Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Rational Assumptions

How often have you heard the following sort of argument - "Given my assumptions, it's perfectly rational to believe in Xianity (or insert any religion here as YMMV)."

But, is that really true? I mean, using this as a guideline, anything could be considered rational if one uncritically accepts certain assumptions.

I simply have to have the right assumptions, like that unicorns exist, and they are invisible because they are magical creatures and can do things like that. I'll also assume that they don't love us, and would like to see us enslaved. I'll also assume that they have an unhealthy obsession with humping other animals and are big fans of genetic manipulation, yet lack the ability to use test tubes (due to having hooves instead of opposable thumbs) so they have to use eugenics instead of manipulating genes.

Given these assumptions, it's rational to believe that invisible alien unicorns are secretly infiltrating petting zoos all across the nation and having sex with the animals in a secret eugenics-type program in order to breed animals that will rise up and overthrow their tyrannical human overlords and install the unicorns as leaders of this bountiful planet.

The problem, of course, is that uncritically accepting assumptions that are unsupported is not rational. So, the acceptance of irrational assumptions puts the final conclusion also in the irrational category. Therefore, it simply is not rational to believe in god, especially due to the irrational assumptions that are required in order to do so.

Sunday, 28 June 2009


Recently, PZ Myers linked to an article about a Texas town that had adopted "Heaveno" as a substitute greeting for "Hello." I don't think he realized that the article was from 1997.

But, I got to wondering whatever happened to that. So, I did some digging.

First, I found an informative website that shows (besides the cheesy graphics) the background behind the greeting (gets it wrong), the resolution that was adopted, a proclamation to the guy who started the whole idea there, and the proposal that started it all. Still, there was nothing in there about what happened after the adoption of "Heaveno." I had to make some calls.

A call to the mayor's office went unanswered. When I got through to the County Clerk's office, the woman I spoke to stated that no one actually says it. A call to the County Parks and Recreation department was met with the same information. I next called the library, thinking that they might be able to shed some light, and I spoke to a nice man who told me that it was no more than a passing fad. At the time, some people did say it, but not for very long, and it never really caught on. Now, he informed me, no one says it.

(As a humorous aside, I said, "I suppose old habits die hard." His reply was that they don't like change down in Texas.)

The nice man at the library suggested I call the Kingsville, TX Chamber of Commerce. So, I did. Alas, there was no additional information to be found there. I think I have to conclude that "Heaveno" really was just a fad, and the citizens rightly have thrown it onto the dustbin of bad ideas.

I do want to state that everyone I talked to was very nice, very helpful, and very open and willing to speak to me. They sound like wonderful people down there and I'm glad that they don't say "Heaveno."

Friday, 26 June 2009

Intellectual Fulfillment

Most people know Dawkins' famous quote where he says, "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." Most don't know the full quote, however.
An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

There's a very important point in there that often gets overlooked, and that is that "god isn't a good explanation." Yet, this is not what most people claim. The claim that one runs into more often than not is that before Darwin (and even after Darwin) religion has had a good answer to such "why" questions as, "Why are we here?" Religion also supposedly helps us to answer questions about our origins. Rubbish.

In fact, I don't think Dawkins goes far enough here, implying that "goddidit" was an answer before Hume showed how inadequate it was. "goddidit" has never been an answer for anything. In response to how we got here (origins) claiming that some magic entity simply did it is no response at all. It's a guess, and a bad one. Similarly, answering the why are we here question with "Because god made it so," is no better than simply saying, "Because." The only purpose of such "answers" is to placate people who are not inquisitive enough to insist that magic is not a sufficient answer.

So, this leaves me wondering, when will theists have a chance to be intellectually fulfilled?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Who Is god?

So, who is god? I think I've figured it out.

god is omnipresent. This means that he comes from no country, and therefore is international by definition - much to the chagrin of some fundies who think god is 'Merican.

The Bible tells us that god is a "he." So, god is a man.

We also know from the Bible that god is mysterious. Don't try to understand him, you can't hope to.

So, to sum up, god is an international man of mystery.

