Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Question of the Day #13: Design Inference

What methodology does one use to infer design, and how does one differentiate something that is designed from something that is merely complex?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Atonement / Individuality

Great quotes from Kersey Graves and Robert Ingersoll...

There is no "mercy or forgiveness" in putting an innocent being to death for any pretext whatever. And for the Father to consent to the brutal assassination of His own innocent Son upon the cross to gratify an implacable revenge toward his own children, the workmanship of his own hands, rather than forgive a moral weakness implanted in their natures by a voluntary act of his own, and for which consequently he alone ought to be responsible, would be nothing short of murder in the first degree.

We cherish no such conception. (...) [N]o person actuated by a strict sense of justice would accept salvation upon any such terms as that prescribed by the Christian atonement.

It is manifestly too unjust, too devoid of moral principle, besides being a flagrant violation of the first principles of civil and criminal jurisprudence. It is a double wrong to punish the innocent for the guilty. It is the infliction of injustice on the one hand, and the omission of justice on the other. It inflicts the highest penalty of the law upon an innocent being, whom that law ought to shield from punishment, while it exculpates and liberates the guilty party, whose punishment the moral law demands. It robs society of a useful people on the one hand, and turns a moral pest upon community on the other, thus committing a two-fold wrong, or act of injustice. No court in any civilized country would be allowed to act upon such a principle; and the judge who should indorse it, or favor a law, or principle, which punishes the innocent for the guilty, would be ruled off the bench at once.

How fortunate it is for us all that it is somewhat unnatural for a human being to obey. Universal obedience is universal stagnation; disobedience is one of the conditions of progress. Select any age of the world and tell me what would have been the effect of implicit obedience. Suppose the church had had absolute control of the human mind at any time, would not the words liberty and progress have been blotted from human speech? In defiance of advice, the world has advanced.


It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions, -- some one who had the grandeur to say his say. I believe it was Magellan who said, "The church says the earth is flat; but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence even in a shadow than in the church." On the prow of his ship were disobedience, defiance, scorn, and success.


Surely it is worth something to feel that there are no priests, no popes, no parties, no governments, no kings, no gods, to whom your intellect can be compelled to pay a reluctant homage. Surely it is a joy to know that all the cruel ingenuity of bigotry can devise no prison, no dungeon, no cell in which for one instant to confine a thought; that ideas cannot be dislocated by racks, nor crushed in iron boots, nor burned with fire. Surely it is sublime to think that the brain is a castle, and that within its curious bastions and winding halls the soul, in spite of all worlds and all beings, is the supreme sovereign of itself.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Being Positive about Atheism

Some atheist bloggers (you know who you are) seem to be entreating us to speak positively about atheism on the Carnivals, to not attack Chrsitianity so much and look to the bright side.

That's fine, and I'd like to do that, but I don't really understand what it is that they want. For one thing, atheism is an inherently reactive position. Without a strong religious faction, there is no need at all for atheism, and it would stay in the cognitive rubbish bin along with aleprechaunism, aunicornism and aSantaism. To speak of atheism without attacking theistic religion, explicitly or implicitely, is to evade the topic altogether.

Is it possible to be positive about atheism ? Well, sure. One can talk, for example, of one's own positive experiences with the abandonment of religion. However this obviously still involves negative ideas - to say that abandoning religion is good implies that religion is bad. Nevertheless, in the spirit of the questioners, I submit my own answer to : Why be an Atheist ?

What are some of the things I lose if I abandon religion ?

* Material gains : No more time-wasting on church, no more tithing or giving to preachers, no more time wasted on preaching, praying, communing or other life-absorbing activities.

* Social problems that one stops contributing to : Religious doctrines commend evil and justify evil - war, crime, hypocrisy, hatred. Intolerence, repression and censorship are the first things to come with religion. In fundamentalist countries, the return to primitive principles means violence and death. Religion in society contributes to the opposition to science, reason, and hope (in the name of a fairy afterlife).

* Some risks of associating in religious circles : Higher crime rates, racism, dishonesty, divorce rates, inebriated driving, drug use, abortion rates, etc. (Religion's Devils)

* Mental gains : Personal identity is re-established. No longer need to kill one's mind for the "heart", no more abandoning our moral standards and rationality. Not having to uphold the immoral principles of the Bible also causes one to lose guilt, shame, suffering and self-destructive tendancies. The evil doctrines of Christianity, such as damnation and God's wrath, can cause insecurity about one's faith, extreme anxiety, child traumatism, and dull one's enjoyment of life.

* Life gains : No more self-sacrifice justified by "what God wants". No more associating and entering in relationships with people based of religion.

* If one was a fundamentalist, atheism is a whole new world of freedom, knowledge, science and wonders !

What are some of my gains after becoming an atheist ?

* Immediate liberation : Get to be different, rebellious, give oneself the physical and mental space necessary for freethinking.

* Intellectual benefits : Comprehensive and honest understanding of the universe based on facts instead of simple-minded mythology. A true spirituality based on reason and science. Not having to justify religious contradictions, immorality and absurdity anymore.

* Moral benefits : No more excuses for committing evil and sacrifice, one can finally be morally responsible, take control of one's life, effect one's values, help to improve one's self and environment. Finally acquire life purpose instead of intangible collectivist subjection.

* Rejecting evil tribal myths in favour of reality changes lives ! See for instance the testimonies on the Secular Web and on

Things that will not happen if you become an atheist :

* You will not start killing people

* You will not magically become a different person

* You will not become suddently unable to have a life

Sunday, November 27, 2005

We're on Carnival of the Godless !

Well, however badly I evaluate IAM's intellect, I must say he's a class act. Thank you very much for letting us on the Carnival. This blog won't grow without the support of carnivals like the Carnival of the Godless.

And congrats to Zachary for his entry being there also.

Thank God For Atheism

First new comic I've done in a long, long time. My first few comics from a couple months ago were barely funny. In fact, I've long since forgotten what the one from September 25 was even about. Don't be surprised if that one just kinda disappears.

Oh well, on with the new!

This one is kind of inspired by a conversation with Franc about Christains and the irony of their complaints about the commercialization of Christmas. I just drew two old fuddies bitching about shit and ran with the dialogue.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Question of the Day #12: Hypotheticals

When I was handed Question of the Day, I had the option of replacing all of Franc's questions with my questions or just letting all of his pan out. For the most part, I simply made up my own.

Today, however, I'm just going to use the entry that Franc had scheduled. I thought it was interesting, and it gives me a couple extra days to be lazy digest some turkey.


Da Questions

To answer these questions, try to imagine both atheism and theism as hypotheticals for a minute.

1. What would the world be like if God did not exist?
2. What would the world be like if God existed?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Groan... / new article tags

Guess what ? Both the next Carnival of the Godless and the God or Not Carnival are hosted by... the Evangelical Atheist.

The cream pie is firmly planted in my face.

If anyone knows an alternative carnival, write it in the comments... (and don't say "just apologize")

Talking about carnivals, you may have noticed that I have added new tags on the "selected past posts" section. Entries which have appeared on a carnival now have a tag with a link to the carnival entry - [CG] is for Carnival of the Godless, [GN] is for God or Not, [PC] is for Philosophy Carnival. -S means that the entry has been submitted for a future edition of that carnival.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Just Ed / The Christian Inner Pig ?

I'm always surprised to see Christians with a sense of humour. And it never surprises me to see horrible Christian humour. Just Ed is not the least funny Christian comic I've ever seen, but close. Here is one example :

Doesn't it look like that woman is trying to run away because she thinks he's a creep ?

Noooo comment.

Road rage is on the rise, especially in the United States - what's responsible ? Is it just another expression of the helplessness of being trapped in religious belief ? We already know that religion is a factor in expressions of frustration and helplessness like high sexual promiscuity and teen pregnancy, homicide, drug abuse, hate crimes, alcoholism and divorce (while I don't think all these things are bad, high levels can be due to frustration, especially together). This, coupled with hostility towards worldly support and the strong religious prohibition on suicide, means that frustration is expressed dysfunctionally. So it wouldn't surprise me if Christianity has something to do with it.

What do we expect when we brainwash our children into believing that :

* The material world, our only source of absolutes, is subverted and subordinated by God. We can't trust our senses, worldly knowledge, or the power of science.
* There are no moral absolutes or principles, only God's whim. We have no control over our life's meaning - we are puppets of God's whim.
* We are all sinners, we are all evil, and only God can save us from this depraved state.
* We are powerless without God. Sinful thoughts and (in some cases, and according to the Bible) demons can overpower us at any moment.
* Our personal values are evil. Human nature is evil and sinful. The only way to be moral is to enter in conflict against oneself.
* God can strike against people on Earth, or throw them into eternal suffering, for any reason.

Should we be surprised by dysfunctional children, adults and societies, road rage, and school shootings ?

Don't miss my final entry in the "Roman IM" series, just below. Thanks !

