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By A Preponderance…

December 4, 2017 Leave a comment

We left off with the idea that we need some sort of deity in order to be moral. A ridiculous claim that even my religious students do not stand by. We’re still searching for the evidence that the book promised…

Continuing on with his decrying of the morality of the non-believer he begins citing the bible. Sigh, the problem here should be obvious. If he’s going to be claiming proof, undeniable proof, then he can’t cite evidence that requires you already believe. That’s a perfect example of question begging. This line from 2 Thessalonians 1:9 “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power,” begins our conversation about hell. The “These” in that line are those that do not obey the gospel of Jesus. Which, is a little weird, since there is very little to obey in those books.

Now, now, I’m not retreading the mythicist line about that not being a real person. I’m talking about the four books themselves. There’s very little to obey. Most of the books are stories about Jesus, but as far as obeying there’s very little. What is there is sometimes contradictory, i.e. Matthew’s Jesus says that we must obey the laws of the prophets (Old Testament laws) while Luke’s Jesus says (16:16) that they don’t matter anymore since John the Baptist. Just sticking with Matthew we are told to let all those see our good words (5:16) but then to not do that and instead do our good works privately and not bring attention to them (6:1, 23:3-5). So who goes to Hell? Those that do good and slap their names on the side of buildings or those that do works and never talk about them? In both cases we have individuals that are both following and not following the gospels. In both cases these are “red letter” passages, meaning they come from the mouth of Jesus and not some epistle writer.

God, according to our author, respects our free will in much the same way that a person with a gun against your head demanding your money respects it as well. You’re free to not give it, but the consequences are there. Which, fine, a religious person has to believe this. However, I’ve written time and time again that if the only thing keeping a person moral is the threat of hell, it’s not morality it’s compulsion. A moral act ought to be done without the consequence in mind. If I tell the truth I should do so not because of the threat of hell but because I have an intrinsic respect for the truth (whether that be Kantian, Utilitarian, or some notion of Justice).

Palaszewski then wraps up this chapter with speaking of the most important event in the history of time–the sacrifice of Jesus. Which, again, is only something if you already believe it. There’s no evidence for the non-believer to accept here. He’s merely assuming the conclusion and then using that to justify the premise. Here’s where he’s going to get himself into trouble. Let’s assume that the story happened and that Palaszewski’s earlier remarks are also true. Good? Having a problem? You should be because it’s contradictory.

If God respects our free will and allows our choices to dictate whether we go to hell or not then how has he been punishing people prior to the sacrifice of Jesus? According to Catholic doctrine (and most Christian doctrines) heaven is opened by Jesus’ death. This means that prior to this, it doesn’t matter what kind of choices you made you were still going to Hell because you couldn’t have known about Jesus or this gospel. Some Catholic thought tries to work around this by offering the Purgatory solution. That all of the prior dead, still under the sin of Adam, were not in Hell but Purgatory and when Jesus was dead for those two days (it’s not three, not by any measurement of time) he lifted them up. This is provided you had only committed venial sins and not mortal sins the latter of which is automatic hell. Again though, that is required that you knew the difference between them. Nevertheless it is the fallacy of special pleading, we have to accept the existence of this purgatory which is not mentioned in the Bible in order to justify this contradiction.

I have two kids: one was baptized and the other was not (long story). Does this mean that the one with at least the exposure to church goes to heaven and the other doesn’t simply by virtue of that exposure? According to our author, yes. Yet, it’s not exactly their choice at this point. The same goes for someone born in China, while they may be aware of Christianity, they are more than likely not believers so according to the author they are going to Hell because they aren’t fulfilling their life’s sole purpose in worshipping god. That’s not the respect of free will because those kids in China did not have the opportunity.

Thus far, nearly half way through this book, we’ve seen no evidence, no argument, no proof of the truth of Christianity or Jesus. Instead, I must ask: what am I reading? Given what we’ve gone through so far, I’m reading a book that is designed to give arguments to people that already believe so that they can throw them at non-believers. It also serves the point of making believers think that they have some kind of intellectual foundation for their preconceived notions. The biggest problem though is that these aren’t good arguments. They might confound a new atheist, but a mere introduction into informal fallacies will quickly nullify anything this book is saying. It’s pure counter knowledge.

