Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Friday, March 31, 2006

Revelations are altitude sickness ? / New blog / Torturing Logic

A tentative studies posits that revelations from "Jesus", "Moses" and Mohammed" may actually be the result of altitude sickness. I'm glad that we've settled the issue of how these fictional characters came to have fictional experiences. Thanks.

My friend Brad has a new blog, "I probably think you’re wrong.", where he posts his replies to the editor and opinion pieces. Check it out !

I posted statistics on how Christians supported torture more than secular people. An article from Reason Magazine - "Torturing Logic" - gets us into the twisted minds of people who support torture, especially in the government.

Torture is the ultimate depravity. Fittingly, the torture debate has featured some new lows in depravity of the rhetorical kind. Leading conservative pundits, including Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, and Thomas Sowell, have derided opposition to torture as “moral preening” or “moral exhibitionism.” Others made an issue of the homosexuality of journalist Andrew Sullivan, who has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of torture. After Sullivan condemned a notorious incident in which a female interrogator pretended to smear an Al Qaeda suspect with her menstrual blood in order to make him unclean in the eyes of his God, The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto suggested that Sullivan’s reaction came from disgust at female physiology related to a lack of sexual experience with women.

To this I must add that, given the Christianity prevalent in the United States, I am not surprised at all that torture is easily rationalized. After all, isn't torture really what Christianity is all about ?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thanks to J-Walk !

The famous J-Walk blog noticed my post about Christians and abortions. I recommend his blog to anyone - especially since he started making entries from a more atheistic position. His comments sections are becoming more and more interesting...

By the way, in case there are any new readers, the political series is over now. We're back to your regular moral topics. All the statists can look up from the Communist Manifesto and rejoin the blog. ;)

Religion and politics : collectivist blood brothers part 3

7. They are both the opiates of the masses, and the parasites of the masses. Both religion and government are parasites on the intelligence, creativity and productivity of individuals - and they themselves produce nothing of substance unless such production can lead to more popularity or support for the belief system. They are also parasites on people's minds in the sense that once you have convinced someone that without God there is no purpose or morality, or that without government there is no society or morality (and in the case of all-encompassing political ideologies, purpose too), and that you have everyone convinced that there is no alternative, you've got an all-encompassing worldview that is very hard to shake off. Finally, they both prey on the least fortunate, by exploiting them while making them believe that God/government will solve all their problems (in this world or in the next). Pocket dictators keep 80% of the world's population in servitude and poverty for their own unbridled greed for power, riches and status (and then come together at the UN's tables to promote "human rights").

There is, however, one important difference : government enslaves bodies first, minds second, while religion enslaves minds first, bodies second.

8. They both seek to stratify society between the ruling class (those who have authority) and the masses (those who don't). Within the ruling class, there are different sub-categories :

the leaders - Both the figureheads, their acolytes, and the bureaucrats who take the day-to-day decisions. In politics we have a clear body of government that delimitates this. In religion, it depends on the sect - the Catholic Church is perhaps the best known stratified and organized structure, but each sect has its own leaders.

the goons - Those who use force or intimidation to further the leaders' agenda. In politics you have the police and military as main tools of force. Religions do not need organized coercion because religion is predicated on subverting man's mind, and you don't need force when you have already enslaved people's minds. Nevertheless, they still have their media snipers (like Robert Falwell or Bill O'Reilly), and the state's extensive goon network can sometimes serve religious interests, depending on how much separation of church and state there is.

the shills - Those who are paid or supported by the leadership and therefore tend to promote the belief system. For government, you have the academia, some of the media, unions (if you have a syndicalist government), and religion. For religion, theologians and religious charities would enter in this category.

the amoral technocrats - Those who don't necessarily take a moral position but whose work still sustains the belief system. Doctors, engineers, military officers, public school teachers enter in this category. I don't think there's really anything corresponding to this in the religious area, although the way the Catholic Church tries to co-opt scientists these days is perhaps analogous.

I have a hard time fitting televangelists in these categories, however. They are not leaders in the organizational sense but more like rogue power-brokers, multi-millionaire traveling salesmen, who also use intimidation to try to suppress opposition, and also use their vast influence to shill their own brand of religion. It seems to me like televangelists are parasites on religion - parasites of parasites ! What a thought.

Also, there are two sub-categories within the masses :

the workhorses - Also called the "middle class". They must be exploited as much as possible without actually getting them to complain too much so they stop working for your benefit.

the victims - Also called the "lower class". Their needs and free time makes them perfect ideological tools. These are the people you have to pretend to help, while actually manipulating them for your belief system.

Extreme forms of religion and government cannot co-exist, because they are both collectivist parasites of the same kind. When historically you see an extreme form of religion (examples : Catholicism in the Middle Ages, Islam now), you will see that it has taken over the laws and the coercive power in its area. When you see an extremely developed form of government (examples : Nazism, Communism, totalitarism in general), you will see it take over the religious institutions in its area or try to eliminate them.

When they co-exist in milder forms, synergy can exist. In Western societies, we have the basic concept of separation of church and state, keeping them away from each other's throats, but the state supports the church monetarily (absence of taxation, subsidies for religious charities, letting "religious schools" operate) and most religious sects validate and justify the state's existence through their teachings. You could argue that the United States' government is being subverted right now by the fundamentalist agenda, but that's another issue. But all in all, the separation of church and state only ensures that the two tyrants of church and state won't have the opportunity to fight for dominance - it is of little benefit to the individual. Getting whacked by a policeman who works for the church or for the government doesn't make much difference to your spleen.

There is one last resemblance : the necessity of government is a fiction, just like the necessity of God is a fiction. Both are extremely harmful to the individualist thirst for progress that has brought mankind up from its natural state and into our modern values and our modern world, and still oppress billions of unfortunate today. To these problems, the only fundamental answer is : individualism.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Christian moral hypocrisy #34293

The study concludes that in the year 2000, Christians were responsible for 570,000 abortions. Catholics were found to be the worst offenders, with abortion rates higher than the national average.

"God or Not" is a failure !

Surprise, surprise. I AM has decided to shut down the God or Not Carnival, due to lack of religious submissions.

I couldn't be happier, or less surprised. Of course, that means the entry just below was written for nothing. Well, enjoy it anyway.

The glory of Evolution

Everything has been said about Neo-Darwinism and Christian Creationism/"Intelligent Design" from the scientific and political standpoint. However, my specialty of sorts on this blog is individualist morality. And very little is being said about morality in this debate. It is clear to me that both sides have a lot to say about morality - and I am definitely not talking about Social Darwinism.

This idea was first introduced to me by an article in Tech Central Station, "The Darwinists Are Back", on some policy consequences of the truth of evolution, such as the fact that non-genetic parents are much more likely to harm or kill children in their care, men's innate need for power, and what we can learn from the natural diet of homo sapiens in regards to obesity. These issues show that all areas of life should be informed by science. But they are not necessarily moral issues.

Perhaps a more interesting moral discussion is the consequence of both positions on human purpose and values. And this comes from their position on the origin and nature of human beings.

Neo-Darwinism teaches us that human beings are part of the animal kingdom, and that all forms of life come from a common ancestor - that there is a fundamental unity of all life. This implies epistemically that we are able to understand our origins and our development as a species. This is, of coure, a natural consequence of it being a scientific question, as science assumes that we are able to understand reality and arrive at the truth through a rigorous process. It is, therefore, affirming of the human intelligence and our capacity to know.

It also tells us that, to the extent that our mental life and behaviour is genetic, we are able to undertand a large part of ourselves and adapt to it. This means that we can be happy with ourselves, instead of living in a repressed state, which leads to neurosis, violence and unhappiness. Neo-Darwinism also highlights the beauty and elegance of natural processes.

But most importantly, all of this makes a very strong stance for self-directed purpose. The knowledge we gain from Neo-Darwinism about our own nature gives us the impetus we need to direct our own purpose as individuals. It tells us that we are nothing more, nothing less than individual organisms that are the result of a natural process that has been going on for billions of year, and that only the individual can give himself purpose and meaning, using the tools that morality gives us. Neo-Darwinism gives the greater context to our lives which used to be the province of religion.

What about Christian Creationism, or its mealy-mouthed equivalent, "Intelligent Design" ? What does it teach us about morality ? Well, for one thing, it tells us that although we look like animals, we are not animals at all but rather something entirely incomprehensible called a "soul", which is unnatural and unknowable. The lesson here is that our origins and development are completely outside of our reach. It teaches us that the individual alone is completely epistemically impotent, and must depend on religious authorities or God to feed him untestable answers. It is a denial of human intelligence.

