Tuesday, April 30, 2013

God will give you Wisdom: Because Faith

“If you have enough Faith, God will give you wisdom.” 

God will give me wisdom because Faith. Really? A Christian actually said this to me on my Atheist blog. I can't help but feel compelled to respond to it. I mean, how could I not? So I shall. 

**As for the accrual of wisdom, this comes through study and experience and the reflection of both. Not, contrary to what you believe, based on the amount of faith you hold in something. I can have faith that the world is flat all I want—I can have heaps and heaps of it—but it still won’t make it true. Meanwhile, ignoring the truth that the world is actually spherical won’t make me any wiser, but it might make me the fool for having faith in incorrect propositions and palpably false beliefs. Faith is quite useless in providing you things of practical worth. Faith is just a feeling. A feel good feeling. A faithy feeling. Have faith all you want to if believing in things simply for the sake of believing in things is your goal. If you want to know the truth, and grow wise in experience and knowledge, then you must do MORE than simply have faith. You MUST question so that you might better learn the facts. But even then, it is truly the wise  person who realizes how very little she truly knows, regardless of how much knowledge she accrues, and it doesn’t take faith to find this sort of wisdom—just a bit of humility.**

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Sequacity of God: Or why Atheism is Resasonalbe

Atheism, it seems to me, is the most reasonable conclusion to arrive at if one has thoroughly given their best, most honest, estimation of the available evidence.

Beyond this there are a series of basic objections to the God/god(s) concepts as commonly conceived. Because these conceptualizations often conform to predictable patterns they are, in all likelihood, demonstrative of an underlying sequacity.

I'll let you be the judge of whether or not God/god(s) are tenable concepts or not, but if you were in doubt, here are some of the strongest objections, in my opinion.

Philosophical Objections to God
1. Until God can properly demonstrated any description is, in point of fact, not describing anything real. Therefore, the term "God" becomes a meaningless definition for anything yet to be verified as extant. 

2. The definition "God" as used by most theologians and religious believers refers to a concept and describes the concept based on various competing conceptualizations. Contrary to popular opinion, the definitions of God which are commonly defended only seek to establish clear descriptions for those trying to better define a highly specialized concept. Most God-concepts are not compatible or are in conflict with one another.

3. God's presumed existence is based on unfounded a priori assumptions. As such, most any defense for such a God could only be circular and/or based on faulty premises.

4. A naturalistic universe can be adequately explained by science without invoking the idea of an all powerful being (i.e., God) and thus renders God irrelevant as a means to explain anything.

5. Attempting to explain unknowns by using God as a mysterious agency doesn't resolve the initial questions of why or how and so does not explain anything. "God did it" equates to a non-answer.

Empirical Objections to God
1. No vera causa for God.

2. Within the known universe there is no plausible reason to assume any external agency beyond the already established verae casae.

3. No independently verified metaphysical phenomena which could explain the natural world as observed.  

4. God as a 'casual agency' unnecessarily complicates our description of the known universe by supplanting an unknown event to describe a known event. Unless the prerequisites of 1~3 are first met, to invoke any unverified 'casual agency' as a cause would amount to a misunderstanding of the way the world works.

5. Based on 1~4 the First Cause argument is impotent.

Personal Objections to God
1. All God concepts reflect well-known aspects of human psychology and share enough similarities among themselves to suggest all God/god(s) concepts stem from the human imagination rather than represent any accurate description of something which exists within reality.

2. Basic analytical reasoning skills reveal all God/god(s) concepts to be equally sequacious. Theology, which involves highly intricate and sophisticated assumptions about the nature of God, is based on intricate and sophisticated 'demonstrations' which are used to lend credence to logically coherent conceptualizations. Even so, it is all manner of conjecture and very little, if any, fact. Arriving at an opinion or conclusion (about God) based on little more than incomplete and/or incorrect information, is the very definition conjecture, and which, in turn, is the very definition of theology. 

3. The probability of any metaphysical conjecture correctly describing anything within the physical universe diminishes to the point of being highly improbable as science continues to correctly describe the known physical universe.

4. There are too many practical and philosophical objections to God/god(s) concepts which do not strain our credulity, whereas nearly every rationalization for God strains our credulity to the point of being unbelievable. 

5. The only way to hold a belief in God/god(s) in the age of digital information is to be previously conditioned to do so, thereby allowing preconceived biases to interfere with one's ability to make objective and well reasoned conclusions. 


In the end, we must ask ourselves, what is the reason to believe in God? It doesn't seem to exist. 

