Posts

Showing posts from July, 2013

Reza Aslan on Jesus the zealot

Reza Aslan is a scholar of religious history who has been receiving criticism over his new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

The reaction of Christians on this matter just goes to show why religion is so ridiculously stupid. Free inquiry is antithetical to religion, which thrives on the preservation of doctrinal tenets. Religion, in fact, is the set of ideologies I know of that has given a name to mark the ostracization and marginalization of those who dare to disagree with the collective dogma: heresy. If there's ever a red flag that religion is a collection of falsehoods, that is it.

In any case, while I'm not familiar with Aslan or his book and I am in no way defending his writing, the outrage is coming not from the idea that he has written a scholarly work with ideas to be rationally critiqued and debated, but from the idea that a Muslim has dared to write about Jesus. This is a scholar who writes about all manner of religions, and for him Christianity …

God does not exist, but I still do

I know I've been a little quiet over here this past week, but hey... it's my first week of unemployment. So, how did I do?


All I can really say is that I almost wish I had done this a long time ago, though I do think this is the right time both personally and professionally. I've already had a client pay me, in full, for a 3-month training package. I have nearly 200 'likes' on my business' Facebook page and my website has pulled in several strong leads already in addition to several client contacts and Facebook leads. People are pursuing me, which is exactly what I intended.

I've also been crazy busy. Setting up the website and doing search optimization, blogging to get sharable content online, setting up my LLC, getting all the legal forms together plus putting together all my programming concepts and developing an advertising campaign for Facebook... yeah, it's a lot. But the payoff is that I made more than enough money to breathe a bit while I pursue…

Doing it better

I confess, despite my general optimism, I'm in a bit of a funk with the whole unemployment thing. Although I knew my job was ultimately a dead-end, it was at least a steady paycheck and food on the table. I'm terrified at the thought of being a disappointment to my girlfriend, though she's been incredibly supportive.

I'm now making a full-blown effort to establish myself as a freelance trainer, something that I had tried years ago but lacked the client base, experience and knowledge to pull off. I've created a website and corresponding Facebook page, and I'm using a targeted ad campaign to hit local potential clients. On the downside, I don't have any leads from the site from day one. But on the upside, in its first day it's had over 300 visitors and I nabbed over 50 fans on Facebook. That's not a bad start.

Looking at the stats, I realized something. There's really no more job security working for someone else. In my previous job there had bee…

Well, today kind of sucked

Today's my birthday. Yay, me!

I was also fired from the job I've worked for the last seven years.

Given that this blog is essentially personal and I can say whatever I want, I can disregard the tact I've used when discussing the issue in public and with my clients thus far. Let me say it outright: those assholes can take a long walk off a short cliff.

I've had some disagreements recently about the direction our studio is taking. After no increase in pay for nearly four years, I was told my pay as a trainer was capped and that to make any more money, I'd need to do marketing and sales, and work off commission bonuses. While I don't have a problem in principle with my job description expanding, it's not an excuse for capping my pay for my primary role in the business – developing programs and training clients. Further, the marketing was poorly implemented out-bound marketing that relied on promotional discounts and cold-calling to get people in the door – har…

Sophisticated theology

Image
Sometimes I think that Christians get into esoteric philosophical debates partly because the atmosphere of apparent academic and intellectual rigor helps them distract themselves from some of the more obvious absurdities of their religion, as is cleverly satirized here:


Describing God by analogy: another trick that doesn't work

Whenever contradictions arise in apologetic arguments, the "nuclear option" is to describe God as in some way ineffable or incomprehensible, which has the convenient effect of immediately terminating all critique. In the recent comment threads going back-and-forth about Aquinas' argument from motion, two commenters, when faced with the inevitable contradictions entailed by their arguments, have argued that when they use certain terminology to describe God they are speaking analogously – and this is supposedly just as legitimate as describing God in unequivocal terms. I want to take a moment to explain why I'm not buying it.


First, a quick primer: my central objection to the argument from motion (though certainly not my only objection) is that it ends with a God that is 'pure actuality'. It says that change occurs when 'potentiality is reduced to actuality', and this creates an infinite regress lest terminated in a source of 'pure actuality' wh…

The eight miracles of Buddha

Image
When I was in Pasadena this past weekend, I visited the Norton-Simon museum which features a terrific exhibit on Asian art. Among the many statues are descriptions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It's been many years since I studied those religions (doing so was paramount in my deconversion from Christianity), but I was particularly fascinated by a statue depicting the "eight miracles" of the Buddha:







It's fascinating because of how familiar it all sounds as an ex-Christian. Buddha was claimed to have been immaculately conceived, to have tamed a wild elephant instantly, miraculously purified water, ascended to Nirvana (and then came back), walked on water, and done a litany of other supernatural things.

