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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The War of Morality

The facts surrounding disbelief were available to all for centuries. The Ancient Greeks knew the Problem of Evil. Thomas Paine wrote about the errors of the Bible. The contradictions inherent in the divine nature given to us by the Church have been pointed out for a long time by atheologians. Neo-Darwinism and Big Bang Theory have blown the beliefs about Creation wide open. While the mythicist case against "Jesus" has recently exploded, it is not new.

Given the fact that all these are well-known ideas, why do none of them, except perhaps the Problem of Evil, make any inroads in people's thinking ? Why is atheism still the "odd man out" and singled out as undesirable ?

There are many reasons for that, but I think the main reason is simple. Christianity is believed morally superior, and atheism is believed to be morally inferior. Christians are glorified and atheists are demonized.

Anyone who truly believes that his belief system is the only good one, will reject any other argument of knowledge against it. Morality is what runs the world. People devote themselves to evil causes because they honestly believe they are doing good work. Positions with zero facts supporting them attract people simply because they were bamboozled into believing that the position is good.

And most atheists are too busy explaining facts endlessly to realize that. Atheists make the case again and again that Christianity is irrational, but not that it is immoral or that belief is immoral. In fact, they try to suppress attempts by other atheists to point out that fact, because they want to be "tolerent". As I said in a previous entry, tolerence is a fine idea in a rational society, but leaves one defenseless against extreme immorality.

Now look at Ingersoll. He was the most admired atheist in history, and he did not hesitate to rail against the immorality of Christianity. He was a man with the bravery to state the facts, and he got people's attention. The idea of such bravery today, in the United States anyway, is incredible. If Ingersoll lived today and gave public speeches like he did, atheists today would complain about him, just like atheists complain about Dawkins.

The closest I can think of, in the United States, is Sam Harris and his book The End of Faith. We need more Sam Harrises.

People did not argue for science on the basis that it would improve agriculture by this or that percent, or produce this many books. They argued for the scientific method on the basis that it was the only good way to know reality. People who promoted the Enlightenment invoked moral and epistemic principles, not practicalities. They had a vision of a knowable, mechanistic universe, and that man should strive to understand it, to make his present and future better.

Abolitionists did not propose that abolishing slavery would help the economy by this much or that much, or that black people would be better off by this or that percentage. They shouted from the lectern and the newspapers that SLAVERY IS EVIL ! They needed no other evidence. To those who understand that slavery is immoral, no other evidence is needed - to those who refuse to understand it, no evidence can be given.

Christians have no facts to back them up, but they do not need any. Explicit atheism has failed and will continue to fail, because Christians have bamboozled people into believing that Christianity is good, that Christianity is hopeful, that Christianity is comforting - that Christianity is morally superior. And to this what does the atheist reply ? "Believe if you wish !". A lame reply.

The fact is that there are plenty of practical atheists out there ("practical atheist" being someone who shares our values, regardless of religion). Only two-thirds to three-fourth of Christians profess being committed to Christian morality at all. The other third does not value religion as important, does not go to Church, does not preach hatred, does not commit crimes, and acts as morally responsible people. We should be out there telling those Christians to get rid of their absurd and cruel belief system, and join our side. Why aren't we doing this ?

Christianity is historically one of the most destructive belief systems, it is a bleak nihilistic worldview, it trivializes the most horrible suffering, it is founded on sacrifice, blood, suffering, genocide, death, and the most total injustice, and Christians are in practice less moral than atheists. Those are the plain facts that any atheist should hold close at heart and use in reply. That is what would win the War of Morality for our side.

I have written about many other points in this vein, including how Christian morality is infantile, the tension between Christian morality and modern values, how Christian morality contradicts basic moral assumptions, and how Christian morality is just a variant of "might makes right" (also here). Topics on which I have entries coming very soon include : the many ways in which Christianity promotes irresponsibility, the Problem of Evil (reformulated to be more powerful), and the Christian denial of free will. Other lines of argument that can be used, and about which I will write later on, are : the immorality of belief, the immorality of collectivism (for example, through lack of accountability), the fact that Christians are only moral by imitating atheists, and the moral superiority of atheism in empowering the destitute.

This is an entire arsenal of moral arguments, from the simple to the complex, and altogether enough for many debates with little repetition. And all of them serve to drive home the basic point that Christianity is immoral. Talking morality is the only way we will conquer people's hearts and minds. Let's get started ! Write a post on your blog about the immorality of religion, any of the above topics, or write from personal experience, or make your own topic. Start challenging Christians on their moral premises, instead of letting them slide. Be more intolerent towards their rhetoric and treat it like the amoral, anti-intellectual crap that it is. The worst it can do is make you feel better.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Kill the Heretics!

As just another reminder of how seriously Christians are our cultural enemies, I'm submitting the following quote from the administrator at Gene Cook's UnchainedRadio forum.
For my part, i actually think that Christian heretics deserve the death penalty, but given our social and legal context, that is impossible. It is not "murder" to put someone to death for killing someone's physical body (after a fair trial where a person is given the chance to defend himself, of course), nor is it murder to put someone to death for killing someone's soul by indoctrinating them into real heresy.
Notice how that famous objective Christian morality goes right out the door! This guy was born about five hundred years too late.

Peter Bowditch drops the ball

Peter Bowditch, owner of the excellent Millenium Project, a site that concentrates on medical quackery, has dropped the ball I'm afraid. At the end of a (deservedly) elogious review of Dawkins' TV show "The Root of All Evil?", he says the following :

I do have one small quibble with the consistency of Professor Dawkins' opinions, though. He seems to believe that nothing good or even useful has ever come or could ever come from religion. I wonder if when he is walking around the grounds of his employer, Oxford University, he ever gives a thought to who might have started the teaching there in 1096.


Is Bowditch seriously saying that religion was needed for the establishment of Oxford University, or that such an establishment has anything to do with the pseudo-values of Christianity (which include despising wordly knowledge) ? Can atheists not found establishments of higher learning ? Bowditch dramatically dropped the ball on an otherwise great review.

Has anything good ever come from religious people ? Yes, of course. Has anything good ever come out of religion ? Never.

Evangelistic Atheism / Defining Religion

I didn't know about Dan Barker's article "Evangelistic Atheism: Leading Believers Astray". It's a pretty basic article, but a good introduction to atheist evangelism.


The blog Philosophy, et cetera tries to define the term "religion" :

(1) The belief that there is some supernatural reality
(2) A cult -- public, private or both.
(3) The belief that there is some causal connection between the supernatural reality and the cult.


Seems like a good rule of thump to me, although I would define a religion more in terms of specialness than in terms of supernatural. This would both include god-belief and other more materialist beliefs like race-belief or greenie beliefs.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Question of the Day #23: Science Changes

Scientific theories about the world are constantly in flux. This is inevitable, as we are not omnicient, and new data surfaces all the time, forcing those in the field to adjust their theories.

Why is this so difficult for the layman to understand? Why is tentativeness regarded as a weakness, while so few of us celebrate its strength?

I encounter the distrust of science from more than just Christians.

Bonus Question: How come Christians never see the irony of expressing anti-scientific views on the internet?

Friday, January 27, 2006

How simple is religious language ?

In my previous entry, I explained why the argument "you can't prove a negative" is extremely irrational, and how Occam's Razor is one of the fundamental epistemic principles that go against it.

The illusion of Reformed Epistemology - that "God exists" is a simple proposition - is a powerful illusion. It is such a powerful illusion that no one even cares to justify it. And yet it is very easily disproven. Take the most direct of claims about God, the claim that God is taking to you. Many people are claimed to have done so, including Moses and the burning bush. But for Moses to believe that God spoke to him from the burning bush, he would first need to affirm the following :

1. I believe that God exists.
2. I believe that God can, and does, intervene in the universe.
3. I believe that God can speak to human beings.
4. I believe that God would appear or manifest itself as a burning bush.
5. I believe that I can understand God.
6. I believe that I am communicating with God, and not Satan, devils, angels, etc.
7. I believe that it is meaningful for me to claim divine intervention (which in itself is a claim of omniscience, as we have seen).
etc.

Call this the "God spoke" position. It is very simple to write but takes a long time to unpack conceptually.

Now think of a more reasonable position, that the story of the burning bush is a myth. The notion of a myth is pretty complex and requires an interpretative framework. So it is nowhere as direct as "God spoke to me". For someone who holds the truth of the Bible as an arbitrary a priori, a reasonable position would be to believe that Moses was schizophrenic and reported what he thought he saw and heard. Once again, this involves concepts which are far less direct than "God spoke to me".

