It was supposed to be the first major atheist event held in New York City.

I was supposed to participate in two events there. The first was to moderate a debate between atheist Justin Schieber, and Christian David Wood on the existence of god. The second was to host a panel discussion called Make Atheism Great Again, about how atheists can respond better to the arguments for god, and improve their critical thinking skills. It was to be shared with Justin again and the Counter Apologist. It would have been a fucking awesome panel.

But none of this is going to happen now because the event has just been canceled. The reasons why are complicated, but it started out difficult enough. The atheist community has splintered into a million shards in recent years. There are the atheist feminists and the atheist anti-feminists, the social justice warrior atheists and the anti-social justice warrior atheists. The pro-PC atheists and the anti-PC atheists. There are pro-Trump atheists and anti pro-Trump atheists. Atheists are split over gamergate, elevatorgate, whether we should organize, or whether we should even call ourselves atheists at all. The divisions go on and on.

Early on we invited atheist YouTuber Steve Shives to speak at TAC on a panel about YouTube atheism. We gave him the ability to control who's on the panel, as he wouldn't participate on it with anyone who strongly disagreed with him. Naturally, he picked people whose ideology was very much in line with his own. And immediately we got slack by the anti-SJW wing of the atheist community who all told us that our speakers were very one sided in the pro-SJW direction.

There is no doubt about it that Shives's panel was very pro-SJW. No doubt. But it would have been moderated by Lee Moore, TAC's founder, and the plan was for him to be the sole voice of criticism against some of the shadier tactics Shives is guilty of. Also, Shives's panel was just one event at the conference. It wasn't all we were about. We weren't going to put on a social justice warrior conference. Social justice issues weren't going to be the focus of the conference. Trying to patch the atheist community's rifts to focus on getting us united on what we agree on was. There were going to be panels with secular politicians, speeches about critical thinking and the problems of group think, speeches about science, a comedy show with Mike Lee, and of course the debate between Schieber and Wood, which would have been our opening night special.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Discovering Religion


About seven years ago, when I was still in my early years of discovering YouTube atheism, I came across a channel called Discovering Religion. It contains a few dozen well produced videos critiquing religion from various aspects that aided me in my journey of becoming a more active and more knowledgable atheist. From the YouTube description:

"Discovering Religion" is an original, documentary-style series on YouTube that explores a variety of topics within the framework of religion, science, philosophy, history and politics. The aim of this series is to objectively examine the fallacies propagated by religious doctrine through an entertaining, educational, and thought-provoking medium.

Sadly, the channel is no longer active and the videos seem to have been part of an extended documentary that is now over. But if you haven't seen any of the videos, I highly recommend them. Transcripts of videos can be seen here. Here is the first video and one about the founders of the US. Check out the channel page to see all videos.



Enjoy!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Why Ben Shapiro Is Totally Ignorant On Atheism


I've been meaning to refute Ben Shapiro for months now and just haven't gotten around to it. I've only heard of him from within the past year but I've since learned he's been making ignorant utterances publicly for more than a decade.

Ben is an orthodox practicing Jew, and a pretty conservative one at that. He defends religion and belief in god quite often, usually while he's attacking atheism, and when he does so he can always be counted on to make a fool of himself.

Way back in 2008 he wrote a peice for TownHall.com entitled Why Atheism Is Morally Bankrupt where he made several predictable and already refuted absurd arguments that claim god is needed for morality and free will and for society to function:

Theres only one problem: without God, there can be no moral choice. Without God, there is no capacity for free will.*

This is based on the fallacy that souls can give us free will. Whether or not we have a soul is irrelevant to whether we have free will, and that's because the concept of libertarian free will (which is what Ben really means when he says free will) is completely incoherent. This has not trickled down into the masses yet, even though almost 90% of philosophers know this.

Thats because a Godless world is a soulless world. Virtually all faiths hold that God endows human beings with the unique ability to choose their actions -- the ability to transcend biology and environment in order to do good. Transcending biology and our environment requires a higher power -- a spark of the supernatural.

But where does your soul inherit its traits? Don't souls bare some resemblance to your parent's souls? If not, what gives your soul its apparently unique characteristics if they aren't inherited from biology at all? Are people born with a soul that is a particular way? If so, then how do you transcend the tendencies of the soul you had no choice to receive? It's the same problem Ben thinks the body has with biology: if we inherit our biology without a choice and can only transcend it with a soul, then if we inherit our soul without a choice how can we transcend that? The answer can't be free will, because clearly our souls don't have all the same capabilities.

Gilbert Pyle, the atheistic philosopher, derogatorily labeled the idea of soul/body dualism, the ghost in the machine. Nonetheless, our entire legal and moral system is based on the ghost in the machine -- the presupposition that we can choose to do otherwise. We can only condemn or praise individuals if they are responsible for their actions. We dont jail squirrels for garden theft or dogs for assaulting cats -- they arent responsible for their actions. But we routinely lock up kleptomaniacs and violent felons.

The Cartesian style dualism commonly referred to as a ghost in the machine prejortively, makes scientific claims that have absolutely no basis in science. In fact, this is one of those things science has unambiguously refuted. (See here too) And you can't say free will is true or that we have a soul because our legal system is based on it. The legal system assumes free will is true and can easily operate under false assumptions. That's one of the reasons why it's so bad. Legal responsibility on no free will is more complex and nuanced. It's generally based on a quarantine model for those who are dangerous and deterrance against future law breakers with an emphasis on reform instead of punishment in prison. No libertarian free will is required for that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Big Sick Shows The Seriousness Of Denying Islam In Traditional Culture


I watched The Big Sick recently on Amazon, a romantic comedy about a Pakistani immigrant (Kumail) who dates an American girl (Emily) who gets sick and endures awkward culture clashes between his traditional Pakistani family and his American values.

I'm not much on romantic comedies but I thought, what the heck. It was free with Prime. While watching I noticed that there are a few scenes that feature Kumail's rebellion against his family's Islamic religion. Before eating with the family in one scene he's asked to go pray in the basement and instead of doing so he watches videos and plays games on his phone.

Later on in the movie when his family confronts him over why he doesn't want to date the Pakistani women they've been inviting over he confesses that he's been dating a white woman and that he hasn't been praying. When his father asks him if he doesn't believe in Allah he explains that he doesn't know what he believes, taking basically an agnostic position. He tells them he isn't going to go along with his family's desire for an arranged marriage with a Pakistani girl and will continue persuing his relationship with Emily. They disown him as a result.

This highlights the many problems traditional religious cultures have on immigrants who get a whiff of the freedoms of the West. And leaving the family's religion is a big part of it. Kumail in real life is an atheist, and the movie is based on his real life experience meeting his wife. So we can see there's his inner atheist coming out in the film, playing the agnostic to his family, and perhaps to himself, because it's just so much easier. Or perhaps at this time in his life that the movie represents, he truly was an agnostic, not knowing if he believed in god. Agnosticsm is often the transition before atheism when coming out of religion. Nevertheless, it shows a difficult time in one's personal journey away from religion, while dealing with traditional family and culture that have little room for leniency.

I give the movie 5 stars just for that as it's not easy squeezing non-religious point of views into pop culture. If we're going to win the war of ideas in the Muslim world, it's trenches will largely be in movies, TV, and in pop culture. The front line of battle will be less in the ivy covered towers of academia, and more in the characters you watch in your favorite shows and movies.

If I were rich I'd create a film company that would be entirely dedicated to making well written, well acted, and well produced movies and documentaries on atheism, secular living, and the dramas of leaving religion in a traditional religious culture. I can only dream.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Atheists On Religion, Science, And Morality (The Point)


Way back 5 years ago I remember watching this episode of The Point hosted by science advocate Cara Santa Maria, that featured Michael Shermer and one of my favorite physicists Sean Carroll talking about atheism, secularism and secular living, morality, and culture. It's worth a watch. There's also a follow up Q and A video.




Atheist Q and A


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