August 26, 2011

A theists' straw man red herring attack on atheism

It's overly long, it's very rambling, and it's bloated with irrelevant remarks. And, yes, the criticism of atheism that Frank Cronin presents is both a straw man and a red herring.

He writes, "For the tools of reason and the weapons of rhetoric are indigenous to a world and a cosmos that includes intangible dimensions, that blends and harmonizes the tangible and the intangible", and the reason atheism must be wrong is because "[atheists] do not believe in the actual and factual reality of thinking or consciousness or reason" because those are "intangible" ("The Blind, Irrational Faith of Atheism", National Catholic Register, 8/25/2011).

Well, I'm an atheist, and Cronin's statement that the world includes intangible things is exactly correct. The universe includes the "intangible", such as the emotions and thoughts of the human mind, which is generated by the operation of the human brain. Cronin's argument against atheism relies on nothing more than an absurd straw man misrepresentation of atheism in the first place, pretending that our problem is that we deny the existence of the intangible.

But that has nothing to do with it. It isn't the existence of intangible things atheists have a problem with. What atheists have a problem with is people who just make things up and pretend they exist when in fact there isn't any good evidence for them. Pretending this is some kind of argument about accepting the existence of intangible things is nothing more than a red herring used to sidestep the real issue: Producing good evidence to substantiate what you claim. This is a fundamental aspect of epistemology.

Theists claim the existence of a god (or gods). Christian theists claim the existence of a particular sort of god, but the problem they have is that they are incapable of producing good evidence to back up that belief. But since they want to believe it anyway, despite the lack of good evidence, they like to fake people out, such as using rhetorical tricks to try to pretend that the problem atheists have is that they deny the existence of the intangible, despite the fact that the tangibility or intangibility of it isn't even the issue.

Nice try, Frank. Kudos on a good diversionary trick.

August 18, 2011

That would mean Christianity is "vain philosophy"

In the comments section of the article "Fall From Grace" by Scott Jaschik (Inside Higher Ed, 8/15/2011) about yet another professor being forced out of a religious fundamentalist college/university for acknowledging the scientific facts (which contradict the religious doctrines of the orthodox), a fundamentalist minister, Larry Robinson, writes, "The creation is central to Christian belief and anyone who seeks to dismiss it is in effect dismissing Jesus. All you are left with is vain philosophy."

Uh... Actually, any philosophy that requires its adherents to deny reality and cling to falsehoods is a vain philosophy. If Christian belief does in fact rely on the belief that the world was created merely 6,000 years ago (even while, just for example, through astronomical observation we literally witness events that took place in the distant past in the universe millions and billions of years ago), then that would simply prove that Christianity is a vain philosophy.

Obviously an awful lot of fundamentalists don't seem to realize the logical conclusions of their own arguments.

August 17, 2011

Will Christians lie to attack the criticism from atheism?

Response to "Will Atheists Lie To Promote Their Doctrine?", by Heath Stapleton (Heath's Blog, Kountze Church of Christ, Kountze, Texas, 5/13/2011).

Well, there's Christian anti-atheist rhetoric, and then there is reality.

First of all, there's the rhetoric that atheism is a "doctrine" (or another "religion"), but the reality is that that's a false pretension used by promoters of religious belief who seriously don't like it when people don't even accept the basic premise of religious faith in the first place. Portraying atheism as a "doctrine" is like pretending bald is another hair color. Atheism in the most commonly used sense simply refers to the position of "I don't buy this belief in a god that you're peddling because you just haven't backed up the idea with good evidence" - in other words it's based on a basic perspective of critical thinking and critical scrutiny. Portraying the rejection of religious doctrine and religious faith as a religious faith is an incoherent contradiction.

Second, Christians like to pretend they have an objective standard, but the reality is that no such objective standard exists, and Christians certainly are incapable of finding one since they're contradicting each other all the time on what this alleged "objective morality" is supposed to be. (Even the Church of Christ itself is splintered into various sects who refuse to "fellowship" each other because they cannot agree on what the supposed "rules" laid down by God are supposed to be.)

Third, atheists tend to have a higher conception of morality precisely because they don't buy into the Pharisaical tendency of trying to legislate moral principles with religious rules. As a direct specific example, lying, per se, is not in itself wrong, but it is what the purpose of the act that determines its effect. When a Nazi knocked on the door of a German citizen hiding a Jew in the attic, full-blown lying deception would have been at that moment the apex of virtue.

Fourth, in regard to dealing with reality, the problem - at least predominantly in the United States - isn't atheists lying to promote "the greater good" (whatever that's supposed to mean), but Christians, typically on the conservative side of the religious scale, lying to promote their religious doctrines - such as denying the scientific facts of astronomy and geology and falsely pretending that the universe and the earth didn't even exist more than about 6,000 years ago.

