Showing posts with label secularism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label secularism. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why Trump Won


It was the unthinkable. His candidacy was the butt of many jokes. No one took him seriously at first except for a handful of people. And then his popularity soared to number one, and he began winning primary after primary, but they said he would never win the nomination. And then he won the Republican nomination. And then they said he would never win the presidency.

And now he has just won that.


The critics had been wrong over and over again this election. Including me of course, but I was just going by the projections, and they failed miserably. This is a year when the things that they said couldn't happen, happened. And so early next year we will have President Trump in the White House. It doesn't sound right. It is only now, a full day after he won, just starting to sink in.

So now what? First, how did this happen? In short, the Democratic establishment pushed a corporate friendly centrist who took large amounts of money from banks, who praised free trade like NAFTA and the TPP, and who chose another corporate friendly centrist who loved the TPP as her running mate. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine were the epitomes of the establishment wing in the Democratic Party who lost touch with working class voters. And so in those critical rust belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Donald Trump's promises to renegotiate NAFTA, pull out of the TPP negotiations, close the border and bring manufacturing jobs back into the US appealed to voters in a way that Hillary Clinton couldn't. And so working class white voters — hundreds of thousands of them who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, took a gamble and voted for Trump this time. And that was enough for him to carry those states. That defeated Hillary.

That's the main reason why Hillary lost. The Democrats became too detached with working class voters, particularly white ones, while Trump appealed to them with his promises. This is why I think Bernie Sanders should have been the Democratic nominee. He appealed to white working class voters more than Clinton and he would have likely won those four critical battle ground states in the general election.

Second, I don't know what this means for secular liberal atheists like myself. Certainly it means we're going to have challenges that we wouldn't have had under Clinton. Mike Pence is a super religious conservative who seems hell bent to push through his conservative religious ideology into law. And with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate, and with Trump appointing at least one conservative Supreme Court Justice, things will be tough. I also fear the death of intellectualism in politics, where having a detailed understanding of policy gives way to cult of personality and simple minded catch phrases, and that this becomes the winning formula from now on. That scares me deeply.

We will have to see what happens. Get ready for the greatest reality show on earth.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 5 Decent of the Modernists - Part 2: Inventing the mind-body problem)


iconInventing the mind-body problem

In this section of chapter 5 Feser begins by targeting the philosopher who seems to be his public enemy number one: Rene Descartes. It was he who rejected the Aristotelian account in favor of the "mechanistic philosophy" that we still know of today that rejects formal and final causes. But doing this inevitably results in an apparent "disaster": the complete undermining of the possibility both of moral evaluation and of reason itself. (186) Before getting there, Feser here summarizes the mechanistic view of the world for the most part accurately and notes the differences between primary and secondary qualities.

Primary qualities include solidity, extension, figure, motion, number and the like, and in particular any quality that can be mathematically quantified and which does not vary in any way from observer to observer. Secondary qualities include colors, sounds, tastes, odors, and so forth, and an object's having them amounts to nothing more than a tendency to cause us to have certain sensations. (189)

I would add that things like solidity wouldn't technically be a primary quality since solidity is nowhere to be found fundamentally, but is an emergent property of matter at higher levels. But this is not really relevant here. What is relevant is whether the secondary qualities exist in the objective world or they exist only in the mind of observers. On the "mechanistic" view the answer is no, Feser explains, and so a soul must exist that is separate from the physical body that interacts with it like a "ghost in the machine." But without this, the materialist seems to have a problem. How does the materialist explain qualia, the conscious experiences that determines what it's like to have it? A few examples would be in the experience of seeing red versus seeing green, of tasting coffee versus tasting cheese, or of feeling warm versus feeling cold. They're all different sensations, and yet "one cluster of neurons firing seems qualitatively pretty much like any other, and certainly very different from these sensations [such that] it is hard to see how any sensation could be reduced to or explained in terms of nothing but the firing of neurons." (191)

Yes it is hard, but not impossible. Here we still have the genuine mystery of qualia. Since the human brain is the most complex thing in the known universe, it's going to take a bit longer to unravel its mysteries than many other things. One underlying assumption in Feser's above understanding is that the neurons in the brain fire the same way when you see the color red versus seeing the color green. But why should we think that's true? Different neurons fire when we see different wavelengths of light.

