Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What Daddy Says to His Celibate Daughter

**This is an essay I wrote through the eyes of the abstinence-demanding father. It is inspired by Zachary's previous post on abstinence pledging.**

Hello my lovely daughter. My, you are growing up so fast! I can still remember the day you were born - it seems like only yesterday to me.

Well, you are almost a woman now. You are finding your own identity and learning about love, independence, responsibility, and all those other things that differentiate between children and adults.

I want you to transition into womanhood happily, healthily, and productively. I want your life to be filled with joy. I want to see you spread your wings and fly out of the nest for the first time, exploring this big beautiful world on your own.

That is why I want you to pledge your vagina and your sex life to me, your father.

Now don’t get me wrong, you can fall in love with and marry whomever your heart longs for. This is the 21st century and it is not my place to decide who you should be joined in holy matrimony with. And after all, what kind of "adult" would I let you be if I chose your life partner for you?

But sex is a different matter, my little princess. The choice of sex is not a choice for you to make directly. That choice is reserved for me, and by proxy, your husband to be.

It is your husband who will proposition you for sex-by-marriage, but he will not proposition you directly. He must first ask my permission to marry you, and if I give him permission, then he can ask you if you want to spend the rest of your life with him. Remember what I always told you growing up: "father knows best."

Of course, I am only assuming possession of your sexual organs for your safety. It is necessary in order for me to make sure that your transition into adulthood happens as smoothly as possible.

So when you are ready to experience sex, I will let you know. Or rather, I will let your fiancé/future husband know by telling him that you have my permission to ask for your hand in marriage.

After all, the only man worthy of your love is the man who would check with your father first before he asks you if you want to marry him, because this is a man who knows who owns what.

Your fiancé and I are only looking after your best interests. We love you, and we respect you. In fact, we respect you so much that we will guard your sexual organs and administer your sexual life with the wisdom and care that you could never exercise yourself.

Welcome to womanhood, my little princess. Daddy loves you!

Daddy's Little Girls

Imagine a couple arriving at a church in a limousine- she's in her finest dress, he's in a tuxedo. In front of their friends and family, they stand before each other and pledge a covenant- she to remain his, and he to protect and care for her. After exchanging rings, they embrace and join each other on the dance floor to commemorate their vows, as the guests eat fancy cake.

Sounds like a wedding, no? Sure would be too, if the couple weren't father and daughter.

While not a wedding, these "Father-Daughter Purity Balls" are designed to be enough like one to really set off my creepiness alarm. Now, it's all well and good for fathers to have strong and loving relationships with their daughters, but this seems to be taking it too far. The vow made by the daughter is strictly sexual- she is essentially ceding sovereignty of her body, and specifically her genitals, to her father. According to recent participant Mike Parcha, this arrangement "is a culmination of the relationship we have with God and with each other."

And he would seem to be right. Most ancient societies were strongly patriarchal, to the extent that daughters were essentially the property of their fathers. The Old Testament reflects this mentality:
Deuteronomy 22: Suppose a man marries a woman, but after going in to her, he dislikes her and makes up charges against her, slandering her by saying, ‘I married this woman; but when I lay with her, I did not find evidence of her virginity.’ The father of the young woman and her mother shall then submit the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. The father of the young woman shall say to the elders: ‘I gave my daughter in marriage to this man but he dislikes her; now he has made up charges against her, saying, “I did not find evidence of your daughter’s virginity.” But here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ Then they shall spread out the cloth before the elders of the town. The elders of that town shall take the man and punish him; they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver (which they shall give to the young woman’s father) because he has slandered a virgin of Israel. She shall remain his wife; he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.
In this instance, the virginity (sexual sovereignty) of the woman is considered the property of her husband after marriage. If the new husband suspects that his property is damaged, it naturally falls on the previous owner to provide some evidence that it was in pristine condition when he owned it.
Deuteronomy 22: If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.
Here again, we see the sexual sovereignty of the woman as the property of her father. In this example, rape is viewed as a crime not towards the woman, but to her father- and it is to her father that the fine must be paid. The woman is forced to become the rapist's wife- sort of a "you break it, you bought it" policy.

So it really does seem as if these displays of paternal ownership of their daughters' vaginas really are consistent with the Christian scriptures. But is it a good idea? Ignoring the psychological implications of "marrying" one's own daughter, a common rationale for these Purity Balls is that they preserve virginity in a sexually permissive culture. But is that really true?