The problem is that Occam's Razor is not based on subjective simplicity or directness. Occam's Razor is based on the objective ontologies of each position. "God spoke to Moses" is fairly simple in and of itself, but it demands us to accept a completely secondary and fabricated ontology which has no relation to the one we know, and which we can't even describe. This is a case of emotional simplicity hiding impossible objective complexity.

The ultimate simple idea, that only I exist, is the most ontologically complex, because I must still explain the existence of everything that I observe by referring only to myself. Try as they might, subjectivists cannot explain this away regardless of how many objective constructs they build (which according to them should not even exist).

The simplicity of religious language is a utilitarian construct. Complicated, loaded semantics serves one main purpose : to mentally isolate the believer from the rest of society. It is profitable for a cult to adopt this approach. However, a major religion cannot work by isolating people from society, since it wants to become an integral part of society (speaking metaphorically of course). Christian language is not extremely simplistic because Christianity is widespread, but rather the reverse.

This extreme simplicity comes at a heavy intellectual cost. Your semantics is your worldview - they are one and the same. An extremely and artificially simple semantics necessarily entails an extremely and artificially simple worldview. It's nice to have a narrow view of the world, but, as the solipsist problem demonstrates, such a position is not tenable in the long term.

Christianity is not a sustainable state. That is why Christians deconvert as the cognitive dissonance between their beliefs and the observed reality grows. Atheists, on the other hand, don't convert to Christianity as their gain more observations, because no observation can possibly prove to an atheist that God exists.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"You can't prove a negative !"

"You can't prove a negative !". This is one of the most absurd and obtuse beliefs anyone could have about epistemology. Basic rationality, and basic science, goes completely against it. And yet throngs of skeptics and believers alike (two groups of people I have no love for) spout this nonsense as if it was a fait accompli.

Let me first state the obvious. Science progresses by proving negatives. More specifically, it is by constructing possible models of a phenomena (a hypothesis), and then testing them (falsification), that we advance and build on the knowledge that we already have. By doing so, we prove many negatives along the way. We came to the conclusion that oxygen is the necessary gas in burning because we were first able to disprove the existence of phlogiston, which was the reigning scientific position at the time. More exactly, we now say that oxygen is a better explanation of burning than phlogiston, because the first fits all the facts while the second does not.

In fact, it is considerably easier to prove a negative (or even a universal negative) then it is to prove a positive. To prove a positive requires extensive testing and decades or centuries of confirmation. To prove a negative can take only one experiment ! As soon as a piece of data disproves the proposition, the negative is proven. Of course, if a model fits most facts perfectly and only disagrees with a few facts, it may very well be that the model does not need to be trashed, but rather modified.

The idea of proving negatives by testing is also part of a basic epistemic principle, Occam's Razor. If you have two models explaining the same data, and one is simpler than the other, then the simpler one is true and the complex one is false.

The "can't prove a negative" contingent then tries to rationalize that away by saying that Occam's Razor is just a preference or a probability. This is nonsense. Occam's Razor is nothing more than a restatement of the fundamental rational standard that "to assert something you must have objective evidence". If you have two competing models, and one is more complex than another, then the complex ones has additional entities or processes which have no evidence to validate their existence.

Going over this, the "can't prove a negative" crowd will then try to remove the object of inquiry outside of human cognition. Here is a famous example, Carl Sagan's "The Dragon In My Garage" :

"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage"

Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle -- but no dragon.

"Where's the dragon?" you ask.

"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.

"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floats in the air."

Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."

You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick." And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.

Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless...


If a belief cannot be falsified in any way whatsoever, then what does it mean ? The meaning of a concept is a set of properties that we can use to differentiate between instance of that concept and other objects around us. The meaning of a table can be subsumed into these properties : furniture - flat horizontal surface - one or more vertical legs - used to eat on or support objects. I can use this meaning to look at different things and figure out whether they are tables or not.

Now if you present me a concept that is not falsifiable, such as the dragon, we cannot possibly extract any meaning from that concept. There is absolutely no way to distinguish it from anythnig else - in fact, that is its selling point ! So such talk is, like religious talk, complete gibberish that can only have significance for the individual within a specific inter-subjective context.

The case of the word "god" is very similar. "Weak atheists", agnostics and believers all try to push "god" into unfalsifiability. But as I said before, that makes it meaningless, and therefore disproven because of its inability to fulfill the smallest burden of proof. The other problem is that this unfalsifiability is plainly false, as the Problem of Evil and other atheistic arguments prove.

So where does this silly belief "you can't prove a negative" come from ? I think part of it is the impulse from American skeptics and atheists, who live in a country hostile to rationality and don't want to make more enemies than they need to, are very quick in deflecting possible conflict with believers. So they will adopt such a "tolerent" attitude even though it is completely irrational and destroys their own epistemology. And I doubt it actually helps much, since believers will always be convinced that we think they are wrong... and who can blame them ? They are obviously right in thinking that we do.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cyclops Kitty redux / Know thy enemies

Here is a drawing inspired by Cyclops Kitty, on 7 Deadly Sinners :



Someone should make this into an atheist button. We should start a "Cyclops Kitty, mascot of atheism" campaign. Seriously.



Know thy enemies : The 50 Most Influential Christians in America. Surprisingly, Shrub only finished eigth. First place is "T.D. Jakes", whose name sounds more like a sitcom actor than a Christian evangelist. He is the best Christian in America because he builds bigger and shinier churches and religious schools than anyone else. Congrats T.D. for your contribution to the degeneration of America !

Other notables in this gallery of scammers and criminals : Billy Graham (#3), Rick Warren, author or "The Purpose-Driven Life" (#4), Paul Crouch (#6), James Dobson (#9), Benny Hinn (#30), Creflo Dollar (#36), Sean Hannity (#40), the Pope (#44), Rick Santorum (#46) and Phil McGraw (#50).

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Christian Pollution of Public Discourse part 2

Christianity is one of the important voices that currently monopolize public discourse. It is a very destructive and amoral voice. I don't think I'm surprising anyone when I say that.

However, to say that it must be gagged no doubt offends some people. And of course, fanatic tolerentists will always accuse me of being a totalitarian or somesuch nonsense. I am an anarchist ! As such, I CANNOT advocate government censorship, or at least it would be highly hypocrite of me to claim such a thing. What I am advocating is that atheists should stop being nice to Christians and treating them as worthy of respect and "equal time". I am advocating awareness.

Am I a "fundie" ? An extremist ? I don't think so. In fact, I think it's a reasonable position to hold. After all, most people have no qualms repressing racist rhetoric. And yet racists only hate part of mankind. How are we supposed to treat, therefore, people who believe that everyone's suffering is trivial and can be explained away by a perfectly good being ? That's the height of offensiveness. And yet we treat Christians with respect and racists with disdain. There is a serious problem in our value priorities, as atheists, if we do that.

We disdain ideologies that devalue some people, and yet we welcome a religion that claims every single person in the world is inherently evil and that no one's values are valid. Where's the logic in that ?

Am I an anti-theist ? Certainly. I am an anti-theist in the same way that I am an anti-racist, anti-quack or anti-cults. I don't like people who preach in the public square against reason, personal freedom or personal values, or who act against them. Does that make me a "fundie" ? Well, the word "fundie" is often misused, but if it makes me one, then I don't have a problem with the idea.

Basically, the problem is that atheists have the modern value of tolerence, and while that would be a perfect trait in a rational society, being tolerent of evil ideologies is not a great trait. We see the result in the current cultural war being waged in Europe. Tolerence opens the door to extremism, and within democracies with no moral compass, we have little defense against extremism.

What use is it to exclude people from public discourse ? Wouldn't that only create more problems ? I don't think so. Government censorship creates problems and is generally useless, yes. Once again I repeat that I do not want government censorship. I simply wish that atheists would stop being tolerent of Christianity and let Christian beliefs be expressed on their territory without batting an eyelash, when equally repulsive and morally bankrupt beliefs are enforced against by those same atheists.

The good it would do is, I admit, rather limited. One thing it would do is display the intellectual and moral corruption of Christianity. Right now, as it stands, no one is free to challenge the offensiveness and moral corruption of Christianity on most public forums. Christians are allowed to post their amoral rhetoric unpunished, and new atheists who look at the conversations do not see the full extent of the absurdity of that rhetoric.