Cells in the retina called "opponent neurons" fire when stimulated by incoming red light, and this flurry of activity tells the brain we're looking at something red. Those same opponent neurons are inhibited by green light, and the absence of activity tells the brain we're seeing green. Similarly, yellow light excites another set of opponent neurons, but blue light damps them. While most colors induce a mixture of effects in both sets of neurons, which our brains can decode to identify the component parts, red light exactly cancels the effect of green light (and yellow exactly cancels blue), so we can never perceive those colors coming from the same place.

So different physical processes are at work when we see different colors. The experience of seeing red is just another way of talking about the physical brain undergoing the electrochemical signals travelling through it when the retina received the wavelength of red and certain neurons fire. It's similar to talking about an object as solid even though fundamentally it's just made up of empty space and quantum fields. We still don't know exactly how the physical brain gives rise to qualia but I have no reason to think there is anything non-physical involved that is causal.* I'm open to the mind possibly having a non-physical ontology that is epiphenomenal in nature, meaning, it's an emergent property of physical brains that's causally impotent. But any notion of an immaterial mind having a physical force on matter (like the kind Feser claims, see my review of chapter 4) is unambiguously ruled out by science. Not only do we fully understand all the laws of physics that govern the everyday realm which includes the brain (and therefore anything having to deal with consciousness) and which leaves no room for a mind force to causally effect atoms, but all of neuroscience has repeatedly shown unconscious brain activity precedes conscious awareness, exactly what we'd expect on materialism.**

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Number Of Religiously Unaffiliated "Nones" In US Rises to 25%


I have good news to report from the trenches of the secular front on the ongoing secularization of the US. The number of religiously unaffiliated "nones" has risen to 25% of the US population according to a recent PPRI survey, up from the 22.8% reported in the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape survey.


From the report:

In 1991, only six percent of Americans identified their religious affiliation as “none,” and that number had not moved much since the early 1970s. By the end of the 1990s, 14% of the public claimed no religious affiliation. The rate of religious change accelerated further during the late 2000s and early 2010s, reaching 20% by 2012. Today, one-quarter (25%) of Americans claim no formal religious identity, making this group the single largest “religious group” in the U.S.

More young adults are unaffiliated than in the past too. While it is no surprise that younger people tend to be less religious, the percentage of young adults who are less religious is increasing over time. Thirty years ago in 1986, only 10% of 18-29 year olds were religiously unaffiliated. That doubled to 20% in 1996, and has nearly doubled since then to 39%. Interestingly, there are more seniors 65+ who are religiously unaffiliated today than there were 18-29 year olds back in 1986.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Happiest Countries Tend To Be The Least Religious Countries


The 2016 World Happiness Index report is out and it shows that 6 of the top 10 most happy countries on the list are also on the list of the top 10 least religious countries, as ranked by US News. There has been a strong correlation with happiness and low religiosity for years. Until not that long ago I used to think that low religiosity is what lead to happier, better off societies. That certainly can be the case to a degree, but what really happens, as the I've come to discover, is that when a country's standard of living goes up that tends to lead to religiosity going down.* So having a better economy, a better government, a better health care system, and lower crime tend to lead to religiosity declining. And this means that making the world a better place is one of the best ways to decrease religion, and by doing so, in effect, you can kill two birds with one stone.




*This is sometimes called the existential security thesis (EST) or the socioeconomic security hypothesis (SSH). For more information on the latter see Gregory Paul's paper The chronic dependence of popular religiosity upon dysfunctional social conditions.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Quote Of The Day: The Dalai Lama On Secular Ethics



Who would suspect that the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism himself, the Dalai Lama, would be in favor of secular ethics, but he appears to get it like most of us atheists do. This is probably why I'm much more sympathetic to Buddhism than most other religions. He's absolutely right: secular ethics is foundational for having a thriving world community where multicultural societies exist.

