Saturday, December 28, 2013

William Lane Craig's Christmas "Gift" To Atheists

What can I say, the man never tires in his quest to evangelize the world into the Christian faith.

In William Lane Craig's recent op-ed on, he rolls out the same 5 tired old arguments for god's existence that he's been using for decades as a "gift" to atheists. It's not like as if many atheists will be on anyway. Most of us non-believers regard Fox News and everything that it does to be a charade, exemplified by their phony annual "War on Christmas," their bending over backwards for the religious right, and their outright lies and manipulations - to name a few. I can't see how any intelligent person, atheist or not, would take Fox News as a serious news organization.

But perhaps that makes it perfect for a person like William Lane Craig. I mean after all, he's first and foremost an apologist, and an apologist is a propagandist, who must lie and distort the facts in order to make their case convincing - in a way just like Fox News! So in Craig's piece, he challenges atheists who he claims "have no good reasons for their disbelief." Um, excuse me? We have plenty of good reasons for our disbelief, and I've recently outlined some of them in my post Why I'm An Atheist. But hey, Craig was only offering us his "experience." I will at least give him some credit that there has been a failure of many public atheists in communicating arguments for atheism properly. This is something atheists need to improve on. But for a person obsessed with atheism, William Lane Craig should have undoubtedly heard all the arguments by now and he's been called out several times on abysmal failures to refute arguments for atheism (like his failed attempt to claim animals do not consciously suffer). I suspect he really just wants to reassure his readers (who haven't researched into the arguments for atheism) that atheists don't have any good arguments in the hope they'll just take his word for it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

It's The Most Cumbersome Time Of The Year

For many non-Christians, Christmas is a confusing time of the year. If I had my way I probably wouldn't celebrate it at all, although I definitely enjoy the time off from work. As someone from a culturally Christian home, I do enjoy the season and I do enjoy the time spent with my family who I only see once or twice a year. But for many people around the world, Christmas has evolved into a celebration of consumerism. That's basically how I see it today. It's a capitalist holiday; an ode to corporations and our cultural materialism.

There's really nothing Christian about Christmas. December 25th was not Jesus' birthday, and many of the traditions trace its roots back to various pagan celebrations surrounding the winter solstice. Most of the festivities typically associated with Christmas, such as putting up the Christmas tree, hanging up stockings, burning the yule log, and the Santa Claus myth, all have their origins outside the Christian tradition. Perhaps it is time non-Christians reclaimed Christmas for what it is: a loose assortment of pagan beliefs, traditions and myths that were stitched together and incorporated into Christianity.

It's certainly something that will piss off many Christians. But then again, Christianity has never had a friendly relationship with facts. One thing I would like to see more of are Christians being properly educated about the rampant paganism in the Christmas tradition. Perhaps with a diligent education campaign, secularists will be able to reclaim the Christmas holiday season away from the Christian grinches who stole it.

God is dead dying

On a side note, this is a great time to celebrate if you're an atheist given the newly released Harris Poll  that is lighting up the blogosphere. Atheism and agnosticism are on the rise, and belief in god is on the decline. Santa hath delivered my wish this year.

The new poll indicates that only 74% of Americans believe in god. Although still a comfortable majority, that number has declined by almost ten points since 2005 when 82% of Americans reported god belief. For "echo boomers" (those under 35) which would include all of Generation Y, god belief tops out at just over two-thirds at 64%. Absolute certainty that god exists is down as well, from 66% to 54% in the last ten years. In addition, nearly a quarter of Americans (23%) describe themselves as "not at all" religious. These would be the "nones" we've been hearing so much about recently. The last Pew survey about the "nones" from 2012 indicated that 19.6% of Americans reported no religious affiliation at all. This new poll would indicate that this number has grown by 4 points in just one year but you have to factor in margins of error and other things of that nature. Nonetheless, that 12% of Americans do not believe in god, which by the way is the definition of an atheist, I think is amazing. Atheists now outnumber Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all other non-Christian believers in the US combined by a long shot. We're a force to be reckoned with.

These are all excellent reasons to celebrate the holidays a little more this year for atheists like myself. The numbers show that the US is finally beginning to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world, especially Western Europe. Are we "echo boomers" going to be witnessing the slow death of god in our lifetime? Probably not, but a god so small and insignificant that you can drown in a bathtub is a god I can live with. For now ;)

See the rest of the Harris Poll here:

And have a very secular Christmas holiday!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I'm An Atheist

I've been feeling a bit compelled recently to write about why exactly it is that I'm an atheist and what reasons I have for being one. While I feel that this post was long overdue, an adequate justification for my atheism has been the product of a learning curve several years in the making. I know many others have written posts explaining why they aren't a Christian or why they aren't a Mormon, or a Muslim, etc., but technically I can't write a post like that because I was never myself a member of any religion. What I can do, is justify why I'm an atheist and why I think the naturalistic worldview best describes reality, and so here I want to put into a single post the main reasons why I personally am an atheist, and why I think you should be one too if you aren't already. I apologize for the length.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Confirmation Bias Goes Both Ways

We must all always be mindful of our confirmation biases, especially as atheists. Do not be quick to let a piece of evidence "confirm" your position without having done some investigation as to whether its claims check out. In fact, you should be even more skeptical of the evidence that supports your position because your argument is riding on its veridicality, and if you don't do your homework and fact check its claims, your opponent will. So make a concerted effort to be skeptical of all the evidence for and against your position. Don't find yourself doing the very same thing that all too often we find many theists doing. Look up criticism of the evidence that supports your position and do the very same thing that your opponent will do to try and refute it. You might find that the "evidence" does not check out or you will find that it makes you better prepared to deal with the faulty arguments against it if it does. Either way, you should strive for making the most informed case possible, and that may mean getting rid of certain bad arguments.

Having spent the past several years debating theists, in my personal experiences their confirmation biases are often blatant. They fail to make an effort to look into the evidence against their evidence. And atheists are no exception. Back in 2007 for example, when the documentary Zeitgeist came out, it made a bunch of historically inaccurate claims for the argument that Jesus never existed, and millions of atheists jumped on it with out having fact checked anything. Even scholarly mythicists like Richard Carrier denounced it. This was a clear example of atheists falling victim to the inherent confirmation biases that we ALL have.

But we're better than that.

We are the skeptics, we are the rationalists, we are the ones who base our worldview on evidence and reason. We must not find ourselves doing the very same thing that our opponents do without regard, because then we will be no better than them, even if we're right.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Is Advocating Atheism Proselytizing And Is Atheism A Movement?

