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Showing posts from 2012

William Lane Craig on Sandy Hook

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Y'know, coming from him, this isn't remotely as awful as it could have been. It's pretty much exactly the type of drivel that one might expect as Christians want to turn to their faith in the wake of the tragedy, but have that troubling question Why would God allow this to happen?

The answer, of course, being that it's all part of the Divine Plan.™

I mean really, no matter how much you want to dress it up, that's really all it boils down to. You just have to accept that God has his reasons. I mean sure, he's omnipotent, and he could just defeat all evil and suffering in an instant of willpower, but that wouldn't make for a very interesting story, would it? Batman never kills the Joker, either.

Anyway, my thought on watching this was that there one big difference between the Sandy Hook shooting and the Massacre of the Innocents in the Bible, which is that we have lots and lots of evidence that the Sandy Hook shooting really happened. 

Feminism, the Patriarchy, PZ Myers, and other trigger words

I haven't read Pharyngula in a long time. I used to really like PZ Myers, but between belittling people who didn't agree with his definition of atheism, the "Elevatorgate" nonsense, and the colossally stupid dramas over sexual harassment policies at conferences and the embarrassment that was "Atheism+", I just stopped caring. But I suppose a part of me yearned for the PZ of old, when he said stuff like this:
Science is simply a process for examining the world, and anyone can do it, even if you don't have a lab coat. If something has an effect or influence, you can try to examine it using the tools of science — so when someone announces that gods cannot be detected by observation or experiment, they are saying they don't matter and don't do anything, which is exactly what this atheist has been saying all along.
So I visited Pharyngula hoping to read something incisive and clever like that. Alas, 'twas not to be. Instead, he has a p…

The book "True Reason" in a nutshell, via NonStampCollector

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Did you know that NonStampCollector has a second channel? And a blog over at Freethough Blogs (ugh)? I was reading an excellent post of his on the old "What if Hitler had won?" question that theists love to throw at atheists, and stumbled on a link to his other channel.

...Where I found this.

The Christian chatter in this short video reminds me very much of the kind of circular nonsense that pervaded the book True Reason, and I love NSC's response at the end.


Prayer doesn't do anything, exhibit #472 (updated)

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Update: My friend's son is okay, and who got the credit? Three guesses....

Yeah, because praying for "no complications" worked so well the first time. Seriously, how do people not think that this is God just fucking with them, or simply wake up and realize there are no deities involved here? Did God just need to get a sick kick from the child's esophageal burns before he decided to intervene? 


Original post-------------------------------------------------------

A friend of mine is having a rough night – her son swallowed a battery, which got stuck in his esophagus. Now, just to be clear, that's a serious situation and I hope he's okay. I'm not out to make light of his pain. I am out, however, to ridicule his mom's appeals to God. Notice anything here? (You have to read the bottom one first...)


Prayer for "no complications"... shortly followed by news of a serious complication. The solution? MOAR PRAYER.

You know what praying does? Nothing, t…

That one thing you think is the problem? It's not the problem.

Something that frustrates me about the post-shooting dialogue – or lack thereof – is the tendency that people have to resort to finger-pointing and platitudes.

I'm a pretty liberal guy, and yeah, I think we need stricter gun laws. I really don't see why any civilian needs to own a military-style assault rifle. Home protection? Against what, the zombie invasion? But if I'm not mistaken, the Virginia Tech shooting was carried out with a hangun. Stricter gun laws aren't a panacea that's going to make the problem go away.

And I'm sure that any rational person, either religious or not, rolls their eyes at the wing-nuts saying that it's because we "took God out of schools" (which we didn't... and I thought God was supposed to be omnipresent anyway...), or because we aren't teaching children to gang-rush shooters (seriously, people are saying that), or because we aren't giving deadly weapons to teachers.

For my part, I've been focused on …

The actual Ten Commandments

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A friend of mine posted this on Facebook, and I was pretty surprised that I hadn't heard of it before. There are, it would seem, two versions of the Ten Commandments. No, not Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 – the other ones in Exodus. They're significant because unlike the ones popularly cited, the scriptures specifically refer to these as "the Ten Commandments":
27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. [Exodus 34] What, you might ask, are these Ten Commandments? What timeless moral wisdom did the all-knowing, all powerful Lord and Creator of the Universe impart on his chosen Holy People?

1.) Do not make any idols.
2.) Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread
3.) The firstborn offspring of every womb b…

Where do we really get our morals?

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Morality has been on my brain a lot, as you can see from the two posts on the subject earlier today (here and here). In those posts I argued that even if an Objective Moral Law exists and comes from God, it's a) useless, since no one has objective access to God; and b) renders theism pointless as a catalyst for good, since theologians readily acknowledge that we can be good without believing in God.

