Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts

Friday, November 24, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Part 5


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.



Happy Thanksgiving!

A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.

If you're wondering why my posts denigrate him so harshly it's because he mocks atheists and calls atheism stupid. Here I'm just giving him a taste of his own medicine.


I continue with part 5 covering arguments 12 and 13. Starting with his response to argument 12, his words are in block quotes.


12) All the arguments for god fail


Continuing on with this sad excuse for rebuttal we come to some demographics on atheism. He writes,

Atheism is declining. The author is not up-to-date and relies on an old 2014 study.  According to the Pew Research, atheism is on the decline (see: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/07/why-people-with-no-religion-are-projected-to-decline-as-a-share-of-the-worlds-population/). Previous studies claiming that the "nones" is on the rise clearly specify that these "nones" are not atheists, but those who are indifferent to religion. In other words, they are people who simply do not adhere to organized religion but still believe in God.  Atheism or atheists who completely reject God and religion are in fact on the decline. It is nearly extinct in Russia (see: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2017/07/atheism-declining-in-russia.html).

Many mistakes here. First, taken at face value, that article doesn't say atheism or the unaffiliated is declining. It says the unaffiliated will decline as a percentage of the world's population only due to the rising number of Muslim births in third world countries. (And by this metric Christianity is also declining). It doesn't say the raw number of atheists or unaffiliated will decline. In fact, the number of unaffiliated is actually expected to grow from 1.1 billion to 1.2 billion. He'd know that if he actually read the article instead of reading the headline.


Secondly, I've already written a critique on my blog about the faulty methodology of PEW's projection methods. Read: Did Pew Project The Future Of Religion Accurately? I wrote that "It seems that they're not taking into account conversions and deconversions. Many theists are leaving their religions and becoming unaffiliated (which includes all deists, agnostics, and atheists) and this is especially true in the West, where the number of Christians is dropping precipitously. Their future projection of the percentage of the unaffiliated in the US by 2050 seems deeply suspect, and indeed, out of whack with their other data."

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Part 4


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.



A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.

If you're wondering why my posts denigrate him so harshly it's because he mocks atheists and calls atheism stupid. Here I'm just giving him a taste of his own medicine.

I continue with part 4 covering arguments 10 and 11. Starting with his response to argument 10, his words are in block quotes.


10) Euthyphro's trilemma


And now we come to the Euthypho trilemma, one of my favorite areas to debate.

I wrote that Euthyphro's dilemma works with monotheism as well as polytheism. He ignorantly writes back saying,

It actually does not. The Euthyphro dilemma originates from Greece where polytheism was the norm. Euthyphro himself was a priest of a polytheistic sect. If he were alive today, he would not understand the argument the author is making and will probably be upset at the distortion the author is giving the dilemma that bears his name. 

The argument's logic is not dependent on polytheism, and Euthyphro would recognize the argument in a monotheistic context. In fact, the argument makes more sense on monotheism, because then there is only one god in which morality could be dependent on, instead of a council of gods, who might have conflicting views. It is irrelevant that the argument got started in a polytheistic culture. That Sacerdotus doesn't know this proves he can't possibly have a degree in philosophy.

Furthermore, I did not simply state "God is good." I wrote more than the author acknowledges. We can assume why he/she does not acknowledge my refutation. He/she cannot address it. Once again, the author restates his/her faulty premise.  

Um no. Let's review what he originally wrote in his response:

In reality, the atheist is the one who has the problem. God is good. God is the fullness of goodness and love. God is love (1 John 4:8). Goodness and love do not exist as separate entities from God.

All that does is assert the same idea: "God is good." It doesn't prove any of the assertions, it just asserts it! Prove god is good. Go ahead. Go do it. Quoting the Bible doesn't prove squat. Also, explain to my why is god good. Is god good because "God is love" as you state in 1 John? Then that means love is good independently of god. If love isn't good independently of god, then the burden of proof is on Sacerdotus to show why. He needs to tell us why love is good. You see, Sacerdotus is a typically lazy internet apologist. He literally thinks he can just say "God is good" and "God is love" and think that settles it. Oh my. I guess since some internet apologist with a fake degree said god is good then that settles it! Atheism is false! How imbecilic he is. The atheist has no problem here because the theist has no evidence. They just assert a claim and think they've won. The trilemma is unavoidable. If you can't explain why god is good you can't demonstrate the claim. And you can't explain why god is good without showing goodness exists independently of god.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Pt. 3


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.



A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.