In a study conducted by Columbia's Sociology Department Chair Peter Bearman and Yale professor Hannah Bruckman, although abstinence vows significantly delayed first intercourse, 88% of young people who had made vows did have sex before marriage. And not only do these vows not work, but these people were also more likely to have participated in sexual activities that were more likely to expose them to sexually transmitted diseases- males, for example, were four times more likely to engage in anal sex than other males who didn't take abstinence vows. And contraception was used less - 20% less condom use, for example, in males who made vows of abstinence. Thus, the data explain what had been a puzzling fact- why teens who vowed to be sexually abstinent were no less likely to catch an STD than other teens who engaged in sex earlier. Rather than being protected from sex, the teens who made vows were sheltered from sex in a way that promoted risky behavior with many partners once they did have their first intercourse experience. This conclusion is consistent with anecdotal evidence I've reported before.

Now, one thing that Bearman and Bruckman point out in their study is that abstinence vows work initially because they are tied into an identity movement, which can exert considerable sociological force. However, they point out that like other identity movements, it can be fragile- the number of common participants cannot be too many or too few and certain ages are more susceptible than others. An important component of this effect seems to be the non-normative nature of the vow- that is, those who make abstinence vows need to view themselves as is a minority for the vow to have any effect at all on delay of first intercourse. It may be the case that these Purity Balls, which seek to instill in young girls the concept of an abstinence vow as a normal part of life, may be doing more harm than good to their cause. If they are too successful, especially considering that most of the participating girls seem to be home-schooled, where their social experience is extremely limited, the vow itself may carry less social force that they are hoping.

If that is the case, then the only thing left is the crushing impact of religious guilt, and I don't expect that to be terribly psychologically healthy for the average Christian girl, especially one who is "married" to her father.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Blind Man's Bluff

Blind Man's Bluff is an excellent entry from last month posted on It really illustrates how Christianity is an epistemic dead-end.

Or, when the question of love is brought up, I am informed that I am forgetting that God is just. But what does his justice look like? “Just” means in accordance with a law. What law does God have to follow? And, when he is merciful, he is deliberately not following the law. In other words, God is not bound by any justice or mercy at all. Since I cannot even see God, talking about some law beyond God (which he does or does not have to follow) that I see even less becomes meaningless.

O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by justice or mercy.

And I am informed that God defines absolute morality. But then I view actions in the Tanakh that go against the moral intuition he allegedly gave me. Things like asking a person to perform human sacrifice to prove their loyalty. Genocides. Hardening hearts. When I ask about those things, that don’t seem very moral to me, I am told I must accept God as moral, and while it doesn’t appear moral, God had to have a moral reason for it.

O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by morality.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Three Fallacies of Movementarian Atheists

I call "Movementarian Atheists" those who would try to stop everyone else from having a good time, and want to temper everyone into falling into step for an "atheist movement" which does not exist. Like this guy.

Here are their three most-used fallacies:

1. Fallacy of the Middle Ground

The belief that there is a middle ground between believing and not believing (there isn't), and that residing on this middle ground makes a person's position superior to all others positions (it doesn't).

"I'm an agnostic. I believe that no one can really know. You have the burden of proof."
"I don't pretend to know anything."

2. Fallacy of Positive Thinking

The desire to find something good about religion or religious people. While no one denies that religions or religious people can do good things, those things have nothing to do with religion itself.

"Don't insult someone for his or her religion, we have to be nice to everyone." (said after an atheist points out that Christianity is a morally repugnant doctrine)
"Religions do good things, like charity."

3. Fallacy of Pin-The-Meaning

The belief that folk semantics equals ontological truth (it doesn't). The desperate attempt to pin a meaning, any meaning, on a word simply because we already use that word.

"God is not a person, but God is love. We all really believe in God."
"Why are you so close-minded as to reject the idea that God could represent something beyond us?"

A Second Helping of Goose

The second year of Goosing the Antithesis has come and gone. Sadly, it's seen the departure of the inspirational "Pressing the Antithesis" blog by crowd favorite Paul Manata, but fortunately he's been hanging out with the stellar lads at Triablogue, so I'm sure we'll have plenty more from him to come.

It's also seen the departure of Francois Tremblay from his leadership role at this blog, although he's not gone for good either, and frequently pops in to remind us of that fact.

My own experience this past year has been marked primarily by podcasting. The Evolution 101 podcast series that I took over from Reggie Finley has been an overwhelming success, and just today has breached 300,000 downloads. I've also founded the Apologia podcast series, which has enjoyed more modest popularity, at just over 13,000 downloads total.

