Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jesus Gets in a Fist-Fight with Anti-Abortion Protesters

In a bit of strange... The Friendly Atheist over at the Patheos blog has posted a very strange article about an altercation between a Fake Jesus and an anti-abortion protest crowd.

Apparently, Fake Jesus counter-protested anti-abortion protesters. The protesters didn't like being counter-protested, so confronted Jesus and created a scene. 

Tempers flared and one of the anti-abortion protester spat on Jesus. 

Apparently Jesus didn't appreciate that and JUDO kicked the motherfucker who spat on him. 

Now, in the aftermath of it all, the good ole Christian community -- who is in support of the rude and degenerate anti-abortion protesters (no surprises there) -- find out Fake Jesus's REAL identity and got him fired then ran him out of town in the name of -- Jesus? WTF?!

Needless to say, I don't condone violence of any kinds. But the Christian dude spat on his own lord and savior! Albeit, just an impostor. But still. Bad form.

I guess my only concern here is... what if it wasn't actually FAKE Jesus but the REAL Jesus the Christian spat on? 

I mean, what if Jesus had really come back? How is he greeted by modern Christians? By getting spat on. 

That's Christian love for you... willing to spit on their own Lord and Savior. 

I bet the protester who spat on Jesus didn't even to stop to wonder why Jesus was standing up for women's rights. He probably thinks, like most Christians, that Jesus had an opinion on abortion. He didn't. But if he did, and Jesus was pro-choice (rather than pro-life), then the Christian thing to do is spit on Jesus.

This is why I cannot take Christians seriously. The Christianity of 21st century America is a self-masturbatory cult that only chants the name Jesus so it can get away with not having to be held morally accountable for anything. It's nuts.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Another Snippet from The Swedish Fish

I just thought I'd share another short snippet of the Swedish Fish, Deflating the Scuba Diver and Working the Rabbit's Foot by opening up the book at random and sharing with you all wherever my finger so happened to land. This time it's from Chapter 18, pages 175 to 178:

In chapter eighteen, “From Personal Cause to Most Perfect Being,” we find out that the vague and nebulous hypothetical personal agent who spawned the universe is, low and behold, the one and only Perfect being as described by Christian theology!

Coincidence? I think not. Although Randal admits that a ‘personal cause’ is not a satisfactory definition for God, he explains that

I’m certainly not claiming that the statement ‘personal cause of the universe’ is a religiously satisfactory definition of God. But even if that description doesn’t say all a Christian wants to say about God, it certainly says something important. Christians believe that God is the creator of all things and thus that the question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ has a personal answer: God.

Who, apart from religious apologists and theologians, claim that the universe must have a personal cause? Who outside of these same apologists and theologians claim that the universe must have their preferred brand of metaphysics, onto which they simply tag their idea of God, as the most plausible?[1]

Once again Sheridan asks how Randal can be so certain it’s the Christian God and not some other deity. This is a point that Sheridan has raised nearly every chapter so far, and so it seems Randal’s reluctance to answer it right off the bat has something to do with him wanting to massage away the painful criticisms of God, via apologetics, before he tackles the issue. There really is no other reason to put it off for half the book as it is a pretty straight forward question.

It seems Randal has no way out this time so he addresses the question and says that the first step in proving that the Christian God is the creator of all things is to supply more “specificity to the general concept of God.”

Yes, this pretty much goes without saying. If you want to identify the general concept of a creator deity with your concept of God, then you will have to specify your concept of God. Thus Randal quotes the medieval Christian theologian Anselm’s definition of God, and goes on to state, “God is the greatest conceivable or most perfect being. It is not possible to conceive a greater being.”

Sheridan then contends that this is rather an abstract philosophical description for the “Christian God.” To which Randal responds:

If God exists, he simply must be the most perfect being. But as long as we’re positing God, it’s legitimate to define God as the most perfect being there could be.