Christianity says all our sufferings can be explained away. Christianity is offensive towards all human beings. They need to be made accountable for all the suffering that they trivialize.

Christianity says that a man can absolve any crime you commit. That is the height of irresponsibility and amorality. Christianity is disgusting and evil.

Christianity says God popped the universe out of nothing. That's the height of illogic and anti-science. Christianity is braindead stupid, and its promotion of willful ignorance is evil.

Christianity is centered around the life of a man who never existed. Christians are glassy-eyed idiots who worship thin air.

Christianity says the perfect ending to the world is the slaughtering of two-thirds (or more) of the world population. Christianity is fucking insane and promotes evil.


Someone needs to say this, and not just on this blog. It needs to be said far and wide. You can't argue morality without passion. The evil, the offensive, the repulsive must be passionately argued against. To dismiss them logically does not do justice to the extent of their depravity, and gives other people the feeling that we do not see them as moral issues.

On my next entry I will give my thoughts on why atheism will only flourish if we win the war of morality.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Christian Pollution of Public Discourse part 1

Most of us agree that an individual should be free to think, or believe, whatever he wants in the privacy of his own mind. For example, one is absolutely free to fantasize about mass murder (although this may be very unhealthy). But to take that fantasy into public life, and commit mass murder, is criminal. What is acceptable in one's private arena, is not necessarily desirable or even acceptable in the social arena.

Should Christianity have a presence in public discourse ? The influence of Christianity is not only in the obvious - such as Creationist propaganda, anti-choice propaganda, or organized gay-bashing - but also hidden in more subtle forms. The ideas of "human dignity" or "playing God" as arguments against scientific progress have evolved from Christian attitudes. The teleology that permeates people's beliefs about nature is derived from the Christian dogma that nature was created for man's use, and that the universe serves God's plans. I would say that even a subtle belief like the anti-GM belief that there is such a thing as "human genes" and "fish genes" is derived from the teleology of Creationism, which emphasizes the discrete nature of Creation instead of the continuous, fundamental unity of all life. The anti-choice, anti-pleasure, anti-materialist Christian attitudes also influence moral debates to a large extent, so much that "morality" is now synonymous with "repression".

In short, as I've also discussed in "Christians are our cultural enemies", the Christian moral, teleological and anti-scientific ideas are totally opposed to secular science and Western values. Christianity is therefore polluting public discourse with premises which have no place in the 21st century, regardless of whether they are obvious propaganda or subtle semantics. These premises have been wholly discredited by both the success of science and the choices of the vast majority of people living in Western countries.

To even allow Christian voices or premises in a non-religious conversation is inherent treason to everything we stand for as modern upright human beings. Christian beliefs are Middle Eastern canards declaimed furiously by pompous asses.

It is also equally obvious that Christians have no incentive to change their ways. To have faith that one's beliefs are the right ones, despite all evidence, is praised as the highest virtue. Christians, by the nature of religion itself, can have no goal but to strenghten and propagate their belief system. There is no virtue of truth-seeking, honesty or progress in Christianity.

Their aim is to smash materialism, maintain ignorance about human nature, and ultimately to restore the power of religious authorities against Western governance and secular science. But hey, you don't need to take my word for it :

Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the Center explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.

(...)

The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points.

(...)

Governing Goals
* To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
* To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God.


These quotes come from the infamous Wedge Strategy, the Creationist blueprint for their cultural battle against naturalist, secular science. Nothing in this document, or in the Creationist movement in general, is based on fact, hypothesis or even conjecture. Rather, it is an extremist political and religious movement mascarading as science.

In addition to all these crimes, if you want to take the PC route, you can also say that Christianity - the idea that an all-good god justifies and trivializes all human suffering - is the most offensive belief imaginable. So even from that route Christianity should be persecuted on the same grounds that the Neo-Nazis ar persecuted, if we're going to be consistent.

Is it hypocrite for me to call to persecution ? Not at all. Christians sometimes accuse us of holding a position no less questionable than theirs. They are correct in one little respect : like them, I have chosen sides in the cultural struggle within which we find ourselves in this modern world. This struggle, which has persisted for centuries, opposes the individual and his values to the crushing forces of the religious and political collectives and collectivist ideals. Both sides desire to impose their worldview on society.

So what's the difference between me and a Christian evangelist ? He wants to enslave minds and institutions so they perpetuate his belief system. I'm fighting for people to be free to express their personal values and choose freedom or, if they must, a belief system, as long as they don't hurt anyone. I am morally responsible for my actions and the principles I espouse, and I promote moral responsibility for all. He preaches total irresponsibility. That's what makes me morally superior.

Part of our Western values considers us to be on equal grounds, but on that point I have to disagree. As long as there are people who actively seek to destroy our Western way of life, it remains self-destructive to place them on a pedestal of "equal time". True equality can only exist when all collectivist power is destroyed. This is one lesson that has not reached modernity yet.

What must be done ? All Christian strategems must be exposed and rendered impotent. All Christian rhetoric must be publically ridiculed, persecuted, censored. All Christian politicians should be forcibly outed as followers of a foreign belief system that sanctions genocide, slavery and communism. Christian brainwashers, child abusers, must be jailed. Churches must be taxed until they drop, and their bells must be torn down from their high places. Only the end of the lax attitude of atheistic organizations and communities can bring this about.

I have done my best to fight against this attitude, but I am alone, and there's not much I can do about it. If you want to help, then the next time you see a Christian spout his rhetoric on an atheist message board or in an atheist discussion, speak up against the religion and the premises of the rhetoric. Make it clear that Christianity is not wanted. Maybe they'll get the message.

In part 2, I address the objections that no doubt a lot of atheists will have at reading this entry.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

In belief, meaning is not the point

Definitions are a funny thing. When you don't examine the matter too much, they just seem like vague conventions that people use so they can have a proper language. When you start delving in philosophical issues, you start to realize that definitions, with their loaded meanings and vague implications, filter how we see the world. Eventually you come to realize that definitions, as they circumscribe everything we know about existents, are an integral part of one's worldview.

Defining concepts rationally and with precision is not the first step to a solid framework, it's the only step.

The word "god" doesn't escape that - in fact, because it subsumes existents that are nothing but fictional characters at best, it is a perfect example of that. It's easier to subsume things that actually exist, since you have an objective standard you can refer to. But fictional characters derived from old mythological ways of thinking, which have no relation to modern values ? That's a problem. Even elves in Lord of the Rings are easier to define than "god", since Tolkien provided us with plenty of fictional instances of elves. In the Bible, there's only one god with any prominence.

So where do we go from here ? Well, we can look at how believers define their gods. You have the fire-and-brimstone fundies and cultists, who portray God as a powerful, violent, father-like being, the "Bruce Almighty"-like believers, who portray God as an impotent, loving, "bigger brother" type, the New Agers, who relate to religious concepts as metaphors for self-empowerment or connection with a higher reality, and then you've got the synchronicity fans, who see God as little more than a giant mathematical contrivance sending us "messages" by timing the passage of cars or making one person meet another.

That's personality, but what is the ontological nature of this god ? That is the one point they all agree on, it has no ontological nature. It is non-material, non-natural, non-definable. Its actions and thoughts, its purpose in creating or influencing human beings, remain totally unknowable. The meaning of "god" is, and remains, totally nil.

But this is not a surprise. Any attempt to give meaning to "god" would be to limit it, and "god" is precisely an imaginary construct that must remain without limits in order to provide the "transcendent creator" needed by believers to make sense of order. Defining is a limitation, a circumscription, therefore "god" cannot be defined or be made meaningful.

Remember that religion is a meme complex, and it must be able to change if it is to adapt to social circumstances. And belief cannot change if it remains pinned to a definition. This is where the concept of belief-doctrine independence comes in. If you can reframe your reading of the Bible strongly enough, you can ignore all the parts that contradict your specific sect or personal beliefs.

But here's the rub - how do you do this with a definition ? Even if somehow there was no conflict between limiting "god" and the "transcendent creator" belief, it would mean that the religion could no longer adapt. If you've got "god" pinned down to one specific conception, with a specific set of epistemic, moral and political beliefs attached to it, then the religion would die out the second social circumstances change and make that set of beliefs undesirable.