So now I want to turn to that more academic, philosophical question of meta-ethics: where do our morals come from? I want to turn again to the Objective Morality Argument (which I'll abbreviate OMA), which is this:
If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not existObjective moral values and duties existErgo, God exists I've noticed that whenever this argument is used (primarily by William Lane Craig, but also by folks like Frank Turek, Tom Gilson and David Marshall) the first premise is tossed out with virtually no support whatsoever. I suppose that it's a…

I guess irony can be a little ironic

I came across this gem from William Lane Craig when sifting through the Q&A from ReasonableFaith.org for my post earlier today (emphasis mine):

What you’re really asking, I think, is, “Why should I think that objective moral values exist rather than that evolution has made me believe in the illusion that there are objective moral values?” And the answer to that question is, “Because I clearly apprehend objective moral values and have no good reason to deny what I clearly perceive.” This is the same answer we give to the sceptic who says, “How do you know you’re not just a body lying in the Matrix and that all that you see and experience is an illusory, virtual reality?” We have no way to get outside our five senses and prove that they’re veridical. Rather I clearly apprehend a world of people and trees and houses about me, and I have no good reason to doubt what I clearly perceive. Sure, it’s possible that I’m a body in the Matrix. But possibilities come cheap. The me…

Being good without (believing in) God

I've seen several debates between theists and atheists on, or touching on, morality. Frank Turek, William Lane Craig, etc.... and I've read many an author on the subject.

Something that strikes me as a bit unusual is that they will almost always try to steer the debate away from whether we can actually be moral if we are non-believers; instead, they tend to want to focus on a philosophical or academic question of where we fundamentally derive our morals. Tom Gilson, who co-authored True Reason, said something along these lines in a blog post:
[Atheists] think that if they’re good without believing in God, they’re being good without God. They treat it as if it’s the belief that matters, not the reality of God. William Lane Craig echoes the sentiment:
The question is not: Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives? There is no reason to think that atheists and theists alike may not live what we normally characterize as good and decent lives. Similarly, the questio…

A question for William Lane Craig

Every once in a while, I drop a question into the Q&A form over at Reasonablefaith.org. This is one I dropped today:

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My question pertains to the objective morality argument as you lay it out:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

For the sake of discussion, I'll grant you this argument. There is a Moral Law, so there must be a Moral-Law-Giver.

But it seems to me that this argument, even it is true, runs into an inescapable problem: namely, how we can *objectively know* what the Moral Law actually is.

If objective morality indeed comes from God, that should raise an obvious dilemma – nobody has direct, objective access to the mind of God. It might be tempting to suggest the Bible is just that, but the Bible is subject to an endless litany of interpretations. Ask any ten Christians what God thinks about abortion (for example), and you'll…

The Pope says gay marriage is "a threat to justice and peace"

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Emperor Palpatine Pope Benedict XVI, in his ironically titled "World Day of Peace", joined the chorus of religulous idiots who think gay marriage, is some horrible scourge on society:

"There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union," the pope said in his message for World Day of Peace 2013, which was presented by the Holy See on Friday.

"Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.

"These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom.

"They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity.

"The Church's efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but add…

Hanging heads

In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker lays out mountains of evidence that, contrary to popular perception, we're living in the most peaceful time in all human history. The average person is less likely to die of violence now than ever before.

But today's tragic news shows that we still have a lot of work to do to better ourselves. My thoughts are with the families and friends who have lost loved ones today.

William Lane Craig's op ed from the Washington Post – prepare to launch facepalms!

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William Lane Craig is mighty upset that the American Humanist Association has a new website aimed at kids who are either non-believers themselves or are being raised in non-theist homes. He's so upset, golly, that he wrote an op ed in the Washington Post about how unsophisticated we non-believers really are. Those "condescendingly dismissive" atheists are cowering in fear, utterly humiliated by the mighty intellect of William Lane Craig laying the beat-down on their most cherished beliefs!

Right? Right?
Wrong.

Whenever Craig opens his mouth to pat himself on the back (which is most of the time), he just digs his hole deeper. He starts out innocuously enough:
One doesn’t need to be a naturalist in order to endorse curiosity, critical thinking, tolerance, and the pursuit of accurate information on a wide range of topics. Well gosh, that's true! But you do need to be a naturalist to avoid the religious trappings of wholly irrational beliefs like, I dunno, the "s…

The Ray Comfort ploy

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It turns out that the everyone's favorite unintentional comedian, Ray Comfort, has released a documentary about John Lennon just in time for the anniversary of the singer's untimely death in 1980.

