Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Monday, October 31, 2005

Cenk Uygur / Halloweenies

Time for another double heap of BLAM !

The name Cenk Uygur recently surged in popularity amongst atheists, for his article If You're a Christian, Muslim or Jew - You are Wrong. And I quote :

Jesus was a lunatic. God is not coming to your rescue. He hasn't come to anyone's rescue in thousands of years, including Jesus. Mohammed was a power hungry, scam artist and ruthless conqueror. Moses and Abraham were figments of the imagination of some long dead rabbi. He would probably laugh his ass off at all of you who still believe the fairytales he made up thousands of years ago. He probably wouldn't even believe it if you told him.
How long are we going to dance around the 800-pound gorilla in the room? The world is run by madmen. It's not just Bush and bin Laden. It is the leader of all of the countries in the Middle East, almost all of the Americas and most of the rest of the world.


As for the Halloweenies, we're talking of course about the Christians, at least in the parody article "Holiday Gives Christians Much-Needed Smugness Boost".

For millions of American young people, Halloween is just another holiday, an excuse to load up on tooth-rotting morsels and scare themselves with all sorts of ghosts and goblins nonsense. For a select few, however, the event is about something far more important: the persistent notion that the conservative Christian beliefs imposed on them by their parents make them better than everyone else.

Have fun annoying the Halloweenies this evening. And don't miss my article against the "consilience" of science and religion, just below. Happy Halloween !

Disproving the belief in consilience

Consilience is the belief that science and religion are in some way compatible, either because they are both true (and just badly interpreted) or because their propositions do not discuss the same facts. A recent vocal proponent of this avenue was anti-reductionist Stephen Jay Gould, who was against evolutionary psychology and psychometry, and believed that science and religion were "nonoverlapping magisteria" :

The net of science covers the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for starters, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty). To cite the arch cliches, we get the age of rocks, and religion retains the rock of ages; we study how the heavens go, and they determine how to go to heaven.
I hope I don't need to explain why "overlapping magisteria" is nonsense. Science does have import in "questions of moral meaning and value", and religion does make claims about what the "empirical universe" (as opposed to what ?) is "made of" and how "it works". Our scientific understand of biology, psychology and evolutionary psychology (which of course Gould would deny) has powerful ethical implications. And Christianity makes direct claims about cosmology (Creation of the universe), neurology (belief in the soul), biology (origins of man, Intelligent Design), zoology (beliefs about animal species), history (existence of "Jesus", global Flood, etc), and many other scientific disciplines. And all of these claims are utter anti-scientific nonsense.

Finally, Gould's own words indict him. There is no heaven, and there is no way to determine how to go to an imaginary place. If it is anything, heaven is a peaceful state of mind brought about by a spiritual understanding of reality. It has nothing to do with going anywhere.

There is something that I do find more interesting, however, and that is the claim that a religious society supports scientific inquiry. Some theologians claim that the belief in God promotes the belief in an orderly reality (ordered by God, of course) that can be discovered through the scientific process.

As a materialist, my first question has to be : "how can it be orderly if it is dependent on God's will ?". The assumption of order can only be justified by a self-contained universe where causality is always maintained, that is to say, materialism. Why would God value an intelligible reality ? Why should we expect a universe contingent on God's will to be orderly and intelligible ? Why, because it is orderly and intelligible, and God necessarily exists. So we enter yet another circular justification here. To "know the mind of God" is to put one's own words in "God's mind", nothing more.

The second obvious answer is that history proves this hypothesis wrong. We know of two instances where science emerged, one where it didn't work out - around 500 BCE in Ionia - and one where it did - starting in the 16th century in the Western world. The revolution in Ionia was snuffed out by the rationalism, the devaluation of physical work, and the religious complacency of the Greek world, and the scientific revolution we know today was only made possible by the Protestant Reformation, the rediscovery of Aristotle, and other turmoils that made questioning religious and religion-enforced pre-scientific doctrines possible. Aristotelian values are the cornerstone of scientific inquiry, not Christian repression.

There is also nothing special about the Christian religion that makes it friendly to scientific inquiry. In fact, Christainity is inferior to even Greek polytheism in that regard. Here are some core properties of Christianity which contradict scientific inquiry :

* Belief that divine will, not natural law, moves the heavens and the Earth. This is reinforced by the linear cosmology of Christianity, as opposed to a cyclical cosmology which puts more emphasis on regularity and less emphasis on distant events.
* Belief in only one god which creates and destroys according to its whims (versus, for example, a pantheon of gods which are mostly part of nature and act in an orderly fashion). Nothing in the universe is necessary, and has no inherent reason to exist.
* Belief in creation ex nihilo, which is beyond our power to understand. All ultimate causes are beyond our power to understand.
* The Bible does not distinguish between the natural and the spiritual. Everything is a manifestation of God's scientifically incomprehensible power.
* Christianity has no moral concern for truth, material progress, empiricism or critical thinking, all vital moral prerequisites for scientific inquiry.

So how can the Christian religion possibly create a good context for science ? No, we have to maintain the hope of understanding reality and improving the human condition. Everything else is pointless and futile, including the Christian worldview. With God, there is only epistemic anxiety, moral conflict and a meaningless divine plan left for us. That's a worldview of despair, not science. Only diversity of thought, freethought, empiricism and atheism justify the rise of science.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mr. Neil is here

Hey gang. I'm Neil; commonly going by Mr. Neil or Neilsama online.

I'll keep the intro short. I grew up in what I guess you would call a universalist household. There was a belief in God, and sometimes Jesus was mentioned, but there were no religious practics. Heaven was simple; Good people went up, and bad people went down. We never went to church. I was brought up and encouraged to pursue scientific answers. Aside from God belief, mystical thinking was completely discouraged.

I became an atheist at some point between the ages of eight and ten. I think it was the exposure to the religion that did it more than anything. Somewhere between my astonishment of what real Christians believe and my realization of other religions, I couldn't find any acceptable reason to hold theistic belief. It was always a case of special pleading.

So I "deconverted", and I've been a happy atheist ever since.

As far as my role here, I guess I'm the new guy for Question Of The Day. Franc wants me to ask more social questions, and I think I can do the job. I'm a little overwhelmed here at times, because I'm not an ethicist. I guess I'm more of a science freak. I came into the whole freethought community as someone who was alarmed by the anti-scientific climate that continues to grow.

I think I can be more fun than Franc, and I hope I can toss some good questions at you guys.

Kill The Scientists !


"In yesterday's hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, former Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) spokes-doctor Jerry Vlasak waxed not-so-eloquent about the role that animal researchers should play in the search for AIDS and cancer cures. Speaking of scientists whose work requires the use of lab rats, Vlasak insisted that if they "won't stop when told to stop, one option would be to stop them using any means necessary." Asked by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) if he endorsed the use of deadly force, Vlasak insisted that murder "would be a morally justifiable solution."

Jerry Vlasak was defending his 2003 statement (made as a PCRM spokesperson) that political assassination "could be used quite effectively from a pragmatic standpoint ... for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives." Great Britain has banned Vlasak and his wife (former child actress Pamelyn Ferdin) because of this and other threats.


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which many people think of as tame (at least in comparison to Vlasak's kill-the-scientists rant), aims to get its way by bullying and threatening its enemies in the scientific community. PETA president Ingrid Newkirk told the 1997 Animal Rights Convention: "I wish we all would get up and go into the labs and take the animals out or burn them down. " And in 1999 she told The Chronicle of Philanthropy: "I find it small wonder that the laboratories aren't all burning to the ground. If I had more guts, I'd light a match."

