6/30/09

The Good Books?

I wonder sometimes; I do not know what to make of the New Atheists sometimes and sometimes I think that they do not know what to make of themselves.

Are they the Four Horsemen or the Four My Little Ponies?






Are they bold confronters of religious fanatics or do they prefer taking pop-shots at the Pope, Jerry Falwell, the Bishop of Canterbury and Pat Robertson?

Are they campaigning to convert the ignorant religious or merely encouraging the naturally rebellious and hormonal youth to act out, and act up?

Etc.

Well, the evidence that Atheism is Dead has amassed always points towards the latter.

I simply wanted to point out just how highly these personages think of themselves.

Richard Dawkins wrote that Sam Harris’ book, The End of Faith,
is one of those books that deserves to replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in the land.

Of The God Delusion Bill Maher stated,
hopefully, someday, it’ll be by the bed in every hotel in America.

Delusion indeed.



Of his own book Letter to a Christian Nation Sam Harris stated,
It’s a book that a person could simply hand to a member of the religious Right and say, “What’s your answer to this?”

Just like a tract.
Well, I suppose that I would say, “My answer to this is that you have a lot of studying to do.”

In the preface to The God Delusion Richard Dawkins wrote,
If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.

Apparently, this very funny book did not work as he intended.

Lucrative? Yes indeed. Converting fueling the fires of unbelief? Yes indeed. Historically, logically, theologically, scientifically accurate? No indeed. Worthy of ubiquitous hotel room distribution? Perhaps in the latrine.

Continue reading The Good Books?...

6/29/09

Rise of Atheism in America While the Amish Survive Only By Kidnapping Little Children, part 2 of 4

Atheism is Dead now continues considering Nicholas Humphrey’s Oxford Amnesty Lecture of 1997 AD alternately published as “What shall we tell the children?” and “What shall we tell the children?” (PDF, HTML).

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4


Nicholas Humphrey primes the pump for his doxology to “science” by appealing to the typical besmirchments of America’s lack of scientific enlightenment: age of the Earth this, evolution that, superstition this, almighty science that…

He also gives the obligatory hat tip to Richard Dawkins for being on the forefront of turning children against parents and his references to religious ideas as viral:
…as Richard Dawkins has explained so well, this kind of self-restraint is not in the nature of successful belief systems

The “self-restraint” of which Nicholas Humphrey speaks is the restraint of not teaching one’s children one’s “faith.” As is perhaps obvious, we shall see (particularly at the end of part 4) that Nicholas Humphrey and co.’s answer is to teach, nay; indoctrinate, children into absolute materialism.

In this regard, consider his self-righteous us against them statement:
…their devotees will be obsessed with education and with discipline: insisting on the rightness of their own ways and rubbishing or preventing access to others. We should expect, moreover, that they will make a special point of targeting children in the home, while they are still available, impressionable and vulnerable.

It is hard to see how this can so very easily be turned around on him?
Nicholas Humphrey’s devotees are obsessed with education and with discipline: insisting on the rightness of their own ways and rubbishing or preventing access to others. We should expect, moreover, that they will make a special point of targeting children in the home, while they are still available, impressionable and vulnerable.

Of course, such atheists are beyond merely targeting their own children in the home, while they are still available, impressionable and vulnerable. But have for a long time smuggled atheism into the public schools not merely through the back door but right through the front in the form of textbooks, “science,” removing any reference to God, etc. They do not only want their children to be atheist but yours as well. This will become all too clear and troubling as we proceed in considering the lecture (and in the various posts to which I linked in part 1).



Nicholas Humphrey provides a token comment in apparently recognizing that retorts such as mine above could just as easily be made as he begins his various belittlements of the Amish; those kidnappers!
Donald Kraybill, an anthropologist who made a close study of an Amish community in Pennsylvania, was well placed to observe how this works out in practice. "Groups threatened by cultural extinction," he writes, "must indoctrinate their offspring if they want to preserve their unique heritage…The Amish contend that the Bible commissions parents to train their children in religious matters as well as the Amish way of life. . . An ethnic nursery, staffed by extended family and church members, moulds the Amish world view in the child's mind from the earliest moments of consciousness." [second ellipses in original]
…"An ethnic nursery, staffed by extended family and church members . . ." could be as much a description of the early environment of a Belfast Catholic, a Birmingham Sikh, a Brooklyn Hasidic Jew—or maybe the child of a North Oxford don.

I imagine that the North Oxford don is in reference to a supposed true intellectual and perhaps particularly to Richard Dawkins. Apparently, he is not familiar with the Amish year of freedom whereby an Amish teen is allowed to explore the world outside of the Amish community and decides whether or not to return. Surely, Nicholas Humphrey would argue that such as exercise is merely a farce as by that point the teen has been so indoctrinated as to ensure only the teen’s return to the Amish paradise.
However, he rejoices in a circa three decades old story about Amish teens choosing the outside world after being made to work in public hospitals in lieu of military service during the Vietnam war drafts: male teens with raging hormones being unleashed upon the world of whatever-whenever-however-anyone wants goes world—big surprise.

Nicholas Humphrey makes reference to “sectarian schools” such as those that insist on,
presenting all subjects only from a biblical point of view, and requiring all teachers, supervisors, and assistants to agree with the church's doctrinal position

As an example of the deleterious effects of such schooling he offers the following,
Dress a little boy in the uniform of the Hasidim, curl his side-locks, subject him to strange dietary taboos, make him spend all weekend reading the Torah, tell him that gentiles are dirty.

As becomes more and more evidence as the lecture progresses, Nicholas Humphrey’s response is to, for example, establish equally, or even more so, sectarian schools wherein the teachers will present all subjects only from an atheistic point of view and requiring all teachers, supervisors, and assistants to agree with the atheist’s doctrinal position (many have already been excommunicated from the realm of academia). These schools seek to dress a little boy in a lab coat and make him spend a minimum of twelve years being told that life, the universe and everything is the fortuitous result of happenstantial accidents and tell him that religious people are ignorant.

Nicholas Humphrey notes that a boy “actually escaped and lived to tell the tale” of being raised a Catholic and notes,
There are plenty of other examples, known to all of us, of men and women who as children were pressured into becoming junior members of a sect, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Marxist—and yet who came out the other side, free thinkers, and seemingly none the worse for their experience.

Indeed, there are plenty of other examples, known to all of us, of men and women who as children were pressured into becoming junior members of a sect of atheism—and yet who came out the other side, true free thinkers, and seemingly none the worse for their experience. Then again some of the pseudo-freethinkers of which Nicholas Humphrey refers end up becoming some of the most vitriolic expressers of prejudice one would never hope to hear—just asks the likes of Dan Barker and co.

In another attempt to appeal to his liberal audience in the form of liberal ideas about sex in stating,
someone who has learned as a child, for example, to think of sex as sinful may never again be able to be relaxed about making love.

Again, this is one-sided-well-within-the-box-liberal-group-think as I personally know many people who learned as a child to think of sex as a mere bio-function to be expressed anytime, anywhere, with anyone and may never again be able to be relaxed about making love as a pure thing; a God ordained sacred and holy union of a husband and wife.

