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The Sun is Going Out

August 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Next week, the moon is going to temporarily and completely block the sun for a brief period of time. Then it’s going to continue on its cosmic dance. If you live in a part of the world that isn’t the United States you aren’t going to get it. It’s our eclipse, USA USA USA. Now I could spend a lot of space this week talking about religious opposition to astronomy throughout history, I could spend it talking about some natural philosophers in the ancient world who used the ability to predict eclipses as arguments against their religions and for the idea that there were natural laws, or I could go on about how the laws of nature would continue without us and that the Cosmos doesn’t care. All of that would be well and good, but I instead want to talk about this eclipse and the end of the world.

It’s a strange topic right? Because you aren’t hearing anyone saying that. There are some nutters out there but in general it’s not a wide topic of conversation. So why am I mentioning it? Because people aren’t talking about it, and I find that very strange.

For eight years we’ve heard the theocrats talk about how President Obama was the anti-Christ and an agent of Satan. Chuck Norris said that if Mitt Romney wasn’t elected it would begin a thousand years of darkness. 8.2 million results for the seach “Obama, anti-Christ;” some of the results are debunking the claims, like the snopes link. Yet the majority of them are Christian forums, websites, and videos linking Obama to the end of the world; or their links reporting it. They’ve gone to great lengths to twist the incoherent ramblings of the book of Revelation, the Book of Daniel (which is not about the end of the world) and some other loosely affiliated works in order to tie the President into their eschatological world view. In 2014, a reddish cow was found, and that ties in somehow to the rise of the messiah (or return if you’re Christian). This was apparently a big deal, we had the anti-Christ (Obama), the red cow, some people were attempting to rebuild the TEMPLE, and Damascus was about to fall. All of the signs were pointing to the end of the world, but nothing happened. Because of course it wasn’t going to.

Some of my favorite clips are from those people who made the predictions, the day after when nothing happened. It’s just fun watching them squirm.

All of that, and somehow the United States was going to be the focal point of the Apocalypse. Then Obama left office and the new guy came in. So the end of the world prophecies pretty much vanished.

Isn’t that strange though: Trump is now, sigh, president, the sun is literally going to be blocked, in totality only across the US. This seems ripe for the picking, all of the other leaps of logic and twists of metaphor can easily be reapplied here. The red heifer is probably still alive, and if not, all the better since its ashes are needed for some kind of cleansing ritual. Also with the added bonus that the sun is going to go out, which is a thing that is specifically in the bible (rev. 6:12).

So what’s the deal? Why are the theocrats not touting the end of the world? Why is the American Christiantism not going into full apocalypse swing? Perhaps it is because they finally woke up and realized that all of those mental leaps they have made in the past make them look like fools now. That would be great, if it were true, but sadly it’s not. I’ve no doubt that if Hillary had been elected we’d be seeing the same bullshit.

Not hearing this stuff just shows that they are liars more interested in selling themselves than in being honest. While it sure is possible that they have run out of bullshit, with their guy in the White House (literally as the evangelists have a regular channel and visiting sessions with the president) it doesn’t matter. They aren’t selling a religion they are selling a political position and it doesn’t make sense for them to preach the apocalypse with the guy they wanted in charge. The only thing they have is the fear to sell, which I have always found odd since they want the end of the world as they think they are going to get raptured (an event not in the bible anyway). Yet convicted felon Jim Baker sells food buckets for the end times and even he’s not using the eclipse as part of his lunacy.

The Pat Robertsons, Jim Bakers, Dave Feuerstein, Joel Olsteens, Crefro Dollar, all of these people are liars and shills. They are vampires leaching off the desire and need of people that they have deceived into thinking that giving money will somehow get money and they preach this end time fall of civilization (in America and Israel only) in order to augment it. I’m really curious as to why they aren’t using the eclipse. So very curious.

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By A Preponderance of the Evidence II

August 8, 2017 Leave a comment

Last month we began the book, and amongst the random claims, the lamentation of this new generation, and several other accusations: we have yet to actually see any of this evidence that is irrefutable, rational, and historical. Defenders of this book might say, “now this isn’t the introductory chapter, but it is the first one so perhaps we should give it some time to make it’s case.”

