Monday, 27 April 2009
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Does absolute morality exist?
I don't know. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. What I do know is that many religious claim that it does and claim that it comes from god. But, is that the case?
Most Xians claim that god gives us our morality and that he has set up absolute morals for us to follow. god is further the absolute arbiter and perfectly moral. An easy rebuttal to this is Euthyphro's Dilemma, which points out that if morality is absolute, then why do we need god? And, if morality comes from god, then god could order that rape and torture are moral and we would have to abide. To bring this back to the idea of absolute morality, the first version would hold to it, while the second would not. Holding to absolute morality would mean that we can discern what it is independently of god, since it is an absolute that is outside of god.
For the Xian, however, this simply will not do. How can our morals not come from god? One potential answer has been given to Euthyphro's Dilemma in that morality is not from outside of god, but simply a part of his nature. This really only moves the question back one level and doesn't really answer the question, but let's explore one way in which it ultimately fails. Let's actually look at god's nature.
Is it really the case that god's nature conforms to an absolute morality? The answer is plainly no. Apologists try endlessly to come up with ways to apologize for god's evil deeds (genocide, ordering genocide, ordering rape, etc.) as us not having all the information, but we don't need all the information if morality is absolute. Further, after god wipes out almost all life on the planet in the Noachian flood, he basically says, "My bad." If he has not done anything morally wrong, then why does he feel repentant?
This is a serious blow to the apologists assertions to having an answer to Euthyphro and the existence of absolute morality given by god. If god can not even follow his own moral rules, then god can not be absolutely moral, and the only choice we have left is that absolute morality may exist, but it exists independently of god.
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Monday, 20 April 2009
I've talked about this before, but some things need to be repeated until they sink...
I keep hearing about how science is one way of knowing about the world, while religion is another way of knowing about the world. That's a load of BS. Religion is a way of making stuff up and guessing one knows about the world, while pretending to have knowledge that one does not possess. Point of fact: we, as humans, have never learned one fact about the world through religion/prayer/revelation/etc. Not one.
Now, I'm not saying that theologians have not learned things. Sure, some theologians have learned about human behavior. But, they did not do these things by engaging in religion, but instead by engaging in scientific principles of observation and testing! We learn by doing science, not by praying, revelation, and any by making up some religious tenet (which is how they are all made anyway).
Theists, prove me wrong. Name one verifiable thing that we learned through religion. I've asked this countless times of various theists and have never gotten an answer, yet those theists always maintain that religion is a way of knowing about the world. So, my counter-question is why would anyone make that claim if they can't even give one example of something that we have learned from religion or something that we know from religion?
Saturday, 18 April 2009
If you live in England and you have been baptized, you can now un-baptize yourself.
Given that children are baptized against their will and made to be Xian (this isn't limited to Xianity either) this is something that is long overdue. OTOH, you don't really need a certificate to reject religion. In some countries, however, it appears that you really should make it known to the church. As the article points out:
According to Argentine campaigner Ariel Bellino, a former Catholic: "The church counts all those who've been baptized as Catholic and lobbies for legislation based on that number, so we're trying to convey the importance of people expressing they no longer belong to the church." Campaigners say that's particularly important in Argentina, where liberal social values frequently clash with Roman Catholic doctrine related to issues such as birth control, abstinence before marriage and homosexuality; in 2003, Buenos Aries became the first city in South America to legalize gay civil unions.
Back in Britain, Michael Evans, an atheist and former journalist who downloaded the de-baptism certificate in March, believes the Church of England claims more members than it actually has in order to shore up its influence in the secular world. "It claims to speak for the majority of people in Britain," he says.
In countries where this practice happens, it is important to make your rejection of religion known so that the church can not use your name as a number to gain influence that it does not deserve. (Let's be frank here, churches don't deserve any political influence, nor should they have any by default.)
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Try something for me. Visit a Xian blog and ask for evidence that Jesus existed that is contemporary to his life. You won't get it, but you will get a whole bunch of references to the gospels being eye witness testimonies, references to Josephus, etc. It seems that most Xians you find are blissfully unaware of the problems that abound with these sources (i.e. that the gospels were written well after the fact and not by eye witnesses, or that the writings of Josephus were later fabrications by Xians desperate to support their mythology).
This bothers me. Why is it that Xians can't be bothered to find out the facts?
Well, as it turns out, not all Xians are too lazy to look things up. Some are, and they rightly deserve to be called out on it, but some actually do look these things up. The problem is that the experts of the religion (popular apologists like Lee Strobel or William Lane Craig) uncritically assert this baloney and dupe innocent others into unwillingly passing on falsehoods. Now, either these Xian "scholars" are themselves duped or they are intentionally passing on lies.
Maybe they are themselves duped. This has become a cottage industry, the passing on of Xian lore, the upkeep of the religion. The old "scholarship" of Xian "scholars" that declared these things doesn't get purged because people simply want it to be true. So, even the modern "scholars" have been duped and brought in, and they can't be bothered to look outside of their own interests to find out what the reality is.
Or, maybe they simply like their position of power or their ability to sell books to an ever-eager audience that so desperately wants Xianity to be true and to be historically supported. There's lots of reasons why they would intentionally seek to mislead the masses.
That the options come down to deceit or simply incompetence or laziness does not speak well of the Xian "scholarly" community.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
Most people, I think, are aware that this weekend represents Easter, the time when Jesus is said to have been crucified and then rose up 3 (really 2) days later. (Brains...brains...) The whole idea is that god sacrificed his son in order to allow us to be saved. So, let's look at this idea for a minute here. (I won't get into the patent absurdity that god demands a sacrifice of his own son in order to convince himself to allow himself to forgive us for sins that he placed upon us...at least not in this post.)
In the OT, when people needed atonement from god, they would sacrifice an animal. The idea was that one's sins could be transferred to the animal and then burned away through the act of offering a gift to the god. By the time of the early Xians, this practice apparently wasn't enough. The story of Jesus represents what is essentially a human/god sacrifice. Although Jesus is said to have risen again, the whole point of the story is that Jesus had to endure pain and suffering and death - all on our behalf. This is nothing more than the old idea of transferring one's sins to another vessel as atonement through sacrifice writ large.
Bottom line: Xianity is built on a human sacrifice. Now, why would we believe that such barbarism is worthy of our worship or that an all-loving god would require such barbaric acts?
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Most Xians, when confronted with the evil of god, have some sort of defense mechanism that kicks in and allows them to overlook all of god's evil deeds. One of those mechanisms is to counter that atheists only focus on the evil deeds of god and unfairly forget about the good that is in the world. Does this argument have any merit?
Not really. It's actually quite simple. If god is omni-benevolent, as Xians contend, then the existence of evil is a huge problem for them. Hey, maybe god does do some good things sometimes, even maybe lots of times, but that's not what the issue is. To focus solely on the good and claim that it shows that god is good is to count the hits and ignore the misses or paint the bulls-eye around the target. If I argue against god being omni-benevolent, I don't have to show that god never performs any good act, I simply have to show that god performs evil acts. Only the most twisted mind could argue that god does not commit evil (genocide, world-wide floods, etc) so it's rather silly for apologists to cling to this idea of omni-benevolence and even sillier to complain about the atheist focusing on evil too much.
Friday, 3 April 2009
Go to just about any blog that deal with religion vs. non-religion or theism vs. atheism, and you are bound to see debate among the participants. Often we see claims that defy rationality, are suspect logically, etc, and they tend to come mostly from one side of the debate - the theistic side. Take the comments that many theists make that are critical of evolution (or "evilution" if you will) or comments where they claim to have secret knowledge of the wants and attributes of god, as if they have a secret connection to god who is telling them how much he really does hate "fags" and Muslims (in the case of some Xians at least...YMMV).
Why is this? I have an idea that it may be because many theists are taught at a young age to accept certain beliefs as true. This creates an impression that is hard to shake (as evidenced by at least one person who comments on this very site, who believes in god and Jesus, but think that they are completely vile and evil). Once one accepts that something is true, no matter what, then one can and will shape all things to fit that preconception, thus blocking out facts and evidence that does not accord with what the person already claims to know.
Should we be teaching our children these things? Famously, Richard Dawkins has taken a stand against it, saying that we should not label our children as religious or force-feed them into a specific religion, but should instead teach them about many religious and irreligious ideas and allow them to make up their own minds. He's not the only one who has advocated this, but as one of the religious right's favorite targets, he's been roundly criticized for this notion (usually by taking his argument out of context and claiming that he's advocating that which he is not).
For my part, I believe that the childhood indoctrination (and that's exactly what it is) that occurs is wrong. I believe that children have rights, and have the right to not be lied to by being told that one is privy to knowledge that one simply does not have. Children have a right not to be forced into a religion that is chosen for them simply by virtue of being born to a certain set of parents, and I believe that the numbers bear this out. The amount of people who reject evolution is staggeringly high in this country, while we see much lower totals in Europe - a region that is much more secular, and much more open about religious diversity. This is disturbing in that the indoctrinating that is happening is hampering our populace and our children and negatively impacting our country. As we fall behind other countries in scientific literacy, our place among the leaders of the world is sure to become more and more tenuous. This is a very real problem, and its effects are already being felt.
(Note: I am not saying that atheists never made illogical or bad arguments, only that they do it with a much lower frequency and that atheist arguments are more likely to be reality and/or factually based - or at least in accordance with reality and fact. Again, the evolution example speaks to this.)