For some reason Sheridan goes along with it. But it’s not that clear Randal has any real reasons to assume God is the most perfect being in the first place, aside from citing Anselm. Anselm, it seems to me, was explicitly appealing to a general conception of God which everyone can agree upon. “What else does anybody mean by ‘God’ than this?” It’s only apologists who begin redefining God from a general concept to their specific theologically laden concept and then saying since everyone agrees that we all must have the same conceptualization of God. My bet would be Randal has taken Anselm’s definition of God and simply mashed it in with his.

Sheridan lets it slide though, and demands to know where one goes with the definition of God after the one Anselm provided. Randal replies:

Well, saying that provides a helpful way to eliminate those descriptions that fail to meet the demands of the definition.

Talk about having your cake and eating it, too! Randal mixes things up a bit and cites the Mormon concept of God as an example which fails the test of meeting, with precision, the traditional Christian definition of God. But how is such a test not completely arbitrary? After all, Randal merely looked around and randomly selected the definition of God he liked best, in this case Anselm’s definition, which can apply to most other religions’ gods equally, such as Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, etc. The question is: what does he do about other God-concepts that meet all the criteria for the definition but are not the Christian God?

In Africa, the Akan people of Ghana believe that the deity Nyame is the God of All Things, and their theological description of Nyame meets all the criteria of Anselm’s definition, just to cite one example.

Of course, Randal would probably do what most apologists do and shift the goal posts, select another definition (most likely also at random) that is completely incompatible with the Akan people’s definition of God and then nitpick the details until he could find enough divergence between their theology and his to dismiss it as not-Christian enough.

The rub is that this goal post shifting strategy doesn’t actually prove the Christian definition true. All it really does is make it harder for others to stress the similarities by limiting the definition of God to precisely what works in the best interest of the apologist. That’s not a demonstration, mind you, it’s a cheat.

At the same time, the Akan people could likewise hold their template up to the Christian template, find where the Christian God diverges from their theology, and then dismiss the Christian God as not Akan enough to be considered the God of All Things, in this case the god Nyame.

Most apologists try to avoid this conundrum, of being held to the same standard they invoked in the first place, by simply denying the validity of other people’s idea about god out of the gate (sort of how Randal imagines scientists do it). But this is an undeniable bias, and one I would argue apologists need to try to avoid, especially if they’re going to contend that their God is the one you, and everyone else, ought to believe in.

[1] The William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll “God and Cosmology” debate at Greer-Heard Forum, February of 2014, is one of the best debates on cosmology and theism I have seen. If you’re interested in these questions, I highly recommend watching the video, available online at:

A Snippet from The Swedish Fish

I just thought I'd share a short snippet of the Swedish Fish, Deflating the Scuba Diver and Working the Rabbit's Foot by opening up the book at random and sharing with you all wherever my finger so happened to land. This is it (from page 213) here:

Raising the question of Yahweh’s imperfect character in the Bible, such as jealousy and homicidal tendencies, Sheridan challenges Randal to provide reasons for his continued belief that Yahweh is still a perfect being despite such failings.

Since I believe that Yahweh is the greatest possible being, I must conclude that he did not actually command these actions.

That’s right, true believer—God’s behavior in the Bible is just so shocking, so utterly detestable, so terrifyingly dreadful, so God-damned awful, that Randal simply saves God by affirming it wasn’t God that commanded such acts, but the Israelites acting on the false assumption that God commanded them to enact such atrocities.

Well, so much for “biblical authority.”

The problem I have with Randal’s assumption here is that he must ignore what we already know about the biblical account in order to posit an alternate history which assuages God’s ferocity by shifting the blame from God and placing it squarely on his people. Also, why he thinks the Hebrew war god can be even remotely identified with the abstract god of the philosophers is beyond me.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Are Mass Shootings a New form of Bullying?

It seems there is a mass shooting in America at least once a week now.

