Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You were sent by a god and the best you can do is THAT?!

There's a post that I really like on The Atheist Experience blog today.  It does a good job of pointing out the obvious flaw in the reasoning of anybody who claims they have been sent by an all-knowing and all-powerful god to demonstrate its existence to me, or just to convert me to their faith.  They inevitably fail with some horribly flawed argument.  They need to really consider why that is.  It means that either they're wrong, or their god is incompetent.  The fact that they can't see this is another reason why I often look down on their intellects.  I have had the same thoughts myself, but here it is, well-written and already complete.

"I get e-mails from Christians on a regular basis. Many of them are convinced that the Holy Spirit has instructed them to contact me and give me valuable evidence that will change my mind. These people believe that their god is real, that he wants me to know that he's real and that he's charged them with providing me with the evidence.

We can, via reducto ad absurdum, demonstrate that these people are simply wrong:

If their god exists, then it knows precisely what information they'll need to convey to convince me and it would communicate this information to a person who is capable of accurately presenting it in a way that achieves the stated goal. (I'm not going to draw out a syllogism for this...it's all from the definition of the god that they believe is real.)

Why then do these people consistently present the most obviously flawed arguments and absurd anecdotal evidence? Why then do these people often say the very thing that *confirms* that they have no clue what they're talking about?

Are they just inept at communicating the needed information? Then their god has made a terribly stupid mistake, inconsistent with the character of the god they believe in.

Is their god incapable of accurate communication? Not according to their beliefs. Their god is perfectly (or nearly) wise, intelligent, capable, powerful, etc...and clearly directed them to present the information.

No matter how you break this down, the god they believe in simply doesn't exist. There may be a god, and it might even be the one that they're trying to represent, but they're clearly wrong about its desire and ability to demonstrate its existence. At best we're left with something that is, to a third party, indistinguishable from delusion."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Torture of child witches in Africa

UNICEF (a secular charity by the way) has published a report about accusations of witchcraft against children in Africa.  Some passages from the article:

A wide spectrum of children are at risk, including orphans, street-children, albinos, those with physical disabilities or abnormalities such as autism, those with aggressive or solitary temperaments, children who are unusually gifted; those who were born prematurely or in unusual positions, and twins.

....

Most of the accused are boys and most aged 8-14.

....

Accused children end up being attacked, burned, beaten, and sometimes killed, according to the researchers. Exorcisms can include forcing children to fast; pouring petrol into children’s eyes or ears, beatings and being forced to swallow various substances. Many confessions are extracted under duress or violence, says the report.

....

Rather than legislation to protect children, in Cameroon, CAR, Chad and Gabon practicing witchcraft is outlawed, leading, in CAR’s case, to a large number of child witchcraft cases being brought to the family courts. Many of the children end up in prison.

This is the harm of religion.  This is what religious people keep asking for, concrete examples of how religion hurts.  Well, here it is.  This is what happens when people believe in magic, spirits, and other supernatural bullshit for which there is no evidence.  As long as people continue to do stuff like this because of unproven and ridiculous supernatural beliefs, I'm going to continue to call them stupid fuckers who the planet would be better off without.  And I'm going to continue to insult the childish beliefs which they hold, as they continue to lead to this sort of shit.  And if they don't like it, or want some civility from me, they should stop acting like fucking retarded thugs.

And meanwhile, the vast majority of people in the 'civilised world' don't even have the common sense to stand up and tell these people that there are no such things as witches, witchcraft, black magic, etc.  They're too fucking dumb.

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." - Exodus 22:18

Won't somebody please think of the children?!

My girlfriend told me a funny story.  Her parents are not religious, and her grandmother is a Christian.  When she and her sister were very young, the parents left the girls with their grandmother while they went and did whatever they needed to do.  The grandmother used the chance to rush the girls over to the church to get them baptised, without the parents' knowledge.

There are 2 points I want to make here:

1.  I'd be pretty pissed off if my parents ignored my wishes and took my children off to some religious ceremony to go through a ritual with men in silly robes.

2.  What kind of fucked-up thinking is this?  You know she went to get them baptised because she thought they couldn't go to heaven if they weren't.  Is that really how just and good her god is?  The bastard would actually disallow two young girls from entering heaven because their parents were atheists and never got them baptised?  And she worships this fucking thug?  While claiming it's completely good and loving?  Anybody who believes anything like that is pretty screwed in the head.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't give my credit to your god!

I'm currently visiting my family in my home country, staying at my mother's house.  My brother, who lives with her, told me a few months ago that he was having a problem with one of his teeth.  He has a general neglect for his body (see previous posts in this category), and told me he has not been to the dentist for about 6 years.  So when I got here, I told my mother about it and we pushed him to go.  The dentist worked on him yesterday, and said that he was only a few weeks away from having a much more serious problem, which would have required much more serious care and expense.  So he said my brother was very lucky that he came in when he did.  My mother, a Christian, told my brother that "somebody was watching over you".

Now what should I think about that?  I did something that she had failed to do, yet again.  Last time I was home, I forced my brother to confront his cocaine addiction, something which my mother hadn't done in all the years she had known about it.  She hadn't even told me about it.  And now I return 2 years later and force him to take another step to take care of himself, something which once again she had not done in all of the years she had known about it.  But just who is that "somebody" that she was referring to?  Knowing Christians, it was her god.  Yet shouldn't I get some of the credit for constantly bringing up these issues and forcing action?  I'm mildly pissed off that she'd try to give my credit to her imaginary friend.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where is the on-ramp for the Highway to Hell?