I would agree if the book seemed to be making any kind of case other than, “what society needs is more Jesus because they don’t have it.” Don’t spend a significant portion describing what atheists believe, especially when you have that wrong, rather talk about the evidence and then our position will look increasingly ridiculous. As I said in the introductory post regarding this book: I’m not sold on mythicism-the idea that there never was a “Jesus.” My personal opinion is that there probably was a guy named Jesus (Josh) who said a bunch of things, but that the divine aspect was added later. The book here is supposed to refute even my position arguing that there is clear evidence of both Jesus the person and His divine nature. So let’s continue starting at page 16.

Frustratingly it continues with a polemic towards alternative religions from the Eastern world claiming that they are “in vogue.” There’s a couple of problems with this claim: the first is that it doesn’t matter to the point of his book. Who cares? Evidence is evidence, if the entire world argues that 1 + 1 =3, and there is one person that argues it’s 2, that one person is right. Facts aren’t determined by shared opinion, they are determined by evidence. So if a group of people are currently into Eastern Philosophy then what does it matter? The second problem is the ethnocentrism of the claim. Clearly he’s not talking about Indian or Japanese society. Again, the evidence affects the world, and if you’re going to be writing about the fall of society because of the lack of Jesus you need to address countries where Jesus isn’t and how their societies are doing. If it’s an argument from results: I’d have a problem with that two as it’s always the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, but it’d at least be relevant to the discussion. The final problem is that he includes Deepak Chopra in this list. Chopra isn’t an Eastern Philosopher, he isn’t a theologian, he’s a self help author who is utterly full of shit. He steeps his prosaic platitudes in Eastern terminology along with quasi-scientific terminology as well. If the phrase “quantum chakra” doesn’t appear in his writings I’d be surprised. Atheists, generally, don’t follow Chopra recognizing how terribly his writing is and how he is literally just making things up.

The author then makes the claim that science has overtaken religion as the ideology of the present, a claim I wish was true. He claims that science (just general “science”) has “assumed the right to answer moral questions” because everything is “subjective.” This is a contradictory assertion, if everything is subjective there is no science. Gravity doesn’t function differently because of how I think about it, it functions the same for everyone, everything, everywhere. NaOH + HCl –> NaCl + H20 everytime. It’s not subjective, it’s objective. This means that whatever moral decisions that science is making aren’t personal they are universal. This is leaving aside that I have no idea what moral questions he things science is answering, because he isn’t providing a single example. As a contradictory statement we can leave it since it is meaningless.

Now finally he mentions that his belief is based on comprehensive evidence of the existence of Jesus and His divinity. First he mentions that accuracy of the gospels. A claim which we could go through and evaluate that alleged accuracy if he gave a single example of justification of that accuracy. Since he doesn’t I have to at least mention that the gospels are notoriously inaccurate. If we just take the resurrection we have Luke Mark and John saying the tomb of Jesus was open, while Matthew says it was closed. When the women approach the tomb they see an angel (Matt 28:2), two angels (John 20:12), a young man (Mark 16:5), or two men (Luke 24:4) of whom were sitting (Mark and John) or standing (Luke). Matthew has the resurrected Jesus first appearing to the Marys (Matt 28:1, 9), Mark and John have it as just Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9 and John 20:11-14), Luke has it Cleophas and some others (Luke 24:14-31) while the Epistle to the Corinthians has it as some dude named Cephas (1 Cor 15:4-5). If we are claiming this book as accurate then we have to explain the contradictions or just say that three of the four gospels are in error. However that’s not all, there’s also the independent historical examples (of which none are given) and that goes along with the archaeological discoveries (of which none are given). If he were just introducing this as an idea it would just be sloppy writing, but thus far this is the only evidence we are given. My opinion is that he’s preaching to the choir with this book. He doesn’t need to provide evidence because buyers of this book already agree and just want to read something that describes how the world sucks because of not enough Jesus.

Perhaps the strangest claim is that his Christian faith is one of love and tolerance as opposed to all those other faiths. A nice self-congratulatory patting on the back that is very common among people who share his belief. It would be better if he hadn’t spent 19 pages of the book talking about everyone is an immoral sinful monster because they don’t share his beliefs.