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Ethical Foundation

November 20, 2017 Leave a comment

I made referenced my student surveys a few weeks ago, mentioning the strangeness of some of their responses taken together. I’ve finally compiled all of them and it’s a bit encouraging that their may be hope for the future. With about forty responses (out of what should be approaching 50) I have two bible literalists in my courses. However, despite that, I have 0 students that believe you need religion to be a good person. I know this, you probably know this as well, but it’s nice to see that even where there are biblical literalists there is still universal agreement that you can be good without god(s).

I should explain for any new readers. I teach a course that is specific to first year college students. So we’re talking the 17-19 age range along with some outliers for transfer students. The school does not have any kind of “non-traditional” student…at least in any kind of significant way. My oldest student would be in their early 20s. They are, gender-wise, an even mix leaning toward female (so far no non-binaries); no idea regarding sexual preferences–it doesn’t come up and I don’t ask since it’s irrelevant to my course. For the most part religious, monotheistic, with a good agnostic/atheist showing. Yet none believe that we need a religion to show us moral guidance.

This runs in stark contrast to what we discussed last week. Where our author contends that even in judging an action to be good/bad we are tacitly acknowledging “the law.” Which I felt was a false statement that cannot be held rationally. I then mentioned that there are several different moral foundations for ethics that don’t require any kind of religious background or godhead at the top of the chain (or bottom if it’s foundational).

The goal of ethics, as a field of discipline, is in figuring out a system by which we can judge actions to be moral or immoral. It’s not necessarily about creating the system but elucidating the system that aligns with our moral intuitions. This is where religion fails to uphold its claim to moral foundation–because it teaches us to override those intuitions in many cases. In others, it only surrenders their original claim once popular feelings on the subject turn against it and then these religions have to retroactively change their stance (see: slavery, segregation). For the former just take a look at gay marriage. There’s only a religious objection to this our normal intuition should be one of ambivalence. It matter very little to me, if my neighbors are gay or not. It matters even less if they are married or not. Unless humanity dwindled down to a couple dozen people there are no tenable naturalistic objections (even then we don’t need people to not be gay, we just need some cells from them).

Non-religious ethical systems all suffer some kind of flaw. Utilitarianism suffers from the problem of the “tyranny of the majority” wherein you can kill one person in order to save five–though there are some defenses for it. Kantian ethics has an absolutist problem in that the ethics are so strict that one can not lie to save a life. The DDE, though sourced in Aquinas’s religion (as I claimed last week it doesn’t have to be) suffers from two flaws: in that it’s primary determination requirement: that the good intention outweigh any bad consequences is subjective unless one already has an established moral foundation by which to make such judgments (in this respect it only works in religion, but one could hybridize the theory with one of the others). This leads us to Rawls’ theory of justice.

Rawls’ theory is that morality ought to be derived from the assumption of the original position. A similar situation to both philosophers Thomas Hobbes’ and John Locke’s respective political philosophy stances. However, both Hobbes and Locke diverge entirely from how the original position was: Hobbes believed that humanity was the worst without the power of the sovereign to punish. Locke, conversely, believed that humanity was the best. His view is too rosy as much as Hobbes’ is too dark. The ethical foundation of Rawls is neither but, like Adam Smith, it appeals to self-interest.

The idea is that we take a group of people and leave them only with the self-knowledge that they exist and that they are going to enter into a society of some kind. While they’ll know that each person is going to possess certain differences in race, sex, class, position, authority what they won’t know is what attributes they will each have once the “veil of ignorance” is removed. The idea here is that the individuals would naturally favor some kind of equitable moral code. You wouldn’t condone slavery since the odds are you would not be a master. You wouldn’t condone sex discrimination since you would not know what side of the discrimination you would be on. The important aspect is that this entire thing is based on self-interest of an individual who doesn’t know where they are  going to land.

