Is God Just a Human Invention? And seventeen other crappy essays pretending to answer Gnu Atheism.


I looked inside, so you don’t have to.
A few months back, I participated in a panel with a Christian group. Their pastor gave us a goody bag filled with one item: an atrocious book called Is God Just a Human Invention?: And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by none other than Spawn McDowell.

Before I begin, recall, dear reader, that this book was handed to me presumably in good faith, in the hopes that it would persuade. I can only conclude from the fact that it is filled with such unimaginably bad logic, emetic moral reasoning, and inadvertently hilarious juxtapositions as to make Baby Jesus Cry, that they either didn’t read it or are stupid. And I’m being generous with that “or.”

Like this one, from chapter 18:

Christianity is not a fairy tale; it is rooted in the events of history. The same cannot be said of the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or even the beloved Santa Claus. Adults are not converting to belief in Santa Claus on their deathbeds or after a life of investigating the evidence for good old Saint Nicholas (though after investigating the evidence, you’ll discover that Saint Nick definitely believed in Jesus).

So unlike Jesus, Santa Claus is not rooted in the events of history. No one would waste their life investigating the evidence for good old Saint Nicholas, who is nothing more than a fairy tale.

Yet even Saint Nick, the historical figure upon whom Santa Claus is based, totally believed in Jesus.

Take that, gnu atheists!

It’s not as if I had to comb through this book and cherry-pick examples to make this point. That paragraph? That’s how it appears on page 237 of this extended ream of extra-coarse TP.

Next up: Chapter 13. Is God Just a Genocidal Bully? Subtitled: killing babies is basically a moral imperative.

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Same shit, different theocrats.

Warning: the following story will make you vomit with rage. I suggest you either grab a sturdy bucket, or skip this post and look at these puppies:


Awwww.

Ok. Got your bucket? Good. Here we go:

Their tormenters? Ultra-orthodox. The insults are about sluttishness, immodesty – startling references to the way the family is dressed, which is conservative, but not conservative enough for the protesters.

Oh gee! WHAT A SHOCK! Insular religious morons are calling women sluts and battering them for having the audacity to go to school. Oh, did I say women? I meant little girls:

“They’ve been throwing eggs, tomatoes, feces, um, and then also stones at people. The kids come down in the middle of the night with nightmares. My daughter asks every day, are they out there?”

Let’s play: What’s that patriarchy?
A)Islam
B)Christianity
C)Judaism
D)Buddhism

If you guessed “Judaism,” YOU WIN +5 internets.

This is an extreme manifestation of rape culture, where accusations of immodesty can and will and ARE being used to justify physical attacks on these girls’ bodies, to threaten them into staying home, and to otherwise terrorize them for having the temerity to be in public while female. Notice how their objection is supposedly to being beset by the sight of girls “sluttish” bodies, yet not one of them puts on a blindfold. None of them take responsibility for their obsessive ephebophilia. None of them consider it would be easier for them to look away, than for girls to stop existing.

They say, “It’s just our religion.”

The psychosis of those screaming man-children is not the religion of the young girls going to school. They are not men’s property, existing to be perpetually ignorant wife-slaves, fearful of arousing the lust of another man. These men are terrorists, and should be treated as such – arrested, confined in a mental institution until they abandon their delusions and are no longer a threat to others.

This is in Israel. But this is in New York.

Precious Jewish daughter, please move to the side when a man approaches.

This is why we can’t turn a blind eye to fundamentalism, to these fascistic attacks on women and girls’ right to freedom of movement, to individual expression and to self-determination. When you see a population that uses slut-shaming to coerce women into dressing “modestly” (barf), and uses threats of mob violence to enforce absurd restrictions on education for girls, don’t say, “Oh, it’s just their religion.”

“It’s just our religion” is the perennial defense to accusations of misogyny. A defender of the sign said so himself:

“The signs don’t bother anybody,” said Abraham Klein, 18. “Men and ladies don’t go together. It’s just our religion.”

Hey, Abraham: they bother me. A lot. They don’t bother you because you aren’t the one being oppressed. They bother me because oppression is experienced by its target as hatred. Telling me I am a “precious daughter” puts any stupid 18 year old boy in a position of parental authority over me, condescends to me, and the insults me unforgivably by demanding I make way for his majesty.

It is not just your religion to tell me what to do. It is your imagined authority by dint of your cock. If you don’t want men and ladies to go together because it’s just your religion, then I have a suggestion for you: YOU move out the way when you see a woman coming.

