Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy July 4th

Never forget to keep secularism alive.

Lawrence Krauss: A Universe from Nothing

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Do Atheists Have Faith?

We hear a lot about faith today – from pious politicians, to small town preachers. One of the goals of the New Atheists is to turn the word "faith" into a dirty word. Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking Bill Maher said in Religulous. Christopher Hitchens wanted to attach a negative stigma to anyone who professed to be a "person of faith." I'm definitely on board with the mission of creating a culture based on reason and evidence and not faith. But, theists often accuse atheists of being just as faithful. They say atheism takes just as much faith as theism, maybe more.

So is this true? Does it take more faith to be an atheist than a theist?

Let's look at some definitions of "faith." From we get a few answers:

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

For the atheist, it's definitions 2, 3, and 5 that are the most controversial and the kind of faith that we would like to see eradicated. Certainly we can all say that we have faith in a friend, faith in humanity, or faith that the economy will recover. This kind of faith is informed trust in a person or a thing when we are not certain what will happen. That's definition 1 – uncontroversial. Definition 4 kind of pushes the meaning of faith and conflates it somewhat with belief. But, it is still dealing with things that exist, such as a code of ethics, or values.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer In The City - Debate Meetup

Last weekend I attended a local debate club meeting in Bryant Park. It's a monthly gathering of debating enthusiasts. We get together in a circle, a topic is voted on, and then we debate either for it or against it. Sometimes we're organized into groups where one group has to debate for or against an issue against the other group, and sometimes we debate as individuals.

I've never liked debating on the other side of an issue that is opposite my views, but it is good to be challenged in such a way. I arrived late, and had to quickly learn the topic and argue for a position within minutes of arriving. The topic was whether you were for or against political correction. Being highly knowledgeable on a conglomeration of subjects, I was able to easily throw in my 2 cents into the argument without much hesitation.

Later we debated the legitimacy of foreign intervention (such as with the debate over Syria) and I referenced a blog where I wrote about "Just War" and used the criterion Hitchens used to justify the Iraq War to make a case that foreign interventions - especially in cases of genocide are sometimes warranted. It went over well and it gave my argument the awe of expertise.

Ex-Muslim Secular Activist Kacem El Ghazzali

We in the West take it for granted that we can criticize religion how ever and when ever we pretty much want, but such is not the case for many of our fellow secularists/atheists living abroad. I recently came across this blog made by a Moroccan man named Kacem El Ghazzali who had to flee his country to Switzerland once he declared his atheism online and began receiving death threats. I can't imagine what that must be like living in a country where you don't even have the basic freedoms to express yourself honestly.

I'm almost tempted to say "Thank God for freedom" but I know who to thank: the men and women who've fought and laid down their lives so that you and me can live free and express ourselves as we like.

Check out Ghazzali's blog here: His activity is pretty impressive; he's a secular activist and has spoken at the United Nations and other organizations about human rights and the persecution of religious minorities (atheists). It reminds me how much progress there is to be made before we can have a world free from all tyranny, especially the religious kind. And it reminds me how much of the world is opposed to freedom of speech, especially the anti-religious kind.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Does Simultaneous Causality Exist?

The concept of simultaneous causality is what theists use to save themselves when making the cosmological argument from the logical problem of causes preceding their effects when the effect is the beginning of time itself. They claim that god somehow caused the universe to exist at the same time as the effect took place. But does simultaneous causality really exist?

Immanuel Kant, the famous 18th century German philosopher gave a well known example of simultaneous causality. He imagined a ball resting on a pillow. The impression of the ball on the surface of the pillow is a simultaneous cause and effect according to Kant. But we all know that the ball must be dropped onto the pillow first, and as the ball drops, the impression in the pillow deepens. So the cause does precede its effect in Kant's example.

Some theists have proposed the idea of a ball resting on a pillow existing in that state eternally, then the cause would not be said to have preceded its effect. This idea, some theists claim, saves the simultaneous causality hypothesis from the rigid manner of a temporal world where causes always precede their effects. But is this a practical scenario? And does it compare to the origin of the universe?


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