This is opposed to literally every religious sense of morality that claims a “chosen people” that are, by default, better than other people. With Rawls’s theory there is an understanding that some people could be better off but his belief was that the playing field would be far more equitable because where there are inexhaustible benefits “liberty” or “rights” he felt that people would agree  that everyone ought to be entitle to them.

Now, there are some problems with the theory itself. It’s uncertain whether or not this naturally implies socialism. Most academics do not believe so, though the case could be made. However that case could also be made with Utilitarianism and less likely though still possible with Kant.

Nevertheless this theory is one that offers an easily graspable and defensible position that can easily be thrown back at the religious claim that we need them to be moral.

Jingly Keys (By A Preponderance of the Evidence)

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve just about given up any hope that there will be some kind of evidence for “Jesus” in this book. The introduction was just that, ‘I believe in Jesus everyone else is wrong, but here’s the evidence for why you should believe.’ The first chapter was allegedly about framing the question correctly. Which, to be fair, is a good idea provided you actually do that and not go on a long screed against what the author perceives as “liberal/atheist/communist/etc. values.” The second chapter was allegedly about the search. Now, here I was hopeful because that might mean we should arrive at some modicum of evidence. Instead we were treated to incorrect historical facts and the referencing of people on the bad side of academic honesty. The third chapter is titled “Evil, Pain, and Hell.” Here’s the problem, before we even start the chapter: we know what this is about. It’s about the problem of evil. Fine, I’ll take it, however it’s weird that we’re already launching into apologetics for a thing we haven’t proven yet.

The normal course of this type of thing is to first establish the existence of the divine being then defend it against criticisms. This is assuming I’m going to give the person a pass on which deity it is that they’ve proven. To reference last time’s post, William Lain Craig doesn’t prove Jesus or the god of the Bible, he attempts to prove the existence of a divine power. With that “done” he then makes a giant leap and just says, “Jesus.” This the problem with using him as your academic foundation. So here we’re at a long chapter that is essentially one giant red herring: the problem of evil.

When we condemn the act or the evildoer, we tacitly acknowledge the reality of the law in our hearts. Yet if we use the existence of evil to deny the existence of God, we destroy the standard on which we may judge what is evil or good…We are left with a Utilitarian construct [sic] on which to build our world.

There’s a lot there and it’s in the second paragraph of the chapter, so we’re not getting very far today. First off, no we don’t tacitly acknowledge “the law” we acknowledge our emotional reaction to an event. That emotional reaction, can be based on a religious law but this is not a necessary condition of it. We have an emotion called “empathy” which causes us to react to the suffering of others when it has not been overlaid by other emotions such as hate. I can feel terrible about the mass shooting in Texas (the one in the church) even though I don’t know those people, share their belief system, or geographic location. I can feel bad for the people who died in the earthquake in Iran, even though, I’m told they hate me. Why? Because they are human beings and I don’t want to see people suffer. This has nothing to do with some kind of “law.” I’m not acknowledging anything.

Palaszewski misunderstands the “epicurean paradox” (not actually Epicurus’) as well. The paradox does not disprove the existence of God, a God, or many Gods. What it does is disprove the need to worship the being, or that it has any kind of involvement in our world. It is, in essence, an argument for Deism. The whole point is that that the belief in a god that cares about human suffering is silly because if that god existed it’s not doing anything about it and is thus uninvolved. It doesn’t matter which prong of the paradox you want to latch on to: whether not able, not willing, or not knowing; the very idea that the evil exists means that the god is not involved in the world. The Epicureans, who again did not come up with this paradox, believed that gods existed but that they were just different beings with a wholly distinct type of existence. The paradox also argues against religious devotion, because, as the Epicureans actually argued the gods don’t need or want worship. Perfect beings don’t “need” because that implies deficiency.