For all its benefits in offering moral guidance and meaning in life, religion is no longer adequate as a basis for ethics. Many people no longer follow any religion. In addition, in today’s secular and multicultural societies, any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values could not be universal, and so would be inadequate. We need an approach to ethics that can be equally acceptable to those with religious faith and those without. We need a secular ethics.
 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Rise And The (Ostensible) Fall Of The Religious Conservatives In The U.S.


In 2014, Pew showed that 72% of Americans think religion is losing its influence in public life and that there's been a recent slight uptick of Americans who say religious institutions should express views on political matters (49%). It further showed that a growing minority (32%) say religious institutions should come out and support political candidates, and 59% think it's important for members of Congress to have religious beliefs.  As expected, Republicans lean more towards wanting more religion in public life.


Furthermore, 56% of Americans who think religion is losing its influence think it's a bad thing, and only 12% think it's a good thing. I'm definitely one of those 12 percenters who think it's a bad thing. I think religion needs to recede from American cultural and political influence and the faster that happens the better the nation will be as a whole.

But the main question I want to address is whether or not opinion of the majority of Americans is correct: Is religion losing its influence in cultural and political matters?

To answer that we have to look at the recent presidential election as well as demographic data and polls on social issues. The largest and most powerful religious influence in the US has without a doubt been that of white evangelical Christians. Almost all US presidents have been Protestant with just a few exceptions. Even so, and despite a recent uptick of those who think religious institutions should get more political, data indicates that the influence of this large and mostly Republican demographic is shrinking and losing influence.

When it comes to demographics, the first and most important factor in the decline of white evangelical Christians is that the country is getting less white. The US is only 63% white, down from 69% in 2000, and 80% in 1980. As the white population shrinks, the white evangelical population shrinks. Second, the country is getting less Christian. The US is only 70% Christian, down from 78% in 2007, and 90% in 1963. In just the past 20 years the percentage of both Christians and the religiously affiliated began to rapidly decline. And just like with the white population, as the Christian population shrinks, the white evangelical population shrinks—along with their influence. Protestants now make up less than half (46%) the US population. Thirdly, there is a large generational gap with respect to Christian religiosity indicating what's to come. Only 56% of millennials are Christian, whereas 70% of generation X, and 78% of baby boomers are Christian.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Quote Of The Day: Why ISIS Fights & Hates Us



Today's quote comes from the latest issue of ISIS's very own publication Dabiq. To those out there who still insist that ISIS is the result of purely socio-economic reasons and/or motivated by Western foreign policy that has nothing to do with the religion of Islam, I give you an article shutting that view down right from the source. It's entitled, "Why We Hate You & Why We Fight You" and in it ISIS explains exactly why they fight and hate us and (spoiler alert!) it's first and foremost due to their religion of Islam. They hate our secular, disbelieving, gay-enabling lands of freedom and sodomy, where we let criticism of Islam and their pedophile prophet Mohammad be tolerated. They will not rest in hating and fighting us until we convert to Islam or submit to Islamic rule under dhimmi status and pay the jizyah. All of us. Only a temporary cease fire is the best we can ever hope for in terms of "peace." That's why ISIS needs to be wiped off the face of the earth and every last one of them is destroyed. And their ideology and religion need to be utterly refuted into extinction so that it never comes back.

Here are their top 3 reasons why they hate and fight us.

