December 3

A formal critique of “God exists scintifically. How???”

First off, I will not be attacking grammar or spelling. I believe this person to be a non-native English writer, so I congratulate him on attempting a difficult subject in a language that is not his native tongue.

We will be examining the arguments alone.

First, the pertinent links:

Main argument: http://g-e-s-how.blogspot.com/

Secondary definition of God: http://g-e-s-how.blogspot.com/p/defining-god.html

Summary of claim:

Claimant asserts that God must exist based on the following argument:

To prove whether god exists or not, mankind must have total knowledge of all of reality.

However, the universe is expanding. Therefore, that which can be known is constantly expanding, and we can never know everything. We can never conclusively prove that god does not exist.

Probability that a god does not exist is therefore finite knowledge / infinite possible knowledge and therefore 0.

God is now defined as equal to the unknown knowledge, so this god is also constantly expanding and is therefore infinite.

Claimant asserts this means that the probability that a god exists is therefore infinite knowledge / infinite possible knowledge and therefore 1.

I’m sure some of my readers have spotted some errors. Let’s see if I catch them all.

  1. Unsupported claim: Mankind must have total knowledge of all of reality in order to prove or disprove god’s existence.
    I’ve seen this one asserted by some religious people from time to time, although most limit it to God’s nonexistence. As an agnostic atheist, I find absolute proof of his nonexistence irrelevant. However, depending on the definition of specific gods, they can be ruled out, one by one, due to their impossibility or their internal inconsistency.
  2. Definition of god is irrelevant to the logic of the claim (Not to mention in contradiction to the other definition, but that comes later). I know the claimant would disagree, but the definition given of this god presumes it’s existence. It is a begging the question logical fallacy. Basically, it is stating “I define God as being X, and X exists, therefore atheists cannot disprove God.” Yes, this claimant is saying we would have to examine all of reality to make sure it isn’t really God, but in doing so he is shifting the burden of proof and lodging an argument from ignorance.
  3. The claimant’s understanding of the nature of infinity is rudimentary at best. He goes on to talk about things such as “2*Infinity”. Infinity is not just a variable. One cannot add, multiply, or divide infinities unless one is dealing with hyperreal fields and nonstandard analysis, well beyond the simple arithmetic this claimant is using.

    (EDIT: Another poster pointed out that using infinities in arithmetic gives undefined results, so his math is literally meaningless. Thanks atheist religionfree!)

  4. Probability is the study of the likelihood of events. These likelihoods are given numbers from 0 to 1. there are a variety of ways to calculate and manipulate the numbers to find out, for example, to probability of flipping a standard coin and getting heads ten times in a row (1 in 1024, or a probability of 0.0009765625). To break down his math, however, he is not dealing with numbers in the same field. In fact, he is not dealing with numbers at all. Finite is not a number, nor is infinite. You can’t divide one by the other, especially not to get a probability. Not mathematically, anyway.
  5. Finally, even if his math was correct, what he is proving is not the existence of god, but our ability to prove or disprove it. Because the base is our knowledge versus all knowledge, the existence or nonexistence of god never actually is in question.

Definition of God

After discussing this with the claimant on Twitter, he said that the definition of God for this claim was

And in this case God existence will be equal To the unknown Knowledge.

which is interesting, as he also has a page defining what God is. (Yes, I know he has a screen cap from Avatar and the logo from Game of Thrones. He’s trying to illustrate his point)

His definitions are rudimentary again. He compares people to computer avatars. (Avatar, get it?) However, there are a few problems with this analogy.

First, God allegedly made the entire universe and is omnipotent/omniscient/etc. In other words, he should be capable of creating humans that could understand him (Just as I could program an avatar that could understand what a computer is, and a programmer, and that they are inside a simulation. Or appear to. Where is the line, anyway?) And this is the sticking point; most theists claim humans cannot understand God, then go on to explain God. If we can’t understand God, how do they?

Divine will/gift? Then how do they hope to convince the rest of us that do not have such a wonderful gift of understanding?

