Thursday, September 29, 2011

Quote of the Day: Robert G. Ingersoll

"Man has not only created all these gods, but he has created them out of the materials by which he has been surrounded. Generally he has modeled them after himself, and has given them hands, heads, feet, eyes, ears, and organs of speech. Each nation made its gods and devils speak its language not only, but put in their mouths the same mistakes in history, geogrpahy, astronomy, and in all matters of fact, generally made by the people. No god was ever in advance of the nation that created him." --Robert G. Ingersoll

It's that last line which is so pertinent, so true, so revealing. No god was ever in advance of the nation that created him.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Buddhist Religious Superstition Kills 13 Year Old Girl

Sad news, I am afraid. As some of my readers know, I live in Japan. My city is called Kumamoto. Yesterday, a religious man took his mentally ill daughter to a monk to have an exorcism performed. The exorcism is part of a water cleansing ritual where a person is dowsed with water. The water is usually from a natural waterfall, but a makeshift waterfall device, sort of like a manual pump rigged to flood gate showering device, is available for ritualistic purposes. The process entails having water poured down onto you from about three meters.

I've seen this practice done in real life at a beautiful scenic outdoor location with a beautiful waterfall. During the occasion I witnessed this ritual, the gathering only consisted of monks cleansing themselves. They would jump under the water, let it pelt them, and then scream chants. The idea is that the weight of the water, along with the cleansing properties (i.e., washing oneself clean), will wash evil spirits out of the body.

Now, if you've ever stood under a real waterfall you know the kind of pressure we are talking about. Even a strong shower head can be pretty painful. It's hard to believe anyone would throw their child into a waterfall. But that's exactly what this Japanese father did to his young 13 year old daughter, along with the help of a monk and his wife. The father and monk strapped the girl down, using restraints, and proceeded to pump water onto her for over a 100 consecutive times.

TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting Station) is reporting that the parents took the mentally and physically ill girl to the monk after doctors had failed to resolve her issues.

Of course the monk stated that he believe the girl was possessed by an evil spirit.

According to the news, the father held the girl's head, so she couldn't turn away to take a breath and breathe. Gasping for air, she died of suffocation, similar to how water-board torture victims die from water induced suffocation.

The mother of the 13 year old daughter sat by and watched her child take her last breath, and then called the ambulance. What kind of mother does that? This is child abuse in the extreme--as it involved water torture, bondage, suffocation, and ultimately ended in death. I hope these parents get a full life sentence for their deadly parenting techniques.

The Australian is reporting on it here if you want to read an English edition of this news.

More reports are coming through. They can be read by clicking the following links:

My wife (who is Japanese) said this is what happens when uneducated people put their faith in nonsense instead of using their common sense. I couldn't agree more. Moreover, my wife says this is why all religion is dangerous--because you don't know how or when it will impair your judgment--because it doesn't always--until it does. And that's when something terrible like this happens. My wife then said that people would be better off without such superstitious religious thinking.

I couldn't agree more.

International coverage of disturbing events like this can often paint Japan in the wrong light. Apparently this water cleansing ritual is only practiced by a very small minority of religious monks. Japan is by and large a secular country, and even the Japanese feel this superstitious practice is bizarre.

Many of my work colleagues commented how deranged this was. They seem to acknowledge that "evil spirits" aren't real--and that no amount of "dunking" will cleanse someone of something which is not even there.

This, however, all goes to show that people will do strange things if they believe. Indeed, belief in the supernatural, and the superstitious customs which come with religion, often show us how dangerous religious modes of thinking can truly be.

If the parents of the 13 year old girl weren't religious, would they have tortured their daughter in this despicable way thinking it would cure her? Not a likely. The same might be said for circumcision, baptism, or other strange religious rituals which affect the child physically and mentally but, sadly, they so often times don't have the liberty of being given their own choice in the matter. Their religious customs are often times forced upon them by their parents. This form of religious abuse was taken to the extreme in this case.

Religious thinking like this, that doing some form of religious related ritual for superstitious reasons often causes the believer's rationality to go out the window. In this case, dumping water on the girl repeatedly didn't work. She died. In fact, I guarantee that this type of cleansing ritual has never worked, and this is the proof. Will people stop doing it? Not unless a higher authority, such as the government, steps in and says that this form of religion is harmful to society. Most people will blithely keep practicing the ritual--as ridiculous and dangerous as it is. Why? Because they believe it works. Their reasoning is bankrupt. They think if they keep at it--eventually their prayers will be heard. But this form of religious belief is no different from believing that if you rub two ice cubes together enough you will be able to make fire. No matter how many times you rub them together it won't create fire. Just because the religion says it can make fire by doing it doesn't mean it will, but people put their faith in the religious promise before reality, and so needlessly go through the motions, hoping to get fire--hoping to get their one miracle. I think they will be badly disappointed. In fact, I know they will.