1. We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you. “There has already been for you an excellent example in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’” (Al-Mumtahanah 4). Furthermore, just as your disbelief is the primary reason we hate you, your disbelief is the primary reason we fight you, as we have been commanded to fight the disbelievers until they submit to the authority of Islam, either by becoming Muslims, or by paying jizyah – for those afforded this option – and living in humiliation under the rule of the Muslims. Thus, even if you were to stop fighting us, your best-case scenario in a state of war would be that we would suspend our attacks against you – if we deemed it necessary – in order to focus on the closer and more immediate threats, before eventually resuming our campaigns against you. Apart from the option of a temporary truce, this is the only likely scenario that would bring you fleeting respite from our attacks. So in the end, you cannot bring an indefinite halt to our war against you. At most, you could only delay it temporarily. “And fight them until there is no fitnah [paganism] and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah” (Al-Baqarah 193).
2. We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted, a matter that doesn’t concern you because you separate between religion and state, thereby granting supreme authority to your whims and desires via the legislators you vote into power. In doing so, you desire to rob Allah of His right to be obeyed and you wish to usurp that right for yourselves. “Legislation is not but for Allah” (Yusuf 40). Your secular liberalism has led you to tolerate and even support “gay rights,” to allow alcohol, drugs, fornication, gambling, and usury to become widespread, and to encourage the people to mock those who denounce these filthy sins and vices. As such, we wage war against you to stop you from spreading your disbelief and debauchery – your secularism and nationalism, your perverted liberal values, your Christianity and atheism – and all the depravity and corruption they entail. You’ve made it your mission to “liberate” Muslim societies; we’ve made it our mission to fight off your influence and protect mankind from your misguided concepts and your deviant way of life. 
3. In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage war against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator. You witness the extraordinarily complex makeup of created beings, and the astonishing and inexplicably precise physical laws that govern the entire universe, but insist that they all came about through randomness and that one should be faulted, mocked, and ostracized for recognizing that the astonishing signs we witness day after day are the creation of the Wise, All-Knowing Creator and not the result of accidental occurrence. “Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators [of themselves]?” (AtTur 35). Your disbelief in your Creator further leads you to deny the Day of Judgment, claiming that “you only live once.” “Those who disbelieve have claimed that they will never be resurrected. Say, ‘Yes, by my Lord, you will surely be resurrected; then you will surely be informed of what you did. And that, for Allah, is easy’” (At-Taghabun 7). 

When reading ISIS propaganda, prepare to see how twisted and warped taking the religion of Islam literally can make you. Read it all right from the latest issue of Dabiq, entitled Break the Cross.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Religiously Unaffiliated More Likely To Support Same Sex Marriage And Legal Abortion


It's no surprise that belief in god has consequences in how you vote and what views you hold. Given how the religiously unaffiliated are now the single largest voting block in the US, as well as the fastest growing, this will steer the country in a more liberal direction on social issues in the future. We're even beginning to see that as some Republicans are starting to soften up to issues like homosexuality for example. As a social liberal, I can only see this as good. Here is some of the poll data courtesy of PEW regarding the views of the unaffiliated.

The religiously unaffiliated vote overwhelmingly democratic:


They are much more likely to think abortion should be legal and favor same sex marriage than the religiously affiliated and general public:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

America Is A Christian Nation?


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




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

Monday, June 13, 2016

PEW: 11 Percent of Americans Either Don't Believe In God Or Don't Know


According to last year's religious PEW survey, "Nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults overall (9%) now say they do not believe in God, up from 5% in 2007." You must keep this in mind when reading their other results that showed only 3.1% of Americans are "atheists" according to their 2014 Religious Landscape survey. Three times less people identify as "atheist" than disbelieve in god or a universal spirit and that's one reason why we need to normalize the term "atheist." That was exactly what American Atheist president David Silverman's speech at the Reason Rally last week was all about. If you don't believe in a god or universal spirit, you are an atheist and you should be confident in identifying yourself as an atheist. An atheist is not someone who's certain there is no god, just as a theist is not someone who's certain there is a god. At a bare minimum, an atheist is someone who simply has no positive believe in a god (or a universal spirit) and can still be open to the possibility that there could be a god. That's it.