For an update of the numbers for this blog from last year: GTA is up from $13.6 billion in 2006 to $17.7 billion in 2007 on Blogshares, we're down from about 300 visits per day in 2006 to 200 visits per day in 2007 (although each visit averages a two minute stay), and Technorati tracks 1207 links to this blog, making it #36 of 727 in atheism, #13 of 321 in morality, #6 of 89 in freethought, and #1 of 5 in atheology.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Biological Basis of Morality

A letter to Nature published yesterday by researchers from the University of Iowa and Harvard University (including Dr. Antonio Damasio, author of "The Feeling of What Happens" and "Decartes' Error") have shown that a particular region of the brain, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, is responsible for mediating our moral judgments.

Specifically, for transforming what would be a simple utilitarian ethical calculus into something more akin to the Moral Razor. In the study, people with injuries to this part of their brain were more willing to sacrifice the lives of their fellows in order to save a larger number, even if it meant flat-out murder.

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is a region which is thought to allow for social emotions, like compassion. These emotions seem to be essential for correct moral decisions in high-stakes situations; they seem to provide the moral foundation for higher-level ethical analysis which preserve moral symmetry through subconscious feelings.

According to Dr. Damasio:
This area, when it’s working, will give rise to social emotions that we can feel, like embarrassment, guilt and compassion, that are critical to guiding our social behavior. A nice way to think about it is that we have this emotional system built in, and over the years culture has worked on it to make it even better.

Common Ground

Dawson Bethrick of "Incinerating Presuppositionalism" has completed a series of articles examining areas which are shared in common between believers and non-believers. His thesis is that "'common ground' is a tightrope that presuppositionalists are compelled to navigate as a result of various contradictions within the Christian religion's view of man and the antithesis it employs to divide men against each other."

This series examines seven different questions:

It's a fascinating series, albeit one which may not be palatable to the average believer. However, the other day as I was talking with Derek Sansone at lunch, it occurred to me that, despite the fact that such an overwhelming majority of people (at least, in this country) consider themselves believers, there is a profound amount of cooperation between them and non-believers, in many areas of practical existence. Is it possible that this common ground, for all practical purposes, has already been granted?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Violence of the Christ / Atheists and NDEs

Violent religious text, like the Bible and Quran, can make people act more aggressively, according to a new survey!

Both the religious and non-religious participants were more aggressive and delivered louder blasts when told the passage was a piece of Biblical scripture or read God's sanction but the believers outdid the others in both cases.

"That the effect was found in such a sample may attest to the insidious power of exposure to literary scriptural violence," Bushman wrote in his report.

A study by a believer in the afterlife, P.M.H. Atwater, is available on this page. Interestingly, she also noted the religion or lack thereof of the subjects, and used that in her results. While she tries to puts her spin on the results and twist them until they fit her framework, the results are still interesting. Basically, having an NDE as an atheist really, really sucks.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Religion 101 Final Examination

By Miles Rationis

1.Which of the following is the most compelling evidence for the existence of an intelligent and loving Designer?
  • a. A Caribbean sunset
  • b. The screams of a baby seal as it is torn apart by a shark
  • c. The first time your perfect new baby smiles at you
  • d. The speed of the Ebola virus converting an African child's organs into liquid
2. A deeply devout Catholic couple has just returned from their fiftieth anniversary celebration, when suddenly the husband falls to the ground, clutching his chest. What is the most productive action for the wife to take?
  • a. Call 911
  • b. Put him in the car and race to the hospital herself
  • c. Administer CPR
  • d. Fall on her knees and pray to the Lord to spare his life
3. You are a product tester and frequently bring your work home. Yesterday, while dressed in a flame resistant suit (up to 3,000 degrees) and carrying the latest model fire extinguisher, you discover your neighbor's house is on fire. As the flames quickly spread, you stand and watch your neighbor's new baby burn to death. Which of the following best describes your behavior?
  • a. All-powerful
  • b. All-knowing
  • c. All-loving
  • d. Mysterious
4. One day while jogging in the park, you see a maniac with a butcher knife about to attack a six-year old girl. Which would be the most morally proper action to take?
  • a. Grab the nearest rock and beat off the attacker
  • b. Call the police on your cell phone
  • c. Yell "POLICE!" and run toward the attacker in a threatening manner
  • d. Calmly walk away, because God works in mysterious ways, and what appears "evil" to our finite human mind, may in fact be part of a vaster plan in God's infinite mind, so it's best not to interfere
5. You are the incarnated Son of the all-powerful and all-loving Creator of the universe. What would be a good way to demonstrate your compassion and power?
  • a. Cure cancer forever
  • b. Cause all the earth's deserts to bloom with food crops
  • c. Unite the world with a common language and an end to poverty
  • d. Conjure up a jug of wine and follow it up by walking on water
6. Since we can never "know" whether or not a God exists - it is fundamentally a matter of "faith" - it's best to be a believer since you have nothing to lose, but everything to lose if your disbelief is incorrect. Keeping in mind that the fate of your soul depends on the right choice, in which God should you place your belief? For extra credit, include a brief essay justifying your choice, along with the reasons why you reject the other three.
  • a. Zeus
  • b. Quetzalcoatl
  • c. Vishnu
  • d. The Holy Trinity
(*Note: Choice D assumes you were born around 400 A.D. or later, after the invention of the Trinity)

