Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Scared, whining children

It probably seems rather unfair to call religious believers "scared, whining children". Now first I have to say that I am not, of course, talking about the practical atheists who adopt religion out of convenience, for social visibility, to please their parents, or because they need a narrative to make themselves feel a little more grounded. Those people are philosophically annoying but by and large fine individuals.

I'm talking about the ones who have been raised into religious submission, or to a certain extent those who have come to accept it later in life. The people whose personal values have been buried by mountains of fear, guilt, powerlessness and bigotry. You know them, the fundamentalists, the ones always foaming at the mouth. The Islamists who killed innocents in the riots caused by a bunch of mediocre cartoons. The Christians who vote for George Bush and harass women at abortion clinics. That gargoyle on Trading Spouses screaming about psychics and mandalas. Them. The sworn enemies of all that is decent and free.

The nature of religious thought and morality is pure regression. The epistemic premise of religion is that one can be passively spoon-fed the truth - from a book, from the schizophrenic voices in your head, from your favourite guy in a robe - and that the full extent of "critical thinking" consists of bickering over whether Jesus will come back before, during or after the Easter Bunny runs out of chocolate.

This puts then below the level of baby, because even babies are active learners, interacting with their environment and understanding the causality taking place all around them. Religion is not conceptualization, it is anti-conceptualization. The inter-subjective worldview of Christianity, for example, is completely constructed with non-concepts and anti-concepts : "faith", "salvation", "soul", "god", "unknowable", "supernatural", "acausal", "Creator", "Heaven" and "Hell", "original sin", "predestination", "commandments", the list goes on and on. Babies work at understanding the world and its laws : religious people work at un-learning everything they know about the world, and deny its laws.

Part of the plan of the religious worldview is to systematically destroy human cognition, and to make man dependent on unquestionable, incoherent religious dogma. By doing so, it regresses the individual to the level of little child. He is taught not to think for himself, indeed that thinking for himself is evil, he is taught that the TRVTH (tm) is beyond his capacity to reason, and that he should therefore submit to whatever authority has interposed itself as bearers of the TRVTH (tm).

I have already explained why Christian morality is repressive and child-like, but it bears repeating again. The morality of children is composed of two processes : narratives used to inculcate fear of punishment, and orders from a parental figure. This is exactly what Christianity offers as a pitiful excuse for morality. An array of superstitious tribal myths featuring genocide, mass murder and human sacrifice, designed to inculcate fear of sin and Hell, as well as a litany of orders without rhyme or reason.

What's so wrong about being ordered around by the Almighty Rageaholic ? Obeying orders is not morality. Following a laundry list of "thou shalt not"s and "stone those who" do this and that is not moral agency, it's submission. We are moral agents whether we like it or not, and people who follow the evil precepts of Christianity are morally responsible for their actions. The fact that they pretend to surrender their will to a god or doctrine does not make it so.

Children do not hold values, they obey orders. Christians do not hold values, they obey orders. Children are not responsible for their actions. Christians are grown adults, but still believe that they are not accountable for their moral dogma. Children are motivated by fear of punishment. Christians are motivated by fear of punishment. Children are raised into the belief that their family and the beliefs of their family are the best. Christians believe that only they detain the key to "salvation", and that all other religions or worldviews are immoral.

What do you end up with ? Overgrown children walking around, hollering like monkeys at sexuality and profanity, lashing out at anyone different, whining when they don't get their way all the time, hurting others when they please, hounding others to conform (unfortunately, this also describes many atheists as well).

However, I must add that to associate religious people with children is really an insult to children. Therefore I would like to apologize to all atheist children who might be reading this entry.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Question of the Day #29: Sheep

Image hosting by PhotobucketOkay, you probably knew this was coming.

Is sex with animals immoral, and why?

[Franc's note : Stop fucking talking about consent. We don't acknowledge the consent of other species in any other matter, that's just a red herring used by liberal crazies.]

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Presenting the antithesis

J-Walk quoted from a Christian thesis. As is the goal of this blog, I now provide the antithesis (correcting the original poster's terrible grammar) :

Child: "Mommy, where did we come from ?"

Mother: "Why, we come from dirt, son. We were made from dirt by a being we cannot know for reasons that make no sense. But you have to obey the religion of that being or you're going to be tortured forever."

Child: "... oookay... so I'm the result of dirt ?"

*Ten days later, at school, Timmy shoots 5 people and then shoots himself in the head*


*Timmy wasn't aware that there were consequences for doing evil deeds, because he was told that only faith mattered, and since he thought he came from dirt, whether or not he lived or died didn't matter. He was going to die anyway and be tortured forever. Because of the suppression of truth, his mother would not suffer the loss of her beloved child and would not feel guilty, because she believed that she did the right thing by raising him Christian.

I think my version is a lot better.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Standard Problem of Evil Reformulated part 2

Here is my "ironclad PoE" :

(1) If a god exists, then it is Creator.
(2) If a god exists, then it is morally righteous.
(3) Given (1) and (2), a god would not have created a non-perfect universe (defined as containing natural or human evil/suffering).
(4) We observe natural and human evil/suffering.
(5) No god exists. (from 3 and 4)

In premises (1) and (2), I establish some properties of a "god" (or if you don't agree with my equation of "god" with monotheism, just replace it with "God") - Creator and morally righteous. The latter is not explicitly promoted by believers, but if a god is benevolent in any way, it must be morally righteous. So the criteria of moral righteousness is actually a lot more generous than what most believers use, and there's no problem of definition here (unlike "omnibenevolence", which like any other omni is wholly outside of human understanding).

(3) is the pivotal deduction, because this is where the restriction on Creation is introduced. More specifically, I am saying "because of a god's nature, it cannot create a universe with evil/suffering". On the one hand, a god controls all states of the universe by virtue of being Creator - it does not create one specific hurricane, or one specific tree, but all material existents. This is also why it can create a "perfect universe", insofar as such a notion is obviously logically possible (an empty spacetime, for example, would not contain any evil or suffering).

On the other hand, if it is benevolent at all, a god is morally righteous - in a scenario with equal costs, it desires to effect the best choice. So it desires to effect a perfect universe, just as we would in the same situation, or do in different situations.

But if both are true, we should not observe any evil or suffering. And yet we do. Note here that the issue is not whether we observe unexplainable suffering. Some PoEs concentrate on that issue, and that's fine, but my "ironclad PoE" concerns ANY suffering, including suffering that has a human explanation (such as going to the dentist). A morally righteous Creator could just as easily create a universe where no suffering is needed at all to obtain a second-order good, character, and so on.

This argument also makes all theodicies and objections useless, because they have no more gap to live in. For example, the Christian can no longer argue that suffering exists because of our free will, because God could have chosen to create a universe where free will is only benevolent. Even if a Christian believes that there is an inherent contradiction between free will and the absence of suffering, then we can simply reply that God could have creatred a universe where there is no such contradiction. We are not concentrating on specific actions or events, but rather on the Creative act, where by definition "all things are possible".

The only avenues left are to either deny (1), (2), or the deduction to (3). The first two options would completely destroy the notion of "god" as presented in the monotheistic religions (God is either a useless usurper or very stupid). But can someone accept (1) and (2) without (3) ? Even if someone argues that his god would only desire to create a universe where people believe in him, the passage still holds, as there are many different ways in which it could have created such a universe - including making atheism biologically impossible. Yet this is obviously not the case.

There are many different kinds of PoEs (logical, evidential, inductive, soteriological, as well as moral arguments) and they use various areas to make their point. My argument is just a straightforward reformulation of the original PoE, but I think it is a powerful one.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Ateos the Hedgehog

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Ateos the Hedgehog says :
"We have all the evidence and you've got nothing. Take that, Christians !"
"All this religious crap is making me so tired."

The Standard Problem of Evil Reformulated part 1

Although theologians are dead wrong in claiming that it is the only argument in our arsenal, the Problem of Evil is by far the most persuasive and powerful of them all. Christian organizations are always falling all over themselves trying to explain natural disasters in God's designed universe.

Their lame, unscientific and downright offensive excuses - Satan creates disasters, sin creates disasters, disasters are needed to make us good people, we bring disasters on ourselves - don't hold water any more. And so they weave those words like there's no tomorrow, in greater and greater rhetorical circles, until they're exhausted and red in the face, to try to keep their worldview intact.

The nonsense, however, does manage to hide the truth sometimes. Theodicies especially have retained their perceived ability to account for evil. I think this is due primarily to the unfortunate approach that standard PoEs have taken. Instead of concentrating on choice and action, as any argument centering around morality should, it looks at final states. So this leaves a gap between choice and outcome, which leaves the PoE open to pseudo-refutations like the theodicies.

The PoEs have also typically suffered from the use of moral terms, like "evil", which are interpreted in different ways by different Christian sects and atheist groups. The use of morality-neutral terms like "suffering" is helpful but also carries its own disadvantages, such as a discontinuity between the fact of suffering and the conclusion of non-benevolence.

These two problems, however, can be eliminated if we recenter the PoE on the divine choice. This makes an "ironclad PoE", in that there is no more gap for theodicies to slip in. I was inspired to take this approach by Everitt in The Non-Existence of God, pages 243 to 244.

First I need to define one term : "morally righteous". In the context of this PoE, I define moral righteousness as :

Posit a volitional being B. When making a choice where there is at least one perfect alternative and the cost of the implementation of all alternatives are identical (or in the case of a god, where the cost is automatically zero), B will choose a perfect alternative if B is morally righteous.