His second definition is that God must have obviously created all creatures and living things. Not sure why this is a “must”. Oops, he cautions that it can’t be understood, just have to accept it as truth (This is called dogma. It is not a good thing). But, wait, it can be tested scientifically! This author seems to be a bit confused. He says we have to wait until the end of the article.

Third definition is that God must be alive, because, to sum up, life comes only from life.

Third definition (again) is that God must be a conscious mind. Because whomever created a human mind must be a greater mind.

Unfortunately, the author never gets back to the scientific test to show God created all creatures. I suppose he is not finished with the article yet.

August 6

Romancing Israel

Nearly twenty years ago, I met a man who became my best friend. An apatheist, late atheist, he was bright, talented, although a bit unfocused, he helped me get through a significant and horrible series of events in my life that changed me forever.

After I returned to the Midwest from the west coast, he was able to track me down and we continued our friendship. We did business together, as we were both in software development.

My friend was of Jewish descent. When his son was born, I helped him get together a minion for the son’s bris. He wasn’t religious, but it was important to him culturally.

I frankly thought we would be close friends for the rest of our lives. During the wild days after my divorce, several things happened that began to drive a wedge between us.

I am filling you in with the back story because I need to give you some perspective on what just happened.

After years bemoaning the nuttiness of his father, a far right wing rabbi, my friend suddenly shifted. He started defending Israel to the point of, well, saying some bizarre things. His political bent shifted radically right, and he started blaming liberals for hate crimes against Jews. I have my theories as to why, but this is not really about him. This is about some of the underlying misconceptions he has come under the influence of, and I think it’s time to let the air out of the Conservative love fest that is built on some very dangerous lies. Continue reading

August 6

Aggressive Atheism

Over time, I have been accused of being an aggressive atheist.

Oh, the terminology has changed. I’ve been called an asshole. I’ve been told I am “proselytizing”. I’ve been told that I am too open and vocal about my atheism, even once by another atheist (or so they claimed at the time).

“Oh,” you are thinking, “You must be one of those anti-theists. You hate religion and the religious.”

Nope. I don’t hate anyone, and find religion to be, at best, annoying, and, at worst, an excuse for people to treat each other badly. Why, then, am I labeled like that?

Because I speak truth to believers. I point out the flaws in their belief, in their logic, and I ask questions that challenge their worldview. Let me give you an example.

Recently, a Facebook friend posted a meme of a “white Jesus” with the question, “Is there room for me on your wall?”

If I had been an anti-theist, my response would have been something along the lines of, “Sure, let me go get some nails.” or “Fuck no! He isn’t real!”

Anti-theism is not about speaking truth. It is about reacting negatively to religion. It can be dogmatic (All religion is wrong and evil!). It is usually very aggressive

What I did was ask why I would want a portrait of Cesare Borgia on my wall. For those of you who don’t know, the images of Jesus used in mainstream Christianity are of Cesare Borgia, a disgusting man from the 15th century who was given a PR makeover by his father. He had a variety of images created with Cesare as Jesus Christ. The campaign was super effective, and very, very few people today know that White Jesus is not Jesus at all, but Borgia.

By the end of it, I was threatened with violence, told by one person they had no idea what I believed (and then went on to tell me what I believed. Or, more accurately, what they thought I believed), told my parents had failed somewhere with me, and then blocked by someone who has known me since I was about eight years old.

Did I throw any insults? Not one.

Did I call people stupid? Nope.

I didn’t even really challenge their faith. But, I made them question it themselves, and that horrifies people. So, while it is acceptable for some Christians to say that other people deserve to be tortured for eternity, inciting thought and critical thinking is a crime worthy of banishment.

CHRISTAIN WARRIOR 1
At least I’m not one of these guys.

Why don’t I insult believers? For the same reason I don’t blame women for being raped, or the elderly for getting ripped off. Religion is a scam, and blaming those that have been scammed does nothing positive. The best thing for me to do is plant the seeds of doubt. In those that have a mind open enough to it, maybe they will realize the scam and get free. Forcing them with insults is not my style.

