Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Monday, November 19, 2018

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


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

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

Objections Answered


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

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


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

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

God Possesses Free Will


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

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



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

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

Objections to Free Will in God


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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2018

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



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

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

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

God's Immutability and Eternity


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jordan Peterson



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

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


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


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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 6, 2018

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


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

The questioner asked,

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

Craig responds:

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Scholastic Principle of Sufficient Reason Is Rubbish


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

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

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

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

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

Feser goes on to explain:

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

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

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

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Edward Feser On Thomism And Free Will


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Insanity Of Hell For Not Believing


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

[Pearly Gates]

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

How Christianity Was Spread


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

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

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

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


Sunday, April 1, 2018

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


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

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

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

And here is the tweet that she found so offensive:


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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 3, 2018

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


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

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

What is secular humanism?


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

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Should Replace Religion In A Post Religious Society?



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

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

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

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

Social Justice: The New Religion Of The Left?


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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Religion At Work


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Is There A Difference Between Genuine Criticism Of Islam, And Anti-Muslim Bigotry?


I'm a huge fan of Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, and I think most of the criticisms against him are mislead. When it comes to the complex issues of Islamic extremism, Islamism, and reforming Islam for the 21st century, I really listen to his opinion. He gets it in a way that I think few others do, and it's in no small part because he's lived it. He was part of an organization called Hizb ut-Tahrir in his teens and twenties whose goal it was to spread Islamism around the world, and was later imprisoned in Egypt for 4 years due to his participation with them.

When I met Maajid in New York last September he was telling a group of men about how in the West you have two camps of people who each see Islam through the opposite extreme lens. On the political Right you have extreme Islamophobia — people who think all Muslims are terrorists who hate freedom and want to force everyone to live under Sharia law. And on the political Left you Islamophilia — the exact opposite of Islamophobia, where you have people who act as if there isn't a single genuine issue or problem with Islam itself, or with the behavior of Muslims, and who blame the West for every problem within Islamic countries or among Muslim peoples.


And so I think one of the most difficult questions for most people to answer, and one that is especially difficult for liberals to answer, is: Is there a difference between genuine criticism of Islam, and anti-Muslim bigotry? I asked this publicly in my panel at the Left Forum last year.

Because so many people, especially liberals, don't know the difference, they conflate the two, and often end up calling anyone who has genuine criticisms of Islam a bigot, an Islamophobe, a racist — or worse, a Nazi.

So what I want to do here is outline a primer on some of the differences between genuine criticism of Islam and anti Muslim bigotry to hopefully teach people the difference.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

Discovering Religion


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

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

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



Enjoy!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Why Ben Shapiro Is Totally Ignorant On Atheism


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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