The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Friday, December 31, 2010

Dumb Theistic Argument of the Week

double face palmIn response to my contention that the law Yahweh provided was ludicrously inadequate and was in fact highly immoral, Anonymous responded thus:

"God provides laws regulating everything when no laws existed, do you get the point? No laws were there which could say that one action was better than another. Making laws established parity for the behavior of the people he was going to send many more prophets to. This is an example of God teaching men proper behavior piece by piece, not suggesting slavery is not objectively immoral, but that humanity had to be brought to a point where they could accept and live with the knowledge that it was so."

This statement is mind bogglingly ignorant and counterfactual on almost every single level.

1.  "God provides laws regulating everything when no laws existed, do you get the point?"  Apparently I don't get the point...  As a threshold matter, let's dispense with the ludicrous contention that no laws existed.  The Mosaic Law was developed somewhere between 700 and 800 BCE.  In contrast, the Code of Ur-Nammu was codified somewhere around 2050 BCE, the Laws of Eshunna somewhere around 1930 BCE, Codex of Lipit Ishtar somewhere around 1870 BCE, the Code of Hammurabi somewhere around 1750 BCE.  This does not even include other codes of laws extant in the Far East.  In other words, far from the Mosaic Law simply coming into being 'when no laws existed,' the Mosaic Law was actually merely a restatement of codified legal codes that had been in existence throughout the Middle East for over a thousand years.  Indeed, much of Mosaic Law was copied directly from the Code of Hammurabi.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Can We Please Stop Talking About Atheists' Tone?

Our tone does not matter.

Our tone is not the issue.

Our tone is irrelevant.

Our tone is nothing but a meaningless distraction, a red herring, a means of dodging the simple fact that when theists engage in substantive discussions they lose.

Theists lose on the facts.  And they know it.

When we talk about cosmology, they dither and quibble and retreat to furious hand wringing and meaningless talking points about vague unknown and unknowable first causes.  When we talk about biology, they pull the same trick, repeatedly returning to the God of the Gaps.  When we talk about morality, they mumble about Hitler, Stalin and Mao, completely ignoring the fact that their alleged atheism had about as much to do with their megalomania as the presence of a Y Chromosome while denying all responsibility for the countless horrors perpetrated in the name of religion and glossing over the fact that incredibly secular countries are deeply stable and are actually living the moral life theists like to preach about.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Society Just Doesn't Need Religion to be Moral

One of the most common complaints theists make regarding atheism is the alleged amorality of atheists. This mirrors the common misconception that atheism is either equivalent to or at least a kissing cousin of nihilism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The genesis of this allegation is the notion that human morality is dependent upon the existence of and adherence to a system of morality mandated by the divine. The obvious utility of this allegation is that it means that religion, all religion, is necessary to prevent humanity from descending into the Hobbesian nightmare of the eternal war of all against all.

But is it obvious that human morality can exist only within the confines of an externally mandated system of divine rewards and punishments?  Is a divine code of conduct necessary for human morality?  This canards is not only patently ridiculous, but demonstrably against the weight of the evidence of the entirety of human history.

As a threshold matter, the idea that human morality is dependent upon a divine code of conduct depends first and foremost upon agreement as to the basic tenets of what that code of conduct IS. It should first be noted that over the course of human civilization innumerable human religions that have waxed and waned.  More importantly, those innumerable faiths do not possess any overall consensus as to what code of morality the divine actually intends for us to follow.  Indeed, nearly all express not only skepticism regarding the morality of other faiths, but outright condemn those who practice them.  Given that supposed moral exclusivity, one would assume that within a given religion, at least, that code of morality would be as unchanging as the eternal divinity it purportedly represents.  Even within a single religion, however, that code of conduct, that supposedly unchanging moral code has shifted over the millennia.

To be blunt, the written code of conduct and ethics that dominated each of the Abrahamaic religions is incredibly barbaric.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Faith Is Incompatible With Humility And Intellectual Shame

One of the most fascinating thing about debates with theists is the way in which every single argument, every single piece of contradictory evidence, every fact that illustrates the folly or impossibility of a specific belief can be blithely ignored without the slightest hint of humility or intellectual shame.

No matter how well crafted the argument, no matter how sound the logic, no matter how compelling the evidence and no matter how reasonable the tone, Faith, as discussed here, is utterly impervious to reason.  Faith cannot be reasoned with because Faith is fundamentally incompatible with reason.

More troubling, Faith seems wholly incompatible with either humility or shame.

Faith is the mechanism by which a believer can convince themselves that they are right no matter how manifestly and demonstrably wrong they actually are - no matter how ridiculous their belief.  Faith is an intellectual temper tantrum, a purely emotional insistence that the believer is right no matter what - and no evidence to the contrary will ever be considered.  Few human attributes demonstrate a more profound and overwhelming arrogance than Faith.

The Faithful are incapable of shame.  Normally, when human beings are presented with compelling evidence that their position is incorrect, there is a certain degree of intellectual shame accompanying that realization.  The Faithful have no such problem, they simply deny the evidence or claim that the absence of evidence is merely proof that absolute knowledge is impossible.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Theists Like Their Gods Small

Theists should be overjoyed at the scientific advances of the last 500 years.  They should be ecstatic at the wondrous ways in which science has enlarged the scope of our Universe, uncovered the marvelous complexity of the cosmos, revealed the mechanisms by which our atoms are forged, and detailed the fantastic intricacies of living organisms.  Science has given us an amazing understanding of the physical, chemical, geological, and biological wonders that fill our Universe, understandings that dramatically increase the size, scale and beauty of our world and the Cosmos.
Theists should be filled with awe at the vastness, scope, breadth and age of our Universe and the ways in which it vastly exceeds the wildest imaginings of our ancient ancestors.  Theists should be in love with science for so dramatically increasing the awe inspiring size, scope and nature of the Universe over which their god is supposedly sovereign.

Instead, theists despise science.  They despise what it has revealed about the size of the Universe, the age of the Universe, the age of our planet.  They actively fight against the majesty and age of the Universe.  The despise it because theists are desperate to keep god small, to keep god manageable.  Theists are FAR more comfortable with a petty god, a small god, a parochial god because such a deity allows US to feel important.  Special.  Chosen.

The ancients clearly believed that humans were special, were chosen.  They believed this because they had no understanding of the size and scope of the tiny planet they inhabited, let alone the Universe they lived in.  The ancients believed that Earth was the center of the Universe, that the sun orbited around it and that the stars were merely fixed scenery.  In that kind of Universe, the preeminence of humanity was clear, uncontested.  It was in that kind of Universe that the tiny gods of old were forged, gods who actively discriminated between groups and tribes based on petty liturgical or doctrinal distinctions.  In that kind of Universe, god is merely a few existential steps above humanity, god of the solar system.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why is Blasphemy the ONLY Unforgivable Sin?

"Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin."  Mark 3:28-29

"And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."  Matthew 12:30-32

Of all the vile, despicable, wretched, evil acts that humankind can commit, murder, rape, torture, slavery, genocide, child abuse, why exactly is Blasphemy considered the ONLY unforgivable sin?

Why exactly is it that out of all the horrible ACTIONS that humans can commit, only WORDS are considered unforgivable.