So "god", like other religious terms which do not correspond to any existents, is a symbol. A symbol is a mental shortcut meant to evoke the "right" emotional response at the push of a linguistic button - like a name (like "Jesus Christ"), a code-word (like "family values"), a graphic (like the cross), a flag, a sports team logo.

Terms like "god", which are based on fantasy, can only be integrated within the inter-subjective context which creates them. If you tell a Christian, "God created the universe", the Christian will understand you because he's been trained to understand these symbols in a specific way, with the associated emotional responses. If you look at "God created the universe", there's no way to make any sense of that. The universe cannot be "created", since creation requires pre-existing matter, and no being can exist if the universe does not exist.

So the last, and perhaps most important, question is : how can atheists make sense of the same sentence "God created the universe" ? If "God" is meaningless, then how can atheists talk about it outside of the inter-subjective religious framework ?

Well, we can only talk about things that relate to reality. And we can relate such a sentence to reality, even if we have to do it piecemeal. In fact, I think that's how atheists do it already. Even though "God created the universe" makes no sense in and of itself, we can still reduce it to the following :

cause of – the universe
cause of – all natural events
temporally prior to – the universe

We can make sense of "cause of", "temporally prior to", "the universe" and "all natural events", and use them in arguments that prove the non-existence of God, even if we don't believe that the sum total of the property has any meaning. Of course, if "god" meant anything we would not need these mental gymnastics at all, and I don't blame any atheist who rejects them in favour of a more practical "God is a fantasy and we don't need to debate this" approach.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hellbound Alleee Rants / Atheist Shocknet in the papers

Listen to the Hellbound Alleee Show Live, SPECIAL RANTING EDITION ! Topics : Stupid atheists, stupid Christian arguments, and free will/determinism.



R.J. Evans, host of Atheist Shocknet Radio, which I've plugged here before, has been interviewed for a pretty significant newspaper. Congratulations R.J. !

Friday, January 20, 2006

Question of the Day #22: "It's faith!"

Amazingly, some Christians, when challenged on the merit of their beliefs, will simply put on a brave face and say, "It's just faith.", as if that makes sense. I'm always taken aback by this response. It's like saying, "I am aware that the assumptions I make are irreconcilably with the world as I experience it, but I intentionally choose to follow them anyway?"

Why do you suppose they're so willing to do this?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Christian Marriage Revisited

A month ago I looked at the many reasons why Christianity is damaging to women, and especially how it is damaging to marriage. I was thinking about the subject again today, when it occurred to me that there may be one aspect of Christianity that I overlooked.

In the Synoptic gospels, Jesus is recorded as responding to a theological query about marriage and the afterlife by saying that after married couples "rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven." Thus, the marriage bond does not continue into the afterlife (and, presumably, neither does gender).

If Christians believed that their marriages continued past death, perhaps there would be more value placed on them. But for the Christian, marriage (like everything else in this life) is cast off at death, like a dusty cocoon. All of eternity will be spent glorifying God- what reason is there to care about the fate of your life partner when you're in the presence of the Almighty?

Thus, I think that the honest Christian has to admit that trading one spouse for another (and another, etc.) throughout life really doesn't matter in the long run, since all bets are off once death arrives. This is just one subordinate symptom of the Christian disregard for the trappings of this world, but one which may also explain the high failure rate of Christian marriage.

The Moral Razor

(also posted on The Radical Libertarian)

Although I'd like to lay claim to it, the Moral Razor is not my invention. It is the work of Stefan Molyneux, writer for LewRockwell.com and blogger at Freedomain. I have only clarified and formalized his ideas on the topic.

The most famous razor in philosophy is no doubt Occam's Razor, which states that, when confronted with two hypotheses that explain the same set of facts, the ontologically simplest hypothesis is the correct one. In general, a razor is a simple and clear principle which eliminates a great number of invalid or undesirable positions. Occam's Razor is a simple and clear principle which eliminates a great number of pseudo-scientific beliefs and religious fantasies. Its justification lies in the nature of objective evidence.

The Moral Razor operates in the same way. Its justification lies in the fact that moral principles must apply to all persons, otherwise they are mere cultural belief or opinion. We observe that all persons have the same biological, mental and social needs, and that therefore any moral principle which purports to judge the actions of some people differently than the actions of others, or to elevate the values of some against others, must be invalid.

The Moral Razor is this :
A moral principle or system, or a political principle or system, is invalid if it is asymmetrical in application (to locations, times or persons).

This is easily seen to eliminate large swarths of moral systems. All forms of moral relativism are automatically eliminated, as they are based on the premise that moral judgment somehow differs from person to person or from culture to culture. So are all forms of utilitarianism (including democracy) eliminated, because they imply that the values of the majority are superior to those of the minority, with subsequent assymetry of action.

Collectivist worldviews, such as religions, with their sacrifice of individualism in the name of a higher ideal, are also threatened by the Razor. One saliant feature of such worldviews is the strict adherence to a moral system which is usually memetically utilitarian in nature. But this is an inherent asymmetry, and a rational Christian (if there was such a chimera) would be in his right to ask why he is to be considered good only when he follows a set of - to him - arbitrary rules, when only a small subset of people actually benefit from his obedience. And there is also the pesky little problem of believing in an entire moral system ostensibly because it is designed by an all-powerful being, and the inherent asymmetry in this moral master/slave relationship.

Obviously, universality is necessarily egalitarian. And egalitarianism is necessarily individualist. They all go together like glove and hand. The individual can only flourish in a social and political context where everyone is allowed to flourish, and such a context can only exist if everyone is equal under morality and the law. You cannot dissociate the two.

It's not surprising that the most murderous social systems, the most collectivist societies, those of communism and nazism, are predicated upon a strong ruling class that exerts both economic and ideological control. There is nothing less conductive to religion and politics than the firm conviction that everyone should be equally free to express his own values.

The Razor, in its initial form, also applies to a great deal of public policy. Often, the only reason for their perceived universality is the failure to consider where the benefits are going as well as the costs. Take taxation, for example. True, everyone has to pay taxes, but only the ruling class is free to accumulate and use tax money - under utilitarian considerations, as for any other collectivist system. So taxation is asymmetrical.

One easy way to figure out assymetry is to ask whether anyone can act in the same way. No other citizen can raise his own police and force people at gunpoint to pay them tribute (except perhaps the mafia, but they have to contend with the government's guns). The same applies to policies such as eminent domain, censorship, and other governmental initiations of force. If the government does not open itself to the same restrictions, then the policy is necessarily asymmetrical (compare for example victim disarmament and growth in military spending).

There is one exception, and that is when we are looking at scenarios where a valid rule was already broken. Arresting someone when no crime was committed is asymmetrical, but arresting someone who initiated force is a different scenario. In this case we are looking not at a political principle - which is what the Razor is about - but rather at the consequence of breaking such a principle. In that case I would argue that, as long as no other asymmetry is present, singling out initiators of force should not be seen as breaking the Razor a priori.

This leads us to the other use of the Razor, which is the relational level. Here we're looking not at the application of a moral principle, but rather at the relational results. Suppose we say, for example, "theft is universally good". This is problematic since theft is a relational asymmetry : the right of property of the thief subsists (otherwise he would not be a thief at all but rather a hired goon, for one thing), but that of the victim is taken away, creating a contradiction.

We can generalize this idea and say that all coercion implies relational asymmetry, as coercion implies the existence of a perpetrator and a victim, with inherent asymmetry contained therein. So we can say the following :
All moral or political principles based on coercion have relational asymmetry, and therefore imply contradictions in rights.

Since there are only two basic relational modes, coercive and voluntary (the Trader Principle), we see that this principle eliminates a great deal of principles and ideologies as well. The Trader Principle, on the other hand, is inherently symmetrical : everyone gives and receives value at all times. Gift-giving is not an exception to this rule, but rather a confirmation of it, as the gift-giver sees self-interest in doing so. For some people, giving gifts is even more pleasurable than receiving them. If someone is acting of his own free will, then he necessarily sees benefit in his actions, and the Trader Principle cannot be violated.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Return of the Manata Sicko

Pressing the Antithesis is back in business ! And he's back to his good old tricks, quoting an idiotic theologian (Koukl) that I have already refuted, praising corporal punishment against children and the use of whips to punish people, and praising his fellow scammers and liars.

I practice the biblical principle of using "the rod of correction" on my child. (...) [T]he rod should never be used out of anger, but rather love.