Ha, I think to myself, like you’ll ever see a woman coming…

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That’s 77 places you’re wrong! Part 2


The bird represents 77 non-religious reasons to oppose gay marriage, today’s source of premium lulz.

When we last left our heroes, they were treading perilously close to the conclusion that gay fathers are ok, because kids are pretty much fine without their moms. In this next section, they take it up a notch, starting with the heading: Redefining marriage marginalizes fathers.

Does someone has a sad?

38.When a child is born, a mother is always nearby. Fathers are intrinsically less connected to children than mothers. The essential purpose of man/woman marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to each other. Same sex marriage implies that the attachment of fathers to their children is irrelevant.

Paging Dr. Freud – the author’s got a bad case of the womb envy.

41. Once same sex marriage becomes legally and socially acceptable, more women will decide to raise children together. They will view this as easier than putting forth the effort of crossing the gender divide and cooperating with a man through marriage.

Dude, if no woman wants to marry you, maybe the problem isn’t with her lazy refusal to put up with your shit. Maybe…just maybe…you’re the problem.

42.In today’s climate, we can imagine people looking at two women raising children together and saying, “See, it is just as I have always thought: women don’t need a man. Children don’t really need fathers.” It is almost inconceivable that people would look at two men raising children together and conclude that children don’t need mothers.

We should oppose gay marriage because this dude feels inadequate and unnecessary. How bout no?

This next section is titled, “The Pandora’s Box of Artificial Reproduction.”

44. No one has a right to have a child. Children are not objects, to which other people have rights. Children are persons, with rights of their own.

So people cannot have rights to other people? That does contradict all those earlier reasons centered on “the rights of all children to affiliation with both parents” (#14, and basically reason 11-16). Consistency is not really this pamphlet’s thing.

Same Sex Marriage Redefines Marriage

53. Genderless marriage will drive out gendered marriage. Same sex marriage transforms marriage from a gender-based institution to a gender-neutral institution.

If “gendered marriage” is so awful that everyone will leap at the chance for a gender-neutral marriage, why are you defending it? God demands it? What’s the secular reason for imposing misery?

If enough judges say enough implausible things, people will lose respect for the law.

It sure ain’t implausible to me, and it’s really, really hard to see this as anything other than a thinly-veiled threat.

60. By the time the activists are finished, there will be nothing left but a government registry of friendships.

The horror!

69. Adoption currently exists to give children the parents they need, not to give adults the children they want.

Which is why adopted children are randomly assigned parents, regardless of the parents’ desire to adopt a child. That’s how it works, right?

71.The state will have to protect its creation of same-sex marriage. Man/woman marriage can sustain itself.
73. […]The Catholic Archdiocese of the District of Columbia stopped providing health insurance to all spouses, once same-sex marriage was created by the city council.

More creepy, thinly-veiled threats, I see. In other news, thousands of churches have closed their whites-only schools after integration was mandated by activist judges.

74. Governments will enforce the belief that mothers and fathers are interchangeable.

How, exactly?

77. Same sex marriage constitutes a hostile takeover of civil society by the state.

The paranoia is almost comical. If you wear tinfoil on your head, the state can’t force you to love your gay neighbors.

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That’s 77 places you’re wrong!

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did, after throwing off my blanket of cats,

was do a google search for non-religious reasons to oppose (yea, you read that right) gay marriage. Apparently, they exist, and are bountiful!

I’m going to need more coffee for this.

Much better. So, to avoid making your eyes bleed, the following take-down will focus on the funnier reasons. Follow the link if you need more fail, but I warn you: what has been seen cannot be unseen.

You’d think they’d start with their strongest reason, but no:

1. The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another.

Dude, we have something to attach mothers to children: it’s called the umbilical cord. We’ll call the rest of this reason the “let’s disadvantage bastards like in the good old days” argument.

3. Man/woman marriage sets the foundation for children to have the same biological, legal and care-giving parents. Same-sex marriage separates these functions among different people.

Ah, I see. So the other policies we should enact in pursuit of that lofty goal include:
a)Forced abortions. We can’t go around letting married women give birth to another man’s child.
b)Forced marriage: if a woman is raped, that’s not the kid’s fault. Sure, this list is non-religious, but we can all see the biblical wisdom in forcing women to marry their rapists to set the foundation for kids to have the same biological and legal parents.
c)No divorce. Your husband beats you? Too bad! You wouldn’t want him to stop caring for your kids, after all.