Christian Creationism teaches us that our lives are in the hands of a violent, unpredictable, unjust deity, which condemns people for the crimes of their ancestors, and imposes moral orders which go counter to human nature. Trying to follow these rules lead to neurosis, violence and unhappiness. This also tells us that self-directed purpose is pointless, and that our lives are outside of our control.

Should we be so surprised that American schoolchildren have an elevated rate of teen pregnancies, and that 23% use hard drugs compared to 6% in Europe, according to the World Health Organization ? Seems to me that these children have learned their lesson. Maybe the finger should be pointed at Creationism and religion in the schools, not at the study of science !

The Creationists are therefore correct on one point : Neo-Darwinism and Creationism are not just biological positions but also have important moral repercussions. On what those repercussions are, however, they have it completely backwards. They see themselves as the righteous liberators of our science-burdened youth, re-establishing order in a troubled world. In reality, they are poisoners of the youth, pushing away individualism and rationality in favour of mindless, destructive belief.

To even believe in "theistic evolution" (insofar as such a thing makes any sense at all) is to give up on being honest. An honest person would say "okay, we figured out evolution, now let's figure out this whole emergence of life thing". A "theistic evolutionist" gives the pretense of being reasonable by accepting the obvious truth of Neo-Darwinism and yet refuses to shine the same light on the emergence of life, because he is unwilling to concede his religious beliefs. Both the Creationist and the theistic evolutionist are dishonest.

Neo-Darwinism has been hijacked by liberal fanatics as their standard against right-wing lunacy. Let's rip it from their hands and reclaim it for what it really is : a scientific truth, which requires a commitment to reality, and the only proper context to reclaim the purpose of the individual against all belief systems.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bad Boy Bubby

From the movie "Bad Boy Bubby" :

The Scientist: [plays organ music in church]
Bubby: Jesus can see everything I do... and he's going to beat me brainless!
The Scientist: Come down.
[Scene change; they are in a factory]
The Scientist: You see, no one's going to help you Bubby, because there isn't anybody out there to do it. No one. We're all just complicated arrangements of atoms and subatomic particles - we don't live. But our atoms do move about in such a way as to give us identity and consciousness. We don't die; our atoms just rearrange themselves. There is no God. There can be no God; it's ridiculous to think in terms of a superior being. An inferior being, maybe, because we, we who don't even exist, we arrange our lives with more order and harmony than God ever arranged the earth. We measure; we plot; we create wonderful new things. We are the architects of our own existence. What a lunatic concept to bow down before a God who slaughters millions of innocent children, slowly and agonizingly starves them to death, beats them, tortures them, rejects them. What folly to even think that we should not insult such a God, damn him, think him out of existence. It is our duty to think God out of existence. It is our duty to insult him. Fuck you, God! Strike me down if you dare, you tyrant, you non-existent fraud! It is the duty of all human beings to think God out of existence. Then we have a future. Because then - and only then - do we take full responsibility for who we are. And that's what you must do, Bubby: think God out of existence; take responsibility for who you are.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Teleological TAG

Derek Sansone, a new team member at Debunking Christianity, wrote this post to to expand upon a previous post discussed here.

Question of the Day #34: Open-Minded

Image hosting by PhotobucketWhat does it mean to be open-minded, and if so, to what extent?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tank for Sale / Ten Christian Lunacies

Do you want a JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank for sale ? Only 20 000 dollars. What a deal !

This tank R-O-C-K-S! Literally- the 400-watt sound-system keeps me rockin like a crazy man as I'm dishing out justice commando style. Wow. I just can't say enough. And the kids love it, too- imagine the look of terror in the eyes of the enemy as I'm dropping off my kid's team to their soccer game. Shock and awe, my friends, SHOCK AND AWE!

From the blog Ironwolf, "Ten Christian Lunacies" : original sin, salvation, substitutionary atonement, Heaven and Hell, the Problem of Evil, the morality of divine edict, holy apathy, mysteries answered by mysteries, airtight beliefs, and disturbing mythological tales held as true. There's a lot of moral sloppiness in this entry, but I'm sure other atheists will find this interesting. For my part, this is pretty much the only part I really agree with :

Christians, like most people, don’t usually let personal belief in miracles affect their actions. We go about our daily lives believing that natural laws always apply, and that they are not capriciously suspended on the whim of some spirit-being. Many Christians, however, do claim to have experienced miracles in their lives or they know of some relative’s friend who claims to have witnessed a miracle. Unfortunately, like Bigfoot and UFOs, these personal miracles are never rigorously documented, and so forever remain in the shadowy realm of personal anecdotes. Furthermore, by some very reasonable calculations, unusual things, even things some would consider miracles, are continuously occuring and completely attributable to statistics.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mr. Neil MIA / Alleee's "Civil discussion"

Does anyone know what happened to Mr. Neil ? Ever since the Carnival he has been MIA. His questions are running out and we may need a new question-writer if he doesn't show up. Anyone want the job ?

Hellbound Alleee is finally getting some linkage with her "Civil Discussion". You can download her audio version, with music, right on the post. Great work Alleee.

Passion of the Christ 2

A little weekend entertainment...

Passion of the Christ 2

Religion and politics : collectivist blood brothers part 2

3. If we look at the facts of reality, we see that, while irrationality is widespread (in no small part due to religion and politics), people by and large behave towards each other peacefully and are always ready to help each other. Religion and politics, on the other hand, are predicated on the premise that man is fundamentally corrupt/depraved and must be controlled by force. They may have begun as means to help people, but memetic evolution has transformed and twisted them in the opposite direction. Christianity, for example, has the notion of original sin - that all human beings are depraved by virtue of human nature. Like all belief systems, it must manufacture its own imaginary problem in order to provide a solution that only it can provide.

The premise of government force is that people's values are corrupted by "selfishness", which is really a code-word for "individualism" (they certainly don't mind collectives acting selfishly). Because of this "selfishness", man must be controlled by force for the "common good". How this "common good" is defined specifically depends on your political party or belief system (utilitarianism, syndicalism or victimocracy for the left, nationalism, plutocracy or police state for the right), but in all cases it is contrary to individualism. If it was individualist, then there would be no need for it to co-opt political power at all : a person does not promote peace by threatening people with guns, his own or the government's, but rather by arguing for that value and setting an example.

4. Man's corrupt nature can be redeemed by the transcendent authority. Well, this comes without saying. If you make up a problem but you don't make up the solution, you have nothing to brainwash people with except fatalism, and fatalism doesn't sell. People want solutions to their imaginary problems. So Christianity made up "Jesus" as their imaginary solution to the imaginary problem of original sin. If you believe in him, and only if you believe in him, can you be "saved". Likewise, only the widespread imposition of government and its made-up laws (which only benefit government) can save society from the imaginary evils of individualism.

5. This creates a vicious circle of failure and belief reinforcement. As the belief system inevitably fails - because it is based on evil and lies that run counter to human nature, the nature of societies, and the nature of reality - all failures are interpreted as a need for stronger belief and stronger expression of that belief in society (i.e. jam it even more in everyone's throats). This, in turn, accentuates the problems, and so on. When the amoral rules of Christianity clash with natural instincts, what are you supposed to do ? Pray harder, repress harder, go to church more. Christianity made the United States one of the most depraved developed nation in the world, so what do they propose as a solution ? More religion, cram it more into people's throats, brainwash children more and better.

We see the same dynamic in government. Most government programs do not start with a problem, but rather with the desire of one group to use political power to oppress another group. The Drug War, for example, was rooted in racism. In the United States, opium was banned to oppose Chinese opium dens, cocaine was banned to stop black "coke fiends", and marijuana was banned to oppose the influx of Mexican workers. The Drug War is simply a part of racism that broke off and became a perpetual war. Now it is being sold to the gullible statist population as helping society by threatening people into staying alive, healthy and clear-headed, simply because racism does not sell quite as much any more. This is, of course, a manufactured problem, as the most destructive drugs that exist - alcohol and tobacco - are not part of the War on Drugs' enemies.

The net effect of the Drug War has been to make our streets far less safe than they were, and to make drug addiction far more dangerous and widespread than it would be otherwise. These hardships give governments the opportunity to present themself as the solution to the problems they manufactured. They use this opportunity to expand police powers, and in the case of American imperialism attack third-world drug-producing countries, forcing drug production and consumption further and further into the black market, reinforcing the problems caused by the policy. This dynamic applies to any sustained government policy, such as the War on Poverty, the War on Terror, gun control, protectionism, monetary policy, and so on.