Now we get into the full Monty of Nicholas Humphrey’s promulgations as he lays it on the line:
…what would happen if this kind of vicious circle were to be forcibly broken? What would happen if, for example, there were to be an externally imposed "time-out"? Wouldn't we predict that, just to the extent it is a vicious circle, the process of becoming a fully-fledged believer might be surprisingly easy to disrupt? I think the clearest evidence of how these belief systems typically hold sway over their followers can in fact be found in historical examples of what has happened when group members have been involuntarily exposed to the fresh air of the outside world.

This is exemplary of his proposal: to forcibly unleash the forces of atheism upon you, your children your worldview, you schools (even and especially home schools). Again, appealing to fellow militant activist atheist Richard Dawkins, Nicholas Humphrey makes reference to “cultural viruses.” Do not simply shrug off the fact that militant activist atheist are increasingly dehumanizing religious people: as with abortion; dehumanization precedes persecution and extermination.

Nicholas Humphrey gets to his bottom line point which he described thusly:
Suppose that, as the Amish case suggests, young members of such a faith would—if given the opportunity to make up their own minds—choose to leave. Doesn't this say something important about the morality of imposing any such faith on children to begin with? I think it does. In fact I think it says everything we need to know in order to condemn it…

So I'll come to the main point—and lesson—of this lecture. I want to propose a general test for deciding when and whether the teaching of a belief system to children is morally defensible. As follows. If it is ever the case that teaching this system to children will mean that later in life they come to hold beliefs that, were they in fact to have had access to alternatives, they would most likely not have chosen for themselves, then it is morally wrong of whoever presumes to impose this system and to chose for them to do so. No one has the right to choose badly for anyone else…

only if we know that teaching a system to children will mean that later in life they come to hold beliefs that, were they to have had access to alternatives, they would still have chosen for themselves, only then can it be morally allowable for whoever imposes this system and chooses for them to do so.

Thus, the only allowable result is a worldview that a child would have come to hold when, having been given access to alternatives, they would have most likely chosen. And then we are provided a typical baseless atheist assertion of moral condemnation. He had previously referred to giving the child “access to the full range of alternatives.”
Full range meaning that they may choose to become a Mother Theresa or an Adolf Hitler. Given the choice they may forgo working 40-80 hours per week and coming home to a wife who does not elicit constant goose bumpy adrenaline spiked feeling and choose the life of a pornographer. They may become a foster parent or an assassin. No, no! No? Why not, because of some vague and ultimately judicially impotent notion of right and wrong?
No indeed, because the view of such atheists is that of a Utopian human race wherein education of the “right” kind will produce pure benevolence.

Continue reading Rise of Atheism in America While the Amish Survive Only By Kidnapping Little Children, part 2 of 4...

6/27/09

Rise of Atheism in America While the Amish Survive Only By Kidnapping Little Children, part 1 of 4

Atheism is Dead has been chronicling the attempts by some atheists to dictate child rearing to the parents of the world. Not content to merely come out of the closet some atheists want to proceed by kicking your door down so as to besmirch you and gain access to your children. In this episode we will consider a plan outlined by Nicholas Humphrey.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4

Forget the philosopher Weird Al Yankovic’s tales of an Amish paradise. Forget the Amish friendship bread. Nicholas Humphrey represents a very troubling trend amongst atheists to apply the most malicious and vicious of labels to those with whom they disagree as he states, amongst many other things, that “The Amish…survive only by kidnapping little children.”

The New Atheist sentiments of “religious” parents raising their children according to their “faith” as “child abusers” is no mere intellectual exercise or controversy stirring tactic; I have personally experienced the displeasure of having one of those militant activist atheists tell me to my face, “you abuse your children.” Of course, I invited them to notify the authorities, which they declined to do. Rather odd I thought; they know that I am a child abuser and are doing nothing about it—that makes them worse that I.
However, some atheists are pushing to make it so that they will someday be able to do something about it. Richard Dawkins envisages “society stepping in?”[1] in hopes that his movements’ interference “might lead children to choose no religion at all.”[2]

We will now cover a significant lecture on the subject by Nicholas Humphrey who is the School Professor at the London School of Economics and Professor of Psychology at the New School for Social Research.
This was an Oxford Amnesty Lecture of 1997 AD and has been alternately published as “What shall we tell the children?” and “What shall we tell the children?” (PDF, HTML).
In an illogical and falsely dichotomous manner Nicholas Humphrey manipulates his audience into accepting the vision of he, and cenobites like him, as arbiters of what will be allowable to be taught to your children.
His various references to “liberals” are in acknowledgment that he is well aware of his audience’s constituency. Thus, he is addressing what he hopes to be a sympathetic audience and seeks to placate any objections that they may have along the way.




In addressing Amnesty International he seeks to encourage them to not only seek to liberate people from physical bondage but from the bondage of children’s captivity to their parents. Children, he argues are to be inoculated against their parent’s “word-virus” or viral religious memes.
Should we then be fighting Amnesty's battle on this front too? Should we be campaigning for the rights of human beings to be protected from verbal oppression and manipulation? Do we need "word laws", just as all civilised societies have gun laws, licensing who should be allowed to use them in what circumstances? Should there be Geneva protocols establishing what kinds of speech act count as crimes against humanity?

He presupposes that the rhetorical answer is “no.” Perhaps in 1997 AD “hate-speech” was not as of yet inculcated into American society, and illegal in Canada, as it is today. In any regard, he seeks to rectify the answer by elucidating his purpose:
…we should try to make up for the harm that other people's words do, but not by censoring the words as such…it is the purpose of my lecture today to argue in one particular area just the opposite. To argue, in short, in favour of censorship, against freedom of expression, and to do so moreover in an area of life that has traditionally been regarded as sacrosanct.
I am talking about moral and religious education. And especially the education a child receives at home, where parents are allowed—even expected—to determine for their children what counts as truth and falsehood, right and wrong.
Children, I'll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people's bad ideas—no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no god-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children's knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.
In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible, or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.
That's the negative side of what I want to say. But there will be a positive side as well. If children have a right to be protected from false ideas, they have too a right to be succoured by the truth. And we as a society have a duty to provide it. Therefore we should feel as much obliged to pass on to our children the best scientific and philosophical understanding of the natural world—to teach, for example, the truths of evolution and cosmology, or the methods of rational analysis—as we already feel obliged to feed and shelter them. I don't suppose you'll doubt my good intentions here. Even so, I realise there may be many in this audience—especially the more liberal of you—who do not like the sound of this at all: neither the negative, nor still less the positive side of it.

We are instantly made to wonder just who will be the arbiter of what constitutes “bad ideas” and “nonsense.” We wonder if there really is no limiting “children's knowledge” (“Happy sixth birthday little Juanito! What? You want to learn about necrophilia. Sure, of course!”). And just what is “the truth”? Who doeth bequeath it?



