Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Cure?


On a recent blog post, in response to a comment I made, the author of the post included an analogy:
Who said you go to hell just because you’re human? They lied to you. You don’t go to hell simply because you are born with the disease called sin. You only go to hell if you reject the cure.

“Well gee, I got gang green on my foot and they had to amputate my whole leg and I’m mad about it!”

“Well did you take medicine for it when you first noticed it??”

“No. I don’t believe in medicines.”

Who’s responsible for the amputation, the advanced gang green or the guy who rejected the medicine after he was told it would cure him?

My response is rather long and directly follows that, but I think this is an important point that often gets thrown out there by Xians, and looks pretty reasonable until one actually looks at it a little closer.

If god is the "cure" then wouldn't we be stupid to resist? Wouldn't it be our fault for going to hell for not taking the "cure" that's staring us right in the face? Oh, if only it were so simply though, right?

This is similar to Pascal's Wager, which I won't rehash too much here, I hope. But, it must be said that the Xian has no assurance that a cure is even necessary, or that their beliefs constitute the true cure if one is indeed necessary. There are tons of purported cures out there for the all too human fear of death, and picking one out of a hat has just as much a chance of being right as being born into those beliefs.

But, what the analogy really misses is why the victim is suffering in the first place. How did the patient get gang green? If someone somehow gave the patient this condition, would we not find fault with that person? If that person then went out and found the cure and brought it back, would we simply absolve them of all their responsibility in bringing about this sequence of events? Wouldn't we hold that it was their moral duty to try and correct their mistake?

In this instance, is it not god that created humans as fallible beings with sinful natures? It would only be god's moral responsibility to fix that by giving us a cure, and one without strings, like demanding obedience from us and that we conform to specific beliefs. Sorry, but this is an analogy fail, because it glosses over the important parts of the equation, namely god's involvement in the condition. That's part of the problem with a so-called perfect, omni-max god, the buck always stops with him.

Friday, 18 December 2009

How To Helpfuls


Let's say you're a Xian who really wants to convert heathens like me, but you just don't know how. Well, you're in luck, because the helpful people at wikiHow have a guide just for you. Make sure you are adequately prepared with tidbits like these:
Conversion is an act of love. A gift.

It's a gift all right to be convinced that you deserve to be tortured in hell for eternity out of love.
...increase your friendship before attempting to influence their religious beliefs.

Because emotional blackmail is a great way to get people to convert.
Pray to God.

Because that's always helpful, right?

It's not all dumb though. There are some good points made, like this one:
Do your homework. If you are a Christian, and you believe that the Bible is the direct word of God, then certainly you have read most of the Bible, especially the Gospels, right? If not, you may find the person you are trying to convert is better versed in the Bible than you.

This is actually good advice.

Similarly the rest of the piece has its ups and downs, but overall it's pretty humorous I think.

And, of course, for those new converts who just don't know how to believe in god, there's a guide for you too! Of course, it can be summed up pretty quickly by saying simply shut off your reasoning faculties and simply believe.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Respect


Must we respect people's religious beliefs?

We often hear theists complain that atheists don't properly respect their beliefs, that we don't give them the proper deference. Because the theist holds deep beliefs, about serious, religious stuff dealing with the nature of the supernatural, these beliefs are to be held sacrosanct, by all. One is not allowed to question those beliefs, or else one is intolerant. One must simply accept those beliefs as valid and rational and act as if those beliefs are very important and worthy ones to have. (The theist, of course, is under no obligation to reciprocate or treat theists of other religions with the same deference.)

Well, sorry but "Homey don't play that." People should be respected. Rights should be respected. People have the right to believe as they do and I respect that (just don't try to foist it on me or complain if I also speak out). Beliefs themselves, however, are not automatically worthy of respect. Beliefs must be rational and defensible before they are worthy of respect. A belief in magic crystals is not worthy of respect when (because) there is no accompanying evidence for it. Same goes for a belief that one is physically eating the flesh of her god when taking communion. If a theist wants their beliefs to be respected, then that theist should present respectable beliefs. I am, however, under no obligation, morally or in terms of rights, to treat all beliefs as if they are worthy of respect.

In fact, I would go further than that. I am under an obligation to speak out when one presents beliefs that are irrational, unsupported, and are detrimental to society. This is why I speak out against religion.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Does Belief Hurt America?


Here's an interesting article that goes over some research done that measured national success vs. the degree of secularity. The findings show that the most secular states end up performing the best in area of societal and economic stability.
Paul is quick to point out that his study reveals correlation, not causation. Which came first — prosperity or secularity — is unclear, but Paul ventures a guess. While it's possible that good governance and socioeconomic health are byproducts of a secular society, more likely, he speculates, people are inclined to drop their attachment to religion once they feel distanced from the insecurities and burdens of life.

This is probably true. How often do we see religious apologists trying to prey upon the downtrodden, the old, the sick, etc. It's because religion very often targets those who are most vulnerable. When people aren't vulnerable, they are less likely to be religious, which is why we see such a significant shift away from religion in developed countries.

This study also shows that religion need not be the backbone for a moral society. In fact, the US, which is more religious than the other countries studied ended up on the tail end of just about all of the moral and social indicators used. And, we don't see the implosion of those secular states which are leading the way. So, for those who believe in belief (as Dennett puts it) have one more data point to have to explain away.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Theism Predicts (Part II)


Let's just jump right in (for the previous post, the link is at the bottom).
3. Materialism predicted space has always existed, Theism predicted space had a creation (Psalm 89:12) – Space was created in the Big Bang. -

OK, so let's break this down. Different religions have all had different ideas about the formation of the Earth, where some believe that space was always around and other didn't. This particular theist has included Psalm 89:12 as evidence that he believes god created space. Um, let's look at that psalm, shall we?
89:12 The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.

Well, it doesn't really indicate that god created space. Nor, coincidentally, does Genesis, which this theist is really pushing for. The reality though is that once again materialistic science (not religion) figured out that space was a result of the big bang, and it is not a problem for a material universe to be composed of "space." Once again the apologist is barking up the wrong tree.
4. Materialism predicted at the base of physical reality would be a solid indestructible material particle which rigidly obeyed the rules of time and space, Theism predicted the basis of this reality was created by a infinitely powerful and transcendent Being who is not limited by time and space – Quantum mechanics reveals a wave/particle duality for the basis of our reality which blatantly defies our concepts of time and space. -

This one is just plain bizarre (as if the others aren't?) Quantum mechanics reveals a wave/particle duality to the components of our universe, but it doesn't defy our concepts of time and space. I don't know where he's getting this. To make matters worse, how is this in any way tied to the idea of an infinitely powerful and transcendent Being?" Here, the apologist is simply reaching for anything that he thinks he can use to say "goddidit."
5. Materialism predicted the rate at which time passed was constant everywhere in the universe, Theism predicted God is eternal and is outside of time – Special Relativity has shown that time, as we understand it, is relative and comes to a complete stop at the speed of light. (Psalm 90:4)-

Actually, that time was not relative was pretty well accepted by all, both theists and materialists alike until Einstein came along. Then, when Einstein's ideas were accepted, materialists accepted the findings and moved on, while we still have creationists that try to argue that time is not relative.