6. Both suffer from Special Pleading. Because the authority is assumed to be transcendent, it is not bound to the same moral rules as we are. Any action, even war and genocide, committed by this authority is justified by higher ideals (or unknown ideals, in the case of a hidden god). When made aware of the incredible extent of the atrocities of the Bible, Christians routinely whitewash God's moral status by stating that God is transcendent and therefore cannot be evaluated on the same basis as human beings. The actions believed to be committed by God - genocide, cursing the whole of mankind, sending people to eternal torture - are, even isolated, morally reprehensible in a way as hard to understand as it is to understand World War 2 or the Holocaust. Without the pretense of transcendence, even putting their moral status in doubt would be an enormity, just as discussing the moral status of Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot is considered an enormity.

Governments in developed countries are not nearly as morally repugnant as God. Nevertheless, they benefit from that transcendent status in the same exact way. We strongly condemn murder by private citizens, and yet murder by government or because of government (capital punishment, police shootings, medication withholding by the FDA, gun control, etc), organized murder (war), or slavery for organized murder (draft) are seen as "business as usual" and as something that can be rationally defended. There is no possible way to rationally defend these actions when committed by individuals, and a person who would hold these as virtuous would be considered a monster, but such immorality when done for a government is justified by the "common good" (which is to say, the twisted values of politicians).

Go to part 3.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Jesus: More Reasons Why He's a Space Alien

Paul Manata has two blogs! Or at least more than one. I didn't know that. How cool. Since I hijacked his thread on Pressing the Antithesis, Paul posted a link on Kill The Afterlife to a post on Triablogue which is a challenge to me to prove that Jesus cannot be 100% man and 100% God simultaneously.

I haven't read much on this specific topic, but I thought it would be fun to test some arguments and see how Paul and the other Christians respond. And I would like to get some atheist feedback as well.

Here is where I posted a few starter arguments in the comments section:

1. Man is finite.
2. God is infinite.
3. A God cannot be finite.
4. Jesus could not have been a man.

Here’s another one:

1. All humans are either Adam or Eve, or descendants of Adam or Eve.
2. Adam, Eve, and all their descendants are cursed with original sin.
3. Jesus did was not cursed with original sin.
4. Jesus could not have been a descendant of Adam or Eve.

What do you think? If anyone has any other arguments they would like to throw out, I suggest you post them.

Religion and politics : collectivist blood brothers part 1

Note to all the government lovers who read this blog : this three-part article argues that your belief system is as evil and wrong as religious dogmas. Please go read the Communist Manifesto and come back on April 1st. I warned you.


I have always affirmed that our goal, as evangelists in the cultural war, should be not to promote atheism (which is, after all, nothing) but rather individualism. It is the perversion of personal values, total lack of responsibility and injustice brought about by religion that causes social damage, not religion in itself. The proof of that is that if religious people just prayed in the closet and kept their religion to themselves, compartimentalizing it away from their children's education, the facts of science and natural morality, religion would cause little or no problems at all. But then again it would be a very different kind of religion - monotheistic religions survive precisely because they are able to take over people's minds and make them do their dirty work. If they did not exist, others would arise.

The basic epistemic and moral premise of Christianity is : God (a being exterior to the individual, completely alien to human nature) is the ultimate authority. The mystic stance must be taken because God is a mystic (non-material, unknowable) creature. Empirical facts are only valuable insofar as they do not contradict God or his religion (whatever you decide that religion is). Divine Command Theory is the only moral stance because whatever God orders is good. God is the sole barometer of what is true and what is right.

To this, atheists reply that there's no good reason to believe such nonsense, and that the notion of a genocidal, dictatorial being - whatever its ontological status - having moral authority over us is insane, and that man is very well able to understand the universe without such beliefs, thank you very much.

An individualist should go further and state clearly that, since we are all individuals and no one can think, act, evaluate or benefit for us, no one else but the individual can be his own epistemic and moral arbiter. No other being, however powerful, or no collective of such beings, can think, act, evaluate or benefit for anyone else. Also, no one shares the exact blend of circumstances and values that make us the moral agents we are, and to claim to be able to judge for someone else is plainly silly.

As I have pointed out before, religious belief systems and political belief systems are both collectivist in nature. And no, I'm not just talking about conservatives - left and right-wing alike are equally collectivist. They both believe that the individual interest must be opposed by the collective will of "the people", simply in different ways. The liberal pretension of "rebellion against power" is nothing more then marketing positioning designed to attract certain segments of the population (like atheists who don't know better).

All politicians have the same values - lust for unearned power, unbridled greed, getting votes, getting acclaim - and they pass the same evil laws, equally pander to the powerful, the rich, the popular, and spout the same rhetoric in order to achieve their corrupt values. I think most people are aware of that fact, but still vote for politicians and support government because they believe, absurdly, that the existence of government is morally right.

This being said, the point I want to raise is how similar religion and politics are as collectivist systems - based on a transcendent, authoritarian entity as director of action (God for one, government for the other).

1. Monotheistic religions and political groups both exist at the lowest level of morality, the authoritarian stage (order-based). In religion, God sends people to Heaven or Hell based on their belief or lack thereof, and also sends punishments to sinners in this life. God does not give principles of living or reason with people, he gives orders to be obeyed. The Bible also has many narratives to inspire fear of punishment.

Government enforces morality by punishment (fines, jail, capital punishment) and by giving its agents (police) the privileges it needs to root out criminals (a term it can expand at its leisure). The laws are not principles of living or an attempt to rationally discuss social problems, but rather orders to be obeyed. Rational discussion of social problems is, in fact, counter-productive to government, because it is easier to control a population that kow-tows to political force to solve their problems instead of seeking peaceful and individualist solutions. Also, it is easier to control a society where people believe that the only choice they have is between different kinds of bullies (left-wing or right-wing), and are completely resigned to that fact.

In terms of narratives, children's stories tend to be somewhat too simple to accomodate concepts such as "government power", but popular movies and literature definitely tend to reinforce political collectivism. Scientists and businessmen - people who represent voluntary exchange - are shown as corrupt and morally wrong, while policemen and soldiers - people who represent the gun of government - are shown as morally righteous. Nationalist and cultural concepts are routinely glorified at the expense of individual benefit.

2. Monotheistic religions and political groups both see morality as a top-down (outside-in) process, instead of a bottom-up (inside-out) process. This comes back to the notion of individualism versus collectivism. To the religious believer, epistemology and morality are not discovered by the individual and then applied to the spiritual context, but rather imposed to the individual by a transcendent entity.

The same thing applies to government, which is transcendent to the individual. We know this because the "common good" that government seeks has no relation to individual benefit, and therefore is transcendent to any single individual, and because government is not supposed to have any of the foibles of individual humans. Both of these fallacies derive from the collectivist justification of government. Government imposes morality through, as I said before, laws and regulations. While government advocates claim that direct democracy solves this problem, all it would do, if it could ever work, would be to make morality imposed by the social context instead of government.

Go to part 2.

Christians Incensed Over Afghan Trial

And yet another bulletin from the front lines of the Christian War on Morality...

An AP story quotes several Christians who are outraged over the trial of an Afghani man named Abdul Rahman, who stands in violation of Sharia law by converting to Christianity. Apostasy in Islam calls for no less than the death penalty.

Christian Martyr Power, activate!

Naturally, the American Christian powers-that-be are weighing in. Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council:
"That there should even be such a trial is an outrage. How can we congratulate ourselves for liberating Afghanistan from the rule of jihadists only to be ruled by radical Islamists who kill Christians? Americans will not give their blood and treasure to prop up new Islamic fundamentalist regimes. Religious freedom is not just 'an important element' of democracy; it is its cornerstone. Religious persecution leads inevitably to political tyranny. Five hundred years of history confirm this. Americans have not given their lives so that Christians can be put to death."
Former Nixon aide and current minister Chuck Colson said,
"I have supported the Bush administration's foreign policy because I came to believe that the best way to stop Islamo-fascism was by promoting democracy," Colson said. "But if we can't guarantee fundamental religious freedoms in the countries where we establish democratic reforms, then the whole credibility of our foreign policy is thrown into serious question."
Indeed. I find it interesting that it takes a Christian being threatened in another country for American Christians to wax poetic about "religious freedom." I wonder if we'd hear a peep from either of them if the Afghan government wanted to execute an atheist apostate instead. I'm also reminded of the John Walker Lindh case from the beginning of the Afghanistan invasion- I don't recall hearing much sympathy for a Christian apostate-turned Muslim.

