Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Monday, July 31, 2006

Johnny Virtue in... ENTER THE BIBLEMAN!

Hey, kids! Why don't you grab a big, brimmin' bowl of Super Crunchy Jesus Crispies, with that Go-Go GOD Power, turn up your radio and thrill to the adventures of Johnny Virtue: Christian Private Investigator as he battles The Bibleman!

In the first episode, "Johnny Virtue in DARK DUNGEONS", Virtue defeated a coven of witches bent on pushing teenagers to suicide (a parody based on the Jack Chick tract "Bewitched"). Listen to "Johnny Virtue: ENTER THE BIBLEMAN!" to follow the further adventures of our favourite Christian investigator.

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The Christian virtues - what are they ?

Much ado is made about "Judeo-Christian values" and "Christian values". What are these values ? Are they based on facts or fantasy ? How are they relevant to today's world ?

According to a May 2002 Pew Research survey, 14% of Americans claim that these values are necessary to be a good American (what these values are, is not mentioned). According to a survey from last April, 7 out of 10 Britons believe that "Christian values" "are still valid in today's society", and 71% desire these values to be taught in schools. This means that there is a significant proportion of non-religious out there who support the insanity of "religious education". This is, to be nice about it, sickening.

Now, that British survey does mention some of the "Christian values". And I quote :

Joel Edwards, the general director of the Evangelical Alliance, one of the organisations, said that millions of people recognised the positive benefits of Christian values.

"Forgiveness, respect, hope and trust are rooted in the Christian faith and they are the antidote to a culture that is being railroaded into an individualistic, rights-orientated mentality," he said.

Are you retching yet ? Let's give a hand to the poor Christians who are trying to turn over our cursed "individualistic" and "rights-orientated" mentality ! Because if there's something we need in our modern world, it's more belief and less freedom. I won't even try to figure out how a culture can be "railroaded" - are foreign TV stations blasting propaganda of individualism and freedom on the poor Briton population ? Should we send foreign aid ?

Never mind the boisterous rhetoric, let's look at these "Christian values".

* Forgiveness : I assume this means "pray for your soul and anything you've done can be forgiven, as long as you believe in my religion". It is a "forgiveness" that means total irresponsibility and total dishonesty. It is not a value, or a virtue, but the vice of a soldier or a suicide bomber. So insofar as it is a horrible evil, I have no problem conceding this horrible vice to Christianity. That makes one...

* Respect : I am at a loss to figure out how this is Christian in any way. Respect is something that is earned by one's actions, but Christianity preaches total non-judgment of the individual believer (as I've noted in the previous point). So I have to disallow "respect", as it has nothing to do with Christianity.

* Hope : I assume this means "hope of your soul going to a supernatural fantasy land when you die". I hope (hah !) I don't have to explain why this is completely irrelevant to human life, meaningless and absurd. Any hope that is given to us human beings come through the agency of reason, not of faith. It comes from science, it comes from atheism, it comes from anarchy, it comes from, in short, all the forms of peaceful individualism that exist. Insofar as hope has nothing to do with Christianity, I'm afraid I have to disallow it as well.

* Trust : I fail to see what trust has to do with Christianity at all, apart from the fact that religion makes people see others as toold of belief instead of actual human beings. Insofar as this is true, I would tend to distrust committed Christians. Also, trust, to be rational at all, must be based on judging the other fellow benevolently. So I have to disallow this as well.

So the only value we have left is "criminal forgiveness". Well, this is rather a paucity of "Christian values". Where should we find the others ? Wikipedia, as always, comes to our rescue, and lists worship of God, fidelity in marriage (whatever happened to abandoning your family ?), renunciation of worldly goods, renunciation of violence, forgiveness of sins (but we had that one already) and unconditional (which is to say, blind and irrational) love. To these I would add : injustice, faith and ignorance, and arrogance.

Does this mean that I think all Christians possess these vices ? Not at all. As I always make sure to point out, many Christians do not follow "Christian values" at all, but rather follow common-sense rules of living. These Christians I call "practical atheists". The rest is the vocal fundamentalist half of Christianity, which actually follows "Christian values". Those Christians I don't call at all - I stay as far away from them as I humanly can.

Can Christianity possibly have any relevance to today's society ? The absurdity of a tribal book still applying in a world of cars, skyscrapers and quantum physics. any more than Aristotle's virtues are relevant to a scientific and technological society - rather quite related to the relativist belief that all opinions are equally valid. But this is nonsense. Christianity no more applies to today's society than the theory of humors applies to medicine.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Politics is for Suckers!

The people at "God is for Suckers!" opened their damn mouth and made asses of themselves.

One of the things I am completely SICK OF is the bashing of the word “liberalism.” It’s been going on for 20-odd years in the U.S.A. and is completely just fucking WRONG. Liberalism is actually quite a rational and legitimate worldview, no matter your politics or religion. Liberalism practically epitomizes the idea of freedom.

With such rhetoric, is it any wonder that atheism is painted as an ally of political coercion, when they see atheists calling a strong ruling class whose goal it is to impose their value system on all of society by force "the idea of freedom"? Liberals go against centuries of civil disobedience and our constant attempt to take down the power of kings and tyrants.

Atheist liberals are especially hypocrite, since they praise the ruling class that marginalizes them, and they praise the democracy that gives the religious majority power to oppress them. To be an atheist liberal makes about as much sense as being a gay Christian.

In the name of all atheist libertarians and anarchists, who actually care about the freedom of everyone to live the way they want and the freedom from political power, permit me to politely say "go fuck yourselves".

I try to talk about politics on this blog as little as possible, but when other people don't have that basic courtesy and utter such insanity... they deserve it.

The Faith Based Faith of Stephen With a 'ph'

From J-Walk

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The simple truth

Common conception has it that it's the complex things that make us stumble. And to a certain extent this is true. Systems that are simpler are easier to understand and modify than systems that are complex. Complex subjects give us a harder time than simple subjects - people who want it easy study "soft" subjects like psychology, not demanding subjects like quantum mechanics. As they say, "the devil is in the details".

But I don't think this principle applies to philosophy or worldviews. Here, it is the simple truths that are most difficult to grasp and make us stumble, not the complex ones.

Look at Creationist rhetoric, for example. Creationists are not Creationists because they object to, say, Neo-Darwinist ideas on the evolution of the horse, or whether the bones in the human ear really evolved from the reptilian jaw. While they may use these elements as part of their examples, that's not why they are Creationists. They are Creationists because they are firmly entrenched in the Christian worldview, which preaches that man is "special" and "superior", and cannot accept the simple truth that man is an animal. They also cannot accept a mechanistic account of life, which excludes the teleology of their choice. Neo-Darwinism is supremely annoying for the teleology fan.

Likewise, crackpots often argue against Einstein and the Theory of Relativity (which, as I mention on my Insolitology FAQ, is their first pet peeve - the second being homosexuals) - not because of any specific equation or concept, but because they cannot accept the simple truth that there is no privileged frame of reference. Once again, the Theory of Relativity supremely annoys their belief that the human experience is "special" in the universe, and that the universe can somehow accomodate them as absolutes.

Quantum mechanics is hard to understand mainly because it's completely counter-intuitive to our daily experience, not only because it's complex. A complex but intuitive topic is just a matter of effort. A counter-intuitive topic, on the other hand, will stump most people regardless of its complexity.

Simple truths in philosophy are counter-intuitive for most people. That's fine. But the fact that they are simple should bolster our confidence. We must confront them bravely, evaluate them on the basis of the evidence, and not shy away from the consequences either way. Of course, simplicity should not be seen as the mark of truth. Lies are also simple, for the good reason that they don't need to account for the facts, and simplicity has a lot of emotional appeal.

Some fashionable simple propositions are dead wrong, but are seductive because of their simplicity. One such proposition is : "morality is just a social construct". Like most lies, it is simple, attractive, and wrong. The fact that it is monstruous and repugnant is only a consequence of this falsity.

How do you make the difference between simple truths and simple lies ? By checking their premises, and the worldview they belong to. A proposition like "morality is just a social construct" belongs to nihilistic, inter-subjectivist worldviews like utilitarianism, New Age beliefs and post-modernism. These worldviews are wrong because reality is not an inter-subjective construct, and neither does it care to accomodate people's beliefs. Reality works according to well-defined natural laws. Therefore we can reject such a proposition.

Of course, you can also make an argument from the fact that science works and that moral principles work, but that would beg the question of standards for "working". Outside of rational worldviews there's no reason to accept the standard of, say, "predictive power" that is used in science. This is why worldviews are so fundamental. They are also fundamental in the sense that simple truths are more often than not puzzling because you don't have the correct worldview to understand them.

