Saturday, November 30, 2013

My Mother Is A Young Earth Creationist

It's Thanksgiving again and my mom is in town visiting me for the holidays. This means we will inevitably argue a little bit over religion and evolution. It happens every time I see her, which is usually about once a year. My mother is a young earth creationist. She literally believes the universe and earth were created less than 10,000 years ago, and that Noah literally put two of every "kind" of animal on a single boat. When I challenge my mother with how absurd these beliefs are in light of the evidence, she usually tries to change the subject. She's actually behind the Pope and the Catholic Church in this respect because even the Catholic Church officially embraced evolution as being compatible with god back in the 90s under Pope John Paul II. But my mother won't have any of it.

A few years ago when I became an antitheist my mother and I would clash constantly over our opposing worldviews. But no amount of evidence will ever convince her that evolution is a fact, because she believes scientists are mostly godless heathens who have an agenda to destroy god. Recently I've learned to simply just avoid the subject with her. It's no use arguing. Creationists don't care about evidence; they have faith. That's all they need. I still however, take the occasional jab at religion at my mother's expense and she just roles her eyes, but we have the kind of relationship where she's knows I'm a hardcore atheist and I'm never in the closet about my disdain for religion around her. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I don't know what happened to my mom over the past 15 years. I had a very liberal upbringing. She raised me in a secular home and never forced any religion onto me. As a kid my mother let me drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, watch porn and stay out as late as I wanted. I basically did whatever I felt like. I had every teenagers dream. Then when I was around 17-18 she started embracing her Catholicism and became very conservative, but by that time it was too late - I was already an adult. I moved out when I was 20 and I didn't have to deal with her anymore and I've fully retained that liberal ethos from my upbringing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Could God Create The Best Of All Possible Worlds?

Let me run a popular argument against god through you and a common assessment and response that Christians will often give:

The argument:
If God is all-good he would choose to create the best possible world. So we could argue: 
(A) if God is omniscient, omnipotent and all-good, he would have created the best of all possible worlds, but... 
(B) it is unlikely or improbable that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds,  
so from (A) and (B) it follows that is unlikely or improbable that there is an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good God.
The theist assessment:
The first premise of this argument seems to presuppose that there is such a thing is the best of all possible worlds and we've already seen that this supposition is suspect just as there is no greatest prime number, so perhaps there is no best of all possible worlds. Perhaps for any world you mention replete with dancing girls and happy creatures, there's an even better world with even more dancing girls and even happier creatures.
If so, it seems reasonable to think the second possible world is better than the first, but then it follows that for any possible world W, there's an even better world W', in which case there just isn't any such thing as the best of all possible worlds. So this argument is not satisfactory.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Conservative Christians And Facts: What David Barton's Historical Revisionism Shows Us About The Religious Right

David Barton is a conservative American evangelical Christian and author who is best know for his failed attempts to rewrite the religious views of the founding fathers to make them appear as if they were trying to establish America as a Christian nation. His 2012 book, The Jefferson Lies, tried to make the case that Thomas Jefferson wasn't as critical of Christianity as commonly portrayed by the left and was actually one if its vocal supporters. Not long after the book's release, it was taken off of the shelves due to numerous factual errors and according to a New York Times article was voted "the least credible history book in print" by the users of the History News Network website.

Despite this, conservatives from Mike Huckabee, to Michele Bachmann, to Newt Gingrich, to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, to conservative talk-show and radio host Glenn Beck have all praised his work. Beck's online "university," Beck University, even hired him to teach a course called Faith 101 where you can "learn history as it really happened." Oh Right. So where have we seen this before? A group of conservative Christians are praising a book that is demonstrably full of factual errors and lies because it tells them what they want to hear. Hmmm. You know what? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this closely resembles the way conservatives treat the Bible. Yup. The Bible is also book also praised by conservative Christians as being inerrant despite its factual errors.

It is evident from historical revisionists like David Barton that conservative Christians would rather believe something factually incorrect that sounds pleasing to them, than accept the truth. They have the same exact relationship with American history as they have with the world history, science and the Bible. Now of course the conservative sheeple who praise Barton's works most likely don't accept that he made any factual errors. They are most likely either ignorant to Barton's factual errors or they would deny those errors altogether if they are aware of them. The fact that someone like Glenn Beck would take him on board to teach at his pseudo-university despite his work being slammed by the critics and having his latest book removed by its Christian publishers, tells you a whole lot about religious conservatives: Facts mean nothing to them and faith is all that matters. They'll believe what they want despite the facts and not because of any.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Map Showing Where God Creates Hurricanes

For a god who creates hurricanes to punish sinners, he sure is very particular about where he creates them. For one thing, most of god's hurricanes miss landfall entirely and just end up tearing up the ocean.