Still, I fail to see how relativity relates to a god that is supposedly outside of space and time. Is the apologist arguing that god travels around at the speed of light and so doesn't experience the flow of time? This would be at odds with most conceptions of the Xian god where god is simply not a part of the timeline of the universe, i.e. that god exists separate from time. god is timeless, which is different from god moving around at the speed of light.

The impression that one is left with is that the apologist doesn't really understand the science behind what he's saying and is really flailing around for something, anything that he thinks he can apply to his cherished beliefs.

Other posts in this series.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Living With Sin


So, apparently god is really, really perfect and stuff, and that means that god can not live with sin, so that's why he sends people to hell. You see, it's not his fault that he's perfect and can't live with sin, and it's not his choice, it's just the way things are. So what if he created beings that by design can't live up to perfection and therefore can't not sin? He's perfect after all.

But, seriously, this brings to mind a couple issues. First, god is supposedly omnipresent, so the existence of hell kind of calls that into question if it is supposedly a place where sinners go and god can't be around sin. Also, sin supposedly exists right here on Earth, and god would be around it if he were omnipresent, so I guess something's gotta give. I'll leave it up to the apologists to decide which part of their story they want to jettison (although I predict that most apologists will cling to the notion that nothing is amiss in their idea).

Secondly, how can it not be god's choice that the system is set up so that people will sin and then go to hell because god can't be with them? Why set up the universe in that way? This makes god out to be either extremely cruel and vindictive or extremely stupid. Even a non-omniscient being should be smart enough to see the problem with this arrangement, yet a perfect god didn't? It's just another story from Xianity that strains credulity.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

god Loves the Raped Children


One of the Xian commenters here, Tracy, has her own blog (linked to her name) where she recently had a post with the following passage:
There's nothing I wouldn't do for my children; and to think that God calls me His child...

So, why do children starve to death? Why do children get beaten and raped, especially by those who claim to be this same god's emissaries here on Earth as catholic priests claim? Why are children mistreated in any way by others while god sits there and watches? In fact, if we are all god's children, why does he not help all of us?

god, being omniscient surely knows that children are being made to suffer on this world. god, being omnipotent surely has the ability to do something about it. Yet, it's demonstrable that children still suffer on this world. Since god is also supposedly omnipresent, doesn't that indicate that god is there, watching these children suffer and doing nothing to stop it? How cruel is that. How uncaring, indifferent, vile, and evil. Is there any defense for this? Most of us would do all we could to help children that are not even our own, yet god sits there and watches as his children are brutalized, beaten, raped, starve, etc. and has the power to stop it, yet he watches it go on and does nothing. This is not a god that loves us, and people should stop making excuses for such a god if he does exist.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Theism Predicts (Introduction)


Over at Daylight Atheism, a commenter named "Ric" asked if Ebonmuse would take a crack at a list predictions written by a creationist and have a go at answer them. I told Ric that I would take a stab, and this post is the beginning of that, but first, some background is in order.

The list in question comes from William Dembski's old blog (he turned the asylum over to the lunatics some time ago) Uncommon Descent. As someone who used to frequent a site called
After the Bar Closes
quite a bit, I can tell you that there are whole threads devoted to showing the bad argumentation displayed by the denizens of UD. In fact, the Uncommonly Dense Threads have amassed almost 1600 pages of comments critical of UD and the bad reasoning, arguments, and general idiocy posted there, including that which comes from the head honchos that write there. (For instance, one poster believes that one can not simulate mutation and selection in a population unless one also mutates the OS of the computer running the sim, and another swears that Dawkins' Methinks it's a Weasel program somehow cheats even though it's been pointed out multiple times that he's wrong.)

Anyway, on to the list. There's 14 listed "predictions" that are made by theism and materialism according to a commenter named Bornagain77 (BA77). Yet, right off the bat there's a problem. Most of what BA77 says is predicted by Materialism is a strawman representation, and none of what he claims is predicted by "theism" is actually predicted by simple belief in a god, which is what theism boils down to. What he really wants to say is that his brand of literal creationism predicts these things, but he's still wrong as we shall see.
1.Materialism predicted an eternal universe, Theism predicted a created universe. – Big Bang points to a creation event.

The first one is a common error that creationists make that centers around conflation and misunderstanding the physics behind the big bang. What most creationists fail to understand is that ideas like Olber's paradox, for example, show that an eternal static state universe does not exist and has not ever existed. The big bang model does away with this idea by showing that there has been a definite change in state of the universe at some point that we label time t=0 where our current idea of the universe came to be. This does not imply that the universe is not eternal or that it is, and materialism doesn't rely on either of these being the case.

To make matters worse, the big bang marks the beginning of time for our universe. Time as we know it did not exist before the big bang, so speaking of time before time started is rather useless. It's rather odd to speak of an eternal universe that existed before time existed.

Now, what does "theism" predict? In BA77's case, theism predicts a creation event it is true. We can not, however, claim that creation has happened. And, the creation event being "predicted" here is that of the story of Genesis, which has been shown to be wrong (i.e. time scales, sequence of events, etc.)
2. Materialism predicted time had an infinite past, Theism predicted time had a creation – Time was created in the Big Bang.

Similar to the above, this is not predicted by materialism as we know from the big bang that time as we measure it did not exist before that event. In fact, it is materialistic science that showed us that the big bang happened, not Biblical creationism. In fact, there's no mention of god creating time in the Bible in the Genesis account at all.* If we truly went by the Genesis account, we wouldn't be able to say one way or the other whether god created time or it just was. Again, we see a straw man depiction of materialism coupled with an incorrect summation of the creationist's position. Hind sight is 20/20 of course.

This post is getting rather long, so subsequent posts will handle the rest of the 14 "predictions" on the list.

*Edit: Some theists claim that "In the beginning" means that time began then, but the Genesis account need not mean that. It could simply mean the beginning of the universe, story, Earth, whatever, independent of time. It also doesn't say that god made this beginning happen or that god created the initial conditions of "in the beginning."

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

No You Can Not Haz Communion


The catholic church is very serious about abortion. They're also very serious about their influence in the politics of this nation. They are so serious that they refuse to allow politicians that don't vote against abortion rights to be cannibals in their churches. This happened in 2004 with John Kerry and has happened again recently with Patrick Kennedy.

So, looking past the absurd notion that the catholic church has any room to preach morality to anyone, what is this really about? It's about the catholic church trying to usurp undue influence over the political process and enforce their sense of "morality" on the rest of the public through unreasonable means. Politicians are there to represent the people, not to be bullied by stuffed up men in silly robes with delusions that they speak for god.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Xian Side Hugs


So, apparently, this video is not for real. It's pretty funny, I gotta admit.