This is an intuitively obvious principle. Suppose that you go to an ice cream store, determined to get an ice cream cone. I'm hungry, hot, whatever. In the store, I'm faced with all sorts of varieties, all with the same cost. This is, in a trivial way, the same kind of scenario as proposed in the definition. If, in such a scenario, I buy ipecac flavour instead of, say, chocolate, I'm plainly being an idiot (unless, for instance, I am fulfilling a bet, but this would make it inherently more desirable).

In short, in a scenario where all costs are equal, there's no reason for me not to do the right thing. This is an intuitive moral principle that, I think, no one is able to reject coherently.

Perhaps one could argue that the moral problem is only pushed back into the word "perfect", and that perfection is in the eye of the beholder. But this would be no different than saying that the standard PoE fails because good and evil are a part of God's mind. If we are talking about a distinct divine form of morality, then all pretenses that God is benevolent must be dropped, and the notion of worship must crumble, thus collapsing the concept of "God" under its own weight. This also, of course, applies to the Apathetic God Paradox.

Also, we can reformulate the definition of moral righteousness without referring to perfect, but rather to a "best alternative" or "best alternatives". All we would need here is to point out to what the "best" is relative to, and in this case it would be evil, suffering, or whatever other moral term one wishes to apply. The tension between omnibenevolence and neutral terms does not apply here, as we are shedding the notion of benevolence altogether for the notion of moral righteousness, which do not have to be directly related. Someone can accept the notion of moral righteousness while rejecting omnibenevolence, and vice-versa (although, as I said, I don't think anyone can reject the notion of moral righteousness coherently).

The problem of looking at the PoE from the perspective of a specific disaster is that it loses sight of the big picture. A believer can try to explain the existence of a disaster by invoking another feature of the world that it supports or improves, such as our character (character-building theodicy), other goods (second-order goods), free will (free will theodicy), or original sin. But if we look at the universe as a whole, and states of the universe as choices, then this avenue vanishes. For example, it makes no sense any more to state that evil exists because of free will, if we consider both evil and free will as part of God's imperfect choice.

I present my formal argument in the second part.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Two Percent Company make asses out of selves

Look at the stream of ad homs and boasting they're posting on their own thread now. As far as I'm concerned, they have been exposed for the mystic frauds they are, and this conversation is over.

If a more reasonable skeptic (I know some of you read this blog !) wants to give it a try and explain what he means by "testing the paranormal", he is free to do so in the comments. I'll be waiting...

Testing paranormal claims ? The last word

My little discussion with the Two Percent Company continues with this latest salvo of theirs. Now this is turning into a rather ornate argument, so I'll try to keep this as short as I can. Also, this is the last I'll write about it, unless Two Percent Company can fulfill my two little challenges to prove their premises... which I know they can't anyway, so the point is rather moot. I honestly don't want to sanction them any more than I already have - to say that I think they are not good people is about as nice as I can be on this.

I argued in my previous entry that Two Percent Company is wrong in stating that the paranormal/supernatural is a possibility, and that whatever they think it means cannot be anything more than an inter-subjective belief with no connection to reality. It seems their main reply is to argue that I'm playing word games. This seems to me like a pretty fundamental issue to be called a word game.

First, let me point out some areas which I think illustrate some problems. The first misunderstanding I note is the following :

We aren't saying that because we can imagine the paranormal, it might be real.

I never thought that was what they were saying. I mentioned the imagination part as the most common argument, but I understand that Two Percent Company is saying specifically that it is their ability to conceive of the paranormal that makes it possible, not their ability to imagine of it. Since both claims are equally absurd, I don't see the point of dwelling on it anyway.

The fact that any paranormal claim is meaningless is an assertion based solely on his underlying belief that it cannot exist.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. They are taking this ass-backwards. I know it cannot exist because it is meaningless, not the reverse. Let me put it this way : if Two Percent Company can explain to me the meaning of any paranormal of supernatural claim, and show how it is compatible with the facts of reality, then I will concede its possibility. Let's start with... say, ghosts. Can you do it ?

This is really a relatively simple task. All they would need to do is give us the meaning of "ghost", and show that it is compatible with, say, the idea of a "ghost" floating in mid-air at night scaring people off. This is a pretty trivial task to complete for any material concept.

Frankly, we agree that the "paranormal" or "supernatural" doesn't exist

And yet, on their first post :
"Further, the "possibility" always remains to prove the existence of the supernatural, inasmuch as anything is theoretically conceivable."
So which is it ? If it doesn't exist, then it's not possible to prove its existence.

Francois seems to hold that belief due to semantic arguments: supernatural ergo not natural ergo not real ergo meaningless; or, in plain English, if it's called "supernatural" then it can't be part of the natural world and hence it can't exist, period.
As soon as something is scientifically verified to exist, it ceases to be "supernatural" and becomes "natural."

This is an insulting straw man, but never mind that. It's more interesting to note that their position seems to be based on the idea that "supernatural" actually means something (instead of being the empty negative term that it really is), that something "supernatural" can magically turn into something "natural". I would very much like an explanation from Two Percent Company on how something supernatural can magically become natural - especially since, by definition, it cannot be changed through natural laws ! The closest I can think of is the belief in a divine incarnation like "Jesus" - but given their stance against religion, that doesn't seem like a way out for them.

Ultimately, it seems that the people playing word games here is Two Percent Company - if they expect us to believe that words don't mean what they mean !

As we've said more times than we can count, sure: it's "possible" that mediums are real. It's also possible that small gnomes live in our asses.

I'm tired of these nonsensical assertions of probability. Prove that the possibility actually exists, or stop making such absurd claims. As I apparently failed to explain properly in my previous entry, possibility has nothing to do with conceivability or imagination. Possibility is a claim about reality. You would have to be able to describe the physicality of such gnomes and whether they could fit in an ass or not - but there is no point in doing this since you obviously pulled this out of your ass, appropriately enough.

As I said earlier, if Two Percent Company can explain to me the meaning of any paranormal of supernatural claim, and show how it is compatible with the facts of reality, then I will concede its possibility. Until then, they would be well-advised to lay off the "possibility" talk.

Not only do skeptics "have an idea" of what it means to test claims of the paranormal, such tests are actually constructed and carried out all the time.

I deny that such "tests" are more than inter-subjective games. They have no relation to reality. Once again, you cannot test something that has no meaning ! What is so hard to understand about this ? Can you test the existence of "zorglubs" ? Gods ? Ghosts ? Impossible.

What are being conducted are games for the amusement of skeptics, who should know better than to think they are doing something meaningful with their time.

However, if someone offers a claim that clearly suggests a material, physical observation or experiment that could confirm or refute the claim, why should we not test it?

I am aghast to have to point out something so painfully obvious, but if it was measurable, then such a claim would be NATURAL ! You could not have a causal connection from those claimed existents or processes to your sensory organs if the former were not natural to begin with. I hope I don't have to explain to them how the eyes or the ears work ?

As demonstrated clearly in that earlier post, we agree that it is not possible to disprove the paranormal (for the reasons stated therein). However, it is absolutely possible to test and disprove (or prove) specific paranormal claims.

How can you dissociate "the paranormal" from "paranormal claims" ? If you prove a paranormal claim, you also prove that the paranormal exists, if only within that one claim. We're not talking about another universe or dimension or realm of existence here : just of absurd, extraordinary claims and how we classify them (paranormal, supernatural, pseudo-science, religious, etc).

So, how could something be a brilliant and educational move, and yet still be a quixotic waste of time?

I never claimed that the Million Dollar Prize was inherently skeptical (in fact I claimed the opposite !), so I fail to see the logical connection here. It seems to me like they are looking for nits that simply aren't there.

Then they go on and on to discuss the so-called educational value of skepticism, which I simply don't agree with at all. This has nothing to do with the main thrust of my argument anyway, although I have to concede that my objections to skepticism are as much moral as they are epistemic. The fact that skepticism is a force against prudent predators is a moral negative to me, although skeptics also sometimes go against imprudent predators. But I think it would only embroil us more to start a new discussion on the moral issue when we're already embroiled in the epistemic issue.

So what is the gist of the Two Percent Company's argument against my anti-skeptic position ? As far as I can see, it is the delusion that they (the skeptics) are doing something meaningful when they are "testing a paranormal claim". This seems to me to have no more merit than the delusion that Catholics are eating the body of Christ when they munch on a little piece of stale bread. Both rely on inter-subjective agreements which are meaningless to a rational observer.

I'm not saying that inter-subjective agreement is always a bad thing. For example, two people may decide to play a variant of FIDE chess (say, one where pawns capture forward) instead of FIDE chess. This is perfectly valid, and they can have a great time doing so. But they cannot then turn around and claim they were playing FIDE chess all this time ! The problem comes when people cannot grasp the difference between their agreements and reality. To me, skeptics have also lost this ability when they claim to be able to test paranormal claims. It is a game, nothing more.

Let me make my position clear. I am obviously not saying that you cannot test such a claim as "being able to diagnose an illness at a distance". While the claim in itself may be rather wonky (although in some cases rather trivial), there is no paranormal or supernatural term in such a claim. In that case, yes, the skeptic is doing something meaningful when he is testing it, although it seems to me to be more of a medical claim than anything else. If the skeptic, however, thinks that he is testing something paranormal by doing so, or even "spirit communication", then he is out of his mind.

