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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Is God? “Jesus BY A Preponderance of the Evidence” IV

September 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Is God what? You might be asking. Well me too, but that’s not our author’s point. The entire point is to shorten the question down to two words so that it seems so simple, but then to spend thirty pages trying to explain those two words in such a way that “is god?” seems like a deep and thoughtful question. “Is god?” makes about as much sense as asking “are peaches?” but because we’re dealing with the g-word people just assume there’s more to the story.

Which is something religion gets away with all of the time. Just put the phrase, “well from a theological perspective” in front of any stupid question and people will consider it to be meaningful. A person can justify just about any ridiculous behavior by claiming that the behavior is “part of their religion” and all of the sudden it’s treated with at least the appearance of respect…unless you’re a scientologist, everyone’s pretty on board with ridiculing them. Don’t want to speak to your wife for a week? Just say it’s part of the religion. Now, it’s somehow less bad.

What I realized during this month’s preparation work is that this is going to be awhile. The book itself is around 150 pages. I’m skipping the anecdotes, so I’ve got about 130 pages to read. We’ve already arrived at page 23, meaning we’re 1/6th of the way through on post 4. The problem though is that today’s post covers ONE page. That’s not a good sign, but there’s so much here that I can’t just move on.

The chapter begins discussing how “Is God?” is the most important question in our lives. I wonder if the author was tired of writing “does god exist?” and just shortened it out, because that’s the meaning of his two word question. Let’s ignore a continuing diatribe on how dumb this is, and get to the meaning of the assertion. Is it the most important question? There are two answers to my question. The first is “yes” if the answer to the question is “yes.” If we can prove god is real, then that necessitates that it becomes the most important question. This would then be followed by other questions such as “Is god Christian?” “Is god Muslim?” Hindu? etc. Then we would have to parse out the sects, schisms, and heresies; i.e. the history of the world up until recently. If the answer is “not yes” because nothing has been proven, we can just move on with our lives and get to more important things. Of course, for some people, who believe the answer is “yes” it’s important despite that it’s not an objectively proven thing.

Of course, there are three answers to the question he actually intends on asking which he addresses, “Agnosticism is as much an answer as atheism or a profound faith in a Creator Law-Giver God.”

I love the bias of that statement. You’re either in the “don’t-know camp” the “don’t believe camp” or the “totally awesome deep admission of the one true divine power for whom you have a deep and meaningful relationship with camp.” At this point, we get that the author believes in, not only god, but Christian God and Christian Jesus, yet the point of this book is to show the objective evidence for such a belief. As I said earlier, we’re 1/6th of the way through and we’ve only gotten a list of what constitutes that proof and not the proof itself. So we’re still waiting on the proof. To be fair, he’s right: those are the only possible answers to the question. Win for him I guess.

According to him the answer to the question is important because “Where we believe that rights and obligations are defined by man, or are ‘naturally endowed by our creator,’ critically affects the workings of any civilization.” My general problem with this kind of assertion is that it’s often a false dichotomy. On the one hand, yes a society will be influenced by its morals. That much is certainly true. On the other hand, if those rights are naturally endowed then we ought not need a religious authority figure to explain them to us. Since, as he’s claiming, they are natural they would not need to be taught. Yet, we do need to be taught them, so they cannot be naturally endowed.

This reminds me of Adam Smith, who wrote “Wealth of Nations” as an ethics book wherein the basic thesis is that everyone acting in their own self-interest will naturally produce the best kind of society. I’m being way too short with it, but his point is that we will make laws and morals that protect ourselves but will be generalizable to the rest of society treating everyone the same. We don’t need a creator to instill morals and rules, we all want laws protecting us against murder because we don’t want to be murdered. The real problem for our author is that when religious laws invoking creator gods are established we often have more killing in the name of society than we do otherwise. Saudi Arabia is one of the most religious countries on Earth, and they have the death penalty for a great many things in the name of “the Creator.” We also have lists of laws in the religious texts that have nothing to do with morality but somehow the deity thinks that they are super-important. Prohibitions on tattoos, what to eat, wear, who we can speak to, etc. About five of the ten commandments, these are not laws about morality but religious tribalism laws. Thanks, I’ll pass.

