Monday, November 29, 2010

YouTube videos - A world with no gods and breastfeeding adult men

I'd like to use a post to spotlight 2 recent videos by YouTube users.  The first is by Pat Condell.  I'm going to link to the video itself, rather than embed the video here, because you really need to check out some of the links that he uses to support the video, which are below it on the page.  There's some pretty crazy stuff in there, including Islamic women breastfeeding other adults to make them part of their family, and Google searches for animal sex in Pakistan.  What makes Catholicism look like San Francisco in the 1960's?  Watch the video here.

The second video is by GrapplingIgnorance.  Note that he had a different channel before, but he now hides his face because he was persecuted (including vandalism) at work for his lack of Christian belief, and was forced to take the channel down.  His video is about what the world would be like if there were no gods.  I'll embed it below, but if you can't view it or would prefer to see it at the YouTube site, click here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Unbreakable Law of Biogenesis

The site recently had a rambling, and possibly mentally-ill, religious visitor who posted probably a hundred comments or more on a single thread.  Many of those were long cut-and-paste jobs directly from another website.  One of the things he cited in his argument was the supposed Law of Biogenesis, meaning that all life must come from previous life.  This, he argued, was evidence for his god.  And by the way, his god and beliefs were not exactly mainstream.

I had never really given this much thought, but I want to credit Martin on yesterday's Atheist Experience show for changing my thoughts on this issue.  If a religious believer wants to argue that all life must come from previous life, and that this proves his god(s) exists, then not only is that an argument from ignorance, but it also suggests that the creature(s) he is referring to is biological in nature.  It implies that his god(s) is alive and physical in the same sense that we are alive and physical.  As this definition of a god would contradict what most of them believe, I think it's fair to say that the argument would be rejected.  But isn't it valid?  If you want to cite a law that claims all life must come from previous life, then doesn't that make your god(s) biological?  Doesn't it also mean that your god(s) must have been created by another biological being?

This brings us into an infinite regress, which is not really an intellectually satisfying answer to any question.  So I assume they'd cave and admit that there was a time when life came from something other than life.  They would argue that this first cause of life was a magical man in the sky, using magical powers.  A scientifically-minded person would probably argue that the first cause of life was atoms and chemistry.  Which side can prove that its proposed first cause processes and materials actually exist?  Which side can show that it has made any progress at all in determining exactly how such a thing could have happened?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Omnipotent beings don't need your help!

This story was in the news last week, about a family in Pakistan waiting to see if their mother and wife will be executed for blasphemy.  The accusation is that this Christian woman insulted Islam, and therefore needs to be killed.

Let's see what the town's religious authority said about this:

The town cleric, who made the initial complaint against Bibi, called her death sentence one of the happiest moments of his life.
"Tears of joy poured from my eyes," Qari Salim told CNN.

Now that we've confirmed that religion is a force for death and destruction, religious believers should ask themselves a question.  Why does a being which you believe is the most powerful being in the Universe (wait, it's outside of the Universe, I forgot), this infinitely-powerful creature, require YOU to do anything at all for it?  Why can't it fight its own battle?  Why can't it strike this woman down itself if it feels so upset?  If you believe that an infinitely powerful being has asked you to help it in any way, you need to check your ego and your sanity.  Ask it for a demonstration of its own power, to smite this heathen in a way that could only be supernatural.  You know what kind of omnipotent being requires you to fight for it?  One that doesn't exist!  Omnipotent beings that really do exist (hypothetically) do not require your help in any way.  That's simply from the definition of omnipotent.  They don't need help.

And for those of you who want a theocracy in your own country, this is what you'd get.  Murder of blasphemers and non-believers (oh, and the gays).  I'll ask a question of my readers, because I don't know the answer.  Has there ever been a theocratic government in which non-believers and blasphemers were not threatened with any of fines, torture, imprisonment or death?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I've never seen air, but I know it exists (?)