Take the truth that "man is an animal". If you come from the Christian worldview, you can't possibly accept this as true. The whole point of Christianity is that man is "special" - man has a "soul", man is in relation with God, man can be saved, man has a purpose. So how can man "just" be an animal ? This seems as incongruous and absurd as the idea of a "soul" is to me. I equally can't possibly understand why anyone would want to claim to have a "soul".

Or take the other simple truth that "people are generally nice". Christianity tells us that man suffers from original sin and is depraved without Christian doctrine. Many Christians still accept this as true, and see anyone but them as morally flawed. So Christian doctrine must be preached and imposed on others in order to make "a better society". If you tell a Christian that people are generally nice, he'll answer you "that's your opinion, BUT...". Then they will talk to you about the news or about some bad event that happened to them ten years ago.

Another area of simple truth is morality. Propositions such as "belief is evil", "religion is evil", "religion is morally irresponsible", "war is evil" or "murder [viz capital punishment] is evil" are simple and true but unlikely to be widely accepted. People will agree or remain indifferent to a more abstract principle such as "non-coercion is virtuous", because the concept "non-coercion" is not concrete enough for them to understand. But ask them if war is evil and they'll talk your ear off.

The simple truths of the emergentist worldview - Naturalism, Materialism, Reductionism, Determinism (or as I like to call it, NaMaRD) - are those that give the most trouble to our opponents. From their perspective, their lack of understanding about order, it is easy to see why they would consider such truths to be absurd or lacking. However, if we did a comparison with other worldviews, such as the simple truths of the Christian worldview, we would find them equally lacking.

In the end, as I said before, comparing a premise like "everything is material" with a premise like "God created the universe" presupposes a worldview with relevant standards of judgment. If anything, I would say that the way you react to the basic premises of different worldviews shows where your heart is. If you claim to be an individualist, say, but feel great affinity for a premise like "people are too egoist and should conform to the common good", I don't think you should call yourself an individualist. But that's another issue entirely.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mel Gibson's Passion of the DUI

Mel Gibson was arrested on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California early Friday morning for driving under the influence of alcohol:

Actor and director Mel Gibson was arrested Friday in Malibu, California, and charged with driving under the influence, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office.

Gibson, 50, was pulled over early Friday while driving on the Pacific Coast Highway, said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore. Officers on patrol reported Gibson was driving at an "excessively fast speed," he said.

I think this is kind of funny. In Gibson's world, he shouldn't have to suffer any consequences for this except to repent, since Jesus Christ already sacrificed himself to forgive Gibson in advance of driving drunk. But in the real world, Gibson has to pay a fine, maybe get a license suspension, and probably do some community service.

Watch the Gibson-worshippers rush to his defense and demand that he not be punished, simply because he made the biggest selling snuff film of all time.

UPDATE: Mel Gibson is planning to fight the charge. His attorney has stated that Gibson intends to show that he was in fact not under the influence of alcohol, but under the influence of the blood of Christ. I think he may actually pull it off; God knows that Gibson is intimately familiar - and obsessed with - Christ's blood.

Ann Coulter is right on one thing

Ann Coulter is a stupid bitch who is usually wrong about every damn thing. But I do agree with her on one point: liberalism (meaning here the "American" kind, not the "Canadian" or "European" kind) is a secular religion. Its god is the state, its goal is undermining moral autonomy, its priesthood is composed of its political, unionist, corporate, intellectual and artistic exploiters, and its dogma is a set of sub-religions (the welfare state, Greenie beliefs, relativism and utilitarianism, cultural supremacism).

Flame away, O my brothers...

(I also believe that conservatism is a religion, but since only a few whackos are both atheist and conservative, I don't think there's a need for me to explain that one)

Question of the Day #55: Is it the thought that counts?

What is more important, actions, or intentions? Why?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Unicorns in KJV / Gandalf killed

I really have no comment on these two quotes, so I'll let them speak for themselves...

What Does IT Matter If The Word "UNICORN" Appears In The KJV?

Some may say, so what if the KJV says unicorns, what does this prove, what is so bad about it?

I shall explain, besides the fact that the appearance of this factitious one horned horse in scripture is obvious a error showing the ignorance and inability of the 1611 translation comity. The King’s Bible use of it demeans, degrades and cheapens the one true God to a level equal to Pagan mythology.

“Suffer not a witch to live,” so says the Holy Bible and the people of Dema in Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State may have well done exactly that.
He said they could only get him on Sunday in church, when he must have removed the charms he normally tied around his waist. Reasons being that he would disappear other wise and behold, the truth seekers took the advise of the herbalist and did as he told them. The man was accosted and summoned before a verification shrine to confirm if he actually did as he was being accused. At the shrine the accused and accuser were required to pick a stone for a pot of boiling oil.

Our source explained that if you were innocent you could do that even without feeling the hotness of boiling oil, but if not, you get scalded by the boiling oil. Well our man failed the lithmus test and was given all sorts of disgusting things you can think of to drink and he was put in his canoe and pushed out to sea maybe to die as a way of appeasing the gods of the land. His house and property were also set ablaze.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The "problem of induction"

Much is made by presuppositionalists of the "problem of induction". Materialists, it is said, cannot justify their use of induction. They cannot explain why we should expect that the Sun will "rise" tomorrow, for instance, even if it rose a million times before (I'm not going to keep putting quotation marks around "rose"- we all know it's a figure of speech). Only divine will, they say, can solve such problems.

Induction is nothing more than the act of deriving principles from specific instances. People in the past observed that the Sun always rose, and thus were justified in thinking it would keep doing so. Now that we understand how orbits work and the nature of the Sun, we have a much stronger basis for such inductive reasoning. Nevertheless, the basic principle is the same. The accumulation of scientific understanding does not change the fact of induction, but rather makes our inductive reasoning more accurate.

If we're going to examine this claim that we have a "problem of induction", we must first examine what is needed for induction to be valid, or any epistemic principle for that matter. Well, the first thing is that to discover principles or applications or instances of principles, those principles need to already exist. The name we give to these principles is "natural law". Natural law is the foundation of epistemology, science, and morality.

So what do we need to have natural law, and by extension, justify induction? We need:

1. A causal system. Things change in accordance with their nature.
2. A self-contained system. No transcendental agent can exist, and materialism must obtain.

These points may seem complicated, but they are in fact pretty simple : you need a universe where things work by cause and effect, and where there is nothing outside that universe that can change things without cause and effect. If you have these two things, you have natural law, because everything works by cause and effect and things that have a certain property will behave in a certain way.

The simplest example of a natural law is the law of gravity - anything that is material follows this law, because it is a causal fact about the basic property of "having mass". "Having mass" is expressed in having a gravitational field. Thus causality ensures that, for example, orbits obtain.

If we don't have a causal system, then there can be no principles. There would be no correlation between "having mass" and gravity, and therefore we would have no reason to expect orbits to obtain. In fact, we would have no reason for anything to obtain.

An even worse problem is that our sensory perception is in itself a causal chain. I can only "see" an object because photons are reflected off its surface and hit my photo-receptors. If causality does not obtain, then all of this falls apart, and sensory perception is no longer a valid cognitive tool. So eliminating point 1 makes all cognition an impossibility (which is itself a contradiction). Fortunately, we live in a causal universe!

What about point 2? If there exists a transcendent being - a being which can change material facts without using causality - then there is no more natural law. I'm not talking about a god here but any transcendent entity, say, an angel or a ghost.

Suppose an angel can change any material facts by magic. In this scenario, it could make it so that the Sun does not rise tomorrow. So now our inductive reasoning is confronted with an impenetrable barrier, and we would now live in a fantasy world. And in the fantasy world of the Bible, the Sun can stand still (Joshua 10:12-13)! A person, living in this fantasy world, who would make the inductive reasoning that the Sun would rise, would have been wrong in this instance. But what recourse would he have? No fact could possibly explain such an event. So all the consequences of the actions of this transcendent agent would throw up inductive reasoning, and we would have no reason to trust induction as a valid principle.

I can see an objection coming: what if a supernatural entity acts but is not transcendent? But this is plainly impossible. If this entity acts within cause and effect, then its effects are observable and measurable, making the entity material by definition.

Now, what ideologies deny 1 or 2? Certainly not ours. While atheism does not directly imply 1 or 2, they are perfectly compatible with a rational atheistic worldview. My naturalistic worldview demands that 1 and 2 both be true, for reasons I explained before.

