Friday, January 31, 2014

Someone is grumpy about something Richard Dawkins said…again.

Ran across this article in the telegraph.

Yes, Richard Dawkins, a Muslim baby is a Muslim baby. Because that's just how it works

Richard Dawkins is just an Angry of Tunbridge Wells with a PhD. Let me define that. He is a prejudiced pedant who goes through newspapers looking for small things that irritate him greatly.

Wow, insults right out of the gate? OK…

A Muslim baby is a Muslim baby for two reasons. First, because that's how Islam works. Dawkins might not believe in Islam but Muslims generally do, and they think that all humans are innately Muslim and that life is a process of submitting to that state of grace.

He kind of answers his own statement here, Dawkins is not a Muslim so obviously when he states that the baby is not Muslim he is speaking from his perspective and not the perspective of a Muslim. What perspective did he expect Dawkins to speak from?

Second, a Muslim baby is a Muslim baby because that's how culture works. When a baby is born it inherits more than genes. For instance, we call it British, which by Dawkins' logic is a silly thing to do. After all, it cannot possibly drink tea, hate the French or laugh at Carry On films. …Does Dawkins imagine that children can somehow be protected from all identities until a certain age of reason: given no nationality or, for that matter, no surname?

This is an incredibly bizarre non-sequitur. Ones nationality is defined by birth, not by choice of beverage or disliking a particular culture. Dawkins point, a reasonable one, is that religion is defined by self identification and not by birth. I’m was American at birth because the law is written so that people born in the U.S. with American parents are automatically Americans, just like with most countries. There is no similar law by which to determine one’s religion either here or in the U.K.

Of course he doesn't – he's not that foolish. But he does get very excited about people being labelled by religion because – if you hadn't already noticed – he has an irrational hatred of religion. As if being raised Anglican will turn you into a monster.

What kind of person attends a Christening, observes the toothy vicar, cake, jelly and drunken aunts and thinks, "This is pure brainwashing!" Richard, if you really are creeped out by infant baptisms then you don't have to go to them. We'll just bore you with hundreds of photos afterwards instead.

OK, you can pretend that this caricature actually resembles anything Dawkins said about religious indoctrination but as far as I can tell it really doesn’t. I’m sometimes wonder if theists really listen to our arguments because I constantly find theists responding to my (and other atheists) arguments by wondering at how I could believe some horrifying/stupid belief that does not even vaguely resemble anything I ever said about anything. I suppose If atheists believed even half the things I’ve had theists accuse me of believing I’d likely agree we were a pretty awful lot too.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book review of Illogical atheism: Chapter 4

I review chapter 4 of the book Illogical atheism, completing the first of the four books published in this series.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Another Christian opines about Duck Dynasty and religious debates.

So I ran across this article by Jody Burkeen on and thought I’d share it with you.

Ex-Atheist Pens Open Letter to Christians, Liberals and Unbelievers

The article opens with a request for debate to be more civil.

As humans, we ought to have an innate love for one another, no matter our beliefs or backgrounds. But what I have seen from the controversy of Duck Dynasty and homosexuality is ignorance, hatred and a complete lack of a common-sense debate.

No disagreement so far except to say that the author and I may have different ideas about what qualifies an argument as ignorant. He continues:

First, let me tell you a little about myself. I am the founder of Man Up God’s Way men’s ministry. I am a former atheist and evolutionist and now a sellout for Christ. Because I am “sold out” for Christ, that makes me a Christian. With views that are formed from the Bible, I believe 100 percent of all that it says and try to live according to the rules, love and forgiveness it teaches.

OK, first off I don’t think the author needed to explain that “sold out for Christ” meant they were a Christian, I’m don’t think there was any chance of anyone misunderstanding that. I also checked out the ministry the guy runs and, while most of the content on his website seems to require payment or at least signup, what I could read led me to conclude his site advocates for a kind of soft spoken sexism common to evangelicals that I’ve written about in the past, here for instance. I also find his use of the world “evolutionist” to be troubling. To be fair he does criticize Christians for all of one paragraph before devoting the last half of his article to his criticism of atheists.

If you claim to be a Christian, act like it! Stop arguing, name-calling and getting angry over every little thing. But don’t back down from ungodliness (sin). Know your Bible and stop paraphrasing His Word and use it wisely. Don’t speak, debate or argue it unless you know it! If you don’t know it, read the Bible, study the Bible and memorize the Bible. Stop being a hypocrite! Too many Christians are talking out of both sides of their mouths. Learn to live and talk like Christ..