The last claim for this chapter is that the Eastern gods offer no morality. This shows an utter ignorance of Eastern religion. First off, in religions like Daoism there aren’t gods like we consider gods. There are beings who would serve that purpose but the central force, the “godhead,” isn’t a thing with a specific personal identity. The same can be sort of claimed with Buddhism as well. Buddha isn’t god, but his reincarnation in figures such as the Dalai Lama are deified, the central focus again is a rejoining into a single consciousness that isn’t a person. Hinduism is trickier in this respect, because they have the centralized consciousness, but they also have the Braman/Atman figures as well. Secondly, and most importantly, they absolutely offer morality. Even the legalist quasi-religion of Confucianism (not necessarily gods but if you want them there some to choose) is full of morals. It would be hard, even impossible, to claim that there could be religion without morals since that’s an essential feature. Even followers of Aristotle would have to say that there are morals (given two of his books are literally ethics books), in fact, even in works touting the complete absence of morality are still books of morality, it’s just that they have one moral. What he means is that they don’t have morals I agree with, or that the morals are bad because they lack Jesus. It’s probably the latter since morals and ethics share some universal common rules (murder, stealing).

What we’re really reading is a book with the central thesis: everything I don’t agree with is wrong because it’s not the thing I agree with. I just wonder how he’s going to couch the evidence in it, if at all.

 

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In-American

July 31, 2017 Leave a comment

12:21 pm, July 26: President Trump’s Twitter feed: IN AMERICA WE DON’T WORSHIP GOVERNMENT – WE WORSHIP GOD!”

So what about me? I worship neither. Remember when the entire point of the election was to stop the divisiveness of the Obama presidency? Let’s not get into what the actual cause of that divisiveness was (just him being president was enough), but this isn’t the type of comment that brings people together. It seems odd coming from a person who just doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t get behind whatever he does to be claiming that we shouldn’t be worshipping government. The last part is obviously what bothers me the most. According to the last Pew research poll on the American religious landscape, “nones” are the second largest denomination of citizens at 22.8%. That’s people who have no religious affiliation.

Now, that number can’t just be swallowed. “None” doesn’t mean atheist, or agnostic. It also includes all religious people who don’t attend a denomination, the ones that have their own unique interpretations that do not put them into one of the other categories, but it also includes atheists and agnostics (as well as the “not religious but spiritual” peoples). Other studies have shown that in general the term “atheist” is one that most people aren’t willing to apply themselves to (Gervais and Najle 2017), and the number of atheists could be as high as 20% on their own (this was done with a .8% confidence rating which I’m led to understand is pretty high, but I’ve never taken a statistics course). Let’s just take a look back at that Pew Poll, roughly 3% of the respondents said they affirmatively atheist while a separate 11% said they didn’t believe in a god or a universal spirit. Given the most basic definition of “atheist” it means that 14% of people don’t believe in a god while the majority of them are unwilling to present themselves with the label.

If we just take the conservative estimate and go with the people that reported, it’s 1/10 of the American population. That’s more than the population of some states and lots of cities. A good percentage of people have just been disowned by the president of the United States as being Americans.

You might think, but does it matter this guy will be out in four years(-ish) so who gives a shit? Well here’s a game: imagine if he said Americans don’t worship government, they worship Jesus. That would be upsetting to everyone who is Jewish, Muslim, and all of the other religions. In fact, this comment basically means “Jesus” anyway. He’s not making that comment because he wants the average Hindu to know that he’s religious as well: he’s doing it so that the theocratic base that mysteriously still supports him will start firing up about how awesome he is. I don’t take it personally because this trash fire of a person is just feeding his own need for others to aggrandize him. Still it’s problematic for the president of the United States to willfully and obviously sow such division.

And speaking of pandering to the religious base: he also decided to announce that he was no longer going to allow transgender people to serve in the armed forces. This after consulting with his “top generals” none of whom were on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as they were completely surprised by the announcement.

Why? Well according to him it costs too much and makes the military unready to make war. This is just patently ridiculous. I’m all for cutting government spending, it’s one of those things that makes liberals look at me crooked thinking “I thought you were on our side.” This however is one of those eye dropper in the ocean types of monetary claims. As was nearly immediately plastered all over my various feeds, the F-35 project has ballooned to 1.35T dollars without a working plane to show for it. That’s not the best case to use though. Lots of government projects regarding military development go longer and much further than was expected.