Is God really so thin skinned?  So petty?  So easily insulted?  I seem to recall a phrase from my youth 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.'  Clearly this phrase does not apply to our allegedly all powerful Creator.  Our thin skinned, whimpering, blubbering Creator is so deeply wounded that merely denying His existence or doubting the magics of his allegedly annointed one is the ONE unforgivable sin.
  • Murder your fellow man?  No problem.  Just believe and you'll be forgiven.
  • Rape a woman?  No problem.  Just believe and you'll be forgiven.
  • Rape a child?  No problem.  Just believe and you'll be forgiven.
  • Torture a child?  No problem.  Just believe and you'll be forgiven.
  • Slaughter an entire people?  No problem.  Just believe and you'll be forgiven.
  • Enslave an entire populations?  No problem.  Just believe and you'll be forgiven.
  • Deny God's existence?  Deny that Jesus' 'magics' were the work of the Holy Spirit?  UNFORGIVABLE!!!  YOU ARE DAMNED FOR ALL ETERNITY AND NO AMOUNT OF BELIEF OR PRAYER WILL SAVE YOU FROM GOD'S WRATH!!!
Why exactly is blasphemy the ONE unforgivable sin?  Easy.


Religion is and always has been about control.  About subjugation.  About dominance.  Nothing is better at quashing dissent than claiming that the very act of dissent is a one way ticket to eternal torment and damnation.  This doctrine cleverly nips dissent in the bud, because not only is dissent a sin, it is UNFORGIVABLE, which means merely dabbling in dissent, perhaps even thinking about it could unalterably destroy any chance you have at salvation.

Christianity is and always has trafficked in fear.  Blasphemy is the ONLY unforgivable sin because the one thing that Christianity itself has always feared is dissent.

Update:  I am well aware that it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, however, the three are one and the same.  It's your trinitarian gobbledygook, not mine.

The Uselessness of Prayer

We are creatures who crave causation. We see an effect and we look for a cause. Unlike any other creature, our intelligence leads us to the inescapable conclusion that when something happens, something else must have caused it to happen. While this is one of the hallmarks of our intelligence, it often leads to erroneous conclusions, and gross misattributions especially when the effects which we are attempting to explain have multiple causes, or whose causes are not readily apparent.  Nothing illustrates our tendency to misattribute cause than the belief in the efficacy of prayer.

We crave causation because it provides us with the illusion that if we can control the cause, we can control the outcome. The idea of an interventionist deity is the ultimate expression of this primal craving for a knowable causation. Early humans had little to no understanding of the underlying mechanics of the world they inhabited. The idea that the landforms they walked were the result of complex geological and hydrological processes operating over billions of years would have been utterly unfathomable to an early human. The idea that the weather that battered or blessed their crops arose due to the complex interplay between those landforms and thermal, pressure and humidity gradients that are themselves driven by the sun's influence on atmospheric and oceanic conditions would have been incomprehensible. Early humans could see the effect of weather, could even track the budding symptoms of weather to come, but utterly lacked any knowledge of the cause.

Gods were a simple answer to an unimaginably complex set of questions. Why did the weather do what it did? Why does the sea do what it does? Because the gods are angry or benevolent or a million other human emotions. By assigning human emotions to the divine and by then assigning those emotions to some physical manifestation, that primordial craving for an underlying cause is satisfied. More importantly, if these physical manifestations can be explained by some divine emotional state, it places complex physical systems under human control, because if we could somehow alter the emotional state of the divine, placate it through prayer, meditation, sacrifice, or otherwise, we can ultimately exert control over our physical environment. And so throughout human history, men have prayed, meditated, pleaded and sacrificed in the hopes of exerting control over the physical world by appealing to the fickle emotions of a million different divinities.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Hubble Telescope - Atheism's Greatest Weapon

If Dinosaurs are atheism's gateway drug, then Astronomy is almost certainly atheism's crack cocaine.

While Dinosaurs let me in on the secret that the Bible could be wrong, Astronomy convinced me that God almost certainly didn't exist.

Dinosaurs showed me how incredibly old and unbelievably ancient our world was.  Astronomy showed me how unfathomably small and utterly insignificant we are in the cosmos.

The image to the right - the Hubble Ultra Deep Field - is an image of a patch of the night sky the size of a grain of sand held out at arms length that appears to be completely empty.  In that almost microscopic patch of sky, Hubble was able to capture images of thousands of galaxies.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Because what the Government TOTALLY Needs is people Speaking in Tongues

Wow... There really aren't words to describe this. It must be watched.  I'm certainly glad that this Woman's God is going to be interfering in the Democratic process because our Government totally needs people like this in power...  Just wow...  Is it any wonder that we demolish these people whenever we debate them?

So Long DADT! Religious Bigotry Gets a Richly Deserved Kick in the Crotch

The final repeal of DADT is now a foregone conclusion.  With a cloture vote of 66-33, the repeal is no longer in question.  It will happen today.  Almost certainly within the hour.

And with the repeal of DADT, one more vestige of religious bigotry will come crashing down.

DADT is, was, and always has been grossly inequitable.  It deprived American citizens of a central right on the basis of immutable characteristics based solely on bigotry, religious hatred, intolerance, ignorance and Christian asshattery.

If you doubt for even a moment that the oppression and denial of equality for homosexuals is motivated by nothing but the basest and crassest forms of religious bigotry, I invite you to visit a few of the nauseating links above.  There is not and has never been any rational reason to deny homosexuals the right to serve in the military.  Indeed, the SOLE reason this oppression has been allowed to stand is because of the tireless efforts of religious bigots.

Let the following names be remembered by history as the bigoted douchebags they are:

John McCain - Baptist
Mitch McConnell - Baptist
Richard Shelby - Presbyterian
John Kyl - Presbyterian
Jeff Sessions - Methodist
George Lemieux - Roman Catholic
Saxby Chambliss - Episcopalian
Johnny Isakson - Methodist
Mike Crapo - Mormon
Jim Risch - Roman Catholic
Chuck Grassley - Baptist
Sam Brownback - Roman Catholic
Pat Roberts - Methodist
Jim Bunning - Roman Catholic
David Vitter - Roman Catholic
Thad Cochran - Baptist
Roger Wicker - Southern Baptist
Kit Bond - Presbyterian
Mike Johanns - Roman Catholic
Judd Gregg - Congregationalist
Jim Inhofe - Presbyterian
Tom Coburn - Baptist
Lindsey Graham - Southern Baptist
Jim DeMint - Persbyterian
John Thune - Evangelical Christian
Lamar Alexander - Presbyterian
Bob Corker - Presbyterian
John Cornyn - Church of Christ
Orrin Hatch - Mormon
Robert Foster Bennett - Mormon
Mike Enzi - Presbyterian

And let it be known that in the end, the bigoted, regressive, intolerant, assholes listed above were not enough to prevent rationality, reason, equality and justice from prevailing.

So congratulations to all you guys in the LGBT community!  Congratulations on delivering a swift kick in the crotch to Christian bigotry.  You guys (and gals) have deserved this for a long time.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Does Atheism Matter?

It has been brought to my attention that I am somewhat preachy. This does not exactly come as a surprise since I have been preachy my whole life, but I have been told that I have become 'preachy,' preachy in recent years.

And I suppose that is true. I have become preachy. I like talking about atheism. I like thinking about it. Because I believe that we have something important to contribute - a perspective deserving of consideration and worthy of discussion. A perspective and point of view that has been marginalized and demonized or completely ignored for far too long.