So, call me an aggressive atheist for challenging worldviews. It could be worse…

 

 

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March 11

How to Disengage from Antiapologetics, Part III

Not the right way.
Not the right way. Source: Morgefile

So far, we’ve covered why you should stop debating, and how to stop. Now, we will cover how to stay away from the debate.

First things first. I am not saying you should not have an opinion. I’m not even saying you should not publicly state your opinion. What I am saying is that you should not get embroiled in lengthy debates where the only result is that everyone is stressed out an no one gets their point across.

What are some things you should do instead?

The best thing to do, of course, is to channel your feelings into something constructive. Instead of fighting about who is right online, how about you state your case in a non-combative way? Remember when I mentioned that the fence sitters were not watching? Do you know where they are?

Reading blogs and opinion pieces. Doing research.

Rather than try in vain to change the mind of a thoroughly entrenched fundamentalist, present your case without having to battle the opposing view. Start a blog, write a book, draw a comic, whatever method you prefer. You will reach more people and be more convincing if you are not going toe to toe with your opposition. the debates serve only to legitimize the other position. Why don’t people normally debate those that believe in Big Foot? Because there is no point.

Don’t legitimize the position of those you disagree with! Besides, getting into debates means you are more likely to respond in anger, and out of emotion rather than logic and thought. Isn’t rationality what we are going for? Why fight in the arena of emotion?

Or, better still, act rather than speak. how often have you seen theists attack atheists saying there are no atheist hospitals or orphanages? Be the change you want to see! Do good for the sake of good!

Finally, you could spend your life doing something completely unrelated. There is no mandate to save anyone.

To sum up, channel your energy into more productive, more successful ways of getting your message across. Or do something different. Just get away from the self defeating meme propagation.

March 10

How to Disengage from Antiapologetics, Part II

Adding a stop sign.
Adding a stop sign. Source: Morguefile

Now that you have admitted that your antiapologetic behavior is really nothing more than ego stroking, it is time to discuss ways to stop doing it. It is a waste of your time. It is playing chess with a pigeon, it is teaching a pig to sing.

Colorful metaphors aside, you need to stop.

You need to realize that it is an addiction. That’s the first thing. Don’t worry, we’re not going to advocate a twelve step program. It’s much simpler than that.

Five Dos:

  1. Tell the next person you want to respond to, “You know, I never really thought of it that way. I need to think about this.” or something else along those lines.
    Why this is a good idea: Although you are not telling them they are right, you are handing them a victory of sorts, one they were not expecting. This means they are less likely to want to continue the discussion, which will help you disengage.
  2. Do whatever you need to in order to not be reminded of the conversation. Facebook has a way to turn off notifications for many posts (although I am still trying to figure out how to do it with the newer hierarchical comment system). If you cannot turn off notifications, you will need to have the willpower to not click and read any other comments in the thread.
    Why this is a good idea: Out of sight, out of mind. Constant reminders of the fun you had debating will suck you back in.
  3. Take a break from whatever media source you were arguing on. Some will be easy, like if the source was a website you do not frequent. Facebook and Youtube may be more difficult. Even if it is only a few hours, breaking the mental cycle is a good thing. However, I recommend doing something engaging that does not just “make time pass”. If you are merely waiting to get back on Facebook, you are defeating yourself.
    Why this is a good idea: You are breaking a pattern. The more broken it is, the harder it will be to slip back into it.
  4. If you really want to kick the habit, unjoin debate groups and block any debaters you have had issues with in the past. Clean the slate.
    Why this is a good idea: You don’t hold weight loss meetings in the middle of a supermarket, do you?
  5. Finally, tell your debating palls that you are either taking a break or not doing it anymore, whichever you are comfortable with.
    Why this is a good idea: If they respect you, they should respect that. If not, screw up. Unfriend them and move on.