Belief in falsehoods required to be a True Christian

Here's another good example of the obviously fallacious thinking that permeates creationist/religious beliefs.

"If man is evolved, then he's evolved lower than he ever was."

Huh??? [cue Scooby-Doo sound here]

"If humans evolved, the Bible would indicate as much."

Just like if the earth goes around the sun rather than the other way around, the Bible would indicate as much.

Yeah, we know. [cue Disney's Tinkerbell's giggling here]

Of course, for those who know how to think straight, here's the real argument, the one that creationists/fundamentalists avoid/evade precisely because their religious belief isn't based on or for the purpose of truth-seeking:

If the Bible was true - or more pointedly, if what the Bible says really, actually, came from a god - then the superior knowledge of reality that it contained would be absolutely obvious (i.e., it would teach what is empirically true).

The whole endeavor of "Christian apologetics" is to try to generate whatever rhetoric is necessary to try to portray belief in the Bible coming from a god as being reasonable despite the fact that the real argument based on reason and truth-seeking has long since been determined to be negative (i.e., the Bible does not show obviously superior knowledge but instead teaches false ideas about reality, such as the idea that Adam was the first man, created instantaneously out of dirt only about 6,000 years ago, and that the entire human species was wiped out by a worldwide flood only about 4,300 years ago).

It isn't just that fundamentalists get their facts wrong all the time, using misinformation and misrepresentation to try to prop up their religious belief, it's that the very arguments they use demonstrate that they don't even know how to think straight in the first place.

"Is the answer to the age-old question found in faith, science or both - and what do we teach our children?" (by Irie Price, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 8/13/2011)

The Rev. Ron Cruddas, pastor of Word Aflame United Pentecostal Church in Lubbock, believes theory is incompatible with his biblical beliefs.

"A true Christian believes in creationism," Cruddas says when asked about Christians who say they adhere to evolution's claims. "How can we say we're a Christian when we don't believe the Bible and take it literally?"

A literal view holds the belief God created humans and all living things in their present forms, Cruddas says.

"Man did not evolve," he says.

Citing social ills like criminality, Cruddas says, "If man is evolved, then he's evolved lower than he ever was. But that's not true, because man was created and man has a choice," namely the choice to believe in a creator.

Cruddas believes if humans evolved, the Bible would indicate as much - just as the Bible notes other changes, like the New Testament removal of Old Testament prohibitions on consuming certain types of food.

A change in the understanding of human origin presented in Genesis is not presented in the Bible, Cruddas says. He believes the Genesis understanding of creation is affirmed in New Testament verses like Mark 10:6, which states, "But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female"....

August 12, 2011

No, we should condemn religion too

An awful lot of Christians love to play word games (aka, engage in sophistry) to try to prop up their religious beliefs. This happens to be precisely because religious belief isn't reality-based, either in terms of pragmatism (commerce, politics, and other social organization for enhancing social interactions) or science (whether technical or academic).

Marc Leverett's diatribe against atheism ("Condemn extremism not religion", Coloradoan, 8/12/2011) is certainly no exception to this. First of all, atheism isn't a religious "faith". It's exactly the opposite.Pretending atheism is a faith is like pretending bald is a hair color.

Second, while it's certainly true that atheism was part of the "party line" of Communism Stalin and his cohorts were engaging on a murderous rampage because of the political totalitarianistic nature of their Communism, not because of atheism. In regard to Nazism, frankly we're tired of the ludicrous attempt to place extremist anti-Semitism at the feet of atheism. It is precisely religious prejudices that are among the primary factors of the antagonism against Jews at that time. It's simply absurd to pretend it had anything to do with atheism. Adolf Hitler was, by the way, a Catholic.

Additionally, the Nazis were not Darwinian evolutionists at all. They were racists, and they made a corrupted form of ideas about evolution to opportunistically prop up their racism in their propaganda. Now, check your history, and see if racism began in 1859. Oh. Right. It didn't. And in fact the history of religious literature, including especially in the United States, contains numerous examples of religious doctrines based on the Bible being used to justify racism.

Furthermore, atheism isn't even an ideological framework. It isn't some kind of overarching philosophy. There are no edicts, no precepts, no divine entities, no divine books, no priesthood, no churches. The core of atheism is merely and simply this: "I don't buy into this god you claim exists, because you haven't produced good evidence to adequately justify such a belief in the first place." So in principle you cannot get any justification or motivation for murdering people en masse on the sole basis of a rejection of a religious belief that doesn't have good evidence for it.