Atheism matters. It matters despite the utterly inane and substance free babbling of Mark Jeddry's Huffington Post article. It matters because large swaths of our domestic policy and foreign policy are heavily influenced by religious dogma that is patently ridiculous and incredibly harmful. Indeed, many of our most pressing national security and foreign policy problems stem directly from Religion.

It matters because Religion is holding us back and exacerbating our problems.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

For God So Loved The World...

  1. He condemned an entire species to death and endless torment for all eternity because two people who didn't even know the difference between right and wrong were tricked by a talking snake that He put in the Garden into eating forbidden fruit that He also put in the Garden.  Gen. 3:17-21
  2. He drowned the entire globe because a handful of city states in the Middle East were insufficiently worshipful.  Gen. 6:5-8, 17
  3. He nuked two entire cities, killing every man, woman and child within for the sins of a few.  Gen. 19:23-28
  4. He became jealous and enraged at what He believed humans could accomplish with one language so he made it so that humans could no longer understand one another.  Gen. 11:5-8
  5. He demanded that his most faithful servant sacrifice his own son.  Gen. 22:2
  6. He delivered his Chosen people to the Egyptians who enslaved them, allowed them to be cruelly oppressed for generations, then hardened Pharaoh's heart and made him refuse to release His Chosen so He could glorify himself by slaughtering the first born children of an entire civilization.  Ex. 1:8-14, Ex 10:25-27, Ex. 11:9-10, Ex 12:29-30
  7. He ordered the slaughter of 3000 of his Chosen people and plagued the rest because a handful decided to worship Him in a way he found displeasing.  Ex. 32:27-29, 35
  8. He expressly endorses sex slavery for his Chosen people and just regular plain vanilla chattel slavery for foreigners.  Ex. 21:7-11, Lev: 25:44-46
  9. He demanded the genocide of the Amalekites 1 Sam. 15:2-3, slaughtered the Amorites, Hittites, Caananites, Jebusites, Hivites, Perizzites, Exodus 23:23, and simultaneously demanded that the Israelites break three of His Commandments - Coveting Neighbors Land, Stealing Neighbors Land, and Murdering to Steal Neighbor's Land.
  10. And He promises that He will return and destroy the world again, pouring out his wrath and judgment against all mankind and destroying all that He has created in the process.  Rev. 8:6-13, Rev. 9:1-6
See!  See how loving he is!  He's positively oozing love.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Insufficient Salvation

I was terrified of Hell as a child.  The concept filled me with dread.  As a six year old, I actually lay in bed for long hours while my mind raced in circles about the terrors that I was certain awaited me.  On at least two occasions I even had to seek consolation from my parents in the middle of the night.
I was told that I didn't have to worry about Hell because of Jesus' sacrifice, that because of his crucifixion and resurrection I didn't need to be afraid of death or Hell.  That Jesus' grace was sufficient.

Unfortunately, I was not convinced.  The explanation made no sense to me.  Jesus' crucifixion seemed totally unrelated to me.  Totally insufficient.  What did Jesus getting crucified have to do with my egregious sins of stealing cookies or disobeying the babysitter?  Why would punishing Jesus wash my sin away?  Why would God be satisfied with punishing the wrong person?

Even as a child the concept of Jesus' sacrifice made no sense to me.  How would punishing an innocent person, killing them, make anything better?  The entire idea was ludicrous.  Punishing an innocent person did not, in my mind, resolve the problem of sin, it compounded it.

Jesus' sacrifice did not diminish my fear of hell, or my certainty that I would be damned for all eternity.  When I raised this issue a handful of times in Sunday School, I was pointed to God's love of animal sacrifice and how the sacrifice of animals as atonement of sin was prefiguring Jesus' perfect sacrifice, but this explanation didn't make any sense either.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dungeons and Dragons vs. Church

Is there any substantive difference between a weekly gathering of Dungeons and Dragons geeks and Church?

Let's find out!
  1. Does the weekly gathering involve getting together with close friends?
  2. Is the weekly gathering facilitated by one member who guides the discussion?
  3. Does the weekly gathering involve the use of a core group of dense and inscrutable books?
  4. Do the inscrutable books require multiple guides, addenda, compendia, rulebooks and explanations to facilitate understanding of the central books?
  5. Do some members of the weekly gathering support an extremely literal interpretation of the core rulebooks while other members advocate a more liberal and lax understanding of their tenets?
  6. Do the people in your gathering use arcane terms and strange sayings that an outsider would find odd?
  7. Does the weekly gathering involve 'serious' and occasionally intense discussions of invisible and/or magical beings?
  8. Do the people in your group pretend that they are involved in an epic struggle of good against evil?
  9. Does the group's epic struggle of good against evil involve magic and invisible beings, demons and spirits?
  10. Do the people at your weekly gathering actually believe that the magical beings and epic struggle you discuss are real?

If you answered 'Yes' to 9 out of 10, then your geekly gathering is called Dungeons and Dragons.
If you answered 'Yes' to 10 out of 10 then your weekly gathering is called Church.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dinosaurs - Atheism's Gateway Drug

Dinosaurs are perhaps the most dangerous and implacable enemy that Theists have ever faced.  Which is ironic given the fact that (non-avian) Dinosaurs have been extinct for almost 60,000,000 years.

I love Dinosaurs - I find them to be one of the most incredible groups of organisms to ever walk this planet.  Their size, their ferocious appearance and their incredible collective longevity literally dwarfs our own.  But while I love Dinosaurs today, as a child, I loved Dinosaurs.  I was obsessed with Dinosaurs.  I drew Dinosaurs.  I made models of Dinosaurs.  I read about them constantly.  I could tell you how long a Diplodocus was from snout to tail.  I could tell you how much an Ankylosaur weighed.  I could even tell you which time period most of them lived in.

So it was unsurprising that my first ever conflict with the Church arose out of my love of Dinosaurs.  During Sunday School, the teacher walked up to the blackboard and drew a circle on it, then scribbled in some hasty continents.  "How old is the Earth?"  He asked.  Even at the age of six I was something of a know it all.  "Four Billion Years Old," was my immediate reply.

"No.  The Earth is 6000 years old."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Theists are to Atheist Websites as 'Straight Guys' are to Gay Websites

Come on Theists, just admit it, you're a little curious.  We know it.  You know it.  You wouldn't be here otherwise.

Just come out and admit it.  It's okay.  We're not bad... not really.  ;)  If you're a Theist and are spending time lurking on /r/atheism or Pharyngula or Debunking Christianity or any of the other Atheist websites out there, you're almost one of us already.  If you're a Theist and are spending time actually COMMENTING on Atheist websites, you're just a half step away from being a full fledged baby-eating scourge of humanity.

It's okay Theists.  We were there once too.  We understand.  Sure it started with a little harmless curiosity or unwarranted bravado.  It started because you wanted to show us how evil we are.  Or you were just curious.  But eventually you found yourself sucked in.  You found yourself on the losing side of arguments and couldn't figure out why, or you found yourself challenged in ways you hadn't experienced before.

It may have started with harmless curiosity, but soon you'll be longing for more than just the cheap thrill of vicarious blasphemy - soon you'll want to taste it for yourself.  Soon you'll be reading Dawkins or Dennett or Harris or Hitchens.  Eventually you'll find yourself in explicit atheist chatrooms.  Then you'll be visiting atheist bars and clubs.  If you're a Senator, you might find yourself tapping out atheist code in a Minneapolis Airport Restroom.  Just out of curiosity, of course.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My New Hero

Brilliant answers...  I wish I had a TV show.  I'm pretty enough.