What a fucking sicko. Let's hope that this hate speech is closed down soon and that he's thrown into jail for a long time.

"Everything can be shown to be incoherent"

I thought about framing this into a question of the day, but I don't think I can. I don't really have a specific question. I'm just more interested to hear people's reaction to this.

I was having a pseudo-debate with someone who does not want to be identified, because he works in the film industry. Anyway, he's one of these guys who isn't a theist but feels that science is a faith and is thus oppressive. In a very vague sense, I can understand what he's saying (i.e., I understand the nature of his mistake), as he simply whipped out the all-too-typical questions like "How do you know science is right?"

I tried to explain that the methodology of science is simply trial-and-error reduction, which human beings have no choice to do otherwise. To me, accusing people of being dogmatically scientific is like accusing someone of dogmatically appealing to his cognition, or as John Dill put it, accusing someone of being human.

So this guy... We'll call him "Nick". I tried to get Nick to explain what science was being oppressive of, and he said metaphysical knowledge. I asked him to explain. He simply said it's knowledge of that which is beyond physical. I immediately asked him for a more coherent description of "beyond physical". Nick's reply was, "if you define the 'beyond physicals' with attributes and categories that belong to the physical and matter... its like making it physical too isn't it?".

Circular logic! Wonderful! This was supported by numerous appeals to ignorance, (i.e., "There's something inside of me, I can't explain, that tells me it's wrong to kill."). In other words, he knows it's wrong to kill, but he can't explain why, but then I was able to explain to him why it's wrong to kill. He did that about two or three times, and I was always able to explain his "unexplanable feelings" in an intelligable context.

Then he says, "my point is, about anything can be proven incoherent, so if you simply dont believe in what is not coherent then there is no science to begin with, and nothing at all that can be known." And predictably, he brings back his insistance that science is faith, but he doesn't seem to understand the category error he's making. We have no choice but to accept the physical universe as real and to use tentativeness to learn things, so in order to even get to his point-of-view, he has to pass through mine.

It was a fairly jovial conversation, but I found it just a little frustrating, because I couldn't even figure out what his point is. He doesn't seem to believe in any specific god or non-material beings. It seems that his only point was to perhaps place science on equal footing with religion, which is both misinformed and insulting.

About the only time I actually got mad is when he accused me of being an agnostic. Why is whenever I say I don't know something, people regard it as a weakness of my position? (Wait, don't answer that. That's a future QotD!)

I'm certainly not an expert debater, so I was a thrown by Nick's approach, but I definitely found some circles. He basically argues like a Christian, only he's not a Christian, and he doesn't seem to realize the irony of his position, using an instrument created via science to marginalize science.

What do you guys make of this? Do you think there are some good responses I missed out on? What would you say to someone who defends his incoherent beliefs by saying "Everything can be shown to be incoherent."?

The "core" model of belief part 2

2. Core beliefs - Something, somehow, caused the individual to become a True Believer. Either the individual was brainwashed at a young age, or was already a spiritual seeker, felt a hole in his life, or was in profound emotional shock, and some evangelist or religious propaganda reached him before anything else. So instead of becoming a scrapbooker, a Buddhist, a Greenie, a charity worker, a computer programmer, a patriot, a communist, or a compulsive toothpick maker, the wheel stopped at "Christian". Bummer.

Whether they were hammered in by brainwashing or presented as emotional crutch, there are almost always one or many "core beliefs" which sustain the person's belief system (in some very rare cases there may be no such beliefs, which makes the task considerably easier). These core beliefs are always personal in nature (although they may involve exterior concepts). For example :

"I'm afraid of going to Hell."
"I don't want to be a bad person."
"I don't want to live in a universe where there's no ultimate justice."

I classify these beliefs in five categories : moral appeals (beliefs about religion/atheism and morality), evidential appeals (questions related to order and nature, and doubting science), purpose-based appeals (beliefs related to purpose, meaning, hope, comfort, and the feeling that something is missing in one's life), afterlife appeals (fearing death, desiring Heaven and fearing Hell), and psychological appeals (the believer just can't deal with reality - can also suffer mild insanity).

Also included in this part are powerful emotional experiences that derive from this emotional commitment. Belief is self-reinforcing, in that once a person accepts that some magical effect exists, he is likely to experience it and thus reinforce his own belief.

What these core beliefs do is shift your worldview, which is to say, shift the way you see the world. I know this because people who exit cults or religions sometimes experience a violent shift back into rational thought (wait... if there's no god, what's holding up the Earth ? what's keeping me from murdering people ? etc), but most of the time the shift is gradual, a sort of shedding.

Some people, because of their intellectual limitations or emotional limitations, can end up stuck in the middle of the process, and live the rest of their lives as, say, a Freezoner, or a Christian evolutionist - rejecting the structure while keeping the dogma. These strange chimeras should be left alone like the freaks that they are, and conserved in amber when they die for the amazement of future generations.


3. Religious filler - This is the styrofoam filler that cushions the person's emotional fragility from reality. It is composed of theology, arguments, denials and rationalizations that are acquired when the believer listens to religious content, goes to church, is tested, or tries to resolve the problems within his belief system (cognitive dissonance).

All of these things compose the meat of religion and debate about religion, but in terms of evangelism they are absolutely unimportant. You must ignore and file away anything of that nature when evangelizing. Rather, our goal is to bypass these rationalizations entirely and get to the core beliefs, in order to address those directly. For one thing, to go through the gamut of rationalizations would only take us to the core beliefs, but taking hours and hours more. So there is a question of sheer efficiency here.

Note that this is very different from a debate. In a debate, arguments are presented in order to make a logical case. Debates are meant to prove the coherency of one's position to oneself and others, but they serve only a peripherial evangelistic purpose.


4. The will - Where the person's will is located at a given moment determines speech. The goal in evangelism is to first direct the person's will to the core beliefs, and to consider counter-appeals. To do this requires trust. You can't effectively approach anyone impersonally and hope that the other person will listen to you, unless there is a strong emotional need already present.

Of course, no model can be useful without some practical experience. If you are interested in evangelism, I would recommend first to read ex-Christian testimonies. And always remember that, unlike Christian evangelists, you want to help people express their own values, free them from belief. So don't be ashamed of it. Don't preach or lie. Leave yourself open to believers so they know they can rely on you. Use your own life as an example. Anyone who can earn people's trust and follow these simple principles will be successful.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The "core" model of belief part 1

The problem of evangelism, the paradox, can be expressed as such :

(1) Christians have beliefs, we have rational thought processes (to simplify - I grant that the reverse can be true in some people, and that most uninformed people do not have epistemic stances).
(2) Reason is not conductive to accepting beliefs.
(3) Belief systems are not conductive to accepting rational thought processes.
(4) How can we possibly convince Christians if they cannot accept our evidence (and vice-versa) ?

There are two general answers to the paradox. The first is to say that even though rational processes will not convince anyone, such arguments can plant the seed of cognitive dissonance and accumulate in a believer's mind until it reaches its breaking point. This is a tried and true method of evangelism, although it is relatively inefficient. The second is to use belief-like rhetoric (while maintaining rational premises) in order to convince the believer on his own terms. This should be harder but more effective.

Evangelism, therefore, is the study of these methods.

As I noted, uninformed people don't have epistemic stances, and as such they are the easiest to influence. Presenting a few potent facts to them usually veers them into agreement. You won't get a firm grasp or commitment on their part, but in most cases it would not be desirable to press them further. It is the seeker, the person who is already immersed in the issues and is desperate for answers, that needs help the most.

Let me present what I call the four principles of evangelism :


Principle 1 : All theological arguments are rationalizations in the name of faith. Discussing arguments is good for the nonbeliever's understanding, but serves only a small role in the deconversion process.

Principle 2 : All faith exists because of emotional appeal, and this appeal is based on misconceptions and lies fostered by religion.

Principle 3 : Faith is a mind-killer and an enemy of rational morality, science, and ultimately all cognition.

Principle 4 : By exposing the false emotional appeal of faith and religion, exposing its evil, and promoting the true emotional appeal of nonbelief and reason, we are helping society, and therefore ourselves.


Where does the "core" model fit into this ? If we are to convince believing minds, we need to understand how believing minds work. We need to understand how the emotional appeal of religion works and how to defeat it. This is why I have developed the concept of the "core" model. It is simple, probably simplistic, but I think it is a big help in understanding the believing mind. Therefore I propose it as an model for atheistic evangelists to try out and test for themselves.

The "core" model is composed of four parts.


1. Individual values - Our individual values are the result of our natural moral development. This moral development takes place even if a child is brainwashed at an early age. What this means, is that parallel to the religious development which stunts the moral sense, the individual is also subject, in the background, to the mental development, the observations and deductions which lead to moral development.

Now, I am not an optimist who believes that everyone is rational at the core (otherwise no one would be Christian). I am a realist that even if people deny it because of the extension of their dogma, most people hold natural values (such as "genocide is evil" and "improving material standards is good"). I know this is the case because even children who are raised in a rigorous cult environment can decide to get out of it, and children who were raised in dictatorships can seek to escape them. If their values were solely determined by social conditions, they would not seek to break the dictatorial pseudo-values they were raised on.

When we grow up, we observe the things around us, and amongst these things are people around us that we recognize as individuals with their own values and feelings, and from all this we naturally come to value ourselves, our survival, our flourishing, other people around us, people we love, things we love, and ultimately the society that is necessary for the expression of those values. No collectivist entity is needed to teach us all this - in fact, the very idea that such an entity is needed contradicts the existence of our natural values and sensibilities.

Go to part 2.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Vox Populi episode 3

Here is Vox Populi episode 3, available for streaming right here. Enjoy !

(note : you need Flash to see the player)

The show's web site is http://www.hellboundalleee.com/voxpopuli/

Atheist Shocknet Radio / Neism : the new straw man

Atheist Shocknet Radio has a new atheist live show every Friday and Saturday. The host - RJ - is definitely not afraid of his opinions, and I think he'll become very popular soon. So check his show out.


The Evangelical Output - a raving Christian blog - posted a rant against materialism and naturalism on the 5th. He attracted some attention for his proposition of a new label to use against the big bad materialists who dare to deny the possibility of divine intervention - "Neism". I read his post and I still don't know what the fuck "neism" is, apart from a straw man label against scientists who uphold the obvious truth of evolution and acknowledge that naturalism is a necessary assumption of science.

Quoteth the imbecile :

Just as the resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity, natural selection is the pillar on which neism stands. That is why neists have an apoplectic fit over Intelligent Design. The heretical notion does not just question a theory, it denys the foundation of their religious beliefs. Some even claim that their belief system must destroy other religions (see entry by Sam Harris. Neists may not have a god but their religion has retained the first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.


No, we materialists don't have apoplectic fits over Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design has seen nothing but defeat since the beginning of its propagation by the Christian camp. Looks like the Wedge is going down faster than the Titanic.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hear God's voice for 24.95$ ! / What they say about us

"Author Offers Guaranteed Method for Hearing God’s Voice in New Book"

Rev. Mark Virkler, Ph.D., president of Communion With God Ministries (...) and author of over 50 books, is guaranteeing that his latest release, How to Hear God’s Voice (Destiny Image, $24.95), will ensure every reader who follows the steps described will hear the voice of God for themselves. Dr. Virkler says that two decades of conducting seminars on this topic on six continents with a virtual 100% success rate (...).


You have the solution to the mysteries of the universe and... you sell it in book form for 24.95$ a pop ? Instead of telling the world about it ? What Christian rationality and generosity.


The blog God is for Suckers presents a compilation of data apparently accumulated over a number of discussions on Christian message boards. Its conclusions are not really that surprising :

The entire experience can be summed up fairly easily. Generally speaking, they know next to nothing about atheists, they are extremely emotionally attached to their deities, and they are just people looking for truth as we are. The animosity that sparks between atheists and theists seems to stem from the two camps speaking two different languages - atheists speak in terms of empirical evidence and logic; theists speak in terms of faith, emotion, and the unknown. An atheist expects proof before acceptance, a theists sees acceptance as proof.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

God of War

I watched a war movie last night entitled "Saints and Soldiers". It's about a band of Allied soldiers trying to deliver important information behind enemy lines during WWII. That's the main plot anyway. One of the few sub-plots centers around an American missionary (that was in Germany before the war) turned soldier, and an atheist in the foxhole next to him.

I like war movies. I like realism and the emotions and courage displayed in life or death situations. War movies, if they are good, can reflect the best and worst in people.

I understand religion is and can be one of the few comforts afforded a soldier during one of the most horrific and dangerous events that one can be a part of (that is yet another problem with religion as far as I am concerned. Religion makes dying for your country that much easier to accept and makes one do things he might not consider doing). That goes for any war. My beef with this particular movie is how once again the Christian soldier was portrayed as being right and the atheist was seen as rude, arrogant and unsure of his disbelief. There is no room left for doubt in this movie. The Christian soldier thought it a miracle when he shot at and missed a German soldier who turned out to be a friend during his missionary days (already unbelievable for a story that claims to be based on actual WWII events). He exclaimed "I never miss. I never miss." Then, ofcourse, the German soldier helps them escape later when they are surrounded by the enemy and happen to run into him first.

The atheist starts to question the sanity and reliability of the Christian soldier because the Christian soldier had accidentally killed some women and children earlier and seems unable to reconcile this with God, all the while hallucinating from lack of sleep and pointing his gun at everyone.

The Christian snapps back with "For not caring about religion, you sure are curious". Yup. That's it. The atheist was just in denial. It couldn't have been that he feared for his and his comrades' safety and questioned the Christian's sanity.

Ofcourse their experiences bring them closer together and eventually the Christian soldier is killed while giving cover fire to the atheist and another guy. And ofcourse, the Christian sees the ghosts of the kids he killed earlier as he dies. This is enough for the atheist to later take the bible from the dead Christian's pocket and to start reading it (I'm sure that was in God's plan. The Christian must die to bring a heathen to God).

I wouldn't have been as upset if the director would have presented this sub-plot without giving an obvious nod in favor of the Christian. The way he presented it gave the viewer a definate side to favor and once again gave atheists a bad image.

It adds credence to the old chestnut that there are no atheists in foxholes like these guys: http://www.atheistfoxholes.org

Question of the Day #21: Christian Friends

I'm probably going to answer my own question here, because I've been thinking about this a lot, but I might as well post it anyway.

For those of you who have Christian friends, where do you draw the line at being nice? For those of you who don't have Christian friends, where would you draw the line?

From my point of view, since I have some Christian friends, I really try to be nice. I truly do. I mean, some of them are pretty good people, despite their own theology. But what I absolutely won't do is I won't give them the pleasure of thinking that the whole "agree to disagree" thing means that I accept their worldview as though it's equal in stature to mine. I do not surrender to special pleading, and I consider it an insult when Christians try to treat atheism and Christian as though they are equivelant in any way.

I refuse to help them play pretend.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Noel Hurley's reviews / Molyneux on forgiveness

As a Christian, Noel Hurley's reviews are really funny. I like the part where he spreads a map on the floor, stands on a chair, and pretends to be God. As an atheist, I approve of Noel Hurley.


Stefan Molyneux, whose podcasts I've been promoting for a while, has a really great insight on forgiveness :

Forgiveness arises not from the will of the wronged, but only from the genuine contrition of the wrong-doer. Like health, it exists as an involuntary state, which depends on the actions of another. Obviously, you cannot have a loving – or even friendly – relationship with me if I wish you harm. If I harm you, it can only be through malice, ignorance or accident. If I am going to pick you up in a car, I can either pick you up, run you over on purpose, forget to show up, or hit you by accident. If I pick you up, all is well. If I run you over on purpose, all is not well. If I forget to show up, all may be well, since forgetfulness is a fact of life. If I hit you by accident, all may be well, since accidents also occur – unless this one was due to carelessness or drunkenness on my part.

If I run you over on purpose, then forgiveness is impossible. The purpose of forgiveness is not to repair the past, since that is impossible, but to repair the future. If I run you over because I am angry at you, how could you ever trust me again? Let’s say that I am so horrified by my own actions that I enter therapy and learn why I am so malevolent. Let’s say that I emerge from therapy a kinder, gentler person. In other words, I always had the capacity to stop being malevolent, but chose not to.


A healthy counter-point to the toxic forgiveness culture.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dent Bovind on Intelligent Falling

Dent Bovind talking about Intelligent Falling :

"There are these proud godless scientists who say : we don’t need "Intelligent Falling", all we need is gravity. That's what they said after Newton. But they they realized, hey, this theory of ours, which was just a theory, is not working. It doesn't explain Neptune's orbit. That's a pretty biiig problem. You got a whole planet right there that doesn't turn the way they want it to. So they did not know what to do.