Declining Share of Americans Express Absolutely Certain Belief in God

Sunday, May 22, 2016

George Carlin Was Wrong On Voting


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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Andrew Seidel: America Is NOT A Christian Nation


Not sure if I blogged this before, but just in case I haven't it's worth the watch. Andrew Seidel nicely dispels the myth that America is a Christian nation.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 4 Scholastic Aptitude - Part 3: Faith, Reason, And Evil)


Faith, reason, and evil

In the final section of chapter 4 Feser defends the notion of faith and its relationship to reason in Christianity and addresses the problem of evil. He makes so many points I want to address that I apologize in advance for how long this chapter's review as become.

Faith, Feser defines, is "the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." (154) In order to keep things relatively short, I'll accept this as a definition of faith for this review even though I have objections to it. We also get Feser's definition of a miracle, which is "a suspension of the natural order that cannot be explained in any way other than divine intervention in the normal course of events." (154) This is the traditional definition of a miracle, but not the only one. In fact, some Christians like Kenneth Pearce have even argued that such a definition is incoherent with the traditional notion of an omni-deity. If that's so, I'm afraid Feser's view on miracles would have to be false, and if they are false, the central argument in his book for theism is even less plausible. This is just an extra layer of falsity in addition to the fact that Feser's view is already incoherent for requiring libertarian free will while his metaphysics refutes it.

Feser machine gun blasts several dozen points rapidly here, so let me address some of them one by one. Regarding Christianity specifically, he says:

If the story of Jesus's resurrection is true, then you must become a Christian; if it is false, then Christianity itself is false, and should be rejected. (154)

Um, it's false. We can be fairly confident of that. There is no reason why any rational person should accept the historical or miracle claims in the New Testament, even if one believes there is a god, or a person (or persons) that the character of Jesus was based on. We have plenty of reason to doubt his existence and his divinity if such a person existed.*

Given that God exists and that He sustains the world and the causal laws governing it in being at every moment, we know that there is a power capable of producing a miracle, that is, a suspension of those causal laws. (155)

Feser is of course proceeding as if his previous arguments from before have stuck, but we have no good reason of thinking they have. Some of them are flat out refuted by science or are internally inconsistent. How does an utterly timeless being "lacking any potentiality whatsoever" produce a miracle, like impregnating an under-aged virgin who gives birth to himself as "God incarnate"?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dear Christians: You Do Know That Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Helps Atheists, Right?


Source: The Real News
If you're a Christian and you're vehemently anti-Muslim in the really bad racist-against-Arabs/Asians way, and you actively support shutting down mosques, or banning Muslims from entry into the US, or from holding public office, or you support deporting all Muslims living in the US now, or banning Islam in favor of promoting Christianity, or all of the above, consider that you might actually be helping the atheist's agenda. You see, we atheists love nothing more than to be able to point out inter-religious conflict. It helps us point out how stupid and harmful religion is by how it helps create tribal in-group/out-group ways of thinking and distrust of "others." The rising anti-Muslim rhetoric mostly seen on the political Right will inevitably inspire someone to mass-murder Muslims in a mosque or gathering, and that person will probably be a Christian fundamentalist. And this will only escalate to even more backlash, violence, and inter-religious conflict between Christians and Muslims. In debates that we atheists have with Christians, we'd love to be able to cite polls that show that the more religiously Christian you are, the more you tend to harbor xenophobic, racist, and bigoted views towards certain ethnic groups and religious groups, like Muslims. It helps support the idea that religion poisons everything.

So yeah, you Christians should amp up the anti-Muslim rhetoric as much as possible so that this is more likely to happen, and that way we atheists can use the worsening Christian/Muslim conflict to point out how stupid all religion is, which will help our secular agenda.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 4 Scholastic Aptitude - Part 1: The Soul)


In chapter 4, Feser lays the ground work for the soul, the natural law theory of ethics, and the relationship between faith and reason using the concepts he's laid down in the previous chapters. I've decided to break this review into three parts because the review became so long.