Liberal Christianity = Form Without Substance

Liberal Christians are slippery beasts.  So slippery, that it is incredibly difficult to discern what, tenets of Christianity, they actually believe.  Of if they believe any of them at all.  Trying to pin down a Liberal Christian on any tenet of theology is like catching a receding wave.

Where a literal fundamentalist will always stand their ground, loudly and proudly declaring that the Bible is literally true and any evidence to the contrary is wrong, the Liberal Christian will almost always concede that the no, Bible is not literally true . . . with the small caveat that there may be truth in it.  In fact, when pressed on almost any theological tenet, the Liberal Christian will concede, with a small caveat.  Always with a small caveat.  Liberal Christians LOVE small caveats.

Indeed, the Liberal Christian's primary theological attribute appears to be reflexive equivocation and disdain for certainty.  Liberal Christians HATE certainty.  They despise it in all of its forms, equating  certainty with fundamentalism, with radicalism, with militancy.  It appears to be the only consistent component of their theology.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Ten Commandments - Mostly Useless

Moses Smashing the Tables

The Ten Commandments are mostly worthless.

God botherers like Roy Moore and Representative Lynn Westmoreland R-GA love the Ten Commandments.  Westmoreland and Moore love them so much that they demand they be displayed in every public building because they "provide the moral and legal foundation for our civilization" and "without them we would lose our sense of direction."  Of these ten foundational, imperative, paramount moral and legal principles, Westmoreland was able to name three.

The truth is that the Ten Commandments are mostly useless and serve no moral or legal purpose whatsoever.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yahweh's Insatiable Bloodlust - NSFW

For all of Yahweh's alleged interest in kindness and love and peace, if one actually takes the time to read the Bible it is clear that there is one thing above all that really gets Yahweh's motor running - ritual slaughter.  Reading the Old Testament, it is readily apparent that Yahweh LOVES watching humans dismember, disembowel and decapitate helpless animals.  Smelling them smear the blood all over themselves, various altars and other animals.  Yahweh spends literally hundreds of verses describing EXACTLY how to engage in ritual slaughter.  How to slaughter, flay, and splash, splatter and smear the blood of bulls.  Lev 1:3-9.  How and where to kill goats and sheep and how to decorate god's alter with its blood and entrails.  Lev 1:10-13.  How to tear the heads off of doves and dribble their blood all over the alter and burn the whole lot.  Lev 14-17.  How to separate the fat, liver and kidneys as a sign of fellowship.  Lev 3:1-16.  How ONLY God is allowed to eat the fat and blood.  Lev 3:17.  How you are to dip your fingers in the blood, sprinkle it seven times and smear it all over the horns and alter and then pour the rest of the blood out at the base of God's altar.  Lev. 4:1-12

The Bible describes Yahweh's lust for blood in excruciating detail.  Indeed, Yahweh spends more time describing the exact process to be utilized for ritualistic slaughter than he spends on almost any other subject in the whole Bible - far more than he spends discussing peace or love or compassion. 

Fine Tuning – Mildly Sophisticated Theological Bullshit

The idea behind a finely tuned Universe boils down to the idea that if the fundamental physical constants in the Universe, Gravity, Electromagnetism, Strong and Weak Nuclear Force, etc., were slightly different, then chemistry and physics as we understand them would be radically different and the formation of life as we know it would be impossible.  Given the fact that we know that life exists, the Universe must have been designed (finely tuned) to facilitate the formation of life.

In essence, the concept of the finely tuned Universe is the following syllogism:

1.  It is exceedingly unlikely that life should exist and if physical constants were even slightly different, then life would not exist at all.
2.  Life exists.
3.  Therefore, since life exists, the Universe must have been designed in such a way as to facilitate life.

Theologians absolutely love the concept of the Fine Tuned Universe.  I suspect the reason so many love it so fervently is not because it has any substantive logical or philosophical merit, but because for once it allows theologians to throw around really big cosmological numbers and the argument sounds good to those who don't have a strong grasp of logic.  Under normal circumstances, it is atheists like me who get to talk about billions and billions of years and nonillions of chemical compounds reacting over hundreds of millions of years and sextillions of stars in the observable Universe.  When theologians talk about the Finely Tuned Universe, they finally get to toss those big probabalistic numbers around like hand grenades.  They get to talk about the unlikelihood of star formation if the strong nuclear force was less and use really big numbers to discuss the odds and throw out numbers like a 1 with a billion zeros.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Do Theists Really Believe Their Sacred Texts?

Thanks to the wonders of searchable databases, locating specific provisions of the seminal religious texts has never proven easier.  In fact, I think it can be safely said that Google is probably the single greatest enemy that Religion has ever seen.  Forget atheists - Google is the Great Satan.

What used to be a cumbersome task requiring a Concordance is now the work of a few minutes at a computer.  As a result, building an explicit textual case against Biblical Morality, or against Yahweh or Allah as the Greatest Conceivable Being has never been easier.  These seminal religious texts explicitly endorse slavery and describe in tooth grinding detail how to purchase slaves, how you should beat them, when you can beat them, etc.  These seminal religious texts explicitly advocate for invasion, occupation, genocide, murder.  In many instances, God himself directly intervenes and kills scores of innocents.  At other times he merely orders his followers to do so.  Moreover, God, the supposed fount of unconditional love and forgiveness, is more than willing to condemn humans to ETERNAL torture over a few measly decades of rejection.  The text is jarringly clear on these specific points.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Atheism 108 - We Have Better Answers Than 'God Did It'

God did it.  God can do anything.

It's the ultimate cop out.  The ultimate non-answer.  The ultimate trump card.

Whenever Religionists are losing an argument or are presented with any complex question that is unanswerable within the confines of their preferred sacred text, God's alleged omnipotence is always the default fallback position.  Always.  Given the fact that their allegedly omnipotent God can do ANYTHING, it doesn't matter how absurd, how nonsensical or how illogical their position actually is, God can do it anyway.

Perhaps the most vexing aspect of this non-answer, however, is that Religionists always present it as if it is definitive, as if they KNOW that God did it.  They present it as if it is somehow a meaningful, substantive answer.  There is an arrogant certainty in this non-answer that persists no matter how ridiculous and absurd their position actually is.

No geological or paleontological evidence of a global flood?  No problem - God simply covered his tracks and destroyed all evidence of his intervention. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Atheism 107 - Leprechauns! Just as Real as God!

One of the most common lines of 'argument' employed by Religionists is a logical fallacy called Disproving the Negative.  What is ironic is that Religionists actually HATE this 'argument' when employed in the service of anything but their chosen imaginary sky being - mainly because it illustrates how incredibly silly the whole artifice is.  The problem with this line of 'argument' is that it isn't an argument at all.  It takes place in the fact and evidence and common sense free realm of Faith.  A realm where invisible and unknowable faeries with magical powers who deliberately conceal their presence to make it look like everything is a natural occurrence to everyone who isn't predisposed to believing in them is treated as a perfectly logical and reasonable conclusion.

The only way I have found to deal with this argument is to use it in exactly the same way they do.  This is how you can prove the existence of the his Noodliness the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Invisible Pink Unicorns and my personal favorite, those mischevious little bastards known as Leprechauns.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dear Anonymous Religionist Douchebags - Why So Angry?