Ironically, Mr. Rahman is suspected of being mentally ill, and may not even be capable of standing trial. Of course, since religion is itself a mental illness, that means the whole proceeding and protest is nothing more than the manifestation of insanity.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Christians proven less moral... AGAIN

As if we needed MORE evidence...

Pew Poll - September and October 2005

Percentage of people who oppose torture in most or all circumstances
Catholics - 49%
Average - 53%
Protestants - 55%
Secular - 57%

I'm surprised so many Catholics are against torture. Haven't they read the book of Job ?

Happy Birthday to GTA!

It's hard to believe that it was a year ago that Goosing the Antithesis began. While it may have started with small aspirations, it's turned into something quite impressive. At this writing, GTA is valued at 13.6 billion on Blogshares, averaging about 300 page views per day, and is the 12th ranked atheist blog on Technorati.

And there shouldn't be any question of who's responsible: Francois Tremblay.

Franc has led this blog in a stellar direction, with an uncompromising dedication to the philosophical and moral condemnation of the irrationality of religion. Let me be the first to congratulate him for his work on the first anniversary of this blog, and I hope that there are many more to come.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Paul Manata Reveals Truth: Jesus Not Human

I recently wrote a reply to one of Paul Manata's long winded posts about abortion, and when I went to go inform him in his comments section, I came across a real gem of a quote.

In the comments section of his recent post, Paul Manata is addressing some atheist as "vile sinner," and the atheist objects. Manata defends his ad hominem attack by saying:

PM: Well, since all men are sinners, and you're a man (i.e., mankind), then you're a sinner.

I laughed my Goddamn ass off. Literally. Naturally I had to ask him:

Paul, was Jesus a sinner?

If not, then how can he be a man?

I can't wait to see him squirm out of this one, or ban me from his comments section. I think this should be submitted to "Fundies Say the Darndest Things."

So much for Christianity.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Question of the Day 33: The Waffling Christian

Image hosting by PhotobucketA while back, Aaron Kinney caught Matt Slick with his pants down and posted it in this topic. In this topic, Matt Slick couldn't help but conclude that children born out of rape should not bear accountabity for the sins of their fathers. A strange assertion, indeed, considering the doctrine of original sin in Christianity, in which all of mankind is held accountable for the sins of two.

That's the funny thing about Christians. They'll actually sound like human beings until they notice that you're paying attention to them. Then they frantically start marginalizing moral behavior within the framework of their absurd belief system.

My question: Why do they do this? How can they waffle back and forth like that and not be aware of what they're actually doing?

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Price of Leaving Christian Conformity

I was listening to Stefan Molyneux's podcast entitled, "The Economics of Conformity," and I was struck by his description of the reasons why power structures levy high costs for apostasy, in an effort to coerce members from abandoning conformity to the group. For certain political groups, violence or the threat of violence is the typical cost, but for groups without that power, it's more typical to attack the apostate's (or potential apostate's) social network and reputation.

It occurred to me that this effect explains perfectly the fascination with atheists, and particularly ex-Christians, that I've seen with a number of Christians. Interactions between the two groups are never productive- they generally devolve into denigration of the apostate's personal history, particularly religious history. I never could understand why this was the ultimate conclusion of their argument, because aside from being immaterial logically, it never really seemed to matter to the apostate. Ultimately, of course, the legitimacy of one's own religious convictions are subjective, and it's impossible for another person to speak confidently of one's intent. So it seemed like an absurd accusation/conclusion, and I just chalked it up to the incoherent nature of religious thought.

But I think it makes more sense to look at it from the perspective of constructing a high cost to abandoning Christian conformity. Christians who attack atheists and question their religious history aren't doing so to make a point to the atheists themselves; they're doing so to make a point to other Christians. If you allow yourself to question the validity of Chrisitanity, your reputation will be attacked and your present legitimacy as a Christian will be thrown out. When debating with an atheist, it doesn't matter for the Christian to actually win objectively- all he has to do is make Christian-relevant points against his atheist opponent, and his job is complete. It's almost as if the debating Christian isn't really speaking to his opponent- he's constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure that his points resonate with the choir.

EDIT: By sheer coincidence, Evan May at Triablogue has reinforced my point.
"But, when a Christian comes across an apostate in an apologetic vehicle, it should be viewed as an opportunity. Perhaps, to be used to reach to this person’s life, but more so to portray the goodness of the gospel to those who are watching. It isn’t for my own benefit that I show the opposition to the faith to be the foolishness that it is. And it might not even be for the benefit of the opponent. However, in all of this the Christian faith will come out looking glorious to those who watch. Christians will be strengthened; religious seekers will find a home in Christ. The gospel will be proclaimed. Though it will harden some (which is, we must not forget, God’s work as well), it will save God’s chosen."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The scientific Fall of God part 2

The issue, however, goes much deeper than that. The very act of observation itself is based on naturalism. If I was to believe in a god, I would be plunged in immediate and deep epistemic anxiety. Even what I know about this god, could have been planted, by this very god, in my mind. In this way, I could be deluded, through supernatural intervention, to believe that my god is all-good when it is in fact all-evil. But most importantly, the god could also make me see things fall to the ground when in fact they float, or make them appear to fall faster or slower than they really fall. This god could very easily fool me into believing in a law of gravity which is in fact a complete divine fabrication. Better yet, it could simply implant an unassailable belief that all my acts of observations confirm this law, when in fact they do not.

To this, the religious man would no doubt answer : "but my god wouldn't do that". Maybe so, but how can he possibly know that he is not being deluded in saying that also ? Since the god presented to us by the Bible is extremely evil, and yet widely believed to be a paragon of morality, the "delusion" scenario makes a lot of sense, if we assume this god exists at all

The search for truth is not only based on observation, but it is also based on a desire to find truth, greed for truth : in short, to value truth. But what does it mean to value something ? It means that we give it objective worth to ourselves. If a god exists, then on what grounds can we make such an evaluation ? If the religious man states that truth helps set you free, well, that's a causation that is subject to natural law, therefore a naturalistic statement. If the religious man states that truth is of practical benefit in our every day lives, once again, that is a naturalistic statement.

As a collectivist belief system, religion by definition has no values to inculcate to the human being. Such a morality is inherently utilitarian to the belief system. The fact that science has ingrained values, such as the values of truth and rationality, and yet manages to be so enormously successful, is a powerful indictment against the collectivist morality of religion, and therefore against the existence of an absolute moral authority called "god".

These are some fundamental reasons why God-belief is epistemically and morally inacceptable. But in all cases, we must remember that two basic kinds of worldviews are opposed. On one side are science and its allies - individualism, naturalism, the value of knowledge and reason, material purpose, a knowable universe - versus religion - collectivism, supernaturalism, absence of values, mental and moral submission, divine unchangeable purpose, an unknowable universe. Even a non-religious person who adopts the precepts of the second kind (such as liberals and conservatives), fight against science because science is not compatible with their belief system. And a religious person who, by virtue of being a "liberal" Christian or a practical atheist, adopts the precepts of the first kind, has nothing to fear from science (of course, one may question this person's coherency, but that's another issue).

This does not mean, however, that consilience is an option. The very notion of mixing together science and religion implies, as we have seen, fundamental contradictions. Take, for example, the concept of "theistic evolution". For one thing, design and evolution, if true, are the only two processes we know by which organized complexity can be obtained. Yet neither apply to gods, which are neither designed nor evolved. Therefore the fantasy concept "god" contradicts what we know about evolution.

But more importantly, to believe that evolution is true demands one to also assume that natural law applies to living organisms. If a god exists, we have no way of justifying such an assumption. What if this god decides to suddently make it so that, instead of the fittest, the less fit survive ? Or to randomly select animals that survive and die ? Then we would live in a very strange world. What if this god is fooling us into believing in evolution, but really created the universe a week ago, or a year ago, or a few thousand years ago ? Some Christians believe that. If this god exists, how could we know that they are wrong ? How do we know that our evaluation itself is not divine intervention ? And so on.

In essence, science implies that we can know the truth, and religion implies that we cannot know the truth. Science uses epistemic and moral confidence, religion uses epistemic and moral anxiety. That fits both of their modus operandi to a T.