In the beginning of the chapter Feser finds room for two more insults on Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris—Dennett for "sheer speculation" on evolutionary psychological explanations of religion, and Harris for apparently being boring in his book, The End of Faith. Certainly there's a lot of speculation in evolutionary psychology, but the argument for the naturalistic origins of over-active agency detection forming the basis of god belief I think are pretty strong and well supported by evidence. Anyway, onto the soul.

The soul

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Aristotelian conception of the soul. It differs significantly from the Cartesian conception where there is a physical body and a non-physical soul that operates the body like a "ghost in the machine." Although many lay people still hold to this concept of the soul, it has severely fallen out of fashion in the relevant sciences and philosophy, and is considered by most in those fields flat out false.

The Aristotelian-Thomistic (or A-T for short) soul is different. The "form or essence of a living thing is just what Aristotle (and Aquinas) mean by the word 'soul,'" Feser explains. The "soul" is "to refer to the nature of a living thing, whatever that turns out to be," adding, "The soul is just a kind of form." (121) But what if it turns out to be that we're just complex arrangements of matter and energy governed by the fundamental forces described by the laws of physics, with no free will of our own? This is after all what science is showing us more and more everyday. It seems to me that terms like "soul" at best are a metaphor, like when we refer to the "soul" of a city, and at worst an outright metaphysical falsehood.

The soul being form and essence means all things have a "soul" on the A-T view. But there are three kinds of souls that Feser describes (121-122) and this means that for you Christians (spoiler alert!), you sadly won't be seeing your cat or dog in heaven:

Nutritive soul: a form or essence that gives a thing that has it the powers of taking in nutrients, growing, and reproducing itself.
Sensory soul: a form or essence that gives a thing that has it both the powers of a nutritive soul, and also an animal's distinctive powers of being able to sense the world around it (by seeing, hearing, etc.) and to move itself (by walking, flying, etc.).
Rational soul: includes both the powers of the nutritive soul and the sensory souls and also distinctively human powers of intellect and will: that is, the power to grasp abstract objects - namely, the forms or essences of things - and to reason on the basis of them, and freely to choose different possible courses of action on the basis of what the intellect knows.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What Countries Have Secular Majorities? An Interactive Map


Majorities in Canada, the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, South Korea, China & Japan are either not religious or convinced atheists:


I know this came out months ago and isn't exactly breaking news but I just wanted to put that into perspective when we realize just how secular a large portion of the population of the world is. I thought about this in the recent #PrayForParis fiasco, especially in how France is one of the most secular and least religious countries in the world. The US is behind the pack but slowly catching up to the rest of the first world. However, it will likely take another generation to match up with where the UK or France is today. Patience is a virtue.

You can check out the interactive map below:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Makes Some Atheists Anti-Theists?




If you're a Christian, I'm not sure if you can appreciate what Christians look like to us atheists. To us, you're just another religion proudly proclaiming that you've got the "one true religion," and like, you're really [totally fucking] serious this time. We're a little bemused by this. I will admit I have often looked condescendingly down on Christians and had pity for them, but I'm starting to reconsider all that. See, every once in a while I meet a Christian who's totally cool and who I get along with and who I see eye to eye with on a lotta shit, and I think to myself, man, if every Christian was like this, I'd be totally cool with Christianity. And if all religious people were like this, I'd really have no reason to be an anti-theist. But then, inevitably, in comes the asshole Christian who wants to shove his religion down my throat, both culturally and politically, deny basic science, assert religious propaganda as historical and metaphysical fact, and who is a 180 degree difference from me when it comes to politics. And then I realize, once again, why I'm an anti-theist.