I really don't know of any other form of societal psychosis with such ill side effects that is as frequent except for, perhaps, bullying.

Now I'm not talking about mental illness here per se, although this does seem to be a factor we always need to keep in mind. But as I was thinking about some of the reasons for why mass shootings are on the uptick, aside from the number of guns anybody can get their hands on, it dawned on me... what if mass shootings were an expression of one form of serial bullying.

Now what do I mean by serial bullying?

Well, Tim Field, founder of The Field Foundation and Bully OnLine, coined the term to describe the character of a certain type of individual with very specific behavior traits that he cataloged while documenting over 10,000 cases of workplace bullying when he was manager of the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line.

Serial Bully Traits

Perhaps the most easily recognizable Serial Bully traits are:
  • Jekyll and Hyde nature - Dr Jekyll is "charming" and "charismatic"; "Hyde" is "evil";
  • Convincing liar - Makes up anything to fit his needs at that moment;
  • Treats some people in a way that causes them unprecedented levels of stress, frustration and fear;
  • Damages the health and reputations of organisations and individuals;
  • Reacts to criticism with denial, retaliation and by feigning victimhood and blaming victims;
  • Apparently immune from disciplinary action
  • Moves to a new target when the present one burns out or leaves.

After gathering their data and crunching the numbers, Bully Online and The Field Foundation found that serial bullying covers a wide range of people with an even wider range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

They discovered that:

Approx 20% (of bullies) are teachers, lecturers and school administrative staff
Approx 12% are health care professionals, including nurses, paramedics, GPs etc
Approx 10% are from social services and caring occupations including care of the elderly and people with special needs
Approx 6-8% are from the voluntary and non-profit sector, with small charities (social housing, disadvantaged children, special needs, etc) featuring prominently (these usually involve a female serial bully); this sector has show the highest rate of increase in calls since 1998
Approx 5% are civil servants not included in the above groups

See, traditional bullying involves an insecure person who puts others down, picks on the weak, and makes fun of others, sometimes hurts others, in order to boost their own self-esteem by getting laughs or simply to look strong.

Bullies are typically cowardly and weak, but because they tend to be popular, either through their uncouth antics or else because of intimidation and fear mongering, they usually gain a following.

It is this following that makes the bully dangerous, because they will feed into the bully's need to continually prove themselves in others eyes, and many times the bullies followers will assist the bully in inflicting harm or slinging insults because the bully has created an environment for themselves where this form of behavior is acceptable, even though every mature and rational thinking person knows that it is never acceptable to bully someone.

Bullies want to see people suffer because they are insecure, maybe even mentally unstable, lack social skills, and cannot integrate into civil society because they are secretly too afraid to be themselves, so they put up a tough facade.

So what if mass shootings reflect this same type of persona? 

We could very well say that mass shooters are often people who suffer because they are insecure, maybe even mentally unstable, lack social skills, and cannot integrate into civil society because they are secretly too afraid to be themselves, so they put up a tough facade.

Bullies have harmed and killed numerous people through the simple act of bullying. So have mass shooters.

The one thing that may separate traditional bullies from mass shooters is that bullies tend to be genuinely scared, and so continually try to mask that fear. Mass shooters, on the other hand, seem to have come to the point where they no longer care about what happens to them, and have given up -- and so the only way to inflict the sort of pain that a bully traditionally would is to lash out at as many people as possible.

Simple bullying isn't enough. A mass shooter needs to go the extra mile to make themselves feel powerful. So they resort to extreme violence.

We might wonder then, why do so many mass shooters kill themselves after a bloody rampage? My theory is that they simply don't want to face the consequences of their actions. Somewhere in their mind they still realize that justice is more powerful than they are or ever will be, and so the only way to overcome having to face the consequences of their actions, they kill themselves and escape any and all responsibility, opting instead to go down in infamy as a mass shooter. 

Let's recall the list of traits a serial bully has one more time.