Dialogue on Roman pleasure

The last IM conversation of my series about religion in the Roman States of America.
(obviously, does not lead to a site where you can make your own Roman worship shrine)


Vesta29 : Hey NoGods.
NoGods : Hello Vesta !
Vesta29 : After thinking about our discussions for a while, I found the problem with atheism. You people don't like pleasure, and so you take it out on our religion.
NoGods : How's that ?
Vesta29 : Well, for example, tomorrow is Saturnalia and...
NoGods : Oh yea, I forgot to tell you. Happy Saturnalia !
Vesta29 : ...
NoGods : What ?
Vesta29 : You're an atheist. You don't celebrate Saturnalia !
NoGods : Yes I do.
Vesta29 : Really ?
NoGods : Oh yes, I do celebrate Saturnalia. And Bacchanalia. What with the eating and the drinking and the trading of the clothes...
Vesta29 : But they are religious holidays. You're a hypocrite !
NoGods : Not really, no. For one thing, they started in other religions and mostly borrowed by yours, so we're both equally hypocrite about it. And nowadays they are pretty much secular holidays. Eating and drinking doesn't have anything to do with religion.
Vesta29 : And you trade gifts on SATURNalia ?
NoGods : Why yes.
Vesta29 : You do realize it's called SATURNalia, right ?
NoGods : Yes, yes, we've been through this.
Vesta29 : The Floralia ?
NoGods : Yea, we have floral dress codes at the office on Floralia. No big deal.
Vesta29 : The Feast Days ?
NoGods : What, no I'm not poor. But I do give for the Feast Days.
Vesta29 : Why do you give for the Feast Days if you're not accountable to the gods ?
NoGods : Well, I like to do nice things for people who have less than I do. It really can't hurt.
Vesta29 : But why ?
NoGods : Because I like it, and prefer to live in a society where there is less suffering. It's simple self-interest.
Vesta29 : That doesn't make any sense. Without the gods, there's no ultimate justice for you to account to. You can't desire to live in bliss in the Elysian Fields, or to escape the flames of Tartarus.
NoGods : Ah come on, that's bullshit. No one has ever reported such a place.
Vesta29 : That's not true ! Odysseus, Aeneas, Orpheus, and Theseus all went there and told us about it.
NoGods : Ye gods. Those are all myths.
Vesta29 : They are not ! They were all real people !
NoGods : No they weren't.
Vesta29 : When you die, you'll know the truth !
NoGods : No I won't. When I die, I won't know anything.
Vesta29 : Once again a nice example of the dismal ideology of atheism.
NoGods : It's not dismal ! Better than eternal suffering, if you ask me !
Vesta29 : That's where you'll go if you don't keep shrines and give proper worship.
NoGods : I don't have shrines. Besides, they have a web site for that now. You can maintain virtual shrines.
Vesta29 : That's not real worship !
NoGods : Sure it is. Go to and choose your household gods. You can even sweep them using a little broom thingie.
Vesta29 : What is this world going to ?
NoGods : It's hurtling in space at 30 kilometers per second around the Sun.
Vesta29 : Doh !

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Penn Gillette : "There Is No God"

It's the essay that was heard round the world, a resounding call for atheism. Penn Gillette deserves an award for standing up for materialism on national radio :

I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do.
So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."

I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate.
Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-o and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

Preach on.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Catholic Church Must Destroy Itself to Save Itself

Let me start off with a disclaimer: I have no problem with homosexuals (or heterosexuals). What I do have a problem with is hypocritical religious institutions that condemn homosexuals yet are infiltrated with them from top to bottom.


The Vatican says sexually active homosexuals and those who support "gay culture" are unwelcome in the priesthood unless the candidate has overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years, according to a church document posted on the Internet by an Italian Catholic news agency.

This of course is no suprise. Although I do think its rather strange to see the Vatican constantly condemn and reject homosexuals on paper, yet they shuffle around and protect homosexual Priests in practice. Most likely because those in charge of managing the Priest population are likely gay themselves.

And it would seem that I am correct:

Estimates of the number of gays in U.S. seminaries and the priesthood range from 25 percent to 50 percent, according to a review of research by the Rev. Donald Cozzens, a former seminary rector and author of "The Changing Face of the Priesthood."

Wow. 25 to 50 percent. How do they think they are going to enforce such rules, especially when the assigned enforcers are likely gay too? According to many organizations and groups, including SNAP, the Philadelphia District Attorney, and the Church's own lawyers, nobody is kicking anybody out for being gay. All they do is shuffle the Priests around and protect them from legal persecution when they commit pedophilic rape. Also consider that they are facing a severe Priest shortage and need all the recruits they can get. They will take the concept of "don't ask, don't tell" to a whole new level. It boggles my mind to think how many self-hating homosexuals must be in the Priesthood.

The Catholic Church needs to destroy itself to save itself. Scratch that. It just needs to destroy itself, period. How can the Church do that, you ask? Simple: Just keep doing what it's doing right now. If they actually start enforcing this anti-gay rule, however, it will surely collapse much faster. I can't wait to see it crumble to dust. I really hope it implodes within my lifetime. Die you Goddamn Church, die.

Crossposted at Kill The Afterlife.

Catholic School Commits Crime Against Humanity, Deserves Complete Annihilation


The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal discrimination complaint against a Catholic school, charging that it unjustly fired an unmarried teacher for being pregnant.

"I don't understand how a religion that prides itself on forgiving and on valuing life could terminate me because I'm pregnant and choosing to have this baby," Michelle McCusker said Monday at a news conference to announce the suit.

I read about this teacher being fired a little while back. But now I’m glad to see that she is standing up for herself.

The audacity of the Catholic Church is absolutely incredible. Now, some people may argue that this is a Catholic school and not a Catholic Church, but these clowns are all controlled by the same basic tenets and Church leaders, and I feel it is justified to lump the Church and school together here. Considering the homosexual and pedophilic sex scandal currently enveloping all levels of the Catholic Church hierarchy, it is especially hypocritical for this school to fire a woman who had lawful, consensual, and heterosexual intercourse with another adult and is happily pregnant. What kind of message is this cultist institution sending out to the world?

I will tell you the message they are sending out: They are saying that they will protect the homosexual and pedophilic male Priests for decades, allowing them to rape underage boys, but they will immediately fire any woman who has a legal sexual encounter with a male adult and follows both the Catholic Church’s policy of not using birth control and the Church’s anti-abortion policy by keeping the baby.

The Catholic Church has got to be the most diseased, hypocritical, inhumane, criminal, and all around psychotic Christian institution ever. Yes, that includes the Branch Davidians and all those other nutty cults. Thinking about this teacher’s situation makes my blood boil. I can’t believe how twisted these motherfuckers’ minds must be to commit such an affront to their fellow human beings. If I were that woman, my head would have exploded from pure outrage. I could write paragraphs about how infuriated I am, so I guess I’ll just stop now.

Question of the Day #11: Heroes

Do atheists have heroes? What is a hero?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Christian poetry / God hates Amputees

I found a great poetry site recently, Worldling's Christian Poetry. Here are a couple of limericks about Christianity :

Jesus Christers, more rightly than wrongly,
Are opposed to Black Magic quite strongly.
So isn't it odd
That they worship a god
Who is, technically speaking, a zombie?

"I have faith," says the Christian, "and you
Can know God if you just have faith too."
But of course! For it seems
"To have faith" simply means,
To pretend really hard something's true.

I've also found that there was a new book available online, Why Does God Hate Amputees ? It covers pretty basic stuff - basically, it only covers the Problem of Evil - but this might be a good read to get interested parties to understand the PoE, and atheism in general.

And don't miss the second part of my article on memetics and Catholic miracles, just below. Thanks !

Memetics in the Catholic Church part 2

The Catholic Encyclopedia concurs :

When the Church approves private revelations, she declares only that there is nothing in them contrary faith or good morals, and that they may be read without danger or even with profit; no obligation is thereby imposed on the faithful to believe them.

In essence, the Church is inserting himself as a judge of the revelations it cannot control - private ones - using the ones it does control - the Bible - as an ostensible standard, but really using this authority to ensure that beneficial revelations, and only those, are used for the good of the Church.

This distinction between private and public revelation is important to the Church. According to Cardinal Ratzinger, public revelation ended with Jesus Christ, and private revelation "refers to all the visions and revelations which have taken place since the completion of the New Testament". The article also explains that private revelations are to be accepted prudently, as they cannot be certain, unlike the Bible.

Interestingly, the fact that they end with Jesus seems to indicate that "public revelations" do not then include all the tussle that took place within the Church to decide which books of the Bible were revealed and which were not. Is this an indirect admission that such decisions were "private revelations", and thus less reliable and that we are not obliged to follow them ? Isn't that one thorny question ? And if the decisions related to the number and nature of the books of the Bible are not inspired, then how can we trust them to correctly pass judgment over inspired books ? Thorny questions ! Of course, we all know that the Councils were nothing more than a glorified popularity contest, but it still presents a theological problem.