If one invokes their religious beliefs, they have failed to provide an unbiased reason. If one invokes their personal experience, unless it can be verified as true (not the belief that the they had an meaningful experience but the experience itself), it cannot be used as a form of evidence. Saying our spiritual salvation is contingent upon God being real merely attempts to use religious derived themes to explain a religious derived problem. 

What then is the basic, universal, necessary reason to believe? Some say the warrant to believe, or the right to believe based on whatever reason, is enough to establish belief. Not so. It is merely a misguided defense of the right to believe dressed up as correct belief. But just because one has a right to believe something doesn't make that belief in any way, shape, or form correct. Thus the warrant to believe can only be seen by the thinking person as an appeal to conviction.

Convictions amount to little more than a type of emotional display. It is to say I believe because I want to believe, and is based on desire but not on any actual truths about the world or reality. Convictions, no matter how deeply felt, do not describe whether or not God is real. Feel free to believe all you want, if believing in things is your only goal. 

If you want real answers though, then you must to be willing to accept the fact that there are truths and falsehoods worth considering before you simply decide to believe, and knowing this we still cannot find any adequate reason to believe given our current understanding of things.

If you have any valid counter objections to these objections, I'd love to hear them. But I am confident that there isn't anything in the way of evidence to demonstrate these objections false, which is why I maintain that the atheistic position is the most reasonable. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Zen Commandments

There is a Buddhist Zen parable about the teacher Zengetsu, from the Tang Dynasty (China), who wrote down twelve maxims for his students to reflect upon. Basically one maxim for each month of the year. I have collected them and have broken them down even further, by topic, to get fifteen total.

These fifteen Zen maxims cover moral and social etiquette, and serve as an organized list to think about improving oneself--sort of a Ten Commandments, except that unlike the Mosaic Commandments found in the Bible, these Zen maxims actually do deal with morality in a practical way which can be applied to our lives. You might even call them The Zen Commandments.

Zengetsu's Fifteen Maxims
1. When witnessing the good action of another encourage yourself to follow his example.
2. Hearing the mistaken action of another, advise yourself not to emulate it.
3. Even though alone in a dark room, be as if you were facing a noble guest.
4. Express your feelings, but become no more expressive than your true nature.
5. Poverty is your treasure. Never exchange it for an easy life.
6. A person may appear a fool and yet not be one. He may only be guarding his wisdom carefully.
7. Virtues are the fruit of self-discipline and do not drop from heaven of themselves as does rain or snow.
8. Modesty is the foundation of all virtues. Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known to them.
9. A noble heart never forces itself forward. Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.
10. To a sincere student, every day is a fortunate day. Time passes but he never lags behind. Neither glory nor shame can move him. 
11. Censure yourself, never another.
12. Do not discuss right and wrong. Some things, though right, were considered wrong for generations. Since the value of righteousness may be recognized after centuries, there is no need to crave an immediate appreciation.
13. Live with cause and leave results to the great law of the universe.
14. Pas each day in peaceful contemplation.
15. Living in the world yet not forming attachments to the dust of the world is the way of a true Zen student.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Cult of Christ and on Becoming Thinkers

Christians will often take offense when one draws valid comparisons between their religion (Christianity) and cults. But the truth of the matter remains, at the very center of Christian faith are the teachings of a radical cult leader. Jesus taught what most cult leaders typically do—he told his followers to give up their possessions and do as he did. He instructed his acolytes to abandon their families and follow him on nothing more than a whim. Furthermore, he asked them to forsake their individuality for the brotherhood, and he told them, as cult leaders often do, that the end of the world was nigh. Then, in the true spirit of the cultist, Jesus had himself untimely killed. 

The Christian’s ears should burn with Christ’s command to follow him and do as he did, since his life met with a gruesome and untimely demise. Oblivion, if you will. A common characteristic, I think you’ll find, among death cults both past and present. But alas, Christians like to say “He died for us,” so that they should not have to follow their apocalyptic cult leader to the grave. Which is another trait typical of death cults; they need to be radically revised and/or reinterpreted if there is going to be anyone left to follow them. Christianity was reinterpreted in just such a way, i.e., to be about spiritual sacrifice via vicarious redemption instead of physical sacrifice dictated by the old Mosaic laws. As such, Christianity was able to transcend its own limitations as a cult, by offering spiritual redemption and the promise of an afterlife, an incentive for those who would continue to carry on the tradition of the cult, and this in turn was translated and rendered as the metaphorical form of salvation. Thus the cultism of Christianity grew and spread until it grew big enough to become the world’s dominant religion.