Compelling, no? And we’re only on #3!

8. Each member of the same sex couple may be a fine parent. But two mothers do not add up to a father.

A penis is an essential part of any child’s upbringing. That’s what the Catholic Church has been saying for decades.

11., 12., 13. Every child is entitled to a relationship with both parents.

So no sperm donation, no surrogacy, and for god’s sake, NO adoption! The worst thing ever would be for a child to not know the sperm donor who’s currently incarcerated for child abuse, and to be forced to settle for the utter horror of…another loving, supportive mother.

Deliberately conceiving a child with the life-plan that he or she will never have a relationship with his or her father is cruel and unjust to the child.

Wow, where do you even start? They are really obsessed with the idea of gay women having kids without a man’s supervision. It’s like it’s never occurred to them that a child could have a relationship with a non-custodial parent, or that the father may not want to actually be a parent to the child he helps another couple conceive. My parents divorced; it hardly meant I could no longer have a relationship with my dad.

25. Some children in step parent homes explicitly pit the parents against each other.

Yea, because kids with married bio parents never go to mom after dad says no. Children in stepparent homes generally are adjusting to a new parental figure. The idea that kids might be miffed at the situation only because they don’t share genes, and therefore kids raised by a gay couple would have the same issues, is bizarre and unjustified. As for the attacks on stepparents in general: what garbage.

29. Same sex marriage makes an implicit statement that…sex is irrelevant to parenting.

Yep! Ding ding ding!

30. Even same sex couples believe sex is relevant: the sex of their partners.

The sad thing is, this is meant to be a “gotcha.” The sex of their partners is relevant because they’re having sex with their partners. Could this be any more obvious?

30. A lesbian insists on a female sex partner. Even a very feminine man will not do.

Ha! You speaking from experience here? Because something tells me that’s not entirely accurate.

31. It is unjust for the law to decree that adults are entitled to have what they want, namely, partners of the same sex, while children have to accept whatever we give them.

O rly>? That’s the hill you’re planting your flag on? Because that’s kind of the whole point of being a parent.

The worst injustice of our age.

32.Mothers and fathers each make unique contributions to a child’s development. Father absence creates risks that mother absence does not create.

“Two dads? That’s fine with us for some reason!”

33. Teenaged girls not living with their fathers
are at risk for early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, out of wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections.

How does someone become “at risk for” multiple sexual partners?


34. Teenaged boys not living with their fathers are at risk for juvenile delinquency, violence, criminal activity, gang membership, and incarceration.

.
What a relief to know that teenaged boys aren’t at risk for early sexual activity or multiple partners. I wonder who all the teenage girls are having early sexual activity with, though?

35. Preteen girls not living with their biological fathers get their menstrual periods earlier than girls who live with their fathers. This is associated with a host of health problems including [examples].

Ya know what else is associated with early periods? Getting enough to eat as a child, which is associated with quite a few positive outcomes. It’s a good thing those preteen girls will later get pregnant out of wedlock, since earlier first pregnancy reduces your lifetime risk of all those things early menarche increases your risk for! Problem solved.

36. Children need guidance in developing their sexual identities. Same-sex marriage will make this more difficult, if not legally forbidden.

The only way this makes sense is if “guidance in developing their sexual identity” is the new euphemism for “kicking your kid out on the streets for being a no-good queer.”

But wait! There’s more! See part 2.

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Fauxlosophy

Last week, I posted this video of Richard Dawkins explaining the circuitous route of the laryngeal nerve. Instead of going straight to the larynx, this nerve behaves like a crazy straw, going down the neck, looping around the heart, and then returning to the larynx. To demonstrate the absurdity of this design with an extreme example, Dawkins participates in a dissection of a giraffe! I posted this to my social network with the innocuous comment, “Great example of why “intelligent design” just fails as an explanation.”

At least, I thought it was innocuous. I also thought that the term “intelligent design” was well-understood to mean A)that we were designed, as opposed to evolving, and B)that we were designed in an intelligent way. Surely, if this is designed, it was not done so intelligently. Evolution – in this case, of necked animals evolving from neckless fish – is clearly a more reasonable solution.