Remember, anti-theism is largely a reaction to fundamentalist religion. Many of us atheists were very quiet about our atheism years ago. Then, through a variety of ways, we recognized that there are many religious fundamentalists who are very socially and politically active who wish to install their version of a theocracy upon all of us as best they can. Because of this, we've recognized that we have to get organized to prevent this from happening and to be able to maintain the very existence of our naturalistic worldview, and not be discriminated against. Paramount to this of course is the principle of secularism: the separation between religion and government. The wall of separation must continually be defended from theocrats and the like. So, it would be nice to be able to just be an atheist, or a naturalist, but to be an atheist activist, it usually takes some degree of anti-theism. It's interesting to note however, that promoting secularism doesn't technically require an antipathy towards religion, just its encroachment on government. But the two are often hand in hand. An anti-theist is against religious belief. It is the belief that gives theocrats their motivation.* That's one salient reason why I'm against religious belief. I certainly want all religious believers to modernize, be moderate, and be pretty damn liberal in their theological views. But it's hard for me to picture myself advocating for liberal religion, instead of no religion, because, although I find liberal religion more tolerable, I still find it hard to believe. Nonetheless, encouraging the moderation of religion, seems to be imperative.



* And yes, of course, religion is not the only thing that motivates people to power and abuse, plenty of other non-religious things do too. I shouldn't even have to write this, but feel I do.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 3 Getting Medieval)


Feser starts chapter 3 lauding Aquinas' lifelong chastity and devotion to god, as if that's supposed to impress us. Religious obsessions with chastity always reminds me of how masochistic it is. There's also something about serious Catholics that I really don't like. I've always hated Catholicism, but it's hard to hate most Catholics today because most of them are so non-religious that they act almost indistinguishable from your average secular atheist. But the ones who take their religion seriously, like Feser, get me agitated. Feser is convinced his religion is true and wants the world to conform to it, and that's dangerous. I suppose then that it's a good thing he doesn't get much traction.

It's in chapter 3, called Getting Medieval, that Feser lays out his argument for god. He starts by making several insults about the New Atheists and their apparent failure to address the "greatest philosopher of the Middle Ages," especially Richard Dawkins, who is arguably the most famous atheist in the world. As a reminder once again, I haven't fully read The God Delusion, and so I unfortunately cannot speak on Dawkins' behalf. But, from what I did read, Dawkins does make a lot of common sense arguments against the belief in a theistic intervening god - the kind who ensures you have parking space at Walmart while he ignores the prayers of millions of kids starving to death. Hitchens' God is Not Great is really a critique of religion, specifically the Abrahamic ones. He doesn't really try and refute the existence of god per se. Perhaps this is a weakness, but I think his criticisms against Abrahamic theism are strong enough that no argument anyone can make could establish the probabilistic existence of Yahweh. The biblical god and the religions that derive from him are just too absurd to be taken seriously, even when Aquinas' arguments are met head on, as we're about to see.

Feser makes a big deal about the New Atheist's criticisms of William Paley's popular design argument. The reason why so many atheists mention Paley's argument is because it's a very popular argument that a lot of theists make. It's also a very simple argument; one doesn't need to learn complex, esoteric metaphysics like one has to do in order to understand Aquinas. That's why Paley's argument keeps coming up again and again, and the New Atheists (and atheists in general) have to make it a point to address it. Aquinas' arguments are generally too complex and require too much philosophical knowledge for your average wannabe apologist to successfully make. It's much easier for them to memorize the simple premises of the cosmological argument, or remember the scene involved in Paley's watchmaker analogy. It's fair to say that it isn't a straw man to attack design arguments of the Paley variety as Feser thinks on page 81. It's a legitimate argument for god, albeit a really bad one. No, a more proper straw man is like what Feser did in his opening chapter when he says your average secularist thinks strangling infants or fucking corpses or goats is perfectly normal in order to show how secularism is "irrational, immoral, and indeed insane," without even defining what he means by "secularism."

Feser's attitude seems to be that none of the New Atheist's arguments mean anything, until they refute Aquinas. And to be fair, the New Atheists have, by and large, not taken up Aquinas. Feser accuses secularists of swallowing "anything their gurus shovel at them." (80) But he must realize how absurd it is for him to make such a claim, when everyone knows it's organized religion that brainwashes its masses and requires its adherents make statements of faith, usually starting at childhood. And the Catholic Church is about as organized as organized religion can get.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

To The Critics Of Secularism:



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

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

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



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

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

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

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