What?

Yeah. Ray Comfort. The Crockoduck guy. The Banana Man. Doing a bio on John Lennon.

Shockingly though, just like Comfort's bosom buddy Kirk Cameron in the movie Fireproof, it's really just a big ploy to get you to come to Jesus. I know, I know, I'm surprised, too.

Comfort doesn't actually spend much of the movie talking about John Lennon. Instead he just uses a shallow cultural analysis of Lennon to springboard into videos of his dumb street-preaching ruse. And in case you forgot that Ray is a Young-Earth Creationist, he spirals into a tirade against what he calls "atheistic evolution" and says that it will destroy our morals.

Ray's street-preaching ploy consists of several parts, and they're all so transparently stupid that I can't believe…

Atheists hate Christmas because they love sin

Per the previous post, William Lane Craig obviously isn't the only Christian out there who thinks that atheists don't really exist. We all secretly believe in God, and probably the Christian god at that, but we just love our hedonistic ways.

Enter the uber-conservative website Town Hall, and an op ed by stereotypical uber-Christian-neo-conservative Doug Giles entitled The Real Root of Atheists' Anti-Christmas Rage. In case you don't watch Fox "News", you might be surprised to find out there's a "war on Christmas". That's right, even though you can't walk down the street without being inundated with Christmas cheer or throw a rock at your TV without hitting a Christmas special, Christians are apparently being, like, totally persecuted.

Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist has been doing a marvelous job covering all the supposedly anti-Christmas rage of the secular left, so I won't rehash that here. Suffice to say that for the most part, w…

The supposed moral failing of atheists

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It's funny, but it seems like whenever I announce a big hiatus, I can't stick with it. Then, for completely unrelated reasons, I just sort of fade out from blogging for a bit.

The truth is, I've been burned out. I'm tired of arguing with believers. I read through that mind-numbingly awful apologetics book, and I've had it up to here with any of the incessant drivel coming out of William Lane Craig's mouth. The reality is that I've just been really disillusioned about changing anyone's mind, and frankly it's hard to see the point in trying. I want to keep blogging, but as Tristan has been doing, it's time for a change of focus. Don't get me wrong, I could never stop writing about theism entirely. It's just that I'm having a hard time caring about arguing for atheism.

Ironically, part of the catalyst for all this has been an interesting video I watched on William Lane Craig, called Understanding William Lane Craig. It's worth watch…

Bill O'Reilly: Christianity isn't a religion and atheists are fascists

I think I can just let this one speak for itself:


Giving thanks

There's something about saying you're 'thankful' that's always sounded quasi-religious to me. Sort of like saying that you're 'blessed'. It makes me think, Why on Earth would some deity give you all these nice things when so many others are suffering? Some people are arrogant enough to think they deserve it; others just don't think much about it all.

So when I say I'm thankful, I'm thinking about all the things that others have given me. Not tangible things (well... some tangible things), but love, support and friendship... the things that are the most valuable to me.

So here are some of the things I'm thankful for:
My family. I'm lucky that my parents, both retired now, live close by. I'm able to see them most every week. I have a great relationship with them both. And while I don't talk to my brother much since he lives a busy life as a musician in Los Angeles (playing guitar for Rita Wilson), he's probably the only pers…

The problem with philosophical metaphysics

Stephen Hawking said that philosophy is dead. That probably hasn't sat well with some philosophers, but he's right – at least in the sense I think he means.

To my mind, there are essentially two major branches of philosophy – one deals with logic, critical thinking, and the implications of science for the human experience. I think that type of philosophy is doing just fine, and probably always will. 

The other kind is the trying to figure shit out kind. The kind that asks questions like, "What is the nature of time?", or "Does the universe require a cause?" That's philosophical metaphysics, and it's dead in the water.

Science wins because it works. The underlying principles of scientific inquiry weren't developed overnight; they developed over millennia, through rigorous trial and error. Over time, we began to figure out that certain types of methods produced results that, when others repeated our experiments, could be duplicated. They allowed …

No, Bill O'Reilly, Jon Stewart isn't 'Obtuse'

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Of all the insufferable douchebags on Earth, few are more insufferable and more douchebag than Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. It's not just that he's a egomaniacalblowhard, that he's prone to logical fallacies, or that he thinks dumb people watch Comedy Central and smart people watch Fox News, when the exact oppositeistrue.

