Archive for the ‘atheism’ category

Why Atheism?

June 12, 2010

Because there are mysteries in the world to be explained and the most successful way mankind has found so far to explain things is to measure and analyze the phenomena in as dependable and repeatable a way as possible, aka, the scientific method. To merely assume that the universe was created by a supernatural being that chose to reveal the true nature of the universe to a select few, thereby relaying completely on hearsay that could far too easily be confused with confusion, mistakes, or outright fraud, is downright silly.

All the Angry Atheists

June 2, 2010

Cries of “Angry Atheist” have been going around on the ol’ interwebs, lately. Only now they are being picked up by all kinds of folks. Notably, David Sloan Wilson seems to be upset that “certain atheists” (he mentions Dawkins, but then uses Hitchens as an example for some reason) believe that science is a perfectly suitable tool for getting along in the universe (not sure if religions that make the claim get a free pass or not). He makes an appeal to the “beneficial” aspects of religions. These claims usually refer to individuals feeling of belonging, good will, and such, even though these feelings are far from being any sort of a unique contribution of religion.

It most certainly does not do any harm for individuals to gather together to sing songs and join hands. To live out a piece of meaningful theater. If they were aware that that’s what they were doing. The problem is, most of them do not. And even those that do are perfectly happy letting letting others hold on to age old belief systems that do not apply to the world we live in. And that’s just plain wrong. When people hold irrational beliefs, it affects us all.

Would I handle the mild irrational beliefs of a UU member the same as the more irrational beliefs of a fundamentalist? Well, yeah. I would also treat any irrational belief an atheist had the same. I usually ask them if they really believe what they say, and why. And, perhaps, to clarify it, if it’s a belief I’m not familiar with. I probably shouldn’t go that far, but I guess that’s the angry atheist in me.

Micheal Dowd recently gave a very good example on the Infidel Guy show (paraphrased): Imagine you’re driving from Pittsburgh to Portland Oregon and your GPS hasn’t been updated for 150 years. It would most certainly make your trip a lot more difficult, full of unnecessary turns and dead ends. Since religious belief systems are usually based around the predominant understanding of the world at the time of their creation, religious institutions, and those that adhere to their beliefs, are driving with an outdated GPS. In the case of Christianity, a 2,000 year old one.

Anyone who’s understanding of the world is that out of date will be making irrational decisions in their life: voting for unqualified political candidates merely because they sell themselves as religious,  ostracizing homosexuals, holding racist views, etc. Their entire world view will be warped. And, whether their world view is peacefully warped (they keep to themselves), or violently warped (such as with suicide bombers), it is only the right thing to do to attempt to share any insight you have. We see good, beneficial governmental reform strategies continuously undermined by a religious view point of the world, and most of those people voting that way are not violent or crazy. But, their outdated mode of thinking does make a difference in the world.

PZ Myers recently put up a post about Jainism, a “peaceful” religion that never harmed no one (specifically it was about a con man that was Jain, who was trying to get the world to believe that he can survive without eating). Despite that claim of religious accommodationalists, Jains, mostly the priests, are ascetics that have been known to injure and even starve themselves to death to attain religious insight that, according to everything we’ve been able to ascertain about the world so far, simply does not exist. It’s perfectly crazy. Why do people have to pretend to respect such viewpoints? And it’s not stupid in the way the the religious practitioner is a stupid person (well, they might be, but they shouldn’t be treated as such). It’s stupid in that it’s a wrong world view that keeps being held on to and taught as “Truth” to a whole new wave of followers so that they too can get a skewed version of “what is real” imprinted into their brain. Why are we not supposed to challenge religion?

We all owe it to each other to be truthful. True, there is no need to beat on each in the process of doing it, but letting others believe that demons inhabit the world, or that dreaming of falling will kill you is just as abusive, IMO.

Book Review: The Christian Delusion

May 11, 2010

The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, Edited by John W Loftus

The Christian Delusion is the answer to most of those little holes left over after The God Delusion. Red Herring topics that frequently come up in debates, like the claim that Hitler was an atheist, or that Christianity is the basis of our morals (both false, by the way) are answered firmly and confidently. Instead of writing the whole book himself, Loftus chose to make The Christian Delusion a compilation of essays, each covering a specific subject. This was a very intelligent decision for two reasons: first, it allows for an A-list authors that would sell out any Atheist convention, including: Richard Carrier, David Eller, Robert M. Price, Hector Avalos, Edward Babinski, Paul Tobin, Valerie Tarico, Jason Long, and, of course, John Loftus (there is also a forward by FFrF’s Dan Barker). Second, the mutli-author technique allows each contributor to stay focused in their specific field of interest. The common apologist defense of questioning the qualification of any critical writer is thereby diffused. And credentials really are a moot point with this book; of  the 10 authors, 6 of them have PhDs in their field and several of them are former Christians that turned to atheism after years of study.

The book is divided into 5 sections, each containing 2-4 articles. Some of the writing does get a bit dry at times (they are, after all, tackling some pretty challenging subjects), but the layout of the book easily allows the reader the opportunity to take one subject at a time.

1. Why Faith Fails – This section is probably one of the most needed in the world of Atheist/Christian dialogue. Instead of just pointing out perceived flaws in religious belief, these articles seek to understand and explain religious experiences through the social sciences. The articles explain how religion mixes into (and often gets confused with) the culture around it, how cognitive experiences, like a Transcendence hallucination, can easily can get confused with a supernatural experience (often called a “born again” experience), and how the human mind itself is wired to trick us and that without an emotionally detached method of looking at the world, like science, we would all be nothing but bias machines.