The recent court battles on Intelligent Design only prove that Christianity has lost the epistemic battle. Unlike Creationism, Intelligent Design assumes that natural law is valid, and tries to find flaws in our understanding of these laws (by using concepts such as "Irreducible Complexity"). This concession all but openly concedes the superiority of naturalism over supernaturalism. No longer opposing science outright, Christians are now trying to turn their religion into science, like "Jesus" turned water into wine. This is one miracle that will never happen, but either way, it shows us that the openly admitted worldview of IDers is far more rational than they would ever admit.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The scientific Fall of God part 1

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There's an old bromide, that Christians, agnostics and consilience-loving scientists have managed to make everyone believe, that says "science can't prove gods don't exist".

This, of course, is utter nonsense. There are plenty of scientific arguments disproving the existence of a god, including the Argument from Scale (in Everitt, 2004), Occam’s Razor, the Big Bang Cosmological Argument For God’s Nonexistence, the Argument from Evolution, the Argument From the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and the Argument from Quantum Physics. All of these arguments use facts gleaned from scientific discoveries to show that the concept of gods does not jibe with what we know of the universe.

How can a god exist when nothing can explain its existence ? How can there be a Creator with intent when the Big Bang proves the absence of intent ? How can we assume the existence of something which contradicts basic laws of nature ? To do so is to ask for a renouncement of the intellect altogether.

This entry, however, is not about those arguments. I want to talk of the more fundamental way in which science disproves theism. What is the foundation of science ? Naturalism. More specifically, the idea that everything can be explained by looking at how nature operates. Scientific hypotheses stand or fall on the basis of empirical testing and how they fit previous testing - without any for non-empirical considerations.

The universe of naturalism is a causally self-contained one. It is a universe where no bugaboos exist to change the course of natural law, where everything is observable, ordered, and predictable, at least in theory. It is a universe where the mind of man only faces one obstacle : its own limits and foibles. The Christian universe, on the other hand, is a universe where natural law does not exist, and where man's mind is impotent and must be chained.

The efficacy of science, in effect, is a confirming experiment for atheism and against theism (as discussed on the Occam's Razor page). There is no evil daemon, no god, mucking up the mechanisms of the universe.

This is not a totally ironclad argument for the non-existence of gods - it could be, for example, that gods are mucking up the universe and we simply haven't reached the frontiers of science yet. But this is merely a "god of the gaps" argument. It could be equally true that more evidence for the non-existence of gods hasn't been discovered yet, that would make the "god of the gaps" dissapear completely. We can't make a determination based on unknowns : we have to use the evidence we have at hand. And all the evidence at hand indicates non-existence.

Any single observation of natural law disproves the concept of gods. If there was a Creator, which randomly unrolled spacetime (or if not randomly, at least in a way that has nothing to do with causality as we understand it, which is functionally the same thing), then the chance that we would obtain any single natural law is ridiculously low. Just take the law of gravity applied to a rock. This rock, at every microsecond, emits gravity (through gravity waves, gravitrons, whatever) for its exact mass, nothing more or less. So if the law of gravity is false, we are expected to believe that this rock completely randomly emits the exact amount of gravity proportional to its mass, every single microsecond. This is the equivalent of believing that you can roll a million dice, get all sixes, and do this millions of times. If anything is absurd in this universe, then this must be it.

I read this recently on a Usenet newsgroup : "I don't think you'll ever find god inside of a 100ml beaker in a science laboratory". Why not ? Did God not create everything ? Shouldn't its designs be apparent in all of Creation, just as man's designs are apparent in all of his creations ? That is to say, if God exists. If it doesn't, then we should not find a god inside of a 100ml beaker, or in anyone's mind, or in a chalice, or in a holy book, or anywhere else ! And this is what we observe.

More in part 2.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Parasitic Nature of Evil

When we talk about "evil" as a force, we have in mind the personifications given to us by Christian dogma. In the fantasy land of Christianity, morality is simplified as a battle between masters (God = good, Satan = evil), with humans as their obedient pawns. This makes for a very simplistic world, which is, as usual, the exact opposite of the truth. In the real world, the individual takes good or evil decisions, supports good or evil values, of his own free will. The evils of Christianity are perpetuated by this ignorance of the facts.

When we speak of evil, therefore, we must always keep in mind that it is an adjective, a property, like "atheist" or "roundness". We routinely talk about what atheism means, even though it is only a property of individuals. So talking about evil is justifiable even if one does not believe in personifications of evil.

With this in mind, what can we say meaningfully about evil things - evil structures, evil values, evil actions ? Since the concept "evil" applies to an almost infinite number of referents, it might seem that they all have nothing in common apart from the fact that they hinder human values. However, that is not quite true.

One thing we can say about evil is that it is parasitic - it depends on the results of good values to survive and thrive. This is easiest to see in the case of collectivist structures (such as religions, governments, cults) and their relation to a society. A religious leader can only seize the resources or exploit the power which already exists. A king, a president, a dictator, can only exploit that which is produced by the vast majority of honest citizens. A cult leader depends on the resources of his brainwashed followers. This is why organized cults, once established, usually target the rich and powerful.

So whatever an evil structure consumes is a wholly parasitic process, and its very existence depends on the work, general moral rectitude, and continuous acceptance of the vast majority of the people in a society. It is not outright evil intentions, but rather the apathy of most people towards these harmful social institutions, which enables their flourishing.

Now let's look at some categories of actions which are considered generally evil. Theft, for example, can be justified in critical or emergency cases, but is generally evil. And yet a thief depends on the production of honest citizens - without resources to steal, theft is completely pointless. Likewise for a liar, who depends on his own credibility (as well as people's credibility in general) for his lies to have any effectiveness at all. Even killing someone out of passion, perhaps the least coherent form of evil there is, still relies on the victim being alive. There are many different kinds of coercion, fraud and lies, but these basic principles apply to all of them.

The general rule, therefore, is that evil will flourish to the extent that good values are being fulfilled in a society, and to the extent that exploitation is possible.

The more developed a society is, the more possibility there is for these belief systems to flourish. Of course, there are opposite memetic pressures also. Organized religion general tends to be selected against because scientific education, sociological education, moral education, and other kinds of education are enemies of belief in organized religion.

A related fact is that people with the most resources to waste are more likely to be victim of these belief systems. Rich white young students are a prime target for political beliefs, cults and religious fundamentalism. "Spiritual seekers" tend to be disaffected rich white people. This is not hard to understand. People with the most resources and the most free time have the most resources to devote to unproductive, or even counterproductive, tasks.

Evil, therefore, is parasitic. This means that evil is destructive, and in the long run self-destructive. The latter is true because most forms of evil lie outside of the context of rights. I don't want to get too much into political concepts (at least not in this entry), but the basic principle here is that evil actions are usually not self-inflicted, because people are inherently self-interested. Evil actions are therefore committed by people who have no interest in preserving that which they are exploiting, and so they will eventually destroy it if left unchecked (in economics, this is called the Tragedy of the Commons).

This phenomena also applies to religion, if we look at religious and cult leaders as agents of memetic infection. By spreading their religious memes around, they are exploiting resources which do not belong to them. Therefore they have no interest in sustaining their existence, and societies infected by fundamentalist religions can become outright non-functional (and the same applies to dictatorships as well).

Evil structures also thrive on subjectivity, especially moral subjectivity. Anything can be justified as long as you can undermine people's confidence in their own reasoning, and reify some collectivist concept as the absolute truth. Organized murder committed by a supreme being, or in the name of a country, or in the name of one religious sect against another, can be made magically moral in the eyes of believers.

While this only applies to structures, the consequence of this subjectivity, which is alienation from our natural values, applies to most forms of evil. Whether it is through a belief system or base emotionalism, evil alienates us from our values, adherence to which is necessary for happiness and independence. It reduces the individual, and by extension society, to impotence, moral tension, guily, destroys his life, and leads to social warfare.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Opposite Day

In the spirit of the God or Not Carnival and the concept of Opposite Days, I am writing this entry as a Christian. Here goes.


Ooooooh shit. I'm at the mercy of an omnipotent asshole.

What's the meaning of life ?

There's no more meaning to life. I'm a cog in a divine plan I can't possibly understand.

How do I know God isn't putting these thoughts in my head ?

How do I know ANYTHING ?

But the Bible says... wait, how do I know the Bible is true ? God could be making me believe that it's true when it's not. How do I know that I'm alive ? Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggghh...

