Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yes Dr. Craig, You're Still An Apologist For Genocide


I love pressuring Christians to justify the numerous genocides that god commands in the Bible. They will usually respond with things like, "The Canaanites were wicked and deserving of God's judgement." Or they'll say, "You have no objective moral foundation to call out genocide." Oh right, like being an atheist somehow prevents me from censuring the mass slaughter of ethnic groups, and somehow only theism gives people the ability of condemning it. Sure. Remember, it's the theist here that's defending genocide. Only religion it seems could make a rational person defend mass genocide in this day and age.

So, when it comes to the apologist extraordinaire William Lane Craig, I paid extra close attention to his attempt at justifying genocide when he was called out on it in a debate a few years ago during his 2011 UK tour. His justification was a shocking spectacle into the mind of an apologist trying ever so hard to make sense of mass slaughter. And his numerous other podcasts and written justifications for it just seem to add insult to injury to him.

On a recent Q and A, he attempts once again to explain why the Canaanite conquest was justified. Craig says that a lot of the criticism against him is just heated emotional rhetoric lacking intellectual substance, and that none of it refutes the moral argument for god. Speaking of substance, Craig's justification boils down to this: "God has the moral right to issue such commands and that He wronged no one in doing so." In other words, god can do whatever he wants; he's the boss. If he wants you to commit genocide for him, then so be it. He has the right to do so because he makes the rules. 

This is basically the best Craig has come up with, and it's sad. But he also warns, "If it is the case that God could not have issued the commands in question, that goes no distance toward proving atheism or undermining the moral argument for God; it at most implies a liberal doctrine of biblical inspiration, such that inspiration does not imply inerrancy." So even if we're right that no such commands were ever issued by a perfect god, according to Craig, god and the moral argument are still intact.

Let's examine this.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Argument From Contingency Vs. The Block Universe & The Principle Of Sufficient Reason


William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith sight is such a treasure trove of misinformed logic and bad arguments for the existence of the Christian god, that any intelligent atheist would have a field day picking it apart. On a recent Q and A titled the Argument from Contingency, Craig responds to a question about the argument's potency in light of the B-theory of time which posits an eternal 4-dimensional block universe. Craig rightfully admits that the kalam cosmological argument is basically rendered impotent on a B-theory of time, but says that Leibnizian argument from contingency still packs a punch. (To see the argument from contingency click the link about it above as I will not be dissecting the actual argument here.)

Craig asks: why does this four-dimensional spacetime block exist? He goes on to say that if the naturalist says the block universe just inexplicably exists, he's then committing the "taxicab fallacy." I've heard this fallacy being thrown around before, so let me explain it for you now. From street apologetics we get a definition:

The “Taxi-Cab Fallacy” is committed when one hops in and assumes a certain system of thought or worldview in an attempt to make a particular point but then jumps out of the system of thought when it suits their fancy.

Craig argues that the naturalist "treats the Principle of Sufficient Reason like a hired hack that can be dismissed arbitrarily once one has arrived at one’s desired destination. No, the existence of a contingently existing spacetime requires explanation, too, just as do planets and dogs and periwinkles."

Let's examine his response. First, the naturalist who doesn't hold to the principle of sufficient reason acknowledges that certain facts may indeed be brute facts and at some point there might be something that simply just is. So why should we hold him to the PSR? The PSR is also not a logical law. The theist cannot logically prove that there must be a sufficient reason or cause for everything, they just assume that there does. Second, we don't know if the universe is contingent. It might be possible that every physically or mathematically possible universe exists. It's a theory called the mathematical universe, which is the level-4 multiverse. Now no one knows if this theory is true; it's a possibility. But if every physically possible kind of universe exists, then ours is guaranteed to exist as one of them. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Is God A Consequentialist?


Whenever I come up dry for material for this blog I can always turn to William Lane Craig bashing for inspiration. I get such great pleasure from deflating his dubious arguments. His new Q and A has him arguing that god isn't a consequentialist, when the record clearly indicates that he is. You can see the question here, I will focus on his answer below.

Craig starts out making a point he often makes in his writings and in his debates:

... on my view God has no moral duties to fulfill. Moral duties arise in response to imperatives issued by God. Since God does not issue commands to Himself, God has no moral duties. Rather God’s acts must simply be consistent with His perfectly good nature. So consequentialism cannot apply to God, having as He does no moral duties. His actions, such as permitting some evils in view of overriding goods, must simply be consistent with His being all-loving, punishing evil, etc.

If god's actions must be "
consistent with His perfectly good nature," and god's nature is perfect goodness, then why is god admittedly jealous and wrathful? Why can he essentially do what he wants and cause suffering and take life as he pleases? It seems to me that theists like Craig admit that their god is a god who can do whatever he wants because he "does not issue commands to Himself." In that case, if god's actions can violate his own commandments to us - commandments which are supposed to reflect his "perfectly good nature," then god cannot logically be perfectly good and all-loving. In other words, if my commandments are perfect, and I violate my own commandments, I cannot be perfect.

This upends the core of divine command theory since according to Craig, "it grounds objective moral values in God as the paradigm and source of moral goodness." If this supposed source of all moral goodness can act in ways contrary to his own commands of perfect moral goodness, the source cannot be perfectly good. Hence god plays a sort of "do as I say, not as I do" ethic. 

