Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Friday, June 30, 2006

A Chimpanzee’s Grandson: Gene Cook on Evolution and Race

Gene thinks he's a chimp in a roomful of gorillas.

I’m beginning to wonder if the reason why so many people view Pastor Gene Cook as a self-righteous jerk is because his sense of humor is just so skewed from normality. It seems to be the same keen sense of comedy that produced his insulting “Real Men of Genius” parody of Reggie Finley that has spawned his new foray into creative apologetics.

This time around, the conceit is that Gene has called up a website ( it doesn’t exist) that is selling bumper decals featuring a large outline of a Tyrannosaurus Rex eating a Christian “Truth fish” that itself is eating a “Darwin fish.” This decal does not, in fact, exist- the picture that Gene references is an obvious Photoshop job, although a similar decal is available, showing a Tyrannosaurus eating a generic Christian fish emblem, sold by Ring of Fire Enterprises. Although it’s impossible to tell whether Gene is in on the joke, the graphic he references was produced by The Holy Observer, a Christian satire website (run by Christians, interestingly).

At any rate, upon calling the proprietor of the website, Gene asks for an interview about the dinosaur-fish emblem, which is immediately amenable to the employee (surprise, surprise). It’s around this point that whatever comedy had been infused initially begins to fall flat. After explaining the rationale behind the dinosaur-eating-the jesus-fish imagery (no Christian response can trump it), the employee (hereafter referred to as DD) mentions that he hopes to be able to sell the decals on the Infidel Guy’s website. Gene tells the guy the he knows Reggie also, which is apparently enough information for DD to realize that Gene was the creative force behind the aforementioned parody. DD admits that it was funny (of course he does- he was the backup singer), but chides Gene about one of the insults.
DD: That was messed up when you said, “You think your grandfather was a gorilla.”

Gene: Why is that messed up? He believes in evolution.

DD: Man, cause it’s a strawman. It’s a misrepresentation of-

Gene: How is it- how is it a misrepresentation? I mean, if you believe that you came from gorillas, then… it’s not a misrepresentation. That’s what evolution teaches.
Irony unbound. Only in self-parody can Gene accurately recognize the fact that he’s engaging a strawman of evolution, not the real thing. Certainly, as Gene says, “if you believe that you came from gorillas,” then the insult is well-placed. But evolution does not teach this- instead, we find from countless molecular evidences as well as fossil evidence that humans and gorillas (as well as all of the great apes) are related by common descent, not from direct lineage. There are no extant species of which humans are descended. But even if Gene could grasp this concept, he’s still way off the mark- the closest related species to humans are chimpanzees, not gorillas. But Gene isn’t content with this double-fault- he’s going for a bigger score.
Gene: I take it from your voice that you’re- you’re a black man.

DD: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

Gene: And you don’t see evolution as being racist?

DD: How? How is it racist?

Gene: Well, I mean… most people understand that at it’s root evolution is racist because if you- forget about the gorilla for a second. If you think that you came from a chimp, or an ape- now, take me for example. I have white skin. I’m Caucasian.

DD: All right.

Gene: If you put up a chart over top of… if you just look at it from a scientific standpoint, of time and chance and all that, you know- all the elements that say- the scientists, the evolutionary scientists say that go into the process of evolution- I mean, what do you think is closer to a chimp? A white man or a black man?
This is beyond the pale. At least creationists like Michael Behe and William Dembski know enough about evolutionary theory not to make this huge blunder- I mean, come on- even the Discovery Institute would shy away from this, right? Of course- most creationist organizations go out of their way to make the argument that Darwin himself was a racist, but to suggest that white people look more like chimpanzees while black people look more like gorillas? This is hard to take seriously, even as a joke. I wonder where Asians are supposed to fit in this supposed “chart” that Gene’s referencing?

What’s more, this statement belies Gene’s own racist ideas- as is typical when Christians engage in awkward comedy, we see Gene projecting his own psychology on others. According to Gene, white people and black people are so different that it makes more sense to him that they come from completely different species. And note that he immediately places white people in the “chimpanzee lineage,” while black people are supposed to be from the “gorilla lineage.” It’s more than a little odd that Gene identifies his own race with the primates best known for their relative intellectual sophistication, while he identifies black with the primates best known for their brutishness, violence, and intimidation.

But if you think this represents the limit of Gene’s racist humor, he’s not done, not by a long shot. Gene then asks DD about his ordering system, and DD responds by saying that it isn’t possible to order through the website, and that all orders have to be taken by fax (why they can’t simply take telephone orders is a mystery). This poses a problem, evidently, because their bank (not named) requires his customers to provide copies of their drivers’ licenses, and this proves to be another chance at racist mirth. As DD explains:
DD: We get in trouble for taking IDs from non-caucasians.

Gene: Why?

DD: Well, the bank said… well, we got a card from a black guy. Okay? And it looked like someone drew a circle with a sharpie. And the one from the Mexican guy looked like a blurred fingerprint.
Excuse me, I seem to have stumbled into a middle-school playground joke. And not even a good one, at that- whatever pretense of comedy has dried up long before this. Take this moment to remind yourself- these are Christians. You might also want to go get a glass of water to wash that sick feeling from your stomach- but keep it handy, because there’s one more gem coming up.

Near the end of the “interview”, DD tells Gene again that he’d like to sell his decals on the Infidel Guy website, but Gene graciously points out a potential problem, given the restrictions of his ordering policy:
Gene: Don’t you think you’re gonna have trouble getting this on his website if you only sell to Caucasians? You know he’s a black man, right?

DD: Well, I’m glad you brought that up. ‘Cause when it comes to atheists- when it comes to black atheists, he doesn’t fall… he doesn’t- let’s just say he doesn’t come in favor with too many of us atheist black brothers, you know what I’m saying? ‘Cause he seems a little too whitewashed, a little too Uncle Tom-ish, if you know what I’m saying. But he does have a lot of people going to his website, so…
That’s right- it’s not enough to misrepresent evolution, not enough to say that black people are like gorillas, not even enough to make fun of the color of black and Hispanic people’s faces- it’s just not racist enough for Gene & Co. if you’re not calling another black man an “Uncle Tom.”

I really don’t think I need to say anything more at this point- Gene’s words speak for themselves. I just want to point out that, yet again, we see a clear example of the Christian worldview, spread out in public for us all to enjoy.

God: "Leave me out of it!" / Hellbound Alleee on Christianity

The Weekly World News reports that God has had enough with prayer at sports events:

"The Supreme Being told us he regrets that He can no longer devote time to deciding which team is worthy of winning a sporting contest," said Jeremiah Gottlieb, a spokesman for Unified Voice, an organization that claims to get messages directly from God.

Gottlieb said the Almighty entrusted him with this message after a recent highschool football game between Erasmus High and Dan Quayle High.
"Both teams prayed to Him before the game, which is not unusual. But God said, 'There are great kids on both teams. How am I supposed to pick a favorite?'
"God also said He has nothing to do with who wins an Emmy, a Tony or a Good Citizenship award from the local Rotary Club.

Hellbound Alleee has some incisive words for Christians in "The Questions Christians Can't, or Won't, Answer":

How can you enjoy your afterlife while millions suffer eternal torment in hell? Especially when some of them could be your friends, aquaintances, and family? When so many millions of them are simply regular, "good" people who were in the "wrong religion?" Little children, grandmas, people who have done wonderful things, millions of people who led wonderful lives, suffering in hell because they did not accept Jesus?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Defeat of the Will part 1

Christianity is so absurd that it may seem that Christians simply have no control over their beliefs. But most people have the willpower to stop believing- all you need to do is realize how immoral and absurd it all is, and decide to stop. Religion is an addiction, like alcoholism or gambling. If you become disgusted with your own behaviour and decide to stop, there is a good chance you will succeed.

The question of will seems a priori to be pretty simple: Christianity claims we must surrender our will to the will of God, and we claim the opposite. Pretty simple on paper, but it doesn't work that way.

For one thing, surrendering our will is impossible. Remember that part of the human will is the capacity for moral judgment. Obviously, children brainwashed by their parents to believe in God did not use their moral judgment to get to that point. But any adult who is a Christian, or becomes a Christian, uses his moral judgment in maintaining his belief. At any point in time such a person is free to investigate his religion for himself and find out the immoralities and absurdities of its worldview or basic doctrines.

This means that some human judgment always remains in the submission to any belief system, even if only apathy in not finding out the truth. Indeed, if submission of the will was possible, then why would religious believers always experience so much doubt and falling-out? How could Christians deconvert? One may argue that they were not "true Christians", but this accusation remains a rationalization. If the only way to distinguish between a "true Christian" and a "false Christian" is that the latter does things that the believer disapproves of, then it is merely personal opinion.