The better point are the tanks that we keep building. As far back as 2012 the Army told Congress it didn’t need any more tanks, but Congress demanded they take them. So where are they now? Sitting in the desert waiting to be joined by other tanks. The US Navy just launched an aircraft carrier that is extremely superfluous, since our smallest Carrier is larger than the next country’s largest, who happens to be England (their largest carrier is a Queen Elizabeth class at a water displacement of 65,000t while our smallest the Nimitz class displaces 97,000t). One might offer the counterpoint, we need those things as we’re at war…with the Taliban and Isis. Who have no aerial capability and no naval capability to speak of. The bad Korea is doing some posturing but North Koreas real talent lies in killing other North Koreans, and Russia, well, I guess they have a carrier force but it’s not like we’re going to get into a land war with Russia when we can just drop natural gas sanctions on them and cripple their economy.

I’m getting off topic…

This tweet is ridiculous because this isn’t how you change the makeup of the military. Yes the president is in charge of the military, and yes, he can make this change. However, he can’t do it via twitter as the press release by the Joint Chiefs made clear: they won’t be doing anything until they see an actual official policy change. Secondly, there is no complaint from the military about transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines. So what is this again?

Pandering, as I said earlier. After the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” and the legalization of gay marriage, as well as the pivot on the view of homosexuality amongst the general population who have finally adopted the policy of “whatever, it doesn’t affect me in any way” it’s no longer socially acceptable to hate gays. However, the transsexuals, are still ok to hate. Especially by the theocrats who are still trying to pass laws legalizing their discrimination.

So it’s been a rough week of pandering to the only people that seem to unconditionally support this president.

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Poor poor Ken Ham

July 24, 2017 1 comment

Let’s do a quick rundown of all the news regarding Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter and why this garbage fire (which is going to a fun coincidence at the end) is failing according to Ken Ham. If you’re reading this you’re probably aware of what it is, but in case you don’t: the Ark Encounter is an amusement park that displays a giant replica of Noah’s Ark in order to push Ken Ham’s biblical view of the world (though I wonder if he thinks the world is flat too). The park was pitched to the city of Williamstown as a for-profit amusement park designed to promote tourism. For this the state and the town gave Ham a few incentives: they sold the land to him for 1$, a 62M interest free loan, and a 75% tax break on the property itself. This despite the fact that the park is obviously religious in nature, employees have to align with Ham’s specific interpretation of the religious virtue, and that his non-profit church had an integral role in the management of the park. There’s a ton of issues with this park and most of them I’ll ignore. For the purposes of this post let’s take a look at the recent news surrounding this travesty.

Ham’s proposal counted on a first year visit of at least 2 million people. For the town itself this seemed like a good deal. People would come, look at the boat, the diorama’s inside and then spend money on hotels, restaurants, stores, etc. However it hasn’t turned out that way. Attendance is way below expectations and the park is failing. Which is bad news for the town, county, and state of Kentucky. So where can lay the blame: is it because Ken Ham over estimated the amount of people that wanted to see a giant boat in the middle of Kentucky? That he over estimated the number of people who subscribed to his particular brand of theocratic Christianity? No, of course not.

Ham first blamed atheists. A number of atheist podcasts, news sites, and blogs; have rightly derided the park as being silly and crazy. They’ve somehow caused people to shun the park, even people that don’t listen or read those sites. I find this funny because of the number of those podcasters/writers who’ve actually paid money and went to the park. Sure, they made fun of the park but they still went to it. As the friendly atheist blog points out: the Creation museum gets the same treatment and it’s doing just fine.

Then Ham blamed the city of Williamstown itself. The city whose citizens cannot even work for the park unless they adhere to Ham’s specific religious ideology. Sure, gays can’t work there but neither can people who have been divorced or engaged in sex before marriage. Remember this park was tax payer funded. The town failed because they don’t have the number of hotels and restaurants that he thinks they need. Of course, this was true before he built the park and it’s a wonder that he didn’t take this into account. That’s not how tourism draws work by the way, and it’s indicative of the fundamental problem of supply side economics. People don’t go to a place just because something exists, they need to want to go there and the businesses sprout up because of the people. Just as people don’t buy a car because the car exists, the car is built because people want it.

Then Ham blamed entrepreneurs for not building hotels in the city itself. This is a weird claim because the next city over has hotels. Again, it’s the reverse of the way things actually work. No one is going to stay at a hotel in a city if they don’t want to go there.