7. You are the Creator of the universe. Your chosen people are a tribe of nomadic herdsmen, presently in bondage on one of the millions of your planets. Their ruler is being quite obstinate. Keeping in mind that you possess not only infinite power but also infinite love, your best course of action would be to:
  • a. Cause the ruler to drop dead of a heart attack
  • b. Cause the ruler to fall off a cliff
  • c. Visit the ruler in a dream and persuade him to let your people go
  • d. Slaughter a great number of innocent babies who had nothing to do with the ruler's policies
8.You are a Starfleet Federation explorer in the process of cataloging two newly discovered planets. The majority of the inhabitants of each planet believe in a deity, but they are two different deities. Deity "X" is said to be not only all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing, but the designer of a marvelously complex and ordered world. Deity "Y" is said to be indifferent, absent, unconcerned with the affairs of his planet, and some even say evil. Which god rules over which planet?
  • Planet A: Has apparently achieved a state of advanced benign equilibrium in which there are no viruses or diseases, and only a very small number of natural disasters, which, when they do strike, always eliminate only the sinful and evil. The inhabitants, both plant and animal, have learned to maintain their existence through photosynthesis, and thus do not have to kill and eat each other in order to survive. There are no "birth defects;" every inhabitant comes into existence perfectly formed and equipped for a long and productive life.
Deity X_____
Deity Y_____

  • Planet B: Adorned with many examples of beauty and order, it is also constantly beset by hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanoes, lightning bolts, viruses, disfiguring diseases, parasites, leeches, flies, crop-destroying pests and many other phenomena which afflict both the innocent and the evil. Every life form on the planet can only sustain its existence through the destruction and consumption of other life forms. Some of the inhabitants are born with a crippling condition called a "birth defect", which condemns them to living extremely limited, short, or painful lives.
Deity X_____
Deity Y_____

