Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Great Religion Debate Part 1

Later this week I will be hosting a debate about religion at my local debate club and I'm very excited. Some of the debate topics that will be covered will be:

• Is America truly a "Christian" nation?

• Is the world better off without religion?

• Is god necessary for morality?

If you've read my blog before you'll know where I stand on these issues. None of these topics are about the metaphysical debate over whether god exists or not or whether one particular religion is true over another. That can be a side issue. Instead, what we'll be debating are the social effects of religion on society along with the role it plays in government and public policy. 

I expect that many people will have varying ideas of what they think "religion" and "secularism" are, so defining these terms is paramount to these debates. Religion for example, is a notoriously hard to define word. There are at least 5 or 6 different commonly used definitions. We throw the word around colloquially to mean a variety of things. We say things like, "In Brazil soccer is a religion," and "Bankers worship money as their religion." For the purposes of these debates, I will define religion as the belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny. This definition differentiates religions from political philosophies like liberalism or conservatism.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What Debating Means To Me

How could someone who claims to be a man of love and compassion be so argumentative and polemic? The question has arose from time to time. I think it's perfectly rational to be for love and compassion while at the same time rigorously debating deeply held ideas.

To use an analogy, it's similar to how two boxers can pummel each other in the ring, and then are able to sit down together and enjoy a peaceful diner. There is a right time and place for punching someone in the face. When two consenting people step into a boxing ring, it's the right time and place. Punching someone on the street for no reason is not the right time or place.

I see debating in a similar manner. There is a time and a place for debating. Challenging someone random on the street in a hostile manner unprovoked is not the time or place for debate. That's just being rude. On the internet however, it's a little different. Comment threads on apologist and counter apologist websites are the time and place for debate. The same goes for political websites. In fact, any time someone expresses their views publicly could warrant a debate. If I'm forced to hear your views on anything, whether it be political or religious, then you must be forced to hear my criticism. If you can't handle getting challenged, keep your views to yourself.

I welcome debate on this blog and actively seek out prospective interlocutors. I admit that I can sometimes get nasty and can appear very cocky, and if I were a theist I'd definitely think an atheist like myself would be an arrogant antitheist, to say the least. I'm conscious of this and I'm actively working to conduct myself with a certain level of politeness and courtesy, but the impersonal nature of the internet perhaps brings out the worst in me. Intellectual debates should be civil, most of the time. But as Christopher Hitchens often said, "civility is overrated." He was the kind of polemicist that I deeply admire. He could be ruthless in a verbal or written  disagreement, but nice and courteous in regular social functions.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How Popular Is The Many Worlds Interpretation Of Quantum Mechanics?

It is hard to say as statistics vary. But here is one showing that majority (58%) of scientists surveyed hold to it over other interpretations.

Elvridge., Jim (2008-01-02). The Universe – Solved!. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-1-4243-3626-5.OCLC 247614399. "58% believed that the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) was true, including Stephen Hawking and Nobel Laureates Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman"

You're A Filthy Unworthy Sinner And Don't Deserve To Live

Many atheists find it highly offensive when we're told by a religious fundamentalist that we're wretched, filthy, sinners who are unworthy and undeserving of our lives (that we didn't even ask for) and that the only remedy for this situation is to follow their stupid religion. Just think about what we're being told.

To give you an analogy, it would be like if a person forced you to accept a brand new Ferrari. Then while driving it you start to enjoy it, and then the person who gave it to you notices this and begins hounding you with insults, saying things like, "Oh you're enjoying the car I gave you, huh? Well you don't deserve it! You're a filthy, unworthy sinner!" And they never shut up about it. And you try reminding them that you were forced to accept the car, but it doesn't change their attitude one bit.

Any person who would give you a car in this manner would be absolutely crazy, and yet that's exactly what religions like Christianity say is the case when it comes to god and our lives. And yet theists who are thoroughly brain washed into their faith will never see this because they must maintain their dogma at all costs, even if it they recognize the absurdity that parallel examples provide.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Was Your Grandfather A Monkey?


Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Rebuttal Of The Fine Tuning Argument From My Debate With A Theist

A few months ago I was challenged by a theist to a formal written debate on the existence of god over on a theological website called theologyweb. I accepted. We agreed that he would make the opening arguments and make a positive case first and that we'd be debating the existence of a theistic god and not merely a deistic one (because theists have this tendency to retreat into deism when the going gets tough and I hate that). After my response back in June he never got back to me, eventually saying that he was busy with work and other things. So the debate is just sitting there, now closed, with only our initial opening arguments. I took the time in my opener to rebut my opponent's arguments. This is how I like to debate since atheists are often accused of not addressing their opponent's arguments, and in the hundreds of god debates I've watched, there is some truth to this.

My opponent, who on the website goes by the name of "LaplacesDemon" (LD for short), used the fine tuning argument as part of his case for god. And I just noticed that I have not written about the fine tuning argument as much as I should have. So below I have my response to LD rebutting the fine tuning argument. You can see the whole debate here, but you might need to log onto the site for access.

The FTA (fine tuning argument) is in my opinion the only halfway decent argument for god. But even if granted, it doesn’t lead one to conclude the existence that theism is true any more than deism, or that the universe is a computer simulation. In fact, if the universe is fine tuned, those two options are overwhelmingly more probable than theism. And I will argue why. 
I’m not going to dispute the parameters LD mentioned even though a few of them are a bit off because almost all scientists agree that the life permitting range for those values is very narrow. What I will instead argue is that the apparent fine tuning is better supportive of atheism, not theism.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Freedom Of Speech Is A Two-way Street

A young man came up to me on the street after work trying to "enlighten" me with the spirituality of an Indian guru by the name of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He told me that attachment to this material world is a problem and that once one can grasp the knowledge that we are spiritual beings one can seek the true happiness. I listened while he went on for about 30 seconds and then he tried to offer me some books in return for a donation. I settled on a free pamphlet instead, which I read on the subway going home. It's got a lot of spiritual ideas and metaphysics that I don't hold to, but nonetheless was an entertaining read.

This experience made me think about freedom of speech. In a free society, everyone has the right to believe whatever they want and be open about it. You have the right to believe the craziest shit imaginable and be open about it in the public square, so long as it respects secularism. And this is true for the Hindu, Mormon, Muslim, Scientologist, Christian and Wiccan alike. But I also have the right to publicly criticize your beliefs however harshly I want. You can't tell me that you have the right to force me to acknowledge your beliefs but that I don't have the right to criticize them. It doesn't work that way. You have the right to be open about your beliefs and I have the right to criticize them.

Freedom of speech is a two-way street.


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