The city and the county have both said that the Ark is a failure. The city itself, imposed a .50c ticket surcharge in order to cover a safety fee. This angered Ham, who cried oppression, even though as an amusement park it owes the money. Agree or disagree with the charge, it owes the money. Now, the county promised a sales tax rebate of 18M on everything the park sold, the ticket surcharge would have cost about 700k. Ham, angry at the surcharge oppressing his church, er amusement park. Ham sold the park to his church for ten dollars. This meant that tax revenue could no longer be provided to it due to that pesky first amendment and its 200 years of legal precedent (antecedent?). The FRFF was getting ready to sue but they didn’t need to as the state ended the deal. That means for a pesky 700K hissy fit, Ham lost out on 17.3M dollars. I guess that’s what you get when you think pi = 3 (1Kings 7:23–the apologetics for this are amazing).

So who else can Ham blame? Well, he’ll figure something out but I’m always willing to help out. So here are a few suggestions.

  1. The state of Kentucky for being Kentucky. Too many dry counties in Kentucky and after having spent a long day with people who think the Flinstones was closer to the truth than literally all of the scientific community a nice drink would relax your nerves: but alas no. While Grant county isn’t dry, you might want to travel to the source of Jack Daniel’s but no whiskey there. That’s in a dry county. Also it’s Kentucky, and if there isn’t a race going on the “other things to do list” is pretty short.
  2. God: he could have made people go see the boat, but he didn’t and that’s not fair to Ken Ham.
  3. Obama and Hillary: the current president is always blaming them for everything so why not?
  4. Pope Francis: he doesn’t believe in the Ark story as actually having happened either, and Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination in the world.

It’s not that no one wants to pay money to see a bunch of fairy tales, Disney is doing just fine, it’s that no one wants to see your park Ken. The Kentucky summer is pretty humid and I can think of many other things I’d rather do then spending it inside your wooden (not the right wood) boat constructed (with not the right techniques), to look at dioramas of animals (I have a zoo near me where they are alive).

 

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They Can Both Lose Right?

July 18, 2017 Leave a comment

I find baseball to be the most boring sport. Some say golf, but it is my opinion that golf is no more a sport than darts. Yet, I’m aware that some people have really strong opinions about baseball. So much so that sometimes, even a solitary individual writing notes in a small black notebook will get roped into a conversation about baseball (that’s me, and yes, I’m that guy at the bar). It hasn’t happened in awhile but a person’s allegiances to their favorite sports team will sometimes drag in the lone individual because they are under the assumption that they are right…especially when it concerns long standing historical rivalries, e.g. the Red Sox and the Yankees. One particular time an individual asked me who I thought was the better team. He literally just tapped me on the shoulder and asked me.

The thing about the question is that there is no right answer. If I agree with him, he gets all smug and then thinks I’m his bro, if I disagree he still gets smug because then he’s got two people he “knows” are wrong to talk and yet remain the center of attention. My response, given that I hate baseball was, “Can they both lose? Is it possible that the stadium could collapse? Is that an option I get to pick?”

A dick move, I admit. I said it in a charming manner, or at least enough, where they started laughing. I, however, maintained a straight face. Seriously if I never have to endure the pretend anger that people have over an objectively boring sport being played by two teams from cities that neither people in the argument are from (that’s usually the case), I’d happily be sublimely indifferent to the elimination of both teams. I get caring if you’re from one of the cities. In college sports, I get it if you went to the college. Everything else though is pretty arbitrary.

I have much the same opinion when it comes to the argument between the Flat Earth Crowd and Creationism. I know I covered this last week, but then the friendly atheist blog had a story yesterday that make me realize that I would have to revisit the topic.  The AiG group, the people who regularly push to get science out of science class, made a video (the link is in the article above) in which they make fun of the flat earth people for taking the bible, get this, too literally. So the question comes back: who do I want to win this argument?

And again the same answer: can they both lose? They’re both wrong, and neither one of them is more wrong than the other. They both want science out of science classes, but I guess the flat earthers don’t want to ban homosexuals as an official position. As I said last week, the shape of the Earth as being flat is in the Bible and the Quran. It’s not controversial or a “leap” to get there. Taking either book literally gets us there. It’s quite funny to watch the young Earth Creationists bend over backwards to reinterpret what is very clear from the writing so that it becomes he book of science that they claim it to be.

