Sunday, March 22, 2009


The Satan and Hell myths have always been among the most disreputable and primitive anachronistic baggage and garbage to poison the well of Christianity's core message of love. Tragically, neither of these additions were even original, but further cases of plagiarization from pagan religions that preceded Christianity.

For example, "Hell" had long been intertwined and promoted in the Mithraic tradition for Persian Mithraism. While no literal “Book of Mithras” persists – there have been segmented texts referred to as “pagan epistles” which were known originally as the Izeds (28 in number) appearing in The Zendavesta. The Zendavesta, literally "text and comment," is the doctrine of Zoroaster (Zarathrustra), comprised in eight parts, written at different periods, but of which the earliest have been assigned to the date of B.C. 1200-1000.

Aspects of Mithraism - such as "Hell" and "Shaitan" or Satan - that later filtered in the Graeco-Roman world undoubtedly came from this text (the Izeds, wherein “Mithras” was chief and ruler) as well as others likely destroyed with the burning of the library at Alexandria. (See, e.g. J.M. Robertson’s ‘Pagan Christs’, 1966) Since Mithraism was a secret cult or mystery religion, this wouldn’t pose too much of a problem since its precepts, rituals were held in confidence anyway – as a secret society would. (Much like today’s FreeMasons who maintain absolute silence as regards their rituals.)

More authoritative texts-sources include: 'The Origin Of Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World', Oxford Univ. Press, 1989, Origin of All Religious Myths- The New Testament Exposed, by James B. Pullen, Jr. and Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, by Helmut Koester.

All of them point to the fact that Christians copied at will from ancient books that predated Christianity by a thousand years or more. Christian Fathers, for their part, regularly and uniformly lost it whenever they encountered those predated references from Mithraism - whether to "the Last Supper", or the "virgin Birth", or Mithra's crucifixion, or his Ascension into heaven. It infuriated them because they desired such accounts be solely in reference to the Christian Savior (who they actually confabulated from Mithraic descriptions)

By way of example, after describing the “Lord’s Supper’ as told by and for Mithraists, Church Father Justin Martyr evinces outrage as he writes :


Tertullian also bears this out, scolding:


While a careless Christian may still infer (after Justin Martyr) that the Mithraists copied from the Christians instead of the other way around, the reading of more of Justin Martyr's works dispels this. Martyr expressly argues that:

"the demons anticipated the Christian mysteries and prepared parodies of them beforehand".

The use of term "anticipated" clearly shows Justin recognizes the Mithraist mysteries occurred BEFORE the mysteries portrayed in the Gospels. If he knew this, the question remains of why he simply didn't refer to imitation alone, rather than introduce "demonic anticipation"? Tertullian also records such anticipatory recognition.

Again, what strikes a person is the desperate need to preserve these as exclusively Christian.

As to the origins of Hell, we know up to the time of the 2nd Council of Constantinople the general doctrine was one of metempsychosis a form of reincarnation taught by Clement of Alexandria and Origen of Adamantius. These doctrines were rejected by the 2nd Council, however, because they were believed to "give Man too much time to seek God".

Thereby Hell was seized from the scriptures- Izeds of the Mithraists and put to work in the Christian format. If then Hell could be pushed as the "end" for unbelievers, for the "one life to live" paradigm, then the Church might garner far more converts in a shorter time.

Alas, it didn't work out that way, and the evil in the world merely seemed to multiply as the Inquisition and Crusades showed.

Satan was also borrowed as the primary tender and Manager of "Hell" and he also arrived by way of earlier Mithraic texts. There is nothing in any of the earliest scrolls or Christian documents that singularly refer to a "Satan" which were not already plagiarized from the Mithraists.

So why keep using these primitive and deceitful creations? Because the latter day Christians - Fundies mainly -possess such a meager and bankrupt faith that they have no other options to try to drive the unwilling into their tent. The true fact here, as Bertrand Russell once pointed out (Why I Am Not A Christian) is that once a religion succumbs to dignifying fear, by exploiting it in brazen ways to grab converts- it loses the battles for heart, minds and would-be souls.

The reason is that the only ones who will belong to such a discredited faith will be those prepared to sacrifice their integrity and minds, or those who are in some way already insane. At least now there has emerged a site dedicated totally to exposing the basis of the Hell and Satan myths and the regressive minds that have always embraced them. One can find that site here:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Moralism Trumps Ethics

Africa currently is at the heart of the most devastating epidemic in recent history with tens of thousands dying each year from AIDS. In Africa, most HIV is spread hetero-sexually, male to female. The cost is staggering, not only economical (impeding the development of AIDS-countries) but human, in terms of the children born with AIDS.

Into this dismal scence Pope Benedict II has appeared, speaking a message at odds with common sense and science: that the conquest of AIDS depends on "spiritual renewal" as opposed to condoms. The pope's claim, in fact, is totally divorced to all the findings of biological science which show that condoms DO stop HIV-infection. Thus, the pope has peremptorily removed one effective weapon in the HIV fight. Thereby leaving millions of Africans open to even more devastation.

How can this be? Well, it exists because the pope's dogma, based on a hyper-sexual moralism, has been allowed to trump ethics.

What do I mean by ethics? I mean the effective and practical exercise of judicious choice in matters of morality which leaves the maximum benefit for the greatest number. As a Materialist, I also know that all valuable ethics (as opposed to false ethics) is human created, the same as human laws. There is no need to invoke a "divine lawgiver".

What do I mean by "moralism"? I mean a specious mutation of morality which isn't founded on species survival, but in unsubstantiated belief in the uniform human sensibility to external stimuli, and an irrational committment to an abstract doctrinal purity that is believed to surpass human life in import.

How else explain the pope's uncompromising rejection of condoms? Clearly it leaves the door open to millions more deaths in Africa, and it is founded on doctrinal purity.

The basis has been well articulated already by Roman Catholic scholar and ethicist Leslie Dewart in the (1964) article: 'Casta Connubi- The Devleopment of Dogma'.

For example, a reduction of all the Church's doctrines in the sexual sphere, comes down to forceful condemnaton of: i) masturbation, ii) fornication, iii) use of any artificial birth control devices in marriage.

In the case of (iii) most Catholic Ethics courses (such as I had to take at Loyola University) refer to any marital act performed using birth control as: "mutual masturbation". Thus, it isn't a marriage act at all, but an occasion for "mortal sin".

The reasoning is given by Dewart herself in her article, and is based on all the above acts being "unnatural" but in this context specifically refers to masturbation:

"It is unnatural precisely as a moral object, because it contains a moral defect against the generative powers and the use of the sexual organs. The moral perfection of these organs requires the congress of man and woman"

Of course, the careful reader will look askance at the use of the words, and how they are constructed for mind control. For example, what IS a "moral defect agianst the generative powers"? I know what an optical defect is, say in a telescope objective lens, but what is this moral defect? How do I determine it? What is this "moral perfection" of sexual organs? What observables characterize it that we may distinguish it objectively from "imperfection"? What are the precise criteria?

Unless such pointed questions are addressed and answered one cannot be sure if the language components have any remote correlation to objects, conditions in reality. If we don't know these things, then the construction of the precept and the bogus words may be merely a ruse or excuse for interference in millions of lives. To control them.

In the case of a married couple performing the sexual act using condoms, or the pill, the act is placed on the same footing. Why? Because according to the Church's Natural law doctrine, the act deliberately exclude the purpose for which marriage was intended - procreation. Thus, any act performed where that purpose cannot be fulfilled is "unnatural", hence it is the same as masturbation.

Thus, the pope would object to condoms in the same context, as artifacts which impede the proper execution of the act, and thwart the real purpose of procreation.
Note that it doesn't matter and is in fact totally irrelevant that the condoms protect against AIDS spread. The core issue is adherence to Natural law.

The pope is effectively saying:

"Just make sure your sexual acts are natural, and that means no condoms. If you die from AIDS, c'est la vie"

Of course, people will argue that isn't what he said, and that he is invoking abstinence as a solution. But anyone who has ever worked in a third world nation (as I have while in Peace Corps) knows that such feeble prescriptions amount to poppycock. No one takes them seriously, especially young people. In Africa and the (mostly) African-Carribean West Indies, "abstinence" is the prescription for elite white (e.g. Caucasian) freaks of nature who can somehow ignore their sexual urges at will.

But several larger points are being missed. First of these, can we always be certain that what is proclaimed "natural" really is, and not a ruse to control people? Theological sophistry employed as a subtle (and not so subtle) mechanism to control people's minds and lives.

