The Great Chain

The Great Chain

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.