I recently got into a flare up on Twitter with two other atheists who were accusing me of thinking atheism is a movement. Unfortunately, given Twitter's 140 character limitation, it's really hard to write what you really want to write, so I thought I would clear things up here.

In a recent post, I asked the question, "Should those of us who are in some way in the atheist movement really care why someone is an atheist, or should we just be content that the person is an atheist at all?" For some atheists, there is no such thing as an atheist movement because atheism is a lack of something; it's the absence of a belief in god, and just like how not playing basketball is not a sport, you can't turn nonbasketball playing into a movement. But suppose 90 percent of the world played basketball, and those who didn't were routinely discriminated against to the point where many people felt pressure to conform and pretend to like and play basketball in order to feel accepted. And suppose nonbasketball players were being coerced into playing basketball and told that if they didn't play they would go to hell. Imagine this was also forced onto children from an early age. If these nonbasketball players organized and came out and asserted their equal rights and how utterly insane it is to think that not playing basketball will send you to hell, I'd say that these nonbasketball players would appear to be engaged in a movement.

Atheism itself is simply just the disbelief that any gods exist. If you want to say that it's also the lack of a positive belief that gods exists, then fine. I'm not going to get all heated up over a difference I think is trivial. But when I said "atheist movement" I was referring to the people in the atheist community who are open about their atheism (either in person or online) who are advocating for the equal rights of atheists (who are still routinely discriminated against), who are seeking to change cultures that are hostile to atheists by educating the public on what atheism is and what atheists are, and who are advocating atheism and defending it against attacks. I was not trying to say that atheism itself is a movement. I'm saying that atheists who are open about their worldview and who are engaging in any of the above, especially if they're organized, are engaging in a movement. So if you're a member of your local atheist group, or if you're a member of your college atheist or secular club, or, if you're just open about your atheism and what you stand for, then in my eyes, you're part of a movement. What else would you call the organization of people who are specifically trying to spread atheism and the acceptance of atheists?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Brilliant Parody Making Fun Of Ray Comfort

This YouTuber named CultOfDusty is growing on me. He's got some funny shit. Check out this hilarious parody he made making fun of the irreducibly stupid creatard Ray Comfort.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Further Thoughts On Hipster Atheism

Hipster culture to me is kind of like the fetishization of fashion itself. Fashion and beauty have been around for centuries, but what hipster culture does is it takes image and style and fetishizes it to the point where it becomes the only thing that matters. And living in New York, I can't help but pay attention to this subculture because hipsters are everywhere. They're unavoidable. If you're a relatively young person like myself in New York, you're going to feel a lot of pressure to be stylish and you will indeed be judged by how you dress, not only by hipsters, but by New Yorkers in general.

Hipsterism I suppose is the primary cultural phenomenon of our day, as was the hippy subculture of the sixties, and the beatnik subculture of the fifties. I guess you can say that I too am a hipster, but I don't fit all the stereotypes. Yes, I do care about how I dress. I do wear skinny jeans. I do have a beard. I do wear a lot of plaid. I do listen to a lot of indie rock and a lot of classic rock. I do like many things that are somewhat obscure. I do like art and film. And, I am an atheist. But - I'm not a trust fund baby pretending to be poor. I care more about science and philosophy than I do about style and looks. I sometimes wear things that aren't cool. I don't keep up with all the trends. I like many things that are mainstream and commercial. I don't wear thick rimmed glasses. And I fucking hate PBRs!

I do however, have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with hipster culture. Once you get into it, you start looking down at people who have no style. This is why hipster culture has so many haters. I've noticed myself numerous times insulting people behind their back who I thought had no fashion sense. But then I also despise people who take that attitude to the extreme and judge people only by what they wear. I don't go that far. I judge people by their personality. If you're interested in the same things I am, like science and philosophy and can carry your own in an intellectual conversation, then I don't necessarily care about how you dress. And conversely, you can be the most stylish mother fucker in the world, but if you're a purely superficial, lame ass douche bag who only cares about fashion and pop culture, then I will have little to no interest in hanging out with you.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hipster Atheism

When I'm out drinking around town and strike up conversations with strangers, I often want to talk about beliefs. I'm fascinated about exploring other people's worldviews. Lately, most of the young people that I've talked to have all been atheists. This may not come as a surprise given that I live in New York - a very liberal city and a third of all Americans under 30 have no religion, but here in New York the number of atheists/non-theists seems to be much higher than a third. It seems to be a majority.

New York has one of the largest hipster communities in the world, and Williamsburg (which is only a few miles from where I live) is considered the official hipster capital of the world. I don't have official statistics, but in my experiences with the hipster community, atheism or agnosticism seems to be rampant. Atheism seems to be "cool" with the fashionably conscious. It's very rare - almost never, that I run into a young person who actually believes in a theistic god within the context of a particular religion. While I think it's fucking awesome that so many young people are catching onto atheism in numbers that have never been seen before in the US, I certainly want to keep atheism a plausible intellectual position and not just some trend that will be jettisoned once it gets too popular. That's because once something goes "mainstream," hipsters are required to hate it by law, and the growing popularity of atheism might backfire if "uncool" people in backwards parts of the country start embracing it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Don't Cry For Me, Indonesia

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country by population. About 87% of its 237 million citizens are Muslim. I have been there a total of three times, as recently as 2010. Two of my relatives are currently living in Bali as ex-patriots. I've always enjoyed going to Indonesia and whenever I went I never really felt like I was in a "Muslim" country at all. It seemed to me, a lot more like the popular images of Bangkok Thailand, filled with "discotheques" and seedy prostitutes. Indonesia was for a long time, perhaps along with Turkey, a shining example of a moderate Muslim country that could counter the crude stereotypes of many of the Muslim majority countries of the Middle East, and I can tell you that first hand. I first went there when I was 13 and I remember going out to a nightclub, being served beer and being able to buy cigarettes without any problem.

But perhaps I saw it through a filter. I've only been to two areas in Indonesia - Jakarta, the capital city on the island of Java, and the island of Bali, which is the predominantly Hindu part of the country, known to tourists for its nightlife. Just like in the US, religiosity in Indonesia increases once you get out of the big cities. Generally speaking, the further west in Indonesia that you go and the more rural the part of the country, the more likely you'll find people who are deeply religious. And in Indonesia, "deeply religious" tends to mean deeply Muslim, as Indonesians are at least about as Muslim as Americans are Christian.

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:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oh How I Love Documentaries

If I'm not careful I can spend hours watching documentaries on Here are a few to check out.

Defeating the Hackers - a documentary about how we can use quantum physics to secure computers and digital communication.