I never had any formal plans to address the death threats I receive on a daily basis from anonymous commenters and emailers, but the cowardly, craven, gutless, fucktards have finally hit me on a bad day.

Normally I just assume that random death threats from impotent losers living in their parents basements just means that I'm doing my job.  I'm an atheist blogger.  I get it.  I write about something many, many people find deeply distasteful.  Receiving violent, hateful email from pathetic cowards who lack the intellectual or moral integrity to actually engage other human beings goes with the territory.

But I just have to ask - Why so angry?

I have received 11 death threats today.  What terrible, controversial, existence threatening post did I write?

I asked for advice from atheists on how to deal respectfully with religious family members due to the fact that my grandmother died today.

Dealing with Death

My Grandma died today.

Memories are a strange thing...  So many things I hadn't thought about forever are suddenly at the forefront of my mind.

The Fourth of July.  Every year we spent the Fourth of July at Grandma's house - an all day family BBQ on the Columbia River culminating in watching the big fireworks display across the river.  I always tried to steal Grandma's rocking chair.

Birthday slumber parties.  Every year from about 5 through 8 I would spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa's.  And in the morning, we would eat breakfast at Waddles and go to the mall where I would get to pick out a present.

Grandma was a great lady.  She raised some pretty great kids and got to see her grandchildren.  I'm glad I got to know her.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So, God 'Rescued' The Chilean Miners, But Apparently Couldn't Be Bothered to Help The Miners Trapped in New Zealand?

On October 13, 2010, 33 miners in Chile were rescued after 70 days trapped underground.  Their rescue was hailed as a 'miracle' with churches and Faiths competing to claim 'credit' for the 'miracle.'

On November 24, 2010, a little over a month later, 29 miners in New Zealand are presumed dead after a second explosion deep in the mine shifted efforts from 'rescue' to 'recovery.'

While God's alleged intervention in the 'miraculous' Chilean mining rescue was widely hailed and cited by even secular media, God's lack of intervention in the New Zealand tragedy receives strikingly different coverage.  Why does God hate New Zealand?  Why did he not intervene to help those in the exact same circumstances as those in Chile?  Did they not pray hard enough?  Did they churches not work hard enough to curry God's favor?  What did New Zealand do wrong?

If those questions sound insulting, good.  They SHOULD sound insulting.  Because the idea that those poor men in New Zealand did anything to deserve abandonment by God, or that their lives were sacrificed for God's glory or any other religious nonsense is likely cold comfort to a woman who has lost a husband or a child who has lost a father.  The very idea is despicable.

Monty Python and Jeff's Third Step to Atheism

Monty Python was the tipping point.

Specifically, a double feature of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python and the Life of Brian.

The fact that I was able to watch those movies and be able to have both my Christian sensibilities offended, but find myself laughing anyway completely destroyed the Church for me.  The culmination of nearly two years of increasing skepticism.

Humor was able to decimate my Faith based defenses in a way cold facts and argumentation could not.  It enabled me to look at the Church and laugh.  I had never done that before.  Ever.  And once I could laugh, once I could look at Religion generally and laugh at how ridiculous it all was, the battle was over. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

But Mom, Church Friends Are Losers! Jeff's Second Step Towards Atheism

Upon the astounding realization that swearing would not result in swift and immediate divine retribution, a world was opened up to me.  A world of swearing.  The world of swearing was intoxicating.  For the first time in my life I was doing something bad(ish) and rebellious(ish).

My swear hadn't arisen in a vacuum, of course.  My family had just recently moved to the Suburbs.  Which meant that we had left our old church behind.  All of my friends in grade school had been church friends, so I genuinely looked forward to going on Sundays because it meant I got to spend time with them outside of school too.  No longer.

After we moved, we had to find a new church.  It took a while to find one, so for six months or so we bummed around various churches, feeling them out.  I went to Sunday School, but was for all intents and purposes, a complete outsider.  A 'visiting' kid.  I never felt any connection with any of these strange cultish weirdos.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I Made a Swear! Jeff's First Step Towards Atheism

Strangely, my path to the dark side of the force began not with tragedy, but with comedy.  Humor had a way of breaching my fundamentalist fortifications more effectively than any rational argument ever could have.  For most of my young adult life, I accepted the tenets of Christianity without question.  It wasn't something I really thought about, wasn't something I actively considered, it was simply the social milieu in which we moved.  Had you asked me then, was Jesus real?  I would have responded 'hell yeah' and then felt bad for thinking 'hell.'  Because, you know, you just don't say 'he--.'  'Or Jeez.'  It just wasn't done.

He--, I remember the first time I ever heard my mom say 'A--.'  I was ten years old.  And our neighbor's drug house had just been set on fire.  That's just the kind of family we were.  So how did I get here?  How did I become a baby-eating, morally depraved, vile, evil and probably fascistic atheist?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Really Fox? REALLY?

This headline might as well read "Child has vivid imagination."

And Jesus has Sea Blue Eyes? Really?


Courtesy of New Humanist Blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Atheism 106 - How We Win

It is hard to lose an argument as an atheist.  We have so many facts and lines of evidence from so many varied fields that it is a relatively simple task to demolish the efficacy of bronze age fairy tales.  An atheist armed with a reasonable grasp of biology, geology, cosmology, palentology can almost always trounce any Religionist in any sort of online forum or organized debate.

So why is it that so many discussions with Religionists feel so futile?

If you have ever engaged in a discussion with a Religionist, I am sure you know this feeling all too well.  The feeling that you have expertly smashed every argument made in favor of the inerrancy of their sacred text, demolished the efficacy of prayer, pointed out the logical fallacies and internal inconsistencies in their God propositions, but the Religionist refuses to concede a single point. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Atheism 105 - Religionist's Favorite Logical Fallacies

Whenever an atheist engages in any manner of discussion with Religionists regarding questions of Faith, the efficacy of prayer, the nature of God, the existence of God, the inerrancy of some sacred text, there are certain incredibly annoying arguments and 'points' that the Religionist will make over and over and over again.  The vast majority of these points are logical fallacies.  While Religionists employ nearly every logical fallacy known to humankind, here are a few that are used most frequently.

Bare Assertion Fallacy - The bare assertion fallacy is essentially a claim that X says A.  X claims that X is true.  Therefore A is true.  This fallacy is used most commonly when Religionists seek to defend one sacred text or another.  The Quran says A.  The Quran says that the Quran is the Word of God and is never wrong.  Therefore A is true.  This is, of course, a complete and utter joke.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Atheism 104 - Christian Privilege

Rule No. 1.  You do not talk about Atheism.
Rule No. 2.  You do not talk about Atheism.

One of the things that you have to get used to as an Atheist is the fact that if you ever speak about Atheism you are automatically being confrontational, militant, aggressive, harsh, nasty, rude, disrespectful, etc.  An Atheist speaking is ipso facto insluting and degrading to everyone around them.

Of course the reverse is never, ever true.  Religionists have been actively conquering countries, forcing conversion, actively proselytizing, knocking on doors and haranguing passers by for millenia, but those activities are never, ever, aggressive or militant or confrontational or disrespectful.  Becuase Religionists generally, and Christians in the United States specifically, are entitled to Christian Privilege.