That's when their saviour Einstein came up with this idea of Relativity. Now let me tell you right now, Relativity is not scientific. Relativity is an atheistic religion. Okay, I don't have anything against religious beliefs, but you shouldn't teach them in school. What it says, is that there is no privileged frame of reference, and everything is relative. There's no right or wrong, no true or false, everything you do is okay. So God is out of the equation, because God is the frame of reference, and they can't have that. God is out. Gravity and Relativity put God out of the schools.

Now look at what the teaching of gravity has brought to our schools. Higher crime rates, more teen pregnancies, more juvenile delinquancy, more abortions. That's what happens when there's no more right or wrong. What they teach children, is that all things fall. That's not what the Bible teaches. Angels don't fall. God doesn't fall And it's obvious nonsense too. It contradicts everything we see. Planes don't fall. Clouds don't fall. Birds don't fall, okay ? I think birds would look pretty silly if they were falling all the time. [laughter] So no, gravity is false.

I was talking in this classroom once, fifth grade. And this one kid told me, "Mr. Hovind, I believe in gravity". So I told him, fine. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to shoot you in five minutes. And he said "you can't do that !". I said, according to your beliefs I can do anything I want. Everything is relative. That's what Einstein said. Then I told him, if I shoot you, and you're right, the bullet will just fall to the ground because of gravity. But if I'm right, the bullet will kill you. Are you ready to risk your life for your belief ? He said no. That kid, sent me a letter a year ago, he's a born-again Christian.

Intelligent Falling says that some things fall, and some don't, because of God's will. Okay ? Not gravitrons or gravity waves or whatever they come up with. They flip-flop on this every week. I talked to a physicist at MIT last week, he told me "Mr. Hovind, I have never seen a gravitron". I told him, you have a good point there. This is all in their imaginations. This is what happens when you think you're God.

Things fall because of God's will. Man falls. Why does man fall ? The Fall of Man. Think about it. If you listen to my seminar tape number six, I talk about my "Falling Man" theory, about how man was able to fly before the Fall, but that sin weights us down. God and the angels don't have sin, Satan and his devils do, so they are bound to this Earth. So this is something to think about. Let me quote from Benny Hinn, he says something about this, he says :

"[Adam] used to fly. Of course, how can he have dominion over the birds and not be able to do what they do? The word 'dominion' in the Hebrew clearly declares that if you have dominion over a subject, that you do everything that subject does. In other words, that subject, if it does something you cannot do, you don't have dominion over it. I'll prove it further. Adam not only flew, he flew to space. He was--with one thought he would be on the moon."

Praise the Lord. So gravity and Relativity are religious beliefs. They are used to justify materialism and atheism. I've been a science teacher for years. I've seen plenty of lies about gravity in the textbooks. They represent gravity with an arrow pointing downwards. But what is pulling things downwards ? They've got no explanation. Well there is an explanation, but they can't accept it, because it's called God. God's love keeps things down and lifts them up. They think planes go up because of "lift". Okay, try running and holding your arms straight, you're not gonna fly. You can even flap them, and it's not gonna work. [laughter] No, there's no "lift". It's God's will.

Now, if you look at ancient history...

[three hours of ancient beliefs about gravity and the relation with clams on top of mountains follow]"

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

UberKuh goes to the dark side / Richard Dawkins on religion

Atheist blogger UberKuh has joined the dark side : he's now quoting from an Ayn Rand book ! And if I'm attacked twice by Raving Atheist for being a former Objectivist, then he's going to harass UberKuh like there's no tomorrow. Let's start an individualist posse on the blogsphere and give him a heart attack...


And have a listen to Richard Dawkins' show against religion. Once again, I repeat, this man is a champion, a hero of atheism. We need more voices who dare to go on television and state the clear facts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The cyclops kitty

Cyclops kitty !



Praise the Lord.

Question of the Day #20: Marriage

Religious concept or not, is marriage a good idea? Are governments that sanction marriage obligated to adhere to the strict religious definition of marriage?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Prove Christ Exists / Morons of 2005

How utterly delicious : "Prove Christ exists, judge orders priest". Seems to me like the Christians are holding very, very thin cards on this one. How can you possibly prove that a fictional, mythical character existed ? They better hope the judge is a believer...


The atheist columnist at About.com has released a Top 10 Blogsnark, Worst of the Worst: 2005 Worst Blog Posts on Atheism and Secularism. I couldn't possibly stand to read these posts, but if you like to read Christians making total asses of themselves (as they are wont to do), this it the list for you. Example :

I will be preaching the funeral of a 94 year old believer. ... There will be a grandson in attendance who is apparently agnostic. He has heard the gospel, I'm sure, dozens of times, having been reared in church, with a number of strong believers in the family.

I am going to present the gospel at the funeral, but I truly want to present it in such a way that this man might find pressing. I am praying and thinking through the possible approaches, but I have not determined what course to take yet.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Applying induction to "holey" writ

Suppose we walk into a library - thousands of thousands of books all arranged in tidy rows and ordered by our good friend the Dewey Decimal Classification System. We walk around and look at all the different kinds of books there are - philosophy, religion (we walk fast around that one, only stopping to laugh at the Raelian books), social sciences, language, and so on and so forth. Suddently I stop at one specific spot in the library, point to a book and shout "AHA ! I found it ! This book is infallible !", and start reading it and regurgitating it as absolute truth.

You would say I am very silly, and for good reason. Books do not reflect absolute truth. They might be such a reflection, by accident, but we have no reason to think that they are, and no way to know it for sure. So choosing a particular book, any book, as reflection of absolute truth seems absurd on the face of it, completely arbitrary, completely irrational.

But if I had pointed at the Christian Bible (as opposed to the Satanic Bible, which is a far superior book), a great number of people would agree with me. Why ? Is there anything special about that book ? Certainly not scientific advances : it was written before any such advances. Not wisdom : it was written by people who, by and large, were uneducated, violent, and invented their gods in their own image. Not research : in fact, no research was involved in its composition at all.

The Bible is the greatest example of how horrible "writing by committee" can become. Its books have more than a dozen authors, dispersed in space and time. They were chosen by the interplay of political wrangling in the ebullient, predatory Christian movements feeding off the weak and decaying Roman Empire. There was nothing planned about the Bible.

Did God inspire the Bible ? Well, for one thing, we would need to know what it means for a supernatural being to "inspire" anything. Does this mean that this being can actually enter people's minds and twist them ? If so, this only reinforces the serious problem of the co-existence of God and free will, to which Christians have no answer (for a taste of this problem, see the end of my entry "Unspoken assumptions in denying free will" - a future entry will go more into the details of this problem). So any attempt to justify this inspiration only creates more problems for god-belief.

Not that I want to go into alternate histories (although I find the topic fascinating), but if a group of barbarians slaughter the bishops assembled at the Council of Nicea, the Bible, and the Christian religion, would have turned out quite differently. So how can the Bible possibly be absolute truth ? This is utter nonsense.

All the other books we know were written and made by people. They are composed of paper and ink, and hopefully a nice cover. They are all to be examined critically, and we do not assume that they contain absolute truth, even though we may like some and dislike others. Even the most rabid Christian does not read his favourite theologian or demagogue (depending on his level of education) with absolute truth in mind.

So the question then becomes, how can we possibly assume that all of these inductive facts magically become false when applied to the Bible ? Is there anything that overrides these considerations ? Unless one already subscribes to the bankrupt Christian worldview, nothing can do this.

Now we have to examine the liberal position on the Bible. So maybe the Bible is not infallible, but it can still be true or valid in some way. Perhaps the Bible is a moral guide, or a historical relic, or whatever you happen to believe about it.

Here we run not into an inductive problem, but a problem of logic. One of two things must be true : either the Bible is special, or it isn't. Either the Bible is the exception to all other books ever written in the history of man, or it isn't. Either you accept the Christian worldview, or you don't.

If you believe that the Bible is infallible, then you deny yourself free will (thus invalidating your own belief), you break induction, and you also open yourself to all sorts of epistemic problems, such as determining which books are infallible and which are not. So you run into Mormons, who believe that Joseph Smith's inane ramblings are infallible, and that sort of case. So there is really no defense against this sort of corruption.