On the other hand, a better educated person would, hopefully, reject the ridiculous and absurd claims of religion based on a better understanding of the world. We know, for example, how to get fire, and rubbing ice cubes together is not it. The same can be said of curing mental and physical illness, we know how to deal with it, and going to a religious person and having them pray, chant, or do all kinds of useless rituals is not going to help cure that illness in the slightest. The only reason religious people think it will is because they believe it will. And well, if believing were enough, it would come to be. The fact that their beliefs fail them, time and again, should tip them off that something about their reasoning is seriously flawed.

I felt I should report on this since I know I tend to focus my religious criticism on Christianity and the Abrahamic religions, but this just goes to show, religion everywhere is deeply flawed.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Religious Epistemology Series Parts 1-4 Ignosticism, Referential Justification, and an Objection to Reformed Epistemology

Religious Epistemology Series Part 1
Ignosticism: Theological Noncognitivism

Belief in God, or some form of transcendent Real, has been assumed in virtually every culture throughout human history. The issue of the reasonableness or rationality of belief in God or particular beliefs about God typically arises when a religion is confronted with religious competitors or the rise of atheism, agnosticism, and theological noncognitivism, i.e. ignosticism.

Ignosticism is the theological position that every other theological position assumes too much about the concept of God.

Ignosticism holds two interrelated views about God. They are as follows:

1)     The view that a coherent definition of God must be presented before the question of the existence of god can be meaningfully discussed.
2)      If the definition provide is unfalsifiable, the ignostic takes the theological noncognitivist position that the question of the existence of God is meaningless.

In other words, a) a definition which is incoherent can’t be about anything, and b) a definition which isn’t about anything cannot be said to be meaningful.

Additionally, Ignosticism is not merely concerned with definitions by themselves, but rather, is concerned with competing definitions which are all attempting to define the same referent.

Referent: Definitions refer to things. A thing in the world that words and phrases are about is called a referent.

Religious Epistemology Series Part 2
Referential Justification
Utilizing the theory of justification, when defining referents, we can develop a new category of formal justification. I will call this category Referential Justification. In fact, Referential Justification is similar to other forms of justification, including: evidentialism, coherentism, skepticism, and other forms of reasoning such as verificationism and logical positivism. However, I personally see it as a branch of Reliabilism.

Referential Justification is the position that in order for a belief to be about something, called a referent, that referent must be verified before belief in it can be justified. Specifically, it is concerned with the links (or lack thereof) between a referent and belief in the referent. As such, Referential Justification holds

1)     A referent must be established, i.e. verified, before we can justify our belief in it.
2)     All definitions of the referent must be coherent in order for us to understand what the words and phrases are in relationship to.
3)      All definitions seeking to define the same referent must be in general agreement. If not, then confusion arises as to which definition is the correct one, or whether any at all are correct.

The importance of clearly stating any given definition of that referent it seeks to define is not at all trivial. If our definitions are in conflict, then this disparity makes it impossible for us to ascertain the correct definition. There are two reasons for this. First, minus a referent the words used to describe something technically do not describe anything at all—and so cannot be about anything. This renders the definition meaningless even when it sounds like a proper definition. Second, provided an incorrect definition, the words supplied us would not adequately or accurately relate back to the referent and so would render the reference invalid, making any discussion on whatever thing the referent seeks to establish irrelevant.

If my reasoning is sound, then belief in whatever object or thing the referent is supposedly about is unjustified until all three criteria of Referential Justification are sufficiently met. If the criteria are not met then it becomes far to easy to make the mistakes of false attribution and equivocation when discussing the object in reference to the belief in said object. Referential Justification helps to ensure we do not make sloppy informal fallacies of this kind.

Religious Epistemology Series Part 3
Referential Justification Wheels: An Illustration of the Logic
To better illustrate my line of reasoning, I have provide two illustrations, in the form of a wheel of justification, which roughly depict various steps which need to be considered between a referent and the belief in the referent.

Panrational Referential Justification Wheel (PRJWh)
1) If Object exists, 2) evidence will refer to object, 3) thereby qualifying object as real. 4) If real, 5) evidence can be tested and verified to 6) establish referent and 7) provides justification for belief in referent—i.e., the object really exists so believing it exists is justified.

Epistemic Referential Justification Wheel (ERJWh)
1) If an object’s existence is unknown, 2) but it appears there is potentially evidence in favor of it, 3) then depending on the quality of evidence object may or may not be real. 3) Verification of evidence is required to either verify or falsify the reality of said object. 4) If object is not real, then no referent exists and we can go no further (the line of questioning has come to a dead stop). 5) If the evidence demonstrates object is real, then referent probably exists. 6) If referent exists it can be verified, 7) and the referent can be established, 8) thus lending credence to the belief in referent’s existence.