On the live show sometimes I talk about Greenie insanity, but this beat the shit out of anything I could ever seriously come up with.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Answering to "Atheism Sucks" / I'm an asshole, so take this survey

Time for the grab-bag again. Well, it looks like the college frat boys at Atheism Sucks have finally deigned to notice my existence. How nice of them to do so, even though it is a bit late - after all, I have been co-hosting an online show against Christianity, written a handbook of atheism, maintaining this blog, as well as an atheist ministry, so I would have hoped for more attention. But I have to be generous, as I'm sure it took a lot to get them off their beer and cocaine binges to actually type something coherent. Goooo Christians ! Paaa-rty !

I like their web site. They manage to show that they don't understand dictionary definitions, they sanction a Creationist deception, they defend a complete subjectivist and then have the gall to attack atheists for not having absolutes, and then give us a wonderful article like "Atheism Makes Life Sucky" (sic), where we learn that "[i]f there is no God, then our life is not qualitatively different from that of a dog". Some college kids slept through their biology classes...

I love these guys. I really do. They do their best to address real issues and answer to the people that matter. It's really too bad that they're Christian idiots.

Talking about assholes, I have to confess that I am also an asshole. Apparently, the best way to get a presence on the blogsphere is to have a presence on other people's blogs, and I just cannot do that. I just manage to offend everyone.

I've tried hard to get some interaction going on this blog, but if there's no interest, I'm going to stop it entirely and concentrate on my content posts. So for this time only, I want to hear from people who read this blog regularly. Put a comment on this post, just say "hello", and make your blog known at the same time if you have one.

And of course, check out my latest entry, on the concept of free will and the arguments used to deny it, right below. Thank you !

PS please do not use this forum to associate atheist evangelism with the KKK, or any such offensive comparisons. If you don't like atheist evangelism, this blog is not for you. There are plenty of other blogs on the right for you to check out, so don't waste our time.

PPS no, I am not "threatening to stop blogging" or somesuch nonsense.

Unspoken assumptions in denying free will

The denial of moral responsibility in materialism is not restricted to the Christian worldview. Secular or religious, deniers often try to undercut free will as their starting point. In the latest assault on moral responsibility, so-called psychologists Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen argue that, because the brain determines everything we do, we are not responsible for our actions, and that the law should not be punitive but rather be consequentialist.

That's the nice way of putting it. As I see it, while I am not against consequentialism in principle, in this case consequentialism seems to me simply to mean : treat man as a meat machine and try to control it. I've seen the same argument applied to politics, calling for more welfare because after all man has no free will and therefore has no responsibility whatsoever for his own outcomes. Therefore, total control of society is desirable. The fallacy of Special Pleading, in both cases, seems to apply. Neither the judge, nor the politician, nor the person who proposes consequentialism, is any more than a meat machine either, in this perspective, so these beliefs are self-referentially nonsensical.

People who should know better often use properties of the brain to try to deny free will. The article I linked argues that, because we can trace all thoughts and attitudes in the brain - because we are in theory not uncertain about anything in the mind - there must be no free will. Others argue that free will does not exist because we know neurologically that our choice to press a button follows the impulse to press it.

But here's the problem : we have no more reason to think that free will expresses itself in neurological uncertainty, or neurological temporality, any more than we have reason to think that, say, the concept "red" is encoded by neurons that glow red, or that our perception of a violent event should hurt the perceiver's brain. We have no grounds to assume anything about how any mind experience is expressed in the brain until we actually find it. To assume that free will "must be expressed" in a certain way is to hold a belief about it that is not based on fact.

This pseudo-scientific anticipation is much like homeopathy and its principle of "like cures like". It's not because something has a metaphorical resemblance to something else that both have a relation, and the absence of such a resemblance does not mean there is no relation. Aspirin doesn't look like a headache, but it still cures headaches.

And yes, before the Objectivists start getting impatient, I haven't forgotten that free will is axiomatic. To deny free will demands one to direct one's attention to facts and arguments, and therefore is automatically self-refuting. It's not really the epistemic aspect that interests me, in this case, but rather people's unspoken assumptions that lead them to deny free will.

The more important unspoken assumption, however, is the assumption that we are separate from our brain. And this is where the pseudo-scientific side joins Christianity fully. Both assume that :

(1) It is a necessary precondition of moral responsibility that "I" decide what I am doing.
(2a) If materialism is true, "I" am not morally responsible because "my brain" makes "I" (me) do things.

Yet from the materialist standpoint, this is wholly incoherent, as "my brain" is part of "I". The proposition then becomes :

(2b) If materialism is true, "I" am morally responsible because part of "I" (myself) makes "I" (me) do things.

For the argument that something exterior to myself ("the brain") is nullifying my moral responsibility fails, as "the brain" is not exterior to myself.

In essence, both the Christian and the subjectivist claim that moral responsibility is only possible if the mind-brain connection is severed - the only difference is that only the Christian claims that the connection is indeed severed. But as in most things, both hold to the same epistemic premises. However, it is obvious that moral responsibility is only possible if the mind-brain connection is maintained.

Suppose that the mind had no causal relation to the brain, and that I have a "soul". Thoughts pop in my mind with no relation to reality. One second I love all mankind, the next I desire to kill. How can I possibly be held responsible for these thoughts ? They are not the result of any reasoning on my part, since reasoning would require empirical evidence, which would require a causal link to reality. They are not the result of my personality, since the personality is part of the brain. So how am "I" in any way responsible for my desires ? This seems quite impossible.

On the other hand, if there is a brain-mind identity, then my thoughts and desires are part and parcel of my identity, and manufactured by myself, and there is no grave problem in this case. If I desire to kill, I am responsible for such desires. Even if I had the bad fortune of being born with criminal impulses, I am still capable of repressing such desires (as the vast majority of such people can, a handful of serial killers notwithstanding), armed with a solid education and a strong sense of values. Even if I may desire to kill, I know that such actions are detrimental to my life. BTK is not a good life example.

Regardless of the things I had no choice upon, I still, in the end, choose to act in a certain way, as opposed to another. The ultimate responsibility lies solely on my shoulders. As an individual, I take control of this responsibility and make it mine.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Question of the Day #6

Why is modern Christian art so trite ?

Give your answer in the comments.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Some items of note

The scientific propaganda about the periodic table vs The TRVTH

Why do those dang gammit scientists make up all these elements anyhow ? Everyone knows there are only four.

Another news item : on November 2nd, Trading Spouses will show the mother of all meltdowns, from a Christian mother. That screaming, twisted mass of outraged flesh - irrational, vain, loud and obnoxious - that's what Christianity is to me. Nothing more. Dangerous, vulgar and insignificant at the same time. I think the Middle Ages have demonstrated how this kind of people live together.

Talking about Christianity being the antithesis of social harmony, don't forget to read my latest entry, on this very topic, just below. Thank you !

Is Christian morality harmonious ?

I have examined at length where Christian morality is located within the context of individual development. But what of the claim that religion in general is conductive to social peace and stability ?

Well, there is a way in which the question is trivial. From a memetic standpoint, Christianity, like all other religions, survives insofar as it follows the flow of other memes in society. In this sense, we can say not that Christianity is a stabilizing element, but rather that the stabilizing elements in society normalize Christianity (albeit slowly) and integrate it as a working mechanism of that society. The principles of memetic Christianity (i.e. the actual memes it is composed of, in the minds of believers) are conductive to social stability insofar as its repressive attitude supports social institutions and governments.

But nothing that pursues social stability by repression can possibly contribute to social peace, as peace is the opposite of repression. So a purely theoretical memetic answer would be pretty much negative : Christianity in itself is powerless, and is only a bludgeon of social stability because it is molded that way by impersonal forces.