9.What is the number of children born without arms or legs that have been miraculously restored by a visit to the shrine at Lourdes, France?
  • a. Too many to count
  • b. Over 1,000
  • c. Several dozen
  • d. Zero, but only because their faith was not strong enough
10. As we all know, there is only one true religion. What is the one true religion in each of the following circumstances?
  • a. You are born in Karnak in 3000 B.C.
  • b. You are born in Bombay in 300 B.C.
  • c. You are born in Baghdad in 900 A.D.
  • d. You are born in Mexico City in 1956 A.D.
11. Although you are new at golf, you have just hit a beautiful 200-yard drive and your ball has landed on a blade of grass near the cup at Hole 3. The green contains ten million blades of grass. The odds of your ball landing on that blade of grass are 10,000,000 to one against, too improbable to have happened by mere chance. What's the explanation?
  • a. The wind guided it
  • b. Your muscles guided it
  • c. There is no need for an explanation
  • d. You consciously designed your shot to land on that particular blade
12. Which of the following is most likely to be true, and why?
  • a. Romulus was the son of God, born to a mortal human virgin
  • b. Dionysus turned water into wine
  • c. Apollonius of Tyana raised a girl from the dead
  • d. Jesus Christ was the son of God, born to a mortal virgin, turned water into wine, and raised a man from the dead
13. Conceding that torture is permissible under certain conditions, which of the following would be the best justification?
  • a. Your prisoner is the only one who knows the date and time of an assassination attempt on the Pope
  • b. Your prisoner is the only one who knows where a nuclear device has been planted in Washington, D.C.
  • c. Your prisoner is the only one who knows where a vial of nerve gas has been placed in the London water supply system
  • d. Your prisoner has announced that the earth revolves around the sun
14. We know that Christianity is true because the Gospel writers, inspired by God who can make no error, recorded the founding events. For example, on the first Easter morning, the visitors to the tomb were greeted by which of the following:
  • a. A young man (Mark 16:5)
  • b. No, no, it was no man, it was an angel (Matthew 28:2-5)
  • c. You're both wrong, it was two men (Luke 24:4)
  • d. Damn it, there was nobody there (John 20:1-2)
15. According to inerrant Scripture, the Savior prayed alone in the garden while the three disciples who accompanied him had fallen asleep. How did the gospel writer know the words of that prayer?
  • a. Jesus left them written down under a rock
  • b. They were recorded on a primitive taping device
  • c. The gospel writer was psychic
  • d. The three disciples were later hypnotized and asked to recall the prayer
16. According to at least one sainted church father, one of the pleasures of the saved will be to behold the agony of the damned. What would be the best time of day in heaven for a mother to behold the agony of her only son?
  • a. Early in the morning before it gets too crowded
  • b. Mid-day when she can compare notes and share the celebration with other mothers
  • c. Late at night when she can enjoy the flames in starker contrast
17. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we always look to the Bible as a guide. In this example, your teenage son has returned home from the prom intoxicated. The Bible's instruction is:
  • a. Sit him down for a heart to heart talk
  • b. Enroll him in AA
  • c. Take away his driving privilege for one month
  • d. Smash his head in with rocks
18. In this example, your son-in-law, returned from his honeymoon, has just told you he suspects your daughter was not a virgin on their wedding night. Wishing to abide by God's holy rules as laid out in the Bible, you should:
  • a. Ask him if he was a virgin before you do anything
  • b. Advise him to forgive her
  • c. Talk to your daughter
  • d. Go find those rocks
19. You are eating lunch at a crowded fast food restaurant, occupied mostly by children, when suddenly a gunman bursts in, screams "Do not question or test me," and sprays the room with bullets. Ten people are killed instantly, many more grievously wounded, but somehow you escape unharmed. His ammunition expended, the gunman collapses to the floor. What should you do?
  • a. Call the police and wait for them to arrive
  • b. Call the police and leave
  • c. Risk death by asking the gunman why he did it, even though he told you not to
  • d. Fall on your knees and give thanks and praise to the gunman for sparing your life
20. Why did God show his backside to Moses, as described in Holy Scripture, Ex.33:23?
  • a. He invented everything, and this was simply the first mooning
  • b. He was really ticked off when Moses dropped the tablets
  • c. He was piqued, having just discovered His almighty powers were useless against chariots of iron (Judges I:19)
  • d. Moses was too serious and needed to lighten up a little
21. Jesus was God, and God knows all things, including all the medical knowledge that will ever be known. Why did Jesus blame demons for the case of epilepsy he cured?
  • a. He was suffering from a temporary case of "brain freeze"
  • b. The Aramaic word for "demon" is the same as the word for "cranial malfunction"
  • c. Neurology was not his specialty
  • d. In first-century Palestine, demons really did cause epilepsy. This affliction only began to be caused by electrochemical brain activity after about 1850 A.D.
22. This morning's paper carries a story about a suburban father who became so enraged with his disobedient children that he carried them both to the backyard pool where he drowned them, along with their puppy, their kitten, and their hamster. How should this father be treated?
  • a. He should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law
  • b. He should be banished from the town
  • c. He should be lynched to save the taxpayers' money
  • d. The townspeople should gather together to sing hymns of praise to him
23. This morning I started my day by insulting my mother in public, then punched out my father, my brother, and my sister. Then I gathered up all my clothes, sold them to a second-hand store, and with the proceeds bought a used Uzi and 50 rounds of ammunition. Next, I went down to the animal shelter and injected all the dogs with a drug that caused them to go insane and dive into the nearby canal where they all drowned. By this time I was hungry, so I went over to my neighbor's apple orchard and burned it down, because I wanted an orange and there weren't any. On the way home, I stopped at the local steel mill to discuss my philosophy of life with some of the guys. They laughed at me and said to stow it, so I tossed them all into the blast furnace. That night I discovered my son looking at a copy of Playboy. Concerned for his future welfare, I cut off his right hand. What historical character did my activities today most resemble?
  • a. Genghis Khan
  • b. Charles Manson
  • c. Adolph Hitler
  • d. Jesus Christ
24. Down through the ages, who has been most responsible for the medical discoveries that have relieved untold amounts of suffering and pain, and extended the length of that most sacred of creations, human life?
  • a. Medical doctors
  • b. Research biologists
  • c. Chemists
  • d. The Catholic Church
25. A great sadness has come into your life which you feel you cannot bear. A friend informs you of a free counseling service which has never failed to aid and comfort many others. You call the counselor; the phone rings and rings with no answer; you finally hang up. What is the most likely explanation?
  • a. The counselor is sitting by the phone but not answering in order to test your faith in him
  • b. The counselor always stands ready to hear your pleas for help, but sometimes the answer is "no"
  • c. The counselor will not answer because he wants you to profit by the spiritual strength that only comes through suffering
  • d. The counselor is not home