Are you assuming that intelligent design mutually excludes any thesis about evolution? I do not think this is a direct refutation of any contemporary ID arguments (like irreducible complexity) or any of the older, more “classic,” teleological arguments like Paley’s. The former has no problem accepting that such a nerve evolved from older irreducible parts,

If it doesn’t exclude evolution, what does ID add? Note, this question was never answered.

that latter concedes that there are imperfections in designs, but that this does not detract us from the motivation that it was designed.

Why did that intelligence repeat this particular imperfection in everything that evolved from fish?!

This isn’t to say the argument is a bad one. So far, Dawkins seems to be attacking some simple-minded creationist thesis, and not the intelligent design thesis found in philosophical and scientific fields. Perhaps it would be educational for your FB status readers if you included at least a snippet of the argument you propose Dawkins is refuting.

Note how he says that I’m attacking simple-minded creationist theses, as if A)There is any other kind, and B)That’s a self-evidently pointless endeavor. Note also the assertion that there is an ‘intelligent design thesis found in philosophical and scientific fields,’ and then challenges me to produce that. This will be important later.

I am only trying to set up ID in such a way that it isn’t a straw man (I assume that those who risk their careers on such arguments are not complete morons). Indeed, the scope is about genesis.

In an attempt to make sure I was not setting up a strawman of ID, he sets up a reverse strawman (easier to defend) version of ID that is limited to abiogenesis. Sure, he goes back on this later, identifying bacteria flagellum as intelligently designed, as though anyone thinks bacteria with flagella were the first ex nihilo creatures, but at this point in the conversation, he’s already narrowed the scope of ID in such a way that he has ruled out anything that could show evidence of design!

Anything that can be called simple-minded apparently qualifies as a strawman of ID. If we take for granted the assumption that who risk their careers are not complete morons, any moronic argument can be dismissed with No True Intelligent Design Thesis. That’s what’s going on here – not any strawman on my part.

More to come in Fauxlosophy: Part 2

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Preparing for Hell: The Suggestions

This is my continuing dissection of this letter to atheists, titled How to Prepare for Hell:

1. First and foremost, whenever the Bible is being taught, run.

Deal! Actually, this is something I never get. To avoid seeming horribly unjust, Christians will generally invent a clause in the contract where if you never really know about Christian doctrine, you won’t go to hell. But then they’re being complete bastards by walking around, telling everyone about Jesus. Stop that! You’re condemning me to hell!

He illustrates it with another completely baffling metaphor: the parent-child relationship.

The other day, I yelled from the living room to my daughter Katelynn to get to bed. Fifteen minutes later, she was still up. I became upset with her. I thought it was a deliberate act of disobedience. However, when I talked to her about it, she said that she did not hear me. Once I believed her, my anger went away. Why? Because she did not actually know that I told her to go to bed. Now, she was still in a little bit of trouble because she already knew what her bedtime was. But her trouble would have been more severe had she not only known what her bedtime was but heard what I said and still disobeyed.

So instead of scalding her, I merely punched her goodnight. See, I’m not an unreasonable guy! Same goes for God.

Oh, you didn’t? Because that would be an unreasonable punishment in any event, even if you caught her single-handedly perpetrating the mortgage crisis? Congratulations: you’ve found my point.

2. Don’t try to persuade others, especially children, of your unbelief

You’re not really clear on the concept (or on the grammar – am I really not allowed to persuade people that I don’t believe?) of unbelief.

3.And (and this is going to sound crazy), if your eyes are causing you to lust (i.e. pornography?), cut them out.

Whatever you say, Oedipus.

4. Take care of your family

Not bad advice! Only problem is it’s also not Christly advice. Christ, you know, the dude who told you to hate your family, abandon them and join his personality cult? Yea, guess you’re just gonna pretend he didn’t say that. It’s not like he’s your god or anything.

5.[…]you have to do whatever you can to remain humble. Pride will create a full chapter in most people’s section in the book of judgement.

You believe the almighty lord of all creation suffered a brutal death so you could avoid the damnation you so richly deserve because you touch yourself at night, and you’re suddenly qualified to give anyone else lectures on humility? You, who believes that this deity cares about your dietary habits and knows how many hairs are on your head, who loves you and desperately wants to not have to torture you – you think I’m the one with too much pride? We must have different dictionaries.

5.[…]If you are an atheist, you are the way you are due to fate, not your own ingenuity or efforts.

No, Michael, you’re thinking of Calvinism. I find it entertaining you think that “you are the way you are due to fate” is so different from saying “you are the way you are because of God.”