I just ran into a pretty strange argument.  It is not the first time I have seen it, nor will it be the last.  The argument comes from a theist who argues that he knows his god exists even though it cannot be seen, much as he knows the air exists even though it cannot be seen.  This is a piss-poor argument.  Air can be detected in many ways, including visually, despite the claims of the theist.  Let me list some of the evidences that I have for the existence of air:

  1. I can feel air's warmth or chill on my body, and quantify it with an instrument called a thermometer
  2. I can measure air's pressure with an instrument called a barometer
  3. I can feel the force of air's push against my body when the wind blows
  4. I can see air pick up leaves and transport them to another location
  5. I can see air shimmering as it rises off of a hot road in summer
  6. I see how air causes the stars to twinkle in the night sky
  7. I can witness how air can be used to generate useful power using a windmill
  8. As a scuba diver, I can feel air compress inside my sinuses when I descend, and expand when I ascend
  9. As a scuba diver, I can watch the bubbles air forms as I exhale underwater
  10. As a scuba diver, I can feel air coming out of my tank when I turn on the valve
  11. As a scuba diver, I can measure air's pressure in my tank with my submersible pressure gauge
  12. As a scuba diver, I can see and feel air inflating my vest when I press the inflate button
  13. I can hear air's vibrations when my ears detect sound
  14. I can ride in an airplane which gets its lift from air interacting with the wings
  15. I can sometimes look out the airplane window and actually see air rushing over the wing
  16. I have ridden in a hot air balloon which generates its lift from the buoyancy of hot air over colder air
  17. I can see how air changes the colour of the Sun during sunrise and sunset
  18. I can see the effect air has on fire when I fan flames with my hands or an object
  19. I can see the northern lights, caused by the interaction of energetic particles with air molecules
  20. I can use my exhaled air to inflate a balloon 
  21. I can see air surrounding Earth in photographs taken from space
  22. As a skydiver, I can witness air slow my descent (vs. gravitational predictions) under a parachute
Can you think of more?  There are many, many pieces of objective* evidence, including visual evidence, for the existence of air.  What is the objective evidence for the existence of your god(s)?

*Despite many of these evidences being subjective to my senses, they are objective because almost all other people would agree with my experiences and describe them in the same way.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

De-conversion story 6

Here are 2 stories sent to me by readers:

1. I was 15 when I deconverted.

I had spent the past 10+ years of my life dutifully attending the Methodist church that my mother attended. I went to Preschool there, went to Sunday school, youth group, participated in various choirs and instrumental groups, attended church and served as an acolyte (person who lights candles on the altar) and crucifer (person who carries the cross down the aisle at the beginning of the service). Everyone knew me and I was close with many of the congregation. Thankfully my upbringing was liberal enough to allow for evolution and alternative theories (my dad only stepped foot in church once every few years when my mom guilted him into coming to church to watch me sing or play during the service.)

One day the regular teacher for our Sunday school class was absent and the associate pastor (a young female, recently out of divinity school) substituted. She began her lesson, and eventually she said something along the lines of "all those who don't accept Christ into their hearts will go to hell." That snapped me out of my lifelong daydream. I asked the question, "So does that mean that isolated tribes in Africa or Asia, who practice ancestor worship and never even got a chance to hear about Christianity because nobody ever visited them, they will all go to hell?"

When she said "that's right." I got out of my chair, left the classroom, and never came back. For once my mom didn't fight me about going to church or youth group. I haven't looked back since.


2. Becoming Free

Blame it on my parents.  They always told me to "think for yourself”.  I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that. 

Now, I suspect what they meant was, "Think what we tell you but do it in your own words."  Too late.  When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent. 

Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.

When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would "Make me go." 

I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?”  Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else they would tell me.

Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me.  I told them it was a waste of everyone's time.  They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.”  (as if they ever works for anyone)  After about 15 minutes, of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell.  I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.

I told him, “If there is a Hell I'll see you there.  Save me a nice place, OK?"  He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child.  By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool.  My parents insisted that I apologize.  I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.

For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week.  So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent's home and didn't see them again for well over a year.  By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school,  I had completed a couple of years of college.  Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself.  I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again. 

The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married.  After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more.  I'd like to say that worked, but  subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation.  Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.

What did I learn?  Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions.  There are times if you are to become your own person you must stand firm in what you know to be true.