We encounter what is perhaps the first of his very many manipulative dichotomies as he likens religious upbringing, the imparting of certain ideas, to physical mutilation:
Let's suppose we were talking not about children's minds but children's bodies. Suppose the issue were not who should control a child's intellectual development but who should control the development of her hands or feet . . . or genitalia. Let's suppose indeed that this is a lecture about female circumcision. And the issue is not whether anyone should be permitted to deny a girl knowledge of Darwin, but whether anyone should be permitted to deny her the uses of a clitoris.
And now here I am suggesting that it is a girl's right to be left intact, that parents have no right to mutilate their daughters to suit their own socio-sexual agenda, and that we as a society ought to prevent it. [ellipses in original]


There is quite a bit to state in this regard.
Primarily, Nicholas Humphrey knows that he is addressing a majority liberal audience and is thus, playing on the liberal instinct to recoil at the very thought of restricting sexuality in any way shape of form (with the most generic caveats against that which they personally find distasteful, of course). He seeks to liken physical mutilation to intellectual mutilation. While he is aware that in the one case he is dealing with irreparable damage and in the other with something that may be unlearned or augmented he will return to this fallacious likening nine times during the lecture (it is as if his notes stated, “Point weak here; mention female circumcision”).
Also, note that the term “female circumcision” is both ubiquitously employed and fallacious. It is supposed to be likened to male circumcision but is absolutely nothing like it.
Female “circumcision” is, as rightly stated above by Nicholas Humphrey, mutilation: it is the complete removal of the clitoris for the specific purpose of ensuring lifelong denial of sexual pleasure.
On the other hand, male circumcision is the removal of a little part of the penis’ foreskin which is not only very healthy but does not diminish sexual drive or pleasure.

Nicholas Humphrey has attempted to win his liberal audience to his side by going from recognizing that their natural reaction to his proposal of dictating child rearing is, shall we say; initially skittish, to getting them to be overcome with emotion for the, rightful, condemnation of child mutilation. This is a fallacious and yet very effecting tactic: he has won their empathy and having won their emotions their intellect is putty in his hands.

[1] During his interview with Gary Wolf, “The Church of the Non-Believers
[2] Richard Dawkins, “Now Here’s a Bright Idea


Continue reading Rise of Atheism in America While the Amish Survive Only By Kidnapping Little Children, part 1 of 4...

6/26/09

Bill Maher’s Errata

This essay consists of the following sections:
Superior-Inferiority-Complex
Absolute Agnosticism
Apatheism
Oh My (Selfish) Goodness!


In this essay Atheism is Dead will enumerate the various logical and theological fallacies that were uttered my Bill Maher whilst appearing on Joe Scarborough’s news show “Scarborough Country” for April 24, 2007 AD (manuscript here).



Superior-Inferiority-Complex

JOE SCARBOROUGH: No holds Mahered. Controversial comedian Bill Maher attacks God, Jesus and Christianity. Now, he’s working on a new documentary on religion with the producer of “Borat.” And I talked to him about why Jesus, Christianity and faith scares him so much.

Here they play a clip of a conversation on Bill Maher’s show (for info on Religulous see here, here and here):

BILL MAHER: I mean, you really think that I’m lost because I don’t accept Jesus Christ as my savior. You think I’m your inferior. Be honest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (UF): Oh, no, not inferior.
BILL MAHER: Come on!
UF: That’s very different.
BILL MAHER: But wait. You think you have a truth...
UF: I don’t—I don’t think you’re inferior, but I...
BILL MAHER: But do you think you have a truth that I do not see?
UF: Yes.
BILL MAHER: Then aren’t I not, by logical means...
UF: No. No, you’re where I was...
BILL MAHER: ... inferior?
UF: ... once because I was all confused myself.
(CROSSTALK)
BILL MAHER: That’s condescending.

Bill Maher appears to be an example of a person who is not strictly expressing their opinions on the subject at hand but are expressing what is deep within the recesses of their hearts, souls and minds. A form of what psychology refers to as “transference.” For instance, on the topic of fathers who take their little daughters to father-daughter dances or “purity balls” Bill Maher had quite a laugh about pedophilic-incest. On the topic of a mother breast feeding her little baby in public Bill Maher likened it to public masturbation (see here and here for details). These are various aspects of the ongoing Bill Maher controversy.

Transference certainly seems to be the case in this instance. Bill Maher is equating a person who possesses a certain bit of information with a superiority complex and infers that they look down upon a person who does not possess that bit of information as being inferior. This is certainly a fallacious inference due to the following options:

1. A person who possesses a certain bit of information may very well hoard it with good reason and rightly look down on others who do not possess it as inferior. For example, an inventor may patent a new devise from which he will become rich himself and give a business of his choosing, to whom he sells his invention, an advantage over another business which may even become obsolete and go out of business due to the competitor’s technological-superiority and their technological-inferiority.

2. A person who possesses a certain bit of information may hoard it with a much more selfish reason and capriciously look down on others who do not possess it as inferior. Such would be the case in a “I have a secret” (read in a whiny voice) scenario.

3. A person who possesses a certain bit of information that another person lacks is under no moral or logical obligation to feel superior to anyone, may even feel unworthy, and may feel it to be their life’s purpose to share that information with as many people who lack it as possible.

Note that Bill Maher, appearing to be more interested in instigation and belittlement than in rational discourse, did not ask the logical question, “Do you think I’m your inferior?” Rather, he makes a fallacious assertion, “You think I’m your inferior.” Note that he then turns from insisting that he is being considered “inferior” to insisting that it is “condescending” to be considered “confused.” The fact is that some people are confused and there is nothing condescending about it nor about pointing that out.

It appears to me that the bottom line, at this point, is that Bill Maher considers her worldview to be exclusivist and arrogant. Yet, her claim to have absolute knowledge to the effect of someone being lost because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their savior is matched by Bill Maher’s negation which is just as absolutist, exclusivist and arrogant.
Moreover, it should be noted that if something is true and another thing false, it is not arrogant to assert the true in negation of the false. For instance, if someone stated, “1+1=2 and 1+1 does not =152” would they be considered arrogant for making such a truth claim? Granted truth claims about mathematics and truth claims about theology are of separate categories but the general concept is important to point out: if something is true and another thing false it is not arrogant to make the truth claim and therefore negate the false. I drew out this issue a bit in two essays: Exclusivism, Part I - Is only one worldview true? And Exclusivism, Part II - Is there only one way of salvation?

Absolute Agnosticism

MAHER: As you know, Joe, I’ve always had it out for religion for very good reasons. It’s mostly destructive. I don’t know what happens after you die, but to believe what another person tells me just makes me want to say to that person, How do you know? So that’s what I would ask you. How do you know what happens after you die?
It’s only, Joe, because somebody in this long game of telephone from 2,000 years ago told you what it was. But if some person hadn’t told you and a person just came up to you on the street and says, Yes, there’s a God and he had a son and he sent him on a suicide mission to earth, and then on Easter, he flies bodily up to heaven, I mean, what would you think of a person in the 21st century who believed that someone could fly bodily up to heaven?

The statement that religion is “mostly destructive” is stunningly exaggerated. Let us consider, for example, the topic of war. The Encyclopedia of Wars (New York: Facts on File, 2005) was compiled by nine history professors who specifically conducted research for the text for a decade in order to chronicle 1,763 wars. The survey of wars covers a time span from 8000 BC to 2003 AD. From over 10,000 years of war 123, which is 6.98 percent, are considered to have been religious wars. Let us consider the number of religious people who have ever lived and let us balance on one side of the scale those who have engaged in religious war and those who have lived out their entire lives in virtual benevolence. The scale would surely break under the weight of the benevolent side. Yet, we are getting ahead of ourselves since Bill Maher did not provide any standards by which to make an absolute claim to religion being “mostly destructive” but merely made an argument for embarrassment assertion.