Also, I'd wager that even fanatic Christians use their own secular judgment on most occasions. While they may constantly praise God and speak Christianese, they make most decisions on the basis of the facts of reality and then rationalize them with more Christianese later (such as "Help yourself and God will help you", which is not Biblical, or "love your neighbour as yourself", using their own unbiblical definition of "love"). Their rationalizations are ways for them to get away with their good and evil actions which are without Biblical foundation.

Finally, being a Christian still requires fundamental judgment - to subvert your will to Christianity demands that you know what Christianity is! History proves that this is no trivial task. It took a long time for Christian leaders to figure out what their religion was, and since then many schisms (and millions of deaths) have demonstrated that there is still no unity of thought.

When the Christian uses whatever epistemic method he thinks he's using- reading the Bible, receiving "divine revelation", listening to his redneck pastor- he is still using his judgment to determine whether those propositions come from God, Satan, or whatever other spooky sources there might be. And the fact remains that there is no way for the Christian to make such judgment rationally. As I've pointed out before, if we accept the premise that an infinitely powerful being exists, then it could very well be that the believer is deluded in believing that this being is communicating truth to him, when in fact the being is manipulating or controlling that person. This is a variant of Descartes' Evil Demon argument applied specifically to theology.

More in part 2.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Earliest F-Word / Against Utilitarianism

The Language Log reports what may be the first instance of the F-word bleeped out. It's about homosexual sex, too!
Rigby ſeemed much pleaſed upon Mintons coming, and drank to him in a glaſs of Wine and kiſt him, took him by the Hand, put his Tongue into Mintons mouth, and thruſt Mintons hand into his (Rigby) Breeches, saying, He had raiſed his Lust to the higheſt degree, Minton thereupon askt, How can it be, a Woman was only fit for that, Rigby anſwered, Dam’em, they are all Port, I’ll have nothing to do with them. Then Rigby ſitting on Mintons Lap, kiſt him ſeveral times, putting his Tongue into his Mouth, askt him, if he ſhould F----- him, how can that be askt Minton, I’ll ſhow you anſwered Rigby, for it’s no more than was done in our Fore fathers time;

Goodness gracious!

Will Wilkinson slashes at the insanity of utilitarianism with his entry "The Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number", but proposes a way to reform its basic principle in a more voluntaryist light:

Let’s step back and think again about the “greatest happiness for the greatest number.” It’s not a bad principle, really. And there’s a way of reasonably parsing it so that makes good sense. Don’t start with “greatest happiness.” Start with “greatest number.” The greatest number of people in society is, well, everybody—each individual, that is. So we’re thinking about each person. Got it? Now we move on to “greatest happiness.” For each person, we want the greatest happiness, for them. For each person, we’re going to try to see it their way.

This puts us in the neighborhood of the contract view. Everybody desires to achieve happiness by succesfully implementing his or her life-plan.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Oh boy! The Rapture is coming!

Here is a real doozy, which is why I'm gonna make it the whole post. Fundies salivate at the thought of what they're gonna get in Heaven. A premise which makes for scintillating conversation. It's good to know that I live on the same planet as a group of people who rejoice so much in anticipation of everyone's death. Some samples:

I think after a period of just enjoying His presence, having time to know Him face to face so to speak, there will be a time of sort of like training, as I think we will have jobs to do during the millenium, oversight type jobs in the effort to clean up the mess left behind by the AC, sort of like goverment positions almost.

Great, Heavenly Bureaucracy. I can just see it.

I want to have a talk with Eve

I'm pretty sure that would be frowned upon.

I'd like to build my own house, Jesus would be the architect and I'm sure would help me out with the building.

Is he as good an architect as Hitler?

So I will have a 1953 Vette with a propulsion system that uses no gas. oil, water, or grease. It will levitate 1 foot off of the ground when sitting. No tires and it will be able to fly. It will be red/white.

Yeah, I always wanted one of those speeder bikes from Star Wars--I think I'll have one of those

Is this Heaven, or your self-insertion science-fiction fanfic?

The way Jesus talked about heaven - He made it really clear that no one is going to want to miss out on this! Reading everyone's posts is encouraging me not to put off one more day talking to those in my life who are lost. I'm going to watch Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron again to learn how to do it with love.

Yes, Ray can sure help you on that.

How awesome would it be to be able to stand on Mercury or Venus without being burnt to a crisp, or to walk on Pluto without freezing to death? Imagine skydiving on Jupiter, parasailing on Neptune where the winds exceed 1000 mph, or swimming in the oceans of Europa! And then there's Mars.... wow.

Wow indeed.

5. Built my own Cartoon Studio and my my own cartoons for Eternity.

Beavis and Butthead?

We'll be able to enjoy all of nature without ever so much as a sneeze ever again, or watery itchy eyes!!

How the Hell does that work? Does Heaven have automatic Instant Claritin?

On my day off, I want to see God's collection of video tapes of human history. I want to watch the creation of heaven and earth. I want to see the Garden of Eden and see Adam and Eve created. I want to see all of the events of the bible as they actually occured.
I want to see my family the day they found out my mom was pregnant with me, I want to see myself being born, I want to see my sister in 1962 praying to God for my salvation as a young child. I want to see, when I was 8, the day I accepted Christ as my Saviour.

The ultimate creepy Peeping Tom?

Walk over to pit of fire and set aside small 19" tv set playing 24 hour marathon of reruns of the show ThirtySomething for Satan. While at the same time plugging in radio and setting the volume to monstrous levels with Yanni at the RedRock.

Hey! I like Yanni!

Then, I want to spend plenty of time with my father (about a thousand years for starters), my grandmother (another thousand) and a dear friend who went to be with Jesus when I was 19 (another thousand).

DO YOU KNOW HOW FUCKING LONG A THOUSAND YEARS IS? I can barely stand my mom for a day!

All kidding aside, what I want to know is, with all the people who want to crowd around "Jesus" and stare in his beautiful eyes, won't they stampede and kill each other? On the other hand, you can't die in Heaven, so... maybe they become zombies?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Question of the Day #49: Alternative marriage

Is the fight for legal recognition of same-sex unions related to the fight for legal recognition of polygamy, or are these two completely separate issues? Why?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Come to Church... Now!" video

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Subjectivity of the Divine Will part 2

In the Christian worldview, the notion of natural law, therefore, must be thrown right out of the window. The only conclusion is that this universe, as ontologically dependent on divine will, cannot contain any objective fact.

This means that there is no such thing as objective morality, objective purpose, objective meaning or objective judgment in the Christian worldview. For these things to exist, humans would need an objective standard to rely on. But a will is not, by definition, an objective standard, divine or not. If your reference point is divine will, then do not pretend you have a standard ! A Christian does not have a moral system any more than a six year old has a moral standard because his parents told him not to cross the street. There is an element of morality (insofar as the individual still has a reason to declare something right and something wrong), but no standard.

Now in the materialist scenario, the universe is uncaused, and therefore there is objectivity built-in from the beginning. What we have is a substrate of matter which exists independently of, and indeed is prior to, any will.

Once again, I can decide to take actions which change the configuration of a certain piece of matter, but that configuration and the ways it can change are out of the reach of my will. I may delude myself into believing that they are different than they really are (I can believe, say, that praying can make things appear fron thin air), but this delusion remains within my own will.

Because of its inherent subjectivity, the existence of a divine will, if taken as a serious scenario, should plunge us into deep epistemic anxiety. The fact that Christians brush this problem so easily and try to pin it on the atheist is only another manifestation of the endemic mechanism of projection in Christianity (and other monotheistic religions, for that matter).

A Christian has no justification to claim anything apart from the existence of a god. Once he accepts such an existence, then everything else must be plunged in deep epistemic anxiety, including the properties of such a god. Suppose that I believe that God is a good being, worthy of belief and worship. Well, how do I know that's true ? God could very well be fabricating a belief in my mind that it is good, while it is in fact a duplicitous, murderous, temperamental, and generally untrustowrthy being (as the Bible testifies). There is no objective standard for me to fall back to. But I can't even invoke the Bible as evidence, since I cannot possibly justify the belief that the Bible is true ! It could very well be that this being is equally trying to portray itself as untrustworthy in order to "test" us.

The same problem exists with what we materialists consider factual. If God can make it so that A is not-A, that genocide is good, that the Sun does not rise, then on what basis can I formulate any principle ? A principle subsumes all possible instances of an event or concept. For a Christian, this is an impossible promise. Since concepts also subsume all possible referents, the use of language by a Christian is equally problematic.

To use any concept at all implies that all referents, past and future, are similar in specific ways. If God can make it so that water is no longer two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen (that is to say, create a contradiction), then I am really just fooling myself (or others) when I use the word "water".

Friday, June 23, 2006

"Atheist" video

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Subjectivity of the Divine Will part 1

I have talked about the inherently subjectivity of the divine will before, but I don't think I've ever written a full account of it anywhere except in my (yet to be released) book on presuppositionalism. So I will do it here.