But here is the biggest problem of all. In essence, the Catholic Church is saying "God can only say what we want him to say". How can we tell what is true revelation and what is false revelation, from an objective perspective ? In practice, people follow the same guidelines as the Catholic Church : everything we like is real revelation, and everything we don't like is not. Serial killers don't get real revelations, infanticidal mothers don't get real revelations, but when my life turned around, I got a real revelation. And so it goes. Yet is there any substantial difference between the two ? Both present the same outward results - life-changing experiences that lead to a change in behaviour.

There is also the circularity of only accepting "private revelations" that already fit the "public revelations". If there is no difference in essence between the two, then the argument becomes a battle of self-confirming revelations, as it was during the construction of the Bible. Who can say who is right and who is wrong in such a context ?

If there is a difference in essence between the two, then I'd need to be told what that difference is - how people in the Bible who get revelations and write them down are any different from any run-of-the-mill serial killer or infanticidal mother insofar as the revelatory process is concerned.

Fuck 'em if they don't get it

Evangelical Atheist is a fucking idiot.

“In my reply to Morgaine from the other day, I said that “There are, without question, those atheists who have simply traded god for science without losing religion in the process.” Francois Tremblay is a perfect example."

Brrrr ! You lose. What's more, with an ad hom. The guy is thinking like a Christian and then he accuses me of the same thing. Why am I not surprised ?

No, fortunately I have not "traded god for science" because I was never a theist. And I do not have a religion. That's a fucking juvenile Christian insult. I can't believe he would say something like that. I have asked him simple questions, and he refused to answer them. He never said what would change his mind.

You can lead a jackass to the truth, but you can't make him think.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Is Evangelical Atheist turning pomo ?

Evangelical Atheist, in his recent entry about the Cosmological Argument, seems to be turning post-modernist towards Big Bang theory :

The Big Bang is a good theory. There’s a lot of evidence that it’s an accurate model. It looks right on paper, but it’s an unsatisfying answer. It’s not enough.


We will probably not learn the truth about the origin of the universe in any of our lifetimes.

My answer :

1. You don’t seem to understand Big Bang theory very well. The singularity did not “sit around”. I would recommend you read more on the topic before passing judgment on it.

2. Your basic argument seems to be that no solution satisfies your feelings. The question arises : WHAT solution would satisfy you ? What would it take for you to be satisfied ? If you answer this question honestly, you’ll understand why you’re wrong.

Evangelical Atheist, you’re acting like a Christian. This is very dissapointing. Have you examined your position at all ? Please make a new entry and tell us what it would take to convince you of the validity of Big Bang theory (which, I remind you, while still not complete, is backed up by all the empirical evidence we have). Do you deny that structures of matter as we know them come from an expansion of spacetime from a primitive state ? Yes or no ? Why ? What would convince you ?

There are feelings and there are facts. If I can't face the facts regarding something because I don't feel good about it, then I just shut up and wait for a later time. I don't reify my feelings into material facts. The universe doesn't give a shit about your satisfaction.

Well here's my feeling : I feel very disappointed at Evangelical Atheist's post. I thought he was a rational person. To reify feelings above scientific fact is not the kind of thinking I want to sanction. Now, here's the problem - the origin of this dissatisfaction is Christian thought, which says that there has to be an "ultimate answer" to everything. So in challenging him to tell us what it would take to change his mind, I'm trying to get him to see the Christian premises underlying his dissatisfaction. I'm looking forward to seeing his answer.

Christianity as inter-subjective system

The Raving Atheist asks why Christians and Hindus have legitimacy while belief in Poseidon would not have said legitimacy.

This is in fact not a problematic question at all. Religions are inter-subjective systems, therefore a specific religion gets its meaning and credibility from inter-subjective agreement. When such an agreement exists, this is a state that True Believers uphold as "true" (if they are part of the agreement) or "credible" (if they are part of a different, opposing agreement). Hindus and Christians both have strong established inter-subjective groups, while the Greek pantheon no longer does. Therefore Hinduism and Christianity are credible from the Believer perspective (and true within the group's adherents), while belief in Poseidon is not. If belief in Poseidon had its own inter-subjective system, then it would be considered credible.

In essence, the most ridiculous, absurd, offensive beliefs can be made credible by virtue of having a strong inter-subjective group. This is also why atheism is not inherently credible, as individual atheists are irrelevant as long as there is no systematized inter-subjective agreement between them. Atheism therefore only gains recognition insofar as it represents an attack on the inter-subjective game (more on this below).

Cults progressively become religions as they gain this credibility. In this passage, a system also mollifies its cult attributes, because they are no longer needed to attain credibility and become more of a hinderance. This, however, is only true when these systems evolve within a relatively free society. In theocracies, there is much less reason to relax cult attributes, as now the resources of an entire society can be used to enforce them. Christian sects, on the other hand, do not generally need to start as cults, because they already have the inherent credibility of Christian agreement.

Christianity specifically has all the marks of an inter-subjective system :

* Truth is determined by agreement, not by objective justification.

We observe this in all the Christian sects, and in their debates against each other. The standards used are taken from theology, which is itself another inter-subjective game. Ultimately, it reduces to a clash of inter-subjective readings of the same texts, where the credibility of a "reading" is given by strong agreement. For example, some sects like the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons are considered "outsiders" because their "readings" stand out from the general agreement between most Christian sects.

* Meaning, purpose and morality are inter-subjective, more specifically utilitarian in nature relative to the system itself.

I have many articles coming in December on this topic. My thesis is basically that, as Christianity is a meme complex, its morality serves the perpetuation of Christianity, its institutions and its inter-subjective group. Therefore Christian morality is fundamentally utilitarian - it exists solely for the benefit of the greater system.

* Conceptualization shifts, sometimes slightly, sometimes dramatically, to fulfill the needs of the system's worldview(s).

In cult studies this is called "loading of the language". However, it does not need to take the dramatic turn it does in cults, where entire swarths of vocabulary are redefined. It can be relatively subtle, but the conceptual change is there if you look for it.

* The most important role of the agent is to align himself with other agents within the system.
Corollary : agents are accepted as long as they are aligned with the other agents, regardless of whatever else they did.

There is a certain pressure to conform within given sects, although break-offs do occur. Once again, this is to be expected, since there is no objective standard on which to resolve disagreements, and the domain of religion is faith-based and therefore inherently divergent (in fact, this is an epistemic argument against it). Theoretically, we should observe these break-offs in contexts where there is too much tension between the local environment and the sect's specific belief system.

* Major changes take place under the form of painful and long deconversions.

In a rational system, such as science, reversals of previously established models are long and arduous, but they are not of a personal nature. Rather, new generations come to the fore and, starting afresh, realize the truth of a new model and elevate it. In an inter-subjective system, however, adherence to a specific set of beliefs is a prerequisite to entry. From there, belief is reinforced and becomes habit. Because of this enforced agreement, and because there are no objective facts for the individual to rely on, major changes in one's religion are usually painful, uncertain, personal affairs.

* From the previous two points : global changes take the form of discrete breaks, instead of continuous adaptation.

* The religion game.

Religion in general is an inter-subjective game where, if one does not adopt "the right religion", it is still better to "play the game" - i.e. to have any religion. Collectivist games are played at many levels - the organizational level (competing religions), the doctrinal level (competing theological interpretations), and in some cases the personal level (changing religions to marry someone, for example).

Atheism is seen as the worst possible option, being a total abandonment of the game, and this is an attack on the legitimacy of the game of religion. As I said before, this is how atheism gets recognition - as "the enemy". Atheists, however, are a hard target because they are not organized. This is why science, secular humanism or human rights organizations usually make better targets for religious ire. Alternately, the threat can be deflected by stating that atheism is a religion. This makes it part of the game again, and restores legitimacy.

I hope I haven't forgotten any important point in this list. If I did, enter it in the comments and I will add it.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Hovind the Poet / Predictions of Christian Creationism

Kent Hovind, Creationist crackpot and now poet :

God does not believe in atheists
His presence from creation is quite clear
God does not believe in atheists
It takes a fool to tell him he's not here

God believes atheists can get born again
And become a new creation,
But they'd best admit the world around them first
And ask for their salvation
But to only cry, "Recycle!" is the worst

God believes atheists do have certain rights
To seek and search the scriptures
It says, "Come now, let us reason" that's for them
But it doesn't give them reason to
Make up what God is saying
Until it's no true benefit to them

Blee dop, sklee dop, sklee dilly dilly
Bah donna bee on a Saturday night
If that sounded like nonsense to you too,
Those schools have got some books for you

Does Christian Creationism make predictions ? Certainly. An anonymous contributor won post of the month on in 2002 listing some of them.

4.2.1 All baramins were created in creation week. No new baramins have appeared since then, so we can expect to find fossils representative of all modern baramins throughout the fossil record. We would therefore expect to find cattle [Gen 2:20] or cattle tracks etc. throughout the fossil record in Pre-Fall (possibly), Post-Fall, Flood and Post-Flood rocks.