On the other hand, if you don't believe that the Bible is special, then it must be examined like any other book. And when you take the conscious decision to do that, you come to realize pretty quickly that it rests on no evidence. Evolution, history and archaeology disproves most of its claims, natural morality makes most of its rules abhorrent, and plain good sense makes basic contradictions apparent. The "holey" Bible has more holes than Peter Singer's moral system.

Either "God" is absolute good or absolute evil. Either "Jesus" is the son of God, saviour of mankind, and greatest thinker in history, or it is a corrupt, despicable mythical invention. There's no middle ground possible here.

Isn't that a dangerous position to take ? Am I encouraging fundamentalism by saying these things ? Well, I don't think anyone should be ashamed of the obvious truth. But more importantly, I don't think that this sort of logic actually encourages anyone. Religious belief, fundamentalist or not, is not based on logic but on hedonism. Liberal Christians will continue to believe in their fuzzy and soft brand of religion, because that is what gives them the most mental satisfaction or pleasure. Fundamentalists will continue to get off on condemning and being self-righteous. This is a personality trait which I, or no one else, can really change.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Holy Books of Rational Individualism

The Logical Structure of Objectivism, by David Kelley, is a book with a deceptive title, since 5 chapters out of 7 are about morality. I consider this to be the bible of realist morality. And it looks like it'll always be available on the Internet for free - it is perpetually under revision. Because it is a book of deductions primarily, I use it as a reference guide first and foremost.

"Our lives are long-term projects, and our most important values are long-term values that can support life over its full length, values like wealth, friendship, a career, and so on. But because the present is directly before us, and because perceptual experience is our most realistic and direct form of awareness, short-range goals and immediate pleasures can seem more salient and feel more tempting than long-term values do. Our daily lives present us with a multiplicity of decisions about what values to seek or forgo in the short-term, but we need to make those decisions with an eye to life as a whole, not merely what is right before us."




Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, by Richard Dawkins. If LSO is the realist's bible, this book is its hymnal. Dawkins' radical materialism, his love of science, and his European appreciation for the esthetic come together to form a powerful praise of all that is realist.

"Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked-- as I am surprisingly often-- why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way around, isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born?"




Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, by Michael Martin, is the equivalent of, although to be fair it is vastly superior to, the works of Plantinga or Aquinas. It presents us with powerful negative and positive arguments, as well as a sophisticated examination of theological arguments and objections. While I think that it would have benefitted from more depth, it is an overview for anyone seriously interested in the issues.



Atheism: The Case Against God, by George Smith, is more of an introductory level counterpart to Martin's book. But I must praise its extensive examination of theological noncognitivism as being groundbreaking.

"If the Christian wishes to use positive characteristics for God while retaining their meaning, he must reduce his God to a manlike or anthropomorphic level. On the other hand, if these predicates do not mean the same when applied to God as they do when applied to natural entities, then they assume some unknown, mysterious meaning and are virtually emptied of their significance."


"Explicit atheism is the consequence of a commitment to rationality--the conviction that man's mind is fully confident to know the facts of reality, and that no aspect of the universe is closed to rational scrutiny. Atheism is merely a corollary, a specific application, of one's commitment to reason."




Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences, by Susan Blackmore. This is the realist's Book of the Dead. Blackmore discusses the various characteristics of NDEs with studies on hand and exemplary scholarship. Just on that alone it would be well worth its price, but to me it's the last chapters, on the nature of the self, that make it something more.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Question of the Day #19: New Year

Why does the changing of a year warrant a celebration? What's so exciting about the changing of a year? Why do people care?

New Blog Carnival : 9cast

There's a new weekly blog carnival around, at 9cast.com. Each week has a new topic to write about. So check it out !

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Christian infantilism / Meaning of life

Dawson Bethrick at Incinerating Presuppositionalism always does great work, and I think his work is grossly unrecognized by other atheists in the blogsphere. Dawson is both a trenchant mind and an eloquent writer. In his latest entry (at least at the time I'm writing this), "With Minds of Children", he discusses the infantilism of Christian thought :

[G]od-belief will take its root best when the believer, like a naïve child, is philosophically defenseless against the false premises which lurk under theism's pre-packaged exterior of anecdotes, pretended authority, fake promises of vindication and the like. It is, in the case of Christianity for instance, the absurd and nonsensical which distinguish its teachings from other worldviews most dramatically, insisting that adults lower their minds to the level of a 6-year-old, prone to trusting persons in postions of authority and intellectually unable to recognize any abuse of that trust.

(...)

This whole approach to apologetics smacks of the behavior of an incorrigible child hoping to entrap adults in his midst whom he resents for being right. Children are not only often overly trusting, suggestible, imprudently credulous and intellectually vulnerable, they are also often prone to lacking self-restraint, social crudeness, and depth of intellect. And it is common knowledge that a child who is reluctant to grow up is sometimes given to petty nitpicking, emotional outbursts, temper tantrums. Non-believers who are willing to engage Christian apologists should not be surprised that such tendencies may show in their opponents since, as we saw above, this childishness is actually encouraged by the Christian worldview.


I have written before that Christian morality is authoritarian and regressive - that is to say, a morality for children. Dawson's insights in this matter are not wholly surprising from this perspective. If the Christian must have child-like faith, then he must also be imposed a child-like morality. Both go hand in hand, since faith is after all a moral choice, and morality is a corollary of your epistemic position.


Here's my thought of the day. Once you realize that you're not a special being in the universe, you also realize that you only valuably exist to yourself - and to others insofar as you contribute to their values. At first it might be depressing, but I think it can only stimulate the development of a person's individuality, the development of the person's values, and more fruitful relationships with others.

What do you think ?

Monday, January 02, 2006

What is Libertarianism ?

I wouldn't usually post political stuff, but this is both a great introduction and also highly relevant to morality, so I would like to present : Stefan Molyneux's new introductory podcast, "What is Libertarianism ?". Molyneux explains how using our natural moral assumptions consistently can only lead to a libertarian outlook.



For those of you with slower connections, here is the same file with lower resolution and half the size :



Enjoy ! Don't forget that you need Flash to see these players.

(if you have a blog and would like to post these streams, please email me and I'll give you the code)

Designoids versus Intelligent Design

There are many different avenues to take on the subject of teleology in nature. We can talk about how design is deduced by humans in real-life disciplines (such as crime scene analysis or archaeology). We can also point to the innumerable examples of obvious bad designoids in biology. In this entry I rather want to discuss the worldview that each side - Neo-Darwinism and divine teleology - implies.

In Neo-Darwinism, all biological organisms are designoids (a term coined by Dawkins to denote the illusion of design), and the idea of design as complexity must be rejected as an arbitrary a priori. Scientists do not reject teleology as a principle, but to say that a non-natural teleology is responsible for anything is not meaningful, because such a hypothesis is not empirical or testable (I don't agree with that position, but that's another matter entirely). Naturalism is assumed as the only workable premise.

In divine teleology, however, non-natural teleology is not just a hypothesis but a point of faith, which makes it a religious belief. Intelligent Design advocates claim that they don't have a designer in mind, but we know that's a little white lie, as ID is clearly part of the greater Christian Creationist programme. But in order to prop up their ontological opposition to naturalism, ID advocates, and people upholding the Christian worldview in general, often use the "chance or design" dilemma. As I've argued before on this blog, the "chance or design" dilemma is particularly interesting because it illustrates the fundamental failings of divine teleology to account for more complex forms of order.

To a scientist, the dilemma is obviously wrong because there is only one valid option - natural law. The evolution of biological designoids is regulated by defined, measurable processes like natural selection, mutations, genetic drift, and so on. None of these are "chance" - otherwise they wouldn't be defined or measurable - and neither are they "design" - since no intentionalities underlie them.

My hypothesis is that people who follow the Christian worldview, due to religious education perhaps, are unable to understand complex concepts of order such as natural law. The most they can understand is divine teleology, the simplest and most accessible kind of order (since we directly observe intentionality every day by looking at other humans' actions). It was therefore only natural for primitive philosophers to give religious answers to important questions, since only divine creation was accessible to their unsophisticated minds. In this view, God is a transposition of human action on a universal scale. Christian Creationism and ID are therefore a remnant of that primitivism.

If this is true, what does it tell us about the current debate ? It would perhaps explain why the vast majority of Christian scientists (however incongruous such a mix of worldviews can be) accept the validity of Neo-Darwinism. However, I'm afraid it also makes resolution dependent on profound social factors such as the quality and nature of education. But no one said there were easy answers.