So I've been threatened with hell by yet another reader of the site.  He/She used Pascal's Wager as a reason to compel me to believe, which I've already addressed here.

Let's just grant for the purposes of this post that Hell is a real place.  I won't even make anybody prove that it exists.  I'll also grant that it is possible for people to go to Hell for any length of time.  And let's also grant that terrible things happen in Hell, and that it's a place I don't want to go.  Even under these circumstances, should I be repenting to the Christian god to save myself from Hell?  I don't think so.  Why?  Because they still haven't demonstrated HOW a person gets to Hell.  Even Christians can't agree amongst themselves on how one gets to Hell.  Some say it's for not accepting Jesus.  Others say that it's based on the sins a person commits in their lifetime.  I'm sure there are other beliefs as well, but it's not important.

The point is that unless they can provide some evidence that their claim about how to get to Hell is correct, I have no reason to believe it.  There is exactly the same evidence that I get to Hell by not accepting Jesus as there is evidence that I get to Hell by not eating my vegetables.  Or by eating them.  Or by believing in gods.  Or by not believing in gods.  Or by not blowing myself up for Allah.  Or by turning the lights off when I go to sleep.  Or by wearing red shoes.  Every option you can possibly think of for how to get to Hell has exactly the same objective evidence to back it up.  Zero.

So how should one handle this?  How do I know that by accepting Pascal's Wager, that I'm not actually sentencing myself to go to Hell?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pray for Christopher Hitchens?

A blog article appeared on CNN.com about Christopher Hitchens' cancer diagnosis, and arguing why Christians should pray for him.  Naturally, I have some problems with parts of the article.  Would you expect any different?

"I realize that certain believers couldn’t resist the temptation to see in this misfortune the avenging hand of God: the one who for so long blasphemed God was now getting his just reward.
But it’s always a very tricky business to interpret the purpose of the divine providence. After all, plenty of good, even saintly, people die prematurely from terrible diseases all the time, and lots of atheists and vile sinners live long prosperous lives before dying peacefully in their beds."

Right, meaning that the religious can make no predictions, give no answers about why things happen, and anything at all that happens to anybody doesn't conflict with the idea of a god controlling everything.  What good is that?  You know what another explanation for this is?  That there aren't any gods.  Why are religious claims always consistent with there being no gods?

"Hitchens’ disease is indeed ingredient in God’s providence, since at the very least it was permitted by the one whose wisdom “stretches from end to end mightily."

Ah yes, the same god that allows child rape, genocide, starvation, immense suffering, torture, misinterpretation of its commands, etc., has the power to stop all of it but doesn't, yet really is perfectly good.  The only way religions have survived this long is by making no falsifiable claims at all.

"But what it means and why it was allowed remain essentially opaque to us. Might it be an occasion for the famous atheist to reconsider his position? Perhaps. Might it be the means by which Hitchens comes to think more deeply about the ultimate meaning of things? Could be. Might it bring others to faith? Maybe. Might it have a significance that no one on the scene today could even in principle grasp? Probably."

Gotta love the last one.  It's covering their asses.  They're all eagerly waiting for Hitchens to convert to Christianity literally on his deathbed.  If he doesn't, that doesn't mean anything in their religion is invalidated, or that their god had nothing to do with his illness, it just means it has a significance that nobody can grasp.  We can't grasp it, don't try to question it or figure it out, just move along now, and keep putting your money in the offering plate.  Fools.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Italy and crucifixes in schools

This news story is 10 days old now, as I've been lazy about putting it on the site.  It's about Italy challenging a court ruling that decided they can't display crucifixes in the nation's classrooms.  You can read the full article here, but I want to focus on one part in particular:

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re told the leading Italian daily La Repubblica he could not understand it, and that no one with common sense could have expected it.  "When I think that we are talking about a symbol, the crucifix, an image that cannot but be the emblem of a universally shared humanity, I not only feel disappointed but also sadness and grief," he said.  "The crucifix is the sign of a God that loves man to the point of giving up his life for him. It is a God that teaches us to learn to love, to pay attention to each man ... and to respect the others, even those who belong to a different culture or religion.  "How could someone not share such a symbol?"

I think the cardinal is just showing off how naive he is.  Well 'Cardinal', here are some answers.  No, the crucifix is not an emblem of shared humanity.  It has been the emblem of hatred and murder, of ignorance and organised efforts to keep populations ignorant, of genocide, etc.  I reject it.  Also, if there are 2 billion Christians in the world, that means there are roughly 4.5 billion people who do not believe that the crucifix is a symbol of anything useful.  Even among Christians, many believe that it is a false idol, and that putting Jesus on the crucifix in a classroom is against the 2nd commandment of the book you profess to believe.

Next, we have the argument that it is a symbol of a god's love for us.  Well, the god in question has not been proven to exist, so there's problem #1.  Problem #2 is that you claim this god loves us so much, yet hides from us and doesn't provide evidence for its existence, when the consequence of not believing is to go to the hell that it allowed to be created, forever to be tortured, when it could have prevented the whole thing with minimal effort.  There is nothing just or loving about that.  And it did not give up its life for us.  Is your claim that an immortal god gave up a life, which is meaningless for something immortal, for us?  What the fuck does that even mean?

As for the love and respect for other people, yes, see above about the genocide, murder, hatred, forced enslavement, ignorance, etc, that the cross has been, and is currently, being used as a symbol of.  How could somebody not share such a symbol?