Too bad that most people couldn't actually tell it was a joke. Poe's Law was definitely in action which is actually the funniest thing about this.

It got me to thinking though about the whole abstinence before marriage idea. Why are people who wait until marriage always convinced that it somehow makes it better? Um, how would they even know? I don't know if it's better or not, but it doesn't make sense that it would be. Sex is something that requires practice (lots of it preferably). How many of you really knew what you were doing the first time? Why would we think that throwing together 2 people who both don't know what they are doing is somehow better simply because they've gone through some ceremony that really doesn't change anything except for their tax and legal status?

Monday, 23 November 2009

Perfect Justice


Many Xians claim that god is the author of justice, and as such gives us perfect justice, both in this world and the next. For the purposes of this post, we can simplify the idea of justice to getting what one deserves. I've already dealt with the inherent contradiction between getting what one deserves and god handing out grace from the Xian perspective, but today I'd like to focus on something else. Does Xian philosophy really provide perfect justice (minus the grace part of course)? Let's look at a hypothetical example.

Let's suppose a tyrant. Let's let our tyrant be evil, vicious, cruel, and vindictive (no I'm not talking about Yahweh, but I could be I suppose). Let's further say that this tyrant is responsible for many deaths, much suffering, has tortured others, etc. This is a really bad, bad person. Is it just (perfect or otherwise) for this person to be tortured in hell for eternity? Of course not. No matter how bad this person was in life, that was finite and infinite torture for finite crimes doesn't make sense from a justice standpoint.

But, let's strengthen the argument. Let's say that the tyrant receives punishment that fits the extent of his crimes. For every murder he caused, he gets to feel what it felt like. He gets to feel all the pain and suffering that he caused, until he has felt it all when the punishment stops. Is this perfect justice? Well, it's vengeance for sure, but it's a bit more equitable than an eternity in hell. And, I'm sure that most Xians would thirst for this type of retributive vengeance, but it's still not perfect justice.

So, why is it not perfect? It's not perfect because the tyrant's actions allowed others to unjustly feel this pain and torment to begin with. Did the tyrant's victims get what they deserve in this life? When their lives were cut short, they lost the ability to fully live out their lives and attain their own balance sheets for their bout with finite vengeance after death. By god allowing this state of affairs, perfect justice can not be attained. In this sense, Xianity can not offer the hope for perfect justice at all, and that's even after using an argument that most Xians don't even subscribe to, which is the argument that after-death punishment would fit the severity and scope of the crimes done.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

If Atheists Ruled the World


This is simply too funny. Please watch this video.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Defending Genocide (Part V) - Nuremberg Defense


You all may remember our apologist who now wonders whether the Israelis could know these commands came from god. Well, really they couldn't, but it doesn't really matter. Even if the commands did come from god, who cares? They were immoral commands and should not have been carried out.

More interesting to me is the next section where the apologist asks whether the Israelis were simply justifying their actions. Let's take a look:
When the Israelites destroyed a population, they were acting as God's tools, not taking matters into their own hands. God made it clear to them that he was the one behind their victories (Jdg 7:2-3, Josh 5:13-14). In many cases, the nations were defeated by miracles of God (Josh 6, 10:8-14), and in all cases the Israelites were victorious only because they were following God, who gave them the victory (Josh 10:42).

Why am I reminded of the Nuremberg Defense? Hmmm, maybe because that's what this basically boils down to. This is just a long-winded way of saying that the Israelis were 'only following orders.' Yet, we rightly concluded that that defense shouldn't have worked with the Nazis and it doesn't work here. Sorry, but 'just following orders' doesn't absolve the Israelis from their crimes of aggression and genocide.

Other posts in this series...

Monday, 16 November 2009

Who is to Blame?


How often have any of you heard this refrain:

"Blame people for bad acts, not Xianity..."

or this:

"People will use Xianity to prop up their evil deeds, but they'd be just as evil without it..."

It's an old refrain. People are bad/sinful/wicked/evil, and if we get rid of religion, they'll just find some other reason to be bad/sinful/wicked/evil. So, why focus our efforts on stopping religion?

But, is this really so? Certain behaviors and thoughts are learned, and learning that it is OK to be bigoted or sexist is not OK. Why should we not point out when a teaching fosters and encourages these types of thoughts or deeds? If someone grows up being taught that women are meant to be subservient to men and then acts on it thinking nothing is wrong, should we really lay all the blame on the man and not on the teaching that lead to his actions?

No, we should point out those teachings that are wrong and we should seek to correct them and/or end them. It's not enough to simply shrug our shoulders and say, "People are evil, what can you do?" We should raise up and proclaim quite loudly how immoral most religious teachings are and advocate that people should throw off the shackles of these antiquated religions and strive to become the moral people that they should be. It's a much better idea that giving up. In fact, that's just what apologists hope we will do so that they can continue to propagate their ideas without resistance and enjoy their unearned and undeserved place in culture. We must not let them have it without a fight.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Doubting Thomas


I keep hearing that Xianity is all about evidence, that Xians ask for evidence and receive it, and that god's cool with that. You know, he thinks we should be inquisitive and all that, and he'll provide evidence for us if we really want to see it. For an example of this, Xians often point to the story of Thomas. See, he doubts that Jesus has really come back from the dead, so Jesus literally has him touch the wounds that were inflicted by the crucifixion.

Wow, who could argue with that, right?

Except, there's still one small detail that usually gets left out of the story (and they say that atheists cherry pick from the Bible...) If you read just one more verse, you find this:
20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Notice the part that I took the liberty of bolding. Jesus shows Thomas the marks, and the rebukes him for needing evidence. He says that those who simply believe without requiring evidence are blessed, which doesn't include Thomas. This isn't Jesus saying that Xians should seek evidence, but that they should simply believe on faith. Instead of supporting the argument that Xianity is about evidence, it undermines it.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

By Whose Standards?


When evil acts of god are brought up in debate with a Xian (like genocide, rape, etc) one apologetic that is frequently heard is that we can't judge god by our standards, because god is well above us. IOW, god should go by his own standard.

Really? Well, there's a few problems with that.

It's first and foremost an appeal to relative morality. We have our moral system here, where we generally try not to steal, kill, rape, etc. while god is able to do those things at will...simply because he is god. Also, Xians believe that god will judge us by a standard of perfection, however, yet the actions of god are decidedly less than perfect, so he is also advocating having different standards - one for him, one for the rest of us.

But, really the thing that I see as the worst aspect of this is that god is held to a lower standard, yet god is supposedly perfect. This is like taking the A+ student and asking them only to write a paper with their name on it, while the student that is struggling in the class is required to write a paper that would pass a Ph.D. dissertation. Why would we hold a supposedly perfect being to a lower standard than beings that are decidedly less than perfect? It makes no sense. If anything, god should be the exemplar of morality and perfection, instead of someone we have to make excuses for and hold to lower standards.