For example, author Julian Pleasants in 'Contraception and Holiness' (1964) notes that for hundreds of years slavery was considered to be consistent with Natural law. It conformed to the natural order of things, because obviously slaves could not tend to themselves, they required masters. Of course, this was revoked by the Church. But the fact it cold so so once surely suggests it ought to consider doing it again for the many acts it condemns in the sexual sphere - that can lead to massive loss of human life.

artificial birth control itself ought to have been allowed from as early as 1968. At that time, Pope Paul VI's own papal commission recommended abolishing the proscriptions against it. Rather than pay attention to his own commission, the pope signed off on one of the most egregious and detrimental encylicals of all time: Humanae Vitae.

Author David Yallop, in his book In God's Name (p. 58) has portrayed Humanae Vitae in stark terms indeed:

"On a disaster scale for the Roman Catholic Church it measures higher than its treatment of Galileo in the 17th century"

Again, the implicit assumption in this egregious encylcical (and a later one, 'Veritatis Splendor' penned by Pope John Paul II) is that procreation takes precedence over any other function of sexual intercourse. In other words, the Roman Catholic Church has, by virtue of its Natural law doctrine, succeeded in reducing the human sex act to the same one as occurs in common lower animals. In the words of Elizabeth Daugherty, 'The Lessons of Zoology' in Contraception and Holiness (1964, p. 110):

"Why do we call secondary the ends of the sexual act which have been accorded in full measure to us, and why do we call primary the end which we share with the lower animals?"

If the Pope can answer that then he might be able to answer truthfully why he would casually permit the deaths of millions in order that the sexual end in common with the lower animals prevailed.

Perhaps because he considers humans as expendable as the lower animals, since both now stand to be wiped out by a phenomenon (human-induced global warming) driven expressly by intolerable increases in population of human beings.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Blasphemy"? How so?

In a recent comment at the end of Part 2, 'The Futility of Debating Religious Believers', my Pastor brother has said he will no longer be posting on this blog on account of "blasphemy" directed at his assorted beliefs, and being "cussed out".

I don't know, but I have a sneaking suspicion that those aren't the real reasons for his departure. I will bet that - if you subjected him to a proper interrogation - he'd fess up that he and Rene simply couldn't hack it. They had the logic "leather" taken to them and they simply quit.

Using a few remarks to justify leaving is simply a cop out, but I do recall him saying (when I ceased posting on his blog) that I had "thrown in the towel". But only in an indirect way: in the sense of tossing in the towel that we'd ever have a meaningful debate.

Up to now, that remains a far away dream or distant illusion, especially after his fulsome blasphemy charge. A charge, incidentally, that rings somewhat hollow given that Pastor Mike has evidently asserted he wants to banish "all 14 other versions of the Bible, that are not King James, to the flames of Hell" (According to harleyman who checked Mike's website - but who also warned that now that he knows we know, he will quickly seek to remove the offending phrase. Not cricket, Mike!)

On scanning through the assorted comments in the wake of Mike's appearance on my site (along with Rene's) I simply see no evidence of any "cussing" or "blasphemy". I do see hard-hitting comebacks, some laced with justifiable impatience (including from my own hand) given how both Rene and Mike have dodged accountability and adhering to the basic rules of logic.

Looking at one or two specific remarks, I conceivably see where Mike got his blasphemy idea. One comment by Caleb (Shay) was to the effect that if aliens ever land the first thing they ought to do is zap and destroy all bibles with a raygun.

Now, this does sound a little over the top, but not when you think of it. Because theological writers from James Byrne to Pascal Boyer have warned that when people become fixated on secondary artifacts like religious books and texts (e.g. Bible) to the exclusion of the living principles - they risk idolatry.

James Byrne especially has noted the serious dangers of excessive attachment to the Bible and how toxic it can be to character.

In his book, 'GOD', Chapter Four: Facing the Wrath of God, he notes it is important to be aware and conscious when reading the Bible because it brings Christian (and to an extent, Jewish) believers face to face with the ornery, anthropomorphic caricature many of them worship.

The classical biblical reference as Byrne notes, is in Genesis:6:6
wherein this deity gets angry and even regrets creating humans. Can such an entity be real? Of course not! It’s an anthropomorphized projection emanating from the vicious and primitive brain cells of the scribes (or whoever) that wrote it!

Thus, using biblical and other examples, does Byrne brilliantly lay bare the destructive elements in many of the concepts of God which pervade ancient scriptures. The torturing monster who had his way with Job is another case. Anyone who takes this seriously as a reflection of an actual divine entity is definitely in need of some therapy or “clearing” of brain engrams (to use the parlance of the balmy Scientologists). As Byrne puts it, the lesson of the Book of Job is NOT about the suffering of the innocent (as Christian Michael Novak and others try to portray it) but rather the nature of an anthropomorphic God.

Toward the end of the chapter, Byrne shows how believers might purge such infantile
conceptions from their mind to at least gain more insight and arrive at a more sober
approach to Being. Purging these infantile conceptions also means they will be less likely to call "blasphemy" at each and every biblical criticism they hear or see -including the need to eradicate all bibles.

Which by the way, is quite logical when one thinks of it. If all bibles were to be eliminated then what? I believe the believers would finally be forced to LIVE their principles instead of endlessly regurgitating them by quoting chapter and verse. And then using those regurgitated citations to heap hate on all others who don't exactly share all their same beliefs. (Including the bible used to quote them!)

Pastor Mike, then, really needs to put down his King James bible and read Byrne's book. I am convinced it would open up novel neuronal connections.

As I pointed out to Mike in one e-mail exchange, of all the versions of the Bible the King James is perhaps the most discredited because it contains the most erroneous baggage. Most of this was acquired after the 12th century manuscripts of Erasmus were used to provide its substance - when we know Erasmus translated carelessly from the Latin Vulgate. Most serious copyists of the time, or even earlier, would shun anything as error-rife as the "KJV".

But hey, in its final transcription ca. 1611, some really flashy English was used, and it soon became the "hit" of the English speaking world. The truth is more sobering, that the Revised Standard Version easily trumps it.

I regret that Mike and Rene plan to depart, but it was as expected as my departure from their site. At the end of the day, we are too different- our thinking too radically divergent, as well as our language (not to mention logic) to have any meaningful dialogue or associations.

A pity, but perhaps the core of the human condition.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Will Pastor Mike Ever Get It? (2)

We continue now, as we examine more of Pastor Mike's inexhaustible store of codswallop concerning atheism, which he is desperately seeking to box in as a "religion" or "belief system".

He writes:


They didn't have tithing, but there are plenty of things for sale. And, let's not forget to mention how they seek donations to help cover the costs of promoting atheism, paying speakers, renting facilities, etc.

Well, duh! Obviously if any organization - even the Shriners, are to have a communal life (some of the time, as with meetings, conferences),then money must be paid. This is not yet a free society, after all. Conferences in distant cities therefore require speakers be paid, hotels booked, the whole nine yards.

Again, the egregious mistake of Mike and his ilk is in portraying this as some sinister evidence of a cult or "religion" when ANY group that meets, or has some social dimension, will do the same thing. What, he expects all atheists to remain hermits because he never wants to see us? Would he be supremely happy if we all climbed into caves, and remained there? I suppose he would. Then there'd be virtually no one to prick his fantasy world balloons.

But as social beings, humans - ALL humans- have the right (not mention the natural inclination) to meet, and greet and exchange news. This doesn't mean anything over and above the social aspect, and it is disgusting for my brother to deliberately read more into it in order to make a specious point. Come on, Mike, do better than that!

He also complains:

I think it rather ironic that those who are against religion so much, are in actuality so religious themselves.

No, we are not, we are HUMANS ourselves. Being social (meetings, conferences etc.) is a dimension of humanity, not religiosity. Humans possess a social nature based on which it is antithetical (to health, including mental) to remain as loners. And if you had more than a grain of sense and education you'd know that. (Ok, at least admit it). But again, these are the sort of disgraceful tactics we have come to expect from Mike and his cult members liek Rene. Obfuscate, conflate, dodge and then repeat.

He goes on:

"Unfortunately, the atheists have gathered around non-belief and want that non-belief promoted in society. All I have to say is, eternity is a long time to be wrong."

Once more, employing specious tactics. Mike knows no better. No atheists "gather" around non-belief, because being discredal we do not need to actively cling to a negative belief to make our case. We simply invoke laws of probability to show how withering tiny in likelihood your world view is.