It is somewhat logical to think that if you do not know what happens after we die no one else does either. However, this is actually an agnostic logical fallacy since it is illogical to think that since I do not know something then no one else, in the history of the universe, knows it either.

To the issue of a “long game of telephone.” This is a fallacy which betrays knowledge of how oral cultures maintained their information and assured its accuracy. This also fails to recognize that far from being a game of telephone, the purpose which is to fail and have a good laugh about it, there are over 24,000 New Testament manuscripts and proof of at least 2,000 year of accurate Old Testament transmission.

Dr. Craig Blomberg, Ph.D., while interviewed by Lee Strobel, explains why the game of telephone is not a good analogy for how oral traditions are passed down:

“When you’re carefully memorizing something and taking care not to pass it along until you’re sure you’ve got it right, you’re doing something very different from playing the game of telephone. In telephone half the fun is that the person may not have got it right or even heard it right the first time, and they cannot ask the person to repeat it. Then you immediately pass it along, also in whispered tones that make it more likely the next person will goof something up even more. So yes, by the time it has circulated through a room of thirty people, the results can be hilarious.”
“Then why,” I asked, “Isn’t that a good analogy for passing along ancient oral traditions?”…
“If you really want to develop that analogy in light of the checks and balances of the first-century community, you’d have to say that every third person, out loud in a very clear voice, would have to ask the first person; ‘Do I still have it right?’ and change it if he didn’t. The community would constantly be monitoring what was said and intervening to make corrections along the way. That would preserve the integrity of the message,” he said. “And the result would be very different from that of the childish game of telephone.”[1]

But what of the statement about things that would be unbelievable in the 21st century? The fact is that, much to Bill Maher’s dismay, millions of people believe it today. Moreover, consider other things that we are supposed to believe in the 21st century:
That the universe came into being when an eternal uncaused dot of matter exploded.
That life on earth originated when lightning struck a swamp (abiogenesis). Ergo, that the argument from contingency regresses us back to ethereal clouds that rained down upon an amorphous concoction of minerals, etc.
That we cannot detect or observe 96% of the universe.
That there are invisible subatomic particles.
That light is both a wave and a particle.
That Keanu Reeves can act.
Etc.
As Prof. Richard Lewontin has stated it (see here for the full text):

What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity ‘in deep trouble.’ Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.

Apatheism
JOE SCARBOROUGH: So let me ask you, do you belief in God?
MAHER: I call myself an “apatheist.” I’m apathetic about God. In other words, there could be a God. There could be something. I don’t know. I don’t—I certainly don’t think it’s a human God. But there could be some force that we can’t understand on earth.

Bill Maher has apparently established another sect of atheism/agnosticism namely: apatheism. Yet, we should wonder just how apathetic he is about God’s existence. He devotes comedy routines, portions of his show, interviews and a documentary to the issue of God and religion. Perhaps God is only important enough to mock. Well Bill Maher, it’s been done, done to death in fact, to death.

While it is true that “there could be some force that we can’t understand on earth” one aught to be careful about the usage, and usefulness, of this argument. This argument can all too easily become an excuse for believing in an absolutely materialistic universe and denying any evidence to the contrary.
According, to this argument any evidence for the supernatural can be shrugged of as natural phenomena that we do not yet understand but that we will surely someday understand as mere materialism after all. Yet, upon what do we base such assertions? How do we logically claim to know what future discoveries will be? Because this argument and the worldview which it informs are presuppositionally materialistic. Ergo: there is no evidence for the supernatural because the supernatural does not exist and we know that the supernatural does not exist because we never allow anything to count as evidence for the supernatural because the supernatural does not exist because there is no evidence for the supernatural, ad infinitum.

Oh My (Selfish) Goodness!
At this point the discussion involves at least two main topics: the question of why someone does “good” and the alleged selfishness of Christians.

After claiming apatheism Bill Maher continued by stating the following about God’s existence:

It doesn’t matter. You should be a good person for the sake of being a good person, not because there is some reward in heaven.

This is highly presuppositional on various levels:
He is referring to “good” without defining what “good” is—what is “good”?
Without providing any standards of goodness, he asserts the importance of goodness anyway.
He is setting up goodness as a moral standard without establishing why we aught to do “good.”

Rather, he mere makes various assertion, “You should be a good person” – why, remains unstated.
Moreover, “for the sake of being a good person” – why, remains unstated.
Furthermore, “not because there is some reward in heaven” – why, remains unstated.

At this point I would consider arguing that if I set out to “be a good person for the sake of being a good person” then my primary purpose for being good is so that I can be thought of, and think of myself, as being a good person. In this sense, “being a good person” is a reward that I sought. In fact, Dan Barker enumerates certain reasons why we should be good during his debate with Peter Payne:

“if you wish to be…a healthy person” [meaning mentally healthy], “if you wish to be labeled ‘ethical’ by other people,” “if you wish to be viewed by your society as ‘a good person,’” “if that’s something you wish.”

Atheism is Dead has detailed this atheist sentiment in the following essays: A Good Person, Does God Prefer Atheism?, Do Any Atheists Have Pure Motives?

At this point Bill Maher gets to the alleged selfishness of Christianity.

One of the things that bothers me about religion is that it masquerades as humility, and it’s really arrogant. And it masquerades as self-sacrificing, and it’s really about saving your own hide. Ask any Christian, they’ll tell you it’s about salvation through Jesus Christ. This is how I am going to achieve happiness for all eternity after I die. But it’s mostly about saving my own behind.

At this point Joe Scarborough asks:

But how in the world can you even—how can you draw—listen, how can you assume I’m a Christian because I want to save my hide?

Some back and forth occurs at this point the gist of which Bill Maher states thusly:

BILL MAHER: OK, the reason—the reason I say this is because I just got done from interviewing many, many people about this. This is what I was doing on this documentary. And most Christians...
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Many, many people—I mean, you sound like—you sound like Katie Couric—Some people say—you didn’t talk to me.

Joe Scarborough’s point is more understandable this way: “Many, many people”? “Some people say”? Well, “you didn’t talk to me.” I certainly do not know what that reference to Katie Couric was but I thought that Bill Maher sounded like Richard Dawkins he was interviewed by Ben Stein for the movie Expelled. Richard Dawkins asserts that people feel liberated and relieved when they realize that God does not exist. Ben Stein asks him how he knows that, he is after all speaking with an empirical scientist. Richard Dawkins responds that he receives letters from people to that effect. To which Ben Stein states that there are some 8 billion people in the world and asks, “How many letters do you get?” (see here for more examples of goosbump-atheism).

The conversation continues thusly:

BILL MAHER: OK, but I would bet, Joe, if you talk to most Christians, what they would say the most important part of the religion is, salvation, salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s in the Bible. It’s what he says. You can only...
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Now, you know what Jesus says the most important part of being a Christian is? And he tells his disciplines when they ask him. He says it’s about feeding the poor, clothing those that have no clothes, visiting people who are sick, visiting people in jails. Just because Christianity has been perverted by televangelists during your lifetime and my lifetime doesn’t mean that they’re using the words of Jesus. Jesus said, This is how you’re judged. You’re judged on how you treat the poor. You’re judged on how you give hope to the hopeless. I am shocked you didn’t talk to a single person...
BILL MAHER: Yes, but...
JOE SCARBOROUGH: ... that didn’t tell you that.
BILL MAHER: Yes, they talk about that, and that is important. But of course, you can do those things without believing in those kind of myths. You don’t have to personalize a God. OK, but Joe, I mean, let’s get real. I’ve read the New Testament. I’ve read it recently. It is a lot about achieving eternal life through Jesus Christ, OK? Yes, helping the poor and all that stuff is in there, but mostly it’s about saving yourself through this one method, through this one man. God sent his son to earth to die for your sins, yada, yada, yada. That’s what it’s about.

With that, this segment comes to an end.

Certainly, “you can do those things without believing in those kind of myths.” Although, there may be something to be said for the fact that it is not exactly atheist who establish, fund and manage charities, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, disaster relief organizations, hospitals, universities, adoption agencies, foster homes, etc., etc., etc.

As much as I know that Bill Maher has built a career based on bombast, belittling and vile displays of prejudice I get the feeling that he may actually be honestly confused on this point. Or would that be condescending? I am trying to give him some credit, even while believing that he deserves very, very little, if any. I wonder if he missed the point when he was interviewing many, many people.

I would not doubt that many, many of them stated that the point of Christianity is salvation. The issue is that it was at that very point that they, many, many of them were, and this is a crucial point, sharing this message with Bill Maher. It may be this very simple, yet crucial, point that Bill Maher missed. Would not the experience of salvation be a prerequisite for telling others about salvation? Would Bill Maher refer to volunteers at a homeless shelter’s soup kitchen as “selfish” because they also ate, and ate in order to have enough energy to feed others?

Thus, it may be perfectly accurate to assert that “if you talk to most Christians, what they would say the most important part of the religion is, salvation, salvation through Jesus Christ.” And it is from this premise that Christianity is not selfish since it is not, or not solely, about “saving your own hide” or “mostly about saving my own behind” (“mostly” being a very telling qualifier) but is about attempting to save everyone’s hides and behinds. Bill Maher appears to be missing the cause and effect that is at work in the New Testament and in today’s 21st century Christianity.

[1] Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), p. 56


Continue reading Bill Maher’s Errata...

6/25/09

Dogmatheism – The New York City Atheists Proselytizers

Come out, come out wherever you are—reach deep into your pockets and see if you can come up with an amount that matches your lack of “faith”!!!

Yes, they are at it again. Having nothing better to do with vast amounts of money more atheist bus ads are being purchased.

This time the New York City Atheists are placing ads to read,

You don’t have to believe in God to be a moral and ethical person


This time the atheist talking points have been voiced by Ken Bronstein; president of New York City Atheists, a sect of the American Atheists denomination.

Atheists sure know their PR and this time mere bus ads are being officially introduced at a news conference—tantamount to Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with God’s Ten Commandments—or something.


Ken Bronstein offered the obligatory cognitively dissonant statement which has been a requirement of atheists PR campaigns in stating that they sought to…
find a statement that we thought was positive, it wasn’t bashing religion and it wasn’t huge…They’re not attacking or disparaging the Church as far as I can see.[1]

Well, my dear sir, keep looking further than you can presently see from deep within your well within the box atheist group think. “You don’t have to believe in God” is not attacking or disparaging the Church? Alrighty then.
Of course, needless to say, it is a given and grated that you will be hard pressed to find anything at all posted on the New York City Atheists website that is not attacking or disparaging the Church.

But let us not lose sight on the main point, the bottom line of the ads—they were a styled adhān,
Jane Everhart, the director of communications for New York City Atheists, said that one goal of the campaign was to increase membership.

Mr. Bronstein said he was more focused on establishing “atheist pride” and promoting acceptance of atheism.

“I’ve had people call me in tears, and tell me they thought they’d never see a sign promoting atheism in New York,” he said.



Moreover, this was meant to promote the non-gospel of the atheist emotive/spiritual/religious/militant movement and is described as part of an “atheism awakening,” as per Ken Bronstein and as “part of our coming out,” as per Jane Everhart.

Before referencing some comments about atheism’s increasing a-evangelical zeal let us ponder why atheists insist in responding to arguments that no one has made.

The issue is not whether one can be moral and ethical without believing in God. The issue is that atheists have no premise upon which to base moral and ethical besides their own personal preferences which they express via arguments from outrage, arguments for ridicule, arguments for embarrassment, etc.

Atheists can muse upon moral issues and even come to construct ethical systems but they are impotent systems which either presuppose an atheist utopia where people are good for goodness sakes or else get the iron fist of the government behind them.

Since atheists believe that morality is constantly evolving Sam Harris argues that rape once played a beneficial evolutionary role. Dan Barker argues that rape is not absolutely immoral. Richard Dawkins believes that the fact that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we evolved five fingers rather than six (as Atheism is Dead has noted and cited at this link).



With sentiments of increasing membership, encouraging atheist pride, envisaging an atheist awakening and calls to coming out the statements by Frank Schaeffer that I had read the day before reading about the New York City Atheists are more than apropos:

The New Atheists have proved how inescapable religion/spirituality is (by whatever name we call it) by turning their movement into a quasi-religion with priests, prophets and gurus, followers, and even church services. Check out Richard Dawkins’ website and you could be looking at the website of any televangelist suffering from an acute messianic delusion.

Add a dash of hucksterism, replete with scads of merchandise, including a “Scarlet A pin” to be worn by the faithful to identify them as followers and to provoke “conversations” with the uninitiated leading to their conversion to atheism. A secular “Maharishi” of atheism may also be a fruitcake cult figure leading a “church” in all but name…

When I was watching Religulous in an Upper West Side theatre in New York it seemed to me that the laughter and shouted comments were just another version of “Amen!” and “Preach it brother!” I assumed these cries of affirmation were from the more spirit-filled atheists in the audience! In a moment of unintended self-parody Maher even delivered an altar call at the end of his film begging believers to join him in his unbelief…

The New Atheists turn out to be secular fundamentalists arguing with religious fundamentalists.[2]

During a time of worldwide recession atheists are collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations not in order to actually help anyone in real need but in order to attempt to demonstrate just how clever they think themselves to be—need anymore be said?

[1] Daniel E. Slotnik, “Ads for Atheism Appear on Manhattan Buses,” New York Times, June 25, 2009
[2] Frank Schaeffer, “Purpose Driven Atheism: Secular Maharishis Seeking True Believers,” Religion Dispatches, June 23, 2009


Continue reading Dogmatheism – The New York City Atheists Proselytizers...

Atheism as Militant Activism in Schools

And: Richard Dawkins’ Pestiferous Memes

While atheists complain that via an Intelligent Design conspiracy Creationists are attempting to smuggle religion in though the back doors of public classroom atheism is kicking in the front door. Atheism is Dead has chronicled this in posts such as, Protecting the Science Classroom and The Wedgie Document.

Now, coming to a UK school near you, or across the pond from the location of Atheism is Dead’s colossal headquarters, the militant activist atheists are targeting their favorite captive and easy to propagandize audience; the naturally rebellious youth. Yes, the atheist “child abusers” (employing Richard Dawkins’ term) are at it again manipulating little children like so many marionettes as the puppet masters make them dance to the tune of atheism as anti-Christianity.


The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS) plans to launch a recruitment drive this summer.

Backed by professors Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling, the initiative aims to establish a network of atheist societies in schools to counter the role of Christianity.

It will coincide with the first atheist summer camp for children that will teach that religious belief and doctrines can prevent ethical and moral behaviour.