Austin Powers is the international man of mystery. Therefore, god is Austin Powers.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Obey Jesus

In the OT, god makes a lot of hay about how the number one rule, as far as god is concerned, is not to be a good person or do good things, not to treat your fellow human well, not to be moral, but to obey god. It is the first commandment given of the 10 commandments, and the one that goes into the most detail. god even goes so far as to emphasize that 'obeying other gods is wrong, even looking at other gods is wrong - you must obey me, me, me!'

So, has that changed? At the very end of the book of Matthew (Matt. 28:19-20), are we left with a commandment to love one another? No. Are we left with a commandment to be good or moral or perform moral acts? No. We are told to proselytize and make sure that everyone obeys god. god is reminding all that the number one priority is to obey him.

Well, we can see the obvious problems with this. When someone claims that god is telling them to drown their children or push them into traffic (both have happened) the "rational" response for a Xian that believes that god is to be obeyed above all is to go ahead and do it. What a monstrous theology.

Note to all apologists that will claim that god would never order such a thing:
1. You can't provide evidence that your conception of a god that could not do such things is correct.
2. Your god has ordered the killings of children before, including ordering fathers to slay/sacrifice their children, so we have a past history of this.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Why "A-theism?"

So, some theists think they are really clever when they use the following argument:

"Atheism is stupid/weird/wrong/etc. because you're only defining yourself by what you aren't, and you wouldn't have to do that if there weren't a god."

Or, some variant on that. So, let me say right now, it's not clever nor is it witty or original.

Let's look at a different example, shall we? Books that are written about real subjects or real events (books that describe reality, like science texts, etc.) are called "non-fiction." Why would we define books about reality by what they aren't, books that are made up? You wouldn't have to do that if those made up books weren't really about real stuff, would you?

The sad fact is that theism is a real phenomena, there are people who believe in gods and the supernatural. It's a quirk of our culture and our language that we identify those that don't hold such superstitions to be a-theistic, just as we hold that books that aren't made up are non-fictional. The terms and usage only show that theists exist, not that god exists.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

goddidit Morality

One of the most repeated mantras in the apologist's arsenal* is that atheism can not explain morality. This is, of course, not true, as we can point to the behavior of other animals, reason, etc. But, for this post, I wanted to turn the question around and point out the "goddidit" doesn't really explain morality either. How does one explain morality from the theist's perspective?

We often take it for granted that religion is an explanation for things like morality, but we end up really explaining nothing. One issue that we find is Euthyphro's dilemma which is still a thorny issue for theists. But, that still doesn't explain morality.

Did god simply put morality into us? Is that why most of us seemingly have innate moral feelings and do not murder? This, of course, for the Xian contradicts not only free will, but the idea that we are sinners.

Does god create the moral laws that we follow? Some might argue that god gives us our moral laws, and therefore morality is explained, but it really doesn't explain morality. The other issue with that is that god has given us faulty laws if one reads the Bible. Why would a perfect being with perfect morals intentionally give us less than perfect guidelines for moral behavior? Wouldn't that be immoral and thus self-refuting?

In summary, I find no reason to simply accept "goddidit" as a sufficient accounting of morals and moral behavior. It has to be fleshed out more and the inherent contradictions need to be explained and accounted for.

*"Arsenal" is a rather weird word to use for such an impotent set of arguments, but I could not think of a better word...

Friday, 5 June 2009

Greetings From the Afterlife

So, some of you may have noticed that I haven't blogged in a while. That's because I died. Well, that and it took a while for the paperwork to go through in my new afterlife residence in order to secure my internet connection and get me an incorporeal computer to use. But, that's all been squared away, and I'm able to post again.

So, you must want to know what the afterlife is all about, right? I was rather surprised that there was one at all. When I met people here I asked if it was heaven. They told me, "Believe what you want, we don't care." They also have very Nordic accents for the most part. Weird.

Is there a god? Actually, I think there's several, although Odin mumbles every day about how he can't believe that people think some feller named Yahweh is god instead of him. Loki finds it to be uproariously funny though and boasts about his trick every day. I think he does it just to set Odin off.

Anyway, what other questions do you have? I'll try to answer them as best I can.