If God is presupposed, however, 2 must be false! As I noted, a supernatural agent must necessarily be transcendent. Since God is a supernatural agent, it must be a transcendent agent. And if this is the case, then induction becomes invalid, and now we have a "problem of induction". But it belongs squarely to the Christian worldview!

But God is more than a transcendent agent- it is a sovereign agent. The existence of the universe and all material facts within it, is wholly subjective to God's will. Since God is Creator of everything, there can be no objective factors existing outside of God's will. And there is no doubt that in this scenario no knowledge is possible, including knowledge about God. This has the unfortunate (for Christians) consequence that the existence of God-believers is contradictory.

This can be easily seen in the fact that no believer, having accepted the existence of this transcendent agent, can reject the possibility that this agent is deluding him into believing what he believes. Once you open the door of subjectivity by allowing the existence of a transcendent Creator, everything goes, epistemically speaking.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

An Atheist Goes to Heaven

From Hellbound Alleee

Monday, July 24, 2006

Giving up on Goosing

Yea, some people here already know this, but I am giving up on Goosing the Antithesis. I am tired of atheism and really want to get beyond that level now.

Fortunately for you guys, I have entries up to September 22nd (due to the fact that I always write entries months in advance), so it's not an issue right now. Just thought you would like a heads-up.

PS for those of you already anticipating me leaving the blog world, you better not start the party. I'm still on Radical Libertarian and now running my own blog. Sorry, pinkos.

Christian sickos who should go to jail

The group "Family Integrity" is a group composed of more Christian sickos who should be stuffed in jail as soon as possible. Especially check this page and their nice Brochures page, where they explain how physically abusing a child is an act of love. You can also read their PDF brochure.

These people are moral absurdities. They have mental problems, they are deficient, they are sick, and they should be removed from society. I am against jails and punitive justice, but there are people who simply must be removed from society because they are sick in the head and cannot help hurting others. These are sad cases but also simple truth.

Parrots Can Talk, And Other Manatan Observations

Religious Apologetics is the art of projecting the weaknesses of religion onto its detractors. Common claims are, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist,” “Without religion, one cannot be moral,” and “Without religion, one cannot know anything to be true.” This spirit is embraced by our good friend Paul Manata, who goes to great lengths to project his repressed anxieties about his Christian faith onto others. Although he has granted me that honor many times in the past, I was beginning to think that he had forgotten about me. It’s with great joy that I find myself targeted by his apologetic once again, and I’m only too happy to respond.

As a good apologist, Paul is concerned primarily with the weaknesses of his belief system, and focuses most of his efforts attempting to plug his thumb in the apparent holes. Almost immediately following his debate with Dan Barker, Paul’s thumbs were fully extended, and were being thrust into many different holes. The primary issues were his reification of logic and his justification for the existence of talking animals. The latter was, in my opinion, his most glaring goof of the debate, and consisted of him accepting the Bible’s claim of the existence of a talking serpent in Genesis 3, but rejecting Dan’s claim of the existence of a talking cat in present day. In a comment to an earlier post on the subject, I gave this opinion and exchanged some comments with Paul about it.

Now, others beside myself have brought up Paul’s inductive gaffe, and so I can appreciate that he probably feels somewhat sensitive about it. I certainly didn’t feel the need to press the matter further, but Paul thought that it warranted further discussion, although his motivations seem rather odd:

Sometimes we do things that we shouldn't, just because we shouldn't. It's known as the "forbidden fruit syndrome." Augustine reports about how he stole pears, and how this caused him great turmoil. He says that what was so bad was not that he took some pears, but that he did it just because he knew he shouldn't. Well, I'm in a somewhat similar situation with Dr. Zachary Moore; or rather, his arguments. I know that I shouldn't pick on the guy's arguments (just like a college wrestler shouldn't pick on an elementary school wrestler) but sometimes I just can't help it. Like Augustine's pear, his arguments are plump for the pickings and all I need to do to get one is reach over and grab one. I know I shouldn't pick on arguments like this, but sometimes we do those things we shouldn't, just because we shouldn't.

Why would Paul unapologetically do something that he shouldn’t? He makes a comparison to a large man beating up a small child- I wonder, would he do that as unapologetically as he engages me? What we’re seeing here is the unfortunate moral bankruptcy of a man trapped in the Christian faith- why should he have any qualms about engaging in sin when he holds the belief that he has been unconditionally elected? But readers of this blog surely don’t need such things pointed out to them by now.

Paul then engages in an extended series of projections. This is typical- he makes assumptions about the psychological motives of others fairly frequently. Since he can’t know the motivations of another, he subconsciously projects his own psychology instead. Thus, we learn that it’s Paul who is:
like a man who has a run down beater of a car. Every one tells him to get rid of it. But he won't because no matter how much of a piece of trash the car is, it's still *his* car. He has invested so much talk and money in to it that to let it go would be to admit that he was wrong to buy it in the first place. Every one told him that the car was trash, but his eyes were too big for his stomach. His imagination ran wild but he couldn't do with the car what he had intended, and so now he just keeps it out of stubborn pride. He'll continue to sink hundreds of dollars into the car, but it will never run long enough to get him where he wants to go. It may occasionally start up and put down the street, but that's it. Since it's his baby, he beams with pride and so the 10 feet look like 10 miles to him.

But Paul does eventually make some counter claims of his own. So I’ll try to address those here:

1) Can Dr. Moore show how "it follows" from induction that if one talking animal is possible, then other talking animals are possible?

Looking at the Genesis account from our modern world, the existence of the talking serpent does seem strange. That is, out of all of the snake species in existence today, neither the sounds necessary for human speech, nor the capacity for syntactical communication can be shown. Thus, the inductive conclusion of, “snakes cannot talk,” seems very reasonable to me. But let’s say that a snake is found, somewhere, sunning itself on a rock, happy to speak at length about the minutiae of German politics. That would shatter the above inductive conclusion, and scientists all over the world would be fascinated to discover how a snake can carry on a conversation with neither the necessary vocal nor cerebral equipment. Well, Paul makes the claim that such a snake did in fact exist. Or rather, he accepts the claim that the Genesis account was literal and historical. Thus, from Paul’s worldview, the existence of such a snake is just like the discovery of the verbose serpent I’ve mentioned above. Both provide clear counterexamples to the inductive conclusion, “snakes cannot talk.”

As Paul mentions, I am a scientist, and so the existence of a talking snake would be absolutely fascinating to myself and others. Paramount in my mind would be discovering how such a snake would be able to communicate, and what details the Genesis account gives us in regards to that mechanism. Interesingly, the Bible does not regard this talking animal as a miraculous exception to the rule- Eve doesn’t bat an eye when the serpent engages her in conversation. However, Paul offers three explanations for the talking snake:

1) This is an account of what happened pre-fall. All his samples are post-fall samples.
2) Satan used the snake, Barker has only sampled "non-possessed" snakes.
3) What was called a serpent before the fall became the creature that we call a "snake" today.

Each of these are obviously special pleading, not to mention contradicted by the Bible. In regards to his first point, the other notable talking animal in the Bible, Balaam’s ass, opened its big mouth long after the Fall. In regards to his second point, the “demonic possession” of the serpent is not stated or suggested anywhere in the Bible. And in regards to his third point, the word used for “serpent” in Genesis 3 is “nachash,” which is the same word used for serpent thirty other times in the Bible, most of which occur after the Fall. If the serpent did change into something else, the Bible either doesn’t know it, or it doesn’t tell us about it for some strange reason. Either way, Paul can’t make such a claim and be biblically consistent.

So what we’re faced with is Paul’s claim that the Bible account represents a real counter-example of the rational generalization that “animals cannot talk.” And without a coherent explanation for how this is possible, it certainly seems to be the case that, in the Christian worldview, any animal can talk- remember Balaam’s ass? What is different about a snake and a donkey that makes it rational for them to talk, and not for any other animal? You see, by submitting Biblical authority as a counterexample for inductive reasoning, Paul has opened himself to the full ramifications of the “Cartoon Universe,” as coined by Dawson Bethrick. In a world where God can do anything, anything is possible, and where God has already done so in the past, the impossible is actually very probable!

2) Notice the shifting of the goal posts. He originally tried to argue that I *must* accept Dan's talking cat but now he claims that I must accept the *possibility* of Dan's talking cat. Well, I do accept the "possibility" of the talking cat. That's not because of induction, though. Just because it's possible that monkey's might fly out of Dr. Moore's head, does not mean that I think it will happen or that it did happen.