Denying the existence of god does not deny the source for morality. Even the author knows this because he cites one that was made famous by the atheistic philosopher John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism is not, as he characterizes it, doing whatever is useful. It is whatever contributes to the common good or lessens the amount of bad in the world . Typically, this is gauged with pleasure v. pain. No god needed. That’s just one: Aristotle’s virtue ethics, the Epicurean and Stoic schools, Kant’s imperatives, Rawl’s theory of justice, etc. All of these do not require a god. Hell, even Aquinas’s doctrine of double effect doesn’t need a god to resolve moral conflicts, it’s just that the underlying foundation for his ethics is based on the bible and Catholic teachings–but you could run his five point system without being religious very easily (easier than running through a 12 step program while being an atheist).

The author is right about one thing though: moral laws do require a standard. It can’t just be arbitrary moral relativism. However, what he gets wrong is that it needs to be a divine being, and specifically it needs to be the divine Jesus being. The problem is that he’s assuming the conclusion–which all moral arguments for the existence of god do. The existence of morals only proves “god” if you have already begged the question that god exists.

The standard apologetic move is then to wash away all things with “free will.” God allows people to be evil because of free will. This is little comfort to the victims who did not choose to get murdered/raped/robbed but it’s their go to argument. The issue here is that the will can assent to commit an act without that act being successful. If I intend to commit genocide, fully intend to do it, that should be the immorality not my success. The god being could thwart the consequence of evil and still punish those intending it. Otherwise we’re left with a weird contradiction between Jesus telling us that adultery is looking at a woman with lust in your eyes and a purely consequentialist position of being successful at evil meaning that I would have to have intercourse with a woman not my wife. It can’t be both, that’s a contradiction.

The No True Christian Fallacy

November 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Every semester since I began teaching my skepticism course, I’ve offered the following assignment:

Choose one informal fallacy, explain it, give a relevant example and then discuss.

The entire course is based around conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. There’s no reason that a student shouldn’t be able to come up with a cromulent example. Depending on what school you subscribe to there is either one fallacy or there are over a hundred. The former is a remark made to me by a colleague who said that, really the only informal fallacy is the non-sequitur since the conclusion never follows from the premises. The latter is because you can find one fallacy with many different sub-fallacies underneath it’s umbrella. For example, an argument ad hominem (against the person rather than against the argument) is a large category with several smaller derivations. The “guilt by association” fallacy is really just an ad hominem slightly to the left of the person.

When teaching I don’t wear my atheism on my sleeve. I keep my personal beliefs, aside from being anti-conspiracy theory, out of the course where possible. Though I think my concentration on evidence based reasoning might lend itself to exposing my skepticism of religious belief, but I’ve also received comments from student evaluations wondering why I had to be so religious in class (seriously, I think it’s because I have a wide religious knowledge like most atheists in fact).

I have a student this semester we’ll call “George.” She has chosen for her example, the “No True Scotsman” fallacy and she wants to apply it to right wing Christianity. Her central claim is that people like Pat Robertson and the numerous people like him are not Christians because their rhetoric does not reflect True Christianity. George, whom I did not expect to take this line of thought, believed that when they say that people who are unlike them are guilty of the fallacy. Clearly her and I needed to sit down.

I explained very quickly that she was either “right with a ‘but'” or “wrong with an ‘if.'” (thank you Simpsons); because while she was correct in her estimation of their problem, she was wrong in that she’s committing the exact same fallacy as them. The look on her face forced the question out of me (it didn’t “beg the question” because that’s an entirely different thing), “are you a Christian?”

She said that she was, and a Catholic. Which then prompted her to explain that everyone who didn’t follow a specific set of Christian rules weren’t really Christians and these people she was planning on talking about qualified. I then pointed out that they would say the exact same thing about her, further they would probably call her a heretic and a polytheist because of the Catholic veneration of Saints and Mary. This elicited a laugh from her but my facial expression conveyed that I was being utterly serious.

The way the No True Scotsman works is that you see a member of a group doing something and the claim is that by very action they are performing, disqualifies them from being a member of that group. “No true Christian would ever say God hates fags.” “No true Muslim would ever commit an act of terrorism.” “No true Buddhist would ever condone genocide.”

Via, rationalwiki, Henry Drummond said, “No man can ever be opposed to Christianity, who knows what it really is.”