First, we have to define the terms "subjective" and "objective". The generally accepted metaphysical definition is that something subjective is directly dependent on a will. My appreciation for ice cream, for example, is subjective because it is a direct product of my will - but the fact that I do possess such an appreciation is objective, since it is not a product of my will but rather a measurable mental fact.

An objective fact, therefore, is not directly dependent on a will. I may will something to change, and effect such a change through natural agency, but it still exists independently from my will. I may decide to, say, repaint a wall, but the colour of the wall (whatever it is) is a fact regardless of my mind states.

Where does objectivity come from ? The fact that we can be objective stems from the existence of an objective reality that co-exists with our will. The proposition "when I throw a ball, it falls back down" is an objective truth derived from gravity, which is part of natural laws. If there were no natural laws, then we couldn't possibly be objective. I cannot create objectivity, and I cannot destroy it. This leads to what I call the Law of Conservation of Objectivity, which I describe in my book as such :

Objectivity cannot be created nor destroyed.
Furthermore, the amount of objectivity that can be generated is proportional to the amount of objectivity that exists.

The first proposition has been demonstrated insofar as objectivity cannot be created, but perhaps one could argue that a god could destroy a set of objective facts S after coming into existence (by destroying an objective universe, for instance). But gods are also said to be omniscient. If this is true, then any hypothetical god would have atemporal, objective knowledge of S (supposing S does not contain any indexicals or other tricky stuff of this sort). So even if S is destroyed, the knowledge of S in this god's mind is preserved forever. Thus objectivity is not destroyed, but only transformed.

The main point here is that objectivity is not an existent but designates ontological subsets. You can create or destroy a tree. You can't create or destroy the fact that said tree is in fact part of a dream you're having. You can only end the dream. It is quite impossible to make the tree "real". You can grow a tree but it would be a wholly different tree, with a completely different ontological status.

So now let's look at how this relates to the theistic ontology. The standard God scenario starts with an uncaused will without any material facts (remembering, of course, that God is "supernatural", whatever that means). There is, therefore, no objectivity whatsoever at this point. But if we start with no objectivity, then no objectivity can be created. As a will, whatever God does from that point can only be contained within its will.

To illustrate this, take the end point, which is the existence of this universe. As I said, from our worldview we say that natural law provides the objective basis for knowledge. But if the universe is a product of the divine will, then there is no such thing as natural law. God could make it so that 1+1=3 (or becomes so in the future), or that some things thrown in the air don't fall back down, or that the Sun does not rise (as it does in the Bible).

To quote famous theologian Cornelius Van Til (thanks to Dawson Bethrick for the quote):

God may at any time take one fact and set it into a new relation to created law. That is, there is no inherent reason in the facts or laws themselves why this should not be done. It is this sort of conception of the relation of facts and laws (...) that we need in order to make room for miracles.
The Defense of the Faith, 3rd ed., p. 27

Miracles require us to deny the concept of inalienable natural law within the self-contained materialist context, therefore we should deny it, and give God the freedom to "set a new relation" between facts. Which is exactly like we've been saying all along. If God exists, then there is no knowledge possible, no confidence possible, and ultimately no meaning.

Continue to part 2.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

God is a Fag: Dr. Robert Morey on the Feminization of Christianity

Dr. Robert Morey is a Reformed Christian apologist from Southern California, who seems to relish in pissing people off. He is perhaps most infamously known as the author of “Islamic Invasion,” a critical look at the history of Islam, which argues for the pagan origins of the Muslim faith (as to be expected, his irony detector is apparently broken).

He has also struck up a friendship with Pastor Gene Cook, has appeared on Gene’s internet show, and once for a fascinating discussion with Robert Price.

(Speaking of which, it occurs to me as odd that the same close relationship between Reggie Finley and Robert Price that prompted Gene to characterize Reggie as Price’s “bitch” is very similar to the relationship shared by Gene and Morey. Better informed minds than my own have already commented on the blatant psychological projection that seems prevalent in our favorite Reformed apologists, but I digress.)

Gene took the opportunity to ask Dr. Morey about the insulting parody he recently produced which was filled with personal attacks on Reggie Finley. It seemed as if Gene was looking for some validation, since he had received a lot of criticism for it, predominantly from Christians. I think Gene was hoping to hear Morey give his approval, but he avoided making any specific pronouncement, and instead began to attack the complaining Christians, calling them “wusses,” and “girly Christians.”

Now, it should be no surprise to anyone familiar with Christianity that vicious internecine squabbles are part and parcel of the religion, and this is particularly true of Reformed Christianity, for whom criticism, both giving and receiving, is practically a virtue. It’s no wonder that Reformed organizations are a decidedly minor niche within the greater Christian corpus- even Dr. Morey’s own California Biblical University and Seminary boasts a faculty of one (the good doctor himself).

But it’s an empirical truth of religion that deities reflect the psychology of their believers, and I thought Dr. Morey’s diatribe against the feminization of Christianity too interesting to pass up.

His main thesis is that Christianity has lost its masculine traits (assertiveness, anger, violence) over the past century in favor of an overemphasis of its feminine traits (love, forgiveness, peace). He argues that an embrace of the masculine nature of Christianity is necessary for the full “metamorphosis” into a True Christian. For this to take place, one has to reject the “feminized” culture that surrounds us. Rejection of alien culture is a prevalent Biblical theme in the Old Testament, and though Dr. Morey takes note that covenantal theology teaches that Christians are given the freedom to make their own decisions about how to interact with the infidels today, he also has some very specific ideas on how this is meant to happen (not in a contradictory way, of course).
Morey: Now remember your colonial history. Three of the generals that accompanied George Washington to free this country from the tyranny of England were clergymen. The Baptist and Presbyterian ministers were at the forefront of the Revolutionary War. They had out their muskets, and they went to war in the Indian Wars. They cleared the forests, built log cabins, they settled the West, they tamed the West, they went out with their six-shooters and dealt with outlaws- in other words, there was a masculine Christianity that reflected the Reformation.
Hot damn! Forget Jim Caviezel, we need John Wayne to play Jesus! Talk about masculine- there’s nothing more fulfilling of manhood than killing people and cutting down trees. I know that my testicles wouldn’t drop until I had learned how to use a chainsaw properly- both on wood and on the necks of unbelievers. Speaking fondly of Jesus (played by the Duke) marching into the Temple grounds to drive out the moneychangers, Morey contrasts this with the development of a new kind of Jesus (perhaps played by Sean Hayes).
Morey: He was the mighty Jehovah Jesus, with a scourge in his hand, and he was strong and virile and masculine. And he- if there was a picture, he was not a white, European, California blue-eyed surfer boy. Guess when these new paintings of Jesus came out? Covering this period in the 1800’s when Jesus was now pictured as a delicate, white, weak, effeminate, long-haired, fag, from San Francisco. He was a hairdresser! He was a fairy, a FAG, from San Francisco. And he would never do anything to hurt anybody.
But it’s not just the visual imagery that puts Dr. Morey off- he doesn’t like the changes made to Christian hymns.
Morey: Have you ever sang one of these evangelical hymns? Sticky-sweet? “I love you, Jesus-“ That you felt your masculinity be a little uneasy?

Gene: Yeah.

Morey: I don’t have a male lover. Do you have a male lover?

Gene. No… no.

Morey: I… I love my wife. Gene, you’re a dear brother, I can love you with phileo- for our audience, because they don’t even know that- with brotherly love.

Gene: Mm-hmm.

Morey: I’m not interested in taking you to the sack.

Gene: [laughing]

Morey: All right?

Gene: Well that, that’s a relief.

Morey: That’s a relief. And thankfully, you wouldn’t be interested anyway.
That certainly is a relief. My goodness, imagine if these two men had sexual feelings for each other? That wouldn’t be masculine at all, would it? Well, at least for one of them (I’ll leave it to the reader to decide which). Fortunately, they have the good sense to announce their lack of sexual feelings for each other loudly and publicly, with no sense of self-consciousness whatsoever.

So, in conclusion, Dr. Morey longs for a return to the kind of Christianity where being a man meant decapitating your enemy, heterosexual(!) intercourse, and mocking anyone who believes differently from you. Love, forgiveness, and self-worth are overrated and represent a false Fag God that has been championed by the church at large.

