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Showing posts from February, 2010

How not to talk to an atheist

Sometimes I think that believers fail to realize that atheists don't actually believe in God. Any kind of god. And that we don't actually believe the Bible is true.

Yesterday, my brother's former pastor from a church in Boston commented on a humorous atheism-themed picture I have on my Facebook page. This is what he wrote:
Did you wake up this morning? Are you still breathing? Be grateful, it's a gift from God.
Do you know what this is? It is a statement of personal faith. It's not an inquiry into my beliefs. It's not an attempt to rebut anything I've said, ever. It's not remotely an attempt to discuss theological issues in any way at all. You know why? Because I don't believe that God exists! You might as well tell me that each breath is a gift from Voltron.

I responded with some sarcastic remark about how I was glad God didn't change his mind like he does with all those millions of miscarriages every year. I mean, really. Christians love to tal…

"I don't believe in God because...."

Conversations about religion don't come up often in my day to day life (shocker!), but on the occasion that they do, I am often asked why I do not believe in God. That's not a difficult question for me to answer, but it's a really difficult question for me to answer concisely. It seems that the most common answer is something like, "Because there's no evidence that God exists." But that just opens up a whole can of worms, because some nincompoop is going to say something like, "Oh yeah, well then how did the universe get here?" or "Just the fact that something exists instead of nothing is evidence," and then you get dragged into a conversation that you really didn't want to have while you were out drinking with your friends.

So, I've been trying to come up with a concise answer to the question – one that leaves the believer more humbly inquisitive, rather than provoking them to ask pompous follow-up questions so obvious that you…

HOLY FUCKING SHIT: Obama meets with atheists

Today, Obama met with representatives from the Secular Coalition of America to discuss problems fueled by religion. From USA Today:
The main discussion points were, according to Margaret Talev's McClatchy article:
"child medical neglect" -- Many religious child care centers are exempted from the health and safety regulations under which secular health centers are run."military proselytizing" -- The coalition asserts that the increasing number of evangelical Christians in the military is causing religious discrimination and that these Christians believe they must promote Christianity as part of their military duty."faith-based initiatives" -- The coalition says the Bush administration created programs like the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to unconstitutionally funnel money to religious institutions.I'm a little mixed on the idea of atheism as a social movement, mainly because of the fact that there are innumerable stupi…

Study: liberal atheist night owls are smarter

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Well, this article just gave me a tickle. I'm a liberal, an atheist, and I'm writing this at 3:44 in the morning. And apparently, all of these things are strongly correlated with a high level of intelligence.

I've never thought it was a coincidence that people who identify as atheist or agnostic, in my experience anyway, tend to be more politically liberal. I live in Oklahoma – the buckle of the Bible belt – and I've rarely met non-religious conservatives or religious liberals. And and I don't find it coincidence either that among the religious, those who do espouse more liberal theological views also tend to swing left at the ballot box. Now there is some good science backing this up: highly intelligent people are indeed much more likely to be atheists and liberals.

Is this really all that surprising though? I remember a survey of the National Academy of Sciences showing basically a mirror opposite of the general population of the U.S., with a paltry 7% of scientis…

I don't respect the clergy

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Generally speaking, when people attain credentials marking high levels of specialized knowledge, I feel obliged to show some measure of respect for their achievement. I would not be so presumptuous, for example, as to lecture someone with a PhD in physics on the implications of quantum mechanics. This isn't a hard and fast rule, of course; people with doctoral degrees can still say and do stupid things, often by stepping outside their field of expertise. And not all education is created equal – I'm not about to be impressed by someone who has a degree from Regent University. But, generally speaking, I think most of us realize that the high level of specialized knowledge marked by such degrees indicates that at least on their particular subject, they speak from some position of authority.

This is not the case with clergy. Whether they call themselves reverend, pastor, minister, father, or dear leader, being an expert in theology is like being an expert in astrology or homeopath…

Crotchety old douchebag in silly hat claims hell is real

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Pope John Paul II seemed to take a more liberal view of hell, describing it as "the ultimate consequence of sin itself . . . Rather than a place, Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy." But leave it to the newer (yet still old), more conservative Bearer of Pointlessly Large Hats to proclaim that hell is not merely "separation from God" – it's a real place where you literally get burned forever in a lake of fire.


From Times Online:
Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, Benedict XVI said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to “admit blame and promise to sin no more”, they risked “eternal damnation — the Inferno”. Hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more”, he saidI also found this little gem pretty entertaining:
In October the Pope indicated that limbo, s…

NonStampCollector does it again

If you haven't subscribed to this guy's Youtube channel, get on that shit asap.

Context!!!!!!

How C.S. Lewis convinced me to reject Christianity

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When I was a young, enthusiastic evangelical Christian, I undertook an inquiry into philosophy and apologetics that would eventually be the undoing of all my faith. When I began the journey, however, I did so with the most noble intentions. I had a lot of unresolved questions about my faith, and I believed that if my faith were truly the rock I believed it to be, it would stand up under the most rigorous critical scrutiny. Unlike many of my peers, who seemed fearful of reading materials critical of or counter to our Christian beliefs, I thought that a dispassionate understanding of opposing views was vital to growing stronger in my Christian faith.

I read a lot of books in those years, and among them was The Case For Christianity by C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis is to this day held up as a beacon of Christian reason, as someone who made Christian theology the domain of academics and learned philosophers – someone who made less inquisitive believers feel comforted that such a learned and inte…

A god who might as well not exist

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I've always been interested in philosophy, and obviously with this blog and my previous blog The Apostasy, I often spend time discussing philosophical arguments regarding the existence and nature of God. And I think that there is a lot of value in pondering those things. However, it seems to me that a much more relevant question than "Does God exist?" is "Does it matter whether God exists?" The only thing worse than a god that is unlikely to exist is one whose existence is trivial.

In the last couple of posts, for example, I talked about the cosmological argument, and my objections to natural theology in general. But even if the cosmological argument were correct, it would only be capable of proving, at best, a deistic god. And really, if people imagine God as a hands-off, abstract intelligence that merely set the universe in motion, what difference does it make whether they believe in God at all?

I had the same thought when I first listened to my favorite apol…

Beyond the great beyond

Some might say that I was a little harsh on Bill Craig to call him a "retard" in my previous post. Of course, I don't actually think that he's mentally retarded, or even a half-wit. I dare say that he is quite possibly smarter than Brick Tamland. But see, what grinds my gears about people like him is that he's floating in a cloud of his own intellectual hubris, to the point that he derides the "new atheist" movement as being intellectually unsophisticated. And yet, his arguments fail at such a basic level of logical scrutiny that it truly boggles the mind that someone of reasonable intelligence, which I'm sure he is, actually believes them.

I wanted to elaborate, relatively briefly, on a question in the prior post that Craig posed at his website:
I must confess that I'm baffled why atheists would think that causation presupposes time and space or at least time. Janey and John, you need to ask them what they mean by "causality" and what …

Written proof that William Lane Craig is retarded

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I don't like visiting the website of my favorite apologist punching bag William Lane Craig – which is ironically entitled "Reasonablefaith.org", because "credulitycentral" would be a far more appropriate name – but since I wrote a letter to him recently, I decided to bop over there today. And to my surprise, he actually attempted to answer a question about the nature of causality.

One of the common objects to the cosmological argument – which attempts to prove the universe required a "causeless first cause" is that it doesn't make any sense to apply causality to the universe itself. Our very concept of causality is merely an observed phenomenon within the universe itself, one that requires time and space in order to occur. So saying the universe itself required its own properties to come into existence is a pretty obvious failing of logic.

Craig attempted to respond to that argument in his most recent "Q & A" section, and I can't …

That whole Tim Tebow thing

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I have to admit that I just wasn't really paying attention. My interest in football is pretty casual, to say the least. I mean, I played it middle school and I root for the Packers since I'm from Milwaukee, but I don't really follow it or watch ESPN or anything. This year's Superbowl was especially dull to me, because I would have liked to see the Jets rob that defector Favre (pronounced "phaav-roo", which of course is Yiddish for "indecisive") of another Superbowl ring, but it was the last two teams that I could possibly care about this year. And I somehow missed the "controversy" about Tim Tebow, who is apparently a big football star, in an ad for Focus On Family, which is a group that focuses on telling single parents and women who have abortions that they are destroying the country and going to hell.

So I finally got around to watching the ad, which is actually pretty entertaining and benign. The ad prompts you to go to the FOF websit…

Cleansing diets: stupid

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Modern day hipsters, particularly hipsters really into trendy hipster things like veganism and "raw foods", are all about "cleansing" diets. Okay, it's not just hipsters; you can see all kinds of cleansing diets in books and health-oriented magazines, particularly ones targeted at women because apparently men want their steak and that's that.

There isn't really any scientific consensus on what a "cleansing diet" actually is – probably because it's not a scientific concept – but the conventional wisdom (if you can call it that) goes something like this: the foods you eat are filled with preservatives, toxins, and other yucky things that adversely affect your health. So, to prevent yourself from getting weighed down – possibly to the point of spontaneous combustion – with all these bad yucky things, you should get on a cleansing diet for a while to flush all that gunk out of your system. What follows is usually some regimen that consists of …

James Randi at TED Talks

Here is a relatively short and altogether excellent talk by the great James Randi from TED Talks. He discusses things like psychics, homeopathy, and the importance of skeptical inquiry.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:

Why doesn't God's existence require an explanation?