But let me go ahead for a moment and take their epistemic claim at face value. Their position is that, while paranormal claims are not possible in theory, they can still test them. Fine, guys. Tell us what it means to test "spirit communication". And to do such a thing you necessarily first need to explain what "spirit" means. Let's see you once and for all support their position. Can you do that ?

I'm looking forward to seeing you accomplish the impossible. In short, "put up or shut up".

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Formal Presuppositional Argument? Revisited

A while back I tried to come to grips with the presuppositional argument as formulated in a syllogism by one such presuppositionalist. There's been a bit of furor about it since then, seen here, here, and to a lesser extent here.

My treatment of the argument has been under criticism, and though I admitted in the original post that I may be incorrect, I still haven't seen a clear consensus on what the argument should be. Paul Manata suggested that the argument could be thought of as a biconditional statement, but then backed away from that suggestion. For the record, though, a biconditional version would look take this form:

1) Logic exists if and only if God exists.
2) Logic exists.
3) Therefore, God exists.

He then posted authoritatively that the argument was best expressed as a modal argument, of the form:

1) If Logic is possible, then God exists.
2) Logic is possible.
3) Therefore, God exists.

I'd agree that both of those are valid arguments. The biconditional form seems to me to be more expressive of the gist of the presuppositional approach, and it may in fact be what Dusman intended, but without specifying "if and only if," I can't know for sure. Incidentally, the biconditional approach is the easiest way out of the fallacious form that I found in what he actually wrote. So it seems strange to me that Paul would prefer the modal argument instead, which seems weaker.

If I may be so bold, I'd like to propose that both could be combined into one really solid argument.

1) If and only if God exists, then logic is possible.
2) Logic is possible.
3) Therefore, God exists.

Pretty bulletproof, right? I mean, this is an argument that I could see myself getting behind if I was a presuppositionalist Christian.

But, I'm not a presuppositionalist Christian. So I'm going to see if I can pop it anyway.

1) If and only if God exists, then logic is possible.
2) If logic is possible, then an entity cannot have two contradictory attributes (law of noncontradiction)
3) Logic is possible (necessary for argumentation)
4) God exists. (from 1 and 3)
5) If God exists, then he is infinitely just. (from Christian doctrine)
6) If God exists, then he is infinitely merciful. (from Christian doctrine)
7) God cannot be infinitely just and infinitely merciful (from 2)
8) God does not exist (from 5, 6, and 7)
9) Logic is not possible (from 1, 8)

Reductio ad absurdum. Let me know what you think- I really do think having a proper understanding of the presuppositionalist argument is important to understanding the Christian approach to rationality.

Question of the Day #28: Dogs

Image hosting by PhotobucketI'm not entirely clear on what Christians make of their pets. Are they sentient beings to them, or do Christians simply regard pets as fuzzy little crapping robots?

If the former is true, then wouldn't the pet therefore have a soul, and where would it go when the animal dies? If it doesn't go anywhere, then what's wrong with saying the same is true of the human "soul"?

If the latter is true, and pets are non-sentient furry robots, then why do Christians play with their pets? Do they get the same sort of emotional fulfillment from interacting with other "soulless" non-sentients, such as a computerized videogame opponent or SmarterChild?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Two Percent Company counters

The Two Percent Company posted a counter to an entry of mine where I criticized skepticism. Now granted, I was asking for it, since most atheists are skeptics or sympathetic to skepticism, I freely admit it. Nevertheless, I think an answer is in order.

One problem was that they thought I was saying James Randi is wasting his time. I don't think Randi is wasting his time with the Million Dollar Challenge, since it is meant as an education and PR move, not as testing of paranormal claims per se. I can imagine a cynic like me setting up such a Challenge, for the same reasons. It is a brillant idea.

They trip all over themselves, however, when they say :

Further, the "possibility" always remains to prove the existence of the supernatural, inasmuch as anything is theoretically conceivable.

There seems to be an obsession amongst a lot of people in confusing possibility and conceivability. I hear the same addle-brained argument used against the argument from the meaninglessness of religious language (and we all have Theodore Drange to thank for that). "I can still imagine it, so it means something !". No, possibility has nothing to do with whether you can imagine it, or conceive it. All that being able to conceive or imagine something means, is that you can hold such a construct in your head. Saying that "X is possible" is a claim about exterior reality, not about your imagination. Possibility has to be demonstrated. And no skeptic is going to be able to demonstrate the possibility of something that is meaningless ! Can't be done.

I'm sure that skeptics have an inter-subjective idea of what it means to "test claims of the paranormal" or "test claims of the supernatural". That's all well and fine, but like all inter-subjective constructs, it is a shared belief which relates to nothing in the reality we all acknowledge. You cannot test something that has no connection to our material senses and instruments (never mind that it cannot exist in the first place).

Even in mundane cases of fraud, the inter-subjective construct does not apply. You can even prove that someone is using cold reading, but you still haven't disproven the claim that he is getting "messages from the deceased" - since it has no meaning to begin with ! How can anyone even give any credibility to such a claim ? Corpses don't communicate. But most importantly, once you accept a meaningless claim, there is no way for you to make the difference between its effects and another claim's effects (such as cold reading). That is what "meaningless" means.

I reiterate what I said - skepticism is a waste of time and judgment. Of course we should all maintain a healthy doubt towards possibilities. I'm always discovering new possibilities and acknowledging I was wrong (most recently on the whole government issue, a couple months ago), so I do have such healthy doubt. The only difference is that I do not waste time on things that have no possibility.

By the way, I have no enmity with Two Percent Company, they are just way too statist for my tastes (and I thought that even before I became a market anarchist). They should start by being skeptical about that, in my opinion, as the idea that force is criminal when performed by one thug, but perfectly moral when done by a group of thugs calling themselves "government", is the second most extraordinary and absurd claim ever made (if you really need to know, the first one is the Trinity).

Pseudoscience isn't just for Creationists

Usually these days when the discussion is raised of pseudoscience being taught in public schools, the assumption is that creationism/intelligent design is invovled somehow. But Kent Hovind, Carl Baugh, and Duane Gish aren't the only culprits- indeed, not Christians, not even monotheists can claim a monopoly on this enterprise.

Eastern religions have just as many pseudoscientific claims as anything in Western culture- be it acupuncture, feng shui, or qigong. All of these are based on the concept of "qi," or "chi," which is roughly analogous to the Western concept of "soul," or "spirit." Whatever it is, it's completely unverifiable by scientific methods, and so wouldn't have anything to do with a public school curriculum, right?

Wrong. A parent at the International School of Monterey, California alerted me that this had actually been the case. A qigong practitioner had been instructing students without parental notification in such essential skills as "energy manipulation." Once discovered by parents, this practice was ended, but the school has refused to disclose any documentation about how this pseudoscience became part of its curriculum. This school follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum- I would expect a more rational commitment to the establishment of rigorous scientific education.

More information and a petition can be found here.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Carnival of the Godless #34 !

The day after the preceding Carnival edition was met by me with some trepidation. This is my first time hosting a blog carnival. Would I be deluged with entry after entry of nihilistic word-games, religion-sympathetic grievances, or perhaps... *gulp*... poetry ?

Actually, I shouldn't have worried. Everyone sent in great entries, and no subjectivist hula-hoop in sight.

Here we go !

Here we go...

  • clear skies"Ebonmuse" starts us off with "Life Without Superstition", a list of reasons why atheism is a better way to live :
    Atheism offers the exhilaration of choosing your own purpose. As an atheist, you are not a pawn in a cosmic game, trudging through life toward a predetermined end; you can throw away the chains of holy writ and set your own course, steer your own path. To an atheist, life is not a prescripted morality play or an exercise of a god's whim, but a wide-open horizon, gloriously real and significant. Whatever makes your life meaningful and gives you happiness and contentment is your right to choose, so long as you respect others' right to do the same.
    Atheism is truly a door that opens to all the possibilities of human life. The hardest part seems to simply open it and take the first step.

  • Productivity = HappinessUberKuh grapples the concept of productivity in his entry "Productivity = Happiness". I have to admit that the value of productivity is the moral issue that I tend to skip around the most, but UberKuh really puts it in a clear perspective.
    For the rational among us, productivity is the key to happiness, the result of which is an enjoyment of the product, as well as the process, of their productive efforts. For the irrational among us, productivity is a nice way to pass the time, but, ultimately, it means almost nothing when compared to a servile obediance to static, preordained, and, thus, impractical moral principles. In short, for the rational among us, life is about doing good, while, for the irrational, it is about being "good." The first values conscious, intellectual action based on an appreciation of fact gleaned as truth. The second values unconscious, emotional reaction based on an appreciation of blind, dogmatic belief, accompanied by ignorance and fear of the unknown. Which quality do you choose - productivity or passivity? I choose productivity.
    A clear-headed moral entry showing the antithesis between religion and rational individualism ? I'm jealous - this entry really belongs on our blog ! Seriously, great work UberKuh. You're gonna make Raving Atheist go ballistic if you keep up the Rand quotes, though (not that that's a bad thing).

  • Gods and MoralsNow, I wasn't too hot with including this entry, simply because it's not from a blog. It's not even really blog-ish. But the entry was just too good to pass up. This may be my bias talking, but it's another entry about morality, "Gods and Morals" by Hank Fox. Hank really gets into the meat of the morality-religion confusion, and even gets some moral realism in there.
    Finally, and importantly, if you believe that morals are handed down by mystical superbeings rather than worked out among rational, compassionate adults, you will never really "get" morality.