Ultimately, of course, Dr. Morey is just begging the question of his own interpretation of the Bible against the myriad of other interpretations that have been proposed throughout Christian history. The Bible is the ultimate Rorshach test, since its contrary scriptures allow every man to see whatever god he wishes to see. Thus, his position isn’t so interesting on theological grounds, as it is a glimpse into his own psychology.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Raving Atheist exposed yet again

After his little bigot episode and his "parenthood is slavery" stint, Raving Atheist is now once again exposing himself as a raving lunatic. He is targeting atheist women, without being solicited, to work for his anti-abortion "centers". In an email to Atheist Mommy, he says:

On 6/4/06 8:49 AM, "Raving Atheist" wrote:

I wonder how much I could get for taking my little Atheist family to a

Assuming the church has 250 regular members, there'd be between $500 to $100 in the collection plate Sunday. I'm sure they wouldn't mind you taking it when services were over -- they collect it to help families anyway. Plus, there's no god to stop you.

Seriously, though, I'd pay $20 an hour for you volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center (mostly run by evangelicals or Catholics) and write about the experience for my blog.

-- The Raving Atheist --

(reproduced with permission from Atheist Mommy)

And recently he has stated that his "most significant reward of nearly four years of blogging" was to help finance someone's pregnancy to prevent an abortion- burdening a poor confused woman with a child for the rest of her life.

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but why does anyone take this vile individual seriously? Anyone who supports Raving Atheist and his blog is supporting his lunacy. Just stop paying him any attention. The sooner his hate blog goes down, the better.

PS Sorry for my previous mistake. I actually got permission from "Atheist Mommy", and she's the one who received the email.

Question of the Day #48: Consumerism

Image hosting by PhotobucketModern Christians sometimes refer to consumerism as a sort of "religion" where money is "God". Do you think there's truth to this, or is it a bad analogy?

Monday, June 19, 2006

The God That Wasn’t at Church

This evening, “The God Who Wasn’t There” was shown at the First Baptist Church of Colleyville, near Dallas. Attendance was only about 20-30, given the fact that it’s Father’s Day today, and that the Mavericks were playing the Heat in game 5 of the NBA Finals. Still, I thought it was a decent turnout, considering the featured material- although most of the people that I recognized were from the Faith and Reason class which I’ve mentioned here before.

The event was conceived of and led by Kevin Harris, a Christian apologist and host of the morning show for the local Christian radio station 100.7 “The Word.” He’s a great guy, and has welcomed me into the class very warmly, and genuinely wants to expose his fellow Christians to the various evidences and arguments for and against Christianity. He told the audience that it’s part of the Christian faith to “test everything” to determine its truth, in the manner of the oft-mentioned Bereans.

Kevin also made it clear that he wanted to avoid poisoning the well before introducing Brian Flemming’s movie, and that he wanted those gathered to be able to draw their own conclusions from the movie. He mentioned that only two sections of the movie would be shown, partially to allow for a sufficient Christian response, and also because he thought that some sections of the movie would be seen as “mocking” or “sarcastic” of Jesus, and that such content wasn’t appropriate in the Lord’s house. I would have loved it if the entire movie could have been screened, but I understand Kevin’s concerns- I think if he had his way, he’d rather have the whole movie shown also, but there are a number of people at the church who are very sensitive about the extent to which anti-Christian ideas are promoted within the church, and I can empathize with them. If you recall, Kevin pushed hard for the panel of atheists to come to the Faith and Reason class several weeks ago, and received some complaints about the seeming one-sidedness of their visit, and so I think he’s just playing it as conservatively as possible while still having a particularly incendiary (at least, to the Christian perspective) movie shown in church on a Sunday.

Before showing the movie Kevin also took a few minutes to draw attention to Brian Flemming’s blog, on which Brian had commented about the showing of the movie at FBCC. Kevin read the entire blog entry, including the following quote:
“But the flock must be protected. After all, Christians are not mature, thinking people who can judge source material for themselves. That material must be censored and characterized before presentation to such vulnerable minds. Or so it appears.”
Now, Kevin dismissed this as silly, but it occurred to me that this was exactly what was happening. Only two sections of the movie were being shown, and those were being bookended with a substantial apologetic response to counteract the questions that were raised by the movie. I don’t begrudge Kevin for this approach- given his religious perspective, that’s the best way to do it. But I think that Brian was spot-on in his prediction- the material was carefully handled, like so much plutonium, and lead-shielded with a thick apologetic.

Aside from Kevin, there were two other invited guests to form a small panel. Patrick Zukeran is an apologist on staff with Probe Ministries here in Dallas, and is the host of an apologetic radio show, “Evidence and Answers,” broadcast on The Word. Craig Harris (Kevin’s brother), is a nationally syndicated journalist who writes the column, “Apparently So,” on the topic of Christian parenting.

The first clip shown began with the DVD chapter entitled, “Fact vs Fiction,” and was composed primarily of the arguments from Richard Carrier, Robert Price, and Alan Dundes. This section laid out pretty well the argument against the historicity of Jesus, focusing on the historical inconsistencies of the Gospel accounts and the archetypical similarities between Jesus and the various pagan deities. The clip ended before the movie started on the section about Christianity’s preoccupation with violence, and Kevin opened up the panel for comments.

Craig began with his appraisal as a journalist. Essentially, he thought it was “not very good.” From a journalistic standpoint, he thought the production values were poor, and the interviewees couldn’t be heard very well. I thought this was an odd “journalistic” appraisal, since it really didn’t address anything substantial about the way the interviews appeared to have been conducted, or how they were edited. Craig’s criticism of the production values seemed superficial at best, and in my opinion, irrelevant. The substance of the interviews was what was of interest to the movie, and I was disappointed that he didn’t address that directly.

Patrick then spoke up about Brian’s use of the Justin Martyr quote in which he compares the attributes of Jesus to those of the pagan deities. He said that the quote was taken out of context, and that Justin was simply trying to promote Christianity as a religion to the Roman authorities in a manner with which they were familiar. However, I don’t think that the context takes anything away from the point that Brian was trying to make- the fact is that Justin made a clear comparison between Jesus and the pagan deities. Whatever the reason is that he did so is beside the point- he still admitted that there was no substantial difference. Pat also claimed that Brian had “misinterpreted” Biblical scriptures in his formulation of his argument, although no specific examples were given, nor were the correct interpretations of those scriptures. Pat suggested that Brian had a bad experience with Christianity, and this clouded his ability to present the facts accurately. This was a disappointing appraisal, since Kevin had begun the screening by explicitly saying that he wanted to avoid poisoning the well, and yet here Pat was mounting a blatant ad hominem criticism of Brian, in an effort to discredit his thesis.

There was also a short audio clip played of Brian being interviewed on a radio show (it was short, but I’m pretty sure it was his interview by the Rational Response Squad) in which he states that he intended the documentary as a tool to “destroy faith.” This was also an unfortunate ad hominem- the motives behind the production of the documentary don’t have any logical bearing on the truth of his thesis.

Following this, Kevin led the panel through a Christian response to the components of Brian’s argument. Most of these were common responses to the mythicist position: If any borrowing occurred, it was from Christianity to paganism. The Gospels were all written before 70 CE, and thus were too close to the eyewitnesses to not be accurate historical accounts. There are incidental (naked man fleeing the garden) and embarrassing (woman visiting the tomb) details which indicate that the Gospels were historical. Legends can’t develop in a few decades. There are an overwhelming number of manuscript copies of the Gospels. Jewish oral traditions were too reliable to put the Gospel accounts in question. Paul mentions 500 witnesses who saw the risen Christ. Luke was an impeccable historian. Thousands of archaeological discoveries support the historicity of the Gospels. Many Biblical scholars, even liberal scholars, accept the historicity of Jesus. The Slaughter of the Innocents was too small to be noticed by extrabiblical history. The Sanhedrin could convene a trial on Passover on special circumstances. Pilate released Barabbas as a political maneuver. Early Christians which have differing accounts of Jesus’ ministry are not reliable sources. The whole thing was pretty long, actually, and a little boring for me- I’d heard it all before, and also heard rebuttals to each one.

One thing I thought was interesting was that the panel raised C.S. Lewis’ answer to the mythicist hypothesis, namely, “We should expect some anticipatory themes and motifs in the religions of man.” This is obviously just a retread of Justin Martyr’s demonic anticipation argument, but without the Devil. In the movie, Brian states that this argument is really the only good argument that Christians have to give, and I thought it was interesting that Lewis’ variation of it was brought out (though I’m not sure anyone else appreciated the irony).