*Grabs a conveniently-placed handgun and shoots his head off*

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Question of the Day #32: Ignorance and Stupidity

Image hosting by PhotobucketWhen engaging Christians, how do we differentiate ignorance and stupidity?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Christians Gotta Have Heart

Craig Sowder happened to mention in a recent blog entry that “the Lord tells us that his word is to be "in our hearts". The heart, of course, is not the blood pumping muscle in our chest, but the inner source of all that man is, and out of his heart flows all that he does.”

This was just a casual aside, and really had nothing to do with the rest of his entry, but it struck me as an odd clarification. Back when I was a Christian, I would have probably not even stopped to think about it- at best I would have stopped and nodded along with him. But now that I’m free of the fog of religious assumptions, I’d like to take a look at why that clarification needs to be made.

First of all, a superficial reading of his statement should be pretty obvious as dead wrong to any rational person. The heart is the central organ of the cardiovascular system, and its function provides all tissues in the body with nutrients, removes wastes, provides quick access for immune cells, and in short, keeps us alive. It is clearly a natural entity, and not supernatural in any way.

So why does Craig feel the need to contradict this fact of physiology so obvious that it’s taught in middle school health classes? Well, old habits die hard.

The workings of human anatomy were largely unknown to ancient peoples, and though they were aware that living people had a certain quality of “life” that was lost when they died, they couldn’t figure out what exactly it was. The most obvious change was that people stopped breathing completely, and so the logical conclusion was that the breath was the living force. Now, of course, we know that breathing is nothing more than gas exchange, and it's one of a number of processes that terminate upon death, but hey, they’re primitive, give them a break. It didn’t take too long for this idea that a material life force to lose coherency, however. The concept that breath was life eventually morphed into the idea that a spirit was life, and we can see this as a vestigial linguistic remnant in both ancient Hebrew and Greek, the languages of the Christian Bible. In both, the same word can be used for both concepts; רוּחַ (ruwach) in Hebrew and πνεύμα (pneuma) in Greek.

The other obvious physical termination at death is the loss of cardiovascular pulse. The earliest experts in human anatomy, the Egyptians, concluded that the heart must be the central organ of life, partially because of its association with blood, partially because of its (more or less) central location, and partially because they didn’t know any better. In their mummification rituals, the heart was removed and placed in its own sacred urn to signify its importance. The brain was unceremoniously removed and discarded as so much trash. This cardiocentrist view of human anatomy remained the norm throughout most of the ancient world, and was by far the most dominant for a long time. Eventually, further anatomical research by the Greeks led to the discovery of the nervous system, and eventually the great Greek physician Hippocrates wrote definitively from the cerebrocentrist perspective. Science really hasn’t looked back since, but the damage to popular understanding had already been done.

The main problem, as is the case with virtually all religious problems, comes from trying to fit a supernatural concept into a natural framework. The idea of the “soul” or the “spirit” is essential to most religions, including Christianity. Christianity teaches that every person has a soul, so the obvious question is… where is the soul? For the cardiocentrist world of ancient history, the answer was obvious- the heart. The heart was believed to contain the center of the natural life force, so of course it was also the center of the supernatural life force. This idea is reflected in the language of the Bible- in Hebrew, the word most often translated as “heart” in English is לֵבָב (lebab), although the word נֶפֶשׁ (nephesh) is also translated as “heart,” but is more commonly translated as “soul.” Both words are seemingly interchangeable, as seen in passages from the Hebrew scriptures.

Deuteronomy 6: “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart (לֵבָב) and with all your soul (נֶפֶשׁ) and with all your might.”

Notice that the words for “heart” and “soul” are used in parallel- a similar theme throughout the Hebrew scriptures. There’s also a parallel drawn between the concept of “heart” and “spirit” using the word “ruwach” that I mentioned above.

Daniel 5: “But when his heart (לֵבָב) was lifted up and his spirit (רוּחַ) became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him.”

There’s a fair bit of overlap between the meaning of the three words, and only one of them has anything to do with a coherent concept. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing in the Hebrew scriptures to firmly cement the word “lebab” as a reference to an anatomical organ- no mention of any physiological aspect of the heart at all. It’s really as if the concept has been completely bastardized by supernatural thinking. As an interesting aside, there is no clear word in ancient Hebrew for the English word, “mind.” The instances in which the word “mind” is used in English translations divide pretty evenly into all three words: heart, spirit, and soul. Since the equivocation of those three falters into incoherence, it’s clear that the Hebrew scriptures fail to provide any basic accuracy of human physiology.

But what about the later Christian scriptures? The Christians were largely Greek-speakers and influenced by Greek culture- surely they were aware of the change from cardiocentrism to cerebrocentrism?

Unfortunately not. The Christian scriptures use the Greek word, καρδιά (kardia), which properly refers to the heart, but which is also given equivalent meaning with the concepts of “soul” and “spirit,” just as in the Hebrew scriptures. Passages in the Christian scriptures clearly indicate that the heart is the center of reason, and not the brain (in fact, the word brain occurs nowhere in the Bible at all).

Matthew 13: “In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart (καρδιά) of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart (καρδιά) and return, and I would heal them.’”

Mark 2: “But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts (καρδιά),”

These passages certainly seem to be talking about the heart as a physical organ, but they’ve clearly blundered- the heart is not an organ that reasons- the brain is. This recognition of the heart as a physical organ is compounded by another passage.

Mark 7: “And He said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart (καρδιά), but into his stomach, and is eliminated?”

I realize that there’s a figurative point being made here, but the illustration draws on the literal relationship between two anatomical components. And the situation doesn’t get any better when we find “καρδιά” being confused with “ψυχή” (psyche), translated as soul.

1 Peter 1: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls (ψυχή) for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart (καρδιά),”

2 Peter 2: “having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls (ψυχή), having a heart (καρδιά) trained in greed, accursed children;”

And we find the same thing happening with the word for “spirit,” πνεύμα (pneuma).

1 Peter 3: “but let it be the hidden person of the heart (καρδιά), with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit (πνεύμα), which is precious in the sight of God.”

And to add insult to injury, the word for “mind,” διάνοια (dianoia).

Hebrews 8: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds (διάνοια), and I will write them on their hearts (καρδιά).”

And why not combine all three in a Synoptic echo of the Deuteronomy passge quoted above?

Mark 12: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (καρδιά), and with all your soul (ψυχή), and with all your mind (διάνοια), and with all your strength.”

Matthew 22: “And He said to him, " You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (καρδιά), and with all your soul (ψυχή), and with all your mind (διάνοια).’”

Luke 10: “And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (καρδιά), and with all your soul (ψυχή), and with all your strength, and with all your mind (διάνοια); and your neighbor as yourself.”

It should be pretty clear by now why people like Craig find it necessary to distinguish between a natural organ and a supernatural incoherent concept- their scriptures hopelessly muddle coherency with incoherency. But does that even solve the problem? If the natural heart really is the seat of the soul, and the center of one’s supernatural essence, then does a heart transplant patient also receive the soul of its donor? (A theme explored by many cheesy horror movies, by the way) If the two are completely separate, then why is there a need to use the word “heart” in any supernatural context at all? I would think that “soul” would suffice easily. Most likely, if they weren’t bound to their cardiocentrist scriptures, that would be what would happen- all mention of the heart as a spiritual organ would vanish in favor of the equally incoherent but unencumbered by natural science concept of the soul. The fact that “heart” is still used is a testament more to the fact that Christians are cobbled to their scriptures, and even in the face of natural science, still cling to ancient incoherency.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Christian Denial of Free Will

Christianity preaches that the mind is disconnected from the brain. This has several consequences, including the denial of scientific study and the eradiction of moral obligation, as I discussed in "Unspoken assumptions in denying free will".

But there is yet another consequence. If the mind is not natural, then it is not subject to natural law. And if it is not subject to natural law, then it is vulnerable to divine intervention, and the modus operandi problem does not apply. While the idea of divine or demonic possession is completely absurd if the mind is natural, it is perfectly within the imaginary "supernatural" realm.

Now, I'm not saying that Christianity is necessarily incompatible with free will. But they are certainly not harmonious. There are at least two examples of possession in the Bible causing people to act in certain ways, the Pharaoh and Judas :

Exodus 10:20
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.

Exodus 9:12
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.

John 13:2
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.

John 13:26-27
Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
"What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him...

In both cases, the beneficiaries of the divine or satanic possessions were aware of said possession, Moses knowing because God told them, and Jesus knowing because, after all, he's Jesus.

