Friday, June 7, 2013

Philosophy & The City

The other day I went to a philosophy Meetup group in Manhattan to mingle with other philosophy-lovers. It always guarantees good conversation, especially when enhanced with strong drink. The topic was "The Big Three - Socrates, Plato and Aristotle". It lead to some interesting conversations about the Euthyphro Dilemma - my favorite one-liner and I think the single most useful bit of philosophy that the ancient wisdom of the Greeks have left us.

What amazes me however when conversing with philosophically minded people in a big, secular, liberal city like New York, is how deeply permeated moral nihilism is. With this one guy I was talking to on morality, I simply asked him what would be morally good. He responded by saying "I don't know. I couldn't tell you that." I pressed further asking him to just give me his opinion of what would be morally right, and again he said, "It's what anyone does, there's no such thing as right or wrong."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Even More Thoughts On Hell

I've been recently writing about the concept of hell. It intrigues me for rather obvious reasons being an atheist. Since some theists believe that hell is just the eternal separation from god, I wonder then how it could even be practical. For example, many atheists (but not all), have rejected god out of their lives either because of the flimsy evidence supporting god's existence or from the revulsion caused by the character of god himself, or both. So if hell is the eternal separation of god, then god is really just giving the atheists what they want.

Most theists think that in the afterlife you will exist in a physical form like in the body you had on Earth in some sort of metaphysical reality. So hell would appear to those living there as a physical place but with the total absence of god's presence. But how is that any different from the actual world we live in now because I don't sense god anywhere? What would a day in hell be like? By all accounts it would appear to be exactly the same as life on Earth. There'd be violence and suffering, but you'd get to do whatever you want, and so you'd be able to indulge in whatever vices your heart desired.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Gentleman's Guide To Militant Atheism (10 Rules Of Etiquette)

Militant atheism gets a bad wrap.

I'm just about as anti-religious as you can get. I'm completely opposed to virtually all forms of religious belief. I think living by faith is a horrible thing that is destructive to humanity and that all people should live evidence-based lives using critical thinking, science, reason, and a little skepticism.

That being said there should be some etiquette involved when opposing religious belief. Militant atheism should be like a switch that is turned off most of the time and only turned on when faced with a theist of the militant type or when opposing a law or rule that discriminates against non-believers. Atheists should not ever be standing on corners with blow-horns, ranting about there not being a god to annoyed passers-by. We should not be confronting believers with those in-your-face tactics that theists are so fond of. We should however, be open about our non-belief but in the right way.

So I've thought of a few suggestions on rules of etiquette when it comes to expressing non-belief publicly. Although this is a "Gentleman's" guide I do not intend this to be from a male's perspective only. These suggestions are gender-neutral (I just liked the way Gentleman's Guide sounded).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Few Thoughts On 'Nothing'

If you define 'nothing' as the total and complete non-existence of anything, then how could something that doesn't exist, exist? In other words, how can non-existence exist? If nothing somehow could exist, wouldn't it actually be something?

What properties does nothing have? Well, presumably it has no properties at all. What limitations does nothing have? Well, since it has no properties it might have no limitations. But having no limitations seems like a property to me, as does having limitations.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

3 Questions To An Atheist On Existence and Meaning

I came across a website the other day that spoke about the "absolute truth" of the Christian doctrine and in it, it asks the skeptical non-believer a few questions that seemingly can't be answered unless you accept the belief that god exists. So, reproducing them here, I decided to take a quick crack at them. My answers are not meant to be an in-depth discussion on the order and structure and meaning of life, but rather quick, easily digestible, sound-byte answers.

1. Why do we have personalities? If there is no personal God who "shared these bits of His personality with us," where did we get them?

It's hard for me to take serious the notion that each of our individual personalities is a part of god. How would you then explain psychopaths and sociopaths who cannot feel empathy for the pain of others and may even get sexually aroused from the pain of others? Are they made in the image of god too? Our personalities are shaped by our genetics that we inherit, and the unique experiences we have growing up in our environment. These two factors "customize" us into who we are and make us all unique individuals.

The Gospel According To Me

There's no doubt that we all bring to the table our world beliefs. When it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, if you already believe in a god who can work miracles and violate the natural order, you're going think the chances that Jesus rose bodily from the dead are pretty damn high. If you're a naturalist however, any alternative natural explanation besides an actual resurrection is more probable and more likely given that you don't believe miracles are even possible. So when it comes to reported miracles we each come at them through our world views.

I'm by no means a biblical scholar, but lately I've been reading and watching debates about the historicity of Jesus' death and resurrection. When it comes to the mythical Jesus idea versus that he was an actual living person, I'm honestly an agnostic. I have no idea whether or not the story of Jesus is based on a real life person. I'm willing to say that there probably was a person that Jesus was based on; whether or not this person was called Jesus, I don't know.

A Few (More) Thoughts On Hell

Not all Christians believe that hell is an actual place of torture. Some believe that hell is really just the eternal separation from god, which is supposed to amount to hell. But if hell is indeed a place where the damned are tormented, then how can we say that the commandment to love god is truly a free choice given the alternative?

It's like imagining that someone puts a gun to your head and demands your wallet. You technically have a free choice to either give that person your wallet or not, but considering the prospects of being shot if you don't, can you say that it really is a free choice?

I ask this because many Christians will say that the purpose of life is to know god and freely enter into a loving relationship with him. But if god has prepared a torture chamber for us just in case we "freely" reject this relationship, then couldn't we say that it wasn't really a free choice, but one possibly coerced by fear?

If god really did want to create a world where his creatures could freely chose to love him, then wouldn't it have been more practical if there was no such thing as hell? It seems to me that if there wasn't the threat of hell looming over you just in case you didn't want to love god, then people who chose to love god would truly being doing it out of their own free choice. To me, once the threat of hell enters the picture, the choice to love and worship god can't truly be said to be "free".


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