Following this panel discussion, the second clip was shown. This final clip begins with the DVD chapter entitled, “Crazy,” and continued until the end of the movie. Basically, this is the part of the movie where Brian turns the documentary on himself, and examines his own past as a Christian. At the conclusion of this section, he interviews the superintendent of his former school, Ronald Sipus. In the clip, Brian continues to ask Sipus questions about teaching faith as fact to children, and Sipus eventually accuses Brian of being dishonest and ends the interview. Following the clip, Kevin played a short audio clip of a telephone interview he conducted with Sipus. In the audio clip, Sipus restates that Brian lied to him, that he had initially agreed to an interview based on the idea that the documentary would be looking at the “impact of Christian education on young people.” Although this is arguably what that section of the documentary did focus on, Sipus had clearly assumed that the documentary would have a positive tack on Christianity. He also claimed that Brian had sent him questions that were radically different from those which he was really asked, and it was upon realizing this, he concluded that he couldn’t trust Brian and ended the interview. He said that he had talked to some faculty that knew Brian personally (Sipus himself joined the school after Brian left), and that he wasn’t known for a bad reputation. However, he concluded that Brian was just angry at his parents, the church, and the school. He seemed pretty disgusted with Brian, calling him nothing more than an “opportunist,” similar to Michael Moore, and that he didn’t think that “The God Who Wasn’t There” even qualified as a documentary. He did, however, volunteer that they were using the movie as part of the Junior and Senior Bible classes, and was happy that they were able to use it “for good.” He also mentioned that he regretted not “marching him out physically” from the campus, since Brian took an opportunity to take footage of his old chapel, as a poignant coda for his film.

The panel gave its final thoughts- Craig was of the opinion that Brian was never a true Christian in the first place, or that he had never properly matured as a Christian, otherwise he never would have fallen away like he did. Pat said that Brian had misinterpreted the “blaspheme the holy spirit” passage, and that a true Christian wouldn’t have anything to fear.

The floor was then open for questions, and I looked around quickly to see if anyone else wanted to ask anything. Seeing none, I stood up and addressed Pat. “You mentioned in passing the historian Josephus,” I said, “but you didn’t bring up the Testimonium Flavianum. I assume you’re familiar with it?” Pat just looked at me blankly (I think he may not have realized I was talking to him). I continued, “The Testimonium? You know, the purported mention of Jesus by Flavius Josephus, the self-appointed official Jewish historian?” He nodded in assent. “Well, (and I was holding a Bible open at this point) there were a number of events during Jesus’ ministry as recorded in the Gospels that would have been of national importance, that would have been truly remarkable events that no good historian could have passed up. And I see here something interesting in Matthew 27- ‘The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.’ This would seem to me to be a remarkable event, a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Why do you think that Josephus never mentioned this unique event?”

Admittedly, this was probably not the kind of question that Pat was anticipating, but he basically just stammered for a few minutes before admitting that he didn’t know why it wasn’t mentioned. At this point Kevin cut in to say that we don’t know how many people were actually raised, or how many people actually saw them, so it may not have been as remarkable as I thought it was. But he admitted that it was strange that Josephus didn’t mention it, but hopefully a manuscript could be found that mentioned the “zombies” in an historical context.

The event ended with a call for prayer on behalf of Brian Flemming, as well as any other unbelievers (myself, I assume) who had seen the movie. All in all, I was impressed with the determination shown by Kevin in having (at least, parts of) the movie shown (in a church, no less!), but I was disappointed in the (by my opinion) overwhelming apologetic attenuation that the movie was surrounded by. At the very least, it exposed some Christians to ideas which they wouldn’t have come in contact with otherwise, and I can only hope that’s a good thing.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Nietzsche Speaks! / Paranoid Schizophrenia and God

First a great quote from Nietzsche (the popcorn philosopher), courtesy of The Burden of Proof:

Historical refutation as the definitive refutation.—In former times, one sought to prove that there is no God—today one indicates how the belief that there is a God arose and how this belief acquired its weight and importance: a counter-proof that there is no God thereby becomes superfluous.—When in former times one had refuted the ‘proofs of the existence of God’ put forward, there always remained the doubt whether better proofs might not be adduced than those just refuted: in those days atheists did not know how to make a clean sweep.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak

Then, John Loftus asks us how anyone can still believe in God when they are the victim of Paranoid Schizophrenia. One of his readers has extensive experience with that horrifying disease:

Between August 1995 and November 2005 I was afflicted with the most psychologically abusive and torturous mental illnesses known to man: Paranoid Schizophrenia. Every day, for 4 1/2 years (Then intermittently for 5 1/2 years afterwards), 17 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, I listened to voices tell me "You're human garbage"," God hates you"," God wants you dead", "you're a demon-human hybrid", "your parents should have been hung for having you", and abusive insults too profane to list here. The cruelest voice of all was one that said that Satan was going to force me against my free-will to murder my daughter, and the publicity that resulted from the ensuing criminal trial would reveal me to the world as the Anti-Christ.
I vividly remember going into my daughter's room when she was away at school and dropping to my knees and clutching one her stuffed animals and begging and crying, "Please don't let my daughter die, God!!" What response did I get from these pleas? Every time I called out to God I would hear a voice saying , "How dare you call on God? He hates you! He despises you! He thinks you're garbage! Don't ever call on him again!"
The fact is, I want nothing more to do with this rebrobate God or his Son! He called me my Father, said he loved me, said he cherished me, and then betrays my trust in him by subjecting me to this living Hell!

Hopefully it should take a little less for other people to realize how horrible and cruel the doctrines of Christianity are, but I must congratulate said person for his courage.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

New words for the Christians

Religions language is, let's face it, totally vacuous. Since us atheists have the moral high ground, why not help our religious enemies make more sense of their own language ? So in the interests of cooperation, I present to you the Honest Christian's Glossary.

Cretin : Honest translation of "Christian".
"He believes that humans came from dirt six thousand years ago. Boy, he sure is a Cretin."

Godot : He ain't coming.
"Godot should be arriving any time now to torture and kill everyone I hate. I can hardly wait !"

Cretin Logic : The act of projecting every single flaw of your position on your enemy, while simultaneously and blithely ignoring all contradictions in your own worldview. This is also called Apologetics, because Cretins always have to apologize for being such great Cretins.
"Without Godot, morality is subjective, and there's no reason to follow any rule over another. I'm gonna go make a graven image of the Ten Suggestions now."

Holey Babble : An incomprehensible, disjointed, stream-of-consciousness book containing innumerable contradictions, absurdities and immoralities. More immoral but somewhat more entertaining than Mein Kampf.
"Now that you sassed your parents, the Holey Babble says that you should be put to death - wait here while I get my shotgun."

Sprite : The name given to the Cretin's mind, because it's bubbly and devoid of content.

Prince of Piss and Vinegar : Half-man, half-sprite also called Cheezus Crispy. He was a raging, foaming-at-the-mouth failed cult leader, who made his living as a bum, with 12 other men, getting rooms from single ladies hoping to get laid. The PPV was schizophrenic, had delusions of grandeur, and had the amazing skill of being able to ride two donkeys at the same time (probably because he was raised by circus clowns, who imparted him their life philosophy).

Some quotes from the PPV...
"I'm not helping you, motherfucking bitch." (Matthew 15:26)
"You're going to Hell, you fucking snakes!" (Matthew 23:33)
[to his mother] "Why are you bothering me, WOMAN ?" (John 2:4)
"ROT, damn fig tree ! YOU ROT NOW !" (Mark 11:14)

Soûl : French for "drunk". All Cretins are soûl on their idiocy 24 hours a day, but especially in church.
"Animals aren't soûl, but humans are really soûl. Pat Robertson is full of soûl."

Original Spin : After much hemming and hawing, the rationalization Godot gave for the fact that his Creation was broken from the get-go. As the proud ancestor of modern political spin, he was successful in pinning the blame for his failures on someone else. Even better, his Original Spin still works today, making it the longest-running propaganda campaign on record.
"Thanks to the Original Spin, I know that I'm an evil, corrupt, undeserving person, unless I get slaved. Praise Godot !"

Slaved : The method which, according to the Original Spin, makes you worthy of Godot's august presence. It consists of whoreshipping Godot for your entire life, or more pragmatically, making an appearance at church once in a while. Some people are so righteously masochist that they can slave themselves. In all cases, slaving involves adherence to a strict set of rules that no Cretin ever follows, including not wearing mixed fibers, stoning homosexuals, and giving up all your cash.
"I accepted Cheezus Crispy in my heart and now I'm slaved ! Praise Cheezus !"

Whoreship : Whoring your time, money, integrity and values for a bigger mansion in Heaven. This is usually accomplished by sprayer, which is the spraying of saliva on people around you while speaking aloud to yourself. This accomplishes the main goal of annoying everyone who is non-Cretin. It is very important to understand that anyone non-Cretin is inherently evil and must be annoyed as much as possible.

The Ten Suggestions : Part of the Holey Babble, these are the rules which every Cretin must follow strictly to the letter, and which every Cretin scrupulously avoids following... starting with the suggestion against graven images, which is okay to break when you want to make a graven image of the ten suggestions. This is a fine example of Cretin Logic.