Now, Bill O'Reilly has made an ass of himself yet again, this time responding to this segment:



Reports Huffpo:
O'Reilly used a portion of his "Reality Check" segment on his Monday night Fox News broadcast to respond to criticism lodged at him by the "Daily Show" host. Stewart lampooned O'Reilly for "lamenting" that "traditional Americans" did not reelect President Obama and therefore, "traditional America as we knew it is gone." "Bill O'Reilly, what are you talking about?" Stewart asked on his program last week. "Well here's what I'm talking about, Mr. Obtu…

Dumb science reporting: energy drink edition

You may have heard the news that the FDA is looking into some deaths purportedly associated with various energy drinks. Depending on where you read it though, the headlines may have been pretty misleading.

The New York Times did it right; the headline is simply "F.D.A. Posts Injury Data for 3 Drinks". The article correctly states,
The filing of an incident report with the F.D.A. does not mean that a product was responsible for a death or an injury or contributed to it in any way. But others have been handling things a little more sensationally. Anais Fournier, a 14-year-old Maryland girl, died after consuming two 24-oz Monster energy drinks in a 24-hour period [1]. This, along with some complaints about Five-Hour Energy (aside from "tasting like shit"), has spurred some headlines like this:

When caffeine kills: Energy drinks under the spotlight

13 deaths linked to energy drinks; FDA investigates 

More Deaths, Illness Linked to Energy Drinks


Sigh.

The problem here is t…

The Walmart Black Friday Strike

I've seen some stuff about this bandied around Facebook, and there's a piece on it in Huffpo:

Walmart's Internal Compensation Documents Reveal Systematic Limit On Advancement

Here's an excerpt:
The company website declares that "a job at Walmart opens the door to a better life" and "the chance to grow and build a career." But interviews with 31 hourly workers and one former store manager reveal lives beset by paychecks too small to handle the bills, difficult to manage part-time schedules with hours subject to constant change, and little reason to hope for career advancement.
If you have no idea what this is all about, here's the gist of it: a bunch of Walmart employees are complaining about the low wages, and are planning to strike on Black Friday. I think that it won't happen. Maybe some people will strike, and they'll probably just get promptly fired and replaced.

Most Walmart jobs have practically zero entry barrier. Forget col…

Conservative reactions to the election

I know it's been a while since my last update. I'm sorry. Life happens, man. Fortunately it's all life happening in a great way, but still.... I just haven't had much time to write.

One thing I've noticed though, because it's nearly impossible not to, is the conservative reaction to the election. I don't just mean the disappointment – that's inevitable when your pick doesn't win. What I mean is the outright batshit crazy nutbaggery that, in my mind, reinforces why conservatives lost the election.

First things first though. Conservative pundits set themselves and their followers for extreme disappointment by, against all the available polling data, predicting a landslide win for Romney.

How are they taking the loss? Not well. Not well at all....

Rush Limbaugh claims that Obama's tax plan will usurp capitalism [1]Former SNL and all-around crazy train Victoria Jackson tweeted that "America died", that Christians didn't "show up&q…

Common theistic arguments that are logical fallacies

Today I was reading a new post over at one of my favorite blogs, Unnatural Acts That Can Improve Your Thinking, by Robert Todd Carroll. The post is on informal logical fallacies – what they are, various kinds of them, and several examples of the different kinds. I'm sure that anyone who's spent a while debating on the interwebs has heard various phrases bandied about like begging the question, straw man, ad hominem, etc. – all examples of informal logical fallacies. As I was reading the post, I thought back to some of the discussions/debates over my "Why Christianity is Bullshit" series, and it wasn't hard to think of several arguments frequently and repeatedly advanced by theists that are informal logical fallacies.

So I thought what I'd do is comb through Carroll's excellent post, and draw out some examples from my own experience to illustrate just how reliant theism is on demonstrably fallacious arguments.

First, Carroll primes us on what an informal f…

Election night progress

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Prior to the election, I'd been following fivethirtyeight.com, which is probably the most accurate tracking website out there. I don't know what their secret is, but they're good. Really good. In any case, they had projected Obama to have a 90%+ chance to win, so his re-election was no surprise to me and I was very glad that Mittens is on his way back to Kolob.

But it wasn't Obama's re-election that had me feeling great; it was all the other progressive victories. It was a good night:
Todd Akin, infamous for his boneheaded remark that women are unlikely to get pregnant in the case of "legitimate rape", was soundly defeated. The fact that he was defeated by a woman makes it that much sweeter.Richard Mourdock, with his clumsy remark about pregnancy resulting from rape being something "God intended to happen", was also defeatedMaine and Maryland became the first two states to legalize gay marriage by popular vote.Floridians rejected an amendment to …