Things like genocide and rape and murder shouldn't come from such a being and instead of making excuses for this being when the do, we should rightly be outraged by the behavior of a being that should know better. If a child does something wrong, we know that the child may not know better, but god doesn't have that excuse. If a person errs and messes up, we might take pity or think of leniency because we all make mistakes, but god does not have that excuse. So, why are apologists excusing god's actions?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Defending Genocide (Part IV) - Should the Israelites have Followed god?


Our apologist wonders whether the Israelites should have slaughtered all those people, regardless of what god said. Let's see what (s)he thinks?
The Israelites personally knew God to be just, righteous and wise.

Apart from the wholesale slaughter of others I hope?
Aside from knowing God through prayer and individual devotions, many generations of Israelites personally witnessed God's miracles. The generation that fought against the Midianites was the generation that had miraculously escaped from Egypt; the generation that fought the wars in the book of Joshua was only one generation later, and saw the parting of the Jordan River (Josh 3:7-17). Both generations experienced God's provision for them during the Exodus (Dt 29:5; manna was provided until the time of Joshua - Josh 5:12).

Might does not make right. Just because god is powerful enough to perform miracles doesn't mean that god is always morally right.
Finally, Moses explicitly taught the Israelites that God "is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he" (Dt 32:4).

Ah yes, the circular reasoning that god is just because he says so - not very compelling.
These things gave them reason to trust God even when he commanded them to do something they might otherwise refuse to do.

Sorry, but this just doesn't hold. It doesn't matter who is telling someone to commit genocide, you don't do it. Even if that someone is an omni-max deity. Surely god could come up with a better option than making you complicit in wholesale slaughter.
Furthermore, they understood that God has the authority to destroy a city, and that the best thing for them to do was to trust someone whose judgment and wisdom are far superior to their own.

No, god does not have this authority. No one does. The apologist here is blankly stating that god has the authority to do whatever god wants, regardless of the moral implications of it. But, once again, might does not make right, so by what authority would god have to perform immoral actions? If the action becomes moral simply because god says so, then morality is relative. If what is right is right regardless, then god is not the author of morality, and his actions here are immoral.
Some have argued that the Israelites should have decided that God's command was wrong and refused to carry it out.

Yes, it appears that they should have.
It is worth noting that God is unchanging (Mal 3:6), so the Israelites would have known that the just and righteous God they knew before was still just and righteous when he issued the command.

Considering that Malachi is the last book in the OT, I don't see how the Israelites would have known this passage before it was written or occurred. Still, simply because god says he's right doesn't mean he is.
However, let us suppose for the sake of argument that God could have issued an unjust command; for instance, ordering the Israelites to be sadistic by torturing babies and enjoying their pain. Sadism is inherently evil; there is no possible situation in which it could be right to take pleasure in torturing others. (The Israelites slew people with swords, which would have been one of the quickest ways at the time to kill someone, and were never told to enjoy killing; thus God's commanded genocide was not sadism.) Therefore the Israelites would have been justified in refusing to practice sadism.

This is, perhaps, the most sensible thing in here. Yes, the Israelites should refuse to engage in sadism. So, why does the author think they should not have refused to slaughter people indiscriminately? The mind boggles, and I can only think that this is a case of special pleading.
Since the Israelites had good reason to believe in God's moral perfection, omniscience and omnipotence, the best choice for them would be to trust that God had a better understanding than they of the situation itself and the moral rules governing it.

And, here the author leans on the "god works in mysterious ways" canard. Well, the last passages were all about how the Israelites could know that god was correct in the order, and now the author is admitting that they couldn't know and simply had to trust. Which, BTW, would be a case of begging the question.
The only way for them to be justified in not obeying God's command would be if the command were inherently evil and impossible to justify (though it must be cautioned that humans with their imperfect understanding could incorrectly decide a command was inherently evil).

So, genocide is apparently not inherently evil? It's about as close as can be, one would think, and I've seen no justification for it so far, especially since the author is now admitting that they had to take it on faith that god was correct in ordering these genocides. And, to top it off, the author then claims that we are so imperfect that we could incorrectly decide that something is immoral when it isn't...so I guess sadism is back on the table.

So, this has seriously devolved into a mishmash of begging the question, circular logic, and relying on simply having faith that god was correct.

For more in this series...

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Allah at the Gates


When a Xian dies and goes to heaven to stand in front of....Allah, what will she say?

Allah may say, "You had all the evidence you needed to choose to believe in me, so I'm banishing you to hell for your choice to not believe. Suffer eternally for your bad choices, you vile infidel."

Would the Xians here find this to be fair, just, etc? Would you all shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh well, I chose to believe wrong and I guess I deserve hell for it?"

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

It's a Miracle!


If Xian miracles are supposed to compel me to believe in Yahweh, why should I (and presumably Xians) not believe in Allah due to this purported miracle?

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Threats and a Dialog


A dialog:

Consumer (C)
Boat Vendor (BV)

BV: (Pointing to an empty space) Buy this boat.
C: What boat? There's no boat to be found.
BV: Well, I don't actually have anything to show you, but I have a book that was written long ago about people who saw the boat and think it's great.
C: Which people? How do you know they are telling the truth, how do you know the report is accurate?
BV: It just is. You should buy this boat, because if you don't, you'll die a horrible death.
C: So, all you have for evidence is a book of questionable authenticity?
BV: Well, you've just gotta believe me that this boat exists. Now, give me some money and you can have it.
C: How do I even know this boat is going to work as planned? Maybe it has holes in it, maybe it'll sink.
BV: It won't sink, it's made of flat steel planks.
C: But, flat steel planks don't float.
BV: If you believe hard enough they will.
C: So, I'm supposed to believe in this boat that you have no evidence for, that you describe as something that won't work, and I'm supposed to buy this from you with no assurance that it'll work or that it actually exists.
BV: If you don't, you'll die a horrible death.
C: I think I'll pass.

Later that night, BV blows up the local dam and floods the town killing C.

Did C ask for the dam to be blown up and be drowned? Did C ask to die horribly by not buying the boat? Isn't this extortion? Would anyone agree that BV's actions here are moral, just, or good? Then, why would we use those descriptors when god essentially takes BV's place in the story.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Defending Genocide (Part III) - What about the Children?


So, what about the children? When the Israelites went a-slaughterin', they also killed all the children. What does our apologist have to say?
Small children did not share the guilt of their parents.

No, but god had them share the same fate anyway.
The Bible describes small children as not knowing right from wrong (Is 7:15-16) [ed. note, this passage is a reference to Immanuel, not children in general], and in some cases, this meant that they were spared the earthly punishment their elders received.

Which is pure conjecture. There's nothing about an age of accountability in the Bible.
The Bible also clearly teaches that one person is not held guilty for another's sin (Ezek 18). Therefore, the children who were killed would not face the same punishment in the afterlife as their parents.

O Rly?