But you know, the lord works in mysterious ways.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Clip From Documentary On The Stone Age Shows How And Why Organized Religion Developed

As agriculture and trading developed in the Middle East and societies grew larger, there was a need for massive public works projects to develop the infrastructure needed to sustain these larger populations. In the dry climate, irrigation was needed to farm and this could only have been supplied through channels carved into the land. This required massive amounts of labor mobilized by newly developed central authorities emerging as the State. Since there was no evidence of slavery, in order to motivate the people, state religions arose. What better way to motivate the people than to convince them that the state gods wanted them to work for the ruling classes and achieve their goals? It was the beginning of organized religion that is carried with us to this day.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Could You Be Wrong About Everything You Know?

A common presuppositionalist question that Sye Ten Bruggencate and his idiot followers like Eric Hovind ask is whether it is possible that you could be wrong about everything you know. This question seeks to undermine your entire basis of knowledge from that point onward and if you answer yes, then in the eyes of Bruggencate and his ilk, you will have forfeited your right to make any truth claim.

But is it possible that you could be wrong about everything you know? The answer to that is - no. It is impossible. Think about this. If it is even possible that I could be wrong about everything I know, then I would know that it is possible that I could be wrong about everything I know, in which case I would be right about knowing that I could be wrong about everything I know, and that would defeat the whole argument. Thus it is impossible to be completely wrong about everything we know and the whole thing is self-defeating.

We could also point to some logical truths that must be true by definition, like for example, 20 is larger than 10, or that all blue cars are blue, or that all bachelors are unmarried, or that you cannot roll a 6 sided die and get a number greater than 6 or less than 1. These are logical truths that are impossible to be false, and we can be certain of that. Anyone who claims otherwise has the burden of proof.

So remember this if you ever get asked, especially if it is in person, if you could be wrong about everything you know. It's circular and self-defeating, and a total waste of time.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Saving Silverman

Obligatory David Silverman meme
I'm not a huge fan of American Atheists president David Silverman, but in general I like the guy. I like, for example, his style of firebrand atheism that I think is needed to balance out the accommodationists. I also like that he's really great at pointing out how ridiculous and harmful a lot of religious beliefs are, especial those of the Abrahamic strain. But the man has some major flaws that I think he would be wise to correct.

First, Silverman knows next to nothing about cosmology or biology, and in the debates I've seen him in (like his horrible debate with Frank Turek recently) he claims total ignorance on how the universe or life got started. Now I don't expect him to be a genius in either field, heck I'm not, but shrugging your shoulders and basically saying, "I don't know" isn't going to cut it if you're going to fashion yourself as a public face for atheism and make your rounds in the debate circuit. I mean, at least learn a few of the theories out there (e.g. quantum fluctuations as described by physicists like Lawrence Krauss, or learn about the B-theory of time, or RNA world models - something.) You cannot jump in the atheism/theism debate arena and be totally ignorant on cosmology and biology - it's unacceptable. Silverman is making a fool out of himself every time he does so and he's making a fool out of atheism in the process.

Second, Silverman knows next to nothing about ethics and seems to support a kind of total moral nihilism. Then, he accuses the god of the Bible of being evil! As you can imagine he gets called out on this over and over again, and rightly so. He needs to define what he means by "evil" (which is actually quite easy to do - lacking empathy or compassion) and he needs to define what meta-ethical theory he is subscribing to as an alternative to divine command theory. In the debates I've seen of him, Silverman simply just announces that morality is relative and just keeps repeating that over and over again. But relative to what? What ethical theory does he espouse? He offers us nothing! Silverman needs to sit down with a philosopher, someone like Massimo Pigliucci, or maybe A.C. Grayling, and learn a few of the basics about ethics so that he doesn't continue to look like a damn fool and make atheists look bad. Atheism does not entail moral nihilism, but Silverman is doing a great job making it look that way.

That being said, I think his recent speech at the Oxford Union debate, Religion Harms Society, was pretty decent. See below:


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