I must pass this invitation from God over to you once again.

So pride is bad, he said, speaking for God.

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How to Prepare for Hell

Subject yourself to literary hell, first!

Disbelievers, take note! Michael Patton over at Reclaiming the Mind has written a letter to his atheistic friends explaining how to prepare for hell. Now, aside from the obvious (put ice in the cooler; remember your address book; pop your collar), he has the following to say.

Though what I am offering to you is still as far from heaven as the east is from the west, it may do some good

We’re on a sphere, dude. East is actually pretty damn close to west.

, I admit, I could be wrong too. But if I am wrong, what awaits me? Eternal darkness? Nothingness? Fine and good. However, if you are wrong, something terrible is coming. I can’t prepare for nothingness. You can prepare for Hell

The obvious response is that he overlooks the third possibility: we could both be wrong. Is he preparing for Cehennem? No?

But the point I want to make pertains to this line: I can’t prepare for nothingness. That’s where he’s wrong. He can, and should, prepare for nothingness. As a Christian who believes in a literally hell, he has not even begun to fully grok the situation facing him. This is his only life, and when he dies, it’s basically lights out. Instead of preparing for his inevitable oblivion and beginning to fathom all that entails, he has instead created an imaginary friend. This is preparing for nothingness like dropping out of high school is preparing for college – it’s a way to avoid preparing to live your life nowlike it matters, like it’s more than a test.

All those people – all those six billion other people – are in the same boat. No one is up there, looking out for us. No one cares if we’re happy, or devastated; if we’re hungry, or hungover; if we’re in love, or in loss. No one.

Except.

Except other humans like Michael Patton. They can know those things about others. They can even help others. Sure, ultimately, we’ll all be nothing in the end. But we can prepare for our deaths by preparing a lifetime of fond memories of each other. We can prepare to accept that this was our shot, and we made the most of it, and isn’t that fantastic that bits of animate stardust made each other smile on a lonely rock cooling around a giant nuclear reactor.

You not only can, you should prepare for nothingness. It may even inspire you to actually act like Jesus – for they were hungry, and you fed them, because otherwise they’d have gone hungry; for they were strangers, and you invited them in, because otherwise they would have been lonely and cold; for they were sick, and you took care of them, because otherwise they would have suffered more. Not because Santa God is watching – because in a materialist world, there are consequences, and because needless suffering is morally indefensible.

But enough of my antivangelism. Back to this letter:

I elected to have Christ take my penalty; you elected to stay in the line of judgement and stand on your own.

Yes. It’s fundamentally immoral to let another person be punished in your place. It’s reprehensible. It’s outrageous. I refuse to have a whipping boy.

However, there is an invitation given to everyone in the line of judgement. It says that God loves us and does not desire that we should stand in this line and be judged. It says that Christ took the judgement upon himself for all those who will accept it. It says that who ever wants to leave this line and stand behind Christ can do so.

Great! So like, I can just leave the line after I have a reason to believe the lines exist and —

these lines become permanent upon death (i.e. the Bible does not present an after death chance to change lines),

Oh.

So Hank won’t give us a million dollars until we leave town forever?

Hell is your decision; it is not the decision of God who loves you.

Why do you make me hit you, baby?

Next post: the actual suggestions.

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Hell hath no fury like a dude dismissed

Along with religious delusions, dudely entitlement is another enormous pet peeve of mine. While it can be frustrating to deal with directly, it can also lead to lots of lulz. One such lul went down on facebook yesterday, between myself and the dude who authored the quote in the ‘About Me’ section. Let’s call him Ballsack

The thread was a response to an article on a Christian website called “Man Series that argues that women should never burden poor dudes with expectations. That would be wrong. Nevertheless, Vagina-Americans should always be open to being pursued by the author, but also not attract unnecessary attention to ourselves. We should be straight-forward, but not controlling, humble, but confident. You couldn’t make this shit up.

Ballsack opens with this:

[Name], it’s amazing how so many women I’ve met equate being rude and jerk with being sincere, which they like! Obviously if he’s being a jerk he can’t be interested in sex–he’s doesn’t even seem much interested in the woman. Of course, it’s just two sides of the same coin. What nice guys, and ladies, should realize is that being nice isn’t the problem–it’s being boring. –Ballsack

Baffled by his apparent belief that women enjoy rude men because they sincerely are uninterested in sex (lol wut?), I did what I do best: I poked him with a stick.