The federation aims to encourage students to lobby their schools and local authorities over what is taught in RE [religious education] lessons and to call for daily acts of collective worship to be scrapped. It wants the societies to hold talks and educational events to persuade students not to believe in God.

Chloë Clifford-Frith, AHS co-founder, said that the societies would act as a direct challenge to the Christian message being taught in schools.

She expressed concern that Christian Unions could influence vulnerable teenagers looking for a club to belong to with fundamentalist doctrine…

"We want to point out how silly some of these beliefs are and hope that these groups will help to do that," she said.
The federation's bid to improve co-ordination among atheists in schools follows a successful campaign at universities…

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said: "Atheists are becoming increasingly militant in their desperate attempts to stamp out faith. It is deeply worrying that they now want to use children to attack the Christian ethos of their schools.

"Many parents will also be anxious at the thought of militant atheists targeting their children."[1]

This new push to push atheism right into the schools (already done in textbooks) is not new as Richard Dawkins has long sought to get children to do his bidding.

As one of the most successful New Atheist televangelist and proselytizing missionaries Richard Dawkins you to reach deep into your pockets and help him shove atheism right down children’s throats (again, or still, or more so) while they are away from you in their classrooms.For years now, Richard Dawkins has been campaigning in his self-appointed role as Professor of the Public Understanding of Atheism. His crusade seeks public-charitable funding to push his own particular, and peculiar, Dawkinsian weltanschauung (which Atheism is Dead will dissect in the, relatively, near future) into the classroom.

He seeks to divert money from religious charities who provide life’s little luxuries such as oh, you know: homeless shelters, soup kitchens, disaster relief organizations, hospitals, adoption agencies, foster homes, addiction clinics, etc., etc., etc. and into the coffers of his propaganda machine. Richard Dawkins’ propagandist press will “maintain a database of charities free of ‘church contamination.’”

As Vox Day puts it, with regards to Richard Dawkins’ conversion crusades,

It’s like the Campus Crusade for Cthulhu, only sillier.[2]



The Sunday Times – Britain report by Steven Swinford:
RICHARD DAWKINS, the Oxford University professor and campaigning atheist, is planning to take his fight against God into the classroom by flooding schools with anti-religious literature. He is setting up a charity that will subsidise books, pamphlets and DVDs attacking the ‘educational scandal’ of theories such as creationism while promoting rational and scientific thought. The foundation will also attempt to divert donations from the hands of ‘missionaries’ and church-based charities.


Richard Dawkins “describes the theory [of intelligent design] as a ‘bronze-age myth’ and plans to send his own material to schools to counter the ‘subversion of science.’” What he wants to see in the classroom instead of Bronze-Age myths is quaint Steam-Era myths, “‘The enlightenment is under threat,’ Dawkins said…We even have to go out on the attack ourselves, for the sake of reason and sanity.”As Chris Lehmann put it in his article, Among the Non-Believers - The tedium of dogmatic atheism:
…village atheists are as numerous, and as shrill, as they’ve ever been, for the simple reason that the successive revolutions in thought that have furthered their cause—the Enlightenment and Darwinism—have been popular busts. As the secular mind loses mass allegiance, it becomes skittish and reclusive, succumbing to the seductive fancy that its special brand of wisdom is too nuanced, too unblinkingly harsh for the weak-minded Christer, ultraorthodox scold, or wooly pagan.

And yet,
Dawkins’s approach has also offended fellow scientists. Steven Rose, emeritus professor of biology at the Open University, said: “I worry that Richard’s view about belief is too simplistic, and so hostile that as a committed secularist myself I am uneasy about it. We need to recognise that our own science also depends on certain assumptions about the way the world is — assumptions that he and I of course share.”

It is any wonder that Richard Lewontin, Harvard University Professor of zoology and biology, made the following points, “As to assertions without adequate evidence, the literature of science is filled with them, especially the literature of popular science writing.” He then states that Richard Dawkins is among the contemporary science-popularizers who “put unsubstantiated assertions or counterfactual claims at the very center of the stories they have retailed in the market” he particularly mentions “Dawkins’s vulgarizations of Darwinism.”

It would be one thing for Richard Dawkins to look through a microscope or telescope and merely report what he sees. Yet, it is quite another thing for his admitted atheistic proselytizing worldview-theories to enter the classroom in the guise of science. As Richard Dawkins himself admits he did not become acquainted with the Darwinian theory of evolution because he read The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life but “it was because I was taught”[3].


I, for one, will certainly not accept Richard Dawkins’ worldview not only because as H. Allen Orr, the Shirley Cox Kearns Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester, wrote “most scientists do not accept Dawkins’s theory of memes”[4] but because if I did so I would be merely contracting his pestiferous memes. Yet, our children must be made immune to the militant activist atheist memes perhaps via inoculation—merely present atheist ideas to them and they will readily discern their folly.

[1] Jonathan Wynne-Jones, “Atheists target UK schools - Atheists are targeting schools in a campaign designed to challenge Christian societies, collective worship and religious education,” UK Telegraph, April 25, 2009
[2] Vox Day, The Irrational Atheist, p. 10 - freely downloadable
[3] The Atheism Tapes, Part 4: Richard Dawkins and Jonathan Miller
[4] H. Allen Orr; Shirley Cox Kearns Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester, “A Mission to Convert,” New York Times, Vol. 54, No. 1, Jan. 11, 2007. A review of Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion

Continue reading Atheism as Militant Activism in Schools...

6/24/09

A. J. Jacobs - Night at the Royal Ontario Museum

Atheism is Dead previously considered Christopher Hitchens’ and Camille Paglia’s bio-chemical-gray-matter-secretions as part of the Royal Ontario Museum’s lecture series on the question of the Decalogue – the Ten Commandments.
We will now consider A. J. Jacobs’ lecture.[1]

Of all three lecturers A. J. Jacobs is, in a manner of speaking, the most qualified by a vast, vast margin to speak on God’s Ten Commandments. This is because as part of a literary project he “spent one year living the Bible as literally as one human being could” and wrote of his experiences in his book “The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.”


One caveat is that A. J. Jacobs appears to be a well humored guy. I do not mean well humored in the Michael Shermer sort of way; particularly during debates he insists on telling what are supposed to be jokes but since they are really meant to demonstrate just how pleased he is with his own pseudo-cleverness they just tank time and time again.

As to A. J. Jacobs’ humor,

…he once wrote a story called "My Outsourced Life" in which a team in India “read bedtime stories to my son and argued with my wife.” He also wrote a piece on “radical honesty” in which his brain filtered nothing. It was called, "I Think You’re Fat."

So it seems that he is genuinely well humored although this makes it so that sometimes it is hard to tell when he is being serious and when he is not.
For example, it was reported, as quoted above, that he ““spent one year living the Bible as literally as one human being could…” but the sentence ended thusly, “…even taking time out to stone a passerby.” This may be cute but utterly unbiblical since in order to stone someone the committing of a stone-able offence would have had to have been witnessed by at least two eyewitnesses and then they would have had to have gone to the judges to have the case heard, etc. this was no spur of the moment rock concert but part of a very careful judicious, litigious system.

A. J. Jacobs also,
…painted lambs blood on his apartment door…did not cut his hair or beard. He said the Bible tells men not to cut the corners of their beards. Mr. Jacobs said he could not figure out where the corners were so he just let it grow like crazy.