As far as a "long time to be wrong in eternity" - once more we behold the hidden threat ('Believe or your butt's gonna burn!'). This is all fundies know, because they are unable to make their case through reason or logical argument. But it doesn't matter. To us, integrity counts for more than fear. And all the resort to Pascal's Wagers (any form) in the world, will not deter us.

Rather than act as weenies who have to cop to a belief to save our "eternal hides" --we ask instead: What kind of a God is it that has to have 'yes-men' in order to prosper? Who find it more critical that humans cop to beliefs in him, merely to save their butts?

If I were any type of real God, I would rather burn to smithereens anyone or anythign that copped to a belief merely to get cozy with me in an afterlife.

But evidently Pastor Mike's god is such a cowardly little weasel, so insecure, that he must have a court of yes-men. Never mind they are not invested in real beliefs or aceptance!

Let us continue:

Mike avers:

"Atheism is, essentially, a negative position. It is not believing in a god, or actively believing there is no God, or choosing to not exercise any belief or non-belief concerning God, etc. Which ever flavor is given to atheism, it is a negative position. "

As before this discloses a basic, fundamental misunderstanding of the issue. If the believers do not get this part right, then we may be sure there is little else they will get correct. (Or we may assume they are just having at us, playing little games with no serious intent)

The claim is that atheism denotes a "negative position" e.g. "not believing in a god, or actively believing there is no God". But the goodly pastor misses the point (not to mention the mark!)

Let me put this simply so even a sixth grader can get it: IN WHICH "GOD" DO WE NOT BELIEVE???
Up to now neither you nor your underling have graced us with: a) a basic definition of your God, or b) the necessary and sufficent conditions for its existence. Having not done this, it is impossible to posit a single or uniform "belief" or "non-belief" postion. It is like insisting I am an "anti-elvist" because I don't accept the claim for elves, or I am an anti-astrologist because I don't accept the claim that any configuration of stars guides our destinies. In other words, there is NO denial or active disbelief action required if something is a priori disposed of by the fact its claimants haven't shown existence.

Now, go back and read my next to last blog entry: 'Rene Says: God Is...God Is....God Is....and you will find the basic ontological principles for providing support for an existent.

Even in our extended e-mail debates this is something you singularly avoided so it isn't suprising you'd resort to it again now.

So again, the point is not what definition atheism has, but what BRAND of god belief (in theism) you are proferring and whether or not it is substantial or insubstantial (like elves and fairies).

This is important because even within Christianity many many types of deity are accepted. Without a definition and ontological basis offered, we cannot be sure of which of those we are supposed to be "negative" about.

For example, Catholics subscribe to a triune deity. The necessary condition is that aseity be the basis for each Person (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in the Tinity. The sufficient condition is that each Person can act independently but be relational (in its divine attributes) to each of the others.

One can then invoke a pro-nay position in terms of acceptance. The Catholics have fulfilled their duty in other words.

So have the Christian Universalists, those of the assorted Religious Science groups, Christian Science, Unity and Unitarians.

Thus, their deity exists as a universal presence in the universe BUT without personality. Thus, the necessary condition for its existence is a non-contingent energy that is incorruptible (e.g. Dirac vacuum state) and the sufficient condition is that it is a mediating consciousness which can enfold human consciousness at a higher dimensional level.

Again, the conditions are fufilled for anyone to invoke or use a pro-con position in response.

Even Christian Socinians have fulfilled their duty. (Their deity being limited by the most percipient consciousness available in the universe at any one time)

BUT you all (evangelicals) have not. And you expect us to take your seriously when you continue to avoid providing the goods? When all we can conclude from these tactics is that you have a comic deity? As opposed to a cosmic deity/

The Pastor reels on:

"In discussions with atheists, I don't hear any evidence for the validity of atheism."

Again, there does not have to be such when the deity claimants haven't delivered the basic for their entity. The con-position (intellectual) only needs validation when the claimant side has already fulfilled its obligations for an ontological claim. That is, they have given us an operational definition and also the n-s conditions for its existence, that we may discriminate from all other possible existents of the same generic mold ("Gods").

Until such time, you cannot say atheism is not providing "evidence for its validity". The reason being YOU all must present the positive basis for your deity's validity first. Further, the onus is on you to prove it (or at minimum provide the n-s conditions for it) not on us to disprove it.

Mike again:

"There are no "proofs" that God does not exist in atheist circles; at least, none that I have heard --"

Nor will you, because as I have repeated 1001 times already, it is logically impossible to prove a negative. This is something learned in Logic 101 but something obviously lacking in your education.

Let me repeat this again in the (faint) hope it will finally sink in: The positive claimant is the one who has the burden of substantiating his proof for his claim. It is not the burden of the con-position to "prove" an entity does not exist.

Obviously, because any madman can make any insane claim and then defy me to 'disprove it'. For example, he can claim giant invisible ten dimensional spiders are taking over the Earth. Then shout: "disprove it". Obviously I can't. But that does not mean there are really ten dimensional spiders taking over the world. Only that logic has its limits in terms of "proving negatives".

Mike again:

"especially since you can't prove a negative regarding God's existence. "

Well, the Pastor seems to finally get that proving a negative is impossible. So why then continue to insist we do that? Obviously because it's the only game he knows, and the only one he can play...given he's averse to providing support for his claim via n-s conditions, or definitions.

The Pastor spiels on:

"Of course, that isn't to say that atheists haven't attempted to offer some proofs that God does not exist. But their attempted proofs are invariably insufficient."

WHAT "proofs"? Where? Provide them! Sources and citations, authors? NO atheist I know has attempted that.

What we have done is to invoke the basic laws of probability to show your claimed deity is either redundant or inconsistent (in terms of its claimed properties) with actually observed actions in the world. Perhaps the best and most succinct clarification of this was offered by Philosopher Alan Watts, in his 'The Wisdom of Insecurity':

Watts says:

"The modern scientist is not so naive as to deny God because he cannot be found in a telescope or under a scalpel, or in a test tube.

He has merely noted that the idea of God is logically unnecessary. It does not help him to explain anything, e.g. supernovas, or to make verifiable predictions"

In other words, the *idea* is redundant.

Maybe Pastor Mike can look that word up in a proper dictionary before he comments again! We certainly don't want to see him get more and more "redundant" in his replies!

Will Pastor Mike Ever Get it?

Well, after reading a recent remark he made on this blog, one wonders. Look, I truly love my brother, but I wish sometimes that he wasn't so pig-headed, obdurate and impervious. I wish for once, in other words, he would prove me wrong when I say that debate between us is futile. But with each exchange we have he proves me correct again.

Let's look at some of his remarks as he seeks to show Atheism is a religion (this despite a recent national survey which leaves all those without religious affilliations, e.g. atheists, as NON-religious.)

Pastor Mike writes:


Their Creed :

No God, anti God, Pro-homosexuality, anti-Christianity.

Of course, this is arrant nonsense since no atheist has a "central creed", since atheists are discredal- meaning we reject the necessity for human minds to surrender to creeds AND beliefs. I can find the goodly pastor almost as many atheists who are against homosexuality, as who are tolerant of it. (Though true, because more atheists have a tolerant mindset, they will more likely be tolerant to homosexuals but this doesn't mean they are "pro" homosexual. Again Mike's deplorable misuse of language.)

Ditto with being "anti" Christianity. In fact, there are a number of Christian groups with which atheists can and do make some common cause. For example, Anglicans teach a doctrine of 'Universal Salvation' meaning they do not condemn their atheist brothers and sisters to an eternal hellfire abode because they don't accept their core doctrines.

Same thing with those members of the Unity School of Christianity who see atheists as fellow seekers of truth, not "souls" to be burned forever and ever because they don't see things the same way.

So, there are lots of Christian denominations that we can agree with. Given this, we can hardly be "anti-Christian"! Of course, Mike will come back like he normally does and insist they are not "real Christians" and then we go on and on with the semantic battles again.

As for "anti-God" - how can we be when Mike hasn't even shown his particular deity exists? That would be like me saying I am anti -Bigfoot, or anti-Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Or, anti-ghost!

One can only be "anti-something" if the thing has a validated, factual existence or has been shown to meet criteria for an ontology. Neither Mike or his brethren has shown that. Hence, all we see in this segment is typical Mikelian Rhetoric. Meaning 99% hot air, and 1% CO2.

He goes on:

Atheism is a belief.

I know that many atheists will disagree with this, but the atheists gathered around a common belief of no God or lack of God and the need to increase what they perceive as separation of church and state in America.

