Wednesday, June 3, 2015

When IS it the Fault of Religion?

One of the standard behaviors of religious zealots whenever some atrocity is performed in the name of their faith is to try and distance themselves from the criminals.  Christians bomb an abortion clinic?  Well, then you get the typical "they don't represent Christianity" and "no true Christian would do that!" and so on.  Muslim terrorists suicide-bomb a bus?  You hear the classic talk of "Islam is a religion of peace" and all the usual garbage.  It makes some sense that less criminally insane believers want to create some distance between themselves and the disgraces to humankind that commit endless atrocities in the name of religion.

From the outside, it is relatively easy to put the blame on religion for every crime its followers commit...  especially considering that most if not all such examples can be traced to actual screeds within their respective scriptures.  The most common defense, though, is to pretend those edicts aren't actually there and just focus on the good bits.  Does Christianity endorse slavery?  "Ummm...  uuuuhhh...  Love thy neighbor!"  What about murdering any and all dissenters?  "Uuuh....  Turn the other cheek!"  There are times, though, when the nastier bits aren't disavowed, of course, such as whenever LGBT matters come into play.  That's where religion is on the right track, of course.  Suuuuure.

Reza Aslan has frequently made the point that people put their own values into scripture rather than drawing from it.  He's technically right on this with regards to the more moderate majority, but I don't know if I would say that this is universally true.  More recently, he has been on the kick of saying that if we condemn religion for its harms, it is only fair to also credit religion for every good act done in the name of faith.  Well, to be fair, I would say that this form of the point, more than anything, elucidates that things can be a little more nuanced.  There is the famous quip by Steven Weinberg, that "with or without religion, you have have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."  But if people are actually just projecting their own values on religion, then where does religion come in in making the good do evil?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sorry, Billy; You're Living in a Dream World

Everyone's favorite and most annoying fideist, William Lane Craig, has once again trotted out one of his classically moronic and dishonest arguments.  He proclaims that atheism negates the existence of something which, in fact, doesn't exist, but according to him, is required to exist because it'd be really cool if it did.  Therefore, Christianity is true because it proclaims the existence of something really cool in his mind...  proving once again that his mind is something that he is clearly out of.

According to this insufferable clown, life has no meaning without the existence of a god because the absence of a god eliminates an everlasting reward which means that life has no meaning.  This is of course, argued on his part by defining "meaning" exactly as what he chooses it to be.  It's particularly interesting, because he's not just trying to make an argument against atheism, so much as he is trying to make an argument explicitly for the value of his flavor of Christianity as opposed to atheism.  A large part of this recent article rests on the notion that the immortal and eternal rewards (and likewise,  eternal consequences in the opposing condition) is the sole mechanism by which value can be ascribed to life.  Of course, he's wrong in every possible way, but more than any other reason, he's wrong because the Christian lens is the only lens through which he can peer.  His entire enterprise of Christian apologetics is incurably circular because all considerations he has any inclination to offer are couched exclusively in Christian terms.

So where to begin?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Theory of "Intelligent Valuation"

I reject the economic theory of inflation.  That's right.  I firmly believe deep in my heart that all currencies were created with their real values by intelligent valuators.  Inflationists will have you believe that real values of currencies have changed over time and that our modern reality is just the current state of that ever-transient change.  But were any of them there to see it happen?  These so-called economists will go so far as to suppress the teaching of Intelligent Valuation in schools so that our children will all be converted to their beliefs.  It's time that people learn that Inflationism isn't all it's cracked up to be.

In this post, I'll be highlighting the flaws that the inflationists don't want you to know.  I will be taking the method of tearing down a lot of the common arguments they spew and illustrating countless counterexamples to stand as evidence that intelligent valuation explains the reality better.  Sure, the inflationists will try to confuse you with all their talk of consumer price indices, Giffen goods, demand pull, and cost push.  They're all just ad hoc hypotheses that are built on the faith-based assumption that intelligent valuation can't be true.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

On the Fear of Being Wrong

Recently, the anti-vaccine crowd got a taste of reality with a series of necessarily preventable outbreaks that prove that they are a harmful crowd that stupidly denies science with the end result of causing death and disease.  In the microcosm of a single topic, these people are every bit as anti-science and anti-fact as evolution-denying religious cretins*, or anti-GMO nutters.  To be clear, I am not saying that these groups are equal when you generalize across the entire spectrum of science denial, as there are certain groups that reject more scientific principles than others do.  Rather, I'm saying that when you look at the characteristics of abject ignorance of the pertaining subjects, the outright rejection of the evidence, the intransigence with respect to their opponents (vividly illustrated by their preference to hurl accusations rather than actually form a cogent argument), and the apparent belief that their lies are more likely to be true if they're more extreme and terrifying... All of that is basically the same for every science denial movement.

In arguing against these sorts of reality-hating troglodytes, we're most likely to fight back with the real facts on the subject often times because those are the things that we as critical thinkers and rationalists would value most of all.  It is easy to forget, though, that a large part of the reason we do value such things is because we are critical thinkers to begin with, and for those who are not, it just doesn't have any major impact.  A science denier isn't denying it because he or she thinks the facts are really in question, but because he doesn't think something is a fact unless he agrees with it.  The science denier belongs to social groups that hold certain ideas to be beyond reproach, and so anything that dares to challenge that is automatically false 
because it doesn't fit what they already convinced themselves is known to be true.  The truth is a hard pill to swallow, and the most bitter truth of them all is the one that says you're wrong.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

On Violence Without Religion

In my Charlie Hebdo response entry, I posed the rhetorical question about the relative rate of violent retribution by people of a religious stripe and people for whom the axe on the grindstone is devoid of religion. Although that piece was mainly pointed at the standard arguments about Muslims who commit violence -- as the context was one involving Islamic terrorism -- the point itself is easily universalized to all religions that have a history of atrocities... Which is pretty much all of them that have been around for any considerable length of time.  Sure, the Raelians and the Baha'i have no such history to speak of, but they also haven't been around that long compared to the likes of the Abrahamic faiths.

In any case, almost like clockwork, the attack at UNC in which 3 Muslims were killed by an atheist. The official statement indicates that this act of violence was over a matter of a parking dispute.  Of course, while it is true that murders in this country have happened over even more trivial things, I find it far more likely that the parking dispute was little more than the last straw.  I and the whole of the atheist community can condemn this all we want -- and of course, we do -- but I also feel like it provides little value to do so.  No more than it is meaningful for Muslims to come out and condemn the Charlie Hebdo attacks.  It's a perfectly nice thing to hear, and I'm sure we all care about this sort of thing in the sense of assurance that not every Muslim is Anjem Choudary nor every Christian is Fred Phelps, but anyone can say words.  It doesn't really change what happened.  Rather, what I would like to address is the cultural backdrop behind these sorts of events, as I feel this sort of discussion is more meaningful in exploring what could prevent future occurrences of such an outcome.