From an emergentist standpoint, we have to be equally negative. Social interactions are composed of individual moral decisions. If those individual moral decisions are dysfunctional (as Christianity is), then the resulting social interactions will be dysfunctional as well.

Going from the theoretical to the practical, do we have tangible evidence either way ? Definitely. A much-discussed recent study by Gregory Paul has demonstrated that higher levels of religion cause higher levels of social ills such as homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion. Furthermore, it has been obvious for a long time that the United States is the msot dysfunctional of all developed countries - to the extent that sociological studies do not include it within the group of developed countries, as it is an outlier for most social variables. Finally, regions with the greatest levels of religiosity (The Middle East, West Africa - 99% and Latin American - 96%) exhibit higher levels of violence than regions with the lowest levels of religiosity (SE Asia - 77% Western Europe - 88%), except in the area of suicide, according to "Epidemiology of violent deaths in the world", by Reza, Mercy and Krug (note that I don't agree with every conclusion of this study, but the violence data is clear). The United States also shows higher violence than the average of developed countries in all aspects except suicide, the same pattern of religiosity repeating here. Finally, the individual correlation between society-disrupting behaviour and religiosity is well-established, including the correlation between religiosity and criminality.

Can there be a harmonious Christian society ? Even the United States can hardly be called harmonious, at least compared to the average. There is a certain level of disharmony to be expected, by virtue of human nature. So the question becomes - does Christianity improve on this, or regress ? Christians would say the former, but the data shows the latter.

How can we explain this data, and prove causality ? Well, we can say that Christianity is immoral in its doctrines and its principles, and that this immorality is reflected in the individual's decision-making process, and therefore his actions. This is a perfectly valid argument, even if it is rather generalized...

Now let's look at the issue from the perspective of moral development. As I've proven before, Christianity is an order-based morality - a morality adapted for babies and little children - imposed on adults. So you necessarily have a tension there. What you get, is a society full of repressed children, grown adults who hoot and holler at sexuality and bodily functions as if they were schoolchildren, like a lot of Americans. People who are morally retarded in this fashion cannot truly appreciate the finer things of life. This tension results in the fight against alternative lifestyles, alternative worldviews, censorship, and the breakdown of responsibility and civility (for example, people dealing with each other by lawsuits and public recrimination).

The second tension is between order-based morality and natural morality. As adults, Christians still have the brain development, the instincts, the desires that all adults have. But on the other hand, their order-based morality directly contradicts all of these elements, in fact attacks these elements as being of "the world", "anti-Christian".and "sinful". So we end up with a situation where people are conflicted and feel tremendous guilt about their own mind and their own actions. This is not the recipe for a healthy society, but rather the recipe for an oppressive society. We see the results of this tension in high teen pregnancy, high rates of adultery and divorce, high rates of obesity and preponderence of violent crimes born out of insecurity and frustration..

The third moral tension is between Christianity in general and Western civilization. This civilization of ours, regardless of its many faults, was founded on the tearing-down of authority, on the progress brought about by reason and science, on trade and material progress, on the freedom of being (through "human rights"), belief and lifestyle. Although we may have strayed from these ideals in the past century, we can still identify living Western values, such as material gain, romantic love and sexuality, equality, tolerance and respect, the importance of life – as well as our most noble and venerable institutions – the discovery and application of scientific principles, peaceful trading and commercialism, as well as acting and being judged based on one’s values.

In this cultural struggle, therefore, Christianity stands directly in opposition to these foundations, values and institutions. Christians proclaim, as an order from God, that doctrine is more important than science, that doctrine is more important than lifestyle or love, that spirituality is more important than material progress, that salvation is more important than human rights, equality or tolerence, that the culture of death is more important than the culture of life. That is "Christian valuing". So this form of tension also creates a tremendously destructive ideological current in our societies.

The individual, of course, is not "Western civilization" or "Christainity". The individual, however, can decide to promote and affiliate himself with either, or in my case, a rational alternative that sees the good in many Western values but would rather see them validated by rational thought once again, as they were during the Enlightenment. Either way, such a decision must be taken from the foundation of one's personal values, not on the basis of child abuse, indoctrination, intimidation or political wrangling. Individualism is really what we're fighting for. Individualism we shall have, or Western society will sink to the depths of the culture of mysticism, repression and death that Christianity represents.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Question of the Day #5

Why are all “ex-atheist” testimonies (at least, all the ones I've ever read) actually testimonies from people who were mad at religion, "hated God", or otherwise accepted the existence of God ?

Give your answer in the comments.

(Here's another idea : perhaps there ARE ex-atheists, but they are not as vocal. But why would they be less vocal ?)

Friday, October 21, 2005

New blog mission statement

Since I appear to have taken over this blog, I've decided to somewhat change the mission statement :

"We attack Christians who claim to monopolize epistemology and values, and defend rational individualism as the only coherent worldview."

A little more positive and aggressive, don't you think ?

Idiots Parenting our Future

Enough philosophy for a minute, I want to deal a broadside. I've been looking over the history of links to my blog, and I found a little connection which I wanted to share with you.

In the past, I've exchanged some harsh words with A Pixelated Mind for publically stating that he would raise his children vegans. More specifically, I called him a "disgusting fuck". I stand behind these words (and besides, I read more of his blog, and he's an anti-man Greenie through and through, so my disgust is confirmed). Vegan parents are murderers and child abusers, and they should all go to jail without exception.

I've also dealt some harsh words to Christians who brainwash their children into their death cult. I've told them to stop brainwashing children and to leave them the fuck alone. I stand behind these words. Christian parents are murderers and child abusers, and they should all go to jail without exception.

I guess the common thread here is that I hate True Believers who abuse their children, whether they follow the Greenie religion or the Christian religion.

I've never made it any secret that I am against parenting as an institution. I am not unreasonable about it, and I am not against the notion that competent parents should be able to raise their own children. However, if you are a parent and you impose your death values on your children, I consider you one of the worst kinds of scum on this planet. To abuse a child is the most cowardly abuse, the lowest of the low. However, I have the small consolation to know that many of you will suffer some day for what you did - when your children reject you.

Yes, I hate it when other bloggers start talking about politics, and sometimes I just give up on them. Now I am doing the same. If that makes some people stop reading my blog, then so be it. To be honest, I'm not really worried about offending the scum of the Earth.

To relate this to individualism, one can ask : why do children have so little rights in our society ? The obvious answer is that our collectivist societies see no need to give rights to children, who cannot vote and have no money, against parents, who are in the majority. In an ideal individualist world, parenting would be a hard-won privilege, not a universal right, and parents would be at a power disadvantage. But this will probably never happen.

"Proof" : What is it Exactly ? part 2

What does this abstract notion mean in regards to Christianity and theism ? Well, it is often said that Christianity, or Creationism, is not falsifiable. This is not correct, insofar as there are many pieces of evidence which show probability or knowledge of non-existence, such as the Problem of Evil, or theological noncognitivism. In the same way, when we observe speciation we don't also see lifeforms popping out of thin air, but rather a process of genetic change as predicted by Neo-Darwinism. The fact that our science is able to explain things more simply than theism is the most obvious proof of the falsify of the latter.

But Christianity and its assorted pseudo-scientific doctrines are still not considered scientific, because they break the principle of naturalism. That is to say, they are based on supernatural entities and processes ("God", "Creation") which cannot be accounted for, and to substract them from an explanation does not remove any substance from it at all.