More codswallop. Again, atheists are discredists, meaning they reject belief as they do objects of such which lack any validation or ontological foundation. As a discredist, I am not going to invest my intellectual or emotional resources into anything that hasn't been qualified or at least for which n-s conditions haven't been given.

Mike arguing that atheism is a "belief" because it renounces belief or active investment of intellecual acknowledgement is like saying I'm an astrologer and believe in astrology though I withhold credibility like I do for gods. Hell, it would be like ME saying Mike "believes in" astrology though he rejects it! If we are going to employ his balmy, perturbed mis-definition for "belief", let's go the whole hog.

Again, proper thinking discloses that the way to insanity is paved with verbal atrocities and linguistic assaults such as Pastor Mike has demonstrated (but which were redolent in the Bush White house during the Bush years, when one or other staffer affirmed that they "created reality")

More Mike gibberish:


Created a problem and offered a solution. The problem was religious oppression in society with atheistic ideals as the solution.

Mike has really gone off the deep end here. One must wonder how in touch with reality he is. The Evangelical cult (side show?) to which he belongs (and who he defends) are amongst the biggest, specious crisis- mongers in existence. Every second of every day they are fomenting a "crisis" about coming "Armageddon" and that people must 'get right with the Lord" before the Anti-christ or a battalion of "demons" show up.

Evangelical zealots like Mike are so neurotic and cynical, they actually applaud Israel and its policies not because they love the Jews and Israel, but because it is in the Valley of Megiddo that the "final battle" will play out. The Jews and their policies then, are essential to make that happen. (After which, of course, all the Jews who don't convert will be consigned to eternal Hell. Since the evangelicals' bible only allows for "144,000" Jews converted, it means all the rest - maybe 30 million worldwide - will be damned.)

On a 'Phil Donahue' (MSNBC) show at the end of his run in Dec. 2002 he actually had a couple of these zealots on his show. And they didn't even blink an eye when he asked if most Jews were damned after Armageddon.

"That's what the Good Book says!" one idiot affirmed. "We can't go against that!"

No indeed. But keep fomenting false crises over it, especially as it drives the conversion yen. After all, these maniacs are then justified in their "witnessing" because they are only trying to save us from eternal perdition.

No, the real crisis mongers are on Pastor Mike's side and they are among the best because they foment crises out of supernaturalist gobbledegook.

Mike tries again to make his specious case:


Gathered in groups with meeting times. Now, atheists don't meet nearly as frequently as Christians do in their churches. But, they do have state meetings, national meetings, and regular gatherings.

Well, true, BUT what the Pastor doesn't say is that they are by and large business meetings, with some entertainment thrown in. Maybe 35% are devoted to bringing fellow atheists up to speed on what is happening on the latest policy fronts. The reason is simple, because so many of us are trapped in hostile enclaves we need to get out and mix with like minds, if only to preserve sanity. This IS not the same as standard religious gatherings and Mike knows it. But as usual, conflation is his game since its the only way he can try and make the playing field more level.

Mike keeps on keeping on:


The lectern from which speeches are made, their ideas are promoted, and their reasons for their belief system are validated.

Well, in tiny enclaves perhaps. But nowhere near to the extent orthodox or evangelical ideas are validated in almost every other issue of TIME or Newsweek, it seems. (Watch now the covers as Easter approaches)./

But again we see the same disgraceful and shameful tactics. Because atheists may (fortunately) garner some minuscule public attention 1% of the time (mostly through books) , they are claimed (by Mike) to own it most of the time, when in fact it is HIS side which controls the speechways and talk radio, and the endless holier-than thou Christian cable shows ....all trying to get more souls to Christ.

Provided, of course, they cough up the right amount of $$$ for a little spiritual help and prayer!

The irrepressible Pastor goes on:


The atheists seek converts to their cause. They frequently speak about getting the idea of atheism out into society, and to move people away from theism.

Actually, like many aspects, the Pastor confuses two different things. Getting our ideas out into the society (because we are so persecuted there) is NOT the same as seeking converts. Indeed, the first is a matter of survival given how extremsit Christians have tried to hijack our political system, especially during the Bush years when they literally ran amuck, with dinners every other night in the White House.

The wake up call for us came when in March of 2006, in a University of Minnesota study by Penny Edgell, Associate Professor of Sociology, and co-authors, Doug Hartmann and Joseph Gerteis. Their study, based on a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, disclosed that atheists now occupy the bottom rung of social respect for minorities in American society. They’re now regarded as contemptuously as communists were in the 50s, and rated in social worth below Muslims, immigrants and homosexuals today.

The study noted that a significant number of respondents associated atheism with an array of moral misbehavior, including criminality and materialist emphasis. In addition, the findings “seemed to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.”

In general, the respondents believed they “shared a basic sense of moral right and wrong” with everyone but atheist fellow citizens. Difficult to comprehend when the bulk of those in prison for major felonies are members of one religion or the other! And this study emerged after more than 30 years, during which Americans have been led to believe by their media that the seeds of social tolerance had finally sprouted.

The sheer scope of the revealed ignorance cried out for disclaimer and, most of all, a basic and fundamental brief for the defense of all atheists everywhere. THIS was why atheists have had to seek to get their voices and ideas out, for sheer survival.

As for "converts", no, We view it as unproductive as it robs individuals of their mental liberty and freedom to pursue their own paths.

Again, ironic when it is actually Pastor Mike and his lot who accost shoppers at Malls, follow and stalk them in parking lots with their literature, all to ensure they are "witnessed to". Perhaps no other form of social terrorism is so tolerated in this country.

Nonetheless he continues

Celebration over converts

Rejoice when converts to their belief system are announced. There is applause and excitement when there are announcements about people who had "come out of the closet" an announced their atheism.

More irredeemable bunk. Obviously, since we have no "belief system" there can be no rejoicing over purported "conversions". No, what Mike has evidently confused is our very real applause and excitement whenever fellow beings break free from their religious, superstitious bonds that hold them in thrall. That keep them up at night worrying about "hell", or how they can best be saved.

Yes, we also applaud when people "come out of the closet" because their actions then show they have escaped the fear bogey. They have joined the rest of us who have declared ourselves as unbelievers. They have become part of a free thinker community, as opposed to being hostages to religious mind slavery and its agenda to create fear to consolidate social control.

Once again, Mike with fanfare:

Zealous for their cause

They want their cause and belief system expanded to the extent of changing America to reflect their thinking.

Oh, brother! And this is coming from a guy who (as he makes clear on his website) will not rest until America becomes a Christian Theocracy, with the Ten Commandments established as the sole rule of law.

Talk about psychological projection! Mike would make a great subject for case study for some unemployed therp.

He rambles on:


Only they have the truth. The atheists repeatedly speak of how atheism is the truth and that theists and deists are ignorant of facts and reason.

We say no such thing, and again, this is slightly amazing coming from a pastor who regularly preaches on his own site that ONLY his claque of extremists holds the "truth". Indeed, his 'False Doctrines' page readily assigns all Mormons, Muslims, Catholics etc. to "Hell" because they do not hold his particular version of truth. Nor his bible (the "KJV" which is the "0nly correct version")

Yep, you got some chutzpah dragging in that one, Mike!

What atheists actually say, re: their own position, is that the jettisoning of a belief-gravitating dependence means one will more likely seek actively a truth if one is out there. This is opposed to confining it to one book, the King James Bible, like Mike's breed does.

Again, talk about chutzpah he writes:

Us against them mentality

There is a profound description of the division between atheism and theism with the atheists being the ones who are defending themselves against the intrusive theists.

Well, uh yeah....Mike. When these theists (I prefer to call them what they are, extremist evangelicals) pursue you in Malls and parking lots to "witness" because they feel their god tells them to do so. If that isn't being intrusive I don't know what is. But note how Mike deliberately uses euphemisms like "theists" to try to avoid letting outsiders know the facts.

Which are: HE and his cult are the ones propounding and spreading the us v. them mentality as they condemn billions to eternal perdition for following "false doctrines"

Here he is again, no wiser:

Concerned about public image

This is normal. They are very concerned with how they are perceived and want to change their negative reputation.

Well, uh...duh! Given that University of Minn. study you might say so.

Maybe because we don't want to see our homes burned down some night!!!

Mike again:

Lack of critical thinking

This is common everywhere. Though they think they are rational, by far most of their arguments and comments aren't .

Oh brother....and sheesh! Mike you have some titanium balls there! This from a guy who doesn't even know that the one of the earliest and best original mss. traced is the Codex Vaticanus, not the KJV!