I don’t have much to disagree with here. There are a lot of Christians name calling and getting angry over every little thing, and I can’t disagree with the recommendation that people actually learn a subject properly before setting out to criticize it. I often find myself criticizing atheists for criticizing religious beliefs poorly because they don’t properly understand the beliefs. Now at this point you might think this article might actually end up being an example of an evangelical offering a well reasoned discussion about religion and politics. He is about to dash those hopes quite succinctly.

This letter is also for the liberals. So many times you try to push a political agenda of certain things, thinking that it will make people “free.” But it does nothing but enslave us. Our country was founded on biblical morals, which made us a free nation. The Bible tells us in John 8:31-32 that if you continue in God’s Word, then you are truly His disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

The irony here is that he was just telling us about Christians who try to argue the bible but don’t’ actually know it very well. Has he ever thought of extending this rule to other subjects like history or politics? He doesn’t seem to know either very well. The principles on which this country was founded are sourced in a variety of philosophical arguments about the nature of government and individual rights that had been going on for several centuries prior to our countries founding. I’m not going to say that the Christian religion played no part in this discussion, but it certainly wasn’t the only, or even primary, influence.

We are no longer a free nation. Oh, we have rights to do just about anything we want, but that does not make us free. Can’t you see where our nation is going? We have taken the Bible out of schools, colleges and a lot of churches. We have murdered 57 million babies since 1972 because of “rights.” The family is being split apart because we don’t sanctify marriage anymore. Suicide rates are up because of no foreseen hope. Drinking and drugs are being legalized even when we know they are killers of body, soul, and families—all in the name of “freedom.”

Well, we have taken the bible out of schools and colleges as an inerrant document for liturgical use, however it’s still quite useful in historical and cultural contexts so it hasn’t been removed entirely. If any churches have been taking the bible out of their services then take that up with them as I couldn’t care less how churches order their services. Abortion is the topic that will never go away, but yes women should not be forced to be pregnant against their will by the state.

The rest is just fear mongering through creative statistics mining. He offers no evidence that our changing perception of religion has contributed to any of these numbers, and ignores all of the positive numbers like lower rates of violent crime. Sure drinking has broken up families but so has religion and politics. At least when drinking becomes a problem society advocates people stop drinking, when religion breaks up a family a person’s church tells them they just need to do religion differently, or even worse that it’s just the price of being religious and your family isn’t worth your eternal soul.

But I respect your view, even though I don’t agree with it. Like you, I will not back down, but I will be bold in love. I hope you do the same.

“bold in love” is one of those Christian buzz terms that means very little to those not part of the religion, though really I just wish his “respect” of others views including an actual attempt to understand those views. Standing up for what you believe in is laudable, it’s also praiseworthy that he advocates that it be done in a respectful manner. What isn’t so praiseworthy is the bad arguments he attempts to employ for his case.

This letter is also to the atheist, of which I was one. Why are you so angry? There is a void that you have in your soul—I know; I had it. With no hope, despair and anger kick in. You point your anger toward my belief, and your anger is frightening sometimes.

Pop psychology nonsense, he is assuming his personal experience was not only valid but relevant to everyone else’s life. Does he not think there might be other reasons for anger than “we need god?” Perhaps it makes some atheists angry when someone claims to want respectful dialog and then tries to psychoanalyze our motivations based upon few facts and even fewer credentials in the relevant fields. He calls our anger frightening but just a few paragraphs back he was telling Christians to stop getting angry and name-calling, so it seems even he knows that theists are no less likely to react from a place of anger when their beliefs are questioned.

You spout off things you don’t have proof of and have no desire to seek otherwise.

I’d point out the irony of this statement if I thought it were necessary.

The path of evolution leads nowhere (it's still a theory). Your faith in believing in evolution, a godless nature and chance, are greater than most Christian’s faith in a holy God, and for that I commend you.

The author reveals that he does not understand what a scientific theory is, what evolution is, or even how statistics work. Then he proceeds to commend us for having more faith than Christians, on this I’m not sure if this is an honest commendation or a bit of sarcasm on his part.

It takes great faith to be an atheist. My view changed when I saw my children. In order for the body to function like it does, we have to have a Creator. Even if you had 500 billion years, a child just doesn’t happen, much less two that are different sexes and that can procreate. Think about it.