One may argue that the Pharaoh and Judas would have done the same without possession, but that is besides the point : the fact remains that their free will was impeded. How therefore could a Christian be assured that his will remains unimpeded ? How can a Christian, believing in these events, be assured that his will is not controlled right now, at this very moment, and that everything he says is not satanic gibberish, or divine confusion ?

And that's where we get to the nihilistic crux of theism once again. When they try to pin nihilism on the materialist, they claim that "atoms banging around" cannot make free will. But as I explained in "Unspoken assumptions in denying free will", this is a false analogy, just like the homeopathic principle "like cures like". Just because two things look superficially similar, does not mean they are part of the same principle.

We imagine free will to be unconstrained, and the mind is constrained by natural law, but this does not mean that free will and natural law are contradictory. The only way to establish the relationship is by finding where in the brain free will is implemented.

Likewise, the fact that onion causes a stinging nose and eyes, and that hay fever can cause a stinging nose and eyes, does not mean that allium cepa can cure hay fever. The only way to establish the relationship is by finding what onions are made of and how these components affect hay fever. Until them, all you can say is "free will does not look like natural law" and "allium cepa's effects are like hay fever", nothing more.

This being said, the Christian has no similar escape from the problem, because here we are not making an analogy but stating what is supposed to be a fact from the Bible. For one thing, are these verses factual ? And if not, can God not still influence minds, insofar as they are not natural ? The answer to one of these two questions, if one is a Christian, must be yes, without doubt.

So how confident should a Christian be in his own statements ? Not very confident at all. The atheist can always argue that the Christian could be supernaturally manipulated, if his religion is indeed correct on either point. How could the Christian possibly defend himself from such an accusation ? To do so would require his own mind to be clear and functional, which would be a circular assertion. Perhaps the Christian is being misled into thinking his mind is clear, when he may in fact, as seen by other people, be speaking total gibberish.

This is an intractable problem that only highlights the vulnerability of Christian belief to the nihilistic strategy. I've discussed this strategy before as an excellent way to demonstrate the falsity of a Christian epistemic standard. It consists basically of three questions :

* How do you know your method is true, and not imposed on your will by God, Satan, angels, devils, etc ?
* How do you know your method is true, if the universe is contingent to God's will and you have no objective standard of truth ?
* How do you know your method is true, without appealing to my rational justifications (such as sense perception or conceptualization), and thus conceding atheism ?

All three of these questions are fatal to any Christian epistemology, but some are more useful at different moments. The problem with possession is of the first kind, but it is far more extensive than simply refuting one Christian method (such as divine revelation). For without free will, the Christian has nothing, no way to choose Christianity or not, no means to verify the truths of his own mind. Whatever justification he tries to construct, we can equally posit that God or Satan implanted that construct in his mind for an unknown purpose. In this way, any single Christian epistemic principle can be defeated.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Question of the Day #31: Animals

Image hosting by PhotobucketI'm probably asking for a novel's worth of answers here, but I'll go for it anyway.

How do we define morality when it comes to other species? Are animals ever subject to human morality? What about pets?

Note: I probably don't need to say this, but I am NOT vegan. I'm a burger eater.

Bonus Question: Would it be wrong to slaughter cows if scientists found a way to make beef grow on trees?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hellbound Alleee is back !

The blog Hellbound Alleee (my wife, incidentally) is back and running again. So go check it out !

The future of science ?

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Greed is an essential virtue part 2

The fundamental problem with belief in "intangibles" is that there is no such thing as an "intangible", and that it is an arbitrary demarcation meant to separate individualism from collectivism, so one can preach the latter as a superior position. Religion, family, society, culture, charity, as well as feelings towards all of these, are elevated to a status of "intangible". But all of these things are tangible and exist within the material world. When analyzed rationally, they are values which can only be pursued when one has the resources to do so (if one desires to pursue them at all).

Should we temper greed to accomodate these "intangibles", lest progress leave them behind ? Why ? If they are really desired values, then people will pursue them regardless of progress. But on the other hand, if people recognize them as unuseful, then they will be abandoned.

So in essence, the "intangibilists" and the "culture supremacists" are contradicting themselves in clamoring that their "intangible" values are important, and in demanding that those values be promoted or enforced in some way. If these values are so important, then why do they need promotion or enforcment ? No one needs to promote friendship, love or sex. The value of these is immediately apparent. But most importantly, unlike the more collectivist values promoted by the "intangibilists", these values have freely chosen expressions. You choose your friends, but you don't choose your family.

The altruists claim they have only the good of their fellow men in mind. Yet we've seen the ultimate result of the rejection of greed for collective sacrifice in the 20th century - in the form of the most murderous dictatorships known to man. When individualism, voluntary cooperation and self-interest are rejected, the only things left are sacrifice, violence and death. While we can't compare the scope of the simplistic anti-consumeurism, anti-capitalist beliefs of the modern altruists with the grand social programs of the Nazis and the communists, both partake of the same river. They both seek to suppress individual thought and action in the name of a "noble" collectivist ideal.

I am an individualist and a moral realist. My basic position is that we should leave people free to express their values, regardless of whether they offend us or not. The constant attacks on science and capitalism, and emphasis on religious and tribalist premises, offend me very much, but unlike them I don't want to impose my value system on everyone else. I simply want to live in a society that leaves us all free to express our values. But we must all realize, whatever our opinions, that whatever values you have cannot be effected without resources. Without the progressist power of greed, any expression of value would still be at its most primitive, "intangible" or not. There is little place for family or religion when you constantly need to work and hunt for your bare survival.

Does the altruist's belief in "giving is better then making/taking" hold any water ? At its simplest level, it is a self-destructive contradiction - without any production, there would be no resources to give ! But even when taken in a more sophisticated way, it is still nonsense. While it may be morally indicated, there is no inherent merit at all in giving away resources. All you're doing is signing a check. The hard work is in producing those resources and making them available to everyone. Therein lies the progress and the biggest help in eradicating poverty, not "giving", which has no enduring value and no standards.

I'm not against charity, of course. Charity is morally validated by desiring to live in a better society, one with less poverty. But this is actual enduring value with empirical standards. The "giving" of the altruists, on the other hand, brooks no standard or enduring value - we have to value it for its own sake. For example, in the notion of "corporate responsibility", there is no comparison done between the money given out by such programs and the commercial uses that money could have been used for, and the benefits of each to society. Empirical comparisons are the last thing altruists want, because their principles are based on feelings.

What about the accusation that greed is devoid of feelings, decency, virtue ? What can be more virtuous than being a producer ? And what is more devoid of decency than suppressing people's needs and desires for a better life ? It is the fist of the state and the church that is indecent, not the open hand of the markets. Can people lack these things ? Sure, but it's our role to detect this and support competitors, not to use it to make life worse for everyone else.

Greed has always been one of the most precious human virtues. We shouldn't let the propaganda of the statists and the religious turn it into a sin.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Greed is an essential virtue part 1

On this blog, I talk a lot about Christianity and how it is the bitter enemy of Western civilization and modern values. In fact, it's somewhat of a refrain with me : Western civilization and modern values, Western civilization and modern values. It's an important point because the extreme tension between them is an essential part of the culture wars. If Christianity was in accord with modern values, the atheist movement would be reduced to atheology, and thus would have little social consequences. But if Christianity was in accord with modern values, then it wouldn't be Christianity at all.

However, I don't want people to think that I completely support modern values. I diverge with them on many points. One important point, perhaps the most important, is the idea that greed - greed for money (materialism), greed for knowledge (scientific progress), greed for happiness and pleasure (hedonism) - must always be tempered and tamed by the "common good".

It was not always this way. When industrialism just started and people were starting to emerge from the poverty of agriculture, it was more natural to value greed. A greedy person makes a better life for himself than a content, passive one. People didn't join the factories because they liked the smoke or because they liked the products - but because they wanted to make a better life for themselves than the back-breaking 365-days-a-year work of the small unmechanized farm.

Nowadays, in Western civilization, and for the first time in history, we finally have enough resources for most of us have leisure and to pursue our values in a more systematic manner. That means we also have enough resources for the most fortunate and disaffected amongst us to be able to complain about having too much resources - giving us the altruistic and Greenie movements, which are solely built on that premise.

Why do these people argue against greed ? They say that greed is socially regressive, that greed helps the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, that a society solely ruled by greed would be devoid of feelings, decency, virtue.