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I had a discussion on my birthday last year with my Dad, who is a practicing Christian, about theology. An argument that he kept coming back to, with quite a great deal of fervor I might add, was the imponderable complexity of the universe and our utter inability to explain it. And while he did not formulate his arguments into logical syllogisms, many theologians have.

The mere existence of the universe is something that many of us, perhaps intuitively so, feel requires an explanation. Believers make the presumption that a universe as marvelous and unfathomably complex as ours requires some kind of intelligent agent to bring it to be, and on its surface such an assumption seems reasonable. But if we posit "God", a being of infinite knowledge and power, as the agent that brought the universe to be, we are left with a simple question: how did God come to be? The infinite regression becomes immediately apparent.

Believers will counter that God's existence does not require …

What does it take to de-convert someone?

I'm a regular reader of John Loftus' blog Debunking Christianity. John's a former preacher, and a student of my favorite apologist punching bag William Lane Craig. He's written a number of books on Christianity and atheism detailing his de-conversion as well as the arguments that support his view.

He recently debated Dinesh D'Souza, who ranks in my book as one of the most abrasive, obnoxious people alive. He's a crafty public speaker and a great debater, but his arguments are almost comedically awful under close scrutiny. Fortunately for him and other apologists who love debates including the aforementioned William Lane Craig, the debate format is extraordinarily poor as a means of substantively deconstructing such arguments.

John appears to believe he lost the debate. I'm not sure that he did, or what one can really consider "winning" or "losing" in a debate like that. I mean, lots of people "win" those things by presenting an…

The god of the Bible is not pro-life; he's pro-death

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One of the most important arguments that skeptics can make against the Bible is, as I mentioned in my previous post, the fact that there is no independent criteria for how one should properly interpret the Bible. Every sect and denomination has different ideas about what scriptures mean. Some are to be taken literally, others allegorically; some are to be taken as rules, some are to be taken as guidelines; some are to be taken as contemporarily  relevant, others are only relevant to the culture at the time. The problem is – and it is really so obvious that it should not even need mentioning – that without any independent criteria for interpreting the Bible properly, any interpretation is necessarily both circular and arbitrary.

It follows logically then that any position that claims to be "Biblically based" can be dismissed as nonsense, because there is no such thing as a position based on the Bible – only positions based on a wholly arbitrary interpretation of the Bible. A…

Religion is the enemy of women

First of all, I apologize for linking to Fox "News". This article was drawn to my attention by a friend of mine. Anyway, it appears as though a British pastor has offended some of his parishioners by suggesting that they should obey the Bible, even when it flies in the face of our modern standards of morality. Specifically:

Church of England reverend Angus MacLeay issued a leaflet to churchgoers saying that women should not speak if questions could be answered by their husbands. The leaflet, entitled The Role of Women in the Local Church, adds that wives should "submit to their husbands in everything." It continues, "Wives are to submit to their husbands in everything in recognition of the fact that husbands are head of the family as Christ is head of the church. "This is the way God has ordered their relationships with each other and Christian marriage cannot function well without it."
I rather vi…

The existence of brains: an argument for atheism

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On my old blog The Apostasy, I wrote a post about the question of whether God's existence is a scientific question. Most believers will say it's not, because, they will tell you, God transcends physical reality and his very existence cannot even be proved or disproved, much less observed and measured scientifically.

However, the truth is that people who claim God exists are in fact making a claim about the nature of reality. And the more specific these claims get about God – that "he" is patriarchal, that he designed and created the universe and everything in it (including us), that he loves us, that he cares about how we treat each other or even who we have sex with, the greater the burden for evidence becomes.

This is why I've always found the Cosmological Arguments to be laughably weak arguments. They're fallacious for a number of reasons (particularly the fallacy of the stolen concept as it relates to causality), but even if they were logically valid argu…

The rise and fall of MTV

I grew up watching Adam Curry and Martha Quinn as they introduced me to the vibrant world of 80's hair metal. Watching Def Leppard and Scorpions videos had that taste of forbidden fruit that made them all the more appealing to a kid like me. MTV had become a symbol of youth culture by giving music a visual identity it had never possessed.

But, over the years, music played an increasingly diminished role on the network. But even when The Real World made its landmark debut, we still had shows like Alternative Nation and 120 Minutes. The lure of cheap reality TV proved too difficult to pass up, and by the mid and late 90's the only way to see videos on MTV was to stay up past midnight. TRL was possibly one of the greatest tragedies in MTV history, by eschewing full-length videos in favor of clips, many of which lasted only moments. It's been years since I've watched anything on MTV, and the last time I looked through the schedule (courtesy of my Dad's satellite TV su…