I don’t understand the syllogism here.
[Premise #1] Jerks are sincere. They don’t like women or sex.
[unstated premise#2] Women don’t like sex.
[Conclusion] Women like jerks, because jerks “can’t be interested in sex,” “which they like!”

As I was writing my syllogism, he expanded on his total ineptitude with boob-havers:

Sadly, most men aren’t taught how to inniate relationships with women.[…] I’ve talked to dozens of women about how men should approach women and if they have an answer at all it’s usually along the lines of buy her a drink (even though you don’t know her and she will take the drink if she likes you or not, glady spending your money) and then something vague like “be funny” and “be charming” as if that is clear advice or easy to do. Ever try being funny or charming on demand? It quickly becomes clear both sexes are clueless.

Hm. I sensed I would need a bigger stick. So, in an attempt to be helpful, I explained that a woman who accepts a drink from a stranger is not psychic and does not know in advance whether she will like this stranger. Buying a drink is a conversation-opener, not a sexytime contract.

Ha ha. So a woman I don’t even know wants me to buy her a drink for 10 minutes to try to impress her? LMAO Wow, talk about entitlement…. If I talk to her and I like her then I’ll buy her a drink, like I would do for any of my friends. I always buy my friends drinks, but never strangers.

So, what’s the problem here? Note how ballsack goes from self-pity about not knowing how to initiate relationships with women, to anger at these entitled bitches sitting there, minding their own business, not intuiting that this dude wants to talk to them but doesn’t want to spend the impossible length of TEN MINUTES “trying to impress her.” Apparently, she should just jump on his cock the minute he walks in the room.

Seeing the lulz my strategy had produced, I couldn’t help but continue:

You say it depends, but I doubt you’ve ever gone to a bar and try to pick up guys.

Guilty as charged! Maybe it’s because dudes that seethe with rage at my “entitlement” make me uncomfortable. Or maybe he just had a massive gaydar fail.

Again, I patiently explain that she doesn’t want Ballsack to buy her a drink. Ballsack wants to talk to her. Because it can be difficult to start conversations with strangers, we have a social convention that, in a bar, buying a drink can be a great ice breaker.

But, no. Fuck that greedy hypothetical bitch. She’s probably an unemployed prostitute!:

Spending money to break the ice? Fuck that. She can buy me a drink if she thinks it’s such a brilliant idea or sit alone and wait for the next trick to come along. Drinks are $10 a pop. She can get a job if she wants a drink.

I just can’t BELIEVE Ballsack is single and has trouble with the ladies. Poor guy.

And here is where it gets seriously perplexing. The man who said this:

it’s usually […] something vague like “be funny” and “be charming” as if that is clear advice or easy to do. Ever try being funny or charming on demand?

senses his masculinity is being questioned, and evolves from Mediocremon to Grandiosoking:

And despite what you might think, the same lines work almost all the time, no matter the woman. It’s like a good joke: once you get it down, not matter who you tell it to it almost always gets a laugh. If you don’t believe me we can go to a bar, you can point a woman out, and I bet I’ll use the same lines and get her number.

Sure, dude. Can I pick the bar? Ballsack: “You can pick the bar.”
Great, let’s go to [Historic lesbian bar] on Sunday and see who gets the most numbers.

Then I wait, and wait, and wait…

The flounce does not disappoint:

And who cares about this point? I don’t even know why I bothered to jump in this conversation. It’s a waste of intellectual resources.

You shouldn’t waste his intellectual resources during a drought. Guess that’s why his mouth is a low-flow toilet.

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Beyond Gnu Atheism? Let’s get the basics right, first.

The article, “Beyond ‘New Atheism’” by Gary Gutting has been making the rounds in the Atheosphere. Like most anti-Gnu Atheism screeds, it attacks Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” as if it’s a bible we all slavishly follow. It doesn’t take much to be called a Gnu Atheist; like being a ‘radical feminist,’ or a ‘militant homosexual,’ it seems to be triggered by two things: being atheist/feminist/gay, and stating it openly like you had the right.

In my epic argument with Po-Mo Dancer, I was accused of being a Gnu Atheist who didn’t understand the deep comfort religious lies provide to the proles. Gutting, similarly, writes:

For them, Tennyson’s “‘the stars,’ she whispers, ‘blindly run’” is a prospect too bleak to sustain our existence. […] If not, isn’t the best choice to retreat to a religion of hope? Why not place our bet on the only chance we have of real fulfillment?