A mighty beard! My kind of guy!


Again, funny but fallacious. Whence did he get the idea that he had to painted lambs blood on his apartment door? Unless his apartment was in the Egypt of millennia ago the onetime event, the original Passover in Egypt, has come and gone and there is no need for him to do that.
Why did he not cut his hair or beard? There is no biblical mandate against cutting hair; unless he took the vow of a Nazarite and then it would be until the vow was fulfilled. As for the beard; again, nothing about not cutting the beard itself but about not cutting the corners which Jew traditionally interpreted as being just behind the temples what they call the “payos.”

In any regard, what came of his year of living biblically?
His biggest challenges? “That’d be no coveting, no lying, no gossiping. They’re little sins, but they’re killers. My year made me realize just how many of these sins I committed every day. And refraining from them for a year was really hard but completely transforming.”

Biggest lesson? “Your behavior shapes your beliefs. If you act like a good person, you eventually become a better person. I wasn’t allowed to gossip, so eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I had to help the less fortunate, so I started to become less self-absorbed. I am not Gandhi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some progress.”[2]

He explained that living in New York and being a journalist meant that following the proscriptions against lying and gossiping (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour) was particularly difficult…He reduced his gossiping by 35%, he said.

Mr. Jacobs said that keeping the Sabbath holy was the one of the 10 that he found the most profound. He described his life — weekdays and weekends, night and day — as a giant blur.

“The Bible says you have to have the boundary at least one day a week. Someone described it as ‘sanctuary in time.’ Whatever your belief, even if you’re an atheist, the Sabbath deserves a comeback.”

Gratitude: “[My experience] changed my view on that.” He said saying constant prayers of thanksgiving gave him a change of perspective.”[3]

He also offered a few mixed compliments/putdowns in enjoining:
Thou shall not stereotype. Whatever group I went to was more complicated than the preconceived notions — I thought every evangelical was like Sarah Palin.

And,
Thou shall pick and choose. “I tried to follow everything in the Bible and I failed. Fundamentalists will say anything less than following everything is cafeteria religion. What’s wrong with cafeterias? I’ve had delicious meals in cafeterias.”

Again, clever but…I would love to meet any fundamentalists who claims that anyone needs to follow everything: did A. J. Jacobs sacrifice animals in the Temple? No. This is no longer enjoined.
And just what is wrong with cafeterias? Nothing. But we are not discussing cafeterias or food. Perhaps he will take his concept of delicious cafeteria meals to skydiving whilst repairing a refrigerator with a rabid mongoose—what is wrong with that?

A. J. Jacobs is an agnostic and has stated,
I’m Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden Restaurant is Italian.



Moreover,
I started the year as an agnostic. I sometimes believed strongly in God; other times I didn’t believe at all. At the end of the year I was still an agnostic but a reverent agnostic.”

He said he and his wife even joined a synagogue. “We never go but we send in our dues.”

Sadly, if this is true, he has gotten himself stuck in the letter of the law while missing the spirit. This is the true treachery of “religion”: you scratch our financial backs and we’ll scratch your soul’s—capiche?!

I could not help but being reminded of a friend I met while attending private Jewish school: he ended up owning a deli called “Heavenly Ham”!!!!!!!!

A Jew owning “Heavenly Ham”—oi vey!!!!!!!!

[1] Charles Lewis, “Commandments lecture series: Biblical living left a mark on writer,” National Post, June 09, 2009
[2] Carol Memmott, “Agnostic cloaked himself in the Bible for a year,” USA TODAY, Life, Section D, Monday, October 8, 2007, 1D
[3] Charles Lewis, “Commandments lecture series: Biblical living left a mark on writer,” National Post, June 09, 2009


Continue reading A. J. Jacobs - Night at the Royal Ontario Museum...

6/23/09

Camille Paglia - Night at the Royal Ontario Museum

Atheism is Dead previously considered Christopher Hitchens’ bio-chemical-gray-matter-secretions which he gave voice to as part of the Royal Ontario Museum’s lecture series on the question of the Decalogue – the Ten Commandments.
We will now consider Camille Paglia’s lecture.[1]

We must be aware that in the view of Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Camille Paglia, et al, “religion” certainly has its place: a highly restricted place.

For Daniel Dennett since it is all tomfoolery all religions should be taught in schools, as interpreted by atheism of course.
For Richard Dawkins since it is all fiddlesticks the Bible should be taught as literature so as to understand literary devices and references that are culturally commonly employed.
For Camille Paglia “religion” has a positive effect in creating art in various forms.

Yet, even these apparent friendly tokens, these smiley faces, are actually meant to water down “religion” as an anthological fascination, a literary interest or artistically inspiring but nothing more.

As for Camille Paglia, it is reported that she,

worships devoutly at the altar of Hollywood. She’s an atheist who defiantly defends religion, articulating in punctuated bullet-like speech why she thinks religion will save great art and why the generational reverence swelling in the 1960s for religion is represented so well in epic biblical films in Hollywood.“I think religious thinking is crucial to understanding the universe,” she said. “I do believe in all gods.”
Raised as a Catholic, Ms. Paglia said she soon turned with reverence to films, and one film in particular: Cecil DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.
“I realized I was identifying with Hollywood, Hollywood was my true religion,” she said. “My goddess of that time was Elizabeth Taylor. One of my transcendent moments was when she won the Oscar in Butterfield 8 as a high-class hooker.”
Raised as a Catholic by her Italian immigrant parents in upstate New York, she said she turned to atheism in her adolescence after becoming frustrated with the church.


Camille Paglia

She believes in all gods; maybe there was something to that Barna study that concluded that some atheists believe in God :o) Then again; 47% of all statistic are incorrect. Then again and again, Prof. Daniel Dennett argues that Joseph Stalin, the atheists, was really a theist because he told himself what to do: thus, all atheists are theists!?!?! See this post.

Sadly, she made a very, very common atheist mistake; she confused frustration with the church with frustration with God. Why did not her frustration with the church lead to acceptance Synagogue, Ashram, Mosque worship services? Who knows, perhaps there was something else going on like worshipping a Hollywoodland high-class hooker goddess.
Her main concern is that “Distancing society from religion is a grave error” because “a secular society that sinks into self-absorption won’t leave behind an artistic legacy.” But why should that be? Just because atheism offers no meaning for yesterday, no comfort for today and no hope for tomorrow? Oh, right; that is why.

Camille Paglia also took to task one of the other Royal Ontario Museum’s lecture series on the Ten Commandments lecturers; Christopher Hitchens,

Taking a swipe at Mr. Hitchens in the question and answer period, Ms. Paglia contrasted the title of his book God is Not Great with what she calls the most important sentence of her career: “God is man’s greatest idea.” “My criticism of him is, what is he offering to the young in his system?” she said. “That book is atrociously researched, and he will have to live with that. ... What does he give the young? Are they to live like him? That’s not a life.” [ellipses in original]


But just what is wrong with Christopher Hitchens’ life?







We will let Camille Paglia be the judge of that. But as for the young Christopher Hitchens’, atheism’s, ultimate bequeathment is basically that of Alister Crowley, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”
There is no universal ethos, no ultimate accountability, we are absolutely autonomous. While it would be nice if we could all just get along and just be good for goodness sake but this sort of universal anarchy is an open door through which a Mother Theresa or a Joseph Stalin may equally enter, it is a blank canvas upon which anyone can pain anything.