Mithra : Um... what ? I don't know what that is. That doesn't exist, you're making it up !
What ? No, it doesn't exist ! Stop it ! I'm not listening ! Cheezus loves me this I know Cheezus loves me this I know Cheezus *sound of running footsteps, door slamming shut*

Friday, June 16, 2006

Christian Moral Hypocrisy: A Case Study

From what I've read online, most atheists have a pretty low opinion of Pastor Gene Cook. Now, I agree that his apologetic M.O. is about as bad as I've ever seen, and he doesn't do himself any favors through his mindless dedication to it (for those that aren't familiar with it, it is essentially the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God, or "TAG", as formulated by Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen). Although in his defense, this apologetic has been becoming more popular on the Internet among Christians, in part because of its previous obscurity, as most of the other evidentialist arguments have been repeatedly debunked already.

Aside from this, I really want to like Gene. Underneath his religion, he really is a decent human being, and I really do see profound examples of this from time to time (for example, when he was despondent about leaving his family before a trip to Africa). And Gene's theology really is so similar to what I was brought up with- if I hadn't given up my faith, I would have been a steadfast member of a church just like his. So in a way, I see his path in life as sort of a mirror image of my own, and he represents to me what my life would have been like if my eyes had not been opened.

Which is why it's so disappointing to me when Gene, who argues that Christian morality is not only superior to any atheist moral system, but is also presupposed by both Christians and non-Christians alike, commits such a contradiction of his own teaching, and acts in such an inconsistent manner.

Gene's internet ministry seems to be, I'l just say, "preoccupied" with Reggie Finley, a/k/a The Infidel Guy. From it's beginning, Gene's show was heavily influenced by Reggie and his preoccupation has become something of a bizarre obsession over the past few months. A while back, Gene posted on Reggie's forum a statement, seemingly out of nowhere, declaring that Reggie was Robert Price's "bitch" (Robert Price is a Bible scholar who has developed a close professional and personal relationship with Reggie, who has his own webcast through Reggie's network called "The Bible Geek").

Needless to say, this was really not the kind of thing that would be expected of a Christian pastor for whom the superior morality of Christianity is part and parcel of his professional life. Upon meeting him a few months ago, I asked Gene if that had really been him, and he admitted that it was. He told me at that point that it was wrong of his to do so, and it was his "sin nature" that was reponsible. He seemed reasonably contrite, although I didn't press to find out if he'd given Reggie an apology.

Now, at this point, I could take a hard look at how the scapegoat of a "sin nature" completely destroys any kind of moral responsibility in Christianity, but I think that should be obvious to readers of this blog. Let's just accept provisionally that he knew that he had done something wrong, even according to Christianity. One would assume that the moral lesson had been learned, hopefully for the better.

And one would assume wrongly.

Last week, Gene released a parody of the Bud Light radio spot series, "Real Men of Genius," which was composed of nothing but personal attacks on Reggie Finley. Now, I can appreciate a good-natured joke as well as the next guy, but this was blatantly and personally insulting. And by being such, it really lost all pretense at comedy- what makes the Bud Light commercials funny is the fact that they make specific observations about a generalized group of people, not one individual. It would be one thing if Gene wanted to make a "Mr. Internet Atheist" parody that makes fun of atheists in general, but he made a "Mr. Internet Atheist Infidel Guy" parody instead. He directly insulted Reggie's appearance on WifeSwap, his fundraising efforts, and even his personal appearance. What's more, he was so bold as to release a recording of him and a friend making the parody, and laughing hysterically at the insults directed against Reggie.

Now again, to those of us who are familiar with the moral bankruptcy of Christianity, this should be no surprise, even as much as it was disappointing to me. Although Gene had admitted that making fun of Reggie by calling him a "bitch" was wrong, he somehow felt morally justified in producing something which increased the insult by at least an order of magnitude? I expressed my disappointment at Gene's "sin nature" explanation on Reggie's forum, saying, "Seems to me to just be an excuse to indulge in holier-than-thou mean-spiritedness without any sense of moral responsibility. But of course, this doesn't mean that Gene's a dick, just that he's being a consistent Christian- Christianity is utterly devoid of moral justification."

Gene noticed my post while lurking on Reggie's forum the next day, and instead of feeling contrite, responded in anger to me. He sent me an email saying that he had only admitted that calling Reggie a "bitch" was wrong, but that he "
never said it was sinful to make fun of him or mock him by reporting his foolish behavior. Please get your facts straight."

Now Gene is in a tough position- he knows that he admitted that a small insult was a sin, but he doesn't want to admit that the larger insult was just as bad, if not worse. I told him, "calling Reggie a "bitch" is no different qualitatively than your "Real Man of Genius" parody- it's just different in terms of quantity. Both things were intentionally mean and hurtful, and you admitted to me that doing the former was a sin."

Obviously, Gene can't argue against this without sounding especially crazy, so instead he attacks my moral foundation by saying, "Whose standard are you judging my actions by when you say that I should be ashamed?"

This is a clear case of psychological projection- Gene knows that his morality is on the flimsiest of foundations, and he projects his own moral insecurity onto me to deflect his feelings of guilt. But I explained to him, "obviously I'm judging you by my own values, how could I do any more? This is what we all do, of course. The difference is that since I lack a belief in a deity, I'm justified in making moral choices based on values that are derived from the facts of reality, whereas since you have given up your moral autonomy, you can't even consistently hold to concepts like values or morality- they're meaningless within the Christian paradigm."

At this point, Gene just wanted out. "So you think I should be ashamed and I don't think I should be ashamed. So I guess there is nothing left to discuss, silly." Of course there's nothing left to discuss- how am I supposed to have a rational moral conversation with someone who doesn't base their morality on any values, and tries to make the case that a small insult is immoral while a larger one is completely justified?

And thus we see a perfect example of how the Christian mindset has completely compromised a man's ability to make rational, consistent, moral choices. Even within its own worldview, Christianity has no hope of establishing any sense of morality whatsoever. I truly hope that someday Gene will be able to look back on this and realize how embarrassing this is for him. Because in doing so, he'll be one step closer on the path to a truly moral life.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

And He Slew the Clubites…

Ever been clubbing late at night and been harassed by messengers of the Lord? Jesus' General has A Reading from the Gospel of Left Behind that I can totally relate to.

Here is, by far, my favorite line (from verse 6):

And thus it was so with all of the clubites for Techno had banished their love for our Savior from their hearts.

Yeah, techno rules. Forget God, I've got DJ Tiesto!

Question of the day #47: Religious benevolence

Image hosting by PhotobucketMost hospitals and charitable organizations (at least here in the United States) are founded and operated by religious groups. While many people from those groups would like to point at this as evidence that religious people are therefore better and more moral than non-religious people, and therefore the superiority of the religious mindset is implied, it seems to me that there are numerous much better reasons for this phenomenon and implications that follow them. What are your thoughts on this?

Monday, June 12, 2006

The memetics of marriage

1. How it applies to the Christian memeplex.

Marriage basically provides added incentive for people to remain together. Therefore marriage supports social stability. Tthis is a boon for statist governments as well, who provide their own numerous and powerful incentives to perpetuate marriage - the concept of hierarchical life is favourable to the implantation of hierarchical obedience to authority figures.

It also ensures that children will grow up supported by two adults and, presumably, a proper religious education, as the pressure of the responsibility of marriage and children will keep the parents together even if they wish to separate in many cases. And as I already pointed out, children are paramount in religious growth.

Control over the process of marriage ensures that Christian sects can impose their own model of the family on a given society, in this case one man and one woman, with the man being the dominant partner.

Also, in the specific case of priests, it seems clear from history that celibacy was imposed in order to stop priests from bequeathing church property to their children. So here again we see the memetic goal.

2a. Biblical support.

In the Old Testament, marriage is considered so important that people are forced into it, for example in Exodus 22:16 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29 :

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
Deuteronomy 22:28-29

Jesus is likewise adamant on the issue :

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
Matthew 5:32

Paul is considerably more lukewarm, but this may have to do with his possible repressed homosexuality.

2b. Lack of rational support.

While there is, of course, nothing wrong with commitment, there are also few reasons to establish it as a social structure. There are, however plenty of reasons against it, the first being that marriage is an attractive institution for collectivist belief system, and that they will seek to promote and exploit it as much as possible. Individualism, inside or outside of marriage, gets left behind, and optimal decisions are diverted for social ends.
If marriage was divested of its political power, then it would be a simple ritual, and there'd be no need to make a big fuss over it either way.

3. Conclusion.

Marriage is both heavily promoted in the Bible as well as in the modern Christian worldview, but only within the Christian model and under Christian power. In this way child births, social stability and religious child-rearing are maximized. This goes counter to modern values, which strongly select for sexual freedom, against discrimination of any kind, and against the imposition of specific models. This tension only reinforces the Christian hostility against "the world", in this case non-Christian relationships and sexuality.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Jerry Falwell has a new saviour / Defenders of the Faith

Apparently, Jerry Falwell has two "saviours" now - Jesus Christ and the Rev. Moon.

A man with long-standing ties to self-proclaimed “messiah” Rev. Sun Myung Moon will soon become the new Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Liberty University, an “independent Baptist” school founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971.
The North Korean businessman and purported “cult leader” funneled $3.5 million dollars to the university through his ”Women’s Federation for World Peace” and the Christian Heritage Foundation run by Falwell friends to help relieve the school’s debts in 1995 reported Robert Parry.
But isn’t Jesus the only messiah for a Baptist minister such as Rev. Jerry Falwell?

It appears Falwell may want a “messiah” with money.

Slavoj Zizek on the "Defenders of the Faith", making a vibrant plead for the recognition of atheism and its contributions to mankind:

This argument couldn't have been more wrong: the lesson of today's terrorism is that if God exists, then everything, including blowing up thousands of innocent bystanders, is permitted — at least to those who claim to act directly on behalf of God, since, clearly, a direct link to God justifies the violation of any merely human constraints and considerations. In short, fundamentalists have become no different than the "godless" Stalinist Communists, to whom everything was permitted since they perceived themselves as direct instruments of their divinity, the Historical Necessity of Progress Toward Communism.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Question of the Day #46 : Superstition

Image hosting by PhotobucketDo you ever find yourself being superstitious despite your complete awareness of the irrationality of it? If so, why do you think this happens?

My wife has the uncanny ability to find a good space in a crowded parking lot, and I find myself believing she has something I call "parking karma" even though I know it's total nonsense. I also believe it's "bad luck" to kill spiders, although I logically know squashing one would have no more effect on my "fate" than swatting a fly. Somehow I can't shake these feelings and probably a few others (besides the obvious one, thank you) that defy reason.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Individualist Morality FAQ

Q: What is morality ?

A: Morality is the study of the nature of individual values and their fulfillment ("value expression"), using the facts of natural law. More simply : actions have consequences which can be anticipated and measured, and that's how we know what to do or not to do.

Q: But isn't morality subjective ?

A: The very fact that you decided to ask that question proves that it isn't. Obviously your choice of asking the question shows that you valued knowing the answer, and that you thought asking it was better than not asking it.

The more general answer is that no, facts of reality are not subjective. The fact that not eating will eventually lead to starvation is a fact. That's why you eat. The same is true for any other action you perform. They are based on what you think is best to express your values. You might be wrong, of course, and you probably are, given that you're so stupid you have to ask if morality is subjective.

Q: Hey ! I didn't ask for no guff !

A: That's not a question, and you're an imaginary asker anyway. So I really don't care.

Q: Yea, okay, whatever. So what does individualism have to do with morality ?

A: Only individuals can act, not groups or societies. Only individuals can think and reason and make value-judgments. So we always have to start from the premise of individual value expression. The facts of morality have nothing to do with religion, politics, group consensus, tradition, what your friends say, or what your teacher said in public school. They are about finding out for yourself how you can act in accordance with reality and live a happy, fulfilled life.

Q: Wait, wait. Isn't morality just a way for us to live together without killing each other ?

A: You are one sad sucker, aren't you. You've bought into the collectivist propaganda hook, line and sinker.

Q: Hey ! There you go again ! What propaganda have I bought into anyway ?

A: The propaganda that human beings are inherently degraded and that they need to be indoctrinated into "getting along". Most people "get along" just fine without following collectivist principles, simply because they observe the facts of living in society as they grow up. They know that if they try to get along with others, others will try to get along with them. All the values they need to fulfill as individuals - visibility, communication, friendship, love - require cooperation.

Another problem of "getting along" is that we will always be confronted with people having wildly different value systems. Religion and government demand that we "get along" by being forced to fight tooth and nail for the power of imposing our value system against that of others. That is not cooperation or morality.

Finally, the scenarios where we need morality the MOST are scenarios where we are alone, such as the "stranded on a desert island" scenario. In this kind of scenario, our actions determine life or death. One of the advantages of living in society is that we don't need to work as hard to survive and flourish as we would alone. So in fact we need morality LESS when we live in society. So the collectivist belief is actually completely backwards.

Q: What about the idea that morality comes from evolution ?

A: Your instincts are part of your nature, and so you always have to take them into account. You can't be happy by systematically repressing your instincts. But you can't equate evolution with morality any more than you can say a car is a wheel or a brake pad. It might feel instinctually good to, say, kill someone who's cheating with your wife, but that'll only land you in jail for the rest of your life.

Q: What about altruism ?

A: There's no such thing as altruism. It is an empty term, like "god" or "superatural". Every single individual acts in his perceived self-interest. The difference is that some people are rational and some people are not.

Q: Isn't helping others altruistic ?

A: That's a ridiculous idea. How can helping others not be beneficial to the individual ? It is better for me to live in a flourishing society, and helping others makes me feel good, so helping others is an expression of my values.

Q: So you believe in "might makes right" ?

A: Not so. It is the collectivists who believe in "might makes right" (for example, that God is moral in slaughtering almost all life on Earth, simply because he can do so). I do not believe that "might makes right", indeed that "might" tends to make people "wrong". I think we should deal with each other as individuals, not as tools of power.

Q: You're so cynical. Can't you just believe in something greater than yourself ? Are you so vain ?

A: No, I'm not vain. I'm an individual, just like every other individual on Earth. I just happen to understand that fact and do not desire to lose myself in collectivist fantasies. I am not a part of a country, race, language, culture, religion (or lack thereof) or class, I am simply a person called Francois Tremblay. That is the fact of the matter. There are plenty of things "greater than myself" (such as, say, gravity), but that fact has no moral or political import.

Q: Is X moral ?

A: Only specific actions or values can be moral or immoral. You have to look at what values you're causing if you do it. This changes depending on context - "killing" a bacteria in your guts is different than "killing" someone because he made you mad. In both cases, "killing" effects very different values. In one case you can save your life, in the other you can go to jail forever.

Q: I'm an idiot and I still want absolute rules for life.

A: Tough luck boy. Even in religion there is no such thing. If you really need some simple rules, here are some good ones :

* Be rational, use your fucking head. Staying ignorant and gullible makes you a sap.
* Don't let anyone guilt you into serving their values (and that includes your parents, your church and your government).
* Don't hurt people unless you're defending yourself.
* Be nice to people who deserve it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The pleasure of finding things out - RP Feynman

Monday, June 05, 2006

Religion cannot provide morality

Using the Argument from Morality to prove that religion cannot provide morality, in a fictional dialogue.

Atheist: What if I came up to you and said "okay, I had a dream and I figured out how everyone should live, all right, and I wrote it down in this book. Now do what it says". Would you do it?
Theist: No, of course not. Why should I believe you?
A: Okay. But what if I hold a gun to you, and you don't have any, and tell you to obey what the book says?
T: Then I would pretend to obey you until I could find a way to stop you.
A: Good, good. What if a space alien came down to Earth and told you that they made up a book of rules that humans should follow, and demands that you obey them?
T: I'd say that they don't have dominion over me. I should be able to judge for myself.
A: What if they say they will incinerate you if you don't obey?
T: Then it would be a situation of force again. I would obey but they wouldn't be moral. I think I know where this is going.
A: Where is it going?
T: You're going to ask me about God, and ask me to justify why I think the Bible is a good moral code, when it's just God's opinion. And then you're going to talk about Hell.
A: That's right! For a Christian, you're smart! So tell me, why should you believe God's opinions when you don't believe mine, or those of a space alien?
T: Because God created everything. He would know better than me what is good and what is evil. Besides, everyone is born evil and needs God's rules.
A: How do you know that?
T: Because it says so in the Bible.
A: How do you know that?
T: Because the Bible is correct.
A: You have no way of knowing that the Bible is correct. You could very well have been made to believe a lie by God. God is omnipotent, why couldn't he be tricking your mind?
T: But God is good and would never do such a thing.
A: How do you know that?
T: Okay, we already talked about that. I know that God is good because it says so in the Bible.
A: And you assume you know it says so in the Bible because you assume God is good. So you can't really answer my questions? If you can't, then you have to admit that there's no difference between God's arbitrary rules and anyone else's.
T: You're being childish. I believe in a good God and that's that!
A: How do you know that it is what you actually believe?
T: Because without this belief, life makes no sense.
A: How do you know that you need this belief for life to make sense? Life makes sense to me and I don't have the belief. God could be deluding you into believing that life makes no sense without believing in him.
T: My head is spinning.

The Carnivorous Argument for the Nonexistence of God

Original Article (thanks to Matt)

The existence of God has just been disproved. A man with an apparent Daniel-complex jumped into the lion enclosure of the Kiev zoo, shouting that God would keep him safe. According to a zoo official,
"The man shouted 'God will save me, if he exists', lowered himself by a rope into the enclosure, took his shoes off and went up to the lions."
P1) If God exists, he will save me.
"A lioness went straight for him, knocked him down and severed his carotid artery."
P2) God didn't save me.

And thus we see that once again, faith has collided head-first (or neck first) into the uncompromising consequentiality of reality. Therefore, we can conclude:

C) God does not exist.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Faith and Reason: Part 3

This week I visited the North Texas Church of Freethought, which is the organization which supplied atheists for interview to the "Faith and Reason" class I attended two weeks ago, as well as last week. Since both groups meet at the same time, I had to miss out on this week's "Faith and Reason," which Kevin Harris informed me would focus on "The Beast" of Revelation, given the proximity to June 6th.

I was welcomed as equally by the Freethinkers as I was by the Christians. Especially once I explained that I had heard about their church from attending the interview at the Baptist church, they were very interested to hear what I thought of the experience. The proceedings were conducted less like a church service, and more like a seminar. The theme was: "Forebears of Freethought," and presentations were given on Helen Gurley Brown and George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). Another member gave a talk on the Left Behind Video Game, and its connection to Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven" Ministry's stealth-dominionist agenda.

I picked up a brochure called, "Freethought 101," which was written by the pastoral director of the church, Dr. Tim Gorski. It establishes the church's definition of freethought, and talks about rationalism, parsimony, materialism, atheism/agnosticism, and morality. To justify its existence as a church, there's an argument made for freethought being a counterpart to religion:
Now reason demands that in thinking about facts we should distinguish between different kinds of facts. There is a world of objective facts and there are worlds of subjective facts. The sound of a voice that we all hear, for example, means something different than the sound of a voice that only one person hears, though theologians and psychiatrists disagree on what the latter means.

Secondly, Freethought is distinguished by its concern with "questions of religion." That is, it concerns those aspects of the human condition that have to do with meaning, morality and purpose and the personal and conscientious intellectual/emotional motivations - "spiritual" motivations in this sense -for such ideas as divinity, eternity, origins and ends, worth, duty, rewards and punishments in this world or some other, and so on. This is why we take the position- and the Church of Freethought is really predicated on the claim- that “Freethought is religion.”
Now there is a lot to think about in this schematic, and I invite you to draw it out and consider it at your leisure. But notice that nowhere is there an axis of reason-unreason. In fact, it is possible to apply reason in all these areas. It's just that below the x-axis there is a lot more potential for disagreement. And when you get over into the religion quadrant it's not even always possible to tell whether someone is being reasonable or not. This is because the relevant facts may be confined inside that single person's individual subjective experience. In fact, even they may later change their mind as to how reasonable they had been.
I'm not sure how I feel about this diagram- by being paired with religion, freethought is placed in the subjective/spiritual section of the diagram. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of placing disciplines on a continuum that incorporates an unintelligible concept like "spirituality." In addition, the freedom of freethought shouldn't be confined to subjective reality- in my opinion, freethought should encompass the three-quarters of the diagram that are not congruent with religion, not the other way around.
Freethinkers make an effort to respect the natural boundaries of subjective and objective human experience and secular and "spiritual" - in a non-supernatural sense - kinds of problems and concerns.
I think this is an admirable effort, but I'm still not sure what a "non-supernatural" "spiritual" thing would be. Perhaps the church should try to clarify their interpretation of this concept, but regardless, they're a fine group of individuals, and they're clearly appreciative of the fellowship and opportunity to exchange ideas, which is commendable. I'll probably be checking them out again.

Question of the Day #45: Religious hypocrisy

Image hosting by PhotobucketWhen you observe a religious person acting in a hypocritical fashion, how does it make you feel as a skeptic? Do you find it a funny reminder of one more reason why you reject religion, does it make you feel anger or pity, or does it give you confidence in your position and bolster your disbelief?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

One-shot refutation of moral dogmatism

Here is the one-shot refutation of any moral dogmatism, be it based on "religion", "the commandments", "the law", or any other doctrine that people claim is necessary for morality.

When they tell you : "If people didn't have X, they would just go around raping and killing people. How could you stop anyone from coming in your home, killing you, and stealing all your possessions?"

Ask this : "If YOU didn't have X any more, WOULD you go around raping and killing people? Would you come in my home, kill me, and steal all my possessions? YES OR NO?"

By tearing down their pretense of "people are like this or that", you reduce them to an unsavory choice : either they are the only moral person on the planet, which is impossible, or they were dead wrong.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Left Behind: The Video Game

Here's another bit of pop culture religious tomfoolery to round out your weekend: Left Behind the Video Game.
Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions in LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces - a real-time strategy game based upon the best-selling LEFT BEHIND book series created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Join the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers, and uncover the truth about the worldwide disappearances!
And for those who haven't been keeping track, the "Peacekeepers" are the Bad Guys, and the "Tribulators" are actually the Good Guys. The purpose is, quite literally, to kill all the nonbelievers.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

Although as an interesting aside, the game does offer reverse functionality: you can choose to play as the Antichrist with the goal of killing all the Christians. It'll be fun for everyone!

Ali G Interviews Kent Hovind

Ali G Interviews Kent Hovind!

Believe it or not, I am posting this before I even got to watch the video. I am using a proxy connection right now that blocks You Tube. I have been informed however that this link is legit.

I'm gonna watch it myself as soon as I get home.

You made it all up ! "Original sin"

Unlike the truth, which does not adapt to anything but reality, belief systems can evolve because they do not have to adhere to reality at all. But this means that belief systems do not fulfill actual human needs. Fulfilling an actual need does not require belief at all. Some pseudo-scientific belief systems try to fulfill actual needs (such as, say, cancer), but they do so by presenting a more fundamental imaginary need (such as getting your spinal column into alignment, to preserve "holistic" health).

The most leverageable needs are those that are invented, manufactured. Real needs can generally be fulfilled in many different ways. If you can, however, convince people that they have a pressing need that only you can fulfill, then you place yourself in a great position to manipulate minds. It is the strength and scope of the invented need, and the exlusivity of the solution, which makes religion so attractive. The fate of your eternal life is in the balance, and you must believe in a specific god in a specific way in order to get the upper hand.

So we have two ways of relating to other people : on the basis of real needs, or on the basis of imaginary needs.

These imaginary needs, of course, do not come from thin air. Their cornerstone lies in basic human emotions - the ever-popular FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt), the desire for specialness and validation, moral anxiety, guilt, and so on. Christianity, for instance, is based on the imaginary need for "salvation", which is needed because man is fundamentally depraved, headed for eternal hellfire, and needs guidance in life. This appeals to pretty much all the tricks in the book.

You have to make the individual believe that people (usually including themselves) are in some way depraved or flawed. This will naturally appeal to those with low self-esteem and low ego, perfect targets for your belief system. Having manufactured the need, you can then make them believe that only you can provide the solution that works.

Here are the imaginary needs filled by major beliefs and belief systems (and note how some of these contradict outright) :

Monotheism - Man is born in original sin, which is a yoke on every single human being. Man's values are natural and therefore depraved. Everyone is sinful, and need religion to be "saved" from himself. This salvation inevitably has nothing to do with the sins in the first place.

Greenie - Man's values are unnatural and therefore depraved. Man should rather live in harmony with nature to "save" nature (especially cute animals, or animals with a face) and be "saved" from his own folly.

New Age - Man's evil modern progressist values have pushed him away from communication with some overarching natural principle, usually rooted in the ancient past. The solution is to reconnect with that principle, while giving lots of money to a guru who buys himself evil modern progressist cars.

Buddhism - Your values are too unnatural and are not in harmony with the tao. Meditate more. Maybe, just maybe, you'll stop reincarnating into small animals some day. But keep your pet hamster close at hand, just in case.

Statism - Man's values are too selfish and hurt the "common good". Man needs a supreme authority to force people to serve the "common good" (i.e. the good of the politician's pocketbook and/or re-election). The only difference between liberals and conservatives is that they have different conceptions of this common good.

Racism and nationalism - Most people are inferior by virtue of having been born in the wrong country or with the wrong skin hue. Your own problem is significantly smaller : you're just not aware of how superior you really are. The solution is to condition yourself to see everyone as a race or a nation, and act in accordance with your status of superior being.

I'm being a little facetious, but I think you get the idea. Once people accept the idea that they are fundamentally corrupt in some way by virtue of being human, then they'll want to do the right thing, i.e. join the belief system that made them believe in this corruption, and which offers the solution. If you truly believe that man is born sinful, then you'll agree that you need to be saved. If you truly believe that man is too selfish to cooperate, then you'll naturally agree that government is needed to force people to work together.

All of these needs, of course, are completely imaginary and without foundation. That's the difference between a system based on reality and one based on fantasy. The former solves real problems based on real things. Science, for example, exists because it solves the problem of ignorance. It is a real problem with a real solution.