    It is impossible to be a moral being yourself, or a positive moral force in your society if you don’t understand the REASONS for moral acts. The young man I quoted at the beginning of this essay had no way to think about morality beyond "I have to do what my god says."
    To believe that morality is handed down by God under threat of punishment is exactly like being a baby getting screamed at by mom or pop. It seems to be so comforting to stay a little baby, isn't it ? Religious authoritarianism is such a poison that even atheists need to learn their lessons all over again.

  • human sacrificeHere's another moral entry, this time from Alonzo Fyfe, making an analogy between evangelist debaters and human sacrifice in "Faith and Human Sacrifice". His basic point, that all collectivist systems not only exploit their victims but also exploit people's good will, is well taken :
    The human tragedy, then, applies not only to the victims of religious sacrifice, but also to the priest. He wanted to do good deeds. He wanted a life of meaning and significance. He ended up with a life in which he added one more source of misery and death to all of the causes of misery and death found in nature. He wanted to help his people -- to protect them from hurricanes and enemy attack. He ended up being just one more threat to their lives and well-being.

  • FaithDaniel Midgley mashes his nose against the impenetrable wall of religious inter-subjectivity in "Conversations with The Priest, part one: Faith".
    For me, learning about critical thinking broke the cycle of faith. I learned that I was engaging in many different kinds of bad reasoning in my religious practice, including selective sampling, wishful thinking, confirmation bias, and cognitive blackouts when a line of thinking became too threatening to a cherished belief. (I plan to treat each of these in future posts.)

    I could go back to 'exercising faith' after learning about all of this. But to do so, I'd have to be willing to suspend my critical reasoning skills, and instead just believe the beliefs. Accept the pattern. Start interpreting things according to the theory. In time, it'll seem like it's true.
    While this is a very good entry, I hardly see the point of explaining this to a priest, who by definition is already committed to epistemic insanity. Daniel should get a more productive hobby, like ramming his head into walls until it bleeds.

  • Those Danish cartoonsJarndyce has some comments on the famous cartoons of Mohammed in "Those Danish cartoons and systematic oppression", and replies to a rebuttal from some communist crackpot in "Racism and cartoons (again)".
    [H]is neo-imperialist discourse that doesn't work without a victim, and for whom the faces of right-wing cartoonists receiving death threats and embassy staff having their workplace burned down don't fit. The actual victim, the butt, is long dead and fair game.
    I've gotta say that, even if I also follow neo-imperialist discourse, there's no way I can see the Islamists as victim on that one. You'd have to be supremely dishonest, or supremely disconnected from reality, to make such a claim. Good reply, Jarndyce. You said pretty much all that needs to be said on this whole stupid affair.

And we keep going...

  • demons and humansAustin Cline gets a zinger in with "Demons and Humans: Why Irrational Belief is Praiseworthy in Christianity". Reading Smith's "Why Atheism?", he highlights the fact that demons believe in God, and yet are not praised for that - what Christians value above all is ignorant belief :
    Demons arguably have stronger reasons to believe than humans do. The problem is, they don’t have faith — which, according to Aquinas, means that they don’t believe for irrational reasons. Rational belief is not praiseworthy; irrational belief is[.]
    I'm not sure about that conclusion though. What about the Apostles ? Christians obviously think the Apostles were great Christians, even though they had plenty of evidence to believe - evidence that no one else has. Of course, it's all fairy tales anyway, so I guess we shouldn't expect too much consistency...

  • Islamic WarriorIlkka Kokkarinen's got some nerve, telling us that nothing we write is original. But apart from that, his "A proposal for a future Carnival of Godless" to concentrate on the irrationality and evils of Islam has some merit.
    There seems to be so much more unexplored potential in critizing Islam. I would therefore claim that an Islam-themed edition of this carnival would significantly energize and revitalize the atheist community all around the world. And I'm pretty sure that that we might even get some additional publicity out of it. Hey, it might perhaps even get atheism some worldwide mainstream media attention outside the blogosphere.
    That's all well and fine, but one can easily turn his own criticisms against his proposal... Freethought Mecca, anyone ? He also submitted another entry called "Do you mow your lawn with a lawnmower, or with prayer?", which I'm afraid seems to me equally ideologically flawed. With the personnalization of religion going on, I don't think eliminating organized religion would be such a big hit to religion in general - in fact, I think it would probably make it stronger.

  • Atheist UniverseGrrlScientist, of Living the Scientific Life, gives us her review of David Mills's book "Atheist Universe: Why God Didn't Have A Thing to Do With It". We've had Mills on our show and I have to say the guy is a class act. And GrrlScientist really liked his book :
    Throughout this book, Mills contrasts the rationality of science with the Bible's lack of veracity, noting at one point that, as far as accuracy is concerned, "the Bible is a non-prophet organization." Unlike some books that I have read in this genre, Mills never reconciles science and religion. As an unfortunate result, many religious people will probably throw this book into the trash before finishing it, without thinking deeply about the arguments presented. But I hope that a few of them will come to appreciate Mills' logic as they come to a clearer understanding of what atheism is and is not, and will realize why atheism is a rational position for anyone to hold.
    I've argued against consilience as a perversion of science on this blog before, and it's always nice to see someone else arguing against it.

  • sky godMark Rayner has a story of a primitive man questioning the er... wisdom of the shamans in "Thag not grok god!".
    “So where does the rain come from,” the shaman asked. It was a rhetorical question — even Dubyag, the unfortunate hunter who had been kicked in the head by an enraged wooly rhino knew that.

    “The rain,” Weasel-Scratch-Face-Brother paused for dramatic effect, “comes from the Sky God.”
    Yea, we should really be happy that we know better than that nowadays. Everyone knows that meteorological events are the result of the Lord our God's mercy and vengeance. The Sky God ? What were they thinking ?

  • Apocalypse NowTalking about stories, Frank the Financially Savvy Atheist brings us the scenario of the aftermath of a nuclear war caused by... Christianity, of course, in "Apocalypse Now".
    Frank, possibly the last human being alive, struggles to his feet after another restless night of half-sleep. His hollow, sunken face looks up at the bleak sky as he wonders to himself, Why am I still alive. Not knowing the answer, he walks along the deserted road, limping from fresh wounds. Fucking president. Detonating nuclear fucking weapons because some imaginary friend told him that we were at war. How the hell did we manage to vote for this insane pissant anyway?.
    Well, it worked for Hitler, right ? Personally I think Christians would survive a nuclear war, because it's always the annoyances that survive - bacteria, cockroaches, and those things that bite us at night.

  • LimitsAndy talks about the natural limits of body trading in "Limits".
    There are two levels of limits. One is political or societal. The proper limit is when you start to violate someone's individual or property rights. Selling a baby is wrong because that is slavery. Humans are not chattel. But sperm (...) is not a human. It is part of a human. A kidney is not a human, it is part of a human. A human should be able to decide to sell those parts.
    Yes, it's really horrible that government has imposed a twisted health care value system by which the only person who is not allowed to benefit from organ donation is... the donor. People will just reject capitalism at all costs, even if it means people must die on waiting lists.

  • Las VegasSteve Pavlina thinks there's something more to Las Vegas than meets the eye in "Cave-Free Spirituality" :
    If the pursuit of spirituality causes you to lose the ability to function in the modern world, then I’d say you’ve taken a wrong turn. Genuine spirituality should be immensely practical. If your model of reality is accurate, then you shouldn’t have to escape reality to feel whole and complete. You should be able to function even better than the average person, especially when confronted with modern day challenges.
    Steve is lamenting the "spiritual seekers" who "eschew the modern world and withdraw into solitude", but I think it applies to a lot more people than he thinks. People who call themselves "spiritual" seem to have an almost automatic bias against modern values and modern technology, because they have bought the line that modern man is degraded. I agree that it's a terrible way of seeing life.

  • dicarloJeffrey Shallit gives us "Does the God of the Bible Exist? - A Debate Report", about a debate between Chris diCarlo and Scott Wilkinson.
    After the debate, I asked Pastor Wilkinson the following question: "You say the earth is 10,000 years old. Yet there are ice cores in Antarctica that give an unbroken record of 190,000 years. How do you explain this?" He had no good answer, mumbling about "uniformity" and "assumptions".

  • Moral ResponsibilityFinally, there's my own entry, "Moral Responsibility vs Christianity" part 1 and part 2.
    It has been pointed out many times that belief in the afterlife is in fact one of the most dangerously amoral beliefs there are. Such a belief is the most effective value-destroyer there is : if this material life is only a dress rehearsal, a test, a stepping stone to the infinite value of salvation and eternal life, then any horrific action can be justified by religious motivations.

See you all at for the next Carnival of the Godless. Keep the party going !

Photoshops by Niels Van Der Linden.

Slight Carnival delay

Everything is in place, but I'm still waiting on... a certain someone to send me something to top it off. I would really like to have it up, but I will put the entry up this afternoon either way.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Tomorrow is Carnival day / Mohammed Image Archive / Randi on rejecting religion

Tomorrow is D-Day for Carnival of the Godless #34 right here on Goosing the Antithesis. I've tried to make this edition a bit special. I hope you guys will like it !

Want to piss off an islamic friend ? Make sure to point him to one of the mirrors of the Mohammed Image Archive. Sure to start an instant riot !