Actually, I never argued that he “must” accept anything- what I said was that, “If you accept the existence of talking animals in your worldview, that's fine, and I won't even begrudge your Biblical epistemic foundations, but… if you're going to make those kinds of presuppositions, you at least have to be consistent.” That is, as long as Paul claims that the Bible is admissible as an inductive counterexample to natural observations, he forces himself to accept the existence of a talking cat as consistent with his inductive principle. Although he was not willing to do so before, here he affirms that possibility, but strangely enough, not through induction. I wonder what epistemic principles he espouses that allow him to accept without rational justification the existence of things that are physically impossible? Oh right, Christianity.

3) Let's now apply Moore's inductive argument to other areas. Moore thinks that humans are talking animals, therefore "if one talking animal is possible, then other talking animals are possible." If so, what's the problem with the talking serpent!?

The problem, as I mentioned before, is that human speech and communication can be explained by examination of our vocal chords, as well as our brains. The specialized anatomy of both are responsible for the ability of humans to communicate, and without them we are as mute and uncommunicative as, well, a snake. But I’m basing my inductive conclusions about human speech on a naturalistic explanation- given this, it follows that any animal which lacks vocal chords and a specialized brain cannot speak. Given Paul’s belief system, natural limitations don’t exist, and so he doesn’t face the same restrictions. This may be why, in a rebuttal to this criticism on his blog, he argued that “Parrots talk.” Surely someone as educated as Paul knows full-well that parrots do not actually talk, they mimic. As a survival strategy, parrots will mimic the sounds in their environment, including human speech. But parrots, despite their representation in cartoons, do not actually communicate using syntax. I suppose that in the Christian worldview, this wouldn’t be a problem, and perhaps this is just another illustration of the faulty reasoning that comes from the close association with the Christian worldview and cartoons.

a) "If one flying animal is possible, then other flying animals are possible." Therefore, flying elephants are possible in Dr. Moore's worldview. If he says that it does not imply that *all* animals can fly, just another one (say, bats and birds) then the what of my original point? Just because what the Bible calls a serpent talked does not mean that I must accept *all* reports of other talking animals. If I do, then Moore has the flying elephants to deal with.

Again, Paul is ignoring the necessary mechanistic explanations which I mentioned above. As we can see that talking requires specific anatomy, flying does as well. From a naturalistic investigation of this inductive conclusion, we discover that wings are necessary (but not sufficient!) for an animal’s ability to fly. Thus, we can make statements confidently about any individual animal’s propensity for flight. Since no corresponding naturalistic explanation is given for the ability of an animal to talk, we can’t be as confident in our discrimination. If, however, the ability of flight was not related to the presence of wings, but was, instead, some magical ability (as is seen in fables and myths similar to those in the Bible), then we would be in the situation which Paul imagines for us. If flight was as supernatural as Paul believes the ability to speak is, then we couldn’t in all honesty discount the ability of an elephant to fly any more than Paul can discount the ability of a cat to talk!

4) We've now seen that even the atheist should not have a problem with the possibility of talking snakes. Afterall, "if one talking animal is possible, then other talking animals are possible," and humans are talking animals. Therefore he can't dismiss the biblical account as false because it mentions a talking animal since this can't be a priori ruled out in his worldview. Thus we see that the mere mention of a talking snake is not enough to show the Bible is irrational, even according to Moore. What must be done is that the Bible must be shown to be false. The problem is that Barker did not do this. Barker *assumed* it was false because it mentioned a talking snake and we just know that's impossible! Folks, this is not rational reasoning, this is called begging the question.

Actually, we’ve seen that an atheist, by accepting naturalism and induction, can easily discredit the idea of talking snakes. But that was never the point- what Barker, and now I have done is point out that it is the Christian epistemology that is without rationality. It would behoove Paul to admit this graciously and retreat into faith- only by doing so can he remain consistent.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Question of the Day #54: Science, pseudoscience, and non-science

Pardon the long-windedness of this question, but it's a complex issue in some ways, at least for me.

I've hated horoscopes for years. I probably feel about horoscopes the way many atheists feel about religion, a sort of "How could anyone be that stupid, and how can these astrologers sleep at night making a living off of selling crap?" mentality. Then this morning, I had some thoughts as I saw the horoscopes sitting next to the bridge column.

I recall once an experiment in which a large group of people were asked for their date and time of birth so that a complete "star chart" could be made up for them. A few days later, they were given their descritions based on their star chart drawn up by a professional astrologer. Over 90% of the group agreed that what the astrologer had written about them without knowing them was a strikingly accurate description. Then the tester gave them a new piece of information: the entire group was actually reading the same exact description. Not only that, but the star chart did not belong to any member of the group, but instead was the star chart of Charles Manson. A bit of shock set in, of course.

My questions are not about horoscopes, but about the nature of this test. It seems that letting the group know they were all reading the same description ought to be enough to convince them that the whole thing was bunk. It would have been enough for me, I know. Adding the fact that they were reading the star chart of Charles Manson was obviously added for shock value. I wondered this morning, was choosing Charles Manson intended to shock in order to make the results crystal clear, or because the tester was aiming less to be scientific and more to promote the agenda of frightening people out of their belief in horoscopes?

In testing pseudoscience, is it wrong to go into the test with an agenda in mind of wanting to prove or disprove rather than keeping an open mind? Was the test above really "scientific" anyway? Can one really make a scientifically valid test for something that isn't quite proper science to begin with? Is it fair (or reasonable) to want to judge pseudoscience by proper scientific standards anyway, rather than responding with countering pseudoscience, so to speak? Or is the whole thing a complete waste of time to even consider responding to?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jesus' teachings / Defending hypocrisy

Want to embarass the Christians with Jesus' teachings? You can find a condensed version in the Bible Testament, on the "Teachings of Jesus" page. The main enemy here is sheer ignorance: there is no excuse for an atheist to say that "Jesus" is a moral example in any way. Read them and educate yourself, then educate others.

Another great example of the nihilistic left attacking morality: In defense of hypocrisy. Some juicy quotes from this moron:

The person who made hypocrisy into what it is today is Jesus.

You can either be flawed and exult in that flawednesss. Or you can say and come up a way with moving yourself towards that and one of the ways is to act like you are like that even if you are not always like that and that’s hypocrisy.

Parents have to practice a good deal of hypocrisy around their children at certain times in order to model things to them.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Refuting God's Nature

Materialist apologetics is perhaps the most powerful tool in the atheist philosopher's arsenal. There are two main ways of arguing it : the one that I present, which is to argue that everything is contingent to God's act of creation and therefore cannot be necessary, and another, to argue that God's creation is necessarily subjective and that therefore nothing can be objective in the Christian worldview.

This makes short work of any knowledge claim that any Christian may make in the course of a discussion or debate, although not always equally simply.

It is even more useful in that Christians have only one answer to it - which I call the Inherent-Property Objection. Here is a typical expression of this objection, by theologian John Frame :

Logic is neither above God nor arbitrarily decreed by God. Its ultimate basis is in God’s eternal nature. God is a rational God and necessarily so. Therefore logic is necessary.
"A Brief Response to Michael Martin's Transcendental Argument for the Non-Existence of God", John Frame

Basically, the arguer tries to escape the inherent subjectivity of God's creation by grounding God's desires in some kind of objective nature. This objection, while confounding to the uninitiated, is almost trivially easy to refute. I will now go through the main ways to do so.

1. The objection is completely irrelevant. Suppose that God is necessarily logical. Even if that's true, the existence of logic is still subjective on God's will, and is still contingent. All that the objection does is confirm how this subjectivity and contingency arises. By trying to create solid ground below his feet, the theologian is in fact only proving how brittle it is.

2. The objection is an ad hoc rationalization. Nothing about the idea of God indicates that it must be necessarily logical. Indeed, God is supposed to be omnipotent, and it would hardly be so if it couldn't do what humans can do. And yet humans can be illogical. This indicates that the objection is in fact false, if we follow the definition of God.

3. Whatever God's nature is, it is not obvious that there is any relation between that nature and its creations. Suppose that God's nature is, by some magical process, made logical. This in no way indicates that its creation will reflect logic. Once again, if human beings can be logical and yet create illogical things, then there is no reason why God couldn't.

4. All the previous replies have assumed that it makes sense at all to speak of logic as being part of God's nature. To be consistent at all, one must believe that logic is either a creation of God, or can exist without being created. If logic is a creation of God, then logic cannot be a part of God's nature before creation, thus defeating the objection. If logic exists without creation, then creation is not needed for its existence, and we don't need God at all to explain it.