Adding the label "God" to our experiences, or to a natural process, or a human thought or feeling, says absolutely nothing new about it. Likewise, saying "God did it" is the equivalent of saying "it". Such a phrase ("God did") can only have meaning in a religious context, where causal identification and measurement is completely irrelevant. We cannot identify or measure "God", and neither can we identify or measure "Creation", and, due to their non-natural nature, neither of these can be causally relevant unless we eliminate all natural causes, which is to say, unless we assume that it cannot be found scientifically.

Otherwise, there is no reason to assume that one has an experience "of God", when one can simply posit that it is an experience, and then look for a real, concrete explanation. Or one need not assume that genetic change comes "from God", when we can simply posit that genetic change happens, and then look for a real, concrete explanation. For these reasons, Christianity is trivially proven wrong by Occam's Razor, if anything else.

But it is the moral aspect of things which tends to interest me more. And there is a moral aspect to the concept of proof : if one does not value open discussion and persuasion as means to deal with differences of opinion, then one will not try to prove anything. Rather, the only alternative to persuasion, is some form of coercion. When people cannot solve issues by persuasion, then they have no other recourse than state coercion or individual coercion.

Likewise, to eschew rationality leaves only coercion as our means to resolve conflicts. The correlation here is not coincidence. To reason is to deliberate within oneself, and to hold a faith is to do violence to our own mind, conceptually of course. At the interpersonal level, persuasion is only possible if one has something of value to the other, but if no one accepts reason, then no amount of evidence can be of any value. The only means left in one's arsenal are state coercion, threats, violence and war. In a lecture called "Faith and Force : The Destroyers of the Modern World", Ayn Rand explained it in this way :

[F]aith and force are corollaries, and (...) mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, (...) persuasion, communication or understanding are impossible.

Christianity is firmly planted in the mystic camp, insofar as it holds non-empirical beliefs as fundamental, and rejects the validity of human experience. Also, there is nothing in Christianity about the value of honest discussion and persuasion, although there is more than plenty about warfare, genocide, executions and coercion in general. Christian doctrines are not to be discussed, debated or questioned : they are to be believed and obeyed. The characters of "God" and "Jesus" are not philosophers, they are violent, repulsive tyrants, who brook no disagreement. In view of this, we can say that the concept of "proof", as a process of persuasion or demonstration, is alien to Christianity.

I would in fact contend that the concept of "proof" is not only incompatible with Christianity, but necessarily assumes the falsity of Christianity. Both definitions rely on evidence, and the notion of evidence presumes that we are part of the causal chains from which this evidence comes. All evidence is reducible to sensory data, and we know we are seeing something because light rays bounce off it and enter our eye, and so on for all other senses. But Christianity demands us to believe, through the doctrine of the soul, that the human mind is somehow disconnected from the material world and its causal chains. If this is true, then there is no possible way to get from the light ray entering the eye to the realization of seeing, and so on for all other senses. For the materialist, proving is a process that ultimately reduces itself to pointing out observed facts. But this is not available to the Christian worldview, which is centered around non-empirical epistemic assumptions. There are many ways to defeat such assumptions, which I discuss in "Refuting Theistic Epistemic Standards".

I haven't wasted much time answering the secular opposition to "proof", but it comes back to the same basic issues : should we deal with each other by persuasion, or by force ? Whether secular or religious, the motives of anyone who claim that proof is beyond man, although they may deny it, ultimately come down to "force". Any individual who agrees that truth is grounded in objective reality must understand that proof is the expression of free minds and free societies.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Conservatism Makes You Crazy

Yes its true. Conservatism makes you crazy. Or at least it makes you do bad things. Some real heavyweight psychological institutions got together back in 2003 and did this little study. Here is a link to the study.

Analyzing political conservatism as motivated social cognition integrates theories of personality (authoritarianism, dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity), epistemic and existential needs (for closure, regulatory focus, terror management), and ideological rationalization (social dominance, system justification). A meta-analysis (88 samples, 12 countries, 22,818 cases) confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism: death anxiety (weighted mean r .50); system instability (.47); dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity (.34); openness to experience (–.32); uncertainty tolerance (–.27); needs for order, structure, and closure (.26); integrative complexity (–.20); fear of threat and loss (.18); and self-esteem (–.09). The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat.

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

"Christ-based Counselors"

From Yahoo! News :

"During a recent meeting of the Southwest Region of the National Association of Certified Christ-based Counselors (NACCBC) the theme, “If it’s not Christ-based, It’s a Corrupt Basis, I Peter 1:23-25” resonated through the regional gathering at Macedonia Ministries in Lewisville, Texas."

"As DavidSon proclaimed, “I submit that Jesus understands human functioning far better than any of those who hold to the psychotherapies. And if there is an approach in the psychotherapies appropriate for believers, it is already in God’s Word.”"

Sounds like our presuppositionalist friends here... "it's either God's psychotherapy, or no psychotherapy !". Now, I do want to know a few things... can any Christian tell us where in the Gospels "Jesus" defines any term of psychotherapy, gives case studies or scientific explanations for mental problems ? Oh wait, "Jesus" believes that they're caused by DEMONS !

Now that's scientific.

Here's I Peter 1:23-25 :
"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you."

Oh, I can see how that relates to psychotherapy, this makes perfect... HUH ?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The only debate on Intelligent Design that is worthy of its subject

From The Abstract Factory :

Moderator: We're here today to debate the hot new topic, evolution versus Intelligent Des---

(Scientist pulls out baseball bat.)

Moderator: Hey, what are you doing?

(Scientist breaks Intelligent Design advocate's kneecap.)


Scientist: Perhaps it only appears that I broke your kneecap. Certainly, all the evidence points to the hypothesis I broke your kneecap. For example, your kneecap is broken; it appears to be a fresh wound; and I am holding a baseball bat, which is spattered with your blood. However, a mere preponderance of evidence doesn't mean anything. Perhaps your kneecap was designed that way. Certainly, there are some features of the current situation that are inexplicable according to the "naturalistic" explanation you have just advanced, such as the exact contours of the excruciating pain that you are experiencing right now.

Intelligent Design advocate: AAAAH! THE PAIN!

Scientist: Frankly, I personally find it completely implausible that the random actions of a scientist such as myself could cause pain of this particular kind. I have no precise explanation for why I find this hypothesis implausible --- it just is. Your knee must have been designed that way!

Intelligent Design advocate: YOU BASTARD! YOU KNOW YOU DID IT!

Scientist: I surely do not. How can we know anything for certain? Frankly, I think we should expose people to all points of view. Furthermore, you should really re-examine whether your hypothesis is scientific at all: the breaking of your kneecap happened in the past, so we can't rewind and run it over again, like a laboratory experiment. Even if we could, it wouldn't prove that I broke your kneecap the previous time. Plus, let's not even get into the fact that the entire universe might have just popped into existence right before I said this sentence, with all the evidence of my alleged kneecap-breaking already pre-formed.

Intelligent Design advocate: That's a load of bullshit sophistry! Get me a doctor and a lawyer, not necessarily in that order, and we'll see how that plays in court!

Scientist (turning to audience): And so we see, ladies and gentlemen, when push comes to shove, advocates of Intelligent Design do not actually believe any of the arguments that they profess to believe. When it comes to matters that hit home, they prefer evidence, the scientific method, testable hypotheses, and naturalistic explanations. In fact, they strongly privilege naturalistic explanations over supernatural hocus-pocus or metaphysical wankery. It is only within the reality-distortion field of their ideological crusade that they give credence to the flimsy, ridiculous arguments which we so commonly see on display. I must confess, it kind of felt good, for once, to be the one spouting free-form bullshit; it's so terribly easy and relaxing, compared to marshaling rigorous arguments backed up by empirical evidence. But I fear that if I were to continue, then it would be habit-forming, and bad for my soul. Therefore, I bid you adieu.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New links section

I have just added a new "Selected past posts" section of links on the right side. I have done this so that new readers may have some of our most interesting material to read. I selected material from every month. If you think some posts were unfairly neglected, go ahead and tell me.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tremblay, Moore, Curtin on the nature of logic

Zachary Moore has made available a very professional transcript of his appearance on the Hellbound Alleee Show with Jack Curtin. At the end, we debate the (material) nature of logic. If you want to start there, search for "Jack: Just as an example, it answers all the big questions."