James Randi is a no-nonsense kinda guy. So you know what you're gonna get when you read his article called : "Why I Deny Religion, How Silly and Fantastic It Is, and Why I'm a Dedicated and Vociferous Bright." Doesn't get much clearer than that. To boot :

Yes, I'm a materialist. I'm willing to be shown wrong, but that has not happened — yet. And I admit that the reason I'm unable to accept the claims of psychic, occult, and/or supernatural wonders is because I'm Iocked into a world-view that demands evidence rather than blind faith, a view that insists upon the replication of all experiments — particularly those that appear to show violations of a rational world — and a view which requires open examination of the methods used to carry out those experiments.

Well, a few months ago I would have agreed completely, but now Randi's skeptical views somewhat annoy me. I don't think it's possible to prove that the supernatural exists, even in principle. I have yet to see any skeptic prove that the possibility remains. And yet they keep looking...

Isn't the skeptic's quixotic quest rather like those studies that keep cropping up to try to prove or disprove that prayer has a medical effect ? What is the point to these millions of dollars wasted ? Let's devote our energy to better things, people...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Daily truths and eternal white lies

There is an unfortunate compartimentalization in most people's thinking, which I think is ingrained in the human mind and is explainable by evolutionary psychology. The homo sapiens living millions of years ago did not juggle a complex social life, an evolving technology, or a capacity to understand the world. It contended with very simple facts : to eat or be eaten, to be safe and warm, to kow-tow to the leader of the group.

So there was a natural cleavage between daily truths and eternal white lies. Failure to acknowledge daily truths led to suffering and death (and even acknowledging them could still lead to suffering and death). Failure to acknowledge eternal truths brought no penalty. Individual humans simply did not live long enough to suffer the consequences.

Despite the fact that science has provided the link between daily experience and eternal truths, the untrained human mind cannot make such connections. It requires a discipline that is, let's be fair, a waste of time to people who have no overriding interest in honesty (and that includes most people). This is not to say that people are inherently dishonest : just that they have no reason to pursue a program of total honesty and suffer the anxiety contained therein.

The beautiful fictions, white lies, of authority - be it the authority of gods, churches or governments - spread across the globe simply because they relieve the individual of individual responsibility, as well as give him a feeling of false security. They serve to lull mankind into a state where it can be safely plundered by force-wielders and ruling classes of all kinds. Who are we, therefore, to awake the memetic sleepwalkers ?

From this perspective, it seems that atheism, anarchism, and all other disbeliefs in authority are mere vanity. At least, that's how believers see it. They think that we make ourselves superior to them by lacking the beliefs which make their lives so simple, by accepting an unneeded complexity in our lives, by "hardening" ourselves to those beliefs.

I must make clear that I disagree completely with such an attitude. I am not an individualist because I feel superior to anyone else. In fact, implicit in my individualism is the fact that I am not special in any way. Rather, I am an individualist because it is the simple truth. I could not deny the fact that I am a separate organism with my own values, or that other people are. To deny it would be about as absurd as saying that a pile of rock has a soul. I lack belief in transcendent authorities, not because they are authorities per se (after all, I accept the authority of experts in areas about which I know nothing), but because transcendence is nonsense.

Science has given, to the clear rational mind, the bridge between daily truths and eternal truths. It has shown us that by system-building and its judicious falsification, we could progressively arrive at more and more accurate models of the greater reality, unlocking the eternal truths of natural law.

This goes completely against claims of transcendence, because one of their main attractions is the reduction of every single process to intelligent agency. Few people are actually able to understand the notion of natural law. Even most atheists are utterly unable to understand the functioning of a free market (which they think is some kind of weird right-wing chimera) and believe adamantly in "Intelligent Bureaucracy", or to understand the functioning of a material mind against the more simple belief in a singular agency called the "self".

Virtually everyone believes in some little white lie of transcendence. You shouldn't, therefore, be so harsh on Christians if they fail miserably on that level. They just believe in bigger lies than you do. And the reason why the white lie of religion has historically been so overwhelming is, I think, simply a result of memetic adaptation.

The sad part comes when a believer observes the results of his beliefs on a world scale - suffering and death - and tries to rationalize it. If I believed in a soul, I would say that moment is when your soul is destroyed - in more materialist terms, I would say that is when your moral compass is smashed to pieces. A healthy relation between our daily lives and our view of the greater reality is necessary for any kind of moral sanity.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Another deconversion to anarchy

Aaron Kinney, a member of this blog, has deconverted to market anarchy. The Molyneux podcasts I've been getting people to listen to, seem to be having a big effect on people. Congratulations Aaron ! Let individualism ring... from every blog and web site... ;)

Question of the Day #27: Presuming The Christian Worldview

Image hosting by PhotobucketWhat would actually happen if scientists everywhere actually took up the presuppositionalist's case and accepted that their methodology really did presume the existence of God? What would be the logical end?

Describe the world as it would be if science was forced to marginalize itself within the parameters of scripture.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

JesusPets / Faith as a Moral Failing

JesusPets, because who's gonna take care of your pets when you rocket your way to Heaven ?

If you have a non-Christian family member, they might take care of your pet, but if not, have you made any plans? Imagine being taken to streets of gold while your dog starves to death walking around in his own feces trapped in your small house or apartment, subject to fire and earthquakes or even being eaten by heathens searching for any remaining morsel of food. Do you want that to happen?


That’s what JesusPets is for. We are assembling a community of heathen pet-lovers to care for pets that are “left-behind.” We are coordinating with feed mills and kennels in preparation for your post-apocalyptic pet care needs.

On the one hand, extra jobs for atheists, but on the other hand, this might just be the final spike in abandoned pet population that forces mankind to get on the dog-'n-cats diet.

George M Felis wants to be brutally honest about faith. I think he's doing a pretty good job :

Faith is not a mere failure of reason: Faith is the willful abdication of reason. Faith isn't a mistake along the same lines as a logical error such as affirming the consequent. It is not simply an oversight of evidence that ought to be under consideration. Faith is the declaration that reason may be all well and good in other areas, but reason ends here where the believer says it does! No argument can conceivably be given for not adhering to the standards of reason on any given subject, because argument itself must adhere to rational standards. Otherwise, it isn't argument - it's shouting, empty noise, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"4 Easy Steps that Prove God"

Ooooh boy.

If you would like to make an attempt to disprove this Perfect Proof, there is a forum where you can do so. $10,000 U.S. has been provided and is being offered to the first person who can disprove this proof. Hundreds have tried, but failed.

Hey, Troy Brooks. Far from me to disparage this um... noble challenge... but I note that you describe no arbitration process at all on this page. This means that your "challenge" is nothing more than a naked boast, and that the probability of there being an actual ten thousand dollars is slightly higher than the probability of me turning into Sir Francis Bacon, and prove that I wrote the entire works of Shakespeare.

Nevertheless, let us forge ahead...

Step 1 - Why is eternally evolving in the past of cause and effect (do not confuse this with the limitedness of evolution, the physical science, since the amoeba) NOT TRUE, in the physical realm (material nature), biologically or non-biologically, organically or non-organically; that is, in its more encompassing meaning?

... what

Simply stated, If for eternity things have been evolving (biologically or non-biologically, etc.), by this very definition of evolving (in causes and effects, before or after the amoeba, even before or after the big bang), you would have had an eternity to be perfected (without sin) irrespective of when you personally started in the evolving chain according to calculus where the approximation of eternity is taken as eternity.

This is "simply stated" ? Anyway, we've got a circular argument right there. Sin presupposes the existence of God, and sin is assumed in the first step.



Where's my money ?

Hello, Troy ? I'm waiting, give me my ten thousand. I'll sue the pants off you if you don't !

Step 2 - If, in response, an unsaved evolutionist, cosmologist, atheist or agnostic (thinly veiled atheism since a non-choice is still a rejection of God because it is not an acceptance) comes to you and says the big bang (or other natural means) is the beginning, again, that is false also since material (nature) doesn't happen all by itself. There is always a cause to the effects in nature. Nothing in nature happens all by itself.

Fallacy of composition. The fact that parts of nature have causes does not mean that the universe as aggregate has a cause. You have to prove this by showing that the property of causality is not relational. Since it is, you lose. I WIN AGAIN !


Troy ?

*hears the sound of a person running, then a door slamming, then a car starting in a hurry*

Monday, February 13, 2006

Moral Responsibility vs Christianity part 3

3. As a corollary of God or a universal force being "in control", we get into another contradiction with moral responsibility : the fact that everything that happens is justified. This is expressed both in the concept of the divine plan and in the concept of karma. If there is a divine plan, then God's will justifies everything bad that happens. If there is karma, then past lives justify everything bad that happens. There is no place for human choice or free will in such universes.

It is also confirmed by the fact that theologians waste a lot of energy trying to refute the Problem of Evil - if there is a solution to the PoE, that means that all suffering is justified. But If all suffering is justified, then there's no reason to try to alleviate suffering at all (here is a formalization of this argument) and there's no reason to feel responsible for any of our actions.

Suppose I do some harm to someone. If I was morally responsible, I would acknowledge that I have caused this harm, and try to repair it. But in a world with karma or divine plan or full justification of evil, I have the equally justifiable excuse that the harm was ordained or justified, and that my actions were only a catalyst.