5. The objection presumes that it makes sense to speak of logic as a non-material entity (so that it can be part of a being that is not material). From the materialist perspective, logic is an axiomatic fact of reality, and arises because of the fundamental nature of the material world. It makes no sense to speak of logic dissociated from matter.

But the most profound problem with the objection is the complete lack of justification for its central assertion - that anything can be declared as part of God's nature. If God is posited, first, as being infinitely powerful, then on what grounds can we declare anything at all ? It is entirely possible that God is deluding the believer into saying that logic is part of God's nature, when in fact it is a clever lie. It is also possible that God wants the believer to believe that logic is necessary, when in fact it is not. And it is also possible that God is deluding the believer into thinking every single thing he thinks ! How is the believer to argue against these possibilities ? Surely he cannot.

I discuss this and other methods of "sanding down" Christian confidence in my article "Refuting Theistic Epistemic Standards". With them, nothing based on faith can stand. Enjoy !

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Sound of One Man Talking: A Conversation With Gene Cook

Now, I’m not normally one prone to ridicule. But sometimes I think the ridiculous needs to be shown for what it is, which is why I’ve pointed out the fallacious reasoning of Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, and why lately I’ve felt it necessary to publicize the humorous inconsistencies of Gene Cook. And though I don’t have any qualms about doing so, it is certainly nice to hear a note of support from the other side. As Gene said in a recent webcast:

I don’t make fun of all unbelievers. I just make fun of the professional unbelievers. … But when I come across a guy like the Infidel Guy, or Dan Barker, or Reverend Atheistar, or Francis Tremblah [sic], aka Kermit the Frog, then it’s a whole different ballgame. These are persistent mockers, and I get my pattern from the New Testament, as Jesus had the harshest words to say about the persistent mockers and the leaders- the blind leaders of the blind.

As Gene says, the persistent mockers paint themselves as targets, and so I’m only too happy to Goose the Antithesis.

Elsewhere in his webcast, Gene was faced with a dead phone board and a half-hour to kill. But he had at his disposal two key things: a razor-sharp wit, and a collection of out-of-context quotes he’d culled from Reggie Finley’s various shows and interviews. Since Gene got so much comedy mileage from the fake call to, he decided to replicate the gag, and placed a fake call to Reggie, using the audio clips as a conversant:

So let’s try calling him up, see if we can have a little fun. And hopefully he won’t call the police or the FBI and tell them that I’m stalking him or something. He’s kinda paranoid like that.

Indeed- I can’t imagine why Reggie would think a man who talks publicly about him every week, fantasizes about beating him up, and talks to audio clips of his voice would be in any way “stalking.” But let’s indulge Gene for now.

Gene: Reggie, are you there?

[recording]: I’m great, it’s a pleasure being here.

Gene: Hey. Just wanted to talk to you about this little challenge that you threw out. I’m wondering why you would throw out a challenge, I mean, you threw out a challenge and you said, that you’d like to beat up Gene Cook in the ring, but then when I came back and said, “Let’s do it UFC style,” you backed down. I’m just wondering, what’s going on inside your head?

[recording]: God gave me this brain.

Gene: God gave you that brain, and yet you’re still an atheist.

[recording]: I’m an atheist.

Gene: And somehow you think that you’re a good person.

[recording]: I think I’m a pretty decent guy.

Gene: Decent according to what standard? I mean, decent according to Reggie’s standard?

[recording]: I do think I am better morally, though, than your god- yes I do.

Gene: Well, I have to take issue with you there.

I have to take issue also, at this point. There are ways to use audio clips out of context to be really funny. Matt and Trey did this with Isaac Hayes’ voice for the “Chef Returns” episode of South Park. Unfortunately, the comedy is really flailing here, but Gene changes gears, and begins to talk about his deepest fantasies…

Gene: The reason why I’m calling you Reggie, is that I just want to get you in the ring, in the UFC ring, and slam you down into the canvas like Gary Coleman. I saw the picture of you in your security guard outfit, and I- I thought it would be fun- maybe you could wear your security guard outfit to the- because I also saw the picture of Gary Coleman working at the- the mall in Los Angeles, and I thought you might be able to show up and I could just pretend that I was fighting Gary Coleman.

[recording]: What are you talking about?

Gene: I’m talking about taking you up on your challenge, and I’m talking about a UFC showdown. East Coast versus West Coast, atheist versus Christian, until the end. Three rounds, five minutes each… so what do you think? Are you ready?

[recording]: No, not really.

I’m more than a little disturbed by the idea that Gene’s been sitting around, fantasizing about Reggie dressed in his prison guard uniform. But that isn’t the only detail that’s been bubbling away in Gene’s mind all week…

Gene: Well, let me tell you what would have happened if you had taken me up on the challenge. I would have got you in the ring, I would have lifted you over my shoulders, like Matt Hughes lifts the guys that he fights.

[recording]: Really?

Gene: Yeah. And I would have slammed you down on the canvas.

[recording]: Wow.

Gene: And then I would have taken your right arm and pulled it behind your back, and made you scream, “God loves Jacob and He hates Esau.”

[recording]: Okay.

Gene: And then, after I did that, I would have put you in a triangle hold, or an arm bar, and I would have made you sing “Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.”

Is it just me, or is this almost a pornographic level of violent detail? I get the strange feeling that this fantasy is being read out of a diary with the windows drawn closed. Maybe it’s just me, but the specific anatomical imagery, combined with a heavy religious context, speaks to me of deep-seating feelings which I doubt Gene is prepared to deal with. But no, that could never be the case- after all, this is a man who has joined with Dr. Robery Morey to reject the modern church which portrays Jesus himself as a “fag.” A church which somehow sees Christian violence as unbiblical. As Gene says:

This is the whole problem with Christianity. So many Christians are afraid to act like themselves, because they are afraid of being seen as non-Christians. Look, there is absolutely nothing that I could do in that UFC ring to lose my salvation. Nothing. Except maybe kiss him on the cheek while I have him in a submission.

Ricky Gervais on the Bible

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Paul Manata and the talking snakes

John Loftus, of Debunking Christianity, reports that our friend Paul Manata believes in talking snakes because it says so in the Bible. Well there you go. Quoting from Manata:

Assume that there is no higher weight that can be given to any evidence than God's own word on the matter. Indeed, since He cannot lie, knows everything, etc., then is there any higher authority that I could go to on this matter? If the above is true then why can't I invoke His word? And if I can invoke his word, well that's pretty good evidence for the talking snake.

Now, I like Loftus' discussion of this whole thing, especially the fact that he used Euthyphro Dilemma- something which atheists don't do nearly as much as they should. But I think he missed one simple but pretty important point. Paul believes that God knows everything and cannot lie. This, to me, seems to be a crucial assumption.

Of course, any discussion assumes that "God" means something as a label, which it doesn't, but indulge me for a bit. If God exists, it is all-powerful, or at least it is able to change the content of people's minds. The Bible proves that in many places.

Given this fact, Paul Manata may believe that God does not lie, but how does he know he is not being fooled by God into believing it? God may be making him believe this in order to gain a worshipper, when in fact God is lying for its own benefit. Now of course Paul would simply reply "but I believe that God does not lie", which brings us back to the same problem. You can believe that God does not lie all you want, but unless you can assert a mental independence from God, you cannot know that this is indeed the fact.

Of course, given that Christianity is all about belief and not about facts, why should we be surprised? If you want, you can believe with all your heart that God is not deceiving you. But you are making a very risky bet, if the Christian worldview is correct.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Question of the Day #53: Religious fiction

Given their beliefs, do you think Christians have a right to be angry about books and movies like "The Da Vinci Code" and "Last Temptation of Christ"?

(Consider, I once had a music theory professor who was very offended by "Amadeus".)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Interview at

This week, I was interviewed for the podcast. Biota is a website geared toward the artificial life community, but I also talked about evolution and atheism.

The virtue of justice

If I had to choose the one rational virtue that is the most maligned in Christianity, it would definitely have to be justice. This may seem like a counter-intuitive choice, but look at the basic premises of Christianity and how they oppose justice.

Original sin- We are all responsible for the crimes of our first ancestors, crimes that they didn't even know they were committing.
"Jesus"- God incarnates itself as a man and then sacrifices himself in order to somehow mitigate this responsibility.
Heaven and Hell- Eternal reward or punishment for finite crimes. This is usually justified by stating that any sin is a crime against an infinite God, which deserves infinite punishment.

The whole point of being a Christian is to believe in one travesty of justice (sacrificial salvation) in order to escape another (Original Sin). If Christianity is anything at all, it is an all-out attack against justice. If it means anything at all to be a Christian, it is to reject justice. And yet they whine that without God there is no ultimate justice in the universe! As far as Christian projections go, this one takes the cake.