I'm slightly dissapointed that I didn't press him on the issue of how Christian contingency can possibly be compatible with the laws of logic, but I think I made all the necessary points during that short period of time.

"Proof" : What is it Exactly ? part 1

You hear that a lot in epistemic or scientific discussions : "we can't prove anything" or "proof is for mathematics". Is that true ? What would make proof impossible or restricted in this way ?

Well, let's look at the dictionary first. It tells us :

proof n.
1. The evidence or argument that compels the mind to accept an assertion as true.
a. The validation of a proposition by application of specified rules, as of induction or deduction, to assumptions, axioms, and sequentially derived conclusions.
b. A statement or argument used in such a validation.

So we have two very different aspects here. The first is psychological, the second is epistemic. If we keep these in mind, we can now say that proof is eminently possible, and about pretty much anything. Which is to say, that any given individual, if conditioned sufficiently, could be theoretically compelled to accept anything, even that his body is composed of small creatures that feed him their memories and which must be taken off his body by asking them questions and registering their emotional response on a tin can machine (as in Scientology's self-auditing OT levels). So the scope of "proof", at least psychologically, is extremely vast.

On the other hand, epistemic proof is obviously more limited. For one thing, we can only prove, in this sense, that which is true. So the Scientologist's belief cannot be proven epistemically, while he may be so convinced of it as to find it ironclad. The proposition cannot be validated by the correct application of any rules, since it is wholly unscientific and has no relation with empirical reality.

Both kinds of proof are post facto - they cannot be applied before the act of knowing. Any act of knowing, be it science or otherwise, is not orderly in this manner, but chaotic and often branches out in many different directions. It is after we come to know something that we can neatly trace a path from our context of knowledge to this new proposition. Proof is therefore presentation, not discovery.

What do we need to prove something ? Well, both kinds of proof have different requirements, but they both require some way to explicitly or implicitly communicate concepts, and they both require that one value honest discussion and persuasion. Without these prerequisites, there will be either no possibility for substantial communication, or no desire of such.

Now, to dispel the first myth. Mathematics does not somehow fulfill some prerequisite that all other disciplines lack. Certainly people can mount arguments that convince others of a proposition in any discipline, and they can validate their knowledge in any discipline. I can use the rules of reasoning on empirical data to validate mathematical propositions, but I can do the same for, say, physics, economy, poultry raising, or bridge building. The only difference is that mathematics is used by other disciplines to express natural laws in precise and universal forms. But this perspective does not make it more or less susceptible to proof.

It is sometimes said that science (or reasoning in general) cannot prove that anything does not exist, or is not true. This is a grave and fundamental misunderstanding. Science is founded on precisely proving that things are not certain ways. This is called falsification, perhaps the most important idea in science : that a proposition is worthless unless it can be tested, and that whatever is not proven wrong, that is to say whatever is found to conform the most to our observations, must be closest to the facts. By testing extensively a hypothesis, and eliminating all the things we know are not so, we arrive at an approximate understanding of the facts. This is how science has always worked.

In fact, it is precisely when something cannot be proven wrong, even in theory, that we say it cannot be scientific at all. For example, the idea that there is a pink elephant in my garage, an elephant which cannot in any way be observed or measured, is not scientific because it is not falsifiable in any way. Such an idea is precisely the same thing as saying nothing at all, because it is the equivalent in all respects of saying that there is nothing in the garage.

Go to part 2.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Question of the Day #4

The virtue of non-coercion vs the Golden Rule : which is better, and why ?

Give your answer in the comments.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Finally : evidence of Intelligent Design !

Origin of the Novel Species Noodleous doubleous: Evidence for Intelligent Design

"This paper reports an observation of spontanoodlus generation in which Penne Rigate inserts within Rigatoni to create a new species dubbed Noodleous doubleous.

The Vertical Flow Hypothesis proposes that Rigatoni become vertically oriented in the convective flow of phase transitioning liquid H2O, thereby increasing the heat dissipation rate. This proposal is supported by the observation of bubble plumes on the dorsal side of Rigatoni (Figure 6). It is feasible that horizontally oriented Penne Rigate that are close to the bottom of the environment are drawn upward into the ventral side of Rigatoni. The Penne Rigate are not fully ejected through the Rigatoni because the dorsal end of the Rigatoni is close to the liquid surface and the process does not have enough energy to lift the Penne Rigate into the environmental froth. The Penne Rigate would therefore be caught inside the Rigatoni.

However, the probability of an insertion event as proposed by the Vertical Flow Hypothesis is calculated to be extremely low (Table 1), so we are forced to conclude that the process was guided by some form of external intelligence. The experimenter was not responsible for this scalding task. The high temperature liquid was undergoing a rapid phase transition and liquid Dihydrogen Monoxide is extremely dangerous. Given these extreme sterilizing conditions, no known life forms could have survived immersion. We therefore conclude that this supernatural insertion process was done by the Hand of God."

New feed !

Note that this blog now has a feed through FeedBurner. All you have to do is click on that icon to the right.

Moral development and Christianity

So far I've looked at what the different stages of morality contain and how they work. In this post, I'd like to look at development within this system and how Christianity runs counter to it.

Our parents give us orders because they want us to stay alive and follow the mold of parental authority, hopefully in order to develop good material values. So the passage from stage 1 to stage 2 is mainly a matter of staying alive and well. But if the individual is gravely indoctrinated in fear or made dependent on his parents, then he might have a lot of trouble to go beyond his childhood and mature. The role of parenting is not to control but to support development.

What is our purpose at this stage ? It is to fear and serve the parent’s will. Perhaps this sounds somewhat cynical, but when there is a dynamic of utter dependence, purpose is logically dependent on whoever exerts the power. When one surrenders utterly, or is forced to do so, then there can be no more purpose invested by the surrendered, because purpose depends on value-expression. This is similar to the basis for the Argument from Moral Autonomy.

As I pointed out in my post "Why Christians cannot account for morality", natural morality can give us the independence, the individualism, and the love of honesty and reason we need to continue to stage 3, depending on which moral aspects win out. We get individualism from our brain development, independence from teenage rebellion and detachment, and the love of honesty and reason from our natural desire to progress.

As discussed earlier, Christianity fits perfectly within stage 1 morality. In fact, it also fits the purpose - to fear and serve God/God's Word (the expression used by theologians to try to make this sound better is "Divine Command Morality"). But Christianity does not serve a role of immediate survival. It is not for babies, but for grown human beings (and the unfortunate indoctrinated children), who already know how to survive. So how could it possibly serve any useful role in that regard ? Apart from concerns which are wholly irrelevant in our modern world, such as trichinosis, nothing in Christianity serves this purpose.

So what Christianity does, is really to keep people who should already be approaching life at stage 2 or more, into the regression of childhood. "Jesus" had the right idea when he said believers should be child-like, obedient and unquestioning. That's the essence of Christian morality. But Christianity cannot prevent people from getting life experience and their brains from developing. So there are still stage 2 pressures existing within and completely opposite to the regressive context, that can create tremendous tension. This is the conflict between "God's Word" and "the world", "the holy" and "the profane", "the spirit" and "the flesh".