Let’s run down the claims highlighted in the Patheos article. The first is from Faulkner who is claiming that the flat Earth arguments are those put forth by atheists in the 18th century in order to discredit the Bible. He shows faux astonishment that someone would use an argument that’s 150 years old…because it’s too young of an argument? I’m confused, because his entire world view is based on an argument that’s almost nineteen centuries older than that. There’s also quite a bit of misdirection in his comment as well. He doesn’t elucidate the argument, he merely says that skeptics were using it. Sure, they were, Robert Ingersoll was drawing sold out speaking engagements doing that very thing. However he’s merely quoting your book. Last week I put up a few bible passages (Psalm 19:1, Isaiah 45:12, Daniel 4:10-11) in order to make my point. Let’s be real clear: I’m not quoting some 19th century argument, I’m quoting your book. So tell me what’s ridiculous here.

Hemant Mehta has a good point: maybe these two people should be more upset at how easily their book is used against them rather than the time a Union Colonel explained the problem to everyone.

We then arrive at the fail of fails: “We need to take the Bible as it’s written. Not everything literally. I don’t know anyone that does that…” (“Dr.” Purdom, apparently not understanding the law of non-contradiction)

You do. You and your whole group take the Bible literally that’s what it means to take it as it’s written. Especially the history parts. No one, thinks Jesus wasn’t using a simile with the whole door thing, but that’s contextual. However, your group thinks the story of Noah happened as is, while bilking an entire town out of revenue it desperately needed in order to put up a wooden boat with dioramas inside.

What’s great about the flat earth people is that they are indirectly pointing out how stupid everything else is. You can’t make fun of the flat earth people if you believe the Earth is 6000 years old because an Irishman traced back the genealogies in the Bible. Claiming that there is an ice wall that surrounds the Earth as an explanation for why the water doesn’t spill out is just as stupid as believing one guy put a bunch of animals on a boat in order to survive a world wide flood.

The only difference between the AiG people and the Flat Earthers is that at least the latter don’t have to make arbitrary distinctions between metaphor and literalness in order to sustain their worldview. The Flat Earthers are wrong, they have a fundamental misunderstanding of various scientific principles, require a denial of gravity, and Cosmology that is so multiplied it would give Ockham a heart attack, but it’s at least consistent.

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The Flat Earth

July 10, 2017 Leave a comment

For the last month I’ve been working on a companion blog to the course I teach entitled “Conspiracy Theories, Skepticism, and Critical Thinking.” I’ve set it up over at Blogger, for the particular reasons that when I clicked on the link “set up blog” it sent me there. I imagine it’s somehow easier because it will then be linked on the course dashboard, so it saves the students the trouble of having to tap twice.

This post is not an advertisement for the other blog (although you can click the link above if you are so inclined), it’s a different tone in writing and is designed for students taking the course. I provide sources and citations when it becomes necessary, there’s also a lot more editing done. This blog is more personal and I do not share personal stories with my students. Thus far the posts have been methodology, with a couple of historical conspiracies thrown in. Yesterday though, after finishing the historical-factual conspiracies it was time to delve into one actual conspiracy theory to just give an example of how everything works. That theory, the one I always start with, is the Flat Earth Theory.

Briefly, flat Earth theory is the idea that the earth is flat, and a huge conspiracy exists that covers this up. The weird thing is, and this has been the story of my class, I started covering it as a goof. An example of something no one seriously believed except a few die hards on the internet, but then it started making the news. Rapper BoB got in a fight with Neil Degrasse Tyson (whom I’m supposed to hate because I’m in Philosophy but I don’t, he makes a good point), then a bunch of NBA players jumped on board as well. Now there are billboards claiming “Research Flat Earth” which, is the exact wrong thing they want to recommend.

We’re not here for the conspiracy, we’re here for the atheism. The first question I ask is why anyone would believe this, and the first answer is religious literalism. When I say this: I mean Ken Ham style the bible is literally true, every word, every sentence, no metaphor. Though I don’t know if Ken Ham is a flat earther, but he should be.