What Camille Paglia needs to understand is that the young is just about all that personages such as Christopher Hitchens have, it is all that militant activist atheists have since the young are: ignorant, arrogant, rebellious and, shall we say, hyper hormonal.
Ignorant and so vociferous, emotive, charming, English accented, iconoclasts like Christopher Hitchens seems to have the answers, “Like, he knows a lot of stuff and stuff.”

Arrogant and so they know more at the age of 17 than those who have decades more life and academic experience. Arrogance and atheism go hand in hand like a hand in hand.

Rebellious and so easy to influence toward rebellions against the norm (for example the normalcy of a majority Christian country), against “religion” (AMEN to that!) and the ultimate rebellion: rebellion against God.

Hyper hormonal and so being told that in the realm of sexuality basically anything goes anytime and anywhere with anyone for any reason or none at all within the most flaccid and impotent of please be nice or else you will get away with not being nice sentiments.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lastly, it is simply fascinating that the Royal Ontario Museum lecture series on the Ten Commandments featured a militant activist atheist, a professor of the arts and an editor at large for Esquire magazine. These are billed as “three prominent social commentators” fine but what about oh, I don’t know: a Rabbi, a Priest, a Pastor, a theologian, etc. I know, I know; a prepubescent French fries fryer at the local fast food joint is as, or more, qualified to speak on Biblical issue than a Rabbi, a Priest, a Pastor, a theologian—at least it would seem that blog comment sections are saturated with an outworking of such a proposition.

Maybe next time the Royal Ontario Museum can have a lecture series on quantum physics by a new age medium-a spirit channeler, an anesthesiologist, a radiologist, a chiropractor (who is a follower of the new age medium), and a couple of physicist for good measure (but make sure that one of the physicists is sort of self-employed and wrote the book “The Yoga of Time Travel”).
Oh, right, that was already done in the documentary “What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?” aka “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” or technically as seen in these images[2]:






The funny thing is that two of the physicists who argue that we create our own realities wear glasses. Why would you WANT TO have poor eyesight? Why create that reality for yourself maaaaaaaaaannn!!!!!!!!

Pardon the uncontextual aside but when “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” came out someone told me that if I watched it I would be up on the very latest that science has to offer: turns out that it is a new age infomercial.

[1] Katherine Laidlaw, “Commandments lecture series: An atheist defends God as ‘man's greatest idea’,” National Post June 16, 2009
[2] Philosopher of physics and Columbia University professor David Albert discusses the documentary and how he was misrepresented in the article “Bleep” of Faith.


Continue reading Camille Paglia - Night at the Royal Ontario Museum...

6/22/09

Atheism and Agnosticism

The UK Guardian has been exploring the question of the difference between agnostic and atheist and have thus set out to define agnostic and agnostic beliefs and define atheism and atheism beliefs.

They ask:

What is the difference between agnosticism and atheism?...are agnostics merely people who lack the courage of their lack of convictions?

Is there a real difference between someone who thinks that the question of God's existence is undecideable in priciple and one who supposes merely that the evidence to settle the question has not finally come in?

Or is the whole distinction between agnostics and true believers, or true unbelievers, really one of temperament? Perhaps some people just don't like feeling certain, and others feel uncomfortable any other way.[1]

They then posted an article by Jonathan West entitled, “I'm an atheist, OK? The debate over who should call themselves 'agnostic' is muddled by imprecise and conflicting uses of the word itself,” UK Guardian, May 18, 2009.

Jonathan West attempts to remedy the confusion as to atheism and agnosticism and the definition of agnostic and definition of atheism by, in part, writing:

The cause of the confusion is that atheists and theists have different definitions of the words agnostic and atheist, and adamantly refuse to accept the validity of each other's definitions.

Here is a short form of the definitions from the two separate points of view.
Theist version: An atheist is certain there is no God, an agnostic is not certain.
Atheist version: An atheist believes there is no God, an agnostic doesn't know.

But why bring theists into it? Atheist have enough problems attempting to figure out the difference between agnostic and atheist and defining atheism and agnostic.

For example, as Atheism is Dead noted in our post Atheism Symbols - Atheist Symbols; Internet InfidelsJeffery Jay Lowder noted,

…the “atheist” movement keeps shooting itself in the foot by failing to reach a consensus regarding the meaning of “atheism.”

Jonathan West attempts to elucidate further:

The two versions are only subtly different, but a great deal of hot air has been expended on this difference.
Let's look at the two definitions of atheist first, because this is where the cause of the confusion really resides. It is the distinction between "believes" and "is certain". In choosing the two different forms of words, I am trying to convey that the theists' definition of atheism suggests that atheists know beyond any possibility of doubt that they have proof of God's nonexistence.
The self-described atheists tend to use the word "believe" as meaning a very high degree of confidence, sufficient to live their lives on this basis, but falling short of 100% proven certainty.

Yet, his “short form of the definitions” of agnosticism and atheism are limited and merely add to the muddling. They certainly are limited due to being “short form” but perhaps he should not have referenced “short form.”

What of strong atheism, positive atheism, explicit atheism or critical atheism? What of weak atheism, negative atheism or implicit atheism? What of Naturalists, Materialists, Rationalists, Humanists, Skeptics, Brights, Freethinkers, Philosophical Skeptics, Universists, Ethical Culturalists, etc.? What of anti-theists, militant atheists, activist atheists, etc.?

Part of the confusion is that Jonathan West thinks that,

A Christian is somebody who says he is a Christian, and an agnostic is somebody who says he doesn't know. If we all accept each other's self-applied labels, we can all get along much better.

Such concepts are convenient to atheists who can then say things such as, “That idolater, fornicator, leader of a violent regime says that he is a Christian so; he is a Christian.” Yet, Christianity is a concept defined within certain well defined parameters and so one is not a Christian by mere claiming to be one: such “self-applied labels” are irrelevant even while it is important to consider how those with whom we are having a discussion defined their “self-applied labels.”

Thomas Henry Huxley coined the term “agnostic” in 1869 because he noted two extremes:

1) Atheist who positively affirmed God’s non-existence (claimed to know that God did not exist).
2) Theists who positively affirmed God’s existence (claimed to know that God exists).[2]

Concluding that he did not posses enough evidence to positively affirm either position Thomas Huxley coined a term which he saw as a middle position which was that of lacking knowledge to go either way (whether such knowledge actually exists outside of his personal knowledge or may someday be discovered is another issue).

It was after this coining that Charles Bradlaugh (circa 1876) popularized the definition of “atheism” as some define it today; words to the likes of “lack of belief in god(s).” Or what EvilBible.com’s author refers to as the “few morons” who are “so damn stupid” for defining atheism as such (see Atheism is Dead’s post History of Atheism).

This post was meant to provide a heads up to the centuries old issue with which atheists have had to deal which is how to define their own position. Some will merely say, “All Atheists merely lack a god(s) belief” and yet, this is merely another self-serving and restrictive attempt to bypass the issue.

[1]What is agnosticism? Is agnosticism anything more than a polite, or cowardly veil around atheism?,” UK Guardian, May 18, 2009
[2] Britannica Online Encyclopedia entry for “agnosticism.”


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