But it seems Craig fails to get this. He says:

God’s having no moral duties does not imply that He can do just anything; rather His actions must be consistent with His own nature.

Let's see what god can do. He can command child sacrifice, genocide, slavery, the killing of adulterers, witches and homosexuals, and he can take his anger out on people for not worshiping him properly and for offering inadequate sacrifices. Sounds to me like god can pretty much "do just anything." If all those things I mentioned above are consistent with "good nature," then I'd hate to see what bad nature is.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dispatches From The Wall Of Separation: Military Proselytizing & Ex-Gay Therapy


Being an atheist, I am deeply concerned about issues related to secularism. I recently asked a conservative Christian blogger if he could name a few issues regarding secularism and religious freedom that concerned him and I told him that I would write about them. So the two issues he came up with are the issue of the US military threatening servicemen with a court martial if they talk about their faith, and the recent law passed in the state of New Jersey criminalizing therapy for minors even when they want to resist same sex attraction. So let's take a look at these issues in relation to the separation of church and state.


Issue # 1 - the US military is planning to court martial service members for publicly sharing their faith. 

According to two reports from Fox News (the most fair & balanced name in news by the way) and from breitbart.com, I was astonished to read that they said the military is considering a policy that will court martial service members who publicly professes their faith in any context, even in private conversations among friends. This would presumably also apply to military chaplains, pretty much preventing them from performing their job. But this seemed too outrageous to be true. And I've had several close friends who were in the military and they all said that military proselytizing is rampant. 

So I looked around further, and according to factcheck.org, the Fox News report was a sham. It took a statement from the military out of context and sensationalized it, no doubt to appeal to conservative anti-Obama viewers just looking for a reason to validate their fears that he's really a secret Muslim who hates Christians. According to Factcheck:

The Pentagon merely restated its long-held policy that military members can “share their faith (evangelize)” but “not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others … to one’s beliefs (proselytization)."

They also reported that a Pentagon spokesperson named Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen clarified the initial report after the Fox News fuck up saying, "If a service member harasses another member on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, then the commander takes action based on the gravity of the occurrence. Likewise, when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case by case basis."

So it is not the case that the mere mention of one's religious faith gets one court martialed, one has to essentially harass another service member with their religion for any action to be taken. And even then such instances are handled on a "case-by-case" basis. So the concerns of the Christian blogger are likely based prematurely on a misinformed news source.

O Goddess




Sing, O Goddess, the ruinous wrath of Achilles,
Son of Peleus, the terrible curse that brought
Unnumbered woes upon the Achaeans and hurled
To Hades so many heroic souls, leaving
Their bodies the prey of dogs and carrion birds.
The will of Zeus was done from the moment they quarreled,
Agamemnon, son of Atreus, and godlike Achilles.




- The Iliad 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

International Cat Day: My Sheba


Today is apparently International Cat Day according to what Jerry Coyne's blog is reporting. So here's my cat of 18 years still alive and well. Her name is Sheba. She's a beautiful Russian Blue. I got her back in 1995 when I was a tween from the North Shore Animal League on Long Island. And now I'm 31 and I still have her. Amazingly, she still likes to run around like a little kitten after she eats. She's my little angel.


If I Were A Christian, What Kind Of Christian Would I Be?


An interesting thought experiment recently occurred to me. If I were a Christian, what kind of Christian would I be? The idea popped into my head while recently debating a few different Christians on several fronts. Now mind you, I don't think I could ever actually be a Christian, certainly not without actual evidence that it's true. But if I somehow converted, what possible kind of Christianity could I embrace, given my life-long atheism?

Well first, there's the idea of denomination. What denomination would I pick? I was raised in a culturally Catholic environment, but I dislike the Catholic Church so much, that I don't think I could ever call myself a Catholic. The same is pretty much true of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is pretty much just another form of Catholicism. I actually think that Protestantism would appeal to me more, and there are over 40,000 varieties of it. I do like the openness of the Episcopal Church, but it does resemble Catholicism a bit too much. It could be said that the Episcopal Church, which is just the American branch of the Church of England, is Catholicism lite.

The evangelical churches bother me a lot, especially because they're so fundamentalist. And I'm not crazy about Baptists. In fact, pretty much all the Calvinist denominations sicken me. So it seems to me that if I were somehow a Christian, I'd have to be non-denominational. I'd essentially have to have my own theology, and interpret Christianity my own way.

Being a scientifically literate person, I'd of course have to keep what we know about cosmology and biology into my theology. So I'd be a Ken Miller/Francis Collins type of theist. I'd believe in a god who simply created the universe, then stepped back and let it all happen according to the natural laws, and who then stepped in when the time was right. I'd probably also be spending my time trying to convince other Christians as to the truth of evolution and big bang cosmology. But, I'd have a problem with this because evolution is so necessarily cruel that I cannot imagine any all-loving god deliberately choosing this as his desired way to bring about human beings. So I'd have a theological problem here: I would not logically be able to believe in an all-loving god. My god would have to be capable of cruelty that is not necessary for any reason at least through his indifference to animal suffering. That would actually fit into the character of the angry Old Testament god.

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