4.3.1 Within each land animal and bird baramin we expect a pattern of species radiation in Pre-Flood strata, massive extinction down to a single species in Flood strata, a gap followed by radiation into modern species in Post-Flood strata. For example the cattle baramin should show an increase in the number of species up to the Flood, extinction of all but one species at the Flood, a gap followed by a reappearance of that single species and a radiation into modern species after the Flood.


4.5.1 In the Flood period the order of fossils should be determined by hydrological sorting, effectively by body size, modified by swimming ability and flying ability. Acanthostega should appear higher in Flood period rocks than T. rex.

Can any Christian here provide scientific evidence that any of these predictions came true ? I'm just gonna go ahead and unleash the crickets in advance... For my part, I'd also like to ask the same question I asked IDers : where is the "micro-macro" distinction in the structure of DNA ? And how the fuck does a Flood carve through layers of soft clay to form the Grand Canyon ?

Don't miss my post on Memetics and the relation with Catholic miracles, below. Thanks !

Memetics in the Catholic Church part 1

I talked about moral relativity in Christianity. Moral relativity serves the interests of the church and its associated core beliefs, in that it permits the church to adapts to different social circumstances and for its core beliefs to continue to be accepted regardless of the lower popularity of a peripheral belief, such as opposition to religious freedom, the support of slavery, the support of the death penalty, and other such issues.

One issue where we can see this clearly is in the Catholic Church's attitude towards "personal revelation", especially "Marian apparitions". Now, revelations present a special problem to a Church, because on the one hand, one cannot deny that God gives divine knowledge to people, otherwise the religion would be wholly untenable : on the other hand, some revelations could contradict the Scriptures or damage the Church's reputation. In "Demon-Haunted World", Carl Sagan discusses the policy of the Catholic Church as regards to such phenomena during the Middle Ages, and that only apparitions which promoted the moral and political interests of the Church were promoted as authentic.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there is only one paragraph on the topic of "private revelations" :

67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment, as is the case in certain nonChristian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".

According to the International Marian Research Institute, there are four criteria that determine whether a Marian apparition is approved or not :

1) The first norm for evaluating miraculous events is that there be moral certainty, or at least great probability, that something miraculous has occurred. The commission may interview the visionaries, call other witnesses, visit the site of the events.

2) The second norm deals with the personal qualities of the subjects who claim to have had the apparition; they must be mentally sound, honest, sincere, of upright conduct, obedient to ecclesiastical authorities, able to return to the normal practices of the faith (such as participation in communal worship, reception of the sacraments).

3) A third category deals with the content of the revelation or message: it must be theologically acceptable and morally sound and free of error.

4) The fourth positive criterion is that the apparition must result in positive spiritual assets which endure (prayer, conversion, increase of charity).

This is interesting. From a memetic standpoint, it's not difficult to see why these rules were chosen. First, insofar as you determine what is "miraculous" and what isn't, you don't want scammers to try to divert the Church's reputation for their own gain. Secondly, you don't want your newly popular "revelator" to break off and start his own cult, or to reject the political authority of the Church. Thirdly, you don't want revelations that contradict the theological and moral direction the clergy is taking. Finally, revelations must be selected so that only those that have a positive survival benefit for the Church are favoured. That way the beneficial revelations can be cultivated, and the negative ones extinguished.

This is an article in two parts. Click here to read part 2.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I don't exist !

According to the imbecile "ConcernedCatholic", I do not exist and I am a figment of the modern imagination.

How nice it must be to live in a fantasy world where 15% of the world population does not exist. Unfortunately, the ranks of the non-religious and anti-theists keep growing, and there's nothing this moron can do about it.

I would like to propose to any Christian who does not believe in my existence to present himself to my address so I can punch him in the face. I think that would go a long way towards proving that I exist, and even if it doesn't, I get to serve mankind in the most fulfilling way possible.

Come and get your Franxorcism, enemies of Western civilization !

Matt Slick and Rape-Babies

This is a letter I just sent to Matt Slick from CARM:

Dear Matt Slick,

I wanted to bring to your attention a discrepancy I found on your CARM site. Particularly this page:

Now Mr. Slick, as a Christian you believe that sin can be transferred between people. In other words, you believe that guilt can be shifted to a person other than the one that committed the offense. As a Christian you believe that all humans are guilty for fruit eaten by Adam and Eve, and you believe that Jesus was able to suffer punishment and "forgive" or pay the consequences of these sinners. This concept of guilt re-assignment is the centerpiece of Christianity itself.

However, in your "rapedwithchild.htm" page on your CARM site, you specifically say, "Why should I make the child pay for the sins of another?"

I hope you see the significance of this major slip. Your natural, instinctive (non-Bible-based) morality automatically tells you that to have a child suffer for the sins of another is wrong, and you express this in your writing about rape resulting in pregnancy without any second thought or hesitation. It just came naturally to you that to make an innocent child suffer for the sins of another is immoral.

This of course is contradictory to the very centerpiece, the very core of Christian theology. Christianity, and the Bible, quite clearly say in many different verses that guilt and sin can be inherited, traded, and otherwise passed around to people other than the guilty or responsible ones.

It is interesting to see your natural human moral code pop its head out and speak its mind through your writing when you had your guard down. And the ease with which you wrote that sentence makes it clear to me that your moral code is indeed a Godless one. But then again, every human’s moral code is a Godless one when you get down to the subconscious core of it. Your moral code existed before you ever learned about the Bible, and it was fine just the way it was before you ever adopted Christianity.

See, I am an atheist, and I agree with you: it WOULD be wrong to make ANYONE suffer for the crimes of another, PERIOD. You obviously hold on to this tenet except for just a few circumstances: Adam and Eve eating the fruit, and Jesus suffering on the cross. In those two instances, you break your own moral code and say to yourself "That is ok. That is correct." But when any other specific example is put forth before you, without a fruit eating or crucifying context, you say, "That is not ok. That is not correct."

Now Mr. Slick, how do you reconcile this discrepancy? Do you stick true to your Christian beliefs and revise your "rapedwithchild.htm" page and instead say "I should make the child pay for the sins of another," or do you betray your Christian facade and admit that truly, it is NOT OK to have anyone ever be assigned blame for the sins of another, ever?

Mr. Slick, what I am looking for from you is consistency. So in this case, who loses? Your Christian faith, or the rape-baby? One of them has got to give.

I look forward to your reply.

Aaron Kinney

My anthology reviewed... ?

I just got the surprise of the year when I learned that an inconsequential anthology of my Suite 101 Atheism column just got reviewed in an online magazine of international politics... ?!

What the hell ?

Even more surprising, the reviewer understands my point of view, and even agrees with me !

Anti-theists (such as Tremblay and myself) regard religion as an unmitigated evil that must be eradicated to make for a better world.


In the chapters he dedicates to refuting the bogus arguments from design, he refers to the works of George Smith, Michael Martin, and Corey Washington. His own treatment of the issue is even more original and refreshing - complexity and order do not a design make, he shows.


If you want to survey the emerging battle lines between the regrouping forces of reason and the resurging Dark Ages - read this book. It is a gem of a guide to the real Armageddon that is upon us.


What does it feel like to be an atheist ? / New blog

What does it feel like to be an atheist ? It feels like being any other human being. What kind of a stupid question is that ?

Due to the paucity of non-right-wing, politically-oriented libertarian blogs, Aaron and I have started a new libertarian blog, The Radical Libertarian. Check it out if the issues of individualism and individual rights interest you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Question of the Day #10: If You Could Be King

What would you do if you were king?


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Where have all the Manatas gone ?

Dawson Bethrick reports that our old enemy Paul Manata may have fell off the Internet, or at least the blogosphere. Can we claim victory yet ?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Paul, repressed homosexual ? / ID questions again

An interesting circumstantial case for Paul's repressed homosexuality, from the enlightening text "The Bible and Christianity - The Historical Origins" :

Saul, the pre-conversion Roman Jew, was a man with an intense self loathing. He doesn't tell us why, but time and again, he describes himself as a sinner who was far beyond any possible redemption. A man who stood condemned in the eyes of God. A man clearly destined for hell, and there's nothing he himself could do about it, especially since his body's 'member' would not cooperate. (...) So mething was eating at Saul. It clearly related to behavior, because he describes himself as being a sinner. Over the centuries, many suggestions have been made as to what might have been the source of that self loathing. Few of them are really convincing, they all seem to have serious problems - except for one: the suggestion that Paul was a repressed homosexual. Homosexuality was not widely condemned in this region at the time, yet it could possibly have been a personal interpretation of Levitical proscriptions that drove him to consider himself a sinner for being a homosexual. Yet when he experiences his conversion, he realizes that by the grace of God, his homosexuality no longer matters, for God loves him the same as all men. I say this after having read the references in the New Testament in which Paul speaks of his shame and his self loathing: his words have a startlingly deep resonance with every gay man who was ever brought up in a Christian environment. This theory alone to the exclusion of all others I've seen explains all the strange aspects of Paul's attitudes towards sexuality - the proclivity to a monastic degree of chastity, the extreme mysogony, the fact that he remained single and urged others in his situation, whatever that was, to do likewise, and the frequent discussions of how the 'members' of his body do not cooperate with his spiritual goals, and his despair over his inability to effect the changes he would like. All of these evidences are consonant with the repressed-gay theory; no other theory I know of account for them all.