Change I Can Believe In! - Part 1

Our country requires a vision. A plan. A set of goals and ideals to guide us into the future. Our political system has become obsessed not with governance, but with power, with obtaining power and maintaining power. Our entire political process has become rudderless and lost. The two parties spend more time and political capital calculating how to humble and humiliate political opponents and how to maintain power than they spend actually wielding that power.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Atheism 103 - Testing the Claims of Sacred Texts

Theists like to claim that God lies beyond the realm of science, that God's existence cannot be empirically tested, deduced or analyzed.  This is clearly false.

Either God exists or he does not.  If God does not exist, then (obviously) his existence cannot be empirically tested, deduced or analyzed.  Assuming God does exist, then he either interacts with the Universe that we inhabit or he does not.  If God does not interact with the Universe, then his presence is meaningless and prayers, incantations, sacrifices made unto Him are nothing more than a useless human fabrication.  If God does interact with the Universe, then his presence will have detectable results and effects in the world that are subject to empirical study and analysis.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Atheism 102 - Faith in God and Belief in Science Ain't The Same Thing

One of the most galling tendencies of Religionists is the constant conflation of Atheists belief in science with the Religionists belief in revealed knowledge and faith in God.  Religionists claim that Atheists actually engage in 'Scientism,' that we have elevated science to a religion, that we have 'Faith' in science and that therefore we are just as guilty as they are of belief, that their belief in God is no different than our belief in science.

This proposition could not possibly be more misguided and wrong.  As a threshold matter, Science and Faith are not remotely similar.  Faith, as I have discussed here and here is a belief in an unrealized proposition despite the complete absence of any evidence to support belief in said proposition or despite abundant evidence in opposition to said proposition.  Faith is, by its very nature, irrational, because if one had a rational evidentiary basis to believe, Faith would be ipso facto unnecessary.

Science, on the other hand, is a TOOL, a METHOD by which the truth of falsity of an unrealized proposition (a hypothesis) can be analyzed, studied, replicated, accepted or rejected.  Science is not a BELIEF

The Great Chain of Existence

A few people have asked me what the pictures in the bar at the top either are or what they represent.  They represent the Great Chain an idea I discuss in much greater detail in earlier posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and also here.

The quick summary, however, is that they represent the unbroken chain of association between the smallest objects and phenomena and the largest.  The basic idea is that everything that exists in the Universe is only really able to meaningfully associate with objects and or phenomena that are on a relatively close level of existence.  Atoms do not meaningfully associate with people, individual cells do not meaningfully associate with people, planets do not meaningfully associate with stars, stars do not meaningfully associate with galaxies, galaxies do not meaningfully associate with superclusters, and humans do not meaningfully associate with the Creator of the Entire Universe.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Global Warming - Geoengineering, Human Solutions to Human Problems

Humanity has a lot of work to do.  The reality is that our planet is slowly, incrementally heating up. And while technology will once again increase the carrying capacity of this planet, we will also likely have to turn to technology to mitigate the environmental excesses and errors of the past as well.  We MUST reduce carbon emissions.  We have no alternative.  But until we have the technological means and political will to do so, we will almost certainly be forced to take technological measures to mitigate the damage we have caused so far.

There has recently been a renewed interest in the prospect of geoengineering, of using technology to mitigate the effects of our carbon emissions and to mitigate the effects of global warming. Technologies that have been proposed include the construction of vast forests of artificial trees, which essentially draw in carbon dioxide and sequester it via chemical processes, increasing the albedo (reflectivity) of clouds through the introduction of benign chemical agents and scattering reflective particles like sulfur in the stratosphere to diminish the amount of sunlight that strikes the surface. This of course, will lead to increasing acidification of the oceans, however, this is another problem that can likely be resolved through chemistry and the application of technology.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Global Warming - It's Not the End of the World

Anthropogenic Climate Change is real. Accept it. Humankind is pouring billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, that would not be there otherwise. Carbon dioxide traps heat. If you want to prove this for yourself, just conduct the following simple experiment. Take two clear plastic bottles and place a thermometer in each of them. In one, just close the cap, thereby filling the bottle with a sample of our regular old atmosphere. In the other, spray a short blast from one of those dust blower bottles which use compressed CO2 into the bottle and close the cap. Place both bottles out in the sun. The one with the additional CO2 will INVARIABLY heat up faster and the reading will INVARIABLY be higher than the one using just our normal atmosphere.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tiny Gods in Incomprehensible Vastness

Religionsist should be overjoyed at the scientific advances of the last 500 years.  They should be ecstatic at the wondrous ways in which science has enlarged the scope of our Universe, uncovered the marvelous complexity of the cosmos, revealed the mechanisms by which our atoms are forged, and detailed the fantastic intricacies of living organisms.  Science has given us an amazing understanding of the physical, chemical, geological, biological wonders that fill our Universe, understandings that dramatically increase the size, scale and beauty of our world and the Cosmos.

Religionists should be filled with awe at the vastness, scope, breadth and age of our Universe and the ways in which it vastly exceeds the wildest imaginings of our ancient ancestors.  Religionists should be in love with science for so dramatically increasing the awe inspiring size, scope and nature of the Universe over which their God is supposedly sovereign.

Instead, Religionists despise science.  They despise what it has revealed about the size of the Universe, the age of the Universe, the age of our planet.  The despise it because Religionists are desperate to keep God small, to keep God manageable.  Religionists are FAR more comfortable with a petty God, a small God, a parochial God because such a deity allows US to feel important.  Special.  Chosen.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No God Required

As I write these words, human beings have not only synthesized all of the basic building blocks of life, but have actually taken the next great step in directed evolution and have begun to create entirely new organisms, assembling new genetic code designed from our understanding of those these incredible molecules interact with one another. It is imperative that we as a species come to recognize what it is that we are capable of doing. Human beings are capable of not only creating all of the essential buildings blocks that comprise living matter, but have also developed the technological expertise necessary to assemble those building blocks into a self-replicating system.

We have already mastered the technology necessary to create entirely new branches in the tree of life. This is an extraordinary feat that ranks among some of the greatest human achievements of all time. It is important, however, to place this in perspective. Humans discovered DNA in 1955. We have been aware of the existence of the genetic underpinnings of life for only a little over half a century. We have been able to manipulate genetic code for only the last twenty years. In that time, a handful of scientists have managed to create, from scratch, all of the fundamental buildings blocks necessary to create life. At the same time, they have reached a level of mastery that has enabled scientists to create a very basic living organism. In less than 50 years, a small number of scientists, through dedicated effort have managed to create organisms animated by energy that are capable of self-replication. This is the very essence of life.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Evolutionary Morality

Recognize that life on this planet has never been better. While this runs counter to the mass media narrative that is endlessly obsessed with the most petty and banal struggles, it is impossible to come to an other conclusion when one compares the human condition of the present era with any other era of our species existence. On every single plane of existence, the human condition is improving. Our societies are more fair, more just, more focused on individual empowerment, individual freedom and individual choice than ever before. We are more capable of obtaining, processing and adapting new information than ever before. No human society has ever attained the level of material comfort and well being that our society enjoys.