While it is true that there have been and still are many different gods and many different religions, they are really just the various names by which various cultures approach the same God. Explain how and why each of the following is the same God:
  • Quetzalcoatl, who wants you to skin a young virgin alive, then put on the skin and dance;
  • Shiva, who wants you to pray over his penis;
  • Allah, who wants you to fly airliners into buildings;
  • Catholic God; who speaks directly through the Pope;
  • Baptist God, who most definitely does not;
  • Jesus, who wants you to castrate yourself to ensure arrival in heaven
  • Jehovah, who any day now, is going to kill everyone on the earth except for his Witnesses

Friday, March 16, 2007

Stark's Outing Stirs The Waters

Now that Congressman Pete Stark has been "outed" as a non-Christian (although he's being described commonly by others as an "atheist," he's described himself as a "Unitarian who does not believe in a Supreme Being" - a difference which is perhaps nothing more than semantic subtlety), people on both sides of the theistic/atheistic debate are taking the opportunity to weigh in.

Sam Harris offered this in an op-ed today:

Pete Stark, a California Democrat, appears to be the first congressman in U.S. history to acknowledge that he doesn't believe in God. In a country in which 83% of the population thinks that the Bible is the literal or "inspired" word of the creator of the universe, this took political courage.

Of course, one can imagine that Cicero's handlers in the 1st century BC lost some sleep when he likened the traditional accounts of the Greco-Roman gods to the "dreams of madmen" and to the "insane mythology of Egypt."

Mythology is where all gods go to die, and it seems that Stark has secured a place in American history simply by admitting that a fresh grave should be dug for the God of Abraham — the jealous, genocidal, priggish and self-contradictory tyrant of the Bible and the Koran. Stark is the first of our leaders to display a level of intellectual honesty befitting a consul of ancient Rome. Bravo.


Let us hope that Stark's candor inspires others in our government to admit their doubts about God. Indeed, it is time we broke this spell en masse. Every one of the world's "great" religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos. Books like the Bible and the Koran get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong. Every scientific domain — from cosmology to psychology to economics — has superseded and surpassed the wisdom of Scripture.

And the Christian Seniors Association (a favorite of stodgy grandparents everywhere) offered their reaction:

According to Christianity Today, Congressman Pete Stark (D-California) became the first member of Congress to deny the existence of God. "When the Secular Coalition asked me to complete a survey on my religious beliefs, I indicated I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being."

“It is sad but not surprising that the current Congress has produced this historic first – one of its members has denied God,” said CSA Executive Director James Lafferty. “The liberals in Congress want to throttle any school child who bows his or her head in prayer, but they want to establish a right for liberals to bash Christians and berate God around the clock.

“It is time for religious members of Congress to push back. A simple declaration of a belief in God by members of Congress on the House floor will be greatly informative for the American people. Members who wish to expand could use the ‘special orders’ portion of the House calendar to elaborate but a simple “I believe in God” will suffice.

“We have long recognized that all of this hot air about ‘separation of church and state’ has been a veiled effort to intimidate and silence religious voices in public policy matters.

“If the liberal House leadership refuses to recognize lawmakers who want to affirm their belief in God, then we suggest they add it to the end of floor speeches on other matters.

“Congressman Stark’s statement is a very sad benchmark for America. It could be the moment which defines the decline of our country or it could be the spark which marks an important day.

That would be the day that religious Americans stood-up to the liberal bullies who are so determined to use the power of government to silence prayer and every other religious expression of free speech.

“This is a fight which is destined to be fought in America and we think it should begin today.”

It strikes me as somewhat over reactive to respond to the admission of negative belief by a single congressman with a demand that the Christian members of Congress use the mechanisms of government to officially declare their positive belief. It seems somewhat reminiscent of the eagerness of celebrities to publicly declare their heterosexuality as homosexuality has gradually become more accepted, and homosexual celebrities have made known (or have been made known) their orientation. As the majority worldview, I wouldn't think that Christians would need to have so much anxiety about asserting their presence in any sector of public life, but perhaps this is a sign that they recognize that their idealogical dominance is beginning to slip away.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Four questions for Christians

1. What are you worth?
2. Where did you come from?
3. Why are you here? How do you know?
4. Where are you going when you die? Are you sure?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

MC Hawking

Aww, yea! Keepin' it real for all you Cambridge gangstas!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Secular Coalition - Atheist Lawmakers

Last year, the Secular Coalition for America offered a $1000 prize to identify the highest-ranked nontheist politician in America. Their catch: Congressman Pete Stark.

According to the SCA press release:

There is only one member of Congress who is on record as not holding a god-belief.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America ( Rep. Stark is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is Chair of the Health Subcommittee.

Although the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, the Coalition?s research reveals that Rep. Stark is the first open nontheist in the history of the Congress. Recent polls show that Americans without a god-belief are, as a group, more distrusted than any other minority in America. Surveys show that the majority of Americans would not vote for an atheist for president even if he or she were the most qualified for the office.

Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, attributes these attitudes to the demonization of people who don't believe in God. "The truth is," says Silverman, "the vast majority of us follow the Golden Rule and are as likely to be good citizens, just like Rep. Stark with over 30 years of exemplary public service. The only way to counter the prejudice against nontheists is for more people to publicly identify as nontheists. Rep. Stark shows remarkable courage in being the first member of Congress to do so."

In October, 2006 the Secular Coalition for America, a national lobby representing the interests of atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheists, announced a contest. At the time, few if any elected officials, even at the lowest level, would self-identify as a nontheist. So the Coalition offered $1,000 to the person who could identify the highest level atheist, agnostic, humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States.

In addition to Rep. Stark only three other elected officials agreed to do so: Terry S. Doran, president of the School Board in Berkeley, Calif.; Nancy Glista on the School Committee in Franklin, Maine; and Michael Cerone, a Town Meeting Member from Arlington, Mass.

Surveys vary in the percentage of atheists, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheists in the U.S, with about 10% (30 million people) a fair middle point. "If the number of nontheists in Congress reflected the percentage of nontheists in the population," Lori Lipman Brown, director of the Secular Coalition, observes "there would be 53-54 nontheistic Congress members instead of one."

This would at least seem to contradict the idea that nontheists can't get elected to public office, although it may be the case that this public "outing" by the SCA jeapordizes his political future.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Triablogue calls me out!

Paul Manata, at Triablogue, gave a cute effort of trying to debunk one of the articles on my site, where I debunk Mr. Alvin "personal memories are 100% truthful" Plantinga. Here are some highlights from our favourite presuppositionalist:
1) Plantinga confuses nothing like what Tremblay accuses Plantinga of here. Plantinga actually goes through excruciating detail to define terms like 'rationality.' He does so in terms of "proper function."
Actually, since Plantinga's definition of "proper function" demands design, his definition of "rationality" is hokum, so I hardly saw the need to mention his silly fallacy in that regard. But since you're going to bring it up, Manata, by all means shoot your own foot...
2) The bulk of Plantinga's career has sought to undermine Tremblay's "definition" of rationality. Indeed, on Tremblay's definition, since we do indeed know that the world has been here for more than 5 minutes, or that our wife is not a robot, and we cannot prove this on the evidential basis of other propositions, that does not mean all humans are "irrational." Actually, Tremblay's case is self-referentially incoherent since, if Tremblay claims to know it, he would have to "validate it only with objective evidence" (whatever that means). But, after he does so, we can ask if he "knows" that he has validated the original claim to knowledge. If so, he must "validate it only with objective evidence." Obviously an infinite regress can be seen here.
This kind of juvenile infinite regress can be applied to any claim to knowledge. Manata's reply describes little more than a petulant little child asking "why? why? why?" over and over. In practice, we pass judgment on the evidence presented for a proposition and decide for ourselves whether the evidence is relevant or not. We don't waste our time in constant validation. And of course, unlike Manata's Christian nihilistic worldview, mine has an end point: the axioms.
3) Tremblay says that Plantinga confuses "instinct with rationality." Actually, Plantinga's argument is that the idea that our beliefs are aimed at truth, given N & E, is low or inscrutable.
Yes, that is what Plantinga claims. Manata at least scores high on reading comprehension. However, my response concerned the fact that N&E together only pertain to instincts, NOT rationality (which is the product of a personal process of evolution, and far too subtle to be captured by fundamental and vague factors like N and E, just as basic knowledge of chemistry is not sufficient to extrapolate to the complexity of, say, what it means for me to love my wife), and that therefore any epistemic examination on Plantinga's part can only be construed as complete if we assume that thought, which is partly molded by rationality, is purely the product of instinctual behaviour.

This is, of course, patent nonsense. Plantinga's claim is that we should evaluate our truth-generating faculties solely on the standpoint of being molded by an evolutionary process, while excluding the correcting effects of rationality. Based on this extreme simplification, Plantinga concludes that we cannot trust our truth-generating faculties. Plantinga is refuting a caveman from a Geico ad, not a modern human being. We might as well say that, because Von Neumann didn't know anything about the Internet, we shouldn't trust computers to give us correct information about IP packets.
2. Tremblay is stuck on deontological justification, while Plantinga is addressing the alethic aspect of knowledge.
This is the sound of a worldview clash completely whizzing past Manata's head.

I hope I don't need to answer this nonsense any further. I would, however, like to mention another point that whizzed right past Manata's head. He contrasted my proposition that our sensory perception is necessarily valid with my proposition that a Matrix-style scenario is possible. However, he completely failed to note the part he himself quoted right after I said that:
But why should we consider this possibility as having any epistemic importance whatsoever?
Never mind what I said about Manata. The man obviously failed reading comprehension. How can I be contradicting myself on an epistemic issue when one of the two propositions has no epistemic importance?