First Out of Africa - a documentary about a tribe of people living in the Andaman islands who might have been the first people out of Africa:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Experiment Seems To Confirm The B-Theory Of Time

A Christian I was debating on YouTube who holds to the B-theory of time actually linked me this new scientific paper that appears to show the first experimental evidence that the universe is indeed static and that time "emerges" from quantum entanglement. This might be the first empirical evidence that the B-theory of time is actually true. See below.

Quantum Experiment Shows How Time ‘Emerges’ from Entanglement


When the new ideas of quantum mechanics spread through science like wildfire in the first half of the 20th century, one of the first things physicists did was to apply them to gravity and general relativity. The result were not pretty.

It immediately became clear that these two foundations of modern physics were entirely incompatible. When physicists attempted to meld the approaches, the resulting equations were bedeviled with infinities making it impossible to make sense of the results.

Then in the mid-1960s, there was a breakthrough. The physicists John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt successfully combined the previously incompatible ideas in a key result that has since become known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. This is important because it avoids the troublesome infinites—a huge advance.

But it didn’t take physicists long to realise that while the Wheeler-DeWitt equation solved one significant problem, it introduced another. The new problem was that time played no role in this equation. In effect, it says that nothing ever happens in the universe, a prediction that is clearly at odds with the observational evidence.

This conundrum, which physicists call ‘the problem of time’, has proved to be thorn in flesh of modern physicists, who have tried to ignore it but with little success.

Then in 1983, the theorists Don Page and William Wootters came up with a novel solution based on the quantum phenomenon of entanglement. This is the exotic property in which two quantum particles share the same existence, even though they are physically separated.

Entanglement is a deep and powerful link and Page and Wootters showed how it can be used to measure time. Their idea was that the way a pair of entangled particles evolve is a kind of clock that can be used to measure change.

But the results depend on how the observation is made. One way to do this is to compare the change in the entangled particles with an external clock that is entirely independent of the universe. This is equivalent to god-like observer outside the universe measuring the evolution of the particles using an external clock.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Is Debating Morality With Theists So Fun? (Hint: Because They're Wrong)

Like Christopher Hitchens, I'm in love with debate, and debating morality with theists is probably one of my favorite debate topics. The reason why I enjoy that debate so much is because I know they're simply wrong on about it. Case in point, theists must simply assert that god is identical to "the good" or moral perfection itself but cannot justify whether god's goodness comes logically prior to any attributes that might constitute god's goodness or not.

Now perhaps I might not be writing here anything that I haven't already done before on numerous other posts, but since the moral debate is one atheists will find themselves confronted with time and time again, it might be worth repeating. When a theists asserts that god is identical to moral perfection he or she isn't doing anything other than playing word games. I can simply define the word "God" as being a synonym of goodness, but I certainly haven't demonstrated that an actual being exists that is ontologically identical with goodness, let alone been able to conflate that being to the deity of a particular religion. All I've done is played words games with you and claimed victory (ha ha!). But it's a premature calculation.

Seriously though, for any theist who does this, the next trick up their sleeve (if they see you're not convinced) is going to be something like, "It is impossible for God to be evil or command something evil, like rape, because God's intrinsic nature is that of moral perfection. God is necessarily morally perfect." The theist here is trying to get all philosophical on your ass: God is necessarily perfect because he can't be any other way. But I still find it hard to palate the idea of how the theist can know or can determine what a perfect moral being is without appealing to some standard that exists independently of such a being. Otherwise, if the being itself is what determines moral perfection, then is it not the case that one can appeal to the logic that what ever that being does or commands is perfectly moral by definition, no matter what that is? How do we determine that god is morally perfect? If god is simply just being defined as such, then following this line of reasoning allows Islamic fundamentalists to stone to death adulterers and jail/execute blasphemers - hardly something we in the West would consider moral.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jack Kerouac : King of the Beats (2012) Full Documentary

Watching this documentary makes me want to be a writer. A real writer, not just some blogger. I'm trying to write a novel right now and let me tell you it is FUCKING hard. I have about 79 pages so far, but I have no idea how many of them are useful. I can sometimes write for hours and hours and feel I'm making great progress, and then for days I write nothing. Nada. Creativity can't exactly be scheduled, it rears its head whenever it wants. I can't set my alarm to go off at 9 AM and declare, "It's time to be creative." It just doesn't work that way.

I've always wanted to actually write a book. Any book. The idea of writing a novel crossed my mind numerous times and I've had a few false starts that never went anywhere. This time it's different. I'm going to complete this novel or die trying. I'm aiming for at least 150 pages, but more closer to 200. Any real novel has at least about that much. The problem is I get creative mostly at night, right before I'm supposed to go to bed, right when I'm drowsy. I can't write anything during the day for some reason. I seem to have a creative aversion to bright light. I thrive in the darkness. I'm naturally nocturnal, did I mention?

There's going to be lots of philosophy in my book, along with sex and drugs. I'm going to touch on many topics dear to me: atheism, nihilism, existentialism, free will, determinism, Buddhism, religion, dating, polyamory, feminism, partying, economics and more, all through the mind of a millennial living in contemporary New York. I'm confident it will be awesome. It will be exactly the kind of book I would want to read. Isn't that the goal of every writer?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Even The Bible Is Inconsistent On Why There Is Suffering

Prof. Bart Ehrman gives a lecture on the Bible's many explanations why suffering exists. In doing so, he shows it isn't exactly consistent. (Surprise!) Some books in the Bible (like Amos) say that suffering comes from god's punishment for disobeying him, others (like the Book of Daniel) say that there are evil forces in the world that tempt you to do evil and disobey god, and these forces cause suffering, and yet others (like Ecclesiastes) say that we should live with the focus on our current life and enjoy it as much as we can since there is nothing after this.

Wow, talk about being all over the map.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Belief-dependent Realism

I'm currently reading Michael Shermer's book, The Believing Brain, which is about "how we construct beliefs and reinforce them as truths." Since debating with a presuppositionalist recently, I've been intrigued about epistemology and how we form our worldviews. I contend that the presuppositionalist view is epistemologically irrational. To presuppose an entire religion as your starting point is the logical equivalent of putting the names of a bunch of religions in a hat and blindly picking one out and deciding that whatever religion you picked will henceforth be your worldview. Reason and evidence must precede one's worldview and must serve as the justification for concluding it. This can be done by assuming only the most fundamental properly basic beliefs that are required to make any sense of the world around us. Otherwise, you might as well indeed just blindly pick a worldview out of a hat.

Within the first chapter however, Shermer's thesis makes an interesting observation that I think could lend itself to the presuppositionalist's epistemology. On page 5 he writes:

We form beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations.