In fact, if we observe what happened historically, the reverse is true. From the dangerous journeys of merchant ships to today's technological globalization, from man's frantic searches for regularity in nature to today's laboratories and incredible scientific tools, from the original thirst for freedom and equality to today's extensive leisure markets, greed in all its forms has been the single most powerful impetus for the progress of mankind.

Today's marriage of science with capitalism has made the 21st century the best period to live in - expanded our lifespan by more than half, eradicated diseases, made mass literacy, communications and transport available to all, gave us food from around the world at lower prices than ever, gave us the productivity that makes leisure markets possible, but most importantly freed us considerably from the constraints of local culture and politics through commodification. Now lifestyle is no longer as much of a geographic issue as it is a personal issue - where we live, who we live with, how we live, and how we die.

Greed, commercialization, selfishness, have the end result of making things better for everyone. On the other hand, the policies "intangibilists" - people who believe that the "intangibles" are most important - "culture supremacists" and altruists only lead to disaster. It is precisely the motors of progress, science and capitalism, that the altruists constantly attack - in the popular culture (no one is more demonized than scientists and entrepreneurs), in political discourse (movements against the markets and scientific research are legion) and in the post-modern parts of academia.

This article continues in part 2.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Free Speech For Dummies

On calacanis.dom, there is an entry, "Dealing with Dummies, For Dummies", detailing how the "For Dummies" franchise (owned by Wiley Publishing) threatened a blogger for using "For Dummies" in the title of one of his entries. Apparently they are searching blogs constantly to find infractions !

Now, as a person raised on the comments, "for dummies" is a common phrase. Therefore it is absolutely ridiculous to assume that someone using that phrase is trying to steal the reputation of the "For Dummies" franchise.

I am looking forward to their legal threats so I can post them on this blog. Hmmm...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Question of the Day #30: Pigs On The Wing

Image hosting by PhotobucketKeeping in the same theme as the last post, here are some more animal questions.

Is there actually a moral imparative to preserving endangered species?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Proof positive Christians cannot differentiate God from Satan

As part of my argument about the epistemic anxiety of Christianity, I always say that a Christian could not make the difference between God's words and Satan's words, if they both decided to "talk" to someone, and that there was a fundamental epistemic anxiety in any form of divine revelation or belief in a holy book because of that. Well, now we have proof positive :

This nice Bible quote was displayed on a Church's site.

"If you will but worship me, all will be yours" (Luke 4:7)

And then they realized that it was actually a quote from Satan:

For those of you who were kind enough to inform us about our previously inaccurate quote...we thank you! We were recently made aware that the former quote we had posted in the header on our site was actually not based on the word of Jesus but was a quote posed to him during his temptation. As soon as we were made aware of this we removed the quote from our site.

We removed it...not hackers as some ill-informed bloggers would have you believe. This lesson is a demonstration why when using tools online to identify quotes that you think deliver the honest and sincere message you intended you should always view the quotes in their whole context.

So the question arises... if you can't even make the difference between "good" and "bad" dogma when the answer is available, how are you so sure of your figuring about the rest of the Bible, Christian jackasses ? Talk about arrogance !

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Harry Browne is dead

Harry Browne, former US presidential candidate, libertarian writer, radio host, and hero, who worked as a financial advisor, has died of the complications of a neurological disorder.

Amongst his well-known works are "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" and "Why Government Doesn’t Work". His web site is still up.

Even though I did not know him personally, I am extremely sad to learn of his death. A giant of man has left us. Sorry to see you go, Harry.

The religious rejection of the moral being

It appears that, despite what I thought, I am not quite done on the topic of moral development. I talked to Sean of Black Sun Journal, and he has a somewhat different perspective on the issue. He talks to a lot of Buddhists and New Age people who claim that their moral ideology of cultivating compassion above all else is the best path for mankind. In fact, all religions make this kind of exclusive claim - that only one specific part of human nature is good, and that the rest must be subjected or rejected.

Following my model of moral development applied to the Freudian model, I would say that there are three general kinds of religious exclusivities :

* id - instincts and emotions. This is the Satanist model, of feeding one's lusts as much as possible and without restraint. We're not talking about rational lusts heer but rather the impulses of the lizard such as xenophobia and spirituality.
Belief examples : Racism, nationalism, religious beliefs in general.
Moral stage : Natural stage.

* the ego - moral maturation. This is the Buddhist model, privileging self-sacrifice in order to "relate" to the rest of existence. The desires for compassion and socialization, when isolated from the restraints of our more realistic lusts and discipline, are misdirected towards irrational ideals. Like religion, its epistemology is strongly inter-subjective.
Belief examples : Eastern religions in general, New Age beliefs, Greenie beliefs, post-modernism.
Moral stage : Natural stage.

* the superego - the authoritarian stage. This is the model of Christianity and other monotheistic religions, as well as political ideologies, which demand mental obedience and submission to the belief system above all else. In doing so, all individuality that is not necessary for the perpetuation of the belief system is sacrificed.
Belief examples : Western monotheism, political collectivism (socialism, communism, fascism).
Moral stage : Authoritarian stage.

So Sean's question was "who's right ?". I would argue that this is a bad question, and that the real question is "why privilege one over another ?". It makes no sense to repress any part of human nature, and the tension that ensues is bad for the individual, and bad for society by extension. I have already discussed how Christianity creates such tension, and we can apply this general reasoning to the two other extremes as well.

This is a good general scheme to classify ideologies on a moral level, but many ideologies do not fall solely in one category. I would think that the most dangerous ideologies would be ones that adopt precepts from the authoritarian stage that aim to channel violent impulses towards others. The doctrines of Islam would be perfect examples of this. It is not a coincidence that Islam is both the most destructive ideology and the most dysfunctional.

Christianity, on the other hand, channels sacrificial instincts towards the self first and then against others. So there is the ideal of "Jesus", the sacrificial lamb that turns into a wolf, sacrificing himself first, then returning to slaughter mankind.

These extremes are all a rejection of the moral being. The "moral being" is simply the set of influences and tensions that makes a human being, from the first parental directions to the most recent spark of understanding. None of these influences can be eradicted, not even by brainwashing, and they do not dissapear with age. We learn to cope with them, of course.

And that's where rationality comes in, as well as the answer to our question. When we make our moral premises explicit, rational thought becomes the arbiter and director of our decisions. We can decide when to follow this or that moral tendancy, and the time at which it is appropriate to do so. So it seems that the answer to our question is that no specific part of the moral being is privileged, but rather that rational thought can help us decide which to fulfill and when, based on our values and their possibilities of expression at a given context.

I don't think it's necessarily a question of moderation. Aristotle thought that the virtues were the result of moderation between extremes, a Golden Mean - such as courage being between cowardice and rashness, temperance between insensibility and self-indulgence, and so on. This works if we look at morality from an impersonal perspective, but there's no such thing as an impersonal perspective in morality. So what we're talking about here is really a fantasy, just like the Christian concept of action is a fantasy. If we look at specific contexts, we find that we are looking not at a mean, but rather at a variety of contexts which, depending on one's values, may demand insensibility, self-indulgence, or a balance of both. There is no Golden Mean in reality, only the manifold interactions between the individual and his context.

But one fact remains. For these manifold interactions to actually be meaningful, there is need not only for political freedom, but also for social freedom, and most importantly freedom of thought. If all of these freedoms are not present, then the arbitration of our moral being is frustrated. And the fact remains that even with the tremendous gains in freedom that Western civilization has bestowed upon us, human beings are still repressed and bound. In an ideal society, where there is so much freedom and technological progress that any tendancy of the moral being can be expressed safely, there should be a minimum of crime, suicide, rape, psychological repression, and resentment, but also complete value expression. This, however, will probably remain a dream of science-fiction for a long time.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

100% secular / Paranormal belief and brain chemistry

My friend Brad has started a new icon campaign : "100% secular". Add it to your page today !

On our Hellbound Alleee show about synchronicity, I recently revisited an old New Scientist article entitled "Paranormal beliefs linked to brain chemistry". An extract :

Believers were much more likely than sceptics to see a word or face when there was not one, Brugger revealed last week at a meeting of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies in Paris. However, sceptics were more likely to miss real faces and words when they appeared on the screen.

The researchers then gave the volunteers a drug called L-dopa, which is usually used to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease by increasing levels of dopamine in the brain.

Both groups made more mistakes under the influence of the drug, but the sceptics became more likely to interpret scrambled words or faces as the real thing.

I'm going to go ahead and give a little grumble at the fact that they divided people between "believers" and "skeptics", but apart from that it's a great article.