Five Don’ts:

  1. Don’t leave on a flounce. No grand exit, no potshots on the way out. You are not a dying swan. No one is going to give you an academy award for your performance. Say goodbye and leave, at the most.
  2. Don’t return. Don’t go back to a group you have left. Stick to what you said, stick by your word. By saying goodbye, you said you were leaving. Stay gone. Don’t be one of those people.
  3. Don’t replace one argument with another. Don’t push away from the computer and get into a fight with your spouse or your roommate.
  4. Don’t think ill of the people you are arguing with. They are as devoted to their position as you are to yours. Whether or not it is based in facts and reality or emotion and the Bible, it means something to them. It comforts them.
  5. Finally, don’t debate in absentia. If your debating buddies want to chat you up about their debates, let them, but don’t fan their flames.

In Part III, I will discuss how to keep from returning to the debate.

March 10

How to Disengage from Antiapologetics, Part I

Broken Way
Broken Way. Source: Morguefile

Sometimes, you find that the lure of antiapologetics is too great, and you find yourself in a long, protracted, and pointless battle with young earth creationists, anti-gay marriage bigots, anti-choicers, or some other equally entrenched group.

The first thing you have to realize is that you are not going to ‘win’ this battle. Neither are they, admittedly, but there is no ‘win’ state.

People rarely change their mind, and, when they do so, it is from one position to a position close to where they were. It is exceedingly rare that someone will radically shift position, going from young earth creationism to old earth supporter of science. It’s one of the things to be highly suspect of in politics, and why “flip flop” is a bad thing, usually.

In other words, you are not getting through to them.

“But I am doing it for the fence sitters who are watching!” you say, indignantly.

They aren’t. Stop saying it. Unless you are Matt Dillahunty or some other well known Internet personality, they aren’t. You are most likely in a back alley battle of wits and links, which means only your side and theirs is watching.

So, you now know there is a problem. I’ll bet you have stayed up until all hours of the night in debate, links from the NCSE, Rationalwiki, and a variety of sources flying from your comments. Hopefully, you have refrained from too many insults. If not, well, then it really is time to quit. You’re trying to catch flies with vinegar.

But, how did a find upstanding skeptic like you get sucked in to this? You want to be right. It really is that simple. You think you are “fighting the good fight”, doing what you think is right.

Let me guess. You used to be a theist, didn’t you?

You got rid of the beliefs, but the underlying behaviors and desires are still there. No shame, my friend, no shame. It’s okay, we’re not going to ostrich size you or anything (yes, that was a pun).

But you have realized that something is wrong, and that is a good first step. In Part II, we talk about the actual moment of disengagement.

Buy, why should we disengage? Watch this.

March 7

The Lure of Antiapologetics

The lure of chasing fish.
The lure of chasing fish. Image from Morguefile.

As an atheist, even one who feels like they have graduated from the angry phase of noob atheism, there is a certain attraction for the behavior I call Antiapologetics. Not exactly counterapologetics, which can be part of it, but the active state of challenging apologetics, especially among Young Earth Creation types, science deniers, and social conservatives.

On one hand, it is a rush to delve into debate with soft targets like these. Of course, they will never change their minds. Too much of who they are is invested in it. Even if they did, you are unlikely to ever find out about it.

On the other, it portrays atheists as intolerant blowhards, trolls, stalkers, or, worse, intellectuals. It seems not to be the kind of activity that does anything positive. So, why do atheists do it?

Newer atheists (not ‘New Atheists’) tend to have pent up frustration, anger, and resentment towards religion for wasting their time and money for so long. The temptation to rush in, guns blazing, defending the Atheist Way is a strong one. But, over time, as the atheist matures, they realize the startling truth that there is no “atheist way”. Atheism is a single answer to a single question. It confers no additional meaning. It is not a club, not a group. There is no secret handshake or code of ethics. Of course, if theists taught the truth about atheists, fresh atheists would know this. But, it isn’t exactly in the general theist best interest to be accurate in their portrayal of the people the consider to be an enemy.

So, then, where does this drive come from?

Well, we’re humans. We like to be right. It helps reinforce our worldviews when we confirm ourselves as correct. We, as humans, do a lot of things to accomplish this. Whether it is being part of a fandom, being a fan of a specific sports team, or merely hanging out with friends, we work best when we have positive re-enforcement. Become an atheist is a completely new thing, as there is no inherent structure for re-enforcement from our peers. Atheist churches and study groups have sprung up to try and provide this structure, which, of course, some theists attack. What they do not realize is that when people are marginalized and isolated, they tend to get stuck in negative cyclical thinking. I would be completely unsurprised if Craig Hicks, the atheist who shot and killed the three Muslim students, was isolated from others.