Here I continue with part 3 covering arguments 7, 8, and 9. Starting with his response to argument 7, his words are in block quotes:


7) Brute facts are unavoidable


Next he continues falsely accuses me of plagiarism, saying,

Yes, that is what the word plagarize means.  The author wrote word-for-word an article from Wikipedia. Note, Wikipedia is not a valid source.  Anyone can edit it. Universities frown upon it and automatically fail students who use it as a source. The fact that this author derives his/her content from Wikipedia shows academic sloth. 

No I didn't. I merely copied the trilemma itself from the article in order to list it, that is different from plagiarizing an article. To plagiarize is to "take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one's own." I didn't do that, and he even admits I never stated that I tried to pass it off as my own. That means his plagiarize claim fails. Wikipedia simply lists the trilemma so that he and everyone else can understand it, since it's obvious he's ignorant of it (despite his supposed degree!). It isn't to prove the trilemma is true. Wikipedia is actually a great resource for learning philosophy. Sacerdotus would learn a lot more if he spent more time on it. It's clear he has no thirst for truth. All he does is try and defend his preexisting views, albeit, really badly.

The Munchausen’s trilemma (also known as Agrippa's trilemma which goes all the way back to Diogenes) is a well known trilemma that everyone with a philosophy degree should known about. Apparently that's not Sacerdotus. Even his former professor Dr. Pigliucci affirms it, so it's hard for me to believe he has an actual degree. He's just so ignorant of basic philosophy it can't be real. Dr. Pigliucci for example writes,

Munchausen’s trilemma is a reasonable conclusion arrived at by logical reasoning. 

In other words, the trilemma is logically unavoidable and most, if not all people who are actually familiar with philosophy are aware of this thorny problem.

Moreover, I never stated that the author discovered the trilemma. He/she is clearly lying here. Nor did I claim that he/she claims God has an immutable nature etc.  This author clearly has reading comprehension problems. I stated that the author does not understand theology and the immutable nature of God. This is why his/her argument fails. The author claims that "God's will to create this universe is not necessary.." this premise is baseless. 

I didn't say he accused me directly of discovering the trilemma. If you accuse someone of plagiarizing, which again means to take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one's own, then this implies that I tried to pass the trilemma off on my own. Because if I didn't try to pass it off as my own, then I didn't plagiarize. That's Sacerdotus's dilemma. Either I tried to pass it off as my own and I plagiarized, or I didn't try to pass it off as my own and I didn't plagiarize. He can't accuse me of plagiarizing material while acknowledging I didn't try to pass it off as my own.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Pt. 2


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.



A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.


Here I continue with part 2 covering arguments 3, 4, 5, and 6.Starting with his response to argument 3, his words are in block quotes:

3) Causality doesn't exist in the way we think it does


He writes,

Yes, the author does not understand causality.  

I understand causality way better than Sacerdotus does. Notice how he doesn't even bother to attempt to define causality. And notice that his assumption of causality presupposes presentism, which he has not ever even attempted to justify (because he's too ignorant to know he's even presupposed it!).

Yes, there is a consensus that the universe had a cause. This is taught in all cosmology, physics and astronomy courses.  Clearly, the author has never taken any of the aforementioned.

Prove it. Prove the universe had a cause. I asked him to show evidence for that in my last response post, and he still has provided no evidence. Better yet, he needs to define what he means by "causality." I defined what I mean by it, he has not. He's begging the question. This is an utter failure on Sacerdotus's part to demonstrate he's logical and knows how to debate. I've provided ample evidence for my claims, he's provided very little or none for his. Also, I took physics and astronomy courses. There was no mention of the universe having a cause. None. He's also not understanding the usage of "cause" in the colloquial sense versus what it really means to most physicists. He's confusing the colloquial cause with the scientific cause in the same way creationists confuse the colloquial "theory" with the scientific theory.

The author claims that I showed no evidence, yet in my previous post I provided the paragraph the author quoted with a hyperlink. Once again, the author misapplies the argument ad populum. The aforementioned is coined for criticism against common belief, not scientific fact. In science, a consensus is needed. This is why the peer review system exists. This is how science checks and balances itself. We see once again that this author simply is aloof to the facts.

Sacerdotus never provided any evidence that the universe had a cause, which is the thing in question. He provided a link to an article from Cern saying the universe shouldn't exist, but that's completely irrelevant. Yet another failure on his part to be logical and rational. You can't tell me I'm out of line with a consensus when you provide zero evidence for a consensus. My views are actually the mainstream view. Sacerdotus is too ignorant to realize that because all he knows is popular level apologetics.

The author then appeals to Sean Carroll in order to avoid addressing my reply. He/she does not realize that Sean Carroll is giving his personal opinion and does not even offer data or statistics to back up his claims. If you look at the pdf file linked, there is no data. It is just an essay that he wrote. Give me a break.