The problem is in the definition of group itself. Is there a distinct set of qualifications that make one a member and prevent them from joining. “No true bachelor is married,” is not an example of the fallacy because ontologically the definition requires that person to not be married. No true Christian denies the existence of Jesus, is again, not an example because the definition requires the individual to believe that Jesus existed. However, behaviors are not ontological qualifications. The assassin of Dr. Bernart Slepian was a Christian despite his willingness to murder a person in his own home, and despite the fact that the popular belief is that Jesus would not condone such an action. This is despite the fact that the assassin claimed to be a Christian.

What the fallacy amounts to is distancing an individual from a group because we identify ourselves as members of the group and wish to avoid being the target of a guilt by association fallacy. George may not want to be associated with Pat Robertson because of what he says, and Robertson would likely agree since she’s probably too tolerant and doesn’t think god sends Hurricanes against cities who once elected a lesbian. However, we can’t make the assumption that these people are lying. If they say they are Christians, we should assume they are Christians.

Which is why we have that pesky separation clause to begin with, because when we atheists ask “what religion?” we don’t mean the distinction between Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. as being the religion of the United States; well not just that. We also mean what Christianity? While Catholics and mainline Protestants share a lot in common they also share a number of distinct differences. Even within mainline Protestant Christianity there are many differences. Some Protestant churches have no problems with gay marriage and homosexuality; while others distinctly do. So which one are we picking? The unification of these different sects under the term “Christianity” didn’t really occur until the 70s. Before then you’d be hard pressed to get an Anglican, Episcopalian, Catholic, and Mormon to agree that they were all members of the same religion despite the fact that they all believe in this Jesus fellow.

George seemed genuinely confused as my observation as though she hadn’t ever considered it. Which, is likely the case. I explained that I was raised Catholic and was taught that the other Christianities weren’t the correct ones because their beliefs and practices were different. Likely, kids in other religions were taught the same thing about me. However the core membership qualification is what matters in this fallacy whether or not we like the person’s actions. If an atheist commits an act of terror, they are still an atheist, it’s just that they are a terrible person who coincidentally did the act. This especially applies to religiously motivated actions. If a terrorist says, I did this because of this and for this; we can’t say they didn’t.

 

By A Preponderance of the Evidence V

October 2, 2017 Leave a comment

I should note that I found this book in the basement of the house that I live in. It was my wife’s grandfather’s house and he’s quite the religious individual. Also, he did something in the sciences, so among this book are a variety of measuring equipment and devices that I have no idea what they are. It does give me a clue into the nature of the person though, at some point for at least part of his personality–evidence mattered. I bring it up not because he’s religious but because this fucking book, which he owned has yet to provide a single piece of evidence.

The rest of the second chapter is a familiar monologue. Americans, he concentrates on American society, have turned secular and thus the world has been going downhill ever since prayer was outlawed in schools. He namedrops 9/11 and Columbine as examples of what happens when moral relativism becomes the dominant cultural creed, then talks about cultures of violence and how teen pregnancy is rampant. The problem that he has, something I address in my class, is that none of this is true. Crime has been steadily decreasing since the 90s, teen pregnancy–among millennials is at the lowest it’s been since the 1950s. In the last decade it’s been cut in half.

This is interesting for a number of reasons: the first is that society has gotten less religious. Every time Pew Research releases their religious landscape survey the number of “nones” (non-religious, not necessarily atheists) climbs a couple of percentage points. If you break the number of those ticking the “Christian box” into individual denominations and sects, “None” is the largest religious group in the United States. Of course, that’s cheating “Christian” is still the largest (almost 75% of the population). Palaszewski’s point is that less religion means more teen pregnancy, that’s just not born out by the facts. The second reason that it’s an interesting phenomenon is that in the states that are the least religious, the teen pregnancy rate is lower than the more religious states. The Southeast, Texas and its surrounding states, are typically the most religious and also have higher rates of teen pregnancy while the “secular northeast” has by far the lowest. One might wish to object and claim that religion isn’t the culprit here rather access to sex education and contraceptives in the North. I would wholeheartedly agree, and then I would point out why actual sex education and access to contraceptives is blocked in the more religious states.