If this theory is true, it may well be that the whole of the Christian edifice of sexual doctrine, and even of Christianity itself, is built on the foundation of the self-loathing of a repressed gay man, unable to change himself or find salvation within himself, but finding salvation only in the grace of God. Again, if this theory is true, try to imagine how world history might have been different had Saul not been born gay and suffered the self-loathing that resulted from that circumstance of his birth.

Due to the raging controversy over recent ID decisions, I thought I'd remind the ID-worshippers that they have failed miserably in answering my questions. Why can none of these demagogues in high places stoop to answer basic scientific questions ? Are they afraid that, like Mr. Dumb-ski, they will end up putting ID on the same footing as astrology and stick their feet in their considerable mouths ?

Once again :

1. How can Intelligent Design be falsified ? An unfalsifiable belief is not scientific.
2. Please give a few accepted scientific laws or principles on which Intelligent Design is based. A belief that does not build on established knowledge is not scientific.
3. Please name an Intelligent Design-supporting study published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
4. Who is (or are) the Designer ? How can we observe this Designer ?
5. Is such a Designer complex ? If so, who or what designed the Designer ?
6. How does Intelligent Design explain suboptimal, bad or evil design in nature, including but not limited to : predation, sea mammals that cannot breathe underwater, the blind spot in the human eye, and wisdom teeth.
7. How does Intelligent Design explain vestigial organs, including but not limited to : the appendix, the leg bones in whales, the wings of flightless birds, and tails in human embryos.
8. Please define how you measure "complexity" or "information" (depending on your flavour of Intelligent Design). Give us a numerical measure of complexity or information for a simple organism of your choice.

And don't miss my article on miracles and materialism, just below. Thank you !

Miracles and materialism

There are many ways in which we can say something is a "miracle". There are secular uses of the word - a miracle being something positive and extraordinary, or something that has tremendous emotional impact - which have no bearing on this discussion. Although people have very little understanding of probabilities and can come to believe that extraordinary events must have a greater explanation, we know that the improbable must happen to a lot of people every day, by simple mathematical necessity. Miracles in this sense are the expression of the extremes of natural law.

The theological meaning of "miracle", however, is of great interest to us. A miracle in this sense is commonly defined as an event which breaks natural law because it is created by God's will. For example, God can pop everything from nothing, send an avatar to Earth to be born of a virgin, or send magical plagues. These are all "miracles" because they are impossible from the materialist standpoint, and they are "acts of God".

Obviously the first problem with these events is that, as I said, they are impossible. As such, taking a page from Hume's playbook, we should reject testimonies of such events as being less likely than the possibility that, for example, all the testimonies are lies, fabrications, delusions, or honest but misguided recountings. In the same way, I would not believe someone who said he saw me at this or that place, when I was lying sleeping on my bed, unless I had very good reason to mistrust my memories in this case. But I would never believe, in any circumstance, that this person saw me come back from the dead and rocket into the sky, like "Jesus". I would dismiss any number of such testimonies as either lies, fabrications, delusions, or honest but misguided recountings of a mundane event (such as, perhaps, a cleverly-made hologram of myself). Likewise, I must reject out of hand the Christian stories of the universe popping from nothing, an avatar coming to Earth, or magical plagues, as mythical fabrications.

This is all well and good. But now look at the issue from a materialist perspective. For a miracle to be a miracle, it must be miraculous, that is to say, it must break natural law. And natural law is the result of materialist causation. So the definition of a miracle itself implies that materialism is true ! For it includes both material causation and its "break" for a specific event. If there is no material causation, then the concept of miracle is meaningless.

Let me make this point as clear as possible, as some believers have invoked the notion of "regularity" to try to explain this problem away. The argument goes like this : if there are no "natural laws" but merely "regularities", then there would be no problem with miracles.

But this is mind-numbingly absurd. Consider that natural laws exist because of the law of causality - things change in accordance with their nature. If there are no natural laws, then there is no more causality, and everything is basically random.

Now, take the law of gravity. We know the law of gravity reflects a fact about mass. Things always fall down when we thrown them up, at least on Earth, because of the Earth's gravity field, and proportionally to that field. We can measure it easily. Now, if there is no more causality, only a regularity, we are supposed to believe that the Earth randomly generates a gravity field that is somehow always exactly proportional to its mass. This is the equivalent of rolling a million dice, and rolling a specific, pre-determined distribution of numbers. Then doing it again, and again, and again, and again...

The idea that regularities in nature are merely regularities and not the product of natural law is so absurdly improbable that it merits no examination beyond realizing how absurd it is.

So it turns out that the concept of miracles implies atheism. And since natural law is how we understand reality, this also brings up the question of how we could possibly know that a miracle is happening. For one thing, it would require us to be omniscient and know that natural law is not operating, which is impossible. At best we can say that an event breaks natural law "as far as we know it". But that's not nearly enough.

Finally, as TANG proved, the notion of miracles contradicts the operation and validity of science, most notably in cosmology and biology. Given the tremendous success of science, any position that contradicts it would seem to be very unwise indeed.

There is also an alternate position on miracles that is sometimes used, and that is the exact opposite - that God acts in the universe through natural law. This is more commonly used by the ignorant believers, to say for instance that natural disasters are God's way of expressing its anger, and so on. However, from an ontological standpoint, we can easily see that such a position is completely contradictory. If divine intervention is expressed as natural law, and natural law is a materialist process, then it cannot possibly be "divine". At best, the believer is saying absolutely nothing when he says the event is the product of divine intervention, as adding this label adds no meaning to the explanation, unless one wants to contend that God is very, very material, and is made of tectonic plates or low pressure zones. Ultimately, adding the "God" label to anything cannot possibly be justified, and cannot possibly be meaningful, regardless of one's belief system.

"Naturalism Defeated" Defeated

After a promising first post, it appears that Christopher Lycan's blog, "Naturalism: A Critical Appraisal," has died. At the very least, it has now been seven months since the blog was birthed, and it's received no attention since then. The stated purpose of his blog was: "Examining The Absurdities of "Goosing The Antithesis."

This blog has produced 125 posts since Mr. Lycan's blog was founded. I guess there were fewer absurdities than he anticipated.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Question of the Day #9: "You're In My Prayers"

Should we be bothered or offended by people who say that they'll pray for us?

Please discuss in comments.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sin is Just Bad Genes?

Craig Sowder of Through The Eyes Of Faith opined recently on homosexuality, specifically on how, given his Christian worldview, he can justify criticizing their lifestyle. Although he begins by suggesting that homosexuals aren't born with that orientation, he does admit that he's arguing the nature/nurture question, and in fact goes right after the nature itself. He says,
Now, from here we could ask all kinds of deep philosophical questions about the nature of a 'nature' and what the relationship is between our natures and our physical bodies. But really, what I want to suggest is that it is not a stretch at all when thinking about original sin to see that this also has effected our very DNA itself. After all, as Christians, we believe that our physical bodies themselves are fallen and are in need of glorification. So if our DNA is fallen, is it not possible that homosexuals are born the way they are because of fallen DNA? Is not sin in general, in fact, a problem with our genes? If you grant this point, then all of the scientific arguments that homosexuals bring forth against our position lose all their force. After all, not only are people born as homosexuals, but they are born as liars, rapists, murderers, and idolators as well.
In fact, it might have been in Craig's best interest to spend some time asking the "deep philosophical questions" about the "relationship between our natures and our physical bodies." Because he begs on hell of a question by assuming that a 'nature' can cause a body to 'fall.' His entire argument rests on the premise that something immaterial can affect something material. How exactly does "sin" interact with DNA, I wonder? Does "sin" fit into the major groove or the minor groove of the molecule? Does "sin" bind to polymerase? If so, what is the Kd of that relationship? Can I use "sin" to design and carry out mutations in a gene I'm working with for my fellowship project? I'm sure I don't need to go any farther to illustrate how non-sensical and absurd this hypothesis is.

This is an archetypical example of the fallacious way in which Christians approach Science. Begin with a faith-based conclusion (homosexuality is a sin), add just enough science to be dangerous (homosexuality is genetic), and come to the obvious conclusion (sin is genetic).

The solution is obvious, then. Christian churches the world over need to raise billions of dollars to fund molecular biologists such as myself to find the Sin Gene, and remove it from the human genome. Something like that shouldn't take more than five years, after all, and think of all the benefits! No crime of any kind and everyone in church on Sunday morning.

And of course, I'd be happy to be the first researcher on the Christian dole to find it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Spittle spills over HA / Which Christian is right ?

Am I intolerent ? Yes, yes I am. I am intolerent against all belief systems that undermine the importance of life and independent, critical thought. I am intolerent of Christianity, as well as most religions, intolerent of most political positions, intolerent of cults and other organizations that try to subvert the individual. Unfortunately for some of our fans at the Hellbound Alleee Show, that also includes liberalism. We've had a "Why Liberals are Wrong" show recently which made some people uncomfortable.

Mark Spittle, of the blog Spittle and Ink, has retracted his considerable and much appreciated support because of that show. He's intolerent. I don't begrudge him that. However, the question arises : who's right ? I think our show speaks for itself.

I don't want to point fingers as much as I'd like to point out that, if we keep dividing ourselves instead of trying to promote atheism, nothing new we do is going to take off. Competition is vital, but competition cannot exist without cooperation. I do tit-for-tat - you help us, I help you, you hurt us, I tell you to go to hell. I think that's fair.

According to the Christianity FAQ, there is a wide variety of Christian sects and groups, including but not limited to :

Amish, Anabaptism, Assemblies of God, Baptists, Calvinism, Christadelphians, Christian Identity, Church Universal and Triumphant, Church of Christ, Church of England, Congregationalism, Coptic Christianity, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal Church, Ethiopian Christianity, IURD, Jehovah's Witnesses, Lutheran Church, Maronites, Mennonites, Methodism, Old Catholic Movement, Pentecostal Church, People's Temple, Pilgrims, Presbyterian Church, Protestant, Puritanism, Quakers, Roman Catholicism, Shakers, Spiritual Baptists, Thomas Christians, Unification Church, Unitarianism, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist,
Adamites, adoptionism, Albigenses, antinomianism, Apollinarianism, Arianism, Cathars, Docetism, Donatism, Ebionites, Jansenism, Lapsed Christians, Lollards, Manicheism, monophysite, Montanism, Nestorianism, Pelagianism, Waldenses,
those without churches : Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism and Salvation Army,
and ideologies which can be present in various churches, such as : Acoemetae, Adelophagi, Adventist Movement, amillennialism, Arminian Theology, Augustinians, Benedictines, Cahenslyism, Capuchins, Carmelites, dispensationalism, Dominicans, Evangelicalism, Franciscans, fundamentalism, Gnosticism, Huguenots, Hutterites, Liberation Theology, Mainline Protestant, Mendicant Orders, Neo-Orthodoxy, Pietism, postmillennialism, Primitivism, Quietism, Sabbatarianism, staret, premillennialism, Scholasticism, Thomism, Transcendentalism, Trinitarianism, and Universalism.

Which one of these is right ? Any given Christian probably thinks a lot of these sects are wrong. Everyone thinks a different sect is wrong. Of course, every single one of them has theologians taking verses from the Bible that prove their sect is the only right one.

And read the second half of my article on memetics and Christianity, below. Thank you !

Memetics and Christianity part 2

Doctrine-belief independence is a particularly interesting facet of Christian memetics, because it gives rise to what is perhaps the most infuriating and obtuse sort of Christian behaviour - the willful ignorance they exhibit about their most revered icons, Jesus and God, preferring to invest them with their own personal meanings. Most of the time these meanings have absolutely nothing to do with the Biblical representation of these characters.

This sort of behaviour can appear very bizarre to the person approaching Christian belief from a naive perspective. We rarely see even obsessed fans of Star Trek or Star Wars, for example, arguing that the characters of those series have a completely different personality than that displayed on the TV shows. Even crackpot fans don't misrepresent the events they see or read, they simply put a different spin on them. So why do almost all Christians project their own Christian flavour on the characters of the Bible ?

I think that such a projection is necessary for doctrine-belief independence. To maintain the particular flavour of their sect, Christians must, to a certain extent, warp or ignore the Bible stories and believe in "their Jesus". So you get Jesus as liberal, Jesus as conservative, Jesus as radical, Jesus as feminist, Jesus as egalitarian - the Amazing Morphing Jesus, then. Even popular atheist bloggers are not immune to this nonsense. When a reading of the Gospels gives us a Jesus as frustrated, failed cult leader with strong apocalyptic beliefs. But you can see that this "real Jesus" can only possibly please a small proportion of believers. Any attempt of adaptation must therefore have a way to adapt "Jesus" as well.

"Jesus" and "God", therefore, become symbols. A symbol is basically a kind of memetic package, representing and transmitting a whole set of beliefs and attitudes within a very compact concrete (the symbol itself). So they are very efficient, and this is why belief systems tend to use them as much as possible, as flags, slogans, specific loaded words (such as "freedom", "democracy" or "truth"), or heroes. "Jesus" is part of that last category. He is the hero of the story, and in our blackwhite hero/enemy mentality, he is therefore noble by definition, and represents what is good. One can then transpose "what is good" into whatever one believes is good. He is also presented as saviour and sacrifice - therefore, as the perfect collectivist symbol, an example for believers to follow. And there you have your Amazing Jesus, perhaps like Bobby from King of the Hill :

BOBBY: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I am the Amazing Jesus, son of God and master of prestidigitation! Has this ever happened to you? Your followers want a glass of wine, but all you have is water. Well, if you're the Amazing Jesus, no problem! Water into wine! It's a miracle! John 2:11. Thank you. Now you're going to need something to go with all this wine, maybe some bread. But how are you going to feed all these hungry people with just one slice? No problem, if you're the Amazing Jesus! Amen! It's a miracle, ladies and gentlemen! Mark 6:44. Thank you! Now, for my next miracle, I'll need a large wooden cross and a couple of volunteers...

Now, how to evade the truth is another story. Ideally, as in today's Christian world, you have a situation where people believe so much in the concept of the Amazing Jesus that the very idea of an objective "Jesus" story is only a pesky detail in the corner of most believers' minds. Before that point, religious authorities had to battle it out to get their fundamental beliefs about of the Amazing Morphing Jesus accepted as canon, but I'm ready to grant that the dispute on whether Jesus was an liberal or a conservative is somewhat less fundamental than the question of whether "Jesus" is the "son of God" or not, although the latter has a lot less importance to the believer than the former. So there is still a superficial agreement, and everyone still believes that they are worshipping "the same Jesus" because of these fundamental points, when in fact they are worshipping a symbol used to represent very different flavours of Christianity.

When a Christian says "Jesus" represents love, or caring for others, or giving, we know he is 99% wrong, but in his mind he is expressing a subjectivist tautology. "Jesus" is love because he has defined it that way, based on the basic "Jesus" beliefs of Christianity. Whether most "Jesus" verses agree with him or not is pretty much besides the point, especially if everyone around agrees with him.

Do you doubt that Jesus is a symbol ? Then look at the piles of hate mail that Normal Bob Smith, the owner of Jesus Dress Up, gets every day. So far he has 239 pages of it and counting. If that's not devotion to a symbol, I don't know what is.

The "Jesus" and "God" symbols, therefore, provide convenient coathangers for moral feelings and attitudes that are just not present in the Bible. This is simply a common and feeble expression of the presuppositionalist desire to pin everything in human cognition on these characters. Their compulsion to put the label “God” on everything is natural, since they have nowhere else to go after denying the efficacy of human cognition and the power of the material world. But this compulsion also paints them in a corner, insofar as the notion of God itself contradicts many of the concepts they try to explain away, such as "purpose", "morality" and "induction". In the end, removing the label "God" demands an entire shift in perspective for the believer, but only because he or she has been indoctrinated into believing that there were no other answers beyond "God did it".

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Kansas Now Teaches Religion As Science

Original Article

By JOHN HANNA, Associated Press Writer

TOPEKA, Kan. - Revisiting a topic that exposed Kansas to nationwide ridicule six years ago, the state Board of Education approved science standards for public schools Tuesday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

The 6-4 vote was a victory for intelligent design advocates who helped draft the standards. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

Critics of the new language charged that it was an attempt to inject God and creationism into public schools in violation of the separation of church and state.

"This is a sad day. We're becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that," said board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat.

Supporters of the new standards said they will promote academic freedom. "It gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today," said board member John Bacon.

The new standards say high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.

In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena. [empahsis added. -Z]

The new standards will be used to develop student tests measuring how well schools teach science. Decisions about what is taught in classrooms will remain with 300 local school boards, but some educators fear pressure will increase in some communities to teach less about evolution or more about creationism or intelligent design.

"What this does is open the door for teachers to bring creationist arguments into the classroom and point to the standards and say it's OK," said Jack Krebs, an Oskaloosa High School math teacher and vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science, which opposes the changes.

But John Calvert, a retired attorney who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said changes probably will come to classrooms gradually, with some teachers feeling freer to discuss criticisms of evolution.

"These changes are not targeted at changing the hearts and minds of the Darwin fundamentalists," Calvert said.

The vote marked the third time in six years that the Kansas board has rewritten standards with evolution as the central issue.

In 1999, the board eliminated most references to evolution. Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said that was akin to teaching "American history without Lincoln." Bill Nye, the "Science Guy" of children's television, called it "harebrained" and "nutty." And a Washington Post columnist imagined God saying to the Kansas board members: "Man, I gave you a brain. Use it, OK?"

Two years later, after voters replaced three members, the board reverted to evolution-friendly standards. Elections in 2002 and 2004 changed the board's composition again, making it more conservative.

The latest vote is likely to bring fresh national criticism to Kansas and cause many scientists to see the state as backward.

Many scientists and other critics contend creationists repackaged old ideas in new, scientific-sounding language to get around a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1987 against teaching the biblical story of creation in public schools.

The Kansas board's action is part of a national debate. In Pennsylvania, a judge is expected to rule soon in a lawsuit against the Dover school board's policy of requiring high school students to learn about intelligent design in biology class. In August,

President Bush endorsed teaching intelligent design alongside evolution.

The Trial of F. Tremblay / Against the Afterlife

As a recent B-movie fan, I'm getting kinda used to being befuddled or annoyed by a horrible movie. But recently I have gone through tremendous suffering in order to watch the movie "The Trial of Billy Jack" in its entire, agonizing three hours run time. This is it. I'm a veteran now. Nothing else can hurt me.

To even grasp the horror that is "The Trial of Billy Jack", imagine the stupidest hippie beliefs you've ever heard about. Now imagine three full hours composed of a group of kids, Indians, and Billy Jack, all the worst actors in the world (as bad as people on Ed Wood movies), reciting such lines as :

Jean: "The thing that we’ve got here is a living, dynamic, positive force that has the ability to change the most warped lives, turn on the most confused and lost people, and I think we all literally feel here that it could possibly rebuild the world!"
Attendee: "Is this what you call ‘non-violence?’"
Jean: "No, I’m sorry, we call it by something else much cornier than that."
Carol: "We call it, Love."

There's also a full hour of stereotypical, nonsensical Indian rituals involving the spirit of Jesus, snakes, and Billy Jack painted blue. All in all, quite a traumatizing experience. And to think this piece of shit was a popular movie in the seventies.

There's a brillant op-ed from John Bice at the MSU which should particularly interest Aaron, since its title is "Afterlife concept devalues earthly existence; celebrates death". Some quotes :

Viewing the evolution of religion from a Darwinian perspective, as a meme, one would expect successful modern faiths to discourage suicide and promote sexual reproduction, which is precisely what we see. Suicidal cults, or faiths that discourage procreation, are at a tremendous competitive disadvantage for passing on their beliefs.
Atheists, and others who lack similarly appealing fantasies of faith, make extraordinarily poor candidates for suicide bombers.
Death is "no big deal" for the truly faithful, and that's a problem. Faith-based afterlife delusions have consequences beyond suicide bombings and nonchalant attitudes toward capital punishment; for an inestimable number of people it has resulted in lifetimes of forbidden pleasures, self-denial and unnecessary misery endured explicitly to achieve the hypothetical "eternal reward."

Gloria Steinem concisely summarizes the problem, "spirituality celebrates life, religion celebrates life after death."

Amen, John. Amen.

Finally, don't miss my first article on memetics and Christianity, just below. Thank you !

Memetics and Christianity part 1

Memetics has a lot to say about Christianity. This is to be expected : Christianity has proven itself as a very resilient meme complex. It has existed for about 1950 years (no, that's not a typo), is the second-oldest major religion apart from Hinduism, and yet still has a follower base of 2.1 billion people. It has mutated within a large variety of cultures, and survived even in the most rigorous social conditions. For its complexity, it is probably the most powerful meme complex to ever evolve, pound-for-pound.

Now of course we must not confuse survival and truth. The survival of a belief system is not truth, but memetic adaptation. Genes do not always survive because they correspond to reality, but they survive because they contribute to genomic survival and reproduction. Christianity, like all belief systems and ultimately all ideas, and as proven by history, is not the product of intelligent design but rather of memetic evolution.

It is not surprising that Christianity is so powerful, because it is a well-adapted meme complex. Each of its parts contribute to the purpose of reproduction and blind belief. Let's look through each part and process of a meme complex in turn :

* process of transmission : childhood brainwashing through indoctrination, strong vector of the Bible.
* bait : salvation, improved life, personal well-being, sense of community, emotionally satisfying worldview.
* hook : saving the world from eternal torment, extending one's community, spreading "morality"..
* threat : damnation, the Bible is the "word of God" and must not be changed.
* vaccime : faith, competing meme complexes are "sinful" and part of "the world".

Another important property of the Christian meme complex is that the doctrine and the belief are very independent. Multifarious sects have been able to emerge because of this independence. So the ratio of, for instance, hellfire sermons to lovey-dovey sermons can change depending on the social context, without affecting the Christian status of the preacher. Likewise, Christianity throughout the ages has adapted through moral relativism, while still pretending to adhere to an absolute system of morality. Otherwise, it could not have survived at all. Can you imagine second century Christianity in modern Canada or the United States ? It would be outlawed or destroyed faster than you can say "Waco". So if this independence between doctrine and belief did not exist, then there would have to be a way to adapt the doctrines themselves, which contradicts the notion itself of a doctrine (although some smaller sects such as the Mormons have found ways around this).

Christianity is a very powerful meme complex, but it is not omnipotent. Even in heavily Christian countries, there are minds that resist to Christian memes, although with great difficulty. Social saturation has a lot to do with it. So we get one of the factors (well, our second factor, after doctrine-belief independence), which is exposure to other meme complexes. We assume from testimonies that children raised in families with two or more religions are more likely to be atheist, and exposure to comparative religion classes are also conductive to atheism (I would very much like to see actual data on this topic, by the way, so send it in if you have any).

The flip-side of this is the factor of individual curiosity. A child born curious and whose curiosity has been properly fed will naturally gravitate towards either scientific inquiry or the domain of the interreligous. But in this case, the fact that information is available is also of major importance. Without this information, it would be very difficult for any individual to come to rational conclusions unassisted.

Other factors concern the vulnerability of an individual to religion. They include childhood gullibility and the absence of children's rights (such absence being still in effect in our modern societies), emotional and mental insecurity, and the existence or absence of competing vaccimes (such as skepticism and falsification). Since Christianity preys on the vulnerable and the ignorant, one could say that the level of religiosity in a society is a good indication of the status of the most vulnerable amongst us in that society, and ultimately an indication of the strength of the social fabric and the moral compass in the people of that society. As has been demonstrated by studies on cult propagation, the weaker the social fabric and moral compass of the people (because of war, disasters, poverty, government coercion, and so on), the more religion we have in a society.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jesus unleashes a zombie army

Matthew 27:50-53

"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Irrationality Isn't Just For Christians Anymore

I was first introduced to Nadir Ahmed through Derek Sansone (which should have been a clue right off- Derek meets the strangest people), and my interest was piqued because he claimed that the supernatural inspiration of the Koran could be proved scientifically. Nadir pointed me to a debate transcript on his website,, that he had participated in with a critic of Islam, Denis Giron of Freethoughtmecca, and I checked it out.

Nadir structures his argument through the lens of an "algorithm" that can be found here. Basically, the algorithm examines specific components of the Koran that correspond to modern scientific knowledge. Although the algorithm assigns eight different possibilities to the reason for scientific correspondence, they basically amount to: 1) Chance, 2) Common Knowledge, and 3) Supernatural Knowledge. Thus, if there exists an element of scientific accuracy in the Koran that can not be due to chance (the statistical significance coefficient is not mentioned), and can not be something that could have been known by the author of the Koran (or his contemporaries), then we can conclude that the source of that knowledge was supernatural, i.e. Allah.

Fair enough, it’s not perfect, but let’s see where he goes with it. Nadir offers eight evidences for scientific truth in the Koran that his algorithm proves comes from a supernatural source. The full text of the debate can be found here. But let’s focus on the first evidence, which concerns the gender of bees:

This is what modern science has to say on the topic of zoology, in particular bees. We're going to be talking about bees over here. Today science tells us that the male bee has only one purpose, and that is to reproduce with the female - there's really no other purpose for a male bee. Now here's the important point - however, the worker bee or the soldier bee is a female bee. She is the one that builds the nest, leaves her home, and goes out in search of food. This what modern science tells us - that we have discovered only recently. Now it takes a specialist in the field to detect the sex of the bee - you cannot look at it from the naked eye - it is impossible, there is no way you can look at it that way. Now let me show you what the Qur'an says about bees. Now, keep one thing in mind here. In the Arabic language, animals are either male or female. Like in English we have the word cow - "the cow in the pasture" - that does not tell us if the cow is male or female. But in Arabic animals are either male or female. There is no gender neutral term for animals. Let's look inside chapter sixteen verse sixty-eight. It says over there:

"and thy Lord taught the bee" (here it is specified a female bee) "to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in men's habitations, then to eat of all the produce and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord."

This is exactly what modern science today tell us - that the bee that goes out and builds the nest, that goes out looking for food, as what the Qur'an has mentioned, is indeed the female bee.

So anyway, I'll have to raise a question now. How did the author of the Qur'an know this scientific statement, that the bee that leaves the nest in search of food is the female bee? Let's go back to the
algorithm. If you can look at that link which I have just sent you, let's look at that algorithm. Perhaps the author of the Qur'an was a genius or a scientist, which is (A) and (C). Well, I don't think that could be a possibility, becuase no matter smart you are, you'll never be able to detect the sex of a bee, unless you had these modern scientific methods which did not exist one thousand four hundred years ago, so those could not be a possibility. Let's look at (F). Perhaps the scientific fact is observable. Well, this is not true either, because you cannot look at the bees and tell which one is a male or female. Let's look at (B). Perhaps it was a very good guess. Well, it is a possibility. If it was a good guess then we'll say it was a fifty-fifty chance, one half chance if that was the case - or coincidence, we can look at it that way. Now let's look at (G) here, I want to pause on this one for a second. The information already pre-existed in history, therefore the author of the Qur'an simply plagiarized from another source. Let's analyze this for just a second here.

So what is Nadir’s argument here?

P1) It is impossible for anyone living in the seventh century to have known scientifically that bees (or at least, the ones that we see) are female.

P2) The Koran says that bees are female.

C) (From the algorithm) The Koran must have been supernaturally inspired.

But hold on. Look closer at the second premise, as Nadir himself gives the argument for establishing that.

P1) If a language incorporates gender-specific nouns, then any instance of that noun explicitly intends a literal gender translation.

P2) In Arabic, the noun “bee” is feminine.

P3) The Koran was written in Arabic.

C) The Koran says that bees are female.

Obviously, this is a very weak argument. Hundreds of languages incorporate gender-specific nouns, and in many of them the word “bee” is feminine. This seems to be a textbook example of the Chance possibility of his own algorithm!

Strangely enough, I got the chance to talk to Nadir today through Paltalk, and he agreed with me. I wish I had recorded our conversation, because I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the logic that he was using. He admitted (as he did in the debate with Denis) that many other languages imply that bees are female (by his argument above), but that, even though Arabic only had a 50% chance of getting the right gender, it still got it right. Then things got stranger, and Nadir then said that even though it got the right gender, that didn’t necessarily mean that the Koran was divinely inspired- he was able to make that conclusion by looking at all the evidences. That is to say, even if you could show that each evidence corresponded to modern scientific knowledge by random chance, by accumulating multiple examples (50% x 50% x 50% etc.), you arrive at a statistical improbability of the Koran having natural origins.

It’s quite mind-boggling, I know. He seems to be somewhat of a Muslim Jason Gastrich in his argumentation. Check out his website for more evidences.

Question of the Day #8: Intellectual Bullying

How would you define intellectual bullying? Is there such a thing as bullying someone with the truth?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The price-gouging myth

Let me state this strongly enough : there is no such thing as price-gouging. It is anti-capitalist propaganda, given to us by people who should know better, and some who know better.

Let me put it this way. If the government was in charge of a high demand situation, they would RATION everything. Would anyone complain then if they didn't get what they wanted ? I'm pretty sure most of them wouldn't. And yet when the free market preserves the information about the value of the product, people rage against "price gougers".

What could "price gouging" possibly mean ? Price is a piece of information. It tells us what people agree upon on being the monetary value of a product or service in a given context. If the price is too high, then the seller won't be able to sell, and thus make maximal profit. If the price is too low, then there will be shortages and once again maximal profit will not be attained. So a rational seller has no interest in setting a non-rational price. "Price gouging" can therefore only mean the presence of an irrational seller.

As for the oil industry, you'd have to be an idiot to think that an industry within a market with high competition and low profit margins could possibly act irrationally and stay in business.

Please, if you don't understand basic economics, morality or politics, don't talk about it. You only make people like me mad.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Moral judgment / War on Drugs

I read an article on memetics recently that brought to my mind the following question. How well does the claim that Christianity is necessary for moral judgment fit with "Jesus"' admonition of "judge not lest ye be judged" and his calls for "universal love" ?

I'm gonna go ahead and say, once again, that presuppositionalists are full of it.

Norm Stamper, ex-police chief of Seattle, has a lot of interesting things to say about the War on Drugs (to which both the anti-individualism of statism and Christianity's anti-worldly attitude have made big contributions) :

Lasting far longer than any other of our national conflicts, the drug war has been prosecuted with equal vigor by Republican and Democratic administrations, with one president after another — Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush — delivering sanctimonious sermons, squandering vast sums of taxpayer money and cheerleading law enforcers from the safety of the sidelines.

It's not a stretch to conclude that our draconian approach to drug use is the most injurious domestic policy since slavery. (...) In 1980, 580,900 Americans were arrested on drug charges. By 2003, that figure had ballooned to 1,678,200. We're making more arrests for drug offenses than for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape and aggravated assault combined. Feel safer?

I've witnessed the devastating effects of open-air drug markets in residential neighborhoods: children recruited as runners, mules and lookouts; drug dealers and innocent citizens shot dead in firefights between rival traffickers bent on protecting or expanding their markets; dedicated narcotics officers tortured and killed in the line of duty; prisons filled with nonviolent drug offenders; and drug-related foreign policies that foster political instability, wreak health and environmental disasters, and make life even tougher for indigenous subsistence farmers in places such as Latin America and Afghanistan. All because we like our drugs — and can't have them without breaking the law.

Don't miss the second part of my "Roman chat" series, below. Thank you !

Presuppositionalism, Roman style

Another IM conversation in the Roman States of America. What happens when Vesta turns presup...


NoGods : Oh hey, what's up ? Still holding on to the old Roman/Greek myths ?
Vesta29 : They're not myths, they're historical ! Anyway, I'm a presuppositionalist now.
NoGods : Presa what ?
Vesta29 : Presuppositionalist.
NoGods : What the Hades does that mean ?
Vesta29 : It means that I believe in the gods because they are necessary for the existence of logic, science and morality.
NoGods : Um... why ? The gods didn't have anything to do with it.
Vesta29 : Prometheus brought fire to man, which brought us heat, cooking, protection...
NoGods : Using the GREEK myths again, huh ?
Vesta29 : IT'S THE SAME THING ! Stop bringing up the Greek argument ! Anyway, without Prometheus we wouldn't have any science.
NoGods : And ah... you know he exists because the myths say so, right ?
Vesta29 : Right.
NoGods : Well I don't believe in them.
Vesta29 : All right, so how did we get the intricate harmony of natural law ?
NoGods : Let me guess... the deities move each part of nature according to their role.
Vesta29 : Exactly !
NoGods : Uh... no. We can measure and understand how natural laws work without using the notion of deities.
Vesta29 : Yes, but where do they come from ?
NoGods : They don't "come from" anywhere. They are our way of understanding how things change. They exist in their particular way because things exist in their particular way.
Vesta29 : Yea, but see, without the deities all it is, is matter in motion. It wouldn't have any laws. The deities mold the flow of matter into the Forms desired by the gods.
NoGods : That's fucking stupid.
Vesta29 : AHA ! See, you can't answer !
NoGods : Listen, in science it's just matter in motion, but we still can explain perfectly how the natural laws arise from its nature.
Vesta29 : There are many things you still can't explain ! Like how you know right from wrong ! Or how there is so much design in the universe.
NoGods : We know right from wrong because evolution gave us the means to deal with a primitive environment, and we figure out the rest ourselves. And there is no design in the universe.
Vesta29 : Yes there is !
NoGods : Then how come there are natural disasters and evil ?
Vesta29 : The gods are like us, they quarrel and dispute, they make mistakes like we do. So naturally there will always be problems with their domain. That's what happens when you design by committee.
NoGods : Yea, that makes some sense... but still an inferior explanation compared to the scientific one.
Vesta29 : But superior to the one of any other religion. Like monotheism for example : why would a single, infinite, clear-headed god create evil ? That's ridiculous !
NoGods : Yea, I have to agree about that one. Pantheonism makes more sense.
Vesta29 : And what about morality ? We know that pederastry is right and adultery is wrong because the myths tell us so. Instead of lusting after boys as they should, men would go around coveting their neighbour's wife...
NoGods : Um, Ares was not punished after committing adultery with Aphrodite, just humiliated.
Vesta29 : Yea, and that's bad. You shouldn't want to be humiliated. So that's where morality comes from.
NoGods : Not wanting to be humiliated is a natural emotional desire. Nothing to do with the gods.
Vesta29 : But the gods gave us that want.
NoGods : No they didn't. Evolution did.
Vesta29 : The gods !
NoGods : Evolution !
Vesta29 : The gods !
NoGods : Evolution !
Vesta29 : Evolution !
NoGods : The gods ! Ah dammit. You got me there.
Vesta29 : Yea, I sure did.
NoGods : In conclusion, you're wrong.
Vesta29 : No, listen. Did you know they found the Argo during an expedition under the Mediterranean ? That means the myths are all 100% true !
NoGods : Good grief.