Carroll is just giving his opinion. He believes that events do not have purpose or causes, but does not show why. 

Wait, so when I quote a scientist, I'm just giving his "opinion," but when Sacerdotus quotes a scientist, it's somehow scientific fact? Give me a break. Look at that double standard. Carroll isn't giving his option. He's explain how, from his decades as a physicist working on cosmology and a fundamental understanding of the universe, there is no causality in the way people normally define the term. He explains this in the paper he wrote, that what we think of causes are really just

a description of the relationship between patterns and boundary conditions....If we know the state of a system at one time, and the laws governing its dynamics, we can calculate the state of the system at some later time. You might be tempted to say that the particular state at the first time “caused” the state to be what it was at the second time; but it would be just as correct to say that the second state caused the first.

Carroll further explains this in his excellent book, The Big Picture, and in his many talks and lectures. See here where I fast forwarded his talk to the relevant section on causality:



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Pt. 1


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.


A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.

The supposed philosopher's pen name is Sacerdotus and he accuses me of nothing more than ad hominem attacks. This is false, and a common misunderstanding of what an ad hominem attack is. An ad hominem attack is when you attack your opponent instead of attacking their arguments. I attacked his arguments, quite successfully, in addition to attacking his character. So I made no ad hominem attacks because I addressed his sad excuses for an argument, quite successfully. The reason why I call him stupid in most post (aside from being accurate, is because he calls atheism stupid. I'm giving him a taste of his own medicine, and he calls it an ad hominem! The irony.

I'm going to refute his attempt at refuting my refutation to show how he still just doesn't get it, and is making the same mistakes over and over. His words will appear in block quotes. In the beginning of his post he writes,

As Socrates said, "When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser."  Well, we now see the loser show his/her face via ad hominem, so to speak.  He even calls me "gay," which shows he clearly is the losing party.

I called him gay because he is gay, not because it is a slander, and he's a Catholic who defends the church. I find that relevant. If you're going to defend a church that for centuries tried to destroy your existence, that is telling and relevant. If he's not actually gay, then I apologize.

Notice how his replies are just a restatement of his/her previous errors already refuted and how he/she avoids addressing my refutation directly.  I will once again re-refute his/her nonsense and show how they are false when vetted against science, philosophy, and theology just as I have before.  

The point is he didn't actually refute my original arguments. And so what I did was I just explained them further with more insight into why his responses didn't refute them. My arguments mostly went right over his head because they're too sophisticated for him, despite his supposed (and apparently useless) degree in philosophy. My arguments are the culmination of years and years debating theism and they are not entry-level arguments. They rely on a deep understanding of science and philosophy, like a deep understanding of special relativity, which Sacerdotus clearly doesn't have because he doesn't understand at all what special relativity implies for our understanding of time and causality.

So let me refute his attempt at a rebuttal one by one to show (very easily) how his arguments all completely fail. This will be done over several parts throughout this week. Starting with my first argument:

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Why I'm An Atheist - 13 Reasons & Arguments For Atheism



More than three years ago I wrote a post entitled Why I'm An Atheist, where I briefly explained some of the reasons why I don't believe in god. That post, which was long over due at the time, needs an update. With each passing year I get much better at understanding the arguments for and against the existence of god, and since that post came out I've created several new arguments of my own. Rather than write it in essay form, which I did in the original post, I'll instead outline the main reasons and arguments briefly, one by one. So here we go.

I'm an atheist because....

1) The traditional notion of god isn't coherent


In order to even consider the possibility that a god exists, we first need a coherent concept of god. 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. There are some variations on this concept, but almost all traditional or classical theistic gods have these basic characteristics. The problem is that a timeless, changeless being by definition cannot do anything; it's necessarily causally impotent and nonfunctional. Change requires time, and time requires change. This is logically certain. And to create something, one must do something. Doing requires a change, regardless of whether that change is mental or physical. A being that cannot do anything cannot be omnipotent. As a result, the traditional notion of god is self contradictory. The theist's only resort here is special pleading. That's why I like to get all theists to agree beforehand that god is not beyond logic. That is, god cannot do the logically impossible or be the logically impossible. Once a theist agrees with this, they've cut themselves off from special pleading as an option. Some theists think god is atemporal before creating the universe, and temporal after creating the universe. But it isn't logically possible to exist timelessly and then suddenly jolt yourself into time out of your own will, because your will was timeless and frozen. It couldn't change into the state to want to change.

Given the necessary rules of logic the traditional attributes of god are incoherent:

P1. It is logically impossible to do something without doing something.
P2. It is logically impossible to do something without change (even if everything is immaterial).
P3. It is logically impossible for change to exist without time.
C. As such, a timeless, changeless being cannot do anything.

The failure of theists to come up with a coherent description of god is enough by itself to warrant atheism, but there's many more reasons to think no gods exist.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Religious Leaders Pray Over Donald Trump For God To Make Him President


This is why people think religion is silly.

The faithful gathered last year to infuse Trump's campaign with the power of the lord in his luxury high rise tower. One woman even says while praying over Trump that "any tongue that rises against him will be condemned according to the word of God."

Yeah.

If Donald Trump is the man Yahweh has sent to deliver us from Satan, wow.

But hey, it looks like Yahweh has delivered. This was recorded a year ago and since then Trump has won the all the primaries and became the nominee. He's also close to tying Clinton in several key swing states but will still have difficulty in the electoral college. But who knows, as anything can change in the next month. We'll have to see what's going to happen in November to see if Yahweh's going to deliver.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The F-Word, Yet Again


The F-word to many atheists is "faith." So many atheists abhor the word, and its very utterance is usually reacted to with disgust.

But I've been thinking lately, as atheists should we omit the word entirely from our vocabulary? Are there any contexts where an atheist can sensibly use the word faith? I want to explore this.

Consider the phrase, "Faith in humanity,"—which I say from time to time, and what I mean by "faith" when I say this.

When I am tempted, at times, to proclaim that I'm losing my faith in humanity, I generally mean that my expectations for the human race are unlikely to be met, given the circumstances. In other words, given human beings and our abilities to be rational, to cooperate with one another to solve problems, to be empathetic towards one another and to nature, there exists a bar, a standard I'd expect humanity to be capable of reaching. And when we fail to reach that standard, I say that I'm losing my "faith,"—or expectation, that humanity can do so.

This is different from the kind of faith in religion. That faith can be defined a number of ways. It can be the belief in the existence of something without evidence, or without good evidence. But there is a difference between having faith in something that exists, with having faith that something particular happens in the future. No one can be certain about what happens in the future. I'm using faith to refer to humanity in this sense: I have an expectation of future human behavior that may or may not come true. My expectation is based on evidence from past human behavior (and requires nothing supernatural), but humans and societies are highly complex things, and there is no guarantee of anything.

The reason why faith is a dirty word among atheists is because it's so closely associated with non-evidence based reasoning and belief. I agree with that, but I don't think the word necessarily has to be toxic to atheists. It may be however, that the word itself can never be divorced from its religious connotations and many atheists, skeptics, and so called freethinkers will refuse to ever use it.

But in the sense of using the term to refer to my feelings and beliefs about humanity, atheists who think the term should never be used can look at it several ways:

On the one hand atheists could never use the term due to its negative connotations. On the other hand the term could be used in relation to certain degrees of importance in belief and of epistemology. For example, maybe when it comes to one's worldview, politics, morality, and philosophy, we should use a high degree of reason and evidence, because these views hold a higher degree of importance and thus we should never use faith when referring to them. But when it comes to relatively trivial beliefs in your everyday interactions, like whether or not your friend's going to pay you back that $5 he owes you, or whether or not so-and-so will show up at the party, perhaps it isn't toxic for atheists to use the word "faith" in these situations.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

To The Critics Of Secularism:



Imagine that one day we had a very devout, openly-Christian president, and he or she made policies that were based on their deep religious convictions. And imagine if they believed the end of the world was imminently close, and were crafting policies and making decisions that had really negative long term effects, but didn't care, because they had this deep religious conviction and didn't feel the need to justify it other than by claiming it was their faith. What would you do in that circumstance? Would you really let the president destroy the country and possibly the planet with bad policies that they think wouldn't matter due to their religiously based beliefs? Or would you think that it's reasonable that the law should require that policy that affects millions and billions of people worldwide, require a secular justification that doesn't rely on one's particular religious convictions?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Religious Believers: If You're Against Church/State Separation, Here's How It's Gonna Work



In light of the recent uproar over the refusal by Rowan County clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licences to anyone in her county due to her "deeply-held" religious belief against same sex marriage, and her subsequent jail time, I've been motivated to write about an idea I've been entertaining on what a legal system could look like if government and religion were in business together.

Imagine if the government legally forced every religious person to live according to the rules of their religion so that they had to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. They would not be allowed to pick and choose which religious rules they wanted to live by or force others to live by. It would work like this. Everyone would have to register their religious affiliation with the government. For whatever religion you register with, special laws would apply to you on top of civil laws from that religion. So if you register as a Catholic, it would be illegal for you to divorce, or to use any contraception, have abortions, masturbate, have any sex outside of marriage, and even watch pornography. Your internet service provider would have to block pornographic websites from being accessed. If you register as a Muslim, it would be illegal to eat pork, drink alcohol, eat during Ramadan, have any sex outside of marriage, watch porn, and daily prayer would be mandatory.

All the special religious rules would be laws that each member of the religion would have to adhere to, under penalty of the law. Failure obey these laws would result in anything ranging from a fine, to a prison sentence. Your religion would be displayed on your state issued ID, so a liquor store clerk would be able to see if you were Muslim and trying to buy alcohol, and a convenient store clerk would be able to see if you were a Christian and trying to buy condoms, and they would be obligated to refuse to sell it to you. All the regular secular laws that exist would still apply to everyone, but the religious laws would apply in addition to them for registered religious adherents. If the two were in conflict, there'd be a general preference for secular law over religious law, so if someone's religion allowed human sacrifice, or wife beating, it would still be illegal for them.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

What To Make Of The Evidence For An Afterlife?



What are we to make of the evidence for an afterlife? Here are your options.

There is either:

  • Some ill-defined metaphysical substance, not subject to the known laws of physics, that interacts with the atoms of our brains in ways that have thus far eluded every controlled experiment ever performed in the history of science

or 

  • People hallucinate when they are nearly dead

Which option do you think makes the most sense?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Some Religious Believers Are Scared For Their Religious Freedom


Many religious conservatives in the US are publicly afraid of the loss of their religious liberty. They see the possibility of their religious identity and expression truly becoming illegal and extinct. These concerns are echoed widely among prominent members of the religious right. Conservative pastor Rick Warren said religious liberty is the civil rights issue of our day, 2016 presidential hopeful Ted Cruz thinks the government is waging an "assault" on religious liberty, and Louisiana governor and Christian convert Bobby Jindal says religious liberty is at stake due to increasing secularism.

There is no doubt about it. The US is becoming more secular and less religious. As it has been widely reported, the recent 2014 GSS survey shows that 21% of Americans claim no religious affiliation and are categorized as the "nones". As many as 7.5 million people may have left religion just since 2012. This is an increase of the nones of about 2 percent since 2012. Many religious conservatives are disturbed by these trends and scared that this increasing secularization is fueling a hostile attitude towards religious expression and some actually fear the government is attempting to make religious expression, or being religious, illegal.

Is there any truth to their claims? What would I do if I were in control of the law?

First, for far too long the religious zealots have been violating the separation of church and state, by enacting laws that teach creationism in schools, preaching politics from the pulpit while remaining tax exempt, displaying the 10 commandments on government property, trying to enforce religious morality onto non-believers, and many, many others. When these violations get challenged, religionists often react as if their religious liberty is being infringed. But right-wing paranoia is almost always fueled by ignorance and rarely turns out to have a strong factual basis. There are no attempts by the government to make religious expression illegal. There are attempts to make sure the the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment is respected. Secularists like myself do not want to take anyone's religious freedom away, we want to make sure it stays out of government - where it doesn't belong, and we don't want people to be able to use "religious liberty" as an excuse to discriminate.

To be a true secularists who holds to the basic separation of church and state principle means that you do not suppress the free expression of religious beliefs. But, if those religious beliefs violate basic civil rights of equality, then in my opinion, civil rights trump religious expression. That means you should not be allowed to discriminate against someone's race, religion - or lack thereof, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation on grounds that your religion requires you to do so in all government facilities and institutions, as well as in private businesses that cater to the general public. When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, it outlawed racial discrimination in "public accommodations" like hotels, motels, restaurants, and theaters. Many segregationists strongly objected to the idea of government forcing private business owners to serve black people equally. But if this stipulation was not there, most of the white-owned private businesses in the South would have continued their discrimination against black people, and in effect, we would have still had segregation, perhaps even to this day. I see the discrimination perpetrated in the name of religion the same way.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Why Should "Knowing" God Be So Hard?


I've been debating with theists for years and the one thing I've learned is that there is never any shortage of interpretations of god and religion. For just about every position a theist takes on their religion, there is always a theist adamantly supportive of the exact opposite view within the same religion. This has led me recently to wonder why, if a god exists, and its primary goal is for us to have a relationship with it, it makes it so hard to "know" such a being exists and what its message is?

Many "sophisticated theologians" argue that the common understanding of their religions are wrong. In order to know the correct, or more probably correct versions of their religion, one has to do a tremendous amount of research into the history, culture, language, theology, philosophy and science that relates to their religion. One must know the original language that the religious texts were written in, and the historical and cultural context in which they were written in, because otherwise one is ignorant as to the true meaning of the text.

For example, the New Testament was originally written in ancient Greek, a language almost no one is familiar with today. Some words have multiple, ambiguous meanings, and translations can easily deliver the wrong message which can have huge theological implications. So in order to know what the New Testament really says, one has to know the original language and context it was written in, or at least be aware of a scholar who has done the necessary work. Another example, is the fact that Muslims claim that the Koran is only perfect in the original Arabic spoken and written in the 7th century. Any translation to another language degrades the message somewhat. Muslim apologists use this as an argument for their faith by arguing that only something divinely inspired could have been so perfect. That means that in order for me to verify this, I have to learn classical Arabic.

Then there's the science behind all the many arguments for god. Some of them rely on extremely complex physics, chemistry, and biology that the vast majority of people do not understand. Why should I have to have knowledge of things so complex, and so esoteric, in order for me to rule out or confirm god and a particular religious interpretation? In other words, why would an omni-benevolent deity, whose primary goal is that it wants us to know it exists, make its existence and message so highly dependent on complex cosmological models, chemistry, and biology? Why not make its existence and message more easily known? There is much debate in various religions on whether faith alone can guarantee salvation, or whether it is faith and works. Regardless, one has to first believe that there is a plausible religion and god out there in order to be motivated to do any works as a result of this god-belief.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why We Tend To Infer Design And Purpose In Nature


Here's a quote from a New York Times article by Paul Bloom and Konika Banerjee on why we tend to believe things happen for a reason:


This tendency to see meaning in life events seems to reflect a more general aspect of human nature: our powerful drive to reason in psychological terms, to make sense of events and situations by appealing to goals, desires and intentions. This drive serves us well when we think about the actions of other people, who actually possess these psychological states, because it helps us figure out why people behave as they do and to respond appropriately. But it can lead us into error when we overextend it, causing us to infer psychological states even when none exist. This fosters the illusion that the world itself is full of purpose and design.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

The F-Word


There's a dirty work that begins with the letter F in the atheist community. It's often met with horror and disgust at its mere utterance and often as a result leads to a nasty argument. If you've guessed that it's faith, you've guessed right.

I generally define faith as the belief in things that you do not have good evidence for. The American philosopher Peter Boghossian defined it as "pretending to know things you don't know" in his book A Manual for Creating Atheists. Many theists want to define faith as belief in things you have good reason to think are true. The many ways to define "faith" are similar to the many ways to define "religion."


What is the role of faith in a religion that says the purpose of life is to "know" god? I've been curious to know from theists what they think the relationship between faith and god should be.

I ask this because there are so many theists trying hard to argue that there is indisputable evidence that god exists. If there are slam dunk arguments that "prove" god exists, doesn't that dissolve the need for faith in god? Conversely, I often hear theists saying that god doesn't want to give us proof that he exists, because then we wouldn't need any faith, we would just "know" it. So on the one hand there are some theists who are saying god gives us indisputable proof that he exists, and on the other there are some theists saying that god deliberately make his existence ambiguous and hidden so that faith is required in order to believe in him. And many of these theists claim to believe in the same god from in the same religion.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Few Notes On Spirituality & "Beloved"



I just got back earlier this week from a week-and-a-half long vacation in Oregon. I had attended a music/art/spiritual festival called Beloved and I also got to see my mother, sister and my eight year old nephew. At Beloved, I got to spend several days camping with thousands of free-spirited hippies, many of whom take their spiritual beliefs very seriously. And I have to say it was a very enlightening experience. I spend my time around mostly secular people who rarely, if ever, show any strong outward signs of religiosity - even those who believe in god. So after speaking and spending time with several thousand people who'd probably self identify as "spiritual," I have gained a new perspective.


I wasn't there to preach to anybody. In fact I kept my atheism in the closet the whole time. I was there to learn. I was there to absorb. I was there to warmly educate myself on a slice of humanity that I rarely encounter. "Beloveds" as the attendees are called, are free-spirited hippie types, who mostly feel very passionately about the earth, the environment, humanity and humankind's connection to the spirit world.

On the first night, around the "sacred fire" where at night I would sit to warm up from the cold mountain air, one of the hosts gave a speech about fire. He spoke of the ways in which fire is misused, such as in war, and spoke of the ways it should be properly used. Then we were all instructed to give thanks to all four directions, north, south, east, west. I played along and participated, hoping that there would be a strong emotional response in me, but there wasn't. I seem to have an adverse reaction for group rituals. To me, anything that appears religious or cult like, such as group rituals, makes me uncomfortable. On the second day, we did another group prayer. We were asked to think about those suffering in the world and I did get an emotional response. It wasn't the group prayer that I think did it, it was my empathy for those suffering. I've had emotional moments like that all by myself and so I know the way my body and brain react. Group prayer or singing still isn't my thing. Even Sunday Assembly didn't quite rub me the right way. I was amazed however at some of the people attending who really seemed deeply and sincerely connected to whatever spirits they believed in.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Naturalism: Not Even Wrong?


When you say that something is "not even wrong" it usually means that it's so incoherent that it's not even worth considering right. It's supposed to be so badly constructed that saying it's merely wrong would be a compliment. I was recently linked to a blog post that argues that the worldview of naturalism is so ill-defined that it's not even wrong. And since I am a naturalist, (and a staunch one at that) my curiosity couldn't resist investigating as to whether there was something to this claim.

The blog post, called Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism, written by Randal Rauser, who is a Canadian Christian theologian and apologist, criticizes an argument from Jeffrey Jay Lowder called the The Evidential Argument from the History of Science. Lowder, (who by the way writes an excellent counter-apologetic blog called the Secular Outpost) is accused of defining naturalism in such away that makes it open to the existence of an immaterial soul. This is suppose to highlight the problem naturalists face. Naturalism is so ill-defined, according to some of its critics like Rauser, that there is little point in considering it seriously. After all, it could be argued that if immaterial souls are compatible with a definition of naturalism, then why not immaterial gods?

The definition of naturalism

In my mini-biography, Natural Born Skeptic: My Atheist Journey, I defined naturalism as “a worldview with a philosophical aspect which holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences” or “the thesis that nothing besides the natural world, or nature, exists.” But this definition doesn't define what "natural" is and isn't, and many think this therefore begs the question. So what is the difference between something natural and something supernatural? Suppose for example that we lived in a world where ghosts existed and everyone had empirical evidence that they existed since the beginning of recorded history. Would ghosts be natural or supernatural in such a world? Trying to define what is natural can be difficult if you don't know what nature is. To compound the problem, consider that if someone who lived 2000 years ago was exposed to modern technology, they would most likely think it was supernatural. Indeed, Arthur C. Clarke's third law states that, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." If such a statement is true, then how could we ever know what is and is not natural given future advancements in technology due to a greater understanding of the laws of physics?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Story Of 1543: Why Science Is Better Than Religion


In 1543 two books were written that would later go on to have a significant impact on world history. One was by a Christian motivated by science, the other was by a Christian motivated by religious fanaticism.

Nicolaus Copernicus published his most famous work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) on his death bed, in which he argued that the Sun, and not the Earth, was the center of our solar system, kicking off what many believe to be the birth of the modern scientific revolution. That same year, Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer wrote one of his best known works, On the Jews and Their Lies, in which he argued, among other things, that European Jews were wicked, shouldn't be allowed to own homes, practice their religion, and should be forced into servitude.

Two very different books motivated by very different things. One helped kick off the modern scientific revolution, which enabled Galileo, Newton and eventually Einstein to lay the foundations of our understanding of the universe. The other helped kick off centuries of anti-semitism based on religious obsession and piety, that culminated in the Holocaust. These two works could not have been more different and had the impact they did on society. One is a prime example of the benefits of what can happen when you devote yourself to science and the use of evidence and reason to understand the world around you, and the other is a prime example of how religious fanaticism and superstition poisons the mind.

1543 stands as a stark reminder of what we in the freethinking community should strive for and what we should be motivated to destroy. We need to emphasize a science based education process and understanding of the world around us that promotes thinking with reason and evidence with a healthy dose of skepticism, and we need to work against living by superstition, assumptions, and dogmatic belief in religious claims. Now interestingly, both Copernicus and Luther were Christians, (you pretty much had to be a Christian in 1543 Europe) but one championed using observation and evidence as his way of coming to his understanding of the world, and the other preferring obedience to an ancient book of superstition (Luther was extremely critical of Copernicus' heliocentricism). Many modern day Protestants are unaware that their founder was a raging anti-semitist in is latter years and set the foundation for the persecution of Jews for centuries afterward. They'd much rather blindly blame the Nazis and the holocaust on evolution, which is bullshit.

Let 1543 be a reminder to us all in the freethinking community.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why Try To Convince Us God Exists Using Evidence, If It Will Ruin The Need For Faith?



If theists are going to argue that god doesn't want to give us too much evidence because that would ruin the need for faith or the ability to reject him, then why are so many of them investing so much time and money into trying to convince us - using evidence - that god exists? I fail to see how evidentialist apologetics makes any sense, because if I'm somehow persuaded by the arguments for god and I'm convinced he exists, then isn't the theist defeating his own purpose? Wouldn't I then be unable to deny the existence of god? Wouldn't I then not require any faith? Wouldn't the power of the arguments for god provide the same kind of conviction in me as would god giving me proof?

It seems to me that evidentialism is a farce, (not that I ever thought that it wasn't.) The whole charade to convince the masses that god exists using evidence seems to undermine the very things those same theists say is required by god in order for us to get on his good side.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

20 Questions Atheists Struggle To Answer (Extremely Short Answers)


These questions were floated around to atheists over the years and I'd thought I'd take a quick crack at them. These are my (extremely short) answers to them.

1. What caused the universe to exist?

The universe may not need a cause, especially if the B-theory of time is true. All causes in the universe are (a) temporal and (b) material, showing that our notion of causality doesn't necessarily apply to the origin of the universe, if it is the beginning of space and time.

2. What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

Chance. The same way that our planet is just the right distance from our sun to allow life to exist, so is our universe.

3.Why is the universe rational?

Because logical impossibilities are in fact, impossible.

4. How did DNA and amino acids arise?

Well we know amino acids can spontaneously arise naturally as the Miller-Urey experiments showed us, and as the building blocks of DNA, amino acids probably evolved from simpler molecules as in the RNA hypothesis. If "God did it" is your explanation, then you would be saying that scientists should stop doing all their research in molecular biology and close all their institutions, thus proving that faith is opposed to science.

5. Where did the genetic code come from?

It most likely evolved through many years and attempts from simple molecules to more complex ones.

6. How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?
There are no real irreducibly complex parts of biological systems, there is simply our current ignorance to how some of them formed, and there is a whole lot more ignorance by creationists who use things like the bacterial flagellum as an example of IC when it has been clearly refuted.

7. How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?

Languages evolved over tens of thousands of years all over the world. There is zero evidence that the biblical story of the Tower of Babel explains the origin of language, and most Christians today it seems even reject such an absurd story.

8. Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000 BC?

It was due to the invention or agriculture around 10,000 BC that lead to the first towns and cities being developed. When humans stopped hunting and gathering and began farming and domesticating animals, they had a reason to stay in one place permanently.

9. How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

I'm not sure what independent thought means here, but if it is implying free will, there is no evidence of free will.

10. How do we account for self-awareness?

Consciousness.

11. How is free will possible in a material universe?

Given the laws of physics that we have which are deterministic, there is no free will.

12. How do we account for conscience?

Through extremely complex interactions between neurons and chemicals the exact mechanism by which we don't yet understand. We do know that mind is a product of the brain and there is zero evidence that the mind controls physical brain states.

13. On what basis can we make moral judgements?

We usually assess whether our actions will benefit us and others and whether they will increase harm. We certainly don't use the Bible to make moral judgements, or else we'd actually increase harm and likely end up in jail.

14. Why does suffering matter?

Suffering matters because we recognize that it is a state we don't want ourselves and others to be in.

15. Why do human beings matter?

Because we have the most highly evolved cognitive faculties that allows us to make rational decisions as well as suffer to the highest extent of all other species.

16. Why care about justice?

Because we naturally care about fairness, and justice requires fairness.

17. How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?

Because it was evolutionarily beneficial for our ancestors to believe in false positives (believing in things that weren't there) and this lead to the belief in angels, demons, spirits and gods.

18. How do we know the supernatural does not exist?

For several reasons. (1) because of the reason I gave for number 17 which shows that evolution would have lead to our belief in the supernatural even if it didn't exist; (2) because we have no evidence for it, even though the supernatural is in principle verifiable since it is said to interact with the physical world; (3) assuming that the supernatural exists makes no sense when critically examined. For these reasons we can be reasonably confident the supernatural doesn't exist.

19. How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?

We can and already do know that consciousness is fully dependent on the physical brain and so when the brain goes, consciousness goes. There are also too many unexplained questions about consciousness and the soul for which no dualist has any satisfactory answers.

20. What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

It is not an established fact that there was an empty tomb and resurrection appearances. They may have all been made up by the writers of Mark and Matthew, who wrote 40-50 years after the supposed events and were not eyewitnesses. Paul never mentions an empty tomb. See Four facts that aren't really facts.

As you can see, many of these questions probe the "God of the gaps" territory, and some, like the question about languages, are so bad even most Christians wouldn't recognize them as tough questions for the atheist.


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