Finally, he ends with claiming that our answer to the above question is given in a cultural context which then becomes the cultural idiom. Yes, agree completely…maybe not with the idiom part. One of my favorite podcasts is “God Awful Movies” where the three hosts watch and then ridicule what are known as “Christian Movies” (and some other religious movies). A recurring problem with these movies is when they tip their hand too much and reveal the sham of their belief. When the anti-Christ character in the Apocalypse movie turns out to want world peace and to feed the hungry, that’s tipping the hand, because he’s the villain the good guys are going to stop. Here our author has tipped it as well. He’s admitted that there is no proof and that his belief is cultural. I’ve said it before: the only thing stopping an evangelical pastor Kentucky from being an Imam in Riyadh is the geography of their birth. They both want the same thing, almost eerily so, but they dislike each other because they don’t worship the same book. Born in the US means you are statistically a Christian, whether you keep that or not is one thing, but that’s the cultural importance.

Hopefully we’ll start getting to some evidence soon. It would be helpful that he actually not pretend to have written a book about evidence and actually had done it.

A new Emoji

June 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Did you know that there’s a new emoji you can use with facebook? I’m probably late to finding this out, but if you “like” the LGBTQ page you get a rainbow flag emoji that you can use to like stuff. It’s a nice little honorary thing for the month, that some people will use once in awhile, and most people will never. Such an innocuous tiny piece of digital coding.

Which means, of course, that people like Josh Feuerstein have a problem with it. Josh is famous(ish) for being the jackass that ranted at Starbucks because they didn’t have the right order of magic images on their disposable paper cups around Christmas time. He was so angry that he implored his viewers to tell the poor guy or girl working that their name was “Merry Christmas” so that their preciously fragile sense of self-worth wasn’t shattered upon not being constantly reminded that Christmas was coming. This is despite the numerous and sometimes overwhelming items that Starbucks sold with the word “Christmas” on it, such as the Christmas blend coffee that they would heretically place in last year’s plain red cup.

Josh, has a problem because there isn’t a cross emoji in facebook’s arsenal of seven. With that he’s claiming some kind of persecution, because he, and those like him, want to feel persecuted. They need it, lest they admit that his religion (in general not specifically his version of it) has a stranglehold on this country. The average person you meet is some form of Christian with rare exception. Only when you shatter the umbrella term of “Christianity” into its various sects do other belief systems over take it: e.g. depending on how you define “none” they are the largest single group, but even then you have problems. “None” doesn’t mean “atheist” it means no officially religious affiliation which can include Christians that don’t belong to an official church, the “not religious but spiritual” crowd, and the lapsed. Out of ten people on the street seven are likely to be Christian in some form.

Those are facts, and if people like Josh Feuerstein were swayed by facts, we wouldn’t have people like Josh Feuerstein in the world. I want to caveat this: I know that most people don’t care, I know that most Christians don’t care. Just people like this.

Economically I follow the Adam Smith model. I’m all for free markets (this will be relevant shortly) on some things, I’m for regulation where it is necessary, and am against government intrusion for the conduct of business in general. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule such as when the conduct of business causes harm through either purpose or negligence. I say these things because I want the offended to realize: Facebook is under no obligation to cater to your delicate sensibilities. Also, Facebook is not doing this for any other reason than to generate revenue, it’s not about you and the special place you think you occupy in the universe.

Facebook is a company that generates profit. They provide a service in exchange for earning money, in a way that I don’t understand, that’s their sole reason for existence. So if Josh thinks that Facebook is even aware of who he is and how much he’s offended, he’s merely deluding himself into thinking he bears a greater place in the world than he does.

That’s all that is going on here. Facebook is looking for clicks and they’re getting it, and Josh is helping that along as people have been trolling his page to “like” his posts with the flag emoji. I, for one, would not even have been aware of this emoji if it weren’t for people like him complaining about it.

This is just another example of people like him feeling persecuted because other people are being included that aren’t him. No one loses equality when other people are given recognition. It’s not as though people with the flag emoji are given Facebook plus accounts or that their posts are given a special preference, they just have a little rainbow flag.

It’s not discrimination either because no one is stopping anyone from doing anything. There are no religious emoji whatsoever. Maybe if there was a Star of David, a Crescent, a Yin-Yang, and no cross he might have a point: but there aren’t. I’m willing to suspect that he’s probably not advocating for any of those emojis along with it: his ilk just want their version because they are losing the ability to not have to see things they don’t like. Pretty ironic coming from the type of person that usually screams about how people are too easily offended these days.

In a spirit of charity I’ll offer him a suggestion: don’t like Facebook’s inclusivity of LGBTQ? Then stop using it. Problem solved.

Categories: atheism, Uncategorized Tags: ,

Mythicism

June 5, 2017 3 comments

Mythicism is the belief that person: Jesus of Nazareth, was not a real person. Now, every atheist rejects the notion that Jesus was anything other than a regular guy. The belief that a figure named Jesus may have existed, who was also a an apocalyptic preacher may be accepted. However, to restate the definition, there are those who think that the actual figure was just a character alluded to by a handful of individuals trying to create a new system of belief.