Tell that to all the descendants of Adam and Eve (all of us) who are held as sinful by nature because of their actions. And, let's not forget Ex. 20:5 and 34:7, Deut. 5:9, 23:2, and 28:18, Num. 14:18, 1 Sam. 3:12-13, 2 Sam. 12:14-15, etc.
Why were the children killed, if they weren't guilty? Apparently, they were considered as morally neutral, since they weren't yet old enough to be held accountable or to have done much right or wrong. While not as corrupt as their parents, they were part of the society that was judged, and shared its earthly (though not its eternal) fate.

Again, there's no support for an age of accountability in the Bible.
Couldn't the children have died painlessly?

One would think so...I'm betting the answer from our "loving" god is, "No."
Why didn't God translate the children into heaven instead of having them die by the sword? Since the children lived in a world affected by sin, they faced its earthly consequences (Rom 5:12-14).

And, here is where we blame the victims. The Earthly consequences that the children had to face (brutal death) were imposed by god himself. So, the argument here is that god was fine in doing this because he set up the world to require this brutal death and then carried it out. And, somehow it's the humans caught in his sadism that are to blame?
Only a few righteous people were translated into heaven, namely Enoch (Gen 5:24, Heb 11:5) and Elijah (2 Ki 2:11). As noted above, since the children had not shown themselves to be righteous, they were not spared the common fate of death.

Sorry to all the newborns, but you haven't acted like a saint yet. Oh, so sorry.
It's worth noting that being killed with a sword (perhaps beheaded) was at the time one of the quickest ways for the children to die (as opposed to suffocation/strangulation, starvation, disease or being torn apart by wild animals - see Ex 23:28-29).

Oh, so that makes it OK?

And, this raises quite a few problems. If killing children is good because they get to go to heaven, then why is abortion or infanticide considered bad? Why would the author claim that god was enraged at child sacrifice if it sent those children to heaven? Why would god be enraged by them killing children if he was going to kill them anyway (possible answer is that he was mad that the humans killed the children before he had a chance to).

And, how is that fair, equitable, or just to kill children before they have a chance to sin? For all of us who have grown beyond the age of accountability, we all have sinned and now need salvation. Children that die early get to go straight to heaven without the chance of sinning and ending up eternally tormented in hell.

Finally, does this excuse god's actions? Either it does, but then god is convicted on other accounts (unfairly sending others to hell) or it does not. I actually lean to the latter, because he still ordered the Israelis to put children to the sword. He couldn't do it himself, no he had to have others do his dirty work, using pain and violence when he could have snapped his fingers and avoided pain, evil, and violence. god is still not absolved of his crimes against humanity.

Other posts in this series...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Howard Unruh - Murderer and Xian


Last week, Howard Unruh died at the ripe old age of 88 after 60 years of incarceration. For those who don't know who Mr. Unruh was, he went on a shooting spree in 1949 that killed 13 people in Camden, NJ. He had been in WWII and then came home to live with his mother. He often went with her to St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church and frequently read his Bible according to people who knew him. Apparently, he made a list of people he wanted to target, people that he felt were persecuting and belittling him, "that they were thinking of him as a homosexual." After the shootings, a search of his room turned up "700 cartridges, a book called the Shooter's Bible (he had used the building's basement for target practice) and a New Testament." [emphasis mine]

Yup, you can't be moral without god.

(note: All quotes taken from The Globe and Mail obituary report of Oct. 21.)

Friday, 23 October 2009

Armstrong and the Not-god


I recently happened to read an interview with Karen Armstrong that brought up some questions that I've had in the past, but not asked. For anyone who doesn't know Ms. Armstrong, she's "perhaps the world's best-known living writer on religion." So, what does she say? She says things like this:
Then came Newton. Newton is unable to think mythically. He claimed that the intricacy of the solar system required the existence of an intelligent being as creator that provided scientific proof for the God of the Bible. He said this being is clearly omniscient, omnipotent, massively powerful and obviously very well versed in mechanics and geometry.

Hitherto, people had said the natural world can't lead us to God. It can make us inspired. It can make us look and wonder. But it can't give us detailed information about God.

That's interesting, considering many believers claim that things like fine tuning and the world around us somehow constitute evidence for god. Or, take this:
You cannot think of God as a creator in a literal way: whoops-here's-a-robin kind of thing. God is not another being. So to ask, “Is there a God who created the world?” is a misnomer.

God is not a sort of thing. We can't say there's a God, as though he's an item in a species. God is the all. God is being itself, St. Thomas Aquinas says. Ipsum esse subsistens.

It's a misnomer to ask if there's a god who created the world? Huh?

Ms. Armstrong also tends to argue that the "New Atheists" are totally wrong, because no one actually believes in a real god that created the world, etc. etc. etc., and arguing against that is arguing against what Xians don't believe. Her god is some mystical force or something that simply is and doesn't really do anything. So, my question is this - does this describe what the Xian commenters here actually think about their god?
You can't feel God any more than you can think God.

I don't know many Xians that would say that.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Coming Together for Bigotry


I've said many times that we always see splintering of religious sects into more sects as people's ideas of god come into conflict and there's no way of telling who is right and who is wrong. Well, we may be seeing a case (perhaps the first) of two religions coming together.

It seems that the Catholic church has offered a chance for the Anglicans to come back to them, but not just any Anglicans:
[The pope's] plan announced Tuesday to welcome disaffected Anglicans means he will help an estimated half-million members of Christianity's third-largest sect disappear – Anglicans who have stuck to the flanks of their church like the boils of Job, rejecting its stance on issues like ordaining women priests and blessing gay unions but ecclesiastically having nowhere else to call home.

IOW, they've decided to set their differences aside so that they can unite in bigotry against women and gays!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Defending Genocide (Part II)


In the last installment I tackled the idea that the genocide of god was done as punishment for things like child sacrifice. The real reason for it was punishment for disbelief or belief in the wrong god. One can't very well obey god (which is really what god seems to be after) if one doens't believe in him.

So, let's continue where we left off. The next section talks about whether there were innocent adults.
Sadly, these were few and far between. If people grow up in a culture that accepts things like murder and rape, very few will listen to their conscience and go against what everyone else says. Children learn wrong things from their parents and the surrounding culture; as they mature, they become part of the culture and perpetuate it by participating in it and passing on its teachings to their children.

Yet, we know that societies don't tend to function that way. Some societies are more permissive than others, but societies that are free-for-alls of murder and rape don't survive. Why? Because they kill themselves off. It's why humans (and our animal cousins) are still around as social animals. And, worse yet, it's hard to make generalizations like this stick. Does the author really think that this would be the case, especially after the next paragraph where this person implies that righteous people do exist in societies that god doesn't agree with?
However, those who were righteous were spared from the destruction. In the destruction of Jericho, Rahab and her family were spared because she feared God and chose to help the Israelites (Josh 2:1-21, 6:22-25). Before the Amalekites were destroyed, their righteous neighbors were warned to move away (1 Sam 15:5-6). God promised not to destroy Sodom if there were but ten righteous people in the city (Gen 18:22-32), and in a later judgment against Jerusalem, promised to forgive the city if one righteous person was found in it (Jer 5:1).