  • Jekyll and Hyde nature - Dr Jekyll is "charming" and "charismatic"; "Hyde" is "evil";
    --Most mass shooters tend to hide their "evil" side until they go on the rampage.
  • Convincing liar - Makes up anything to fit his needs at that moment;
    --Most mass shooters often find ways to obtain weapons and lie about it. This is especially true with underage mass shooters. They are also good at convincing others that they wouldn't harm a fly, but secretly harbor a desire to harm as many people as possible.
  • Treats some people in a way that causes them unprecedented levels of stress, frustration and fear;
    --This one is hard to pin down, because most mass shooters do not like to operate in a social environment. They are usually the disenfranchised. They themselves might be the victims of other serial bullies, and the stress, frustration, and fear they have experienced they want to pay back ten fold.
  • Damages the health and reputations of organisations and individuals;
    --Mass shooters often cite a "cause" or "reason" why they shot up a church, or blew up a school. Usually it is because they are attacking some feature of an organisation, individual, or even entire culture, that they do not like and want to see it destroyed. It would also help explain why many recent mass shootings seem to be racially motivated.
  • Reacts to criticism with denial, retaliation and by feigning victimhood and blaming victims;
    --Do you remember the Columbine shooting? Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 of their fellow students and teachers, injuring over 21 others, before committing suicide. A year after the attack, an analysis of mass shootings in America by officials at the US Secret Service found that bullying played a major role in who the shooters selected as targets. This suggests that mass shootings may incorporate a form of retaliation by the attackers on the victims by blaming the victims for their own slate of problems. It was later found that, in the case of Harris and Klebold, they were the perpetrators of as many incidents of bullying as they were the victims.
  • Apparently immune from disciplinary action;
    --This explains why many mass shooters are also suicide shooters. They want to escape any form of disciplinary action for their crimes.
  • Moves to a new target when the present one burns out or leaves.
    --Many mass shooters seems to roam about aimlessly after taking out their intended targets when they go on a shooting rampage , racking up a large body count before ending their own lives or being taken down by the authorities.

Now, I'm no psychologist. But it seems that mass shooting interpreted as a form of serial bulling, seems to make a certain amount of sense. At least, it does to me. 

But mass shootings, if they are indeed a form of bullying, seem to me to stem from the disenfranchisement of an individual from society more than it seems to fit with a certain socioeconomic norm wherein bullying typically thrives. In fact, a 2010 study found that rejection of a peer group (a type of disenfranchisement) was the leading motivating factor behind most school shootings.

Either way, we are talking about an unacceptable practice regardless of where it rears its ugly head.

Viewing mass shootings as a form of bullying would also explain why it seems to be getting worse. 

Bullying is a behavior that is extremely hard to squash, especially when there is an environment that is ripe for it. 

America just so happens to be perfectly suited for the rise of mass shootings. And this plays out on a weekly, monthly, and annually basis in what has become all too common place, senseless mayhem and violence inflicted on countless innocent people by mass shooters, a new lot of bullies for the 21st century.

For more on mass shootings and school rampage shootings, please see:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Midnight Ramble: Skepticism, Atheism, Science, and Freethought

It could be said that skepticism, atheism, and freethought go hand in hand.

But they also can stand on their own.

When I was a believer I still upheld the values of skepticism, of questioning the world, of having doubts. Of course, I was always told to have faith, and to walk the good path, and to listen for God's calling... but the more I learned, the more doubts I had.

Eventually my skepticism overrode my credulity. I could no longer maintain a standard on incredulity based on my desire to uphold faith above all else -- even if it meant maintain the faith when I knew it wasn't truth. I just valued Truth more than Faith.

And, no, they are not one and the same thing as so many religious friends have tried to tell me. That's just a religious semantic trick to try and stronghold the truth and make it "God's truth" and then say if you don't believe in that then you don't have the truth. It's an empty shell game, because anyone who claims to have "God's truth" on their side has obviously picked what they want God's truth to be.