I, am not sold on Mythicisim. My belief tends more strongly along the lines of real person/real preacher guy than likening Jesus in the same vein of Harry Potter or Gandalf. The reasons for this are many, but to be clear: I reject the notion that there is any supernatural aspect to the figure as I reject all supernatural aspects to anything.

Possibly this is due to my Catholic upbringing wherein I, for nearly half of my life accepted that Jesus was not only real but divine. There might a vestigial attachment that I am unwilling to reject. On the other hand we must get into what it means if the Mythicist position it true: and it would be a conspiracy on a grand scale.

Outside of the blogging, I am a PhD candidate in Philosophy. I teach at a college in NY, and the class that I teach the most is a course on conspiracy theories and skepticism. While I spend most of the semester going through informal fallacies and pseudo medicine, the first few weeks of the course are spent in defining conspiracies and how, prima facie, most of them couldn’t be true. The reason? People, in large numbers, are untrustworthy, fickle, and terrible at keeping secrets.

Not one person mind you. You can always find one person that’s good at maintaining secrecy. You can also find one person that can keep a consistent story in their head. Add another? It gets less likely, and with each person the secret gets less likely to be kept secret. In fact, if enough people know a thing, by definition, it’s no longer a secret. All of that being said, I find it unlikely that the figure of Jesus would be an entire fiction. There’s got to be at least some historical persona that the stories are attached around, or else, why would they be so contradictory?

Let’s assume, for the sake of falsification, that the mythicist position is true. What, exactly does that imply? First off it implies that the entire religion is based on a lie. Ok, fine, I’m an atheist and in some respect that’s true of all religions. However, that’s not what I’m driving at. That the religion is a lie, would mean that the central figure for whom the religion is based on is foundationless. This would be perplexing for a number of reasons. The first, and perhaps most important, is that it is completely unnecessary to base the religion on a figure in the first place. Daoism, while based on the teachings of Lao Tzu, doesn’t rely on the character of Lao Tzu for its teachings, it relies on the teachings themselves. Judaism, doesn’t rely on the fact that Moses wrote the laws, or brought the law to the people of Israel, but rather that the law itself is derived from God. You don’t need a “Jesus” for a religion, you just need a message that people are willing to believe, maybe you dress it up in some spirituality and a promise of extra-life reward, but the central preacher character need not be central to it.

Secondly, it seems that if a group of people got together to fabricate this character in order to create a religion, why wouldn’t they do a better job of it? Jesus does some pretty contradictory stuff in the tales of his life on Earth. He talks of peace, but then of bringing a sword. He talks about turning the other cheek, but raises his fist to those that he feels have defiled the temple. Everyone is saved, but there are those who are not. If a conspiracy is a foot, they didn’t do a great job of it. The first gospel is dated at around 70CE while the only contemporary writings are from Paul and he admits none of it comes from eye witness accounts but from “revelations.” So if this thing is being made up, perhaps have “Paul” put in a reference to when they were hanging out together. Conspiracies of this magnitude wouldn’t leave clues to the lie, despite what internet sleuths say regarding the moon landing, JFK, or 9/11. We might also have stories of his childhood, or something like that: cool stuff with dragons and raising birds back to life or whatever.

Finally, and this is probably my weakest assumption: where is the documentation of the argument over this character? Unless there was a guy in the second century named Jesus, who just backdated a bunch of stories with his name on it, there would have to be some kind of conflict over what that person did. Now maybe this is an explanation for the contradictory stuff, but I’m going to apply Occam’s razor and just say, “while contradictory, the multiple stories are best made up by individuals dressing up stories they heard from a guy who knew a guy who dated their third cousin.”

All of that is premise to my introduction to a series I’m going to do whereby I read through a book titled, “Jesus By a Preponderance of the Evidence” by Robert Palaszewski. This book is going to prove the divine Jesus and the truth of Christianity. The summary on the back says that it’s for “seekers and open minded skeptics alike.” This entire post’s point has been to show that while I’m an atheist, I’m also not susceptible to an argument just because I want it to be true…and believe me nothing would warm the cockles of my heart more than finding out the entire thing was based on what a couple of guys made up way back when.

I’ve done no pre-reading, and will only prepare as much as necessary for each post. Ill be posting these on the first Monday of every month. Starting now (by that I mean this is post 1).