So the only thing we can thank Leverett for is demonstrating by example, like so many other Christians in their rhetoric, their penchant for using slander and all kinds of other straw man rhetoric to try to disparage those who disagree with their religious beliefs (whether it's atheism in particular, or simply scientific results that contradict their religious beliefs) and who dare to openly criticize the nature of religious belief itself by pointing out the inherent and pervasive empirical and conceptual errors of religion.

August 9, 2011

Ken Ham is right - the jungle of fallacies is the real issue

In "A young Earth - it's not the issue!" (Answers in Genesis, Jan. 1998), Ken Ham writes:
Recently, one of our associates sat down with a highly respected world-class Hebrew scholar and asked him this question: 'If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with millions or billions of years of history for the Earth and universe?' The answer from this scholar? 'Absolutely not!'

Let's be honest. Take out your Bible and look through it. You can't find any hint at all for millions or billions of years.

Take out your Bible and look through it. You can't find any hint at all for the earth orbiting the sun rather than the other way around.

Take out your Bible and look through it. You can't find any hint at all for the moon reflecting light from the sun rather than producing light itself.

Of course, it's obvious that we learn about the characteristics and properties of the real world which are determined by the real world itself. In other words, if someone says something about the real world, but when we look at the real world itself what we observe contradicts what the person said about it, then what that person said is wrong.

So whether or not "You can't find any hint at all for billions of years for the Earth and universe" in the Bible is utterly irrelevant to the facts of the matter, the relevant facts being determined by the relevant features of the earth and the universe themselves.

What we're witnessing in the rhetoric above ("Take out your Bible and look through it. You can’t find any hint at all for millions or billions of years.") is another manifestation of the standard fallacy of circular logic that is a fundamental component of young earth creationist belief: 'The Bible says X, so X is true, because the Bible says it, and it cannot be wrong, because the Bible is God's Word, because it says it is, so we're going to believe X no matter what the actual real world evidence is.' ("By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record" - Answers in Genesis religious faith statement.)

Ken Ham is right, the *real* fundamental issue isn't the religious doctrine of young earth creationism per se. The real issue is the manner in which religious faith itself relies on belief in ideas people have made up without good evidence for them and then relying on a jungle of fallacies to try to fake a lot of people out about such beliefs supposedly making some kind of sense. The heavy reliance on circular logic is one prominent example of the failure of religious belief.

Circular reasoning can't combat anything

In addition to his main essay "Combating Atheism with Sola Scriptura" (Christian Post blog: Recession-proof Christian Life, 7/22/2011), Olabode Ososami posted a follow-up response that is actually a good summary of the thrust of his argument, so I'll respond here by directly addressing his comments in that response post.

"If salvation is based on argument ...don't you think a future superior argument or logic will eventually derail the saved who needs an assurance of His salvation."

If "salvation" (i.e., a religious doctrine) isn't based on reality (i.e., if it's just fantasy) then it can't be derailed because it was never on the rail to begin with.

"The Bible says the just live by faith..."

Yes, of course, the advice of every snake oil religion salesman on the planet. Of course, the reason most atheists are atheists is because they require actual, you know, EVIDENCE to back up what is claimed. The "just live by faith" argument is so heavily relied on these days by promoters of religious belief precisely because the 'our religious beliefs are backed up by the real world evidence' argument hasn't worked out so well, to put it mildly.

"we accept many things by faith including getting on the flight and believing and expecting the aircraft is fine and crew are competent without confirmation."

False. We don't do anything of the sort. The flight industry is built on science, engineering, preventative maintenance, standardized testing, etc. "Competent without confirmation" is an utterly bogus remark.

"The Bible says whatever is not of faith is already sin."

Sticking with the facts is a sin? This demonstrates the lack of credibility of the attitude of religious faith.

"Meditate on the merit of this."

The religious proclamation that testing your claims against, oh, actual evidence is A SIN demonstrates a serious lack of merit.

"The taste of the pudding is in the eating. Christians have found faith works."

Really? (Tell that to the geocentrists and the young earth creationists.) Christian religious belief, which totally dominated the perspective of scientists over two hundred years ago in the infancy of the age of science, now doesn't even exist in science. This is precisely because even those scientists who believed in the religious beliefs couldn't produce good scientific evidence for them. If they had, we'd be discussing the scientific facts backing the empirical truth of the claims of Christian religion, not being regaled with 'you must rely only on blind faith', and witnessing people making ridiculous declarations out of sheer hubris that expecting evidential backing for empirical claims in the first place is a "sin". If Christians seriously think that this attitude that blind faith is a virtue while testing ideas against evidence is a sin somehow justifies their religious belief, then atheists are right on the money - and we have to thank Ososami for backing us up. Not only is it impossible for the circular logic of Ososami's "Sola Scriptura" argument ('The Bible is God's Word, because it says so') to combat atheism, it's exactly what atheists point to as a case-in-point example of the fallacious nature of religious belief in the first place.