Justice is the commitment to evaluate other people and act accordingly. As a moral agent, I am responsible for making sure that I associate with people who act benevolently (i.e. who consider me as a potential trading partner), and that I do not associate with people who do not. To do so, I must use my rational judgment and treat every individual as a fellow human being, not as a race, religion, social class, status, political group, or as a stepping stone for my own salvation.

What does Christianity preach? "Love your neighbour" and "don't judge lest ye be judged". In short, total non-confront. Why do they teach non-confront? Because their religion is based on submission and faith, and you can't very well be submissive or faithful if you keep evaluating everything for yourself. A belief system which is collectivist must necessarily be anti-justice as well.

As David Kelley says on the subject:

Justice is to society as rationality is to reality in general. It consists in identifying the facts about people and their actions, and evaluating them in terms of their effect on one’s life. This means rating people and their actions based on one’s own hierarchy of values.
Although one should be cautious about pronouncing sweeping moral judgments, one does need to form clear, if somewhat provisional, judgments of the people one deals with on a normal basis. The basis for such judgments should naturally be the facts that are relevant to one’s relationship with the other person. For example, the personal life of one’s banker may not be relevant to how well he handles one’s savings... But it is a vital necessity that one have good reasons to think he is of a rational, dependable, honest character in his financial dealings. Usually, one can reach a reasonable judgment in such cases based on his manner, reputation, track record, ideas and so on.
Logical Structure of Objectivism, p207 and 211

At a basic level, we all do this, perhaps unconsciously- even the most irrational Christian does. Indeed, fundamentalists tend to be very judgmental, although their judgment is not based on facts. But if we start applying this principle consistently, we find that many religious people aren't so great for one's values. What are we to make of people who can do nothing but deceive, brainwash children, and treat others as tools of salvation? This is an issue that all first generation atheists must confront.

By demanding that we non-confront other people's qualities and flaws, the moral system of Christianity ensures that its own peddlers of evil are revered without question. It also ensures that the family structure and the state structures will be revered without question. Non-confront is what keeps society stagnant.

So why is justice a virtue? I think this has been made clear by the discussion so far. Justice is a virtue because there are all kinds of people in a society, and we need to determine who can help us fulfill our values and who cannot, or can even hurt our values. Failing to make such a distinction means that we will be less able to effect our values. This is a pretty easy virtue to recognize.

Well, this is the last of the really anti-Christian virtues that I can see, so this is probably my last entry like this. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be willing to make more.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

chimp playing pacman

Friday, July 14, 2006

Paul Manata making a fool of himself again

God is for Suckers made an entry about the Dan Barker-Paul Manata debate.

Manata comes across as an angry thug. You can hear him constantly scribbling notes, his voice cracks and he stammers constantly, and the rage that goes back to his violent, drug abusing days vibrates just below the surface of everything he says.

Most of his arguments are petty and fail to address any of the sweeping contradictions Dan points out. He keeps trying to push Dan into a semantic corner: “Did I say that? When did I say that? Define that. What do you mean when you say that?”

Good ol' Paul. Still making a fool of himself after all these years.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Question of the Day #52: Fun with zealotry

What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you during a run-in with a religious individual?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Leviticus Does Christian Rock" video

From God is for Suckers!.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Christian celebrations of death

In my past entry, I discussed the virtue of non-sacrifice. It is improper for a virtuous person to be obsessed with death, of the self or others, as a positive force. Certainly I admit that one can conduct himself with dignity when faced with death, and that such a dignity is not only an honour on him but also a good example to show. Also, I agree that our modern societies are not nearly concerned enough with dying well. However, there is a vast chasm between understanding death and glorifying it.

And yet Christianity is dedicated, not to understand death, but to glorify it. Christianity is, in fact, pretty much black and white on this issue. It trivializes death as a mere stepping stone to an either infinitely blissful or infinitely painful "afterlife". The act of dying is seen by Christians as yet another occasion for rituals and religious reinforcement. They have no respect for the dead (or their wishes while they were alive, for that matter, but that's par for the course).

On the other hand, Christianity and the Bible glorify death from cover to cover. Despite its admonitions not to kill or commit suicide, the Bible praises war, murder, sacrifice and divine wrath at every turn.

The most obvious manifestation of glorification of death is in the central character of "Jesus". There can be no doubt that "Jesus" killed himself- that is the whole purpose of his presence in the story. Not only does it glorify suicide, but also executions, sacrifice and suffering. Christians love the suffering of "Jesus" on the cross so much that they made a blockbuster out of a movie that concentrates almost solely on that aspect. They just love to glorify death on the big screen, and inflict such visions on their children. They adore a bloodied loser on a cross. You shall know them by their symbols!

Another movie that came out, concerned Moses and his messiah status to lead his tribes out of Egypt. This story is almost nothing but an orgy of death- innocent babies killed, livestock killed, rivers filling with blood, bugs attacking people... and of course, the Red Sea, where countless soldiers no doubt drowned. It is nothing but a magnification of the terroristic genocide that takes place all throughout the Old Testament.

Do I even need to explain another popular story used to indoctrinate children- Noah's Ark? Where the drowning of all life on the whole planet is portrayed as a wonderous, magical adventure? This goes beyond glorification of death- it treats total genocide as a walk in the park!

What about the book opener, the story of Adam and Eve ? Sure, no one dies in it per se, but what is the story meant to explain? Suffering and death! Why doesn't the Christian creation story try to explain anything else?

Why is death, indeed, the primary motivator for religious belief? Every concern of Christians is really a fear of death. The search for purpose? Answered by the afterlife- death. What is our comfort? The prospect of the afterlife- death. Where will ultimate justice come? At the afterlife- death. Forgiveness? You get the idea. Death is their answer for everything.

Sure, there is more to religion than the glorification of death. But seen from this perspective, it is hard to see religion as anything more than campfire stories people make up to reassure themselves that the grim expectation of their death should be a joy. In a world where our lives are more and more in our hands, such beliefs are fast becoming horrifying relics of a primitive age.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Kicking Ass For Jesus

In a recent blog posting, Pastor Gene Cook related a story about his son understanding the preciousness of life:
Somewhere near the end of my sermon I began talking about the brevity of life and the fact that we could be removed from this life at any moment. I related a story about a woman that had suddenly lost her husband. My son was in the worship service because we were short one teacher for the 10-12 year old class… As we were having dinner he looked at me and said “Dad, I don’t know what I am going to do when God takes you out of this life”. At that moment I realized that he understood. I have always tried to impress on my congregation as well as my children that life is a gift. We cannot take it for granted. He understood. His value for time with me was appreciated a thousand times in that moment. We both realized that the clock was ticking. I tried to hide the obvious tears that welled up in my eyes but he saw them.
It’s a profound truth that Gene has touched on here, but what’s particularly ironic is that it’s a truth that can only be derived from a naturalistic, materialistic worldview. In the Christian worldview, of course, our life here on the physical plane represents an infinitely small fraction of our full existence- after our earthly sojourn, we all will be spending eternity in either Heaven or Hell. For the Christian, Heaven is a place of infinite rejoicing, and eternal communion with the Christian god. It stands to reason that being in Heaven is to be preferred over being on Earth, infinite times over. Thus, the consistent Christian doesn’t cherish life- he tolerates it as a temporary burden to bear before being united forever with his god. Gene is betraying here the repressed naturalistic assumptions of his worldview by valuing Earthly life, but it’s a hypocrisy that I wouldn’t normally begrudge him.

However- just when I start to feel some empathy for a Christian, he demonstrates the inanity of his convictions.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the insults and animosity that have been directed towards Reggie Finley by Gene in the past, but this next example is disquieting primarily because of its oddity, rather than sheer bad taste.

On a recent webcast, Reggie responded to a listener who jokingly suggested that he should to have a boxing match with Gene for charity. Given the way that Gene haunts and taunts him continuously, such a proposition, even in jest, doesn’t seem terribly unusual. However, Gene found that to be an excellent suggestion, and promptly emailed him saying:
Someone told me that you are interested in putting together a grudge match for charity. If this is true I am only interested if we do UFC rules.
Imagine that- the fighting pastor! Not since Reggie White passed on have I seen such a common zeal for physical violence and spirituality. Of course, voluntary bloodsports are well within the bounds of secular morality, as listeners of Vox Populi should already be aware. But for a Christian pastor to seriously and intentionally seek out a fisticuffs competition against an atheist- that’s a little strange on my palate. Initially Reggie responded positively, likely in the hopes that such a “grudge match” would be a good way to raise funds for his webcast. But many of his forum members advised against it, since it seemed like just another one of Gene’s many attempts to attack Reggie, but this time physically.