"Do good in the name of godlessness"?

Why are atheists asking each other to "do good in the name of godlessness"? What matter of nonsense is this?

I don't do things "in the name of" other things. Go fuck yourselves.

Does Clergy Sex Abuse Ever End?

It seems like they are falling from the sky.

Some preacher pleaded guilty to charges of sexually molesting two boys under the age of 11. It also seems that this isn't the first time he has pulled a Michael Jackson on some kids.

And here is a new set of charges filed against Robert Gray of Trinity Baptist church for molesting a girl repeatedly between the ages of 6 and 9. At least this time, the pedophilia was heterosexual.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Drink Some Jesus-Juice

It was only a matter of time.

Some company is now selling bottled, drinkable holy water. Honestly, the only reason I'm pissy about this is because I didn't think of it first.

But it should be noted that this product contains a warning:
Warning to sinners: If you are a sinner or evil in nature, this product may cause burning, intense heat, sweating, skin irritations, rashes, itchiness, vomiting, bloodshot and watery eyes, pale skin color, and oral irritations.

How convenient. Remember that in Christian mythology (yes I used that word deliberately) every human is a sinner, except for Jesus. This means that anyone could get sick off this water and start vomiting or what have you, and the holy water producers could just say that your sin caused it to happen, hopefully deflecting any allegations of poor water quality. Funny that the high quality distinguishing feature of this water, its holiness, is the feature that the makers claim can lead to symptoms similar -or identical- to those that one would suffer from drinking very low quality water.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Franc answers the "Questions for Atheists"

Since I love answering questions, why not get into the fun? The blog "Christian Skepticism" (?) asks:

Q1: Why is there something rather than nothing?
A: "Is" presumes existence, and "nothing" presumes non-existence. So asking "why is there something rather than nothing" is rather like asking "why is the elephant walking instead of flying": it is a loaded question, a logical fallacy, something which the author of the question incidentally asked us to avoid.

Q2: How do you know that you exist (without being circular)?
A: Since existence is irreducible (that is to say, cannot be reduced to prior concepts), it is impossible to justify existence without being circular. All we can do is point it out. Once again, loaded question, etc.

Q3: Where does human self-consciousness come from?
A: If we're talking about the capacity for self-consciousness in the species homo sapiens, then the answer is: it came from the self-consciousness present in the brain of our evolutionary ancestors. Since it is so trivial, I am not sure what this question was supposed to demonstrate; maybe I missed the point here and the question was just badly formulated.

Q4: How do you know that your senses are reliable (without being circular)?
A: Because any attempt to prove that the senses are not reliable is circular. Presumably, such an attempt would try to demonstrate that a given perception was erroneous, and thus that the senses are unreliable. But in order to demonstrate "how it actually is," one needs to use the senses as well.
For instance, one may argue that the senses are unreliable by showing us how a pencil looks bent in a glass of water, but in order to demonstrate that this bending is illusory, one needs to use another sense, like touch, or take the pencil and observe it outside of the water, or rely on such observations as done by other people and apply its result, the law of refraction. Thus the empiricism-skeptic accepts the reliability of the senses and, like the empiricist, is only arguing about interpretation.

Q5: What is truth?
A: A truth is an epistemically justified proposition. An epistemically justified proposition is one which describes what we observe or explains its causal relations, not going beyond what we have or omitting anything.

Q6: What is the cause of everything?
A: Entities have different causes. The cause of you posting what you did is different from the cause of this current post. The case of the existence of a star is very different from what caused my coming into being. Essentially, this question contains a hidden fallacious premise... once again, something that we were asked to avoid.

I find it quite interesting that three out of these six questions contain fallacies, when we were explicitly told not to use fallacies. Another case of typical Christian projection? You decide.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Consolations - Atheist FAQ

Jim Lazarus over at The Consolations has posted his answers to the sixteen questions for atheists at Christian Skepticism. If you'll remember, this answering "spree" was kicked off by Paul Manata over at Triablogue, who had compiled a list of answers to the questions posted by the Rational Response Squad.

At any rate, I'm solidly behind Jim's answers. Go check them out.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Question of the Day #69: (un)Holidays

Do you think atheists should get their own holidays? How so? Any specific ones in mind?

David Mills Takes The Blasphemy Challenge

Go David! This video doesn't seem to allow embedding so you'll have to go to the direct URL here. It's well worth a view.

Wow, I've never seen anything like it. I hope that Bible wasn't too expensive!