As I had to point out to Mike: at least understand the deficient basis of the KJV bfore you unthinkingly embrace it. Understand that it is traced from 12th century mss. by Erasmus who mangled the original Latin Vulgate to his own forms.

Btw, do you think a "rational" person believes in Hell? Demons? Recall you once referred to me as an "agent of Satan"? Is that rational?

Misrepresentation of opposing views

Again, another common trait among atheists . They have a common ideology, and see others as being less enlightened.

Well, uh....let's see now: they call others (brother) an "agent of Satan" or allies of the Antichrist. What are we supposed to think, that you all are enlightened? Your own wors, and screeds, tracts are what convict you, we needn't do a thing.

More to come!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Travails of Rihanna

Across the whole news spectrum now, the recent abuse of pop singer Rihanna (at the hands of Chris Brown) appears to dominate. Oprah and Ellen have given their opinons ('Leave!), so have Denise Simpson (on 'Good Morning America') and Robin Givens, Mike Tyson's ex -wife. Even Miami Herald columnist Leon Pitts has put in his two cents.

But do they know the whole backstory?

Let us start with a relevant fact, that Rihanna (actually Robyn Rihanna Fenty) is a native of Barbados. Barbados also happens to be where I served in the Peace Corps, and lived for 20 years.

One of my early assignments at the school I taught for while in the Peace Corps, was to instruct students in "socialization". As a (then) teacher of science (chemistry, biology, general science) I had no idea what that meant, but quickly found out. Basically, I had to try to expedite the constructive departure of "school leavers" (those who had finished taking the 'school leaving' exams) so that they might become positive contributors to Bajan society, as opposed to renegades and n'er do wells.

In the first class, I addressed male-female relationships because I'd heard all the banter on how Bajan men "whip" their women mercilessly.

I launched the class session by asking the class:

"What is the most important tool you can use in communicating?"

A boy in the front row raised his hand and since he was the only one that did, I called on him.

"De most best tool ta use is de rod. A big tamarin' rod. An' yuh can break it over she behind!"

I nearly fell over as the kid didn't even blink when he said this. However, as I surveyed the room all the young males nodded their heads as if in unison.

SO I asked another question:

"WHY would you want to beat the woman who is your companion?"A different boy responded this time, larger and obviously accustomed to doing lots of manual labor:

"Ef she don' have da food ready. Beat she! Ef she en' ready fuh sex, beat she! Ef she give yuh she mout' beat she!"

Again, all the male students nodded heads as if the kid had stated an axiom.

I asked the girls if they agreed with this. A shy type raised her hand and I selected her.

"Ef we do wrong, we gotsa get beat. Dat is troof. Ef yuh do wrong.....licks fuh so!"

When I left the class and ventured into the staff room I inquired of those there if I'd experienced some hallucination or if these kids were typical.

"Pretty typical" a female English teacher replied. "Beating is a way of life here for the working class, most of whom are only common-law wed, and many in the middle class too."

Later, I learned harsh physical discipline is engrained in Bajan school culture as well. The oft heard remark, "getting six of the best" isn't just something out of the Victorian period. It occurred regularly in Bajan secondary schools, up to the time I left the island in 1992.

The Headmaster, or Headmistress, would select the best rod possible, then lay it on the unruly posterior of whoever deserved it. At one school I taught at in Peace corps (which shall remain innominate) the HM would regularly line up 20-40 students outside his office each morning for "licks". It was almost like a switching "assembly line" and I even comented to one staffer that this was how it appeared.

Once, in the process of trying to switch two kids at once, he accidentally hit a female teacher on the shoulder as she tried to squeeze into his office.

I am sure that Rihanna's former school (Combermere, or 'Caw'mere')also had this ritual well established, though to be sure not to the same intensity as the country school referenced for the assembly line!

What is my point here?

That to someone hailing from such a culture, it would be extremely hard to see the non-application of corporal punishment as in any way "normal". The same way the girl in my socialization student averred that "Ef we do wrong, we gotsa get beat. Dat is troof." SO also anyone who had grown up in that milieu would come to accept it.

Rihanna is no exception. Is it possible Rihanna Fenty was waylaid by the Headmaster at 'Caw'mere'? No one can say for certain, but it isn't necessary to be actually beaten to imbibe the meme that "beating is good if done for a 'good reason'"

This is exactly why the calls for her to leave Brown may be to no avail, despite the impassioned plea columnist Pitts made. If Rihanna has taken the "Bajan kool aid" - even a little, she will believe that Chris Brown was dispatched to Earth to keep her in line. Not that she is a free agent, who can choose to stay with him, or tell him to get lost.

One dearly hopes that, unlike her sisters still in Bim, she will learn before it is too late.

And Rene thus spake: God is...God is....God is....

Yes, from Rene's recent comments here, he is convinced he knows all about God.

"God is incorruptible"

"God is immortal"

"God is invisible"

Hold on there. You haven't even provided an ontology for your God yet and you are going hog wild assigning (epistemological) attributes? Talking about placing the cart before the horse.

However, as Philosopher Joseph Campbell in his book, The Power of Myth (Anchor Books, p. 56) noted:

"'God' is an ambiguous word in our language because it appears to refer to something that is known."

His point is that the language creation of a noun in itself is not adequate to confer reality.

Much more caution on the cavalier use of nouns and attributes related to 'God' is pointed out by author James Byrne, in his excellent book: God: Thoughts in an Age of Uncertainty. . The essence of Byrne's point of view is that investing too much in talking or writing positively about "God" or assigning too many attributes (if even indirect ones) is tantamount to a gross form of symbolic idolatry. (As is clinging too much to every word or phrase in the Bible)

Byrne's emphasis on this point is so strong that (earlier) he goes so far as to endorse French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion's ploy of only writing 'God' with a strikethrough. Thereby to indicate no one has the capacity to describe, grasp, conceptualize or manipulate the underlying entity. In effect, as Byrne observes, "to think -G-O-D- is unthinkable is to reject the entire basis of onto-theology."

This is something Rene is wont to do, because of course he admits no ontology. In his mind simply rattling off biblical quotes is enough to confer existence. But he falls woefully short. Again, this shows why it is futile to debate the Christianoid Archetype that Rene represents.

Let us go into this a bit more. We can do this by addressing the core ontological problem of an "existent" - what it means, and how defined. What needs to be done to validate a claim for such. Once one addresses this, it is then easy to see how all of Rene's complaints against atheists (especially of implicit atheists)are really complaints against himself for being an intellectual coward.

First, following Russell’s lead (‘The Problems of Philosophy’) we need to specify the practical and operative laws that apply to existents and entities, under the general rubric of “being”. (Thus, to be most accurate here, when an atheist agrees to debate a Christian, he is only agreeing to the presupposition of “being”. It remains to be worked out or proven, what the exact nature of this being is.)

By “existent” we mean to say that which has prior grounding in the mind, albeit not yet demonstrably shown in reality.

For example, the number ‘2’.

If the number 2 is mental, it is essentially a mental existent. (Do you see literal two lurking in the outside world, apart from what the human mind assigns, e.g. two apples, two oranges, two beetles etc.?)

Such existents are always particular.

If any particular exists in one mind at one time it cannot exist in another mind at any time or the same mind at a different time. The reason is that as time passes, the neural sequence and synapses that elicited the previous “existent” at that earlier time, no longer exists. My conceptual existent of “2” at 3.30 a.m. this morning is thus not the same as my conceptualization of it at 4 p.m. It may APPEAR so, but rigorous neural network tests will show it is not. (E.g. differing brain energies will be highlighted at each time)

Thus, ‘2’ must be minimally an entity that has “being’ regardless of whether it has existence.

Now, we jump into the realm of epistemology from here, with the next proposition:

Generalizing from the above precepts, ALL knowledge must be recognition, and must be of entities that are not purely mental but whose being is a PRECONDITION- and NOT a result- of being thought of.

Applying this to the ontology of “non-contingent creator”, it must be shown it exists independently of being thought of. (E.g. there must be the case that an independently existing Creator abides outside of the existence of human brains which might get tempted to confabulate it. Note here that quoting bibles won't do since one is then simply committing the logical fallacy of 'appealing to authority')

Here’s another way to propose it: If one demands that this entity is not susceptible to independent existence, and therefore the mere announcement or writing of the words (e.g. 'GOD') incurs validity, then the supposed condition has nothing to do with reality. It is like averring we all live inside a 12-dimensonal flying spaghetti monster. I would be laughed into oblivion, especially as I incur no special benediction by invoking the G-noun.