To sum up, his argument here seems to be that since it doesn’t seem possible for child birth to develop via natural processes Jesus Christ must have died for our sins. I could be wrong here but I’m almost certain there are some missing steps in that syllogism. Is this really the entirety of his argument? Perhaps expecting him to include his entire argument for god is a bit unfair, but considering that his establishment of this point is a jumping point for his next paragraph I think he could do a bit better, or at least acknowledge his arguments short comings and point to a source that better lays out his case. As it is this is bad even by the standards of apologetics, which typically has a pretty low bar for what constitutes a good argument.

And if it takes a Creator, wouldn’t He want to have input in your lives? Wouldn’t He want to see us live for Him and not ourselves? Isn’t it sad to think that an average of 70 years of life on this earth is all there is? You die, and then there’s nothing. It was sad when I was an atheist. But I respect your view even though I don’t agree with it. And like you, I will not back down, but I will be bold in love. I hope you do the same.

He makes a lot of assumptions this creator. If we assumed that such a being existed why would we automatically conclude that he wanted us to live for him? Why? What purpose would that serve? Acting as if a conclusion is obvious is not actually an argument. Secondly, the bit about dying is just emotional appeal, whether or not I’m saddened by the possibility of my future non-existence is simply not relevant to the issue of truth.

I hope this letter allows us to talk, debate and search for truth in a loving manner, no matter our beliefs. My belief tells me to share the gospel, and I will. My belief tells me to do it in love, and I will. My belief tells me I will be hated because of it, and I am. I am to love others, but I am to hate sin. No matter if you are a liberal, atheist, pagan or even a fence-straddler, we all should try to be a respecter of persons. But my beliefs will never let me condone sin! I won’t get angry over your stance, and I ask that you don’t get angry over mine.

If the author really lived out his claim of respect then he would have no problem allowing those who disagree with him the same civil rights as everyone else. However, we have seen this author, in this very article, complain that the government no longer compels children in pubic schools to read the bible. For this reason, I have my doubts that the author and I have the same definition of respect. As for anger, I tend not to write angry on this blog because it hampers my ability to write clearly, but I don’t think it is inherently wrong to be angry about moral injustices. Indeed some things ought to make us angry, a person who demands respect for himself but only pays lip service to a claim to respect others, for instance.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mike Huckabee doesn’t understand ethics.

Huckabee is up in arms about the possibility that a brain dead patient may have their life support removed. According the the doctors the person died several weeks ago and the doctors have recommended removing life support since there is no chance of recovery once brain death has occurred.

He has this to say about it:

There is no such person who is disposable, one whose life has been deemed by others to be less than others and therefore expendable, I can’t share that.

The road that starts that way in deciding that some lives have less value and are unworthy of protection, that leads to a culture that tolerates the undeserved killing of over 55 million unborn children in this country. It leads to China’s birth policy that limits the number of children for a family and enforces forced abortion if they deviate from the state-determined ideal.

Now one could reasonably point out that this statement makes no sense in the context of this situation because the doctors aren’t disposing of a “person” since everything that made this girl a person, in any meaningful sense, disappeared once brain occurred.

However, I actually have another problem with this statement on a level that is more basic to the issue of human ethics. He implies that we cannot, as humans, ever treat one life as worth more than another. On the surface it seems somewhat reasonable, but let me provide a thought experiment. Let’s say that you come across two people and one of them is trying to murder the other, and further, the only way to stop the murder is to kill the one who is attempting to commit the murder. Would you consider it moral to kill in this circumstance? If the answer is yes then you have, in fact, taken the position that it is moral at least in some circumstances to value one life more than another. It’s one thing to argue that a particular instance of this is unwarranted for some reason but it is quite another to simply argue that we are never allowed to judge one life as preferential to another.

In truth, the only way to live consistently within the framework Huckabee proposes would be pacifism.  Which would make Huckabee, who has supported nearly every military engagement the U.S. has engaged in for the last several decades, massively hypocritical. Which brings us back to the original story. I imagine that even though the scientific information is clear on the matter of this persons brain death the family members probably still find making the choice to disconnect life support to be emotionally troubling. For Huckabee to interject his ill formed opinions, and create a public spectacle in the midst of this family's troubles in order to score points for his political agenda is unbelievably selfish and immoral.