Religious Epistemology Series Part 4
Referential Justification as an Objection to Reformed Epistemology
Here I am going to flesh out an objection to Reformed Epistemology. First, based on the notion that any referent must be established (i.e., verified) before we can justify a belief in it, and second, based on the observation that Reformed Epistemology can only establish a referent from a basic belief via induction, which is a major chink in the armor, because induction does not guarantee correct beliefs for reasons we shall discuss.

Before we can object to Reformed Epistemology, however, I must explain why I have brought up the issue of referents with regard to belief. It is my understanding that in order to hold a belief, the belief has to relate to something, either in reality, or else a concept. Nothing new here. But when a said referent is supposed to be real, that is, it is not a concept but an actual tangible part of reality—then it needs to be verified, that is to say, established before we can claim our belief in the referent accurately reflects what that referent is in fact referring to in reality.

The Problem With Reformed Epistemology
Reformed Epistemology is the belief that if one holds a basic belief, then no justification of the belief is necessary. As such, Alvin Plantigna has applied this to Christian theology. More or less, the conclusion is that belief is warranted, that is, belief in God is rational and no justification of the belief is necessary because Reformed Epistemology rejects the notion that belief in God is irrational unless supported by sufficient evidence, where evidence is construed as providing propositions from which to infer God's existence. Reformed Epistemology contends that the requirement of evidential proof is unduly strict, for there are many reasonable beliefs that one may accept without argument.

What I contend here is that Reformed Epistemology falls short as a tool for discriminating justified from unjustified constituent beliefs. As such, it cannot be relied on to claim a belief is rational or warranted. Here’s why.

Consider how referential justification works. In order to have a word or phrase relate to something we have to have a referent. Without a referent, then it is uncertain whether our beliefs could be about anything which exists or not. In order to justify our beliefs, we need to establish a referent.

Now assume that Reformed Epistemology allows us to maintain a basic belief in something. No justification is necessary to hold a rational belief just as long as that belief is properly basic. The problem, as I see it, arises when we try to establish the referent, something required in order to demonstrate the belief is actually about something. Indeed, in order to get from a basic belief to a referent the Reformed Epistemologist must rely on inductive reasoning.

The Reformed Epistemology goes something like this: belief in God is basic—therefore no justification is required—therefore belief is rational. Inductive reasoning takes us the next part of the way toward establishing the referent. If belief is rational, and believers believe in God, then it is safe to assume God exists as the referent and object of people’s belief. 

Remember earlier when I mentioned induction is the kink in the armor to Reformed Epistemology? Using induction means the possibility of God’s nonexistence is equal to the possibility of his existence. This occurs because with inductive reasoning the truth of the conclusion is not always guaranteed (e.g., If we only see white swans then we might assume all swans are white. We would be unaware of the fact that there are also black swans).  What this means is that inductive reasoning can yield both correct and incorrect beliefs. Considering this, the only thing we can be sure of is that, when trying to establish the existence of a referent, both possibilities are equally uncertain (it may exist—but then again—it may not). Certainty in ones belief about something which is said to exist can only be gained by having established the referent as real, and only then can belief in the referent be considered justifiable.

Reformed Epistemology fails to justify the belief in the referent which it is said to be derived from. That is to say, Reformed Epistemology seeks to justify belief in God as rational, but minus a referent, belief in God makes no rational sense. As such, it would not be rational to believe in a referent that is, in point of fact, completely nonexistent (since there is no such thing as a nonexistent referent). Reformed Epistemology then cannot claim the belief as warranted or rational without first demonstrating that the belief actually refers to something. Failing to justify the belief, the whole of Reformed Epistemology collapses—or regresses into fideism.

Some Helpful Resources

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (peer reviewed)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (peer reviewed)

Wikipedia Philosophy Portal

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Insane Religious Speak

I tip my hat to Ahab over at the Republic of Gilead for reporting on New Apostolic Reformation preacher Lou Engle, who envisions the Biblical Nazirite vow as a transformative spiritual discipline.

What I want to report on is the insanity of this guys language. Not so much his beliefs, which are radical enough, but which are hard to discern from the language being used.

Her is an excerpt from the sermon, at around the 6:36 mark, Engle states, "Let your children burn and go for the flame."

Now, if you're not a Christian, or religious, or from America, then I am afraid this sentence makes little to no sense at all. In fact, it carries with it subtle and frightening undertones of sacrifice. Although most people will understand he is merely speaking metaphorically, the very phrase "let your children burn" is just, even by religious language, a poor choice of words. Much of the sermon is like this.