I guess another way to put it is that words are cheap. However, amongst all the million words Rene has used so far not ONE of them gives an ontology for his existent. And he continues the chronic believer "sin" of talking or writing past me rather than addressing the core issues. But let us move on.

In effect, if the proposed “non-contingent creator” isn’t subject to independent existence, then its alleged “truth” is separated from verification. Truth then becomes what is communicated to us by proxy (or proxy vehicle, e.g. epistles by Paul to the Corinthians or other biblical citations) with the existent (abstraction “Creator”) in the mind of the communicator who deems himself qualified to make the “truth” exist. (As in the case of Rene averring "God is invisible", "immortal" etc. when he hasn't even demosntrated the existence. Thereby committing another logical fallacy "affirming the consequent")

But such a “truth” is fraudulent and cannot be a valid expression of the condition. What it means is there is little assurance the communicated secondary artifact has all the elements and particulars needed to be an affirmed REAL entity. The truth is dispensed according to our needs (in this case the need to believe humans are seen after by a Cosmic Daddy) – all we need ignore is the constellation of evidence that refute it.

How to escape from this ontological problem? Short of the pre-recognition (and acceptance) of the entity in the mind of the other – the only alternative for the communicator is to show at least ONE sufficient condition (reason) for the existence of his claim.

A sufficient condition is one which, if present, the entity must exist.

For example, a sufficient condition for the existence of a hydrogen emission nebula in space would be proximity of the nebula to a radiating star. (The necessary condition is the nebula exist in the first place). In this case, the star’s radiation causes the hydrogen atoms in the nebula to become excited – cause electrons to jump to higher energy levels- then go to lower with the emission of photons)

Other key or core logical and language violations that Rene has committed have been pointed out by Pascal Boyer already. (Since so many Christians who debate atheists make them). Boyer, in his 'Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought'. (Perseus Books, 2001) notes, (Ch. 2, `What Supernatural Concepts are like', p. 51) observes that it is essential :

"the information contained in key tags of the statement or concept must contradict information provided by the ontological category".

Boyer, to make it clear, emphasizes this (p. 52)

"Religious statements or concepts INVARIABLY include information that is counterintuitive relative to the (ontological) category activated"

Thus, Boyer's criteria for a reasonable basis for ANY supernatural definition or claim (whether `God', `soul', or whatever) must satisfy two principles:

1)It must include information that is counterintuitive relative to the (ontological) category activated.(For example, `physics' may be one ontological category that is *also* an epistemological category- then 'spirit physics' would be counterintuitive to it. However one must first elucidate what that means exactly!)

2) The concept and its statement must preserve all relevant default inferences except the ones barred by the counterintuitive element.

Up to now, Rene - being the intellectual lightweight and coward he is, has refused to comply with any of this. He instead keeps returning to bogus definitions of atheism that do not apply, and attempting to place the onus of "non-belief" on atheists, when the full burden of proof is on god believer to deliver the goods - and show their claimed existent merits being added to reality.

Of course, Rene will make his further comments and remarks - cluttering the issues further rather than enlightening us as to why we should believe his God exists. But he merely shows again why it is futile to debate the hard core believer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Futility of Debating Religious Believers (2)

In my previous article I pointed out the extreme problems in confronting and debating religious believers, in terms of both language and logic. In the first case, believers (since they are objectively always at a disadvantage in any rational argument) always aggressively seek to deform the meaning of words used to their own ends.

This is perfectly exemplified in the latest, most recent posts (on Pastor Mike's Blog) attacking me (mainly by a poster named 'Rene') where the definition of "atheist" is challenged.

The definition I gave in at least one comment on the (innominate) site, was based on a definition I had provided in an issue of The Mensa Bulletin (March, 1994):

"Let's be clear about what constitutes Atheism and what doesn't. The Atheist - to put it succinctly, absolutely withholds investing intellectual/emotional resources in any supernatural claim. Indeed the word Atheism itself embodies this definition”

What is happening here is not active disbelief, i.e. making a statement 'There is no god', but rather simply passively withholding belief/acceptance in a statement already made. Hence, the deity believer has made the positive claim. The ontological atheist’s is the absence of belief in it. No more - no less.

What I mean by the "ontological atheist" is one who derives his or her atheism from the basis of ontology. The type of atheist here is also known as an implicit atheist.
However, it appears this form of atheist causes too much mental consternation for the likes of Rene. For he keeps insisting it is a "cop out" or "cowardly" for not actually "denying God".

But, as I have tried to point out to his pedestrian brain, one does not deny that for which the existence hasn't been shown anyway. And I provided Rene the basis to do this, by giving the necessary and sufficient conditions for ths existence of his deity. But, up to now, he has skirted this, opting to come after my use of precision terms (and if words are not precise, how can thought be?) as "exercises in semantic nonsense".
In fact not. These terms are well agreed upon. One of the best articulations is by Austin Cline:

Another definition has been given by George Smith(which Rene invokes to assert my own definition is "poor" - evidently unaware that Smith merely has provided his own interpretation not necessarily agreed upon by all):

"the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it"

But I have a few quibbles about it. I would change that to read: "the absence of any theistic belief or emotional, intellectual investment in such - based on the absence of any ontology provided by theistic believers. Thus, implicit atheism entails a conscious appreciation that theism has no ontological basis, and is rejected on that basis".

Note: I did not say the underlying entity ('God') is rejected-denied, but rather theistic belief.

There is an easy reason for this: because if no god believer provides a definition for his entity then we cannot know what manner of 'divinity' he is talking about. (This is especially important because otherwise we have to assume all god believers accept the same divinity, which I am sure they would object to).

So, unable to accept or process my very exact language, Rene adopts the only tack available, to attack my language - as opposed to rectifying his native obtuseness. Belligerently clasping on to Smith's (incomplete definition) and his own obdurate tone-deaf stance, he then has the temerity to ask me:

"Phil are you a child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues, but you are still unaware of them or are you a man [who attended Christian College for three years] unacquainted with theism? "

And this alas, merely exposes poor Rene as a hopeless, desperate dolt. He has already shown he can't process nuance, in definitions, and now uses my early attendance at a Catholic university to try to impute a kind of infantilism to me, which actually he is projecting as a trait of himself.

Indeed, this is evident in his next remark:

"You again want to redefine your atheistic position from active denial to passive denial".

Again, disclosing the impossibility and futility of debating Xtians. (Okay, at least a certain type of Christian for whom logic and reason are not facile skills) Here he errs by referring to active and passive denial, when there is no such thing. One either denies, or one does not deny. There is no "passive" aspect. There IS a passive withholding of acceptance and recognition of the claim made.

Rene's Neolithic and neonatal (childish) brain appears inured to processing that "denial" is not germane if the entity is regarded as redundant, which it would be if no ontological basis (e.g. necessary and sufficient conditions) has been shown for it. Thus, no serious person in his right mind goes about denying elves, tooth fairies, or flying spaghetti monsters. Denial is unnecessary because it pre-supposes a tacit existence ALREADY there. But if no one has presented me with the n-s conditions for fairies, it is superfluous for me to "deny" them. Denial embodies the subtext that in the back of my mind I suspect they really exist. But I do not. I act and conduct my affairs as if they DO not exist. In other words, the entity is redundant to physical reality. And the claimants have not demonstrated its inclusion is justified.

Now granted this can be a subtle difference, and perhaps too subtle for a coarse, neolithically-fragmented 3 pounds of Rene-based protoplasm, conditioned to think simply in black and white (either-or) terms. But one does not concede to a primitive accusation here merely because his opponent's brain is resoundingly primitive and unable to parse critical differences. Such is the case with Rene.

This error is then compounded by his resort to false analogy, a violation of logic. (And we won't even begin to belabor the incessant and ongoing logical violation known as "affirming the consequent" or making the statement that something exists prior to showing it exists!)

An excellent insight into Christian illogic (of the form peculiar to fundies) is evident in Rene's next remark:

"It is interesting that atheists assert that atheism is not a religion but total absence of belief. This is like saying that black [which is the defined as the total absence of color], not a color."