The Old Testament of the Bible describes the Earth like it would a modern indoor sport’s stadium. There’s a dome, a foundation, of which the Earth is in-between. References to this include, but are not limited to: Psalm 19:1, Isaiah 45:12, Daniel 4:10-11. There’s other references that explain in more detail the “firmament” where the water is held before the flood, and some others of more ambiguous quality. The New Testament doesn’t escape this either, the famous temptation of Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:8) has Satan tempting Jesus by taking him to high place and showing him all the kingdoms of the Earth. This is only possible if the Earth is flat, given the kingdoms in China and the Americas at the time (to name a few that are blocked by the curvature of the Earth). It also refers to the “four corners of the Earth” at 1:7 and 7:1. Part 3 of the Middle Eastern trilogy doesn’t escape either as Surahs 15:19, 18:47, 20:53, for example explain that the Earth has been rolled out like a mat or shaped like a bed.

So what gives here? Was the Earth flat until the end of the Quran where god changed the shape of it like in Tolkien? Or did the writers of these works of religious sanctimony get it wrong? If god wrote the books, or inspired their words, then they ought to be free from such egregious error. This isn’t like the claim in the Old Testament, where bats are listed as unclean birds. I mean, that’s pretty bad, but I suppose to the author a flying creature is a flying creature; this is a fundamental error on the shape of the planet that the creator designed (and then wrote the description of the design).

Apologists will argue that this is metaphor. That of course the Earth does not literally live underneath a firmamental dome and no one really thought so, just as “Homer” didn’t actually believe that that the sky was “vaulted.” The story of the temptation is just a story, and probably metaphorical (Satan give what he doesn’t own anyway). The Quran is just stating that the world is unfurled before the servant of god like one rolls out a carpet. It’s metaphor plain and simple. Right, sure, I agree. Those stories are just stories and certainly not accurate descriptions of the world, nature, or places that probably didn’t exist.

However, that’s not who this post is directed against. It’s directed against those that take the words literally. The people that define the world as being 6000 years old because that’s what the genealogy of the Bible would put it as. The ones which sue to remove Evolution from science classes because it contradicts what it says in Genesis (remember the Quran adopts wholesale the account of creation and most of Genesis and Exodus, I’m not just picking on the Christians, Creationism is also a problem in Muslim countries as well).

They have to adopt the flat earth model as well. They can’t escape what the words actually say and any attempt to do so, as I have done above, would be to renounce the literalism that they feel is such an imperative that they go to court to suppress any opposition. What I would like to understand, is their justification for rejecting the flat earth cosmogony that their books recommend. If their justification is that the flat earth is ridiculous that says a lot about their literalism as well.

 

Jesus By a Preponderance of the Evidence I

July 3, 2017 Leave a comment

This post is the first in a monthly series wherein I’ll go through the claims made by Robert Palaszewski in his book “Jesus By a Preponderance of the Evidence.” The subtitle of the book is “The Objective, Rational, Historical and Scientific Evidence for the Truth of Christianity.” The book is supposed to be an argument that not only was Jesus a historical figure, but also that the religion of Christianity is true. This implies that we’re going to prove the Jesus as Son of God idea as well.

I’ve read the first chapter and the first thing I need to lay out is that I’m skipping the “Journeys” sections. The reason is that they anecdotal, and I suspect made up, stories about people coming to Jesus. They are not proof of anything, if true, they only serve to prove one person’s journey, so there’s little to look at or do with. Personal accounts are not objective, they go against the grain of what the book describes itself as, and I’m not sure what they are doing here.

There is nothing but DNA. We are but a cosmic accident, products of nothing but chance. Therefore, we owe no allegiance outside of ourselves. God is chance. he is accident. He is the great Nothing. God is dead. The very notion of God is dead. We are free to remake ourselves in any image we want. We are free. We are masters of our own souls…”

This, the author claims is the mission statement of the current age [It’s also, itself italicized, but I’ll italicize any block quotes from the book]. And, oh boy, is there a lot to unpack in there. It’s claimed that this kind of statement (there’s more to it as well) is what the high priests of our time, the scientists, tell us. It however is not. I could probably write for the next month on just these three paragraphs but I’ll just have to pick one part. The notion of an “accident” is a popular one among the apologists. It offends the personal identification that we are somehow special amongst all of the other creatures in the Cosmos, but there’s little evidence that this is so–other than wanting it to be the case. It’s pure anthropomorphic justification for our place in the universe and is reminiscent of the more modern cosmological arguments that talk about universal constants and the odds against life that drive whatever authority this argument mysteriously still possesses. The real problem is, that “accident” is a matter of perspective; if you are a believer you can still buy the physics explanation for why we are here. Just ask the Catholic Church, they endorse it but then say that God is the Prime Mover in all of it.