Even if one rejects the notion that God controls human action (a position which is hard to defend), the fact that God controls natural events is in itself extremely morally repulsive and offensive, as it trivializes and justifies extreme suffering. For every person who praises God for being saved from a horrible disaster, there are thousands who died horribly. Did these people have God on their side also ? This insulting belief is similar to that of thanking God instead of the actual people who did the very real human work. In either case, the Chrisitan rejection of moral responsibility is not only insane but extremely offensive.

4. The fundamental Christian doctrines of original sin and the sacrifice of Jesus (as well as some other OT laws) contradict the basic principle of moral responsibility that a person can only be judged by his own actions. In fact, it completely contradicts it, asking us to judge the entirety of mankind by one person's actions ! It also asks us to believe that the execution of an innocent man can redeem, once again, the entirety of mankind. How can you get any more morally irresponsible than setting up a scapegoat for your own failings ?

Once again this is a similar problem as in karma. In both cases, the individual is deemed responsible for something he did not do. And as I mentioned before, the individual is also not responsible for any evil deed he does commit, as long as he is saved. So Christianity is in fact the very definition of total moral irresponsibility (being responsible for things one did not do, and irresponsible for things one did do).

On the opposite extreme, you have New Age beliefs, which state that the individual is fully responsible for everything that happens to him - as a consequence of the idea that reality is an inter-subjective creation. This leads to the equally absurd doctrine that someone who suffers from a flesh-eating bacteria created the bacteria and agreed to be attacked by it. This kind of position, while totally opposite to divine creation and karma, leads to the same collapse of moral responsibility : if our mind is wholly uncaused and subjective, then no responsibility can be imputed to any of our actions. Everything is essentially random.

Belief in salvation and the afterlife are convenient ways for believers to escape judgment from themselves, their peers and society. By adopting the so-called law of God, they want to feel righteous against the laws of man and nature. They have no regard for how offensive and harmful their beliefs can become because they have no concern for "the world". That is the primary reason why Christianity and other monotheisms are dangerous, amoral, anti-social belief systems. To desire a more responsible, compassionate society is to desire the end of such religious dogmas.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Religionless Christianity / Sam Harris answers

Gary Eickmeier makes a point about "religionless Christianity".

We all know what is meant by "religionless Christianity." It is evangelicals reading the bible and interpreting it on their own, without some church telling them what to believe. They think this is the purest form of Christianity.

Even TV preachers don't follow the Bible. They follow their own theology uniquely adapted to television evangelism. It is not any more or less legitimate than any other theology. For that matter, how are we to determine that ANYONE is reading the Bible at all ? For all we know, no one is reading the Bible. I prefer my distinction between "practical atheism" and "practical religious", because it goes to the root of the religious problem, which is behaviour, not belief per se.

After his ground-breaking article, some Christians complained. So... Sam Harris Takes on the Muslim Cartoon Controversy and his Critics.

I would be the first to admit that the prospects for eradicating religious dogmatism in our world do not seem good. Still, the same could have been said about efforts to abolish slavery at the beginning of the 19th century. Anyone who spoke about eradicating slavery in the United States around 1810 surely appeared to be wasting his time, and wasting it dangerously. The analogy is not perfect, but it is suggestive.

Good point, Sam. Stefan Molyneux made the same analogy with defeating belief in government. It doesn't matter if it's even possible, the truth is the truth. And I would add also, that the truth will set YOU free, regardless of whether it can set everyone else free or not...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Question of the Day #26: Pedophiles

Image hosting by PhotobucketSo we've all heard this one. The most dastardly of appeals when the Christians attack homosexuality is to liken it to pedophilia. But wait, if we dare say that pedophilia is abuse of a child and that homosexuality is a consentual relationship between adults, certain obnoxious Christians (you know who) may accuse us of making an arbitrary distinction of at what point a child becomes an adult, or that we're making a judgement based on our feelings that a child who engages in sex with an adult is being abused.

So how do we know that pedophilia is wrong?

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Formal Presuppositional Argument?

I noticed that Dusman, an administrator over at Gene Cook's forum formalized the Presuppositional argument* in the thread about John Loftus’ appearance on the Atheist Hour:

1) For X to be the case, Y has to be the case.
2) X is the case.
3) Therefore, Y is the case.

Read that first premise to yourself slowly a few times. Does that seem strange to anyone? This is not the standard language used to make a conditional statement. The standard language would be:

"If X is the case, then Y is the case."

But why isn’t the presuppositional argument stated clearly as an if-then conditional? Why is it stated as a for-has? This presuppositional phrasing is awkward- making it difficult to determine which is the antecedent and which is the consequent. But is the meaning of the statement changed if the statement changed directly to an if-then conditional, as shown above? This translation doesn’t seem to be completely accurate- in the presuppositional for-has conditional, the truth of X is dependent on the truth of Y. But in the if-then condition, the truth of Y is dependent on the truth of X. These statements are not equivalent, so clearly it’s not accurate to translate the presuppositional for-has conditional directly into an if-then.

But what if X and Y were flipped? In this event, the conditional would read:

“If Y is the case, then X is the case.”

Here we see that the truth of X is dependent on the truth of Y, just as in the presuppositional for-has conditional. So, the two wordings of the statement are equivalent, and we are now able to use a much clearer if-then conditional to reexamine the presuppositional argument:

1) If Y is the case, then X is the case.
2) X is the case.
3) Therefore, Y is the case.

Now we can easily see that this argument takes the form of the logical fallacy Affirming the Consequent. It makes sense why Dusman needed to use the for-has phrasing that he did to hide this fallacy- although grammatically confusing, the presuppositional use of for-has results in listing the consequent prior to the antecedent in the conditional statement, giving the illusion of a perfectly valid modus ponens.

But why would the presuppositionalist risk a logical fallacy just to make his argument? Why not simply construct a valid modus ponens and stand by it? My guess is that he then runs the risk of being accused of a more informal non sequitur, as many explanations can be given for X being the case without calling upon Y. But since the truth of X is uncontested by all, and in fact presupposed by any who would seek to argue logically, the presuppositionalist tries to use this acceptance of X as a wedge to force acceptance of Y, by making the truth of X dependent on the truth of Y. Unfortunately, this is a fallacious argument as I’ve already noted.

I’m inclined to suppose that this underlying error may be the reason why the presuppositional argument is so rarely displayed formally- I’m frankly surprised that Dusman did so without provocation, although he was in the comfortable setting of a presuppositionalist forum. This was the first time that I’ve seen the for-has phrasing of the major premise- on the one occasion that Paul Manata formalized the same argument, he used a slightly different strategy:

1) If X is the case, then Y is the case (since Y is the precondition for X)
2) X is the case.
3) Therefore, Y is the case.

I’m sure that by this point, you don’t need my help to see that this is committing the same error. By inserting additional information about the relationship between X and Y parenthetically, Paul has made the truth of X dependent on the truth of Y, and thus enters into the same fallacy as Dusman above.

Of course, this is just based on the postings of two individuals who claim presuppositional apologetic strategies. They may be incorrect in their formulation of the presuppositional argument, in which case I look forward to seeing the real McCoy. Or maybe there are some subtleties to the argument that I’ve missed. Either way, I’m eagerly anticipating edification.

* in the presuppositional argument, X=logic and Y=God

Upcoming Hellbound Alleee shows

Good news ! Our live show is back ! Not only that, but it will be broadcast on two stations (Freethought Radio and Freethought Media). It will be a Scientology special, with music from Enturbulator 009, and Andrew Greve as our guest. Don't miss it ! This Sunday, at 2PM EST.

Our recorded show this week :
The Jesus Myth part 2
Guest : Rameus Acheson
Topics : the major mythicist representatives and their flaws, where the mythicist position should go in the future

Children and self-esteem / Emotional investment

Cyberspace Rendezvous joins Raving Atheist's enemies list by giving us a great quote from Nathaniel Branden about religious education and how it is the enemy of self-esteem. An extract :

“If children are told, ‘If you have value it is not because of anything you have done or could ever do, it is only because God loves you’ -

“If children are told, ‘Submission to what you cannot understand is the beginning of morality’ -

“If children are instructed, ‘Do not be “willful”, self-assertiveness is the sin of pride’ -

“If children are instructed, ‘Never think that you belong to yourself’ -

“If children are informed, ‘In any clash between your judgement and that of your religious authorities, it is your authorities you must believe’, -

“If children are informed, ‘Self-sacrifice is the foremost virtue and the noblest duty’ -

“- then consider what will be the likely consequences for the practice of living consciously, or the practice of self-assertiveness, or any of the other pillars of healthy self-esteem.”

John Loftus has some ideas on why Christians fear doubt. He lists three reasons :

1) Fear of being wrong about something they have invested so much time and money trying to live it and defend.

2) Fear of Hell.

3) Fear of the social consequences.

Even if most Christians recognize the simple truth of materialism when you tell them, they have no incentive to admit it, and plenty of incentive to deny it. Nevertheless, when you read deconversion stories, it seems clear that this recognition is the first step towards getting rid of religion. It's just such a hard job to undo a lifetime of brainwashing...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Kitty !

Who's a good kitty ? You are. Yesh you are.

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Moral Responsibility vs Christianity part 2

1. The most immediate way in which Christianity eliminates moral responsibility, is by immediately elevating God and the Bible as the ultimate moral authorities. Like in any other theistic religion or cult, the doctrines are claimed to be the ultimate, or even sole, path to a moral life. Any human reasoning or means of support is comparatively insignificant, and people who do not follow the doctrines are morally deficient by definition.