In fact here he makes a common logical error (driving the false analogy). That is in conflating a belief (or non-belief) in a God with holding or rejecting a religion. This has just come to the fore recently with a detailed survey finding that 15% of Americans are not affiliated with any religion. HOWEVER, many of those interviewed made it abundantly clear that this didn't mean they rejected God belief, only that they rejected being associated with a religion! Thus, it is clearly possible to be religion-LESS and hold a God-belief. In an inverse sense, it is possible to be religion-LESS and God-less! (Which the survey also shows, since the number of atheists doubled and they are also a subset of those WITHOUT religious affiliation)

The sterile (and self-defeating) ploy of comparing a color like 'black' to the condition of (simply) godless atheism is particularly egregious. Here, Rene conflates the use and medium of scientific definitions, with cultural or cosmetic ones. Obviously, for the latter group - black IS a color, since once can manufacture clothes, etc. of that color. One does not have to appeal to scientific journals to access "black"! However, that still does not obviate or remove the fact that in color spectra terms (based on what we can obtain using a laboratory spectrograph, say) 'black' IS an absence of color. (E.g. there is no wavelength or range of such in the electro-magnetic spectrum that allows the identification of 'black')

Rene then goes on:

"It is common practice throughout the world that black is a color regardless of the technical definition. Likewise atheism is a religion."

And here his brain is unable to process the simple and basic fact that a scientific definition is not necessarily the same as a cultural one. (And alas, his whole argument's validation critically depends on them being one and the same!)

But in science, since lab spectra disclose no 'black' it IS an absence of color. But that doesn't mean a cultural value for black (as a fashion) doesn't exist, nor that the latter's use and medium nullfies the scientific definition. Again, we behold the limits of his neolithic brain. The flat conclusion that 'likewise atheism is a religion' is then merely a hollow non sequitur, uttered to confirm his nonsensical brand of logic. Or is it illogic?

But as we saw, even in the recent religious affiliation survey Rene is proven wrong, since its results make clear that those who claim religions do NOT include atheists A(and atheists are ipso facto included in the sub-group without religious affiliation). Rene would actually have done slightly better by insisting atheism was a 'belief' (actually a negative belief) because at least then he wouldn't come off as an abject moron.

Rene, not to allow anyone think he's achieved brilliance at the last moment then writes:

"By the way, the US Federal Court of Appeals ruled atheism as a religion"

Which, of course, is neither here nor there. U.S. courts make tons of rulings each year, but that doesn't mean they are each engraved in stone. And while this court may well have ruled atheism a "religion" to make its legal argument more transparent, it still doesn't alter the fact atheism is NOT a religion.

For one thing it turns the very meaning and basis of religion on its head. We know all religions embody centralized beliefs or dogmas that issue from some sacred scripture or a body of theology based on scriptural interpretations.. Atheism has none of these, since there are no central propositions or beliefs with which all atheists agree.

Second, atheists make no positive claims for any transcendent existent that requires their worship or obeisance. They simply acknowledge no god or entity with which to build a religion in other words. Third, atheists maintain no sacred works, scriptures, or ancient artifacts, from which their “truths” are extracted.

They have no analog to a Bible, Qu’ran, Talmud or anything remotely similar. Instead, atheists pursue objective truth via open inquiry predicated on current science, which may provide fewer certainties or answers than if they merely placed their faith in a book.

Fourth, atheists convene no regular communal rituals, services or ceremonies to honor, or propitiate any entity. By contrast, the centerpiece of 99.99 percent of religions is precisely some social ritual, for the purpose of assembling together like-minded believers toward a common goal. Moreover, their churches, synagogues, temples etc. dot the landscape, taking up room that could be used to house the homeless in each respective area or locale.

Perhaps most importantly, there is no "acceptance" of atheist principles from any “congregation” since there’s no homogeneous congregation to bestow it. Atheists often disagree on as many things as they agree on, precisely because no formal coda exists to fix beliefs within a uniform dogma.

That said, let us look at Rene's last remark - again woefully missing the mark, and showing once again the futility of exchanges with certain dead-heads of the fundie persuasion:

"Accordingly, he does not say, 'I do not believe a deity exists', but rather prefers to say, “I choose to withhold my belief that a deity exists.” He claims there is a big difference between the two."

Here again, Rene's own neolithic and unnuanced language does him in. If I say the first statement, I am committed to a position of negative belief, e.g. disbelief. We need only go back to my Mensa Bulletin definition and the key words, here highlighted for his benefit:

"the atheist absolutely withholds investing intellectual/emotional resources in any supernatural claim "

What is happening here is not active disbelief, i.e. making a statement 'There is no god', but rather simply passively withholding any intellectual acknowledgment of committment or acceptance in a statement already made. Hence, the deity believer has made the positive claim. The ontological atheist’s is the absence of belief in it. No more - no less.

But now fully in the realm of folly, Rene cannot help himself when he blurts:

"To demonstrate this, all one needs to do is just invert the argument; is the assertion 'I believe a deity exists' any different from the assertion 'I choose to confirm my belief that a deity exists'? "

But, of course, readers will clearly see this isn't what my definition stated. Nor is it relevant to what has already been given. So here, once again, we behold Rene making an irrelevant pitch with an egregious example.

And we let him have his last say:

"Surely, the semantic value of such a distinction is zero, and so is the cowardly position of implicit atheism taken by a rational and educated adult."

To which I say: the semantic value of your twisted version of MY definition may be zero to you, but the RATIONAL value of my own definition(see my own words in my definition of implicit atheism from the Mensa Bulletin) is substantial to me. The reason is that it allows an exactitude and latitude for nuanced capacity of thought which your 'black-white' - either-or demands cannot permit. But if I capitulated to your demands, I would become as neolithically-primitively minded as you are.

Surely, the mark of a truly educated adult is to strive for maximal thought expression via exactness and attention to meaning, not descend to the minimum or base quantum allowed. So, it is no surprise that you see my rejection of your lowest common denominator methods and definitions as unacceptable.

As for "cowardly position", hardly! Not after having put myself out there with two books on atheism and Materialism. What you interpret as 'cowardice' here is really the inability of your own truncated intellect to argue at the level required to make cogent points.

But this is understandable, since your fundyism only teaches and drills you on the basis of cant and doctrine, not critical thought.

Thus again, we see why it is futile to debate hard core religious believers. Debate with Rene is clearly futile because he remains ensconced in primitive reasoning skills and resorting to deforming language to his own ends....since all other options for advancement of his claims are foreclosed. One step could easily be achieved if he would only provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for his deity's existence. But he can't. And it ought to be self-evident why he can't.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Futility of Debating Religious Believers

With the best of intentions I embarked on the challenge of debating my hyper-religious (Christian fundamentalist-evangelical) brother on his new Blog, but quickly have realized that it amounts to an exercise in futility.

It appears to me, just from the first few days of activity and about eight comments-posts, that believers’ brains are radically different in structure from those of rationalists-naturalists. But I needn’t have been so nonplussed, since biologist Lewis Wolpert in his superb book, ‘Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast’, has eloquently presented how and why believers’ brains are the way the are.

When one delves into that, it becomes more evident why believers are almost impervious (immune?) to any appeals of logic, scientific fact-data or critical thought. Simply put: It is too dangerous for the believer to venture outside his believer cubbyhole.

Consider one of Wolpert’s points, that (p25) "beliefs are mainly help about important factors in one’s life", such as what happens when we die, and what happens after. Add to that the factor or dynamic that many believers already possess a latent existential uncertainty or fear and you have the mix that can portend an obdurate being who fends off all logic.

For example, the issue of death is arguably the one that instills the most fear. The very notion of non-existence is so terrifying that it can wreak havoc even in the most secure minds. What about one less secure? What about one which has been exposed to and conditioned by authoritarian agents? In most cases, beliefs will be shaped that reflect these influences and fears.

If the fear of death is then the foremost one casting a pall over human life, it stands to reason that a belief which dilutes it will be the foremost one to clasp on to. No surprise then that most religionists have some core belief system regarding afterlives. The existence of these afterlives give the believer assurance he will go on and not simply become a mound of dust when his body expires. Oh no, his “soul” (deemed immortal) will continue in some kind of afterlife dimension.

Of course, religious belief does not stop at merely positing an afterlife. Since most religious belief systems are also by definition exclusionary, that means they also need to add beliefs which separate “wheat from chaff” or “goats from sheep”.

The aim of these beliefs is to preserve some essential purity of relation in the afterlife.

Thus, evangelical Christians like my Pastor brother simply cannot allow an additional belief that includes a common afterlife shared with atheists or Buddhists (or even Catholics, if you go by his ‘False Doctrines’ page). What is done instead is to confect an alternative afterlife belief for the “outsiders”. Those who don’t fit into his moral or religious universe.