But just because Christianity is the dominant religion doesn't necessarily mean it is a worthy or even very good belief system. But in order to realize this one must first step away from the cult and look at it from the outside on in, as the skeptic does, and only then will it become clear that Christianity offers the same promises as any other cult--transcendence. But only if you pay the price by giving yourself over. This is why those freethinkers like myself so adamantly oppose such propositions. To give into them is to become a slave and throw your life away, not for a worthy cause mind you, but for a false promise. Sacrificing yourself in the name of God, whether spiritual or literal, is not a worthy cause. It is to act upon a false promise; either out of fear for punishment or selfish desire for reward. It is a hollow and bankrupt belief. 

If Jesus had realized this he would not have gladly marched off to the grave on the misguided assumption that his deepest faith, it too predicated on a false promise, was in someway true. But this is the final feature of any cult. It's propensity to convince the seeker that they have found the truth they were searching for. This is done because, as a believer one is promised every belief of theirs will be revealed as true upon paying the price of membership. 

Jesus offered many teachings in his lifetime, but at their core they amounted to little more than an exercise in dressing up false promises and making them attractive enough that you might be seduced into buying into them. Everything he offered came at a god awful price though, and never for free. The cost was your soul, your submission, and you could only gain his promised rewards, such as redemption and salvation in an eternal afterlife, only if you blindly followed him--Jesus Christ--a man without a cause. A man whose teachings directly reflected his morbid belief that the world would end tomorrow and so found nothing of value in the whole of it. 

Christians say Christ died selflessly, but there is nothing selfless in vicarious redemption, because it strips us of all responsibility. It is to deny us the choice to learn based upon correcting for past mistakes. It is to say we are incapable of earning salvation on our own and so sets up a false dichotomy stating we only have one of two choices--salvation from God or eternal damnation courtesy of the same God. A good critical thinker would not be fooled by such a sham. Besides this, Christ having forsook the world resembles more the nihilist than the selfless martyr. Perhaps this realization is what prompted Nietzsche to quip that Christianity is just another form of nihilism.

Christianity asks you to forsake the world and your life for the promise of something eternal, better, yet always just beyond our reach and understanding. For this reason Christianity can never offer more than false promises and fleeting hopes, and so real truth and meaning cannot be expected to be found within its teachings. Unyielding belief in the tenets of Christian faith only yields bitter disappointment. If Christianity is true, then you have to graciously accept death's invitation in order to know it, and I cannot think of a more nihilistic promise than that.

Personally, I prefer to be a thinker to a believer, and the only thing I rightfully seek is knowledge. I say this with one small caveat, I do not seek knowledge based on any promise that it will somehow make me a better person or enlighten me in some small way, although I hope it will. Truth be known, although I value truth I am in no way expecting to discover ultimate truth. I simply wish to know more because I have consider the alternative, which is ignorance, and find there cause enough to desire better knowledge over this dire alternative. Contrary to popular opinion, ignorance is not bliss--it is oblivion. This is why I choose to be a thinker, not a believer. 

When I was a believer, I accepted certain beliefs without question. It is simply what one does when they practice faith based belief. Now that I have become a thinker I hold all my beliefs up to scrutiny--always being mindful as to any changes in the evidence the belief is predicated on--so that I may correct my beliefs whenever they prove to be faulty or unnecessary. Beliefs which prove to be erroneous will get discarded. This quaint practice has helped me make sense of the world by casting everything in a new light. Instead of taking things on faith anymore, I question everything, and then I think it through. Sure, it's easier to not question, to simply believe. But one does not make sense of their beliefs by simply holding onto them like precious marbles. No, I'm afraid thinking requires some real effort, work, and none of it easy at that. Perhaps Bertrand Russell wasn't wrong when he quipped that people would rather die than think, and most of them do.

Making sense of world lends to better truths, I find. It is in the assessment of our collected knowledge where we gain a better understanding which, in turn, can open our minds to the universe. There is no need to feel compelled to rely on God for understanding, because such understanding will never come. It is wrong to assume  God will share with you his wisdom simply because. There is no reason to presume God even wants you to understand his creation, should he exist. Rather, God is entirely a creature born of our ignorance--from the dawn of our species when we had so many questions but no way in finding any real answers--so we imprinted the world with the patterns of our psyche and called it God. 

The human race has come a long way since our sentient awakening. Now we have science. Technology has aided us in surpassing our limitations, and we continue to improve and hone our knowledge with each scientific advancement. The realm of religious faith has nowhere provided as much in the way of progress as science has, and this is why the nostalgia for religion is imprudent. There is nothing to be gained in turning back. We must keep moving forward--toward progress.  