2. Why the Bible is Not God’s Word – Critique of the Christian Bible occasionally takes too much of a center stage in Atheist writing. Responsible analysis of any ancient document takes a lot of patience and the discipline, not surprisingly, tends to to lose some people (either Christian or Atheist). I enjoy it, personally, but only because I genuinely find the subject matter interesting. I wouldn’t actually use Biblical Criticism to argue an Atheist standpoint. Conversations that focus on Biblical critique can get messy and lead down alley ways that would require a find their way out. Loftus, though, cleverly keeps the focus of the 3 articles in this section very focused and to the point. Instead of pointing out every possible contradiction or mistranslation, the writers stay on task and make it quite clear that the Bible could not possibly be a reliable source of knowledge about a supreme being. I believe that this section would prove very beneficial to any Christian that believes the Bible to be “revealed knowledge”.

3. Why the Christian God is Not Perfectly Good – Hector Avalos kicks off this section by refuting a past article by Paul Copan called “Is Yaheh a Moral Monster?” Hector concludes that he is. He does this by showing that Hebrew law code was not superior to that of the surrounding tribes and that biblical morals are unclear at best. John Loftus finishes it up with an article that points out how animal suffering in the world cannot be part of an omniscient god’s plan.

4. Why Jesus is Not the Risen Son of God – Robert M Price examines (and refutes) Paul Eddy and Greg Boyd’s apologetic book, The Jesus Legend, which attempts to argue for an historical Jesus. Then Richard Carrier tells us Why the Resurrection is Unbelievable with enough clarity to make anyone ashamed to have ever bought into the idea in the first place (this is the article that, IMO, would most benefit a believing Christian). John Loftus then gives a best case scenario for who a man named Jesus at the center of a 1st century religious movement could have been. Hint, the answer has more to do with social rebellion than it does saving souls.

5. Why Society Does Not Depend on Christian Faith – The topic of this section is a big one lately, when every religious zealot with a television camera pointed at them makes astounding claims that Christianity is glue that holds society together. Aside from this being a bigoted and xenophobic viewpoint to make, it’s also false. David Eller shows that not only is Christianity not a necessary basis for morality, but, no religion is. In Atheism was Not The Cause of the Holocaust, Hector Avalos shows that not only was Hitler not an atheist, but that he had expressed that he expected to be rewarded in heaven! This will be a very handy article to pass on the persistent trolls that still like to claim, despite loads of contradictory (and  easily available) evidence, that Hitler was an atheist. Richard Carrier then closes the book by completely blowing apart the bogus assumption that Christianity was (somehow?!) responsible for modern science.

The Christian Delusion is, all in all, a very well thought out book. It covers most of the arguments one might run up against when dealing with apologists that aren’t covered by the more broad The God Delusion. While none of the articles will be the final word (the subject of each article, after all, could very easily fill a book of their own), all the authors  have meticulously sourced  their articles to make any further research easy. And, let’s face it, at this point, anyone still adhering to any form of literal Christianity just isn’t paying attention.

Highly Recommended

The Evolution of Confusion

March 23, 2010

Daniel C Dennett’s speech, the Evolution of Confusion given at the AAI’s 2009 convention. He talks about purposely confusing theology and secretly atheist clergy.

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

December 25, 2009

Happy Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the unconquered sun), your chance to get all your sun worship out of the way for the year.

December 25th marks the fist day the sun starts to measurably ascend in the sky. Celebrations around the time of the winter solstice have been popular for centuries, though the festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti was instituted by the Roman Emperor Elagabalus at the beginning of the 3rd century CE.

Saturnalia:

The festival of Saturnalia goes back to 200 BCE. It was a week long festival lasting December 17th to the 23.  Gift giving, merry making (often leading to extreme merry making) and a reversal of the social order, with masters waiting on their slaves, were common traditions.

Christmas:

There is, of course, no mention of a any particular date for the birth of Jesus in any Christian Bible document, the earliest documents having no mention of Jesus’s earthly life at all. And, other dates were used to celebrate his birthday before December 25th was made official by the pope in the 4th century CE (the Orthodox Church still celebrates Christmas on Jan 6th). There is some evidence that early Christians thought the celebration of birthdays to be a strictly pagan custom that they chose not to participate in.

But, there is actually a Christian meme to explain why JC’s birth date should be celebrated on December 25th: the 3rd century Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus theorized that because Jesus died and was reborn on the spring equinox, then he must have been conceived on the spring equinox as well (sic), and therefore would have been born in December, around the 25th. Sounds to me like he already had December 25th in mind, especially since the average human pregnancy is 38 weeks, which would put the birth closer to December 16th. Christmas was not made an official holiday until the 4th century under Pope Julius the 1st. .

Signed Blasphemy

November 17, 2009

Take advantage of this deal: Earl Doherty has expanded his Christ Myth classic “The Jesus Puzzle“, re-titling it “Jesus: Neither Man Nor God”. It doesn’t  look like it’s available on Amazon yet, but, if you order i t from his web page, he will send a signed copy. Sweet. I accidentally started an autographed book collection when I found a signed copy of The Essential Harlan Ellison on and I’ve been slowly picking them up here and there.

For those not familiar, the Christ Myth theory postulates that the character we know as Jesus began, as most gods do, as a mythical character and that was later historicized. The mythical Christ is the Jesus that the apostle Paul knew, that the story was embellished by the author of the Gospel of Mark for the purpose of composing an edifying narrative. This original gospel, along with the Q document, were then used as sources to write Mathew and Luke. The gospels of Mark and Mathew do read as rather mythical and it appears to have been primarily Luke that attempted to make the character historical in nature. It is a surprisingly solid theory that has won me over and I think The Jesus Puzzle has been the best work on the subject. His web page is full of supplemental articles that are well worth reading, as well as a free down loadable novel that show cases his theory.

Atheist Sci Fi Poll

September 9, 2009