Upon rejecting the offer, Gene gave one more shot at taunting Reggie:
His friends tried to come to his rescue and fabricate reasons why he shouldn’t do it… [they say I] shouldn't be participating on something like this because [I am] a Christian (forget about the fact that Matt Hugh's[sic] is a Christian as well as many other UFC fighters)
This struck me as very interesting. It’s true, of course, that Matt Hughes is a devout Christian and acclaimed fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon. But does that make it right? By Gene’s logic, any activity is given Christian sanction just by the fact that Christians participate in it. Can the same be said about other activities- murder, rape, theft- all committed by equally devout Christians every single day. But hey, that’s just me being nitpicky about Gene’s non sequiturs- I think the underlying question of “Is it Christian to fight?” is more meaty.

Certainly within the Old Testament religiously motivated violence is abounding- examples all the way from Abraham, who fought with the Elamites in Genesis 14; Moses, who killed an Egyptian out of anger; Joshua, who led the Hebrews against the Canaanites; Samson, who personally slaughtered Philistines by the hundreds; all the way through King David, who “killed his tens of thousands” and was a “man after God’s own heart.”

But what (as they say), did Jesus do? In his famous Sermon on the Mount (or Plain, as Luke tells it), Jesus offers blessings for a number of different kinds of people, including “the gentle,” “the merciful,” and “the peacemakers.” Not once does he offer a blessing for “the violent,” “the vengeful,” or “the fighters.” As if that wasn’t enough, Jesus then addresses several aspects of the Hebrew Law which don’t quite meet with his approval. One such correction is the Mosaic cliché, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” Instead, Jesus offers this correction: “do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

The words of Jesus and UFC regulations seem to be in flagrant contradiction. According to the latter, the following are prohibited: “Timidity, including, without limitation, avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally or consistently dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury.” I guess Jesus couldn’t fight in the UFC.

But are there any other examples in the Gospel that would give an insight onto Jesus’ desire for violence towards others? As it happens, all four Gospels record Jesus’ rebuking of an act of violence done on his behalf by one of his disciples (Peter, according to John).
Luke 22: When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, "Stop! No more of this." And He touched his ear and healed him.
Well, forget Jesus- everyone knows that Jesus is a fag, anyway. When we want to find some validation of good, Christian violence, we look to the grizzled, mean apostle from Tarsus, Paul! But wait, is Paul really such a font of machismo?
2 Corinthians 10: Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
What is this? Paul comes across sounding like the worst kind of fighter- bold when he’s not in the same room with you, but meek when he’s close enough to be punched. Not only that, but he claims that it’s not Christ-like to actually make physical violence- that the true Christian attack is a spiritual attack. Something tells me that Paul wouldn’t last too long in the UFC either.

So there seems to be no scriptural justification for a Christian to engage in physical violence with others. Both Jesus and Paul are specifically quoted as being against such a thing- so it certainly can’t be on theological grounds that Christians like Gene Cook relish the idea of physical altercation. Without giving myself over completely to psychological speculation, I would offer that we all create the god our psyches need. I don’t think it’s any accident that Gene embraces the same desire for a rough-and-tumble, pull-no-punches, dripping-with-testosterone Jesus as another self-confessed aficionado of violence, Paul Manata (the erstwhile known "Ultimate Christian Warrior"). Which is all well and good, when all is said and done- if you’re such a manly force of nature that you crave physical combat, by all means seek out means to do so. But don’t pretend for a minute that you can also be a consistent Christian.

Question of the Day #51: The "good" book?

Do you find the Bible (or any other "Holy" book) interesting as mere literature? If you don't, is it because you find religious texts offensive, or could you enjoy one if it were at least, in your opinion, well-written?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Scientology Orientation Video

It's divided in ten parts, and the most interesting ones are part 9 and 10, although all of them are entertaining in their cheeziness:

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The virtue of non-sacrifice

In this entry I want to examine the virtue of non-sacrifice and how Christianity opposes it. This is not my first entry on objective moral principles, as I have previously examimed the virtue of honesty and the virtue of non-coercion.

That Christianity contradicts the virtue of non-sacrifice is almost tautological. After all, the most admired symbol of Christianity is the bloody Jesus on the cross, a pitiful failure, which is a clear representation of sacrifice. In Christianity, sacrifice is seen as noble and holy. No one is held in higher esteem than one who suffers, and this is even echoed in our modern values. But to sacrifice oneself is more than suffering - it is willful suffering.

Sacrifice is immoral because it is a destruction of our values. But sacrifice is often praised mistakenly. Many actions, such as parenting or charity, are seen as sacrificial when they in fact serve the person's values - not necessarily financial values, but also emotional and social values. These kinds of mistakes are always the consequence of conflating these different kinds of values. So always be clear when you are using terms like "sacrifice" and "altruism", that you are not simply confused about the values effected in the situation.

Here is David Kelley (what, you expected me to quote anyone else on morality ?) on the arbitrariness and irrationality of self-sacrifice :

[A]n arbitrary action is one without any value behind it. It is an action inconsistent with one’s objective hierarchy of values. Because life is a full-time job, arbitrary action is anti-life. At the same time, action directed at anti-life goals is arbitrary. In other words, people can choose goals that are arbitrary. No one can deny that a suicide bomber is purposeful, for example; but he does not aim at a value in objective terms. A suicide bomber is a particularly drastic example of explicit self-sacrifice. But one’s life is at stake in any case of arbitrary action, albeit in a less totalistic manner.
David Kelley, "The Logical Structure of Objectivism", chapter 6

The paradigmatic example of the suicide bomber is perhaps extreme, but judicious, since the suicide bomber and the Buddhist monk do have something in common. Both are not motivated by personal values but rather by destructive beliefs - in both cases, belief in some form of afterlife.

To say that non-sacrifice is virtuous, therefore, is more easily deduced by first understanding that sacrifice is vicious. And sacrifice is vicious because it is an abandonment of our values and an abandonment of rationality in one's actions. To sacrifice oneself is to give up on making one's own judgments, which is a prerequisite for virtue.

This is not to say that sacrifice serves no role at all. As I discussed before, religious morality is inherently utilitarian to the belief system. Sacrifice, therefore, serves the interests of whoever controls the belief that prompts the sacrifice. The suicide bomber serves the interests of his religious authorities, and the Buddhist monk serves the interests of his temple's master.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

So where are the riots?

New Jersey's government is shut down. Where are the riots that statists told us must happen without government?

I'm waiting...

Any time soon now, the people of New Jersey will become monsters and resort to pillaging, raping and killing.

Any time soon...

Still waiting...

"Atheism for Kids" video

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Jesus" was a horse thief / The Power of Christ!

"Jesus" was a horse thief. Luke 19:29-35 says so:

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.'"

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"

They replied, "The Lord needs it."

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.

Who'd have thought?

Does "The Power of Christ Compels You"? It did not compel the author of Daylight Atheism, who pointed out certain astute things, as for instance, why do we need to repeat it three times? But for those of you who want to test this anyway and prove that you are a "real atheist" (according to the person who came up with these incantations), here are the instructions:

Say this out loud 3x:


Then say this out loud 3x:


Well, there it is.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Question of the Day #50: Hypothetical

If you met a scientist with a "mind-control ray" who told you he was going to "zap" you and change you from an atheist/agnostic/skeptic into a religious person, but would give you the choice of the religion you would become, which one would you choose, and why?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

My worldview revisited

I used to be an Objectivist. Due to my strong disagreements with the Objectivist party line as regards to the theory of knowledge and political morality, I can no longer call myself that. "Rational Individualism" is a good term, but it is perhaps not that succinct, and somewhat redundant.

This reflexion started very recently. I have been successful in connecting the dots between religion and politics- they are just two forms of the same kind of destructive collectivist belief. But I want to go further and look at other negative aspects of life, like cults, quack medicine, diets, exercise programs, AA (and other such recovery systems based on submission and groupthink), the self-help industry, altruism and duty, and the "rat race". Things that people follow and end up just making their lives more complicated and full of hardship. Like religion and politics, actually! Do you see where the dots start to connect now?

Philosophy is not just about high concepts, but also about daily life, or at least it should be. After all, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that there is a difference. Our large-scale decisions are nothing more than the result of a lot of small-scale ones. We decide to go to church or not go to church, to vote or not to vote, to speak for or against something, to break or stay in a noxious relation. Making the same choice again and again commits us to a path. We may learn to regret that path.