A skeptic is skeptical precisely because they know about subjectivity and things like objective standards, and these must be taken into consideration before claiming you have any sort of truth. 

So gradually my skepticism compelled me to question my faith. And it was a decade long practice.

That is to say, the truth doesn't come easily. You have to work for it. You have to want it.

Those who say that faith is all you need don't care about the truth.

They've merely conflated their faith for the truth, and that's a dangerous thing to do.

Freethought is an exercise in thinking skeptically. The Golden Age of Freethought championed people who openly questioned the institutions of their day, including religious ones. Robert G. Ingersoll is among my favorite Freethinkers, and he once said, "The intellectual advancement of man depends upon how often he can exchange an old superstition for a new truth."

I couldn't agree more.

When people find out that I am an atheist, they often accuse me of championing the New Atheist movement because I support things like science and rationality over faith and spirituality.

I often get labeled a proponent of scientism, and I doubt that the people who frequently lob that word around even know its philosophical significance. But the so-called New Atheism wasn't the first to champion the benefits of science and the scientific method. Once again, Ingersoll elucidates us: 

"The glory of science is, that it is freeing the soul, breaking the mental manacles, getting the brain out of bondage, giving courage to thought, filling the world with mercy, justice, and joy." 

The notion that science could help enlighten us with truth and knowledge has been around a long time. It is something I have incorporated into my form of atheism, along with a healthy dose of skepticism and a desire to be more rational minded. If this makes me a "New Atheist" the so be it. But anyone who is familiar with the term Freethinker will know it originated there first, and like the Frethinkers of the past, I too feel that science is a beneficial tool in helping humanity progress to the next stage of technological, social, and even moral evolution.

But that doesn't mean I am preaching scientism. It just means I don not think science's ability to explain things is limited only to one sphere of understanding. But at the same, do I think science can and will explain everything? I tend to doubt it, after all, the skeptic inside of me wouldn't be satisfied unless I did.

I guess you might say I have faith in science, as it has an astonishing track record thus far. But this faith is akin more to a kind of confidence in the succes rate of science. An unwritten understanding that my faith in science is justified. So whenever someone tells me that I need as much faith to believe in science, or my kind of athiesm, as they do their faith in God (or whatever else they might believe) I have to correct them and say, no, I'm sorry, but my faith is based on a known success rate of something we have tested and found to be reliable. Your faith is based on what you wish to be truth.

These are entirely different kinds of faith.

Another favorite Freethinker of mine, the blaze Brit G.W. Foote, said it best I think, when he stated:

"What is Faith? Faith, said Paul, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This is a faith that sensible men avoid. The man of reason may have faith, but it will be a faith according to knowledge, and not a faith that dispenses with knowledge. ... Religious faith, however, is something very different. It is not belief based on evidence, but the evidence and the belief in one. The result is that persons who are full of faith always regard a demand for evidence as at once a heresy and an insult. Their faith seems to them, in the language of Paul, the very substance of their hopes; and they often talk of the existence of God and the divinity of Christ as being no less certain than their own existence."

This sort of religious faith, the kind that does not dispense with knowledge but has, for mainly emotional reasons, exceedingly high levels of certainty is the kind of faith I think we should all be a little skeptical of.

If science didn't dispense with knowledge in the way it does, then I'm pretty sure I'd be skeptical of it too. But seeing as it has been tried, tested, and proved -- I think it's safe to bet on science.

So all these things comprise the type of atheism I like to believe in and so too the kind of atheist I am. Of course, in the future these may change. My values may shift. I might add or take away from the belief system I have worked hard to develop. 

But, at the end of the day, I can be satisfied knowing that I have come to a point in my life where things finally make sense, and where the questions and doubts I have finally seem to have available answers, or at least the promise of real answers -- rather than just the promise of a truth that is so unfathomable that it requires that wishful form of faith to even believe it is true in the first place.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist