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

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Quote Of The Day: "Nones" Are Growing And They're Not Civically Engaged


Ryan Burge, an associate professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and opinion writer for the Religion News Service is fearful for the future of civic engagement in the US because the rising "nones" (those with no religious preference), are the least likely to volunteer.

In his recent OP-ED, he created the following treemap of the religious composition in the US as of 2018 taken from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study:



Protestants, once a dominant majority, now are only 39% of the US population, followed by the "nothing in particular" nones at 20%. Further down the list, atheists and agnostics make up a combined 12%. So the percentage of atheists, agnostics, and nones according to this study would be 32%, a third of the US.

This worries Burge, as those with nothing in particular are less likely to volunteer or engage politically, he writes:

No matter how one feels about religion, it’s undeniable that religious traditions have spent decades building networks that operate behind the scenes to support those who are most vulnerable in our society. As the number of socially detached people grows, the ability of faith groups to fill in the gaps will be diminished, and once these ministries disappear, it seems highly unlikely that they can be quickly or easily replaced.

Finding ways to get these individuals to reintegrate into their communities might lead to benefits not only for these individuals but also for towns and cities in their fight to re-create social capital.

Should those who promote secularism be worried if this is true? Unintended consequences have a nasty tendency of rearing their ugly heads in unexpected places. It seems to me that those who are "nothing in particular" are nothing in particular because they are less likely to be socially and civically engaged. Religion is just one more thing they are disengaged from. If that's the case, it may be impossible (or at least very hard) to get them to participate in the areas traditionally done and cultivated by religious communities and institutions. And while secular organizations have made some inroads in promoting volunteerism in recent decades, the bulk of the future civic engagement might indeed by at the hands of a shrinking population.

Interestingly, Burge separates the nones from atheists and agnostics in his piece and argues that educational level is the main factor of decreased civic engagement. The nones have the lowest levels of educational achievement while atheists have some of the highest. So while all this news looks bad on the nones, it doesn't necessarily look bad on atheists.




Friday, May 31, 2019

Religions And Birth Rates: Not What You Think? | Hans Rosling


It seems that I discovered Swedish born statistician Hans Rosling a little too late. He died February 7th, 2017 of cancer, just before I stumbled upon his many inspiring talks on the changing facts of world data.

A point Rosling made over and over again is that many of us are operating with 20 or 30 year old statistics in our heads in terms of how we think the world is. We tend to think, for example, that many third world countries today are statistically where they were in the 1980s and 90s in terms of birth rates and poverty rates. This makes us mistakenly think that in countries like India and Bangladesh, women are still on average having 6 or 7 kids. In the last 30 years, birth rates have dropped in almost the entire world, and it is always directly correlated with reductions of poverty and rising standards of living.

This brings me to the topic of religion and birth rates. It is commonly believed that religions like Islam encourage high birth rates and that this will ensure that the population of Muslims around the world will outpace and outnumber all other religions and those without religion. While it is true that Muslim majority countries have on average more children per woman than non-Muslim countries, when the standard of living is raised, the birth rate drops, just as it does in the rest of the Western world.

In India in 2018 the birth rate is 2.2 per woman, in Bangladesh it is 2.0, Indonesia, 2.3, Iran, 1.6, Bahrain, 1.9, Qatar, 1.8, Turkey, 2.0, and Saudi Arabia, 2.4. These countries have dramatically increased their standard of living since the 1980s, when they had birth rates 2 or 3 times higher. To put this in perspective, the US birth rate in 2018 was 1.9, roughly on par with many of these countries.

Muslim majority countries that haven't increased their standard of living, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Mauritania, still have high birth rates of 4.3, 4.2, 6.0, and 4.5 respectively.

What this all means is 2 things: (1) the Islamic world is not immune to lower, Western-level birth rates. That is to say, there is nothing necessarily intrinsic about Islam that prevents countries from lowering their birth rate as they economically advance, and (2) to lower birth rates one must tackle poverty. This means it is not necessarily the case that Islam will come to dominate the future population with its higher birth rates as organizations like PEW have predicted (to which I think they made several mistakes).

Watch Rosling explain in his eccentric way in more detail in his 2012 Ted talk. (Also check out his site gapminder.org to see the data for yourself).



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Socialists Are The New Atheists (Sort Of)


A recent poll from Gallup came out this month that showed socialists are now the least trusted group to be president, and atheists now are only the second least trusted group. The survey showed that 60% of Americans would vote for a well-qualified person for president who happened to be an atheist, compared to only 47% for a socialist on the same conditions.


Twenty years ago, another Gallup poll showed that only 49% of Americans would vote for an atheist, similar to where socialists are now. While there are obvious differences in what a socialist is and what an atheist is (socialism is a political and economic ideology, whereas atheism isn't), both carry negative stigmas, however. Both are, for example, unfairly associated with the worst of the communist regimes of the 20th century.

Still, while the acceptance today for an atheist president in the US is only 60%, it used to be only 18% back in 1958. That's a 42 percentage point increase in 61 years. At this rate, atheist presidents will be accepted by all Americans by 2070! But I'm sure that will never happen, as there will always be a contingent of Americans who will never trust an atheist in the White House. Though given the trend, which could speed up in the coming years as Boomers begin to die off and the more secular Gen Xers and Millennials become the most important voting blocks, we should see a viable openly atheist presidential candidate at some point likely in the next 20 years.



Saturday, February 2, 2019

"God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World" Refuted — Part 5


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 the final response of my series of that rebuts his post. For parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 click here, here, here, and here.


How God's Eternity Relates to the Temporal World


In the final section of Dr Bonnette's post he attempts to logically reconcile the existence of an unchanging, timeless god with a changing dynamic universe, and as before we will see his attempts fail at nearly every step. He writes,

Some argue that every change in the temporal world requires a change in God to initiate that new causation that changes the world. For, how can one thing initiate new motion in another without itself changing in the very act of “sending forth” its causal influence to the world?
Such reasoning may make perfect sense to a mentality mired in philosophical materialism. But, it makes no sense at all in existential metaphysics. Physical agents change as they cause effects. But to think that this also applies to spiritual agents is absurd and illogical.

This is flat out wrong. In my criticisms of the impossibility of an unchanging being doing things that require time (which requires change) I pressed its logical impossibility. That is to say, nothing in my view depends on materialism being true. The theist has a logical problem, not a material problem. When I argue that:

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.

I am stressing the fact that logical impossibilities hold true regardless of metaphysical materialism or immaterialism. No amount of hand-waving can wiggle you out of this, as we will see. He continues,

Since whatever is in motion or is changed must be moved or changed by another, maintaining that a cause cannot cause change without itself changing would entail an infinite regress among simultaneous caused causes and make impossible an Uncaused First Cause. This is because it would mean that every cause would be an intermediate cause in need of a prior proper cause. If every cause has a prior cause, any causal regress among proper causes would have to regress to infinity. But, I have shown elsewhere that an infinite regress among simultaneous proper causes is metaphysically impossible. For one thing, the sufficient reason for the final effect would never be fulfilled. Therefore, it is manifestly false to claim that every cause must itself change in order to cause a change in another.

Regarding the infinite regress issue, his argument presupposes the principle of sufficient reason, which I've argued is self-contradictory on the Scholastic view. Without the PSR, Bonnette's argument cannot be made plausible. It's assuming a first principle that can easily be challenged, which is a recurring theme in most if not all the arguments made in his post. Bonnette's assuming the PSR, showing a supposed problem that an infinite regress of causes entails given the PSR, and then is deducing from this that there must be an unchanging cause. If your conclusion is incoherent, it cannot be true, and so something must be wrong with your premises or assumptions, or both. And that's exactly what we have here. Bonnette makes no attempt to actually demonstrate the logical coherency of a timeless god who does things which would require change and therefore time. He just assumes such a being must exist given a deduction from the first principles he adheres to.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Survey: Few Americans Find Meaning In Faith


An interesting survey from Pew came out recently that detailed where Americans find meaning in life and it showed a relatively small number mention spirituality or faith.

A hot topic in the debate between atheists and theists is where millions of people will find meaning, once they've left religion for atheism. It is argued, mostly by social conservatives, but even by some liberals, that religion is the largest provider of meaning in life and that in the absence of traditional religion the void left by that absence of meaning will be filled by anti-social elements, like drug addiction, and radical ideologies, be they far Right or far Left.

Well, Pew's survey seems to challenge that perspective, at least somewhat. Despite Americas being seen as a highly religious population among the Western nations, only 20% of the respondents in the survey even mentioned spirituality and faith as something that provides them with a sense of meaning. Family by far topped the list, with nearly 70% mentioning it, followed much lower by career and money, at 34% and 23% respectively.

Americans most likely to mention family when describing what provides them with a sense of meaning

Despite the fact that when the survey is measured by what is the most important source of meaning, faith comes in second, I am positive that these numbers will be decreasing in the next few decades due to the ongoing rapid secularization of the US.

Religion second to family as ‘most important’ source of meaning in lives of American adults

And not surprising, black Americans mention spirituality the highest of 3 racial groups, corresponding with the known high levels of religiosity among them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Interactive Map Of Religious Belief in Europe


Continuing on with my love of Pew Research's surveys on religious trends, they recently put out an interactive map that shows you the religiosity of 34 European countries according to 4 factors: (1) importance of religion; (2) religious service attendance; (3) frequency of prayer; and (4) belief in god.

Here are some highlights from the survey:

  • Romania is the most religious European country in their overall combined index, Estonia the lowest.
  • Armenia has the highest level of belief in god with "with absolute certainty" with 78%, and Germany is the lowest with 10%.
  • Greece has the highest percentage of people who say religion is very important in their lives, with 55%, and Estonia is the lowest with a mere 6%.
  • Moldova has the highest percentage of people who say they pray daily, at 48%, and the UK has the lowest at just 6%.
  • Poland has the highest percentage of people who say they attend religious services at least monthly, at 61%, and Finland has the lowest at 10%. 

It seems that the most religious countries in Europe are roughly on par with where the US is. But the US will be catching up with the rest of Western Europe in a generation or so, if the numbers continue at the rate they are now.

Unfortunately, embedding the tool doesn't seem to be working, so click this link here to check it out. Screenshot below for reference.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Few Recent Studies On Secularization From Pew


Pew is a treasure trove of cultural and demographic data for nerds like me. I can spend hours on the site pouring over all their new studies.

Here are some recent graphs that caught my attention on religion and the rise of the "nones" in the US and Western Europe. From Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion:

People who identify as “nothing in particular” give a variety of responses when asked about their most important reason for not affiliating with a religion – and no single reason predominates. A quarter say the most important reason is that they question a lot of religious teachings, 21% say they dislike the positions churches take on social and political issues, and 28% say none of the reasons offered are very important.



As expected, questioning religious teachings is a major reason why people leave religion:

Six-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Americans – adults who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – say the questioning of religious teachings is a very important reason for their lack of affiliation. The second-most-common reason is opposition to the positions taken by churches on social and political issues, cited by 49% of respondents (the survey asked about each of the six options separately). Smaller, but still substantial, shares say they dislike religious organizations (41%), don’t believe in God (37%), consider religion irrelevant to them (36%) or dislike religious leaders (34%).


In another survey of Western Europe, it shows how most unaffiliated adults were raised Christian, disconfirming the misconceived idea that if two Christians have a kid, that kid will be a Christian its entire adult life. Assuming kids will all keep the same religion of their parents is what lead Pew a few years back to over estimate the rise of the percentage and absolute numbers of the world's religious population by 2050. From the recent study, you have an 86% chance of having been raised Christian if you're not currently religious in Spain. And the median number of the unaffiliated raised Christian in Western Europe is 60%.



Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Satanic Temple's Protest for First Amendment Rights


I recently came across this video from Vice about The Satanic Temple's push to get a plurality of religious representation at the Arkansas state capitol grounds. The back story is that they have a monument to the 10 Commandments on government property, violating the separation of church and state, and if not removed it should at least be accompanied by monuments to other religions, like Satanism. Seems fair enough, but of course this is not going over well in the deep Christian south.

It is amusing to see just how real residents of the state take the statue of Baphomet — a catoonish representation of the "Adversary." They literally believe a statue will bring upon Satan's wrath. It goes to show you how far we still need to progress on the secularization of the US.



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 objections to god's necessity and free will 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. It 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.

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