In the end, it is my firm opinion that it's simply not enough to believe. Be thinkers--and then--and only then--will you become free to write your own destinies.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On the Nature of Belief and Is Theistic Belief Warranted?

Part 1: Properties of Belief, Faith, and Assumption
Philosophers distinguish between beliefs, assumptions, andfaith based propositions, and rightly so, since all three are different.Although I’ve detailed the subtle differences before, it's worth repeating.

There is a big difference between assumptions and beliefs,even as the two are mutually dependent on one another. I would like to caution that it is probably unwise to conflate the two. One acts upon the other. This causal relationship shows that they are not one and the same.

Belief is, technically speaking, *holding a proposition to be true (this is the dictionary definition). In other words, one makes an a priori assumption in the veracity of a belief (without actually knowing whether it is true or not).

So beliefs require this basic a priori assumption to even get off the ground.

But aside from this, the assumption the belief relies upon is provisional. Meaning, that the assumption will likely be ratified at a later date, when there is convincing evidence to confirm or disconfirm the assumption, thereby making it true or false. For assumptions which remain unproved, and no set conclusion can be made, there are two options: skepticism or unfounded faith.

All beliefs are provisional for the very reason they rely on provisional assumptions.

Note: Something to keep in mind is that people often make the mistake of thinking that their beliefs are dependent on the facts. The veracity of the belief is, but the acceptance of the belief is not.

In my experience skeptics seem to recognize this more readily than those who take the faith based route. The reason why this happens might be more easily understood by examining the differences between faith and belief. Allow me to explain.

Faith, is different from belief in that faith makes the same a priori assumption that a belief proposition is true, with one noteworthy difference. Where faith differs drastically from belief is that faith *relies on conviction rather than definitive proof (this is the dictionary meaning).

So when I speak of matters of faith, I usually mean conviction held belief(s), or degrees of confidence in any given assumption. When I speak of beliefs, I usually mean propositions which can be tested and verified as either true or false. Let’s be mindful that there are also unproved beliefs, or belief propositions in which the assumption can still go either way depending on the future condition of evidence.

When discussing belief, faith, and assumptions with believers the term ‘trust’ often gets thrown into the mix. We must be careful, however, on how this term is applied, because as it is, trust can be synonymous with all three depending on context. Usually, I tend to think of trust as an assumption that we take for granted. Religious believers will sometimes say that the person of science has faith, for example, that the sun will come up tomorrow. This isn’t faith, this is trust. In other words, we take for granted that the laws of physics are universal, fixed, laws and will remain the same regardless of whatever we choose to believe. It’s not faith in the religious sense, because the assumption the laws of physics will hold is predicated on tested and verified claims which lend to the reliability of the laws of physics. That is, the belief in physics as a universal law has already been established as a true belief. Therefore there is no “faith” based assumptions involved.

Hopefully this clarification helps us keep these various forms of belief formation separate as we continue to look into how we validate and justify our beliefs.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Christian Belief is Crippling. Watch this Video!

The YouTuber PrplFox rocks. He explains how Christian belief is crippling to the self, and explains that there is life after Jesus in a very inspirational video about his own deconversion. Please watch this video.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Extrabiblical Christ (On the Historicity of Jesus)

In the controversy surrounding the historical Jesus of Nazareth, Christian apologists often will claim that there is incontrovertible evidence that the Gospel Jesus existed.

They will often cite names like Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian of Samosa, and the writings of Sextus Julius Africanus.

A few brief observations:

Tacitus was born in 56 CE in Rome.
Pliny the Younger was born in 61 CE in Como.
Lucian of Samosa was born in 125 CE in Syria.
Sextus Julius Africanus was born in 160 CE.

While these men each do make reference to a Christian Messiah, i.e. Christ, it is usually in the context of Christians who followed Christ. In his Annals, for example, Tacitus mentions the Christians were named after the Christus, whom they followed, and he goes on to inform that Pontius Pilate arrested and tried the Christus for inciting rebellion, and thus put an end to a terrible superstition which arose at that time. So, once again, it is merely a report that Christians believed in a messiah called the Christ. 

Although a strong source for what first century Christians believed, it is still not direct evidence for the historical Jesus. It's also interesting to note that Tacitus was not at all convinced of the Christians claims and counts their beliefs as little more than superstition.

So it seems all we really have are reports that there were such things as Christians who believe that there was a Christ, and that early Christians and Jews could be distinguished apart from one another. This is not at all a controversial claim.

But it doesn't act as supporting evidence for the existence of the historical Jesus any more than believers in Mithras act as a testament to the existence of Mithras. All it is evidence for is that such a *belief* existed.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist