Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What Questions Would You Ask A Catholic Philosopher?


Over on Strange Notions, they advertised an AMA (ask me anything) featuring Catholic philosopher Edward Feser. Readers, particularly atheist readers, were encouraged to write in questions, and some would be chosen for him to answer in a future post on the site.

I've read and reviewed his book The Last Superstition a few years ago, and was not particularly impressed by it. There were so many questions that arose from reviewing his book that Catholics like him fail to adequately explain that I decided to compile many of them into a single blog post.

Here is the list that I'd ask Feser, or any other Catholic philosopher, about their philosophy that I think makes little sense. It was compiled from a comment of mine on the site that used questions from my review.

  1. When did the rational soul begin to exist during the course of our evolution? Did Homo naledi have it? What about Neanderthals? Or Homo erectus
  2. Given evolution, was there a single human who got a rational soul whose parents didn't have one? If so, was he or she able to talk or think in a way their parents weren't? 
  3. Was this person as rational in capability as the average modern person is today, and were their parent's behavior like homo erectus or some other transitional hominid? 
  4. If natural selection could get us homo sapiens to the point where we acquired "such a level of complexity that it was possible for an animal to exist which was capable of having a rational soul," then why do we need god or the soul as an explanatory force for that matter?
  5. What is a squirrel's perfect essence? Does it depend on the species? Or geographic region? Does the North American tree squirrel have a different "Form," then say, the flying squirrels of Asia? And does a squirrel's "perfect" essence evolve as squirrels were evolving and changing or does it suddenly come to be in one squirrel generation? Any "genetic defect" that an animal might have could give it an advantage to its environment. That's one of the driving mechanisms for how evolution works after all. And that "defect" might become spread throughout that entire population through natural selection and gene flow. At what point does the mutation become the "Form" or "essence"?
  6. What is the perfect form, essence, or nature of a human being? David Hasselhoff? Brad Pitt? Michaelangelo's David? Joseph Smith? The Islamic prophet Mohammad? Or is it Jesus?
  7. In The Last Superstition, you make several arguments against abortion. Among them, you say it's a "particularly violent interference with nature's purposes." (146) I suppose that would mean circumcision is too, right?
  8. God lacks passive potency, Thomists claim, but how can god create or become Jesus and not change?
  9. How can something with no size, shape, location, mass, motion or solidity act on bodies, or act on anything physical, especially without violating the conservation of energy and quantum field theory?
  10. If god doesn't reason or choose things in anything like the human sense of doing so, and he's timeless, how and why did he decide to create a universe that is apparently contingent on his will?
  11. Why does the universe have to be essentially ordered? Why does an atom need to be continually held in existence by a god? Is it metaphysically impossible for god to create something physical that continues to exist without sustenance? Is that something god can't do, like creating a stone he cannot lift?
  12. How does the "soul" go from act to potency without something outside to actualize it?
  13. From the Aristotelian perspective, how could we even distinguish a series of events having a final cause versus a series of events that didn't?
  14. How are Forms able to somehow have a causal relationship with the atoms in the physical brain via the "intellect," in a way that physics has not already discovered — since that is indeed what the Thomistic view would entail?
  15. What is it that makes the body proceed to move in a way that's in accordance with the intellect? Was it going to do so anyway via a purely material process irrespective of the intellect and will? If so, what's the point of the intellect here? How is it causal? Is it just a coincidence that the physical body moves according to what the intellect and will just so happens to think?
  16. Couldn't god have created us with a different nature, which would rationally entail a different kind of morality? Couldn't god, for example, have made humans reproduce by laying a large amount of eggs ensuring that only a few could possibly be raised to adulthood instead of giving birth to live young? What principle prevents god from doing that? In other words, was god's choice in creating our nature the way it is at all arbitrary, or is there some logically necessary reason why he created our nature the way it is? If so, what's that logically necessary reason?
If there are any Catholics out there who want to take a shot at these questions above, please do so in the comments below. I'd appreciate your efforts.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

"But Many Great Scientists Believed In God!"


Time for one quick counter-argument—

When debating the social effects of religion and atheism an inevitable argument coming from the religious will be something like, "But many great scientists were believers in God: Newton, Galileo, Faraday..."

OK. We atheists hear this a lot. Sometimes it's made by theists making the general claim that belief in god is compatible with science, sometimes it's made by theists making the specific claim that Christianity is compatible with science.


Regardless of the specifics here's my response:

Yes it is true that many great scientists have been believers in god, but it is also the case that prior to the late 1800s in Western culture you pretty much had to openly profess a belief in god. There were, for example, laws on the books in European countries that made it illegal to deny the existence of god or the truth of the Christian religion, and the penalties could be severe. Until the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act 1677 the death penalty was applied for atheism in England. And throughout all of Europe, from the time the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as it's official religion, the Catholic Church (and then later the Protestant churches after the reformation) had a monopoly on academic institutions.

What all this means is that until fairly recently there were no secular institutions of higher learning in the West. And by law, you had to profess belief in god, usually the right version of god, in order to maintain your freedom, social status, and job — and in some cases your life. So to say that Newton and Gallileo were believers in god, or were Christians and were brilliant scientists ignores that point. During their time they had no ability to be otherwise. And even during the post-Enlightenment period when the punishments for disbelief and blasphemy stopped being enforced (even though in many cases they remained on the books into the 20th century) there was still a tremendous amount of social pressure to believe in the religious orthodoxy, just as there is now in the more religious parts of the US, and in the Islamic world.

It was not really until Darwin's time in the second half of the 1800s that we began to see the emergence of any sort of real social acceptability of agnosticism or atheism. It was only once you got past the turn of the 20th century to the time of Einstein, Popper, and Freud that atheism became acceptable in the sciences and philosophy. And once it became socially acceptable what did we see? We saw the floodgates open of atheists in the sciences, and today most of the best scientists are atheists or agnostics. In other words, once it became socially acceptable to be an atheist in the sciences, atheism quickly became the dominant view.

So the main reason why many great scientists (as well as philosophers, thinkers, and inventors) were believers in god, was because years ago you had to be, and religious institutions held a monopoly on higher learning.

Now of course today there are many great living scientists who are believers in god. Francis Collins, head of the human genome project, Don Page, physicist and cosmologist, Francisco Ayala, evolutionary biologist and philosopher, to name a few. But if you look at the many reasons why contemporary scientists and thinkers believe in god, it rarely, if ever, is inspired by their scientific views. It is usually based on some emotional epiphany or the popular notion that god is required to have morality. In Francis Collins's case for example, he was hiking in the Cascade mountains when he saw a frozen waterfall split in three and upon seeing this, dropped to his knees and accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior.

Yeah.

Furthermore, we humans are very good are compartmentalizing beliefs. We can hold contradictory beliefs quite easily. So just because a scientist is a Christian, a Muslim, or another religion, it doesn't mean science is compatible with those religions.

Thomism Can't Even Stay Consistent With Its Own Principles


I've been embroiled in several comment threads over at Strange Notions, a Catholic apologetic site, on a variety of issues related to metaphysical first principles and brute facts. There, I've tested out my argument that brute facts are unavoidable to the many Catholic apologists on the site, including Dr. Dennis Bonnette, a retired professor of philosophy who now teaches free classes at the Aquinas School of Philosophy, and is contributing author on the site.

As a reminder, that argument is:

  1. The traditional notion of god in classical theism is that of a timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, who also must be infinitely good, infinitely wise, and can do anything logically possible.
  2. All of god's will and desires must exist timelessly and eternally in an unchanging, frozen state.
  3. That would mean that god timelessly and eternally had the desire to create our particular universe, and not some other universe, or no universe.
  4. Our universe is not logically necessary; it didn't have to exist, and god didn't have to create it.
  5. The theist would have to show that it was logically necessary for god to create our particular universe in order to avoid eventually coming to a brute fact.
  6. There is no way to answer this question, even in principle, with something logically necessary.
  7. Thus at least one brute fact must exist even if god exists.

I think my argument is irrefutable, but I'm not so cocky that I'm unwilling to debate it. In fact, debating it is exactly what I need. I wish to put it up against the best minds in Thomism to see how they respond. And after a week of debating the argument back and forth with Dr. Bonnette, I basically got him to tacitly admit that god's eternal desire to create our particular universe, and not any other universe, or no universe, is a brute fact. He didn't acknowledge it's a brute fact of course, and he denied that it was, but he had to ground his explanation in circular reasoning.

First, one of the metaphysical first principles that Thomists like Dr. Bonnette argue cannot be denied is the principle of sufficient reason, which states that everything must have a reason, cause, or ground for its existence. Furthermore, this reason will either have to be contingent or necessary. That is, it's either going to be dependent on something else for its explanation, or its explanation will be contained within itself, meaning, it's logically necessary.

Dr. Bonnette's view is that god's substance is identical to his will. This means that a god with a different will is a god with a different substance, and in effect, is a different god. So god with eternal desire A is a different god than god with eternal desire B. For simplicity I said let's just call them god A and god B.

There is no logically necessary reason why god A exists, rather than god B, since both are logically possible and neither is logically impossible (assuming god is not incoherent). So Dr. Bonnette's metaphysics (if granted) only covers one aspect of this: that there needs to be a god. But it doesn't demonstrate why there needs to be god A vs god B, or any other god with a different eternal and unchanging will (which again, will be a different god).

Since there is no logically necessary reason why god A has to exist, the reason why god A exists and not god B/C/D/E... etc, cannot be based on a logically necessary reason. Hence his metaphysics fails to explain why we have the particular god we have. Given this, only non-necessary, contingent reasons can explain why. They will all necessarily be reasons that could have been otherwise, and ultimately when drilling down to why any particular answer explains a non-necessary aspect of god's will (and therefore his substance) he must terminate in a brute fact at some point since there is no logically necessary reason available to him.

A few comments later he says,

The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did. God B was never a real possibility because the only God that exists is God A. You are again trying to go back in time and think of two possibilities. God is outside of time and there never was an actual possibility of any God but him.

The explanation in his first sentence isn't a logically necessary one, and so he's admitting god A is not logically necessary. And saying that god A exists simply because god A does, can be applied to the eternal universe: The reason why our eternal universe exists and not another eternal universe is because our eternal universe does exist and another eternal universe never did.

It makes the logical grounding of god A no more justified than the atheist's grounding for the universe. The Thomistic theist in this sense has no edge over the atheist.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I Would Let Milo Speak On Campus, Under One Condition




A week ago the "dangerous faggot" Milo Yianopoulos was scheduled to speak at Berkeley University in California and some students violently protested and set fire to parts of the campus in opposition to him speaking there. This was widely reported in the news, and even the president tweeted that he'd withhold federal money from the campus if the university didn't allow free speech.

Much has been said about the kerfuffle, from how intolerant the Left is, to how all this protesting just raises Milo's profile, to how hateful his speech is. But I have a proposal. If I were the head of a university making the decision on whether or not an alt-righter like Milo gets to speak on my campus my policy would be this. I would allow Milo to speak on one condition. If he wants to speak on my campus, the format will be a debate. That's right. He can spew all his nonsense talk about how "Catholics are right about everything," but not in a way that it goes unchallenged. It's a debate or nothing. That's it.

I'm sure Milo wouldn't have a problem with that. Would he? The thing is, the Left indeed has lost the ability to debate and defend their views. They rely far too much on feelings and persecution complexes. The Left needs to learn how to debate again. And I'd use this as an opportunity to find the person who can best debate Milo and make it a must-see spectacle for all.

That just brings up one question: who's the best person on the Left to debate the dangerous faggot? I'd love to debate him, but I'm unfortunately a nobody. So this is an open question for me. Anyone properly debating him must be familiar with his arguments. Some generic Leftist who doesn't "get it" would be destroyed. Perhaps Kyle Kulinkski of Secular Talk? Hmm.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Less Than A Third Of Americans Think Being A Christian Is Very Important To Being An American


As I've said before, PEW is a treasure trove for data geeks like me. A recent report on national identity offered up a surprising poll. When people were surveyed in several different Western countries on whether being a Christian is very important for being truly the nationality of the country, I was surprised to see that in Germany, among millennials 18-34, 0 percent think it's important. Zero. And in many other countries such as the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Spain, have percentages in the single digits in the same demographic. The West is secularizing faster than I expected. In another generation when today's older generation is gone, religion in many European countries will almost be non-existent, at least among the native population.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Atheism Rises Faster Under Obama


So the conservasphere was ablaze recently on recent data from PEW that atheism grew faster under outgoing president Obama than during previous presidents. Some conservatives are attributing this fact to Obama's "hostility towards religious believers."

But that's nonsense. The rapid rise in atheism over Obama's presidency is part of a larger trend towards secularization in the Western world that, in the US, began rising in the early 1990s and began rapidly increasing during the Bush administration during the mid 2000s, coinciding the the birth of "New Atheism."

In fact, it could be plausibly argued that the rise in atheism, agnosticism, and secularism are in large part backlashes against the Religious Right's encroachment into politics and social issues beginning in the 1980s. So don't blame Obama or his policies for turning our country godless. Blame the backlash against the Religious Right, the reaction to the Catholic Priest pedophile scandal, the events of September 11th, 2001, and perhaps the internet, where the free flow criticism of religion is nearly ubiquitous.

Blame the fact that religious people consistently make utter fools of themselves on TV and on the internet which helps make religions like Christianity look like a den of stupidity.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

We Desperately Need More Secular Representation In Washington


So the newly elected 115th Congress is 90% Christian, according to recent data from PEW. Despite the fact that the US as a whole is only 70% Christian, and the unaffiliated now make up a whopping 25% of the US population. There is only one member of Congress who is openly unaffiliated, Democrat Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, from Arizona.


That means that of the 430 members of the House a whopping 0.2% are religiously unaffiliated. About 7 more we either do not know their religious affiliation or they refused to answer. They could be closeted secularists. But I have no idea. In the Senate there are no openly unaffiliated members. If the Congress was accurately represented by the population, there would be 107 members of the House who are openly unaffiliated and 25 members of the Senate. And about half of them would be openly atheist or agnostic. That would be about 66 members of Congress openly atheist or agnostic to represent the tens of millions of Americans who either question or reject a belief in god.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Argument From Core Theory


The most successful scientific theory ever that gives us the most accurate predictions in all of science is quantum field theory. It says that particles and forces arise out of fields. When the fields vibrate, we observe those vibrations in the form of particles. Particles are made up of two kinds of fields, fermions and bosons. Bosons make up force fields. An example would be the Higgs field, which gives particles matter. Fermions make up the objects of matter that you and I are made of.

There are basically only three kinds of matter particles and three forces that you and I are made up of. Protons and neutrons, which make up the nucleus of atoms, and orbiting electrons, are the three matter particles. Then there are the three forces in the Standard Model: the strong and the weak nuclear force and electromagnetism. The strong force binds the nucleus of atoms together (and the quarks that make up protons and neutrons), the weak force allows interaction with neutrinos and are carried by W and Z bosons, and electromagnetism binds electrons with the nucleus.

Then there's gravity, for which we use the General Theory of Relativity to describe. Gravity is a very weak force and is very simple: everything pulls on everything else. It could be said that gravity isn't really a force per se, but is rather the curvature of spacetime. Regardless, it's just easier to describe it as a force. There are two other generations of fermions but they decay rather quickly and aren't particularly relevant for describing the stuff that you and I are made of and interact with.

So that makes up everything you experience in your everyday lives, without exception. When we combine all this knowledge into a single theory, we get what is called Core Theory. It was developed and named by Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek. And there's an equation that describes Core Theory:


Within this equation lies the physics of everyday human experience: eating, exercising, sleeping, dreaming, using a computer, driving a car, flying an airplane, reproducing, making decisions, meditating — everything you've ever done, ever seen, or ever will do (so long as you don't travel into a black hole), and every scientific experiment that has been performed is fundamentally described by, and compatible with, this equation. There are no exceptions.

The key word above is fundamentally. That means that whatever you experience yourself doing or seeing in your everyday life is going to be either reduced to and explained by, or emerges from, the fermions and bosons described by this equation. But this means there are consequences to this equation. As all-encompassing as Core Theory is, what it restricts is perhaps the most important.

One of its consequences is that psychic phenomena like telekinesis is ruled out. There are no forces or particles that your mind can produce that can bend spoons or move objects. In other words, we don't need to test the claims of every self-proclaimed psychic and mentalist. Core Theory unambiguously rules out such abilities. There's no way for there to be forces that can produce the kinds of effects mentalists claim they can cause. There's no room with in Core Theory to allow that. It isn't that we don't know of possible forces that might still exist "out there" waiting to be discovered that can allow spoon bending with one's mind, rather it's that we know all the relevant particles and forces and how they interact that are involved with the physics of everyday human experience, which telekinesis would be a part of. Any new force or particle that exists would be far too weakly interacting with the atoms that make up spoons or you and I to be able to effect them in any way like the mentalists claim they can do. This is why no psychic phenomena has ever been able to be demonstrated under any competent scientific scrutiny.

Friday, December 16, 2016

PEW Study On Education By Religion Shows Unaffiliated Educated Less


Pew has released a new survey reporting that Jews and Christians worldwide have on average higher levels of educational attainment than the unaffiliated do. On some Right-leaning sites this is being touted as a rebuttal to the often heard claim that atheists are more educated than Christians, or religious people in general.

Well, there is a way to explain this but it's a little bit complicated. In the US, a larger percentage of the unaffiliated (and therefore atheists) have higher education than Christians, as the same survey reported. This is not always true for several developing countries. This means region must be factored in as much as religion. The latter claim that atheists are more educated than religious people in general is indeed true and this same study reports that when the affiliated and unaffiliated worldwide go head-to-head on the percentage of those with higher education, the unaffiliated always show more. (See below)


Friday, December 9, 2016

Do We Have More Evidence For Jesus's Existence Than For Socrates's?


iconA popular claim by Christians towards atheists who are skeptical that Jesus was a historical figure is that we have more evidence for Jesus's existence than for Socrates's, and that would mean that anyone who accepts Socrates as historical figure but not Jesus is being inconsistent by unjustifiably applying a higher standard for Jesus.

So is it the case that we have more evidence for Jesus's existence than for Socrates's? The answer is no. Here's why.

First it's important to note that Jesus and Socrates share many similarities as figures. Both are highly revered. Both were considered fathers of important movements (Jesus of Christianity, Socrates of Philosophy). Both never wrote anything themselves, and for both their knowledge was spread through their disciples.

But here are the important differences:

1. Unlike with Jesus, we have dozens of eyewitness accounts who wrote about Socrates and whose names we know. In some cases we have the titles of the books and quotations of them from later works. In two cases the books survive. From Plato and Xenophon we have whole books preserved. We have nothing like that for Jesus.
2. We have eyewitness accounts from critics of Socrates. The Clouds by Aristophanes is a play written specifically to make fun of Socrates that Socrates even attended. We have nothing like that for Jesus.

So much is preserved of what Socrates said and so little of what Jesus said, despite Jesus founding a great church that became dedicated to preserving everything written about him. It's amazing that we have no written eyewitness accounts of anything about Jesus at all given that mission of the church. You'd think we'd have volumes of eyewitness accounts, but we have none.[1]

And that's why we actually have more evidence of Socrates's existence than Jesus's, and why it is not being inconsistent to think Socrates was a historical figure and Jesus was not.

For more information on this I highly recommend reading On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier.

[1] The New Testament is not an eyewitness account: Paul never saw Jesus in person, and the gospel writers weren't eyewitnesses either.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Bible Quiz!


To all Bible believing Christians, or anyone who thinks the Bible makes sense and is inerrant, please answer the following:


1. How long does Yahweh’s anger last?
(A) Forever
(B) Not-forever 
2. Can salvation be attained by works?
(A) Yes
(B) No
3. What are the consequences of seeing Yahweh’s face?
(A) Death
(B) Preservation of life
(C) No one has seen Yahweh's face
4. On the road to Damascus, did Paul’s traveling companions hear the voice that spoke to Paul?
(A) Yes
(B) No
5. Will the Earth last forever?
(A) Yes
(B) No
6. Is Jesus the only man to have ascended into heaven?
(A) Yes
(B) No 
7. In Old Testament law, were children to be punished for the sins of their fathers?
(A) Yes
(B) No  
8. Is God the author of evil?
(A) Yes
(B) No  
9. Does Yahweh delight in burnt offerings?
(A) Yes
(B) No 
10. When the women arrived at Jesus’ tomb, was the tomb opened or closed? 
(A) Opened
(B) Closed

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Minimal Jesus Myth Theory - What Is It?


Minimal mythcism, sometimes called the minimal mythicist theory or the minimal Jesus myth theory, that people like Richard Carrier argue for goes as follows [1]:

  1. At the origin on Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other.
  2. Like many other celestial deities, this Jesus 'communicated' with his subjects only through dreams, visions and other forms of divine inspiration (such as prophesy, past and present).
  3. Like some other celestial deities, the Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm.
  4. As for many other celestial deities, an allegorical story of this same Jesus was then composed and told within the sacred community, which then placed him on earth, in history, as a divine man, with an earthly family, companions, and enemies, complete with deeds and sayings, and an earthly depiction of his ordeals.
  5. Subsequent communities of worshipers believed (or at least taught) that this invented sacred story was real (and either not allegorical or only 'additionally' allegorical).

As such, it's important to know what minimal Jesus mythicism is and is not because there's a lot of kooks out there, especially on the internet, proposing preposterous ideas that are backed up by no evidence or horrible scholarship, and it tends to drown out the legitimate arguments like Carrier's. 


Friday, August 26, 2016

Biblical Slavery For Foreigners Part III: The Micro Argument


I just wrote a lengthy follow up to my original post on biblical slavery for foreigners where I critiqued a popular Christian rebuttal but I realized that I needed a micro version of the argument that the Bible allows for conditions that meet the definition of slavery. I also want to list some of the most common responses I hear from Christians defending the view that the Bible doesn't condone slavery. So below is a micro argument that argues that the Bible does indeed condone slavery and it can be copied and pasted by anyone who wants to use it in an online debate. The agenda is as follows: (1) start with defining slavery, (2) show how the Bible allows for conditions that meet the definition of slavery, and (3) rebut a few common points and preempt as many common responses one often hears.

The Argument


The goal of this argument is to make the case that the Bible condoned conditions that amount to what we'd properly call slavery. Slavery can be generally defined as follows:

1. The condition in which one person is owned as property by another and is under the owner's control, especially in involuntary servitude.
2. (Law) the state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty, and fortune
3. The subjection of a person to another person, esp in being forced into work

So at least two conditions have to be met in order to properly be called slavery: (1) The person has to be forced into the position against their will, and (2) the person has to be made to perform some kind of labor, and paid nothing or next to nothing, for a certain amount of time, up to life. This would not generally include people punished for crimes in a just court of law. If anything meets these two conditions, it can be properly called slavery. I will argue that the Bible allowed for situations that meet these conditions.

In the Old Testament foreign slaves could be acquired by war, purchase, or birth. Deut. 20:12-14 says that the Israelites could force the inhabitants of the region they call their "Promised Land" as well as "all the cities that are at a distance from [them] and do not belong to the nations nearby" into forced servitude if they surrender their land and belongings. If they don't surrender, their towns will be besieged and their men will be killed and the women and children can be taken as booty. In Judges 1:28-34 it even says the Israelites forced the Canaanites, the Naphtalites, and the Amorites into servitude, all while the "LORD was with them." 1 Kings 9:21 tells of how King Solomon conscripted foreign tribes who the Israelites couldn't exterminate "to serve as slave labor" building temples, palaces, and the walls of towns. And to distinguish the rules between Hebrews and non-Hebrews, Leviticus 25:44-46 specifies that foreign slaves are not to be freed after the 7th year as a Hebrew servants do, they serve for life and can be inherited as property. This meets both of the conditions for slavery above in that under Old Testament law (1) persons could be forced into the position of subordination or property to another person against their will, or be born into that position, and (2) made to perform unpaid labor.

It is important to note that this argument is not trying to say that all conditions of servitude in the Bible meet the conditions of slavery. Much of it was what can properly be called indentured servitude. This argument is an in principle argument that resolves the question of whether any conditions allowed for under Old Testament Mosaic law meets the conditions for slavery. That is a very important point one has to be aware of when responding to this argument.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Biblical Slavery For Foreigners Part II


In the ongoing question about whether the Bible condones human slavery, Christian apologists have come up with many ways to try and explain that it doesn't. One Christian is Glenn Miller, who wrote a piece on the Christian Think Tank website on slavery in the Bible arguing this point. To properly answer this question, one should ask whether Mosaic law allowed foreigners in Israel to be legally kept in conditions amounting to slavery.

So what is slavery? Slavery has many definitions. For example:

1. The condition in which one person is owned as property by another and is under the owner's control, especially in involuntary servitude.
2. (Law) the state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty, and fortune
3. The subjection of a person to another person, esp in being forced into work

All of these paint a situation one could properly call slavery. Interestingly, to be a slave does not require it to be based on race or ethnicity, and it does not have to be life long. Someone forced into servitude and labor for a finite amount of time can still be considered a slave during the time they are forced. I mention this because many Christian apologists are quick to point out that biblical slavery was not exactly like slavery in the Antebellum South. That may be so, but that doesn't mean biblical slavery wasn't slavery. In the Old Testament, Mosaic law describes how foreigners (non-Hebrews) could be forcefully taken as slaves by being acquired by war (Deut. 20:12-14) and foreign slaves could be kept for life (Lev 25:44-46). While the servitude forced upon prisoners convicted of just crimes is not generally considered slavery, this didn't apply to the people the Bible mentions were forced into servitude. So at least two conditions have to be met in order to properly be called slavery: (1) The person has to be forced into the position against their will, and (2) the person has to be made to perform some kind of labor, and paid nothing or next to nothing, for a certain amount of time, up to life. Now, we can endlessly split hairs over exactly what's "force" (does verbal intimidation or coercion count as force?), but it's not necessary now, as clearly being threatened with death at the end of a sword counts as force.

iconI made a post a while back called Biblical Slavery for Foreigners where I quote from A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, a scholarly work that mentions the allowance of forced lifelong slavery for foreigners in ancient Israel. Miller's article references my source 21 times but when he quotes from it he often is quoting from slave systems of other non-Hebrew cultures. For example, his citation of page 449 references Assyrian slavery. Page 585 references Mesopotamian uses of slavery. Page 664 references Emar, part of Anatolia and the Levant. Page 741 refers to Canaanite culture. And page 199 refers to Mesopotamian culture again. None of these references refer to Hebrew culture and law which is the very thing in question. We're not debating what the Sumerians did or the Hittites did. We're debating what the Israelites did because Christians believe their law came from Yahweh—the one true god, and many Christians today are still claiming this god — and only this god — grounds morality. That's what the debate is about. And all these points Miller makes that slavery was sometimes (or even often) an economic need is totally irrelevant. No one denies that indentured servitude existed in the ANE. When debating whether the Bible condones slavery we're having an in principle argument here: did Mosaic law condone forced servitude that could last for life under any circumstances? Yes or no? That is the issue. Showing that most slavery was voluntary indentured servitude in the ANE is totally irrelevant.

Monday, August 8, 2016

10 Questions For A Christian



Editor's note: For some reason I wrote this blog post years ago but then apparently never published it. Well, better late than never. Here are 10 (or so) questions I have for any Christian who thinks Christianity is the truth and wants me to agree. Or just 10 questions for Christians in general. Not every question applies to every type of Christian. Some of them are aimed at a more general Christian theology, so if you're a Christian and feel a question doesn't apply to you, just ignore it or offer your alternative view. These also aren't intended to be the most difficult to ask a Christian, some of them are just out of curiosity.


  1. Do you think it's immoral just being an atheist, or being a proponent of atheism?
    • If yes, is being an atheist more immoral than being a murderer or a rapist?
    • Hypothetically speaking, would you rather have your daughter to date or marry an atheist or a god-believing rapist/murderer?
  2. Do you personally think atheists deserve to be tortured in hell forever just by being atheists?
  3. Would you rather live in a universe where atheism is true or where Islam is true? 
  4. Would you rather see a future US population that is mostly secular and atheist or mostly Islamic? What about for Europe and the entire world?
  5. Is there anything about your religion that you feel personally makes no logical sense or is emotionally disturbing or especially cruel, or does everything about your religion make perfect sense to you?
  6. What sufficient reasons exist for why god set things up as he did? Why create an unimaginably large universe so that we could exist on one tiny planet, where god would reveal himself to select people in one region of the earth who were ignorant of science and who lived in cultures permeated with superstition, and whose job god decided it would be to pass on his message through word-of-mouth so that the rest of the world would have to just take it on faith while thousands of alternative faiths would compete with it so that god could eternally punish anyone who didn't accept it? Can this plan be morally justified? (Note here that "eternally punish" doesn't have to be torture, but could mean just the eternal separation of god.)
  7. How does one expect to exist eternally without going mad? In other words, if heaven exists where you will live eternally, what can you possibly do forever to keep you occupied? What would be the point of living? Most people's lives are motivated by searching for truth, or to improve their lives and the lives of others, but if in heaven no one needs help and there are no problems to be solved and no truths to be known, what would motivate a person to live eternally? Is god's love really enough for eternity? It seems to me that the only way this can be plausible would be if we're stripped of our personalities and turned into robots. 
  8. If god's commandments constitute our moral duties and what is right and wrong and you think they are not arbitrarily decided, they must then be in accordance with what positively benefits human beings such as love, compassion, and empathy. If this is so, wouldn't these things also be objectively good in the absence of god? If not, please explain why.
  9. If god is intrinsically perfect and holy why does the biblical god have an extreme jealousy complex? Since jealously is not a characteristic we consider virtuous it would seem incompatible with perfection that god would demand to be worshiped at all, let alone have beings tortured eternally or annihilated for not worshiping him. Can this be morally and logically justified?
  10. Finally, if god does not exist, would you seriously feel that you no longer have a purpose in life or a reason to live or be moral? And can you understand that many of us are capable of living moral and fulfilling lives without god or religion?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

America Is A Christian Nation?


I came across this video from a YouTube channel called Counter Arguments. There are some really nice videos on that channel, well produced and edited, and I agree with almost everything I've seen so far. Here is one video on the counter argument to the claim "America is a Christian nation." Please check out his videos and YouTube channel.




EXTRA: Here's another one on the nonsense spewed out by professional Islamic obscurantist Reza Aslan.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

How Does One Infer Ontology?


Debating the existence of god with theists almost always comes with one apparent caveat: The criteria that each of you use in inferring ontology is often different. Many theists and atheists simply use different methodologies when trying to make a case for the existence or non-existence of any particular deity, and they often disagree on what they consider "good evidence." This is why evidentialist apologists like William Lane Craig tend to be so popular. Evidentialism doesn't really assume any epistemological theories dramatically out of line with what most atheists already adhere to. In this sense, evidentialist apologists are trying to compete with the atheists on their own terms by not appealing to faith, revelation, or scriptural authority to make their arguments for god.[1] Almost all atheists are evidentialists in one way or another, whether or not they're familiar with the term. And while evidentialism may be defined as "a theory of justification according to which the justification of a conclusion depends solely on the evidence for it," what counts as evidence and how to properly infer it is still left open to debate. It is reasonable then, for both the atheist and the theist to explain their methodology for how they infer the ontology of their worldview.

Ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with existence. In its most simple definition, ontology is concerned with what there is, what exists, what is real, and what is actual, as opposed to what is merely conceptual or imaginary.[2] But what does it mean to exist? Don't I exist, and aren't I justified in believing that I do? If I didn't exist, then who or what would be having the thoughts that I'm having and the experience of writing this blog post right now? Conscious experience can't be an illusion, because the illusion of consciousness is consciousness. And my experience of the external world that I observe is justified by the fact that I experience it, as my experience itself cannot be an illusion.[3] But when dealing with the external world, one should be less confident of the certainty of its existence considering that we have evidence that the experiences derived from the senses are sourced from a feed of electro-chemical data going from our sense organs to our brain, and it is quite possible that this data can be compromised either in transit or when it's interpreted by the brain. We must always keep open the possibility, however remote, that the external world around us is not real, no matter how uncomfortable this notion may be. Most of us grant as our presuppositions that the external world we experience is for the most part real and that our senses are at least capable of discerning it. This is what philosophers call basic beliefs. These are the foundational assumptions that virtually all worldviews have to start with to even have a conversation about what exists apart from ourselves. Otherwise, one would have to adopt solipsism or radical skepticism, and both of these philosophies are non-starters for discerning what exists apart from ourselves. So without these presuppositions, it is very difficult to make any argument about what exists in the world based on evidence, as any attempt to do so will utterly depend on the presuppositions.

In terms of basic beliefs, I adhere to what I call epistemological economy. It is similar to the idea of ontological economy which the philosopher of religion Gregory W. Dawes describes is the view that "we should not posit new kinds of entities without sufficient reason," or more specifically, "we should not posit a hitherto unknown type of cause without sufficient reason."[4] In epistemological economy, we should strive for the fewest foundational assumptions possible and we should not posit new kinds of basic beliefs without sufficient reason. The reason why is because the more basic beliefs you assume, the closer you become to assuming your worldview as a presupposition. If, for example, you assume something like a special "sense" that can detect the existence of one particular god as a basic belief, like a sensus divinitatis, this will necessarily lead you to one particular god being true, and you could claim to be able to justify the ontology of this god on this basic belief alone. You will be on the path to assuming your conclusion from the start in a manner that either is, or comes dangerously close, to being unfalsifiable. This is little different from presuppostionalism. Assuming the fewest amount of basic beliefs prevents this.

With that out of the way, the question of how one infers ontology still remains. There is an array of possible tools we can use for how we decide we are going to best infer the existence of something. The possibilities include (but are not limited to) observation, empiricism, scientific theory and hypothesis, logic, subjective experience, testimony, and faith. How one infers ontology usually depends on the level of importance one places on the epistemologies above, and whether one omits some of them entirely.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Prerequisite List For Having A Conversation With Regressive Leftists


Before you have a conversation with regressive leftists where you'll be critical about Islam and terrorism, in order to preempt the usual responses you'll typically get, remember to mention the things on this checklist:

  • Yes, I'm fully aware that not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslims
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that the vast majority of Muslims are not violent
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that Christians have committed violence in the name of their religion
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that the Bible has many violent and sexist verses in it
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that the US government has done many terrible things in its foreign policy
  • No, I'm not saying that Islam is the root of all evil or that religion is the cause of every problem in the world
  • No, I'm not suggesting that we kill all Muslims or attack innocent civilians
  • No, I'm not suggesting we discriminate against all people from the Middle East or South Asia 
  • And no, I'm not suggesting there is something inherently violent about Muslims

With that out of the way you can proceed onto your dialogue with the regressive leftist and you will have hopefully preempted many of their impulsive accusations that hinder real dialogue. This list may grow as I think of new ones. If you're interested, you can check out Sam Harris' version of this here.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

This Is What Happens When You Take Religion Literally


In light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando I'm seeing the regressive leftists all over twitter saying that this shooting had nothing to do with the terrorist's Islamic faith. But of course that's bullshit. Both the Qu'ran and the Hadith speak very negatively about homosexuality, and in some cases recommend death. Religion is a factor in the motivation of behavior, both good and bad, and we have to acknowledge that and stop denying that religions like Islam do any harm (I'm talking to you liberals). We must be vigilant in refuting regressive ideologies everywhere, regardless of whether they're secular or religious.

Here is a wonderful example of a fundamentalist Christian who takes the Bible literally where you can see the poisonous effects it has on his brain. I present to you raging homophobe pastor Steven Anderson.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

George Carlin Was Wrong On Voting


I've been running into many people lately who say voting is a meaningless process when I bring up politics. One guy I was talking to recently brought up George Carlin who was very critical on the voting process (among other things). George Carlin said repeatedly in his standup gigs and on TV and other media outlets that voting is pointless because the game is rigged, the country's ruled by a small group of people who have all the real power, and they've set up a system to give you the illusion that you actually have a choice when you go out and vote, but you don't.

Now look. I'm a huge Carlin fan. I love his stand up and his general philosophy. He's genuinely funny as fuck. But he's wrong on voting. First, let me say that I partially agree with him that there are people running the country who don't give a crap about regular working folks like me. This is not to say that there's some secret conspiracy, like the Bilderbergs, or the Illuminati. There is some truth to that but I'm not a conspiracy nut. There are various competing groups in various areas of the world in various sectors who have a disproportionate amount of power. That's always been the case. But aside from this partial truth, to not vote is not going to make the situation any better for thinking and working people who want rational policies. It will make it worse. Here's why.

We have to acknowledge that not all politicians are the same. No one in their right mind would seriously believe that a Ted Cruz presidency would've had the exact same laws and policies passed as a Bernie Sanders presidency. If you believe that you're insane. These two men couldn't be more ideologically different. The same is true of past elections. Do you really think that a John McCain presidency would've had the exact same laws passed that president Obama passed? Do you think universal healthcare, and same sex marriage, and the ending of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would've been passed under president McCain? Do you think McCain would've appointed the same Supreme Court Justices as Obama did? You know the same-sex marriage decision came down to just one vote don't you? A one vote difference would have made the country completely different. Elections matter, and presidents appoint Supreme Court judges and Congress votes them in, and you vote-in the president, the senators, and the congressmen and women.

If you don't think your vote counts, think again. The reason why Bernie Sanders didn't get more votes than Hillary Clinton is because his base is among young people and too many young people have bought this meme that all politicians are the same and the game is all rigged and so your vote doesn't matter, so don't vote. Nothing could be more insane. This guarantees that you will never get your way in the political system. In case you don't know, the people who are not buying this meme are the older religious white conservatives who often vote for religions Christian dominionists who want to turn the US into their Christian fantasy land. The religious right in this country wants to live in a very very different America than secular liberals like me.

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