From a theological standpoint, God is Creator of all, and is assumed to be in total control of its creation - he can kill it, wipe it out, with no negative judgment passed upon this whatsoever. If humans can pass any moral judgment at all, it would be on extremes such as genocide and mass murder, and yet Christians do not even allow this. In essence, within the Christian worldview, no human morality, however justified, can gain the credibility of God's subjective will.

The effect of this is to both undermine the individual's natural desire for moral autonomy, and to turn the individual's perspective towards the absolutist approach of Christianity.

Couple with this the fact that many conversions happen when a person "fills a hole" in his life or "turns his life around", and projects his personal gains on his newfound religion. This is a common psychological phenomenon, and happens towards all sorts of cults, religions or hobbies, but in the case of conversion to religion it reinfoces the idea that moral autonomy ("the persno I let myself be") is inferior to moral submission ("the person Jesus made me into").

2. Another fundamental and motivating Christian belief is the belief in the afterlife. Ironically, Christians see such a belief as a boon to responsibility, under the pretense that they are forced to be responsible by the threat of eternal repercussions. However, this is wholly inapplicable to most sects of Christianity, which believe that man is saved by belief alone and not by deed (basically ignoring the question of obedience by stating that a saved person will naturally desire to be obedient).

It has been pointed out many times that belief in the afterlife is in fact one of the most dangerously amoral beliefs there are. Such a belief is the most effective value-destroyer there is : if this material life is only a dress rehearsal, a test, a stepping stone to the infinite value of salvation and eternal life, then any horrific action can be justified by religious motivations. This point has been made eloquently by people such as Richard Dawkins :

If death is final, a rational agent can be expected to value his life highly and be reluctant to risk it. This makes the world a safer place, just as a plane is safer if its hijacker wants to survive. At the other extreme, if a significant number of people convince themselves, or are convinced by their priests, that a martyr's death is equivalent to pressing the hyperspace button and zooming through a wormhole to another universe, it can make the world a very dangerous place.

By eliminating the moral weight and fear of death, it is precisely moral responsibility which is eliminated.

Furthermore, the belief that salvation can only be obtained by belief, and that any crime can be "forgiven", means that the individual is no longer accountable for his actions - not to himself and his conscience, to others, to nature or to God. Religion, therefore, offers the ultimate illusory temptation : total criminal, hedonistic freedom followed by eternal bliss. Christian salvation is the dream of the irresponsible.

Also see Aaron's blog Killing the Afterlife for more on the nonsense of believing in the afterlife.

Continue on to part 3.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Moral Responsibility vs Christianity part 1

Morality has been my main topic since this blog started. In September and October, I explored the issue of how morality develops naturally and how Christianity clashes with that development. In November, and then on sporadically, I've looked at the issue of Christian morality from a memetic perspective. In January, I went on the offensive and discussed how to neutralize the Christian moral threat.

Since I've been saying all along that Christianity's most immediate and devastating consequence, and the main reason why we should fight against monotheism in general, is the loss of moral responsibility, perhaps it would be interesting to look at how this works.

Moral responsibility is the virtue of taking one's actions in one's own hands - that is to say, taking decisions based on one's personal values, not anyone else's, and taking the merit or blame derived from them. The opposite is to live in a state of cognitive dependence - letting other people or doctrines decide for us, and putting the merit or blame on these exterior elements instead of oneself.

When we mature, we gain the understanding that other individuals have their own minds, with their own values and opinions. We also gain the ability of understanding and dealing with this fact, being able to live side by side with, while not necessarily liking, people with different systems of value. We also learn tolerence and compassion for other people, through empathy and intermingling. These are some of the natural virtues we gain at the second level.

Moral responsibility is essential because the individual alone possesses the natural virtues needed to spark moral behaviour, as well as the capacity to validate his decisions based on proper and contextual reasoning. An exterior source cannot impart either. Therefore, to rely on such sources is to both reject our natural virtues and to reject the possibility of proper justification and standards of evidence.

What does this mean concretely ? Deliberate murder, war, terrorism, are only possible if a person rejects his natural virtues and rejects standards of evidence - and sees other human beings as tools to sacrifice for a greater ideal. While religion is certainly not needed to do this (other belief systems or simple beliefs can do just as well), religion and government are the most common corrupting belief system (the topic of government, of course, is already covered by my other blog).

So what these belief systems do, is to override these natural safeguards and understandings in our minds and use our capacity for evil for their own utilitarian good (which translates to : the unbridled interests of the religious leaders and the survival of their institutions). I've looked at the memetic aspects of this in "Memetics and Christianity", so I won't get into them again.

And after all, the doctrines of Christianity are supposed to apply to everything and everyone, therefore it has an infinite scope. Christianity tells us that we are all sinners, without exceptions, all worthless without religion. This is even more dangerous than, say, simple racist beliefs which hold that people with a skin of some hue are inferior to people of a different hue. Christianity is universal dehumanization.

In the second part, I look at the different ways in which Christianity destroys moral responsibility.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

FSM / Letter Against the Christians / Cyberspace Rendezvous / Bush as Bible

The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Love it, live it.

Bryan Caplan, a great market anarchist, also has some things to say about religion, in his "Letter Against the Christians". Some extracts :

Has Christianity elevated people's moral character? I see Christianity as a very negative force here (though like I said, this heavily depends on what is in fact moral). For example, I think that one of our highest duties is to believe what is true; and as a corrolary, we must be objective, intellectually honest, open-minded, and look for disconfirming as well as confirming evidence for our beliefs. And I will say that Christianity has been the major opponent of this virtue: even in today's "liberal" atmosphere, Christian religions inculcate irrationality, dogmatism, close-mindedness, and emotionalism.

In the long run, we aren't going to eliminate poverty by giving charity to people; we have to increase our total production. And this is another area where Christianity is, on the whole, a sinner. (...) Christianity focuses almost exclusively on redividing a fixed pie of wealth, never on producing more.

Graeco-Roman culture was much more tolerant than Christianity. They focused a lot more on economic growth and earthly progress. They usually believed in reason and science, even if some of their methods were poor. And they were far from amoral: such noted moralists as Aristotle, Epicurus, and Epictetus arose from classical civilization, and they were widely read, at least among the educated classes.

I have included Cyberspace Rendezvous on our list of links for a while. It is a pleasant blog, but for some reason his comments sections don't work. You can post comments but they never show up. Sometimes I disagree with things he says and can never comment. Isn't that awfully annoying ? I can't even email him to ask why. I'm thinking of taking the link down.

I know I'm really extending this mish-mash edition by adding a fourth point, but have you noticed Bush officials saying that what he said about reducing energy dependance was a "metaphor" ? What a wonderful example of the Christian worldview. To the Christian, nothing means what it says. And George Bush, after all, is the closest thing we have to Jesus.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Carnival of the Godless 34 to be hosted here

The latest Carnival of the Godless is now up at Superlicious, featuring two entries from yours truly.

The next Carnival will take place right here. Here are the guidelines. I just hope I don't get anything that turns my stomach.

Question of the Day #25: Argumentum ad Ignorantum

Image hosting by PhotobucketWhy is the appeal to ignorance such a powerful appeal in society?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Church/State Quiz / God the Superhero / HA show

What Do You Know About The Separation of State and Church? the quiz ! How many answers can you get right ? Alison got 18 out of 21, but it rather helps if you're American.

In his article "'God' and Other Superheroes", on the anarchist site "Strike the Root" (shout-out !), Mike Wasdin tells us how much he'd like to have God's job.

I want “god’s” job. What other profession in the universe would you get all the credit and none of the blame? If something good happens, then you would get all the credit, but if something bad happens, well that was someone else’s fault. What a great job, where do I apply?
Like most people, I thought it was a great tragedy when I read about the 12 miners trapped in a coal mine. I also felt a sense of relief when the news media reported that all 12 were alive and well. I then felt a sense of horror when I learned the media was wrong and 11 of 12 were dead and one was close to death.

As the story began to unfold, I read how the family members had prayed for a miracle and then thanked “god” for answering their prayers when the media falsely reported they were alive. What I did not hear about was the family recanting their thanks when it was learned that “god” did nothing to help them.

Hey I understand, maybe “god” was playing golf or maybe he was busy answering other prayers and was overworked. Either way though, “god” still received all the credit and none of the blame for this tragedy. I wonder if the believers have ever given this any thought?

Good news ! Freethought Radio is back, and the Hellbound Alleee Live show will be back on February 12th. Also, our newest show - How to Argue Morality, with Stefan Molyneux - is up on the archives page.

Talking about the show, do any of you know of an anti-abortion atheist who'd like to be a guest ? I'm thinking of having a little debate on the topic. We would be the pro-abortion side and Stefan would represent the middle ground.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The immorality of belief part 2

So to get to the topic, is belief immoral ? Not in itself, no. While it seems obvious that most beliefs are immoral, one can easily imagine counter-examples. The typical one is that of an old person who is nearing death and holding on to her religious beliefs to appease her fears. Since there are no long-term negative effects possible, it would be cruel and pointless to try to deconvert such a person. You don't tell the condemned prisoner on his last meal to start eating low-fat.

However, we're not done quite yet. Belief is nothing more than a concrete form of faith. Faith is immoral, because rationality is an essential virtue. Man needs rationality in order to survive and flourish. Even religious believers still manage to live relatively well because they apply some form of rationality to most of their daily decisions. Ignoring empirical data and logic altogether would quickly lead to death (if only because you wouldn't be able to eat).