The dependency created by Christianity is so great that its believers deny en masse that any other avenue is possible. Part of this, I think, is an attempt to reconcile the obvious cognitive dissonance between salvation by faith and belief that good people shouldn't go to Hell. If both are true, then one way to reconcile both is to believe that there cannot be any good non-Christian people. Another way to explain it, is that Christians tend to either be brainwashed by birth, or need change in their lives because of moral deficiencies, and therefore have not experienced any alternatives.

The notion of "sin", as central to Christian morality, is another expression of stage 1 morality. To sin is to disobey God's will. Even though God is not the moral agent, he is so important to the agent's morality that to act negatively - to sin - is to disobey God. I remember debating Jason Gastrich and asking him what "God is perfect" means. He replied that it means God was sinless. You see how this is circular : God is perfect by virtue of being the master, and we are imperfect and in need of guidance by virtue of being in submission.

What is a master ? A master dictates what the slave can do or not do. A master, indeed, must "think for" the slave, even if that is impossible. This is why obedience must always be reinforced. A master can dispose of his slaves as desired : they are not fully human but rather extensions of the master's will. And we can dispose of extensions of our will literally as we please ! A master can also make his slaves commit crimes. In this case, the slaves are only "following orders".

You will note that these properties are reflected, to a smaller extent, in all collectivist belief systems. Christianity is no exception. God, as infinitely powerful parent, is the ultimate expression of the mater/slave mentality. God dictates what the believer can or cannot do, is supposed to be the source of the believer's cognition and moral sense, can dispose of humans as it desires, and makes believers commit crimes routinely in the Bible.

In the mater/slave mentality, the slave has no moral responsibility whatsoever. How can it be, when the slave must completely surrender his value-expression ? We no more hold our feeling of, say, shame, or joy, as having moral responsibility. They are not autonomous human beings ! And likewise the believer in Christianity is not considered to be an autonomous human being.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Question of the Day #3

Taking into account Joshua 10:12-14, should Christians have confidence in the inductive assumption that the Sun will rise tomorrow ? Why or why not ?

Give your answer in the comments.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Moral projection in Christianity part 2

* Wanting to improve one's own situation, as well as that of others, is rarely projected. The only example I can think of is "help yourself and Heaven will help you" - which, by the way, is nowhere in the Bible. There is one aspect of this value which is more commonly projected, and that is the desire to help others through charity. Charity is commonly claimed to be a core Christian value, and the notions of solidarity and charity are sometimes attributed to Jesus.
Christianity and the Bible, however, tell us a different story. First, consider the problem of "Christian charity". As the Moral Argument from Evil makes clear, charity fundamentally contradicts any belief system which includes the notion of a just attribution of good and evil (both in the form of karma and omnibenevolent divine plan). To desire to "make a difference" in the world, which is to say to improve it, is to assume that the world is not just. This is an admission of Christian defeat. In the Bible, Jesus clearly does not seek to eradicate poverty, indeed he mocks it in Mark 14:3-7, but rather preaches poverty (in view of the approaching end of the world) and claims that only the poor are holy, in Mark 10:25.
Once again, this value, which is really a set of related values, is easy to explain from a secular perspective. Rationally, we desire to improve our own condition because this improvement opens up more possibilities of value-expression, and because it improves our social visibility. And we desire to "make a difference" in the world because we have empathy for other human beings and their plight (stage 2), desire to validate ourselves and be made visible as an individual through other human beings (stage 2 and 3), and value a world which maximizes our own value-expression (stage 3).

* Christians project happiness and fulfillment as exclusive to their religion, or at least that "true" fulfillment can only be achieved through Christianity.
The Bible, however, seems to have little to say on these topics. Rather, it puts an emphasis on the use of narrativism to impose dread, fear and doubt in the mind of the believer. It makes the point that earthly values are irrelevant or sinful. The most important requirement for happiness and satisfaction - pride and success in expressing one's values - is contradictory to the stage 1 morality of Christianity.
As for the secular justification, I'm afraid I have to diverge from the survey here. I follow David Kelley's lead in saying that happiness and satisfaction are not values in themselves but emotional responses to one's value-expression. But this also implies that stage 2 and stage 3 secular positions are more likely to grant emotional fulfillment compared to Christianity.

* Spirituality is another interesting issue, and I have grappled with it for a time. I even had a short-lived column on Suite 101 called "Rational Spirituality" (I dropped it due to lack of interest). There I have proven that spirituality, properly and rationally defined, is founded on the realization of the place of human beings as part and parcel of the universe. This view based on integration is the antithesis of the strict ontological dichotomies that monotheistic religions like Christianity preach, such as matter/soul, natural/supernatural, Creator/created, saved/unsaved, and so on. By indoctrinating us into believing in such dichotomies, Christianity is therefore an important obstacle in our spiritual development.

* Health is not commonly projected, although some do say that prayer can help one's health. Indeed, a major part of Jesus' ministry is described as healing the sick, although this is done through magical means (exorcism, laying of hands). This anti-science attitude, consistently taken throughout the Bible, affects the efficacy of health care. It is interesting to note in passing that the United States scores very low on objective measures of health care (such as infant mortality and mortality amendable to health care).

Christians also project many attributes on God and Jesus, within a context of symbolism. I will look at this in a future article.

The Bible on... drug use

Proverbs 31:6-7
6 Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish;
7 let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Question of the Day #2

Why do we always hear of Christians have crises of faith, but never of scientists having crises of reason ?

Give your answer in the comments.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Moral projection in Christianity part 1

To continue my discussion (or given the dearth of comments, my monologue) on the stages of morality and Christianity's place within it, I would like to sidetrack a bit and talk about moral projection in Christianity.

As I hope you all know, projection is a common defense mechanism in cult-think, and Christianity is no exception. In fact, monotheistic religions seem to engender an inordinate amount of projection. Everything that Christians use to criticize their opponents is in fact a flaw of their own belief system. For example :

* A life without God is a life without meaning or purpose - vs - Being part of an incomprehensible and uncontrollable "divine plan".
* Without God, you cannot explain logic or science - vs - The contingent theistic universe cannot explain logic or science. Only materialism can.
* Without God, you cannot explain our origins - vs- "God did it" means nothing and does not explain anything. Only science can explain it.
* A life without God is a life of immorality - vs - Crime rates and other immorality statistics much higher for religious people than the non-religious, and much higher in countries with a high degree of religion.
* Only belief in God is comforting - vs - Fear of God, Hell, sin, "the world". "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". Order-based morality that leverages fear.
* A life without God is morally irresponsible - vs - Complete denial of moral responsibility through "original sin", "salvation by belief" and Jesus' "sacrifice".
* A life without God is petty and narrow - vs - Refusal to acknowledge any part of reality that contradicts one's belief system. No commitment to freethought, honesty or progress.
* A life without God is hopeless - vs - Christianity dismisses all our earthly supports as irrelevant, creating hopelessness in the first place.

So I think it is obvious that the phenomena of projection as defense mechanism permerates Christian thought. However, as I discussed on an earlier post of this series, Christianity in itself has no values or virtues. Whatever values or virtues a Christian has qua Christian must necessarily be projected from somewhere else. So then we get two questions : how is X projected, what does Christianity really say about X, and where does X really come from ?