For example, Engle thinks "Daniel is a prototype for Last Days university students." But what does this mean exactly? Unless you are familiar with the OT book of Daniel, then the analogy makes little sense. In fact, if you are familiar with the book of Daniel, this analogy still makes little sense.

Notice the prominent talk about fasting. For an atheist, nonbeliever, or say, Buddhist monk just tuning into YouTube to accidentally see this guy talk--much of what he is saying sounds like complete gibberish.

Are Atheists Unkind?

"Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!" (Conan the Barbarian)

Once again, a Christian posted something of a religious nature on their Facebook. This time about the power of prayer. I sent a link to a great article by Tim Kent talking about why religious people continue to believe prayer works even after it's been completely blown up and invalidated. 

This was enough to get me in trouble. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Failure of Religion in the 21st Century

Nowadays I see Christians deconverting en masse. About a year ago I posted this trend from a Gallop poll, to which a Christian promptly replied that atheists shouldn't put all their trust in Gallop polls. True enough, but following the trends are a good way to predict the likely outcome of any given cultural change. Yet I look around today, and it seems more and more are walking away from the faith and never looking back.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Christan Nazism or Nazi Christianity? Perhaps Both?

I know it's a repeat, but it's an important point. Hitler and the Nazi party were technically (and formally under Nazi regulations and laws) a Christian entity. They weren't pretending to be Christian--they were for all intents and purposes--one of many crooked branches of Christianity.

In fact all of Germany was a Christian nation, before and after Hitler. As controversial as it is though we must keep in mind that the ties between Christianity and Nazism are quite strong, and impossible to ignore.

1) Hitler was raised a devout Catholic, attended Catholic school in a Benedictine cloister in Lembach, and even sang in the church choir;

2) The Nazi party prescribed to Positive Christianity (as Point 24 in the Nazi Party Program indicates) and held to an age old Christian tradition of Anti-Judaism;

3) The Nazi plan for Jews is nearly identical to Martin Luther’s seven-point plan to rid the world of Jews in his (extremely sinister) essay On the Jews and Their Lies, and moreover, Luther’s anti-Jewish tract was the basis for anti-Jewish policies implemented by Nazi Germany (which even leading Lutheran scholars agree, e.g., Martin H. Bertram);

4) Hitler praised Martin Luther (who’s theology initiated the Reformation) in Mein Kampf as one of his three main influences;

5) Many of Hitler’s speeches pay lip service to the Christian God and the savior Jesus Christ, and often mimics the Jewish extermination rhetoric of Pope Innocent III;

6) On April 26, 1933 in a conversation with the bishop of Osnabruck, Hermann Wilhelm Berning, Hitler stated he believed he was doing a continuation of what Catholic policy had done for 1,500 years, something which Holocaust historian, Geunter Lewy, has also keenly pointed out;

7) Hitler cited the 1933 Concordat between the Catholic Church and the Nazi Party as helping to further his cause;

8) I refer you a quote in which Hitler calls himself a Christian and references the Bible for support for his ideologies (a habit most Christians have);

"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison and as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people." (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939. Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20. Oxford University Press, 1942).

9) Regardless of what anyone may think, by any other definition, Hitler was a believing Christian;

10) On top of this, the old canard that Hitler was following out an atheistic or Social Darwinist agenda is patently false. Hitler never once mentions Darwin (or any of Darwin’s works) in any of his speeches, writings, or dinner conversations which definitively rules out any ties to Darwinism. Subsequently, it appears that Christianity was most likely the main contributing force behind Hitler’s superstitious reasoning as well as political and personal ideologies.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thank God? Why?

Imagine you are in your vehicle traversing a very tall bridge. You are driving at night and the road is dark, and suddenly a freak accident! A stray bird from the raling doesn't get into the air in time, and before you know it, it's thud! Startled, you slam on the brakes, but just then your tire blows out, causing you to veer violently into the guard railing on the bridge. Due to the speed you were traveling, the antiloc brakes, now glowing orange embers, aren't enough to stop you from crashing through the gaurd. Luckily, however, it was enough to stop your vehicle from shooting over. Instead, you are stuck, teeting on the precopice, staring down an impossible drop.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Best Argument Against the Existence of God = SHARKS!

Sharks have to be like the strongest argument against God ever. 

That's right, you heard me, sharks.

Just ask yourself, what kind of *all loving God creates a blood thirsty, razor blade like saw toothed monster fish, a veritable killing machine none-the-less, and puts it right dab smack in the middle of where we all like to swim, boat, and have a leisurely time at the beach with the family. 

Hell no! Sharks are proof that God doesn't exist. At the very least it proves God hates you. Sharks he's fine with. Don't blame the messenger for pointing it out. Blame the damn sharks.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist