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


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.