While it is common to hear laments for earlier, purer eras, these paeans often fail to grasp the true nature of early human existence. Early hominids, our earliest ancestors, did not live Rousseauian lives of peace and plenty, free of want and unfettered by the constraints of an oppressive society. Early hominids lived a wretched, squalid, miserable existence, dwelling eternally on the fringes of starvation and exposure in a hostile and unforgiving world utterly outside of their ability to control or understand. While philosophers and theologians tend to eulogize the virtues and purity of these early humans, extolling their lack of want and their simplistic existence, there is a central paradox these philosophers and theologians simply cannot reconcile.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Atheism 101 - You Can't Use [Insert Sacred Text] to Prove [Insert Sacred Text]

I know this is very basic.  Tooth grindingly basic.  Agonizingly obvious.  Belileve me, I know.  But having had to explain this concept a number of time in the past few days I feel compelled to just list out a few reasons so I can simply direct people here rather than repeat myself.

Simply stated, you cannot use the Bible, Quran, Torah, Talmud, Book of Satan, or any other sacred text to prove that what that book says is true.  Why?

Let us assume arguendo that the <Insert Allegedly Sacred Text> is internally consistent and free of logical contradictions.  Does internal logical consistency bequeath external truth?


Internal logical consistency is the hallmark of good writing and good storytelling but it in no way either mandates or implies external truth. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Society Doesn't Need To Be Saved By God, Society Has Saved Us From God

To be sure, we are small.

Insignificant in a cosmic sense.  Utterly irrelevant in any wider context.  That we are unimportant in any Universal sense, however, does not mean that what we do is without meaning, without purpose, without grace and beauty and power.

The reality is that nearly every single thing in the Universe is fixed on a specific level of existential association. Objects and entities associate with their cosmic and or atomic peers and rarely if ever transcend the natural level of association that dominate their existence. Our sun, for example, will never meaningfully interact with anything outside of the handful of humble planets caught in its orbit. Even when our sun swells as it enters its death throes billions of years from now, and destroys the inner planets, it will have no impact whatsoever on any other portion of the galaxy. The same applies to nearly every other star in the galaxy. Even those stars massive enough detonate in supernovae explosions only truly impact a tiny portion of the galaxy as a whole and do nothing beyond.

While nearly everything else in the Universe is fixed in the ways and on the levels of existence with which it can associate, life is not. More importantly, we as humans are not fixed and are not static in our ability to interact with the larger world. Humans are uniquely positioned and uniquely capable of transcending the limits imposed by virtue of our birth.

Humans are born into this world as mewling, helpless creatures. We are primates, animals. The difference between ourselves and our closest evolutionary ancestors are differences of degree, not differences in kind. Yet that difference exists. And because of that crucial difference in degree, we, despite our animal nature, are capable of transcendence in ways no other creature could even conceive of. We are capable of transcending and transforming not only our basest and most fundamental instincts, but our physical limitations, our geographical limitations and even our terrestrial limitations.

One need look no further than the society we have created. Billions upon Billions of individuals who live together, work together and share in resources together in an amazingly complex system that is simply mindboggling in its size and scope. What is truly amazing about human society is NOT that it occasionally breaks down and results in violence and barbarism, but that such violence and barbarism are the exception rather than the rule.

Human civilization has achieved a size, scope, and level of integration that would have been utterly impossible a century ago and would have been utterly incomprehensible two centuries ago. Modern human societies are a marvel of complexity. Modern cities and nation states facilitate the physical, geographical, economic, social, intellectual, political, and religious interactions of tens of millions and billions of humans with one another virtually instantaneously compared to any other period in human history. At the turn of the 18th century, the population of the entire world was less than a billion. By the end of the 20th century, the world population had swelled to well over six billion. One would think that this massive explosion in population would lead to a scarcity of resources and the rise of armed conflict and the destabilization of society, yet the exact opposite is true.

To be sure, societies are still capable of failure. There are regions of the world where history, economics, religion and outside interference have created persistent failed states where societies routinely fail in their most basic functions. And to be sure, the existence of armed conflict has persisted into the twentieth century as well.

Indeed, the second world war was the single bloodiest episode in human history in terms of the absolute number of humans slaughtered as a result of armed conflict. The conflict was the second truly global conflict that involved nearly every society on earth. Approximately 60,000,000 to 70,000,000 human beings were killed during the near constant warfare that raged during 1939 to 1945. Despite the appalling number of dead and wounded during that period, however, that conflict resulted in casualties to less than 3% of the world population despite nearly every societies' involvement. Even this, the most grotesque example of warfare in modern history, was actually far less destructive than the wars that dominated earlier epochs of human civilization which often resulted in the deaths of 10% to 20% of the societies involved.  And the period since the second world war, largely as a result of human civilization's realization of the true consequences of warfare has been far and away the most peaceful period in human existence.

While individual regions and nations states existing on the margins of global civilization still struggle to maintain functional societies, the majority of the developed and developing world have joined a global society that is truly epic in its size and scope. That this monstrously complex, multi-faceted, multi-level, multi-disciplinary organism we call society functions at all is one of the most amazing facets of human existence. What is truly amazing and awe inspiring about our global society is that it is a creation entirely of and for humankind. Our luminous, wondrous, awe-inspiring civilization and all of its grandeur and beauty is not the result of the hand of some invisible sky wizard, but the result of the endless ingenuity, vision and labor of countless of billions of human beings all working together to ensure that this organism we have created, this entity that encompasses all of us, survives and thrives.

Perhaps the most astonishing facet of human society is not that it occasionally needs to resort to coercive measures to maintain its effective functioning, but that it need to do so on such an infrequent basis. Indeed, perhaps the best measure of the healthy functioning of a society is the frequency of such coercion. In failing societies, coercive corrective action in the form of police or military activities are so routine as to be unremarkable. In thriving societies, such action is anomalous as nearly all citizens actively participate in society. While such participation may be motivated just as easily by greed as by altruism, the simple fact is that in functioning societies, even the greedy recognize that there are greater benefits to be gained by working within society than against it. This is the simple biological truth that Religionists simply fail to grasp – that we are biologically hard wired to cooperate.

Take a moment to reflect on the innumerable benefits society provides to you from the moment you wake up to your alarm clock in the morning. Your alarm clock is powered by electricity provided by a generator hundreds or thousands of miles away, whose emissions are regulated by an agency who ensures that it does not pollute the air you breathe or the water you drink, when you get out of bed to take a hot shower in water that has been purified at some plant in the city you live in and is heated by the natural gas that is extracted by some for-profit corporation and regulated by some government agency and on and on and on.

Every one of us as we move through our day encounters the fruits of the labor of hundreds or thousands of others. While we often work at cross purposes to one another and while we are often fractious, there is little doubt that in the aggregate, human societies are exceptionally durable once they take root and that they largely function in stunning harmony both within individual societies and with one another.

What would have quickly led to armed conflict in earlier periods of human history is now simply worked out through banal and often painfully boring workshops and focus groups by men and women in suits and skirts rather than through men stabbing or shooting at one another. Despite the size, despite the complexity, despite the dizzying interplay of economic, social, religious, contract, legal, property, civil and political forces all simultaneously interacting within human societies, societies seem not only to have thrived in the modern era, but ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity and peace.

The reality is that despite the hysterical mutterings of prophets and mystics and religious zealots, our world is not coming to an end. Our societies are not paragons of evil and sin and iniquity and depravity. Our truly globe spanning society is the single most beautiful, marvelous, amazing, and wondrous creations in human history. A creation entirely of and for humankind. A marketplace of ideas, of knowledge, of commerce, of identity, of creativity, of problem-solving, or self-improvement and advancement. The reality is that far from our society leading us all to some kind of cataclysm that only God can save us from, society has saved us all from the cataclysm of continued reliance on God.