Notice the sneaky use of the phrase “the only chance we have of real fulfillment.” That’s the point here. It’s not a chance at real fulfillment, we Gnu Atheists argue. That’s what’s so warped and twisted about religion: a person may spend their entire life chasing the phantasm of religious “hope” and “fulfillment,” with the net effect being that they’ve wasted their one and only life on a lie.

The assertion that atheism needs to replicate this false hope and illusory fulfillment of religion is reminiscent of the claim that atheism does not provide for a theistic totalitarian morality that’s ‘objectively’ true (if ‘objective’ is defined as ‘the perspective of the most powerful entity’). Atheism certainly cannot replicate the hope of religion, because the hope of religion is surviving your own death. Likewise, of course atheism cannot provide an “objective” morality – the kind that leads people to stone women to death, to hang homosexuals, to kill each other in the name of – but we can derive a moral system based on the realization that we are the ashes of exploded stars, stuck on a tiny rock spinning around a massive nuclear reactor that will one day expand and consume us.

So fucking be nice already, while you have the chance. Let’s make the most of this unlikely life. Embrace the hope of understanding reality and using that understanding to make life better.

As Tim Minchin says in his poem, “Storm:”

I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
And unimportant…
But thanks to recent scientific advances
I get to live twice as long as my great great great great uncles and auntses.
Twice as long to live this life of mine
Twice as long to love this wife of mine
Twice as many years of friends and wine

Posted in Atheism, Existence, Hope, Morality, Where are your manners? | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Stolen Concept Fallacy

We’ve all been there. You’re walking along, minding your own epistemological business, pondering what you were quite certain were ponderables, when suddenly

“The Zen monks say that the mind itself does not exist.”

Zen monks, you think to yourself, have terrible fashion sense. Perhaps it’s true that their minds do not exist. So you keep on, wondering about the evolutionary history of the Krebs cycle or the neurological basis of the capgras delusion, when again

“However, I believe in the existence of reality independent of our perception of it. I have no evidence for or against that reality exists ‘out there’, not just in my head. I clearly don’t believe this as a result of evidence, but rather by faith.”

And you ask yourself: what is it about people who accidentally took the service elevator to the utility closet on floor 3 1/2 of the logical building are so evangelical about their lack of certainty?

Here’s the thing: the idea of evidence and proof relies on the existence of a logically consistent external reality. The word “evidence” is defined as:

Noun: The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.

So of COURSE you have evidence that reality exists. All evidence is evidence that reality exists. It’s only when you redefine evidence according to some impossible standard that no actual evidence could ever meet – where you ask for proof that isn’t a result of raw data and logical inference – that you end up with the bizarre idea that you can never have evidence that reality exists.

In the same way that evidence is primary and imagination is secondary, reason is primary and faith is secondary. Faith means a method of coming to a conclusion that does not involve real data or logical inference. What could it possibly mean to have faith in reality? The concept has been stolen away from its logical foundation, and all that results – all that can ever result from this brand of self-refuting epistemology – is a thin, meager, and bland word soup, where the echoes of the original ingredients are all there, but it’s been cooked too long and turned to mush.

How is it that a person who settles on an epistemology that holds that nothing can ever be known so rarely concludes the obvious: they have failed, and need to try again? Yet instead, they conclude that they have found the truth that the truth can never be found! The mind boggles.

I encountered one of this sort just the other day. Holding my giant sign proclaiming that “There is no god – so relax and be happy!” as I often do, I was approached by a portly young, mustachioed man, who, making no effort to hide his smug sense of gotcha, declared that I was holding a faith-based position, as I could not prove there was no god.

“Who said I have to?” I inquired. “I’m merely informing people that the evidence supports the null hypothesis.”

“But that’s not what your sign says! Your sign isn’t very nuanced.”

“It’s…a sign. I am quite certain that it is accurate.”

“You can’t know anything for certain. You have faith!”

I looked at him with bemusement. “You sound quite certain about that.”

“That’s the thing!” he replied, giddily, “I can’t even know for certain that I can’t know anything for certain!”

“So of the two of us, I’m the only one who believes I can discern truth from falsehood. Yet you’re telling me I must be wrong to think so. Please go away and learn more.”

Posted in epistemology, intellectual relativism, Solipsism, Stolen concept fallacy | Leave a comment