Thursday, September 17, 2015

Yahweh Is Perfect, Because, You Know...

Sometimes when I argue that Yahweh, the god of the Bible, would be evil if he existed, and is not anything even remotely close to the "greatest conceivable being," the reaction I sometimes get goes down the line of, "God is by definition perfect, and everything he does and commands is morally perfect, and Yahweh is god, and so everything Yahweh does and commands is perfect by definition and any amount of 'reason' you try and use to refute this is totally and utterly futile. Period."

That is in a nutshell the argument that I sometimes get when debating theists over whether Yahweh is good. Formally, it might look like this:

1. God is by definition perfect.
2. Yahweh is God.
3. Therefore, everything Yahweh does and commands is perfect.

Checkmate, atheist!

Now of course this doesn't represent the view all Christians have. And many Christians attempt to justify each of the premises. But even if I grant premise (1) in the same sense that a bachelor is by definition an unmarried man, it is impossible to go from that to premise (2). In fact, I think premise (2) is refuted by premise (1). And so it is frustrating when I encounter Christians quit often who just seem to take as an uncontroversial axiom that Yahweh is morally perfect and that everything Yahweh does and commands is perfect. They fail to step outside their bubble and acknowledge that the axioms they grant inside the bubble, are not granted outside the bubble. It must be demonstrated that Yahweh is morally perfect and that everything Yahweh does and commands is perfect. It is simply not a given.

To The Critics Of Secularism:

Imagine that one day we had a very devout, openly-Christian president, and he or she made policies that were based on their deep religious convictions. And imagine if they believed the end of the world was imminently close, and were crafting policies and making decisions that had really negative long term effects, but didn't care, because they had this deep religious conviction and didn't feel the need to justify it other than by claiming it was their faith. What would you do in that circumstance? Would you really let the president destroy the country and possibly the planet with bad policies that they think wouldn't matter due to their religiously based beliefs? Or would you think that it's reasonable that the law should require that policy that affects millions and billions of people worldwide, require a secular justification that doesn't rely on one's particular religious convictions?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Does Making The World A Better Place Allow Atheists To Kill Two Birds With One Stone?

As much as I'd like to think that it's atheism that's been primarily responsible for the advancement of less-progressive and less-advanced people and societies, I think it's probably the case that the opposite is true: when the standards of living, education, and technology in a society go up, as a result it gets less religious. Lower religiosity is probably a side effect and result of rising living standards and not the other way around.*

The purpose of this blog post however, is not to try and make a case for which way the causality is going. That's not the point. I could be wrong. There could be many other options besides these two that hold the truth, or a complex mixture of many things, as sociologist Phil Zuckerman has argued — I don't know. I have not done a thorough assessment of the data. But I was having a discussion on it recently and it seems to me that the causality probably goes from high living standards → decreasing religiosity (see below).

If that is the case, then the greatest thing I could do as an atheist who wants lower religiosity and cultivate a better society with all the liberal, populist, and progressive views that I hold, is to focus on fighting for all those liberal, populist, and progressive views that I hold.** And it seems that an interesting by-product of that will be that religious belief and practice will continue to decrease year by year, decade by decade, until it's so low and irrelevant for most people, that it's hardly even a factor, and it becomes virtually invisible. That could be a very serious and attainable reality in the not-too-distant future. Instead of focusing mostly on what I'm against and criticizing religion, debating theists, and trying to make a case for atheism and naturalism, I could focus on the political, social, and economic issues I'm for. And if you're an atheist, you could do this too. So you have to consider whether doing this may be a chance to kill two birds with one stone for the secular, liberal, progressive advocate like myself: Destroy what we're against socially, economically, and politically, and we could help destroy religion as a convenient by-product of that. It's a win-win situation!

I do think that a metaphysical case needs to be made and defended for naturalism, and I really do think that it should include beauty and aesthetics. Naturalism can be a very beautiful and poetic worldview, and that is something not often emphasized, especially by me. Atheists are all too often mired in esoteric debate or ridicule of religion and fail to focus on explaining the beauty of their own worldview to others. For many, a godless world is scary, depressing, and pointless. This repelling sensation of disgust blocks many from even entertaining the idea of a fully natural world. I think in this realm that scientific education can help tremendously help one see the intricate beauty of the natural world and our place in it. And I do, personally think it is beautiful and amazing when you really think about it. Religious myths have had their time and place, and many contain beautiful, epic, and poetic stories, as well as some good moral principles. But the true story of our origins and place in the universe given to us by science and reflected upon by philosophy is in every way just as beautiful and epic, and I argue, even more so, because it's true.