This is apparently a historical chapter, but none of it is history. He repeats the off-cited fallacy that because the United States was founded by Christians it is enshrined as a Christian country. He even cites historical hack David Barton as part of his argument. Barton is the person you can bring up if you want to make your history professor angry. Barton is such a poor historical writer/researcher (calling him a liar would be libel) that even Christian Publishing Houses refused to stand by his work. He’s manufactured quotes from founding fathers including one by Jefferson who, according to him, maintained that the wall of separation was one way. It prevented government from running the church but not the church from running the government. It’s pure anti-history for a man who edited the New Testament from all supernatural happenings. We have the writings of the founders of this nation, you can just quote from them and not from Parson Weems.

The whole problem is that none of these assertions make any sense. If people like Franklin, Adams, Washington, and Jefferson wanted to make this country a Christian republic they could have done so. What was stopping them? There was no organized Atheism, the best you get is Deism (which is what those men were), and I’m sure there would have been wider support for a religious republic back in the late 18th century than you would have now. Instead, we got the Treaty of Tripoli and its assertion that the United States was not founded, in any way, on the Christian religion–a treaty that was unanimously ratified by the Senate. It’s important to remember that there was a real concern that Washington would have made himself President for life, it’s not unreasonable to think that if he wanted an official religion for the United States he would have made mention of it somewhere.

The entire chapter closes with a quote from a Dr. William Craig. Here’s the thing: he doesn’t cite Craig. He cites a book from an author Ravi Zacharias as the source. A quick question to Cortana and I get a couple of different William Craigs who are also doctors and one of them jumps out at me. William Lane Craig, known to atheists as one of their chief academic apologists. Craig has a PhD in Philosophy for his work on the Cosmological Argument for what he developed as the “Kalam Cosmological Argument” which is adapted from Islamic Theology in the 9th century. I’ve done a substantial amount of research into Cosmological Arguments and Arguments from Design; and I find them utterly uncompelling. This may not be exactly a surprise, given my obvious atheism. The problem with every Cosmological argument is that falls victim to its first premise: that whatever exists has a cause. This means that even the deity that they are going to shove into the conclusion must also have a cause. Craig has adjusted the first premise to include the word “begins” so that it reads “whatever begins to exist must have a cause” then he can make a claim that an eternal creator would not fit in with this requirement. However, and from a purely philosophical standpoint, that’s hand-waving away the problem. You’d have to establish first-off that such a being would be eternal and uncreated, you can’t do that with a principle of necessary conditions because if that were the case what’s stopping a person from claiming that it’s “turtles all the way down” as an infinite regression would fit the bill as well. He also claims that it must be a personal creator, which I’m at a loss to understand why this must be the case. There’s nothing stopping the universe, even in his argument, from being created by an impersonal creative force, i.e. the creative being of the Deists.

I don’t want to spend too much time on that, because I’m not entirely sure if this is the Craig that he was speaking of. The correct reference would have been “Craig, William,” c.f. Zacharias Ravi, so that we could find out. Thus ends the second chapter, and I’m still waiting for the objective, rational, historical, and scientific evidence that I was promised.

The September 23rd ridiculousness

September 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Did you know that the world was going to end on Friday the 23rd of September? It isn’t, but there enough people that think it will that garnered an article on Fox News “Science” page. My first question is: how many apocalypses have I lived through? Is it five, it feels like five. It’s been at least two in the last three years, and then there was the 2012 bullshit. I definitely remember one having to deal with a red heifer. It’s hard to keep track of all these things. This is only counting the ones that made the news. I’m sure the world is supposed to end every day according to someone.

The prophecy is the usual mess of cherry picking quotes from whatever text fits. In this case it’s Luke 21:25-26 and Revelation 21:1-2. The latter reads: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.”