A virtue is a mental attitude that is conductive to moral behaviour. Rationality is a virtue because using rationality as a standard, and committing myself to seek reality, will not lead me astray. On the other hand, using faith as a standard will definitely lead me astray, even if it is correct in a specific instance. As the maxim goes, one lie upheld on reason is better than ten truths upheld on faith - even if I'm right, the fact that I reject reality means that I'll never have any way of understanding why I'm right or when I might be wrong in the future. Reason, on the other hand, is self-correcting.

So believing is immoral insofar as faith is immoral, and belief is an expression of faith.

And this does not only apply to religion, either. One can believe in scientific principles, for example, and by doing this completely miss the point. Scientific principles are valid precisely because they are self-correcting and try to preclude "belief" as much as possible. There are unfortunately many atheists whose minds are still in the "believing" attitude, and seek inter-subjective confirmation of their atheism instead of trying to think for themselves.

Beyond this, not much can be said about belief per se. It's simply too general a topic. We can talk about how religion is immoral (which is pretty much the topic of this entire blog), how cults are immoral, how politics is immoral, how utilitarianism is immoral, how New Age beliefs are immoral, how pseudo-science is immoral, and so on, but these are all species of belief. So we should always be circumspect when we tread these murky waters of unreason.

An article at the turn of the year asked scientists what they believed. Some of the answers are rational, some aren't. What I would answer to this is that I have no beliefs, I have hopes. I hope that human beings can eventually know everything, that the human brain is capable of grasping a hypothetical "theory of everything", or at least is able to build something that is.

I also hope that we can win the cultural war. I have very little confidence that we can, mainly because most people working for our side - a lot of scientists especially - are too busy having a life to bother to repel their attackers. That is why people like Richard Dawkins are a precious commodity. And despite our small numbers, we still undermine each other. Providence knows I've been attacked far more than my fair share, but who's counting ? The important thing is that I don't give up, because there would be no point in giving up.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Argumentum ad Bananum

Now THIS is an atheist's nightmare.

Now, I realize that in the realm of Christian apologetics, Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron are low-hanging fruit, but what the hell, it’s Friday, and they’re always good for a laugh. On their show, “The Way of the Master,” Comfort and Cameron target atheists in the episode, “The Beauty of a Broken Spirit: Atheism.” Although it’s not new, this particular episode has become quite popular recently on the internet, due in large part to its being available through Google Video.

Comfort starts things off with a fairly bold pronouncement: "Atheism and intellectualism are opposites." Fair enough, I suppose. One of the historical attractions of atheism is the perception (rightly, in my opinion) that it is a more intellectual position than that of Christianity, in which faith (essentially, taking someone’s word as truth) is foundational. We’re left to assume that by virtue of the contrary, Christianity and intellectualism are equivalent, although the idiotic grin semi-permanently affixed to Cameron’s face throughout the episode would seem to belie this assumption.

So what is the good Christian apologist to do with his overflowing intellectualism? Why, attack evolution, of course. I’m sure Comfort and Cameron know that acceptance of evolutionary theory isn’t limited to atheists, and in fact the largest Christian institution in the world has officially accepted it as science, but that doesn’t seem to deter their efforts in the slightest.

Interestingly, neither does an accurate understanding of evolutionary theory. Comfort demonstrates his ignorance, real or assumed, by giving a strawman of evolution through a soda can analogy.

It's my theory of where the soda can comes from. Billions of years ago, there was a big bang in space- nobody knows what caused the big bang, it just happened. And from this bang issued a huge rock, on top of the rock was found a sweet brown bubbly substance. And over millions of years, aluminum crept up the side and formed itself in a can, then a lid, and then a tab. And then millions of years later red pain, blue paint, white paint, fell down from the sky and formed itself into the words, "Twelve Fluid Ounces. Do Not Litter.” You say, what you’re doing is insulting my intellect, and so I am. As we know, if the can is made, there must be a maker. If it’s designed, there must be a designer. To believe the soda can happened by chance is to move into an intellectual free zone, is to have an echo when you think, is to have brain liposuction.

Insulting my intellect, indeed. But this isn’t anything revolutionary- it’s just Paley’s watchmaker argument dressed up for teenagers (who else would be impressed by a soda can analogy, I ask you?). Surely if Comfort was up to speed with evolutionary theory he’d come up with something better, wouldn’t he?

Oh, but he does.

Comfort then, grinning at Cameron, faces the camera again for his intellectual tour de force.

Behold the atheist’s nightmare. Now, if you study a well-made banana you’ll find on the far side there are three ridges. On the close side, there are two. If you get your hand ready to grip a banana you’ll find on the far side there are three grooves and on the close side two grooves. The banana and the hand are perfectly made, one for the other. You’ll find the maker of the banana, Almighty God, has made it with a non-slip surface. It has outward indicators of inward contents- green: too early, yellow: just ripe, black: too late. Now if you go to the top of the banana, you’ll find as with the soda can makers, who placed a tab at the top, so God has placed a tab at the top. When you pull the tab, the contents don’t squirt out in your face. You’ll find a wrapper which is biodegradable, and has perforations. Notice how gracefully it sits over the human hand. Notice it has a point at the top for ease of entry, it’s exactly the right shape for the human mouth, it’s chewy, easy to digest, it’s even curved toward the face to make the whole process so much easier. Seriously, Kirk, the whole of creation testifies to the genius of God’s creation.

Yes, folks, the man is serious. Now, I’ll do you all the courtesy of ignoring all the implicit sexual humor in that quote, because, quite frankly, it’s been done to death all over atheist forums. Instead, I think it might just be sufficient to thrash his argument.

Behold Kent Hovind's nightmare.

Behold the Christian’s nightmare. That’s right, it’s a banana. But no, you say, that’s not a banana, it doesn’t look anything like what I get at the store! Gentle reader, what you see is a wild banana. Just like wild strawberries, wild apples, and wild blueberries, it’s not much to look at, and what little is there doesn’t look terribly appetizing. But thanks to the wonder of evolution, something as unappealing as a wild banana can actually become the familiar yellow fruit you find at the grocery store. (But probably not a dog- that would be Kent Hovind’s personal nightmare) Over the course of human history, we have found certain plants (and animals) that had a moderate amount of value nutritionally or otherwise to our survival, and have selected for the best performing individuals in every generation. Jared Diamond gives a great example in his book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" of primitive humans foraging for berries in the woods, only eating the biggest and best-tasting ones on the bush, and then returning back to home where the seeds of those (unconsciously) selected berries germinate in the garbage heap/latrine.

So, no, Ray, the banana isn’t a testament to the genius of God’s creation. It’s a testament to the resourcefulness of man and the potency of evolutionary change. But even if evolution wasn’t in the picture, there’s one key element of the banana that Comfort forgot to mention… where’s the seeds? That’s right, bananas as we know and love them are as sterile as a mule. That’s because they’re triploid (have three copies of each chromosome as opposed to two), which doesn’t make a lot of sense if they were specially created. Not only does this mean that bananas have to be specially cultivated by humans to survive, but it also means that they’re particularly susceptible to disease, since there’s no genetic variability without sexual reproduction. Way to go, God.

As a bonus, I’m going to follow Comfort and crew further in the episode, for a segement that he includes in every episode, called “One2One”. See, juxtaposing numbers and letters like that makes it “cool.” It’s like catnip for teens.

In this segment, Comfort or Cameron find someone on the street outside their studio and confronts them with what I call “The Comfort Method.” Most of you, if you’ve seen their show or website, are familiar with this. I’ve yet to have any actual Christian walk up to me and use this, but according to Comfort, it’s “da bomb.” (He doesn’t actually say that, but he probably would if he thought it would get more kids to try it)

Here’s how it works:

Comfort: Would you consider yourself to be a good person?

Atheist: Yes.

Comfort: I’m going to ask you a few questions to see if it’s true.

Atheist: Sure.

Comfort: Have you ever told a lie?

Atheist: Sure.

Comfort: Okay, what does that make you?

Atheist: A liar.

Comfort: Have you ever stolen something?

Atheist: Uhh… as a kid.

Comfort: What does that make you?

Atheist: I guess… a thief.

He then does the same trick with cursing and lusting, and then segues right into the whole judgement/salvation one-two punch of Christian apologetics. I have to say, it’s pretty well rehearsed and it usually works well for him (at least, in the interviews they put on their show). But what would I do if I was put in that morally damning position?

Comfort: Have you ever told a lie?

Zach: Have you?

Comfort: Well… yes.

Zach: And what does that make you?

Comfort: A liar.

Zach: Would you trust the words of a self-described liar?

Comfort: Well… no.

Zach: See you.

Kirk demonstrates what has to be turned off to be a good Christian.

Like I said, I’ve never actually had someone use The Comfort Method on me before, but just in case, I’ve got that one primed and ready. So, I guess after all is said and done, we can see that although Comfort and Cameron started off with a fierce declaration of atheism as the opposite of intellectualism, it seems as if that might be a more accurate description of Christianity. Maybe that’s why instead of presenting actual intellectual arguments, Comfort and Cameron prefer to attack morality. Isn’t that right, Kirk?

We want to emphasize the principle of swinging from the intellect straight to the conscience. It’s so important to know that- by doing this you’re not side-stepping the questions of the atheist, but you have to learn that it’s not wise to stay in the intellect and wrestle with someone intellectually, because it’s going to take you down a rabbit trail and waste all your time.