 

Blasphemy Law

May 16, 2017 Leave a comment

The charges have been dropped against Stephen Fry, but that does not mean we shouldn’t be having this discussion. Let’s be frank, this is from a person living in a country that voted Trump into office and I get to look down at another country (thus far…) because that’s how backwards and borderline insane this law is. I can try and make fun of the UK, but that’s some pot-kettle bullshit, but Ireland!? You don’t get a pass. Sure, by popular vote, they legalized gay marriage nationwide in 2015, but we only have to go back 6 short years to find the passage of the blasphemy law.

Not 1009, where it would still be wrong, but it’d be understandable, but 2009. Where everyone is starting to get on board with smart phones, where wifi is pretty much expected, and where the global economic collapse had just started to abate.

My oldest daughter had already been born. Which means that she was born into a world where there were fewer blasphemy laws on the books. That’s not progress, that’s regression. Not to sound ethnocentric, or Eurocentric, or whatever-centric; but this is the kind of law you expect that they have in Saudi Arabia…because they do. Which, if we must find some good in this, it’s that this law is proof of what happens when religion and the state mix. It apparently doesn’t matter what religion is mixing with what state. Ireland is a Republic not a monarchy or a dictatorship. As America’s incompetent president continues to talk randomly about churches and freedom, the Irish example is one that needs more conversation because as innocuous as it turned out to be, it’s still abhorrent that this kind of law exists in the first place. Especially, I must stress, that it was passed in 2009.

This story of the Irish blasphemy law goes back to 1937 and the Constitution of Ireland. The Constitution mandates according to article 40.6.1.i:

This continues with article 44.1:

These articles mandate that the Irish government set up a legal statute prohibiting blasphemy passed in 1937, the law was only applied to Christian religions. Also, it’s important that these articles specifically mention blasphemy as a crime that needs to be outlawed. I haven’t read the entire Irish Constitution (my family isn’t that Irish) but I’m pretty sure that it will lack any mention of other crimes.

Note: It does mention one more, treason (article 39).

So the law, passed in 2009 states that (I’ll omit irrelevant portions):

(a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and

 

(b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

The only defense the law offers is that if the utterance or publication has serious value that a reasonable observer would judge. This would mean anything in an artistic, political, scientific, literary, or academic value. The crime is punishable with a fine not to exceed 25,000 euros (approximately 27,000 US).

Was Fry in violation of this law? You be the judge, in the interview Fry is asked about his atheism and what he would say if, when he died, he found himself standing in front of the god he denies existing. Fry replied, “Bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right, It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain. That’s what I would say.”

He then goes on to explain that if it were the Greek Pantheon, it would make more sense as those gods didn’t pretend to be all good, all knowing, or the creators of the world. Here’s the entire 2.5 minute exchange. 

I’m not an Irish detective, nor am I a lawyer. However, given that the definition of “blasphemy” is a “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion…” it seems like a slam dunk. However, his utterance did not correlate to the second half of the statute requiring an outrage of a substantial number of adherents to the relevant religion. So perhaps that’s why the Irish government dropped the case.

Fry’s comments are nothing new. They are not exactly the most eloquent way of putting the old “problem of evil,” but I do like his delivery. His way of making it a personal conversation in which he scolds the maliciously capricious god. Perhaps it has some kind of performance value. Perhaps that is another reason they dropped the case.

Yet none of this matters because the state should have no compelling interest in the crafting these kinds of laws in the first place. I’ve said it more times than I care to link to: there is no harm in blasphemy. There was no harm in the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, the Danish newspaper cartoons, in Piss-Christ, the Last Temptation of Christ, or the Life of Brian. There are literally no sacred cows.

The only thing that these laws seek to protect is the insecurity of the believer, their fear that other people might have seen what they have and rejected it. What else could it be? Words shouldn’t be able to hurt an all powerful being, but somehow nations and people have deluded themselves into thinking the creative being behind the entire Cosmos needs protection from a few air vibrations if they occur in a certain order.

Sure, to repeat the opening point: some people may think that it’s fine because they didn’t prosecute Fry. Even the wording of the law allows so many excuses that it’s nearly unenforceable. Yet that’s not the main issue, it’s that the Irish Constitution felt that this was necessary enough to mention the need for the law in the first place. Of course if they decide to charge him again, article 16 of the defamation law offers Fry the best defense*:

(1) It shall be a defence (to be known and in this Act referred to as the “defence of truth” to a defamation action for the defendant to prove that the statement in respect of which the action was brought is true in all material respects.

 

 

*Though again, I’m not a lawyer, not Irish, and certainly not an Irish Lawyer. Don’t take legal advice from a blog.