OK, so let's talk about Rahab (the prostitute), shall we? In the passages cited, it's obvious that she's doing this because she's afraid. We can't really make any moral judgements on her because she's not given us a moral position. She's simply being pragmatic and trying to save her family. In fact, she has to lie in order to defend the spies, an immoral thing to do according to an absolute moral standard. All she's really done is helped god in his quest for blood, which apparently is "righteous" and worth being spared. Of course, she's left homeless and penniless, but she's alive with her family, right?

Do we want to talk about Kenites? I'm sure they were fully righteous people, right? I'm sure none of their adults were guilty of not being righteous, but god spares them because he has a personal grudge against Amalek's tribe. This isn't about righteous punishment (an idea that could be argued to be an oxymoron) but about settling a grudge.

Should we talk about Sodom and Gomorrah? god had to be convinced not to wipe out the "righteous" people by Abraham. Instead of showing god's mercy or justice, it's an example of a human showing god how to be (more) moral and just. And, for Jerusalem, he goes ahead and finds everyone guilty anyway.

But, there's a larger thing going on here, and that is a circular reasoning. god decides who is righteous and they are righteous because god decided they are. So, if god wipes you out, then that means you weren't righteous, and you're righteous if god doesn't wipe you out. It's OK for god to commit genocide because he gets to decide whether it's OK or not, and it has nothing at all to do with morality. We can look at the story of Lot again to see this in action. Lot offers up his daughters to the men outside his door, which can't be defended as moral (except to a society that thinks of women as property). Yet, Lot is supposedly righteous according to god. Of course the angels didn't search the whole city to find if anyone else would have helped them (nor did the spies in the case of Rahab - apparently just finding one person that is willing to help you means that you've found all the people that would be willing) but because god said so, it somehow becomes right, just, and good. Well, sorry, but that doesn't cut it.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Alpha Course Dissected


I've been reading a series of posts on the Alpha Course, which seems to be Britain's analog to the Way of the Master crap that Ray Comfort puts out. So far, I'm up to week seven, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the write-ups of the courses and the interactions. So, I thought I would pass it along. I would recommend that both atheists and theists take a look at this, as many of the unanswered atheist arguments spring up here, and the theists inevitably fail to provide anything approaching a compelling answer.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Defending Genocide (Part I)


About a month ago, Ebonmuse had a great post talking about how Xians invariably have to try and defend genocide in defending their god. In it, Ebonmuse touched on three different sites that try to do just that, but he didn't go into depth on each one. I did look at those sites, however, and what he presented was only the tip of the iceberg. So, I endeavored to give these sites a more detailed fisking. Now that my computer is not blown up anymore, I can get into it, so here's part I.

The first site I'll be looking at is called Rational Christianity, although I have a feeling that I won't find a lot of reason there. As example number one, it starts right out with a bang:
The primary reason was punishment for wrongdoing. The populations of the destroyed cities had long histories of grievous sins (Gen 15:16, Dt 25:17-19), which often included sacrificing their children to false gods (Dt 12:29-31).

Hmmm, I'm tempted to point out a few stories here. First, god commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and he is ready, willing, and able to do so. The only reason he doesn't follow through is because god stays his hand at the last second. Let's also not forget the story of Jephthah in Judges 29..

Finally, the whole Xian myth is based upon god performing a sacrifice of his own child in Jesus. It seems that the sin wouldn't have been child sacrifice so much as doing it to the wrong god. Apparently, having faith in the wrong god is grounds to have your whole entire culture wiped out? Sorry, but this does not justify wholesale slaughter, especially for a god that has other means and ability to carry out those means, and is supposedly omni-benevolent.

In later parts, I'll examine some other apologies that Xians have used to try and defend this heinous act.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Truth vs. Safety?


The Bible is not a nice book. Beyond all the atrocities of the old testament (rape, slavery, genocide, misogyny, war, murder, animal sacrifice) the new testament is supposedly better. Yet, what we find is not much in the way of condoning the old testament and the addition of hell, the idea that we are all deserving of infinite torture, and human/god sacrifice.

Yet, most modern Xians today will say that the Bible is a wonderful book, filled with peace and love and all kinds of great moral lessons. I can only surmise that they are selectively reading both in which passages they read and how they interpret them (as there's no good way to spin genocide and those other things listed above). So, we are left with a serious disconnect between what people believe their holy book is about and what it's really about.

Well, maybe I've got it all wrong, right? Maybe it's all about peace and love and all that. Surely Xians have been peaceful and loving due to their Bible for the last 2000 years, right? Well, no, that's not right. It's only recently that this idea of the Bible as being a book about peace and love has been in fashion. Certainly early Xians didn't think this way, nor did Xians who participated in such things as the Crusades, Witch trials, the Inquisition, or even those Xians who participate in today's organizations like the KKK or any other white power movement. For them, the Bible could only be said to be about peace and love once you're done eradicating all non-Xians.

Still, many Xians do hold this new view of a more peaceful scripture and presumably a subset of them will act more peacefully due to it. We've seen what rampant hate among a Xian majority can wreak in terms of havoc, and while we still see problems from the Xian majority trying to unduly influence others, this idea of a peaceful Xianity seems to have a dampening effect. So, my question is, should we embrace this and push more Xians to act in accordance with peace, or should we lay out the evil that is contained within the Bible and proclaim the truth?

I can see benefits to both sides. As I talked about above, a more secure lifestyle for non-Xians is a desired goal, and if Xians think that their religion should allow for this, it would be beneficial to us not to stop them. Of course, the downside is that the irrationality of the belief system will be seen as even more acceptable and more congruent with morality, which would be a serious drawback for actual morality.

On the flip side of things, truth is its own reward. We should be truthful and honest, and help Xians see how vile and evil their beliefs/scriptures really are. Yes, if some Xians succumb to that and actually become more vile and evil, it will be detrimental, but I happen to believe that other Xians may wake up and see their religion for what it is. They may throw off the shackles of irrational and outdated thoughts and help us to drag ourselves out of immorality and irrationality.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Religion vs. Xianity?


Why do some Xians insist that they don't belong to a "religion" but have a "personal relationship" with Jesus instead? The very definition of religion seems to indicate that all Xians are part of a religion:
religion [ri-lij-uhn]
noun
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.



I've been told that it is an attempt to bypass the negative connotations of the word "religion" but I simply don't buy that. In this country (the US) there are no negative connotations to the word religion, and there certainly isn't any in the dictionary definition.

Is this an attempt to somehow claim that their beliefs are more valid or more special than the mundane beliefs of "religions?" Does anyone know why some Xians claim they aren't part of a religion?

Monday, 5 October 2009

What is a True Xian?


Most Xians that one talks to have no trouble identifying who is a True Xian and who is not. So, maybe some of the Xian commenters and readers here can give us all a definition of what a True Xian is. So, let's hear some definitions.

What I don't want to see is something like this, "A Xian is one who is Christ-like," because that's not very descriptive.

So, have at it.

PS - For those wondering where I've been, I had a hard drive failure which incapacitated my computer for a while (prolly too much pron and baby eating recipes!) Hopefully I'll be back with regularity now.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Too Good


OK, this video is simply too good not to share. Enjoy. (Note: NSFW due to language.)

Monday, 31 August 2009

Do you Have Enough Faith?


Many apologetics have sprung up to explain away the passages in the Bible that declare that those who pray will get what they ask for - in light of the fact that this seems to not be demonstrably true. In a previous post I give the passages in question and I took on the apologetic excuse that god only answers prayers that are concurrent with his will. There are other excuses though, and one commenter continually decided to try and harp on one (even though I explicitly stated that the OP was about a different argument). I've also previously argued against other apologetics, like the argument that prayers are answered, but on god's timeline and that Jesus was only empowering the specific people he spoke to (although the latter one does not deal with this verse specifically, it's good enough for the purpose of dispelling any notions that the issue has been dealt with).

Never-the-less, I decided that perhaps I should deal with the others. So, this post will focus on the apologetic tactic of trying to interpret the phrase, "If ye have faith." This argument from the apologist focuses on the conditional phrase that is uttered in Matthew 21:21
Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

So, the obvious tactic here is to claim that Jesus was not incorrect, and that those prayers that are not answered are coming from people who don't have faith - which is generally interpreted to be not having enough faith or not having the right kind of faith. How convenient - and how very post hoc. This allows the Xian to claim after the fact that an "answered" prayer fit the description and a "non-answered" prayer did not. It's the same as painting a bulls-eye around an arrow that has already been shot.

Yet, it still falls apart under investigation, as no Xians claim to have 100% success rate for prayer (that I know of at least). If any do claim this, then we only need to have them pray for something immediate (like the regrowth of an amputated arm for instance) to test and see if this person can validate their success rate claim. Invariably it will fail.

Also, this is nothing more than the no true Scotsman fallacy, writ large. I can imagine someone saying, "True Xians have their prayers answered, so if a prayer is not answered, then the Xian in question is not a true Xian." It's fallacious though, no matter how you slice it. Once again, we see apologetics that fail to answer the objections brought forth.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

The pope is an Idiot


Apparently, the pope is now saying that atheists are to blame for global warming. Well, to be fair, I'm not even sure he believes in global warming, and he never actually says those words. He simply blames atheists for ruining the Earth. Remember, this is the same guy who also claimed that condoms are making the AIDS epidemic worse in Africa.

Now, apparently, atheists are greedy people who are destroying the Earth because we're all a bunch of nihilists...or something. I think the rebuttal in the second paragraph is pretty good:
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, commented: “This is rich coming from the leader of an organisation that has plundered the world to enrich itself. As he sits in his golden palaces, surrounded by unimaginable luxury and material wealth, he lectures the rest of us about restraint and greed. We have nothing to learn about environmentalism from this hypocrite.”

I mean, is the pope really that idiotic as to not know that the Bible gives dominion over the Earth to humans to do with as we please? That most Xians believe that we don't have the ability to destroy god's favored creation? That the Bible has been and still is used to justify the raping of the Earth and its resources and that religious people tend to be the ones most likely to deny that climate change is happening?

Thursday, 27 August 2009


There was a recent comment on Robert's blog defending the actions of those who get overly sensitive and moan and complain about the existence of atheists. In the comment, the Xian accuses atheists of condoning eternal damnation.

Excuse me? Which atheists have ever said that the concept of hell is not only real, but have condoned it? Which atheists say that if god sends people to hell, then it's a good thing?

On the contrary, it is Xians who defend this action. It is Xians who claim that god sending people to hell is good and righteous. It is Xians that defend the abhorrent torture that god inflicts on people that aren't worthy enough of bestowing his grace upon. Atheists aren't condoning torture, Xians are - every time they defend the actions of their maniacal, ruthless, sadistic god.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Prayer vs. god's Will


The Bible claims in a few places that whatever one prays for, god will answer that prayer. For example:
Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Or maybe this one (although one could argue that it's specifically talking about asking for god to show himself, but that's a bad argument to make since it's demonstrably not true):
Luke 11:9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread[d] from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Or maybe this one does it for you:
Matthew 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

For the Xian, these passages are troublesome for the obvious reason that prayer is rather ineffective. It is obviously not true that whatever one asks for, one receives. So, they have to conjure up reasons for why this is not so. I want to focus on one of those reasons, which is the idea that god only does what is according to his will, so the prayer must be in accord with god's will for it to be carried out.

And, in response to that, I have to say that it's a rather spectacularly bad argument.

First, the text does not give mention that what one prays for must be in accordance with god's will. Secondly, having to pray for things that god is going to do anyway completely negates the idea that prayer does anything at all. If the apologist is right, then prayer is completely ineffective, since one must first ask for something that was going to happen anyway, since it was part of god's will. The prayer has no effect since everything that happens was always a part of god's will or it wasn't. So, in trying to save the efficacy of prayer, the apologist has thrown it out the window and hoped that no one would notice. But, drastic measures must be taken when your beliefs do not agree with reality I suppose.

What is Heaven?


So, what is heaven? Are there any Xians who would like to step up and lay out a definition for it that makes sense? How is eternal bliss possible? How can one be eternally blissful while others are suffering in hell? How is it possible for one to retain one's free will (which is impossible anyway if god is omni-max) and there be no evil, yet that's not possible on Earth?

The concept of heaven is simply not well thought out. The extent of the thinking has generally been on the order of simply gaining some sort of reward for currying god's favor, and as a counter point to hell. Hell, on the other hand, has been well imagined by various authors and laypeople alike, but not so with heaven. This is because no conception of heaven makes sense. Maybe some theists here can prove me wrong?

Friday, 21 August 2009

Drunken Monkeys


I'm back, but not fully, so I thought that I would share an interesting video on monkeys and their drinking habits. Notice how alike they are to humans, especially the percentages of binge drinkers, moderate drinkers, and teetotalers.

I also wanted to share part of an essay by Sam Harris, wherein he speaks about animal behavior:

And just how widespread must “glimmerings” of morality be among other animals before [Francis] Collins—who, after all, knows a thing or two about genes—begins to wonder whether our moral sense has evolutionary precursors in the natural world? What if mice showed greater distress at the suffering of familiar mice than unfamiliar ones? (They do.[11]) What if monkeys will starve themselves to prevent their cage-mates from receiving painful shocks? (They will.[12]) What if chimps have a demonstrable sense of fairness when receiving food rewards? (They might.[13]) Wouldn’t these be precisely the sorts of findings one would expect if our morality were the product of evolution?

...