In this case, “Hell” is invented for that purpose. Thereby, atheists, Mormons, Catholics, Hindis and Buddhists ARE afforded an afterlife, but one in which they are eternally punished rather than rewarded. This satisfies the hyper-Christian’s need to believe that everyone cannot simply unify at the end (unlike the Anglican doctrine of “Universal Salvation” which has every being including Hitler – united at the end)

The atheist, for his part, cannot be understood by the religious believer because he seems not to have the normal human attributes that the believer uses for his assumptions about the world.

How can a person NOT believe an in afterlife? Not be terrified of Hell? Not have some ultimate meaning imposed from on High? How can a person follow ethical principles without the need to posit an ultimate moral lawgiver? It makes no sense!

Because the believer’s meme network cannot accommodate the atheist’s philosophical or rational position, the only recourse is to marginalize it as abnormal. How can it be otherwise? This is embodied in comments such as this, about atheism. by my Pastor brother in one exchange:

“It is contrary to human experience , where some knowledge of God , no matter how suppressed and distorted , has universally existed . "

As I noted in my response to him, this is a common logical error made by the Christian. That is, in mistaking a "universal" practice for a human norm and then assailing those who act otherwise as not part of "human experience". But we now know from neurophysiology that the brain harbors numerous defects, especially in the temporal lobes which are the regions that give rise to human religious experience. (See also 'The Neurophysiology of God Belief' by Michael Persinger)

Thus, the actual manifestation of widespread god belief is really the manifestation of an inherent human brain flaw. THAT is exactly why it is so prevalent! But this counter-argument cannot be accepted, because then it means the believers’ own core concepts are suspect.

Thus, beginning from the believers’ marginalization of the atheist, the well of debate is poisoned and this makes an ongoing, constructive exchange impossible.

But let’s get to exactly why an ongoing and productive debate is futile. I list the reasons below as some of the primary ones:

1)Believers and rationalists do not speak the same language.

A good example is my Pastor brother incessantly asserting that "The atheists problem is they want everything " proven . "

When after umpteen times I have reminded him that no, we don’t require this. Just giving the necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of his God would do nicely. But it seems he is unable to even do that. I suspect the reason is that these terms do not exist in his believer vocabulary. He only has “proof” or “disproof”. Hence his incessant egregious claim that atheists are unable to “disprove a God exists” when I have told him over and over that this amounts to proving a negative and so is logically impossible.

But it goes into one ear and out the other.

Let’s move on:

2)Believers and rationalists have two different moral foundations.

Again, because the believer only accepts morals from a supreme “lawgiver” he assumes the atheist has none because the atheist doesn’t require a “lawgiver”. As I pointed out endless times to Mike, in order to succeed in their primitive ancient and agrarian communities humans had to develop a basic morality or ethics. You don't rape others, steal or murder because the survival of the whole community is undermined. The atheist employs this same basic morality in his life today without any need to posit a god. Indeed, the atheist can turn the question around on the believers:

From where does God get his (or her) moral values?

Or to put it another way: Is an act good by its intrinsic nature, or is it good because a God did it?

To the atheist, an act must be good intrinsically, not because God X, Y or Z said it or did it.

Saying ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is fine, but not cricket if you yourself allow mass killing such as the Holocaust.

We continue:

3)Believers and rationalists have two different scientific world views

For lack of a better term, I’d call the believer world view a “flat Earth” paradigm. It is almost entirely lacking in even the most basic rudiments of scientific understanding or basic principles. For example, in one exchange my brother refers to random chance origins of a physical system as when he asks:

"Most atheists pride themselves on being rational . But why be rational if the universe is the result of irrational chance ? "
The phrase “irrational chance” is a non-starter for one with a true scientific mindset because chance can indeed be a rational process in the proper contexts. For example, the radioactive decay of an isotope is “random” in terms of which specific atom in an aggregate – say of Uranium 238, decays. But overall the decay follows a specific law or regularity:

N = N(o) exp (- At)

In this case, N denotes a residual number of atoms in a sample based on some original number N(o) decaying with some activity A over time t (to the number N).

Thus, the random law embodies a totally rational outcome and basis! However, arguing with believers about this is futile because in their minds anything random is irrational.

No surprise then they would also find any theory of cosmic origin via quantum bootstrap also irrational.

4)Believers do not know how to argue logically

This could also be a manifestation of their education. But in the main I have found that believers are unable to use a basic logical process in an argument. As an example, a basic logical syllogism is constructed so:

If X, then Y

If X, then Z

therefore: Y = Z

What if instead we append an axiomatic statement that reads, in effect: "X=Y is unprovable-in-the-system". (E.g. X= "God", Y = "Moral law") If this statement is provable-in-the-system, we get a contradiction, since if it is provable in-the-system, then it can’t be unprovable-in-the-system. This means the original axiom: "X= Y is unprovable-in-the-system" is false. Similarly, if X= Y is provable-in-the-system, then it’s true, since in any consistent system nothing false can be proven in-the-system, only truths.

So the statement:-axiom: "X = Y is unprovable-in-the-system" is not provable-in-the-system, but unprovable-in-the-system. Further, if the statement-axiom "X = Y is unprovable in- the-system" is unprovable-in-the-system, then it’s true that that formula is unprovable-in-the-system. Thus the statement, "X = Y is unprovable-in-the-system" is true.

With these preliminaries, let’s examine the logical structure ascribed to most religious concepts. According to Pascal Boyer, we get a syllogism like:

If X, then Y

If X, then Z

so, Y = Z

But, Z /\ Y (contradiction)


If a consecration (X) is performed, then a bread communion wafer (Y) becomes body or flesh (Z).

Bread wafer = body-flesh

But, actual chemical tests show the bread wafer is starch, not flesh or protein!

Religious concept:

The identity Y = Z refers to a statement of substance.

The contradiction Z /\ Y refers to the outcome of “accidents”
Thus, the statements embodying substance (S + 1) > S, where S denotes the axiomatic statements embodying the accidents.

We call such statements “meta-statements”.

In a manner of speaking, the religious concept claimant is in a similar position to Epimenides in his “all Cretans are liars” paradox, which itself perpetuates a causal loop with no closure. E.g.

"All Cretans are Liars"

If the speaker is a Cretan, then the statement is ipso facto unresolvable. If Cretan, he exists within the so-called abstract, formal system. Yet, he’s making a statement (meta-) about the system. Hence, is he lying? Or is he telling the truth? This cannot be resolved. An undecidable proposition, as Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem (II) applies.

Is there a way out of the loop? Yes, if one uses realist science to assess statements. The problem is that most believers have no ability to even recognize empirical science in any form.

Going on, they also make basic logical errors including: post hoc ergo propter hoc, or assuming because event Y follows X it must be caused by X.

Even more common, is arguing from authority, which most believers would not even be able to accept as a logical violation, but it is. This sort of thing would see the use of biblical quotations to attempt to make points. The authority here being the Bible.

Unfortunately, the tendency has become so predictable it resembles a kind of Pavlovian reflex. You start a rational argument with a believer, and within five minutes he’s trotting out the old canard:

The fool hath said within his heart there is no God!”

If that citation doesn’t work, look for him to go back to his biblical or scriptural grab bag for some other forlorn, antiquated quote, all in an effort to convince you that you, Mr. or Ms. Heathen, are going against two thousand year old authority and God’s holy writ! The favorite quotes, by the way, seem to be all those dealing with “Hell” in the New Testament, or related to the end times and the “Beast” written about in Revelation.

Begging the question and rigid either-or reasoning are also two favorite violations. In the latter case, as evidenced by my brother, it is a case of “If you don’t believe in God then……you can’t have any appreciation of beauty, you can’t have any meaning in your life, you can’t have any morals or ethics for guidance, you cant’ have……..(fill in the blank). It is beyond his comprehension to understand we can still have meaning, beauty, morals etc. irrespective of belief in a god.

Lastly, my biggest gripe:

5)Believers keep making the same errors again and again.

So, even after you have told them for the 100th time you are not “denying” God, they insist you are. Even after you've explained the basis of the atheist viewpoint on theodicy (the problem of evil) they twist it into something else).

And, since I am fed up with retreading the same ground over and over – almost like a digital version of “Groundhog Day” – I have to say enough.

I suppose one day believers and rationalists will come to some kind of understanding or relative peace- but I suspect this will only be after they stop debating one another.

I am taking the first step here.

Adios, Pastor Mike. May you have many more enjoyable times putting up your comments, articles....especially on the failings and foibles of atheists.

Alas, I will no longer be correcting every one ad infinitum.