Here's the kicker. He continues:

Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow. I call this process belief-dependent realism, where our perceptions about reality are dependent on the beliefs that we hold about it. Reality exists independent of human minds, but our understanding of it depends upon the beliefs we hold at any given time.

If our beliefs do come first, and our explanations for our beliefs follow, then might this also apply to the atheist as well? Is the atheist just presupposing atheism due to his "subjective, personal, emotional and psychological reasons" in the context of his environment? Or is his worldview methodologically superior and more adept at constructing the closest depiction of the reality that exists independent of our minds?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Atheism, It's A Guy Thing

Statistically, if you're an atheist or an agnostic you are much more likely to be male. Just look around at atheist gatherings and conventions. It's practically all guys! A pew survey from 2012 showed that men out number women 2 to 1 for those identifying as atheist/agnostic. Wow. I didn't know it was that bad.

So why aren't women embracing non-religiosity as much as men and what can be done to increase their numbers? The same survey also showed that women, more than men, are more likely to be affiliated with a particular religion. I hate to stereotype here, but I think the numbers might be due to the emotional dependency many women naturally have. Studies have shown that it is harder for women to quite smoking than men for example, because they are more likely to use cigarettes as an emotional comfort. And since religious belief is primarily emotional and not logical, it would make sense that women, being more emotional than men, naturally would find greater security in it.

So, just as it appears women find it harder to kick the habit with smoking, they too find it harder to let go of religion. That means deconverting from theism to atheism is generally a much more difficult emotional experience for women, whereas for guys it is comparatively easier. I didn't have a harrowing deconversion experience that many current atheists have had, so I can't speak from experience. But it seems that women will need more emotional support on their way out of religion. Perhaps that means it is necessary that a welcoming, emotionally supportive atheistic community exist that could provide the same levels of emotional security that religion is currently providing, in order to get larger numbers of women to embrace atheism. That means atheists should squash a lot of this in-fighting. And when it comes to counter-apologetics, maybe emphasizing the more emotionally-tinged arguments like the ones that show how all religions are pretty much sexist and have less than ideal views towards women, would better appeal to women who might embrace atheism.

Many women who reject traditional theism I think will find spirituality more comforting than atheism. Within spirituality you can conceive of god as a goddess, synonymous with mother nature, or a great feminine spirit. That will likely appeal to women more, and the statistics of the "nones" who are not atheist/agnostic appear a bit more even in the gender gap. The "spiritual but not religious" identity I'm sure many atheists would prefer over traditional theism, especially fundamentalism. But the atheist community would really like to see more women embracing full frontal atheism bereft of any spiritual mushyness.  

We've got work to do.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Feminism Is Tearing Apart The Atheist Community

For most of the past year or so on my blog I've been balls deep into counter apologetics, taking on every religious argument that crossed my radar. While that currently is and probably will continue to be the primary focus of my blog, that's not all I want it to be about. So let's talk about some social issues for a bit.

The atheist/skeptic/free thinking community has been divided over feminism for the past few years. AronRa spoke about this recently in a new video he put out about how stupid all this in-fighting really is and how bad it's making the community look. This is even more pressing when you consider that atheists are already one of the most despised demographics in the US. Our focus as a community should be in promoting the naturalistic worldview as best we can, and promoting free thinking devoid of religious dogma as the practical and healthy alternative.

I've generally avoided in-fighting other than making a few criticisms of what atheists sometimes do usually in the area of defending atheism. But this whole thing about feminism has gotten me riled up. If feminism is defined as equality between the sexes, then who today would be against that? Yes many republicans wouldn't but they're batshit crazy. I mean what normal person today would be against equality of the sexes? Part of my criticism of religion is that most religions are extremely sexist. And I can't use that as a counter-argument against religion if I myself am a sexist. So integrity forces me not to be a hypocrite on this issue.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Halloween Can Teach Atheists About Other Holidays

Halloween started out as a pagan tradition in Ireland where people would don masks in the Autumn in order to scare away or disguise themselves from the spirits they thought came back from the dead and were responsible for determining how cold the winter was and how well the crops and livestock handled it. Although there are many discrepant accounts as to how exactly Halloween got started, they all involve some aspect of the supernatural being acknowledged. But today of course, no one wears a costume because they think that spirits are going to do anything to them. In the modern world, we've completely removed all supernatural aspects of Halloween while we've kept the tradition of wearing costumes. And no atheist takes issue with Halloween at all because it once had a supernatural aspect to it. So when it comes to other holidays, if we can safely remove the supernatural with Halloween while keeping the ritual, we can do the same thing with Christmas too. All of the holidays have today become nothing more than commercial celebrations for big business anyway. So fear not some of you non-believers, we can still have benign holiday rituals as atheists like Halloween and Christmas without an existential crisis on our hands.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bill Maher Is Right On Islam

Many liberals are too afraid to criticize Islam lest they be accused of being called "racist" or "islamophobic." But of course, Islam is a religion, not a race, so opposing it can't be racist by definition. And I think being concerned about the threat that the Islamic world poses is more than justified. Because Muslims are a minority in the West and they've sometimes been targeted because of their religion or appearance, many liberals automatically treat them as if they're untouchable to criticism, similar to how Jews have historically been given so much protection because of the holocaust and the discrimination they've gone through. It seems to me that the only people willing to step forward and duly criticize Islam are right wing Christians and outspoken antitheists like Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

Maher called out the liberals on his panel the other week for bending over to Islam while neglecting that a very large portion of the Islamic world is antithetical to common liberal values. The same Western liberal who'll passionately protest against anyone infringing on their abortion rights, will refuse to criticize the Islamic world where they still stone to death adulterers, deny women basic equality, and jail homosexuals and bloggers for violating Sharia law. It's totally hypocrisy, and it needs to be called out, as Maher rightly does. Liberals need to stand for liberal values, no matter who's against them or where they're being violated.

A Few Of The Evil Deeds Done By Protestants

A Christian linked me to a blog in order to provide arguments that the Spanish Inquisition was not really all that bad, but what caught my attention was that it contained a list of some of the evil deeds done by Protestants that I was not aware of. Now I don't blame religion on all of the world's problems, and I don't think that every conflict between two groups of people who are of different religions or religious denominations is always entirely a religious conflict. But I do think that whenever there is a conflict between two groups of people, if they differ in religion, the problem is almost always made worse.

Take the 17th century English military leader Oliver Cromwell for example. After he rose through the ranks during the English Civil war, he invaded Ireland to help spread Protestantism after some of the Irish Catholics there killed some Protestants, and in effect lead to the deaths or exile of anywhere between a quarter to a third of the Irish population. Was it religion or was it politics? There's no doubt that even if given the most charitable assessment, there's a religious component that made the situation worse. Cromwell believed his military campaign in Ireland was a judgement from god, as he thought pretty much everything that happened was. And to this, I'm reminded of the words of Christopher Hitchens who asked, when you sincerely believe you've got god on your side, what amount of violence are you not capable of accomplishing?

  • John Calvin not only banished dissenters from Geneva, some were tortured and/or executed (e.g. Jacques Gouet and Michael Servetus).
  • The Protestant Council of Zurich decided to put Anabaptists to death by drowning.
  • On the advice of Philip Melancthon, three Anabaptists who refused to recant under torture were executed.
  • Henry VIII, the original English Reformer, executed 72,000 people.
  • Henry VIII’s Protestant daughter, Elizabeth I, executed more than the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions combined.
  • Oliver Cromwell killed or exiled between 1/4 and 1/3 of the population of Ireland in an attempt to establish Presbyterianism. In one massacre alone he had 3,500 people (including women and children) murdered in a church.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Christian Admitted To Me That The Holocaust Could Have Been Moral

Technically he's a Jehovah's Witness, whom some Christians do not consider "real" Christians because JoHos don't believe Jesus was god, just the son of god. But anyway, over on the Patheos blog, The Secular Outpost, in a post about the problem of evil, a known trouble maker posed the following question in the comments section to try to challenge the atheists/secularists who regularly comment there:

How woul[d] a a neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalist answer the following: 
"If the Neo-Nazis were to attain world domination and exterminated everyone who thought racism was wrong, would that suddenly make racism and bigotry moral?"

He's a guy I've debated many times before (see here) and so I'm familiar with his tactics. He basically likes to copy apologetic arguments, often from my favorite punching bag William Lane Craig, and paste them on various secular blogs and websites. He tries to challenge skeptics with such ingenious and highly original arguments as the cosmological argument and the moral argument, as well as many other staple apologetic ineptness, but he can't really defend any of them other than to repeat plagiarized apologetic talking points. It's so annoying. So I challenged him back with this question below:

How would a Jehovah's Witness answer the following: 
Suppose god wanted to pass judgement on the Jews, and so god commanded Adolph Hitler to exterminate the Jews, just as god had commanded the Jews to exterminate the Canaanites, Amalekites and Midianites. If god commanded the Nazis to exterminate the Jews, would the holocaust then have been not only moral, but a moral obligation?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Walk Through Chinatown

I want to digress from religion bashing for a bit. For the past year or so I've been focusing intensely on counter-apologetics. I've been trying to take on the toughest arguments theism has to see if they hold any water. So far they don't. But it's always fun demonstrating so in the process, and one of the roles this blog plays is for me to share counter arguments with the skeptic community and have a repository available when I get into online debates with theists where I can simply copy and paste many of my arguments.

But since this blog is also about the city, I also want to share some of the doings about my city, New York. I recently took a walk in Chinatown in Manhattan and snapped a few pics. I loved Chinatown growing up. I remember my dad taking me there when I was a kid. I remember back in the day buying illegal fireworks there around July 4th with my older friend Jimmy so that we could  put on a show for the neighborhood folks, while nearly blowing it up in the process. The neighborhood has become a bit gentrified like all Manhattan neighborhoods, but it still retains most of its essential character.

I'm not sure if this is Confucius, arguable China's greatest and most well known philosopher, or someone else. This park used to be the site of Collect Pond, which was New York's water supply in the days when New York was a small town. See here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Ontological Argument And The Moral Argument Are Incompatible

I just noticed that the ontological argument and the moral argument that theists often use are actually incompatible with one another. The ontological argument, in its modal form, states that it's possible that a maximally great being exists as its first premise. A maximally great being is described as possessing three omni-properties (all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving). But how does one arrive at that conclusion? The proponent of the OA must assume that there exists an independent, objective metric of goodness in order to determine what maximal greatness is. This would mean that goodness cannot be grounded ontologically in god and would contradict the moral argument, otherwise the OA becomes viciously circular. Thus, the ontological and moral arguments in tandem are incompatible with one another.

To put it another way, if god is the standard of goodness by which all moral truths are measured by, then to use that same standard to measure the criterion by which we determine what a maximally great being is, it makes the ontological argument totally circular. God is being presumed in order to determine what is god is. Otherwise, how would the theist arrive at the idea that being all-loving is maximally great? And what standard would they be using to determine what an all-loving being can and cannot do? This would all have to be determined without presupposing a standard that is ontologically grounded in god, and would thus have to exist independently of god's existence.

So it appears we've got a catch-22 here with the ontological and moral arguments. I can't see how a theist can have it both ways.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Ted Haggard's Sexuality Is Symbolic Of The Relationship Between Christianity And Facts

Back in 2006, we all got to witness the spectacular decline of conservative anti-gay Christian pastor Ted Haggard, who it turned out was secretly paying a man for gay sex. I remember what a ride that one was to watch. Watching religious hypocrites fall from grace is first class entertainment for atheists. I mean, what atheist wouldn't want to hear about some ridiculous religious figure turning out to be doing the very thing they spent so much time railing against in the name of their god?

If Haggard's initial fall from grace wasn't enough, we were all further given an encore not long after when it was announced that he was declared "completely heterosexual" after being "cured" of his homosexuality through counseling. It was hilarious because any educated person knows that sexuality cannot be cured or repaired by mere counseling or therapy. Sexuality is innate. All ex-gay therapy can do is teach a gay person how to repress their desires and live in dissonance with themselves. That's all the evidence has ever shown it capable of doing. (See here.)

Ted Haggard's cognitive dissonance on his sexuality forced by his Christian belief that being gay is a sin is symbolic of the kind of cognitive dissonance Christians in general must endure in order to maintain their religious faith with the constant sting of the secular sciences and politics challenging them. Suppressing scientific facts and the moral atrocities of god in order to maintain the faith is a lot like gay Christians suppressing their sexuality. I debate with Christians all the time online and I'm always entertained by the kind of cognitive acrobatics they must deploy in order to maintain that the Bible is the word of god, and that their god is good. I've dealt with so many Christians for example who will deny the evidence for evolution at all costs to the point where they will compromise logic and sanity in order to do so.

Monday, October 21, 2013

No, Christianity Didn't Give Us Science

Many Christians loudly proclaim that Christianity made possible the modern scientific revolution and that other religions or beliefs would have made it impossible for science to flourish. They'll point to key figures in science who were Christian and use it to make the claim that faith and science are perfectly compatible. A Christian I was debating with made a post over on his blog arguing that faith and science are indeed compatible, and he quoted the Christian philosopher of science John Lennox to make the point. I just had to respond, given Lennox's failure to make a convincing argument. From Lennox's book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? he quotes:

C. S. Lewis’ . . . view is worth noting: ‘Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.’ It was this conviction that led Francis Bacon, regarded by many as the father of modern science, to teach that God has provided us with two books — the book of Nature and the Bible — and that to be really properly educated, one should give one’s mind to studying both.
Many of the towering figures of science agreed. Men such as Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Faraday, Babbage, Mendel, Pasteur, Kelvin, and Clerk Maxwell were theists; most of them, in fact, were Christians. Their belief in God, far from being a hindrance to their science, was often the main inspiration for it and they were not shy of saying so. The driving force behind Galileo’s questing mind, for example, was his deep inner conviction that the Creator who had ‘endowed us with senses, reason and intellect’ intended us not to ‘forgo their use and by some other means give us knowledge which we can attain by them.’ Johannes Kepler described his motivation thus: ‘The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.’

First, I’m not a huge fan of Lennox, but at least he is not, from what I understand, a creationist who denies evolution. So he gets a point for that. Second, it might be important to know that in Galileo’s day, you had to profess Christian faith. This was back when the Church was the State. If you publicly denied Christ or god you’d be burned at the stake. Galileo spent the last decade of his life under house arrest because he dared challenge the orthodoxy of the day that the Earth was NOT the center of the universe. And in 1600 Giordano Bruno was burned alive for saying the same thing and for believing there might be other forms of life out in space. Galileo was aware of this and it silenced him. Thus it took many centuries and hurdles to get scientific facts accepted because Christianity held them back.

Perfect Reaction To Angry Christians

What Came First The Atheist Or The Skeptic?

We all wear many hats in life, and carry many identities. For some of us, our race is the most important factor in our identity. Some people are black first and then an American or a Christian, or they're Latino first and then a woman. For other people, religion is first and foremost. So they might see themselves as a Muslim first, and then an American, or a Jehovah's Witness first, and then an Australian. Still others identify strongly with their gender. So for them, they might see themselves as a woman first, then a mother or a Latina. And others put nation identity first. So they might see themselves as an American first, or French first, and then male or female. And then there are those who see their occupation first. So they might see themselves as a chef first, then an Argentinian, or as a musician first, and then British.

How we identify ourselves depends on what identities we feel are most important to us. I've always hated the idea of being identified too strongly with what I do for a living because I've never really had a job that I liked a whole lot. In a city like New York, all too often you are what you do. When you meet someone new one of the first questions that you'll be asked is what you do for a living. When I would give my answer I'd feel like that person was immediately coming to conclusions about me based on what I did. I've worked in the IT industry for the past several years and I've had to deal with quite a few people thinking that I must be a computer geek who sits home and plays video games for hours on end. I happen not to be much of a gamer at all, and I'm not even much of a computer geek either.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Few Thoughts On Deism

I've been reading up on deism recently over on the site It's a site that celebrates the deistic worldview and highlights many of history's most famous deists. I think two of them, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, were two of the greatest enlightenment thinkers of all time. One can certainly be an intelligent, rational thinker and be a deist. In fact, I think of all the people who believe in god, deists are the most rational. The furthest I could ever be pushed towards the direction of theism, is deism. Given what I know, I don't think I could ever be a theist. But it is possible that I could be a deist. It's also possible that I could live comfortably as an atheist in a world filled with deists. I wouldn't even have a big problem myself with the idea of deism being true. A deistic god is a god who let's you grow and learn on your own. It doesn't command you or forbid you to do anything. It's not concerned with micromanaging every aspect of your life. As the World Union of Deists proclaim, "God gave us reason, not religion."

Deists and atheists have a lot in common. We both see the irrationality of theism and its claims of "revelation." Theism forces its adherents to believe in nonsense on little more than blind faith. Deism requires no such thing. Deism is the belief in nature's god, and only acts as a first cause. The rest unfolds according to the natural laws and order. That means there's no angels or demons, no fairies or jinns, no "prophets" or revealed wisdom. The only wisdom comes from reason, logic and empiricism.  So called prophets are frauds, motivated by selfishness or ignorance and hallucination. Religion is therefore, a great evil, a blinder limiting one's full access to nature and reality. Religion means putting your trust in a person claiming to be able to speak for god. To the deist, this is absurd.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nobody's Right, If Everybody's Wrong

You could call it, "War of the Worldviews."

Atheists are generally pretty confident that theists who hold to certain religious beliefs are just utterly deluded. I know I am. I'm convinced that theists are living in a fantasy world, believing in superstitions left over from the Bronze-age. They actually think there's an invisible sky daddy out there who knows everything you do and that angels and demons are causing miracles and disasters all over the world everyday. And they think that if we believe and do the right things, we will literally go to an celestial fantasy land after we die where we'll all be super happy forever.

And I wonder how any rational person can still believe these things in the twenty first century.

But then, the theist turns right around and accuses atheists of living in our own utter delusion. To them, they can't understand how anyone can not believe in a creator. They think it's utterly delusional to believe the whole universe "popped" into existence uncaused out of "nothing" (even though we don't have to believe this) and that purely natural processes evolved matter into all the stars, planets and life that we see today. To them, it's the atheist that's living in a fantasy world. We're crazy for not believing in their invisible spirit gods. And so we each think the other is utterly deluded.

And so nobody's right, if everybody's wrong.

The same thing can be said in politics. A sizable portion of the Republican party thinks President Obama is a Muslim socialist, who worships allah in the White House, and who is hell bent on destroying Christian America with a radical left-wing secular agenda. Not surprisingly, it's the same segment of Americans who buy into this fantasy who also buy into the biblical one.

Although liberals aren't exactly immune to conspiracies either (9/11 truthers), many Republicans think that liberal fantasies of universal healthcare, gay marriage, higher taxes for the rich and keeping god out of government to create a 21st century "utopia" is pure madness, and will ultimately decay into Stalinism. That's right. They think universal healthcare will lead to Stalinism. And so Democrats and Republicans each think the other are utterly deluded.

And so nobody's right, if everybody's wrong.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

J.P. Moreland's Attack On "Scientific Atheism" Part 4

With Moreland's case for dualism already crumbling under the weight of compelling scientific evidence to the contrary, the powerhouse of his last three "recalcitrant facts" losses traction. The next "fact" against naturalism he unleashes is rationality. Apparently to him, rationality can only exist if a rational god made us in his image.

3. Rationality

Moreland describes the Christian god as being fundamental and rational who "created his image-bearers with the mental equipment to exhibit rationality and be apt for truth gathering in their various environments." (p. 41) He quotes Christian philosopher Victor Reppert saying, "The necessary conditions for rationality cannot exist in a naturalistic universe." [1] Moreland offers two reasons why naturalism precludes rationality: (1) the necessity of the enduring, rational self and (2) the need for room for teleological (goal-directed) factors to play a role in the thought processes. (p. 41) He backs up (1) with a quote from British philosopher A.C. Ewing about how enduring states of "I" are required to process things like propositions and their different constituents:

to compare two things the same being must, at least in memory, be aware of them simultaneously; and since all these processes take some time the continuous existence of the same entity is required. In these cases an event which consisted in the contemplating of A followed by another event which consisted in the contemplating of B is not sufficient. They must be events of contemplating that occur in the same being. [2]

This notion of there being no enduring self under naturalism underpins this argument. Subatomically, the atoms that make up our bodies are jumping from position to position following the laws of quantum mechanics, but those atoms that make up your body existed for billions of years, and were forged in the hearts of stars that have long since died. Who says the information carried by your atoms of your mental states and identity cannot endure? Moreland is assuming that with each nanosecond, we should be a completely different person unless we have a soul to ground our sense of memory and identity. But if memory is physical, at least in part, then brain states would preserve that memory from moment to moment, and physical damage to the brain would erase it. That's basically what we see with people who've experienced brain trauma.

Moreland defends (2) with another logical argument (p. 42):

(1) If naturalism is true, there is no irreducible teleology.
(2) Rational deliberation exhibits irreducible teleology.
(3) Therefore, naturalism is false.

Monday, October 14, 2013

J.P. Moreland's Attack On "Scientific Atheism" Part 3

The next section of Moreland's chapter is the meat and potatoes of his argument against naturalism, which he titles, FIVE RECALCITRANT FEATURES OF THE IMAGE OF GOD. He reiterates god's attributes, and touches on the happy coincidence that they're just like the ones the "beings that are alleged to have been created to be like God" have. (p. 37) Thus, he deduces that biblical theism predicts these features and this provides confirmation for biblical theism. He attacks labels such as "emergent phenomena" that many property dualists like myself ascribe to. "How, for example," asks Moreland "could it be that they emerged in the first place?"  (p. 38)

Moreland offers his first line of evidence against naturalism and in support of "what would be predicted if biblical theism were true." (p. 38)

1. Consciousness and the mental

Moreland states that it's easier to see consciousness being created by a conscious entity, like god, rather than through natural processes. But look at nature. In nature we can see all different levels of consciousness exemplified, from complex consciousness like what we have, to simpler versions found in other mammals and birds, to highly rudimentary versions found in reptiles and amphibians - exactly what we'd expect if consciousness was something that developed and evolved over time. And if a soul is responsible for consciousness, when exactly did that come into our evolution? Consciousness didn't just "appear" overnight. It was a gradual development. And I don't know any theists who think the soul evolved in stages - it's pretty much all or nothing. But then animals should have some kind of soul because many animals are conscious too. Perhaps we got the deluxe souls and animals got the basic souls? Alas, I am not a neuroscientist, so I cannot explain consciousness to the degree that someone more qualified than me could. But I know enough about science and evolution to know that if you really consider the idea that consciousness is due to a soul, considering our evolutionary past, it opens up numerous problems. I've challenged the dualistic assumption with a list of questions here.

Moreland offers four points about mental states (p. 38):

  • There is a raw qualitative feel or a "what is it like" to have a mental state such a a pain.
  • Many mental states have intentionality---ofness or aboutness---directed toward an object (e.g. a thought about the moon).
  • Mental states are inner, private and immediate to the subject having them.
  • Mental states fail to have crucial features (e.g., spatial extension, location) that characterize physical states and, in general, cannot be described using physical language.

Neuroscientists and neurobiologists are discovering more and more exactly how our conscious states are indeed related to the physical matter in our brains, but there is still an awfully lot to learn. A mental state, like being in a state of pain, is nature's way of letting an organism know something bad is happening to it. Mirror neurons in our brains fire when we see others in pain, even when ourselves aren't, and it's one of the reasons why we're capable of being empathetic. When it comes to intentionality, thinking of objects does create certain physical brain states that correspond to the object being thought of. Researchers have recently been able to map images of what people see using fMRI scans of their brain states as they are watching a movie. Although the research is still in its infancy, we may be able in the not to distant future, to literally read one's thoughts as they're thinking or dreaming. This shows a physical correlation between neurological brain states and consciousness. So it is far from certain that mental states have no locations or spatial extension.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thank You Jesus

I just created a new meme. What'd ya think? Feel free to share it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

J.P. Moreland's Attack On "Scientific Atheism" Part 2

At the heart of Moreland's attack on atheism is his thesis that consciousness cannot be adequately explained without recourse to substance dualism, that is, that human beings are body + soul composites. In the part of his chapter entitled, THE NATURE OF SCIENTIFIC NATURALISM, Moreland outlines that naturalism includes

  • rejection of "first philosophy" and an acceptance of either weak or strong scientism.
  • an etiology bereft of all supernatural causes for all things that came to be, central in cosmology and biology
  • a general ontology which only includes (a) things that are similar to what can be described in physics, or (b) are contingent or determined by the laws of physics

This is not all that inaccurate, but since naturalists approach epistemology diversely, let me explain how I approach knowledge within my naturalistic framework. I would embrace a form of weak scientism as it is sometimes described, in that I privilege empiricism and verification over all other epistemologies, especially when it comes to ontology. The reason why is that empiricism, especially scientific empiricism, is the most reliable methodology, by far, for determining what exists and what doesn't. But I do not embrace a strong scientism that says scientific empiricism is the only way to know ontological truths. Logic can work, but it can only take you so far. And religious faith, like revelation, is inadequate and demonstrably unreliable as an epistemology. And that's just a fact.

Moreland speaks of this methodological naturalism and its conclusions as the "Grand Story." It has 3 key features according to him. (1) It means "that causal explanations are central to the (alleged) explanatory superiority of the Grand Story"; (2) it "expresses a scientistic philosophical monism according to which everything that exists or happens in the world is susceptible to explanations by natural scientific methods"; and (3) "the history of the universe is a story of unfolding chains of events in which small particles constantly rearrange to form larger and more complicated wholes (for example, atoms, molecules, organisms, planets)." (p. 36)

Friday, October 11, 2013

J.P. Moreland's Attack On "Scientific Atheism" Part 1

I did a Google Books search for William Lane Craig recently to find material from him that I can use to criticize. Craig's authored or co-authored quite a large number of books. All of them are about defending Christianity and/or attacking atheism. This guy has spent so much time trying to lay waste to atheism it's not even funny. Since one of my goals with this blog is to defend the naturalistic worldview against attacks against it, I feel obligated to respond to the best criticisms against it. So I came across a book entitled, God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and ResponsibleIt's written by a series of theologians and philosophers of religion and is designed to defend Christianity and theism against the recent wave of attacks by the New Atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris.

I was going to focus on Craig's chapter that critiques Dawkins' seminal work The God Delusion, but since I already wrote two back to back posts critiquing Craig's nauseating attempts to defend biblical genocide and his defense of the cosmological arguments, I will focus here on J.P. Moreland's chapter entitled, The Image of God and the Failure of Scientific Atheism.

J.P Moreland is another one of these contemporary apologists like Craig, who has written many books defending his Christian faith and attacking atheism/secularism. In his chapter critiquing what he calls "scientific atheism" he focuses on undermining the atheistic, or naturalistic worldview, as being inadequate to explain the "facts of reality."

Moreland starts off the chapter by explaining what a worldview is:

It is incumbent on a worldview that it explain what does and does not exist in ways that follow naturally from the core explanatory commitments of that worldview. In this sense, we can call a worldview an explanatory hypothesis. (p. 32)

I don't have any major objections to this explanation and pretty much agree. Moreland mentions though, that there are pesky things he calls "recalcitrant facts." And these dastardly disobedient facts provide "falsifying evidence for the theory and some degree of confirmation for its rivals." (p. 33) At this point the reader can expect that he's going to offer us some "recalcitrant facts" that seek to undermine atheistic worldview.

Thoughts On The Soul

I've been thinking about the existence of the soul lately and substance dualism - the belief that humans are composed of the physical body and an immaterial soul. One analogy given by dualists to illustrate the correlation between the soul and the body, is to imagine that the physical body is like a machine, like say a piano or a car, and the soul or mind is like the person operating it. So, they say, physical damage to the piano or car would render its operator unable to control the machine properly, but the soul would remain intact despite damage to the physical body.

I wonder then, how can the soul be held eternally accountable for what it does, if the body it has to work with is damaged? For example, imagine you're driving a car and the brakes fail. You crash and kill someone. After an inspection of the car, you are not deemed criminally responsible because it was caused by a mechanical error and not any kind of negligence on your part. But with our souls, I'm being asked to believe that god holds them eternally responsible, even if they have a physically damaged body that they cannot control properly. It would be like holding the driver of the car criminally responsible for the car's brakes failing, even though they could do nothing about it.

And what about genetic predispositions for violent and/or aggressive behavior? What about schizophrenia? Psychopathy? Sociopathy? Brain tumors? Mind controlling parasites like Toxoplasma gondii? Or conditions that attack impulse control and cognitive rationality? These are all physical problems that affect the way we behave and think and our ability to make moral judgements. It's hard for me to imagine that the mind is causally disconnected to these factors and is somehow floating above the brain in perfect condition, while the body it has to work with is suffering some kind of debilitating disease or condition. 

And how does that mind or soul deal with these disorders if the soul remains perfectly functional? Is it like brakes failing in the car from the driver's point of view? Is it like the soul wants to turn right but the car instead turns left? That must be very frustrating from the soul's perspective. How does this all work and how could the soul be held eternally accountable given it has a broken machine to work with that it cannot properly control? 

Everyone agrees that there are mysteries about consciousness. We can't yet fully explain it, but substance dualism is not something that appeals to me despite our ignorance. There are what are called property dualists, who believe that the mind is another property that emerges from the physical brain, but who do not accept that a soul is needed to explain consciousness. Property dualism is something I can embrace. The mind in this case would be an emergent property contingent on the physical brain. 

It seems that consciousness may just be the process of us becoming aware of physically determined phenomenon occurring in our brains that we have the illusion were our own decisions. I remain officially an agnostic on determinism, but I lean towards the world probably being fully deterministic (in which case if true, I'd be a compatiblist).

But the belief in the soul does what just about every other theistic belief does: It tries to solve a mystery by postulating another mystery, in which case there are too many unanswered questions regarding the nature of the soul and its relationship with the physical body that make it highly implausible to me. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Slaughter Of The Canaanites According To William Lane Craig

I'm really enjoying Thom Stark's critique of Paul Copan's book, Is God A Moral Monster?. Copan writes the standard apologetic that you will hear many Christians making who defend the Iron-age morality of the Old Testament, like slavery, polygamy and genocide. Stark's critique, Is God A Moral Compromiser?, is full of really great counter arguments and I think it's a must read for any atheist or critic of the current apologetic espoused by the likes of Copan and Craig and their minions.

It got me thinking about the Canaanite genocide in the Old Testament again with some new insights that I hadn't known before. I've covered the Canaanite slaughter numerous times here and debated it on other blogs. Since William Lane Craig is the loudest Christian apologist, at least in the English speaking world, I shall critique his justification of the Canaanite conquests that he did through his website Reasonable Faith.

I'm going to respond to one Q & A entitled "Slaughter of the Canaanites." As I read it, nearly everything Craig writes makes me want to hurl at my computer screen because of the moral depravity that being forced to defend the barbaric Iron-age literature makes him sink to. Craig makes every attempt to praise Yahweh and Mosaic "morality" to warm the reader up to an image of the Old Testament god and law as being perfectly on par with reasonable moral sensibilities. He writes:

The command to kill all the Canaanite peoples is jarring precisely because it seems so at odds with the portrait of Yahweh, Israel’s God, which is painted in the Hebrew Scriptures. Contrary to the vituperative rhetoric of someone like Richard Dawkins, the God of the Hebrew Bible is a God of justice, long-suffering, and compassion.

Well considering that Yahweh commands several genocides after the Canaanite genocide, it isn't actually totally out of his character. The Canaanite conquest is just the first of what will be a series of genocides and that's probably why up until this point in the Bible, it may seem so "at odds" with Yahweh. But the reader of the OT will already have come to understand Yahweh as having been responsible for mass killing the entire planet in Genesis, and mass killing all the first born in Egypt, as well as striking several people dead for rather trivial reasons, so no it is not out of character. What's "at odds" with Yahweh's character, is that with the Canaanites, he's commanding other people to do his mass slaughter, instead of doing it himself. That's so out of character for Yahweh, really.


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