Let's start with Barna Research's List of Success Determinants, telling us what Christians think makes a successful life. While this is not a good indicator of short-term values, this gives us a good indication of what Christians value in the long-term. Apparently, Christians have five important long-term values : family life (lasting marriage, good child-raising), social accomplishments (being rich, educated, making a difference in the world), emotional fulfillment (good job, happiness, satisfaction with life), spiritual experiences and development, good health. Let's look at these in turn, using my concept of stages of morality as secuilar basis :

* Activist Christians use Christianity as a justification for their "family values" activism. These "family values" are in fact anti-family and anti-values, consisting of the repression of anything that is counter to the Christian model of the family and family life.
This is reflected in the Bible, where the only passages about the family are either against the family in general (as in Jesus demanding people to hate and leave their families to serve his goals), against specific kinds of families (homosexual ones, for instance), or against deviations from a given model (such as ones that do not place Christianity, and the will of males, as a central concern).
The secular explanation for the value of the family is obvious : both evolution (all primate species except chimpanzees have family structures of some sort, and there is a strong evolutionary pressure to maintain that link) and the emotional bond between child and parents contribute to establish this our psyche. As a rational moral agent, I may desire to continue to value my family as a source of priviledged relationships and helping hands (while I have never tried to hide my personal antipathy towards the concept of the family unit as a social construct, I certainly don't deny that such relationships can be very fruitful).

Due to its length, this article is cut in two parts. See part 2.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Question of the Day #1

Why do Christians cry at funerals ? And what, if anything, does this tell us about their values ?

Give your answer in the comments.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible

From this article.

If they keep t his up, they will modernize themselves out of existence. Let's look at some snips:

THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.

“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in
The Gift of Scripture.


The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say, but continue: “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”

They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.

“Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others.”

Well, they're a day late and a dollar short, but at least some Catholics aren't impervious to reason. Just watch as the Christian castle of lies crumbles brick by brick, stone by stone, as reality slowly takes it's toll on superstition worldwide.

An IM conversation from another world

An IM conversation in the Roman States of America, circa 2005 AUC...


NoGods : Hello Vesta29
Vesta29 : Hey NoGods. You're an atheist right ?
NoGods : Yea, I guess that was easy to figure out eh ? lol
Vesta29 : Why don't you believe in the Pantheon ?
NoGods : I think it's clear that there are no gods. Just look at what happened with Hurricane Krystyn. Do you really think that...
Vesta29 : Ah, that's easy. Neptune sent us Hurricane Krystyn because he is angry at our exploitation of the seas.
NoGods : What ? That's ridiculous. Hurricanes are caused by low-pressure cells that transport heat from warm to cold regions of the seas.
Vesta29 : And who had that idea ? Neptune !
NoGods : Wha... wait. How do you even know Neptune exists ?
Vesta29 : The Odyssey clearly states that Neptune punished Odysseus because he blinded the Cyclops...
NoGods : Wait. Wait a second. The Odyssey has Poseidon in it, not Neptune. It's a Greek myth.
Vesta29 : What ?
NoGods : Your own religion says that the Odyssey was written by Homer. He was an early Greek poet. Not Roman.
Vesta29 : So what ? They're the same god. The god of the sea. There can only be one god of the sea, so they must be the same one. Duh !
NoGods : ...
Vesta29 : Anyway, the Odyssey clearly states that Neptune existed.
NoGods : Well why should I believe in this at all ? First of all, The Odyssey was codified from oral transmission a couple centuries AUC. Secondly, we don't even know if Homer existed. Why should I believe a text thousands of years old that is probably mythical and we don't even know who wrote it ?
Vesta29 : That's a silly argument. Don't you like science ?
NoGods : Of course.
Vesta29 : All the great scientists were Pantheonists. Heron of Alexandria, who invented the steam engine, was a Pantheonist.
NoGods : But... but... he was a Greek.
Vesta29 : Shut up ! Hippocrates of Cos was a Pantheonist. In his pledge for doctors that we still use today, people invoke the names of Apollo and Asclepius. So that proves it ! Al Battani, who discovered the law of gravity, lived in the Arab provinces but he was still a Pantheonist. He wrote books and books about the Music of the Spheres, in fact he wrote more about it than he did about science. Paracelsus, who discovered the Theory of Relativity, is a believer !
NoGods : Now wait a fucking second. Paracelsus didn't believe in literal gods.
Vesta29 : He said the gods don't play dice.
NoGods : He meant the gods as natural laws ! Not real gods.
Vesta29 : What the Hades do you know ? And the Roman States of America were founded on the principles of Pantheonism.
NoGods : No they weren't !
Vesta29 : They were too. It says right there on the Constitution : "We the People of the Roman States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, with the blessings of the gods..."
NoGods : Just because the people who wrote the Constitution were believers, does not make it true ! And besides, they were deists.
Vesta29 : They were not !
NoGods : Listen man, I have to go. The wife is calling me to watch this movie we rented, "A Fistful of Sestertius".
Vesta29 : Okay, cool. But you'll have to agree on one thing.
NoGods : What's that ?
Vesta29 : Pantheonism is not so bad. Can you imagine if our society was founded on one of those weird religious cults they have in the provinces ?
NoGods : Yea. Like those Jews and their weird war god cult. Can you imagine an entire country based on that ?
Vesta29 : HA HA HA HA HA !
NoGods : Heeee he he he. That would be awful.
Vesta29 : Man, that's scary ! I'm sure glad the Roman Empire conquerred those backwards civilizations.
NoGods : Bye now.
Vesta29 : Go with the blessings of Jupiter !
NoGods : Shut up.

Go to part 2.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Christian morality as regressive

As I detailed in an earlier post, there are three main stages of morality :

Stage 1 - order-based morality
Stage 2 - natural morality
Stage 3 - rational morality

Now, let's look at the nature and transmission of moral principles in each stage.

Stage 1 : At this level - mostly babies and small children - there are few ways by which morality is transmitted. There is pre-cognitive conditioning (giving orders, stopping from doing bad things, rewards and punishments) and there is narrativism. But narrativism at this level is used not for the power in the narrative itself but mostly for fear purposes (be obedient or Santa Claus won't give you anything, be obedient or you're going to Hell, be obedient or you'll get in trouble). So the nature of morality at this stage is definitely pre-cognitive, mostly in the form of conditioning and emotions.

Perhaps it can be questioned whether this is really morality at all, but it is morality insofar as it gives us a way to distinguish between right and wrong, just not a very good one. Basically, the little child does have an answer to why things are right or wrong : "because mom said so".

Stage 2 : Compounding the first stage are three new factors. First, narrativism at this stage is now used, in the form of stories and myths, to implicitly impart more complex attitudes through concretes. Secondly, the brain has developed, and most of our abilities are now in place. So on the one hand, you have instincts and emotions - the psycho-epistemology - that is fully developed and expressing itself in the body of the teenager. You also have other mental abilities gained, such as the realization that one is an individual, that one needs to do certain things in order to live well, that there are other individuals, that these individuals have distinct thoughts and values, and that other people have the same kind of feelings we do, all of which form an epistemic foundation (that can be disabled to a certain extent in children with autism).

It is my hypothesis that this dynamic in fact forms what Freud called the id (instincts and emotions), ego (moral maturation) and superego (order-based morality), as well as the "battle" between the "heart" (instincts and emotions) and the "head" (moral maturation). There is a lot of complexity but little means to solve dissonance. So there is a "struggle", and why the notion of "struggle" is a common theme in how culture views morality. On stage 1 and 3, there is much less struggle.

So the nature of morality at this stage is more complex, between pre-cognitive impulses and cognitive formulations. While a person at this stage can express simplistic moral principles, or in some cases express values, the reasoning behind these principles takes place "behind the scenes" and will likely only become conscious in cases of conflict.