Studying world religions is a fantastic way to deconvert, because it removes you from your own ethnocentric biases. You begin to see that those "miracles" that Jesus supposedly performed weren't actually all that unheard of in antiquity, and that simil…

Aquinas' argument from motion

Image
Since this has been the topic of countless lengthy comment threads, I thought it was high time I dedicated a post to talking about this lesser-known and somewhat odd argument for the existence of God. I'll restate it as I wrote it in the last post; I'm sure there are variations, but this is one that popped up in a quick Google search:

Evident to our senses in motion—the movement from actuality to potentiality. Things are acted on.Whatever is moved is moved by something else. Potentiality is only moved by actuality.Unless there is a First Mover, there can be no motions. To take away the actual is to take away the potential.Thus, a First Mover exists. I'll try to break this down to the best of my ability. The word "potentiality" simply describes a possible change; the word "actuality" describe a realization of this possible change. The argument is suggesting that potentiality can only move to actuality when some pre-existing actuality acts on the already-e…

Christian apologetics: the endlessly moving target

I have several persistent frustrations with Christian apologists.  One is their incessant attempts to "prove"  the existence of God using a priori reasoning as though empirical knowledge of the world can be attained through little more than rational introspection. Another is the frequent shifting of the burden of proof through appeals to mystery and that which cannot be disproved (that is, almost anything imaginable).  Another still is that the very concept of God and the concepts used to describe him/her/it  are virtually infinitely amorphous, such that they can be molded to rationalize any belief at all.  The very meaning of "God", "existence", "causality", and virtually every such related concept all lack universally agreed upon definitions, and can be defined as needed to retrofit any belief already assumed to be true.

Let's take something as simple as "existence". To be. God, supposedly, is a being which exists without a physi…

I'm home!

I just got back from a vacation in lovely Pasadena with my fabulous girlfriend Vanessa. We stayed with my brother and his wife, and got a nice taste of life in greater Los Angeles. I gotta tell ya... it's a lot like life in Tulsa, except with way, way, way more traffic and vastly more expensive housing. We hit the Norton-Simon museum, got in lots of shopping and dining, stuffed ourselves at a huge farmer's market, watched Man of Steel (second time for me, first time for everyone else), and took plenty of walks.

It's funny, because my brother and his wife (and her entire family, really) are always trying to get me and my parents (who live roughly 20 minutes from me) to move out there. They seem to have this impression that it's just a given that LA is just so much better and more interesting than Tulsa. But Vanessa and I came to the conclusion that while Tulsa obviously doesn't have things on the scale of LA, pretty much anything you can do there you can do in Tulsa…

I wish my grandmother could die

Image
My grandmother, now 91 years, is one of the sweetest, smartest, most compassionate human beings I've ever known. As a child she was not just some distant relative but a great source of support and love. To my cousin, who now helps take care of her, she's like a second mother.

For the last several years, her health has been deteriorating. Following a hip replacement, she never followed through with the rehabilitation like she should have, which is all too common. Accordingly, she gradually became less mobile, which led to her being weaker, which led to her being more dependent. It's a downward spiral and, at that age, there's little if anything to stop it.

She's recently been diagnosed with a blood clot in her lungs. She's also been found to have blood in her urine and stool. And she has a mass which may or may not be cancerous. She doesn't want to do more tests. She sleeps for 16 hours a day. She requires a bedside commode and has fallen several times. She …

The great apologetic switcharoo

I go back and forth about the value of debating Christians. On the one hand, I like being challenged and although the odds of me re-converting (at least all the way back to evangelical Christianity) are pretty much nil at this point, I've occasionally found that discussing theological and philosophical issues with educated theists can get me to consider things I hadn't thought of on my own.

But more often than not, it's just an endless morass. And I think a big part of what makes the whole affair sometimes seem like such a waste of time is what I like to call the great apologetic switcharoo. Religious apologists always begin their arguments with the confidence that any rational person ought to be convinced, logically and rationally, that not only does God exist but, hey who'da thunk, it's the god of tribal Palestine and not any of the other tens of thousands of gods scattered throughout human history.

As you start to push back against apologists, though, a funny th…

Another great talk with Sean Carroll

This one is a discussion on all things metaphysical... heady, but fascinating.


"Scientism"

"Scientism" is a word flung at us non-believers when we refuse to take unverifiable claims of divine revelation, dubious historical records, anecdotal reports and uncontrolled case studies as hard evidence of the supernatural. "You're closed-minded," they say. But like the old saying goes, don't be so open-minded your brain falls out. Demanding good empirical evidence to support claims about reality isn't closed-minded – it's open-minded because you're showing that your position is amenable to evidence. It's the person who credulously assumes that the unexplained is paradoxically explained by the supernatural without demanding independently verifiable evidence who has truly closed their mind.

You can't use philosophy to demonstrate that God exists

Over the years in writing this blog, William Lane Craig has provided plenty of cannon fodder for me; more recently, Randal Rauser has proved to be a wellspring of facepalm-worthy apologetics and pseudoscience. Both have one thing in common: they're both philosophers by trade who think that it's possible to prove the existence of God through the use of deductive logical arguments.

Here's a quote, for example, from Randal's latest post, which is itself a quote of another apologist-philosopher type, Edward Feser:
In each case we have [apologetic] arguments to the effect that the material universe in principlemust have had a cause and that the divine cause arrived at not only happens not to have a cause (as a “brute fact” would) but rather in principlecould not have had or needed a cause and in principlecould not have not existed.  And the reasons, of course, have to do with the metaphysics of potency and act, the difference between composite substances and that which i…