The break down of this is: John, the author of the Revelation, was clearly in the midst of a fever dream. Setting that aside, the interpretation has to with numerology and astrology. The backbone of every bronze age religion that is still kicking. The passage is cited because on September 23rd, the astrological sign Venus, will contain the sun, moon, as well as the planet Jupiter. Get it? The sun will be in the constellation (though not really because the sun would have to be a lot further away in order to be “in” the constellation) metaphorically “clothing” it. The constellation will be over the moon’s position, so there’s that. Also three planets and nine stars will be above it. Except that literally billions of stars are going to be both above and below the constellation. This interpretation just concentrates on the nine stars so there you go, really that’s all I could get out of the Revelation passages. Our first question is how did we arrive at the date?

Well remember the Eclipse? That was on August 21st, and September 23rd is 33 days from that. Jesus lived on Earth for 33 years, simple addition and boom! Apocalypse. Yes, like the ancient world that thought an eclipse was a portent of doom, we’ve apparently not advanced passed this superstition in the last couple millenia. Also the whole thing also revolves around the mysterious Earth shattering planetoid/planet/meteor Nibiru–which doesn’t exist, but if non-existence were a barrier to belief I wouldn’t need to write this blog.

This leaves us with the aforementioned Luke passages 21:25-26 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 26: Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.'”

How did we arrive here. Again refer back to the Eclipse on the 21st, the Hurricane hit Texas on the 25th and then the flooding on the 26th. Yeah, that’s it. Here we can see the obvious cherry picking because there’s nothing to indicate why it would be Luke and not any of the other three gospel writers…or perhaps any other book in the Bible, in Exodus we just miss the “eye for an eye” speech. Perhaps that’s why it gets tossed out.

This is obvious bullshit, but it shows the arbitrariness of numerology. Just pick one day, something significant, and then find everything that fits the pre-ordained conclusion. What’s more interesting is this article, in which the author tries to explain how “No True Christian” would believe this. The first thing he does is argue that there is no such thing as a Christian Numerologist, and then deftly explains why these bible code prophecies are prima facie false. On the latter part I agree, but on the former: afraid not buddy.

I was raised Catholic, which is one of the more scientifically literate versions of Christianity, and I was taught the numbers thing. I was taught that the numbers 3, 7, 8, 12, 40, and 1,000 were significant which is why the bible uses those numbers so often. Revelations uses 3 a significant number of times. This makes sense given the time it was written and the impact of Pythagorean philosophy on Greek culture. The “thousand” is an interesting concept because, again in ancient Greek, there are no numbers above a thousand. Anything beyond that was considered “innumerable” such as the number of atoms in the universe. This sometimes gets confused with “infinite” and I take umbrage with some of those interpretations (looking at you Aristotle).

Claiming that there are no Christian numerologists is a claim you can only make if you’re falling into the “Scotsman” fallacy and make the terms “Numerologist” and “Christian” mutually exclusive. As I just said in the previous example, and setting my religious education aside–you can’t make this claim. You can minimize the impact of numerology by saying it’s an old superstition, but that leads to a dark road where you have to begin admitting that prophecies based on numbers (the entire book of Revelation) are irrelevant. Though, to be fair, this too can be dismissed reasonably but that leads to the splitting of hairs so that only a certain type of belief is permissible. Which then gets us back into the differences of sects and what it means to be an actual Christian. We probably don’t want that…again.

*I neglected to link the actual prophecy page on purpose. It will become irrelevant in a few days anyway.

Defending a Religion

September 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Again, I have to point out that Noah Ludgeons on this week’s Scathing Atheist put it much better than I could, when discussing the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar of the Rohingya Muslim minority. A group of people that are denied citizenship on the basis of them being the members of the wrong religion. That is to say, the victims are Muslim and the perpetrators are Buddhists. A couple of years ago, I related a story about a group of Buddhists who burned down a Muslim orphanage, this was back in 2013–also in Myanmar, and the problem has only continued.