Stage 3 : The role of philosophy is to make explicit our assumptions and reasoning, so at this stage everything should be, at least in principle, conscious, even though all the previous stages are still there in the background (the psycho-epistemology does not dissapear just because epistemology comes to the front). An understanding of causal facts, mediated by our personal values, is the origin of moral principles. I don't really need to expand on this stage because I've already described it more than enough before, and it is not relevant to Christianity.

Where does Christianity fit in this scheme ? It is definitely not stage 2 or 3 : Christianity contradicts most of our moral assumptions (from all stage 2 processes) dead-on, and there is no desire to make moral principles or reasoning explicit in Christianity or in the Bible. Certainly Christians are capable of expressing moral opinions, which differentiates them from babies, but this may be simply a consequence of the fact that adults can express themselves, period.

Either way, the transmission of morality in Christianity is definitely stage 1 - the level of small children. This is why I call it "regressive". As I said, there are two elements in this, which are orders from a parent figure and narrativism with the goal of implanting fear. This is what Christianity is, and all that it is. So we have God handing down commandments and being the ultimate source of morality, and also myths and parables designed to make one fear "immorality" (according to the story-teller's values), the wrath of God, Hell, and so on.

So at that level there are no values and virtues, except in a tenuous way, if only because any behaviour can be fitted to some values or virtues. This explains why Chrisitanity does not have explicit values or virtues - it would destroy the whole point of it. If we look at the behaviour of Christians, what they idolize, we can see, for example, that they loved the movie "The Passion of the Christ". This seems to indicate that victimhood, sacrifice and injustice are important Christian virtues. Also, the interest with the story of Moses aganist the Egyptians, and the Flood, also indicate very evil virtues. A sociologist would be required to make an inventory, and I'm woefully unqualified, but I think popular culture can give us a good idea.

There is still a lot of moral struggle for Christians, because they are old enough to have natural morality, which inevitably clashes with Christian repression. There are many ways for Christians to deal with this, including ignoring the conflict, projecting their own values into the Christian narratives, or trying to repress their natural morality.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Defending the Depravity of God


GIZIMOTH: let’s agree about that, then. God, if he exists, is omnipotent. But here on Eth, those who believe in God also attribute another property to him, don’t they?

BOOBLEFRlP: Yes. As you know, we also believe that God ‘s all-evil.

GIZIMOTH: Can you explain what you mean by that?

BOOBLEFRlP: Not only does God’s power know no bounds, neither does his depravity. His cruelty is infinite; his malice without end.


GIZIMOTH: But why define God that way? Why not suppose, instead, that God is neither good nor evil? Or why not suppose he is all-good?

(Booblefrip thinks Gizimoth has gone too far.)

BOOBLEFRIP: What a bizarre suggestion. It’s obvious our creator is very clearly evil! Take a look around you! Witness the horrendous suffering he inflicts upon us. The floods. The ethquakes. Cancer. The vile, rotting stench of God’s creation is overwhelming!

Gizimoth naturally points out that life isn’t perfectly evil — after all, there are lots of good things about life, too, right? Booblefrip has an answer to this objection, though:

BOOBLEFRIP: Very well. God’s malevolence is without end. True, he lets us do good. He allows us to act selflessly for the betterment of others, for example. But there’s a reason for that.

GIZIMOTH: What reason?

BOOBLEFRIP: God gave us free will.

GIZIMOTH: Free will?

BOOBLEFRIP: Yes. God could have made us mere automata that always did the wrong thing. But he didn’t do that. He gave us the freedom to choose how we act.


BOOBLEFRIP: By giving us free will, God actually increased the amount of suffering there is in the world. He made the world far more terrible than it would otherwise have been!


BOOBLEFRIP: Think about it. By giving us free will, God be sure we will agonize endlessly about what we o. For free will brings with it the torture of temptation. And then, when we succumb to temptation, we feel guilty. Knowing that being free, we could have done otherwise, we feel awful about what we have done. We end up torturing ourselves. The exquisitely evil Irony of it all!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Euthyphro's Dilemma

For those who don't know what Euthyphro's Dilemma is, it is an argument sometimes used to prove the non-existence of God. I classify it as a materialist argument because it uses specifically the contingency of morality in the theistic scenario to disprove the existence of God.

We can express it as such :

If Divine Command Theory is true, then we have two options...
1. Are things good because God says they are good, or
2. Does God says things are good because they are good ?

Either option is self-destructive. If the Good exists because of God's fiat, then morality is subjective, and thus God cannot account for moral knowledge, which it must if it is Creator. If God decide on the Good because of some intrinsic property of goodness, then the Good already existed in the material universe, which once again is incompatible with God being the Creator.

The only reply presuppositionalists have to any materialist argument is to invoke the inherent-properties objection, and they do the same here. I hope you all know why this is wrong in all sorts of ways by now - see the relevant section in my Materialist Apologetics article for all the refutations. In the specific case of the Dilemma, there is no middle ground - either God is the origin of moral principles, or it isn't. If morality is an inherent property, then it is not chosen by God, and therefore falls on the second horn of the dilemma. Good already existed, and God is not the Creator of morality. In fact, God, in this scenario, is wholly irrelevant to the existence of morality.

You can see how Euthyphro's Dilemma is inscribed within TANG and the materialist approach that I propose. They are all founded on the contingency of material facts within the theistic scenario, including morality. If God can only exist in a reality where everything is contingent, and therefore subjective, to its will, then this cannot possibly be reconciled with a necessary, objective morality.

Furthermore, the subjectivity of the relation between God's nature and God's actions is another problem with the inherent-properties objection that I have never seen examined before, and would be worth discussing. I don't push this strongly enough in my own article. The problem is this : if every principle is contingent to God, then how can the theologian assume that God's nature, which he posits as necessarily logical (whatever that means), necessarily dictates its will ? In the case of human beings, for example, the fact of possessing logic does not dictate our will. So why should a god be so vulnerable ? Indeed, we can only assume this by removing the principle from God's sovereignty, which is, once again, a denial of the Creator property.

Now, why can't the Christian return the problem to us ? Let's do the flip side :

If materialism is true, then we have two options...
1. Are things good because we say they are good, or
2. Do we say things are good because they are good ?

And we end up with the same horns : either morality is subjective, or it is intrinsic and humans have nothing to do with it. In both cases it can be argued that materialism is ultimately defeated, if you are willing to push the point hard enough.

But in the case of human beings in a materialist scenario, we do have a middle ground. We do have facts to rely on, facts that are beyond our choice. We can drop things and measure their speed enough times to realize that masses attract - and give it the label of "gravity". We know inductively that when we drop a ball in a normal earthbound scenario, it's not gonna stay suspended in the air. This is not a subjective proposition, or an intrinsic one, but rather knowledge gained by observation and reasoning based on them.

To us human beings, living in reality, knowledge and the Good are neither personal nor magical. They are rooted in the determinism of this causal universe we live in and can understand. This illustrates the gigantic difference between the cartoon nature of the Christian scenario and the grounded nature of materialist reasoning. In short : nature left alone is solid ground, but nature dreamed by a Creator is an extremely simplistic and suicidal quicksand.

Where do we end up in terms of moral responsibility in the theistic scenario ? If morality is subjective, then there can be no such thing as moral responsibility, since there is no way to judge any action. And if morality is intrinsic, then moral responsibility can also be applied to God. Either possibility is fatal. Not only can we apply the Problem of Evil to the second case, but also the act of Creation itself. The fact that God creates anything can only imply that God was not perfect. If God was infinite and perfect, then the only possible moral action would be to do nothing at all. This thought was inspired by a very similar point made in "The Non-Existence of God", by Nicholas Everitt, which I recommend.