To return to the main topic, antiapologetics tends to appear in fresh atheists who are still in the early stages of atheism. The good news is that the core of the practice is research and knowledge, which naturally leads the fresh atheist towards maturity. It also drops the rates of recidivism. Few, if any, mature atheists become religious once they are atheists.

Take, for example, the case of Ryan Bell.

Now, in his case, his path was slightly different than most atheists. A minister who decided to test his own faith and found it lacking. I applauded his attempt even before he, in the end, rejected his faith in favor of atheism, but my point is that atheists who stick to reason and skepticism and do not fall prey to emotional appeals or other logical fallacies find atheism not a difficult position to maintain.

One of the points I was trying to discuss with this piece is that, sometimes, an atheist has to put their foot down and end their antiapologetics. Even so, it is a difficult road.

Recently, Jeff Dee, one of the hosts of The Atheist Experience, a well known atheist television show out of Austin, responded to a anti-atheist post on a Facebook group. As he is someone I follow online, it popped up on my timeline, and I was drawn into the debate as well. Even though I have tried desperately to stay out of online debates, the siren song of these debates keeps bringing me back in.

I’ve had to resist debating with family and friends. I even unfollowed my own mother on Facebook after a kerfuffle earlier this year.

To sum up, humans like to win. We like to be right. That’s the point of apologetics, counterapologetics, and antiapologetics. Sometimes, the only way to win a game is to not play.

January 15

Funny arguments of the week

Crosseyed
Ever get the feeling that your opponent in a battle of wits is a little less than armed?

Some of you who know me personally know that I tend to like to argue. While, in my early life, this led to a lot of stress, tension, and headaches for my parents, as an adult, I eventually learned to channel my natural impulses to debate into a more constructive (or, at least, a bit less destructive) use on the Internet.

No, seriously. Arguing on the Internet is a good outlet for me. I found that I argue less with my wife and kids, less with my parents (well, unless it is online, but that is another issue), and less with my ex-wife.

Sometimes, it can be a bit humorous. For the past five years or so, I was an admin on a Facebook debate group about religion and atheism.

But, a few months ago, the group was deleted by Facebook for [reasons]. Oh well. At that point, I decided to try and wean myself off of the debates. I felt a sense of loss, sure, but I felt it was time. I had better things to do with my time, like working on my webcomic, Fred the Dot.

But, I missed it. Rather than get as deeply into it as I had been, I decided to limit myself. A group here, a debate there. Well, one area I started dipping my toe into was Youtube debate.

The first thing that comes to mind is the quote from Episode IV. A hive of scum and villainy. Even so, it has been oddly satisfying.

Recently, I got into a heated debate on a video regarding the portrayal of the LGBT community in games. It devolved into a discussion of how HIV spread. This individual was somehow convinced that HIV and other STIs were caused by (wait for it…) feces, and that anal sex was the cause of it, not just the transmission route. After he launched into insults and the like, I showed him an explanation of how one got HIV from the same website he had been using for his argument against homosexual men.

During the same series of discussions, I had people try to convince me that I worshiped Satan, that each generation could determine meanings for words at their discretion (to which I responded with current slang, and the person got pissed off because he thought I was using nonsense, made up words), and some of the stereotypical lame arguments against homosexuality. What I do with my private parts is none of your damn business (unless a being is involved that does not legally consent), and vice versa, and that is how I feel about everyone.

But, in the end, I realized that it is ultimately not satisfying. Imagine in a game that when you beat the final boss, the boss just stops moving and sits there. That is what it is like to argue online. So, no more. I’m moving on.

Currently in my Steam Library, I have 149 games. Some of them I have never even played. So, I will be playing and reviewing each and every one, one game a week, from now on, posting my progress here. I may even post videos. Who knows! We shall see. Super fun awesome game time!