11 Langford DJ, Crager SE, Shehzad Z, Smith SB, Sotocinal SG, et al. (2006) Social modulation of pain as evidence for empathy in mice. Science 312: 1967-1970. ↩

12 Masserman JH, Wechkin S, Terris W (1964) “Altruistic” Behavior in Rhesus Monkeys. Am J Psychiatry 121: 584-585. ↩

13 Our picture of chimp notions of fairness is somewhat muddled. There is no question that they notice inequity, but they do not seem to care if they profit from it. Brosnan SF (2008) How primates (including us!) respond to inequity. Adv Health Econ Health Serv Res 20: 99-124. Jensen K, Call J, Tomasello M (2007) Chimpanzees are rational maximizers in an ultimatum game. Science 318: 107-109. Jensen K, Hare B, Call J, Tomasello M (2006) What’s in it for me? Self-regard precludes altruism and spite in chimpanzees. Proc Biol Sci 273: 1013-1021. Silk JB, Brosnan SF, Vonk J, Henrich J, Povinelli DJ, et al. (2005) Chimpanzees are indifferent to the welfare of unrelated group members. Nature 437: 1357-1359. Brosnan SF, Schiff HC, de Waal FB (2005) Tolerance for inequity may increase with social closeness in chimpanzees. Proc Biol Sci 272: 253-258.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Administrativa

Due to a medical emergency, I won't be able to post for a few days. Hopefully I'll be back soon to point out more problems with theism and Xianity.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Shelter


Xians are constantly amazed that we don't believe in their gods, further they are similarly amazed that we don't worship their god. Color me amazed that anyone would worship such a god as theirs. This is a god that has killed almost all of humanity simply because he couldn't think of a better way to make them behave. This is a god that sends people to hell for eternal torment and torture simply because he can't think of a better way to punish people for finite crimes or a better way to handle their souls after they die. This is a god that visit vile plagues upon people with pestilence and death simply because he needs to show off.

And, what does the Xian apologist do by defending this god? The Xian apologist is basically defending genocide, rape, murder, torture, etc. How can people actually defend this type of behavior? How can people provide shelter to an entity that would engage in this type of behavior? How can people actually decide that we should look up to this type of behavior with reverence and worship it?

I think most Xians are better than that, and I think that most Xians should really look at the holy book they hold with such reverence. They should understand that defending this god is defending a monster that visits the worst crimes imaginable upon the people that he supposedly loves. Even if this god did create us all, it doesn't make it right, as might does not make right. So, this is an open call to all Xians. Stop. Stop defending torture. Stop defending genocide. Stop defending murder. Start defending humans and humanity.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A Rather Fragile Ego


Dr. Dembski's Course at SWBTS

AP410 This is the undegrad course. You have three things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 40% of your grade); (2) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 40% of your grade); (3) provide at least 10 posts defending ID that you’ve made on “hostile” websites, the posts totalling 2,000 words, along with the URLs (i.e., web links) to each post (worth 20% of your grade).

AP510 This is the masters course. You have four things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 30% of your grade); (2) write a 1,500- to 2,000-word critical review of Francis Collins’s The Language of God -- for instructions, see below (20% of your grade); (3) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 30% of your grade); (4) provide at least 10 posts defending ID that you’ve made on “hostile” websites, the posts totalling 3,000 words, along with the URLs (i.e., web links) to each post (worth 20% of your grade).

AP810 This is the D.Min. course. You have four things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 30% of your grade); (2) write a 1,500- to 2,000-word critical review of Francis Collins’s The Language of God -- for instructions, see below (20% of your grade); (3) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 30% of your grade); (4) develop a Sunday-school lesson plan based on the book Understanding Intelligent Design (worth 20% of your grade).


This is simply pathetic. Many creationists claim that students are indoctrinated with evolution, yet here, we can clearly see what indoctrination is about. Dembski is basing grades on whether the students go and proselytize his theological ideas on "hostile" websites. Are you kidding me? And, does anyone doubt that the "theological significance of intelligent design" better be that it's the greatest thing since sliced bread and that when he asks for a critical book review what he means is that he wants them to be critical of Collins? (Note: I'm no fan of Collins, but to basically instruct your students to pan the guy is pretty low.)

Funny thing is that at SWBTS, Dembski is pretty likely to end up having students that are devotees of Answers in Genesis which as an organization is lukewarm to ID. But, the real question is, is Dembski's ego so fragile that he has to force his students to suck up to him like that? I think the answer is, yes.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Preferential Treatment


Today I saw a phenomenon that I'm sure many of you have seen as well. Passing by a church, there were tons of cars illegally parked on the street, choking down traffic and making it more dangerous to drive that particular street. Except, on Sunday, it's not illegal. Here, we have the city that I live in changing the rules specifically for churches and giving preferential treatment.

Of course, it's not just my city, but it happens all over the country. Cities and towns, counties and districts, parishes, etc. - they all give special treatment to churches to facilitate parking in illegal manners simply because it is Sunday. In Washington DC, for instance, it gets so bad that cars completely block roads, and the city turns a blind eye. This is special treatment, and it violates the separation of church and state, because cities would not be so kind to other, non-religious or secular groups wanting the same treatment.

The kicker of it is that this particular church is surrounded by a very large lot of land that is beautifully manicured. In fact, they could put a parking lot on their land that would house most of the cars, at least. Those cars could also park legally on side streets or in a public lot that is only 2 blocks away or so. There are options besides creating a more dangerous road for other drivers and giving special treatment to a specific group from a specific religion.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Reality


I've noticed a certain trend amongst many Xians that debate, and that is to simply disregard anything that contradicts their view and/or assert the opposite and claim that they are right by default. For instance, if one claims the Bible has contradictions, they simply claim it does not and nothing you do can counter that. If you show them the evidence for evolution, they simply claim that what they believe is true because it's true and your evidence doesn't count for anything.

I attribute this to a weird belief that one's beliefs are more important and more compelling than reality or real world data. If real world data conflicts with their beliefs, they simply discard the data. They hold their beliefs up to be the best data that there is. Their beliefs are incontrovertible, they are true no matter what, etc.

Yet, reality does not operate that way. It doesn't matter how hard you believe that you can breathe in space unaided, it ain't gonna happen. It doesn't matter how hard you believe you can fly unaided like a bird, it ain't gonna happen. I think most theists accept these two facts. So, why does the theist believe that this doesn't hold when it comes to their personal god beliefs? That, I don't know. I wish I did. Anyone have any hypotheses?

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Terrorism


ter⋅ror⋅ism
  /ˈtɛrəˌrɪzəm/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [ter-uh-riz-uhm] Show IPA

–noun
1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

Let's see, god tells us to obey or we will be tortured for eternity. Check. He tells his followers to go out and threaten others in his name. Check. Some even go so far as to claim that they do not need to follow the government of this land as they follow only god. Check.

god is a terrorist and Xianity could be classified a terrorist movement. Discuss.