The point being made in the diatribe was that because Buddhism is a religion, it’s just as bad as any other religion. The only reason we don’t hear about it is because they aren’t a majority religion in a majority of countries. Buddhism gets a good rap because the Dalai Lama seems like a decent person (then again so does Pope Francis), and we’re apparently still dealing with the leftover waves the Asian fascination that this country went through in the 70s. Again, though it’s a religion and every religion, once it gets the majority begins a campaign to slowly get rid of those pesky other modes of thought. We need look no further than the Mormon story. Oppressed, outlawed, and in some cases it was perfectly legal to hunt them: once they settled in Utah they began their own purity programs. Puritans driven out of England for their beliefs ended up driving their own dissenters out in the Colonies. Perhaps the Rohingya Muslims would be doing the same if they were in power, but we don’t need hypotheticals to wonder what Muslim majority countries do to apostates, heretics, and even those that believe in the wrong kind of Islam.

Among the theme of his diatribe though was a secondary point that he dwelled on but that I want to tackle a little more in depth: Why do atheists defend Buddhism?

I’ve known a few legitimate Buddhists. I say legitimate to differentiate from those people that have an unread copy of some pop-philosophy Buddhist book on their shelf which they are “totally going to get to someday.” The problem that I’ve had is that for some reason there is an assumption that Buddhists and Atheists are on the same side. A claim, which I absolutely do not understand. I’m an Atheist, I don’t accept unproven claims, and Buddhism is full of them. Sure, they have that whole non-violence thing going on, but so do most religions…and I’m not a pacifist. They still ask for money for the sole sake of existing, they have numerous supernatural claims, and most importantly: as is the case in every religion, they regard existence on this planet as a bad thing. They don’t have gods…except that they do, it’s just the gods aren’t like the other religions in that the deities aren’t at the top of the food chain, but they’re still gods.

I suppose one of the reasons is that Buddhism holds no power in this country and thus is shielded from the bad press in a way that the Christian theocratic evangelicals earn. They haven’t committed terrorism here so they don’t get the PR that Islam gets. As far as I know they have never been the target of conspiracy theories like those of the Jewish religion. Perhaps all of that is why the Buddhists think the Atheists are on the same side.

Atheists on the other hand have an annoying tendency to defend this religion and that’s the most infuriating point. They’ll talk about how the Buddha preaches love and how most Buddhists are peaceful regular people but the same can be said of literally all religions. Most religious people are not the Pat Robertsons of the world who think homosexuality causes hurricanes, yet we Atheists will paint Christianity with that brush but excuse Buddhism when it does nearly the same thing. Islam is more prominent for it’s treatment of women but Buddhism has the exact same problem with women. When I bring this up to other atheists I get push back, and sometimes not polite pushback either.

Sure, Buddhism, in many respects is not as bad as other religions. There’s not been any Buddhist Crusades, as long as we don’t count Mongolia in the 14th century. Even if we agree that putting the religions in a spectrum where one religion is clearly the best, it’s still a list of bad things to worse things. If we assume that Buddhism is the best of the bunch it’s still just the least bad of a bad thing. Why then are atheists defending this religion?

The only religions that do not have a problem with murder, sexism, homophobia, or various methods of thought control are the ones that no one practices anymore. Sure Wicca doesn’t have the history but if they had the control you’d start seeing in fighting amongst the various sects. You can find articles that talk about what a “real Wiccan” does and that’s just the taste because if you gave them the authority they’d make a meal out of it. All religions do this.

Perhaps Buddhism gets the pass it does because it’s so utterly foreign. In the US we have the saturation of the Abrahamic tradition which means that we’re used to it, while Buddhism is something we know from movies where a monk can punch through a door. We know them from the Wu-Tang Clan and are unfamiliar with the drawbacks of the religion and that they are literally like every other religion once it gets into power. A good explanation but once the historical facts are pointed out that gets waved away as being not representative of true Buddhism. Which, sure, but we don’t drop the same allowance on any other religion–as well we shouldn’t, it’s just the no true Scotsman fallacy. In fact, we go nuts when some Christian nut throws a bomb in a planned parenthood clinic and other Christians say, “that’s not a true Christian.”

Buddhism is just as bad as the other ones we shouldn’t be pretending otherwise, and most importantly we shouldn’t get offended when someone points out their problematic history as well. We’re not Buddhists, we’re atheists.