*This is sometimes called the existential security thesis (EST) or the socioeconomic security hypothesis (SSH). For more information on the latter see Gregory Paul's paper The chronic dependence of popular religiosity upon dysfunctional social conditions.

**By saying this I am not saying that religion is the only or primary factor for what is making the world a worse place and that getting rid of it would magically fix most of the world's problems. I am not trying to set up a dichotomy or anything like that.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Religious Believers: If You're Against Church/State Separation, Here's How It's Gonna Work

In light of the recent uproar over the refusal by Rowan County clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licences to anyone in her county due to her "deeply-held" religious belief against same sex marriage, and her subsequent jail time, I've been motivated to write about an idea I've been entertaining on what a legal system could look like if government and religion were in business together.

Imagine if the government legally forced every religious person to live according to the rules of their religion so that they had to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. They would not be allowed to pick and choose which religious rules they wanted to live by or force others to live by. It would work like this. Everyone would have to register their religious affiliation with the government. For whatever religion you register with, special laws would apply to you on top of civil laws from that religion. So if you register as a Catholic, it would be illegal for you to divorce, or to use any contraception, have abortions, masturbate, have any sex outside of marriage, and even watch pornography. Your internet service provider would have to block pornographic websites from being accessed. If you register as a Muslim, it would be illegal to eat pork, drink alcohol, eat during Ramadan, have any sex outside of marriage, watch porn, and daily prayer would be mandatory.

All the special religious rules would be laws that each member of the religion would have to adhere to, under penalty of the law. Failure obey these laws would result in anything ranging from a fine, to a prison sentence. Your religion would be displayed on your state issued ID, so a liquor store clerk would be able to see if you were Muslim and trying to buy alcohol, and a convenient store clerk would be able to see if you were a Christian and trying to buy condoms, and they would be obligated to refuse to sell it to you. All the regular secular laws that exist would still apply to everyone, but the religious laws would apply in addition to them for registered religious adherents. If the two were in conflict, there'd be a general preference for secular law over religious law, so if someone's religion allowed human sacrifice, or wife beating, it would still be illegal for them.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Have A Happy Labor Day Weekend!

I will be hedonistically partying this long weekend and relaxing and probably will not be able to blog. I have so many blog ideas in the pipe but so little time to write them. Aahhh! Enjoy your weekend! Stay safe.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Philosophical Definition Of An Asshole

Assholes: A Theory is a recent book by philosophy professor Aaron James which explores the concept of assholes. Usually male, but not always, he offers this interesting definition of an asshole:

The guy who systematically allows himself special advantages in cooperative life out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people.

We all probably know a few of those people. It would also seem that many self declared religious prophets are assholes, given their sense of entitlement. Mohammad was definitely an asshole. According to him, he was allowed to have as many wives as he wanted, but all other men could only have up to four. Joseph Smith was definitely an asshole. He told his wife that god commanded him to marry other women, lots of them, and that an angel even appeared to him with a sword threatening him if he didn't comply.

Oh Mormonism. You make it so easy for us atheists. I suppose many things can be a cover for assholery but religion sure does a fine job.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Peter Joseph On "Economic Calculation in a Natural Law"

Peter Joseph is a popular documentary maker with a strong online presence. He's mostly known for the Zeitgeist documentary in 2007 which went viral in the early days of YouTube. It featured a section on Jesus mythicism which wasn't well cited and many of its claims have since been for the most part debunked, but nonetheless became very influential and caught the attention of virtually the entire Christian community.

But this post is not about that. Peter Joseph's main focus is on creating a new cultural paradigm in terms of how we live, where we get our energy, what we do for a living, and the structure of our economy. He argues that we phase out our market based economy and replace it with a resource based economy. The current market based economy is unsustainable and is designed to fail. It is a train wreck waiting to happen. And educating the public on this while promoting his alternative, is his main agenda. Too often however, his criticism of Christianity is all people hear and some people just shut out all his ideas based on that.

Regardless of whether or not you're a believer, I think his ideas are worth listening to. They are concerned with the dangerous direction humanity is headed towards and how we need to change the current system for the better and achieve the energy and resource stability and abundance in order to avoid the cliff that we are headed towards. I'm not saying I agree with him on every point, or that I'm endorsing all his views, but we need to explore alternatives to the current paradigm, which is poisonous.


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