Philosophy asks us to reconsider our fundamental positions and examine their premises. Shouldn't it ask us to reconsider our daily actions and their motives as well? Why not?

The main common thread between all these things is that people make their lives more complicated than they need to be, and they buy into systems that other people have built in order to gain money or power. Now, gaining money and power, when done honestly, is a great thing. But when done dishonestly, it's our responsibility to stay clear of the results. Otherwise you become a "spiritual seeker", a compulsive dieter, an AA nut, a battered wife, or in the worst case scenario, a Scientologist (I was gonna say "a Nazi in jackboots", but I don't want to trigger Godwin's Law- besides, Scientologists are funnier).

You just make your life harder, more complicated, less happy. That's all it does! Rarely do any of these things ever solve anything, and if they do, the relief is usually temporary. In the case of medical quackery, the placebo effect does actually make it slightly less of a crap shoot, although placebo is still fraud any way you look at it.

The main role of these things is to enslave you into a specific scheme of thought and feelings- to always do a little more, and that will solve it. The solution must be in the next diet, or the next religion, or the next election, or the next year of AA meetings, or the next homeopathic pills, or the next spinal adjustment, or the next family meeting, or the next time you talk to your abusive husband, or the next promotion, a bigger this, a smaller that...

It requires a lot of individualism to go beyond the conditioning (i.e. what we've been actively taught to believe) and the mainstream (i.e. just believing what most people believe), and look at one's premises. In fact, breaking free of this morass is pretty much necessary for any real philosophy, we already know that. But this is really deep-reaching stuff. Anyone who's ever deconverted from religion or statism knows how it feels. And at a smaller scale, anyone who's broken free from the other systems I listed. It's also a powerful liberation. This is powerful stuff!

I'm not trying to say something as stupid as "simple is always better" or "don't trust anyone". You can make up an exceedingly simple rule and fail. I can say that all people with green eyes are evil, and everyone else is absolutely good, but that would equally just subject me to hardship, because it is a false and evil rule. Likewise, some people can help you see things that you overlooked, or contribute a ariety of approaches to life.

You have to look at problems from a fresh approach, look at your premises rationally (what are your values? are those good values?), and come to simple and reasonable solutions. The obvious case is religion. Just forget about all the belief systems out there and look at the reality of it. Have you ever seen a god? Does the notion even make sense? Not really, no. We really have no idea what we're saying when we say "supernatural" or "Creator", and if it makes no sense, what good is it to include it in our lives? All we see is the material universe, so it makes more sense to cut away from those beliefs and try to grasp the universe on our own material terms. If belief in some universal force makes you feel better, then by all means believe in it, but don't get hookwinded by people who claim to speak for this or that god.

A good example of a person who does this in other areas is Reinhard Engels, who came up with the concept of Everyday Systems. It is his work that inspired me to make these new connections. He proposes various solutions to problems such as drinking, overeating, exercising and information overload, but his solutions are not gimmick systems designed to make you fall in a rut. What he proposes are catchy, simple habit changes that you integrate in your life. That's all. Deceptively simple, but extremely reasonable. His work is a perfect example of someone looking at problems from a fresh perspective, looking at his premises rationally, and coming to a simple and reasonable solution.

One important premise is that everything you do must try to reinforce your free will, not erode it. One constant between all these systems is that they attempt to impose arbitrary restrictions, or attempt to make you submit and obey. They are based on trying to cave your will in, and get you to return again and again to the fold. Instead, the methods you choose should try to reinforce your will- through changing your habits, empowering you to search for yourself, to make your own destiny instead of letting others dictate it for you. No good can ever come from subjecting your intelligence and critical faculties to another, however much you trust them.

Reinforcing your will can be uncomfortable because it implies that the problems are actually the result of your decisions. That's okay! As long as you want to change, why should you hit yourself on the head? Lay off the guilt complex until you do something actually worthy of feeling guilty for.

And of course I want to clarify that when I talk about free will, I am not talking about severe mental problems where you are actually not in control (such as severe depression, or schizophrenia). You can't reinforce what is not there, and people who need actual medical attention can't be expected to follow a method that requires willpower.

And sure, some problems are more complicated than others. Curing cancer is very complicated. But from a personal standpoint, I simplify my life if I follow my medical treatments and don't buy into all the quack stuff out there, which at best will only make me poorer (and could kill me). Getting chemotherapy is more than enough hardship, and I don't need further hardship on top of that. If some inoffensive thing like getting needles stuck in your back or getting "therapeutic touch" makes you feel good, then go ahead and do it, but don't believe that you're doing anything but paying for someone to pass her hands around you. If you're gonna do that, why not pay for a massage? At least you get something real out of it.

You've got all these diets- but all a diet does is make you crash and feel guilty when you fail, so you start another one. It's self-perpetuating! You are asked to buy into these complicated systems which do nothing but enslave you. Individualism simply means to stop buying into all these magical recipes and think for yourself. Go back to the premise of your values and the facts of the matter. As always, it comes back to morality- what are your values and how best to accomplish them? The answer, if you are honest, will never be "by subscribing to a system that tries to enslave me in an endless pattern of guilt and hope".

You have to recognize what does not exist, and what does exist and can be used. For example, altruism does not exist- everyone acts in their self-interest. That's just a basic fact of human behaviour. Now, if you want to go and help others, you can do that! Just don't make it into a moral doctrine. Do it in recognition of what it brings you. God does not exist, religion is bullshit- be spiritual if you want, do your own thing, just don't buy into what other people want you to buy into. Make your own connections. Don't rely on others to make them for you.

Same thing for consuming and working. If you value work and consumption, don't feel guilt over it. It's your values, your life. Don't fall into altruistic duty, but don't fall in the opposite side either. Don't buy something just because you saw a good commercial, or because your neighbour got one, or something like that- unless of course your purpose is to be better than your neighbour! Individualism is not a fixed worldview, everyone will do things differently. That's perfectly fine, as long as you check your premises.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Defeat of the Will part 2

And now to completely demolish the "submission of the will" premise - "God's will" cannot be a moral guide, or a guide to anything else for that matter. You might think "Well, this is not true - if a person believes that the Bible is the word of God, then why can't he use that as a moral guide?" (excluding the little fact that anyone who follows the Bible faithfully is an insane criminal). Well, the problem is that there are no moral principles that can come from anyone's will.

Suppose I tell you "I think abortion is a horrible thing" (which I don't). Firstly, why should you care? That's just personal opinion. It is a product of my will, not of reality. Secondly, I might change my mind tomorrow - perhaps, if I had a girlfriend who got pregnant. But moral principles are universal. While my will may change in orientation from day to day, human needs and the laws of reality do not.

We find the same two problems with the notion that God can provide moral principles. Any morality provided by Christianity is the result of a will- God's will. Therefore it is merely personal opinion. Who cares? Also, the morality shown in the Bible, as well as by Christian sects, differs from place to place and from time to time. So how can there be moral principles?

It is the inherent subjectivity of God's will, which has by definition no objective standard to discover and reason from, which makes reliance on God's will impossible. If there is no objective fact, then there is no reason to follow anything. The world of the Christian is a nihilistic world, where everything is maintained by sheer force of faith and always threatens to crumble at the merest doubt. All there is, is human will.

"God's will" is, of course, part of the trash heap of inter-subjective Christian terms, like "salvation", "creation" and "original sin". It is really a malleable concept which means "whatever we tell you God wants". The idea of "interpreting the will of an abstraction" is is a mechanism used by collectivist systems- most religious cults, religions and political ideologies.

Just like the Christian cannot deny materialism, only vainly attempt to transcend it, the Christian cannot deny the rational conclusion about the exclusivity of human will, only vainly attempt to transcend it by trying to point to some standard which he (mistakenly) believes is objective. While the Christian qua Christian may believe that he is following the objective standard of his sect or particular set of beliefs, he is in fact following some inter-subjective standard.

This is not necessarily a problem, as long as he is aware of it. But in most cases Christians are not aware of it. There are bizarre exceptions of people who know that they are deluded and yet do not mind at all. This is the kind of people that an atheist talks to for five minutes and just leaves shaking his head, because the idea of a person who does not care for the truth is the complete antithesis of what atheism represents for most people.

So if we look at the nature of Christian belief, we find that it is entirely constructed of human will and human judgments, and by Occam's Razor we can eliminate the idea of "God's will" entirely. When a Christian is "inspired by God's will by reading the Bible", we should rather say that he is inspired by what his judgment tells him the Bible means. This puts the burden of interpretation in the proper hands, that is to say, in the believer's hands.