It is no coincidence that those societies that struggle most to maintain basic functionality are those with the most rigid adherence to antiquated principles of religious piety. It is no coincidence that those societies that require the most coercive measures to maintain order and discipline are those that ostensibly require the greatest dedication and adherence to a specific dogma or creed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Our Glorious Insignificance

We are, all of us, unimaginably small.  Our entire planet, everything that we are as a species, all of the plants and animals that make up our world, our entire biosphere is infinitesimally small.  While our world and our civilization and our individual societies and their attendant squabbles are profoundly important to us, their importance is purely relative - in any sort of cosmic scale, they dwindle into utter insignificance.

Carl Sagan, discussing the first picture of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it passed Saturn described Earth as "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."  Few quotes have ever been more apt.

If you look closely, in the sunbeam to the right, you can see a single pixel, a single point of light.  That is our planet as seen from three planets away.  This is a picture of our planet from within our own solar system, about 6 and a half hours away if you're travelling at the speed of light.  Even at this incredibly close cosmic distance, our planet dwindles to utter insignificance.  A single point.  Little more than an aberration in the background of blackness.  From the nearest star, over four light years away, our planet would be utterly invisible, detectable only by the way its gravity tugs at the Sun or obscures a tiny fraction of its light as it passes by.

Even when viewed from our closest celestial neighbors, we are incredibly small.  Viewed from any further vantage point, we dwindle into utter obscurity.

Theists have posited the theory that the Universe is 'Finely Tuned' to foster the formation of intelligent life, that the physical constants that underlie the fabric of space, time and matter are so finely balanced that it is somehow evidence of some kind of intelligent authorship, that it is evidence of God.  This is utter rubbish.  This anthropocentrism, this arrogance, this narcissism, this persistent belief that WE are somehow the center of the Universe, the purpose of the Universe is obscenely conceited and utterly, hopelessly backwards.  The Universe is not 'Fine Tuned' to generate beings like us, WE are fine tuned to live in the Universe as it exists.  Our biology is adapted to the physical constants that exist.  The physical constants are not designed to generate us.

It is undoubtedly true that if the Universe were other than it is, beings like us probably would not exist.  To argue that other kinds of beings, however, other formations of matter or electro-matter or anti-matter or what not would not or could not form, is utterly baseless.  We are merely a small part of the Universe.  A single spore floating in the void.

Even assuming that some manner of entity created all of this, what kind of conceited, arrogant, narcissist could possibly believe that WE are worthy of its attention?  That WE are worthy of its companionship?  That WE are worthy of a personal relationship with it?  As I describe in great detail in the Great Chain, the difference between such a being and ourselves is far greater than the difference between me and a single bacteria.  To be sure, such a being COULD do whatever it wanted, but to believe that it is probable or even plausible that such a being would have the slightest interest in beings such as us is laughably silly.

And so what?  So what if the Creator of the Great All isn't interested in us?  Who cares?  We are what we are.  We dwell on the level of existence that we dwell on.  And within that level, within our glorious cosmic insignificance, we have done amazing things.  We have created wonders that surpass anything previous generations have ever dreamed of.  We have created societies that value peace and freedom and personal autonomy.  Imperfect as we may be, our civilization continues to progress, continues to evolve, continues to grow and thrive.

And so what if we are insignificant in a cosmic sense?  Who cares if God doesn't want a relationship with us?  We don't need him.  We don't need him for companionship, or comfort, or meaning, or morality.  We have each other.  We have friends.  We have lovers.  We have laws.  We have society.  We have our beautiful, amazing, living, breathing, breathtaking world.  And we have a glorious future.

Theists often confuse meaning with cosmic importance.  The reality is that meaning is not something that is derived from without, but something that comes from within.  So revel in your cosmic irrelevance.  Revel in your humanity.  Revel in who and what we are - in our glorious insignificance.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Secret Atheist Plot to Ban Religion, Persecute Believers and Eat Children Revealed!!!

Many Theists cleave to an incredibly deranged and dystopian fantasy about Atheists.  They seem to not only believe that we intend to prevent them from worshipping and impose some manner of Scientism on them, but that we will then discard all morality, destroy all civil and societal institutions and then drag us all down into a Hobbesian war of all against all.

My only question is how did they find out?  And how did they miss the fact that we also like to eat babies.

This conceit is laughable, but it crops up again and again and again.  Indeed, one of the strongest alleged defenses in theism's favor is this conceit that without theism, there can be no objective morality.  Theologians like William Lane Craig explicitly makes this argument, in a reducto ad absurdum, basically stating that if there is any objective right or wrong, then it must come from God.

The logic behind such a statement is laughable at best because it is only possible to state objective moral truths for and between human beings.  Our most BASIC moral truth, one that has been universally and objectively true since LONG before humans even possessed speech is that is wrong to abandon your infants.  This moral truth is absolute for humans.  Inviolate.  This moral truth is not the result of any divine revelation, but an absolute biological necessity. At least for humans. This is because our young are completely and utterly helpless.

Yet hundreds of MILLIONS of species on this planet have no such biological imperative. They always abandon their young to fend for themselves and allow the vast majority to die. It is readily conceivable that the evolution of intelligence in any one of these myriad creatures would generate a moral code WILDLY different from anything we can conveive of.

To argue that our morality represents some manner of Universal morality and that said morality must of necessity come from some Creator God is patently ridiculous.  More ridiculous is the idea that the Abrahamaic God actually follows the morality that he allegedly lays out for us.  The God of Abraham explicitly endorses slavery, spells out how to buy slaves, how to beat them, when to beat them.  The God of Abraham actively endorses genocide, draconian punishments for minor infractions that our society does not even deem criminal, actively endorses warfare, misogyny, homophobia and a host of other ills that modern humans instinctively find repellent.  Worst of all, the supposedly loving, forgiving God of Abraham is unwilling to forgive humans from eternal damnation and has CHOSEN to condemn them to eternal torment for a few decades worth of insufficient love.  How is it that WE, mere humans, are better at following our own morality than the God of Abraham?

Far from our morality reflecting some revelation of a transcendent divine morality that governs the entire Universe, this allegedly transcendent divine morality is merely an idealization of preexisting human morality.  Indeed, the ongoing development of human morality can be clearly seen as the supposedly eternal and unchanging nature of God undergoes a startling metamorphosis from angry tyrannical brutal psychopath in the Old Testament to the warmer, fuzzier, care bear in the New Testament.  What changed?  We did.  Humanity did.  We evolved.

Indeed, the sacred scrolls of the world's hundreds of discarded religions and the handful of active ones do not contain the secrets of the Universe or any information whatsoever about transcendent moral truths as revealed by invisible aliens or space kings.  Instead, these sacred scrolls are our attempts to understand ourselves - reflections of who and what we are as a people.  Reflections of what we believe.

Atheists merely want to take this one step further.  To free ourselves from the need to justify our moral lives based on a world that no longer exists - to update our morality to reflect the world that IS rather than be fettered forever to what was.  Secular morality is just as moral, just as egalitarian, just as dedicated to personal freedom, political freedom, peace and human rights as any theistic morality - indeed, those nations that are moving towards secular morality are the most generous, free, peaceful and crime free places on Earth.  Which is why it is so hilarious that so many seem to believe that atheists want nothing more than to ban religion, persecute believers and destory morality.

And of course, eat babies.