The “God is Dead” thing drives me nuts. Yes, it comes from Nietzsche. Yes, he had syphilis and eventually went crazy (the book it comes from, Thus Spoke Zarathustra is from his middle period when he was about stage 2 of Syphilis). What needs to be kept in mind, is when and who says it. Nietzsche, puts the line into a fool character walking a tight rope. And cherry picking the quote is just stupid, the full line is “God is dead, and these are his tombs.” It’s a comment about how people mourn their religion inside dark places instead of celebrating it like the ancient Greeks/Romans did. Also, for an Atheist, god isn’t dead–he was never alive to begin with.

From that long screed we move on to Pontius Pilate. For some reason I’ve been seeing this a lot lately from the apologist crowd. In John 18:38 Pontius, while interrogating Jesus, asked “What is truth?” and this is somehow meant to be the rallying cry of those denying Jesus. However, and I can’t believe the biblical “scholars” ignore this, is the context of the quote. Never mind that it would be odd for an Atheist to be deriving authority from a line in the bible, but John 18:37 has Jesus telling Pilate that he is speaking the truth and his followers are those of the truth. When Pilate asks, “What is truth?” he’s not using it in the general sense, but referring to the thing that Jesus just said sense. Even if, and I would dispute this, Pilate were using it in a general sense the context of the conversation still revolves around him interrogating someone suspected of a crime. Pilate, and by extension non-Christians (as Pilate was likely not an atheist), are not advocating for epistemic relativism.

Yet that’s the tone filling out the rest of this section, what follows is a long screed about what people like me believe. I always find these entertaining, because apologists could just, I don’t know, ask. The takeaway here is that atheists are cultural and moral relativists. What’s good, is what I determine as good and I have no right to inflict that kind of judgment on anyone else because morality doesn’t derive from a divine source.

This leads into a discussion of all the ways that society is crumbling around us because we no longer Jesus hard enough. Violence and sex in pop-culture, violence in the streets, sexual liberation, etc. The usual accusations thrown at the next generation by the previous despite the facts that the world has actually been getting better. We even go so far as to cite a study which, in his words, “The Journal of the American Psychological Association can argue that pedophilia is not so bad.”

I found this rather shocking so I found the footnote (I hate endnotes) and checked the study. It says no such thing. What the study actually determined was that the stereotype of the damaged victim of sexual abuse was just that, a stereotype. While there was long term damage the general assumption that the victims were “lost causes” was not borne out by the evidence. What seems to have a moderating effect on the outcomes of the victims is the level of support that the victim receives afterward. There is nothing in this paper that claims pedophilia “is not so bad.” Maybe the author should have read the paper instead of repeating what someone told him about the study as it really affirms the need for victim support post abuse.

This however would go against his desire to make sure that everyone reading is offended. I am, but that’s because he didn’t read the study or if he did, he didn’t understand it–whether purposefully or accidentally.

Then we have a long argument against moral relativism. A section I agree with, if not for the shoddy examples and poor construction of the argument. One of his arguments that we atheists apparently make, is that “there is nothing to sin against” so therefore everything is permitted. Yes and no, there is no sin, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t immoral actions. Shooting children in a daycare is wrong and immoral, but not a “sin.” His tactic here is to parse out the words in an extremely pedantic manner. For him all immoral actions are “sins” so if you don’t believe in “sin” you can’t judge something to be immoral. That, however is not a working tautology because I don’t use the one word. In general I’m against moral relativism, and to be fair he gives an interesting analogy with various religions, they can’t all be right.

Religion is a zero sum game. Of the many competing religions only one, if you believe in them, could be considered true. Allah and Jesus both can’t hold their self-proclaimed monopoly on the truth, at least one of them have to be wrong. It’s a good point, but he can’t dwell on it because it leads down a road of doubt. What if his interpretation of Jesus is wrong? Or what if Jesus is the wrong religion? Since he’s offered no evidence of anything yet, making this claim is spurious at this point. No worries, because he jingles the keys of cultural relativism once again and the lack of an authority by which we derive our morality. We’re 16 pages in, and there’s yet to be one objective rational or historical piece of evidence offered. Perhaps the rest of chapter one will begin presenting it.