Sunday, July 31, 2016

Women Beyond Belief: Dr. Karen L. Garst's new book

“For me, being an atheist has set me free from ignorance and stifling gender expectations. As a woman, others don’t tell me what my place is; I make my own destiny. I wasn’t created in the Garden of Eden to be a helper to a man. Learning isn’t something to be feared and punished by a control-freak god who values ignorance over knowledge, the supposedly forbidden fruit. It is more difficult to make sense of the world on your own rather than to defer to a book, but it is more honest too.” --Lilandra Ra

Lilandra Ra is a science teacher who was raised in both Catholic and Baptist churches. She is one of 22 women who have written essays about their personal journeys away from religion.

Karen L. Garst has compiled these essays into a book entitled “Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion,” which can be pre-ordered on Amazon. If you're familiar with my own publications, you'll know that I did something similar with Joanathan M.S. Pearce, when we published our collection of deconversion stories Beyond an Absence of Faith. So, naturally, when Dr. Garst contacted me about her upcoming book I was excited to read it. It just goes to show you that great minds do think alike. 

Dr. Garst informed me that she became incensed when the U. S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby in 2014. This decision said that because of its religious views, Hobby Lobby, a craft store, would not be obligated to follow the dictates of the Affordable Care Act and provide certain forms of birth control to its employees. “Will we never end the fight for women’s reproductive rights?” Garst stated. 

Once again, religion has influenced the laws of our land. Politicians cite their religion in supporting restrictions on abortion, banning funding for Planned Parenthood, and a host of other issues that are against women. 

The first leaders of the New Atheism movement that arose after 9/11 were men: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. They came with backgrounds of science and philosophy and they launched a renewed effort to show people how destructive religion can be and how all Abrahamic religions are based upon an Iron Age mythology, borrowing from other mythologies of the time. 

Dr. Garst wants to add a focus on women and the role this mythology has played in the culture of many countries to denigrate and subordinate women. She states that “Religion is the last cultural barrier to gender equality.” And she is right. 

More and more women atheists are speaking out. And as we all know, if women (who comprise the majority of church goers) leave the churches, they will collapse and the religious landscape will be forever altered. 

I encourage you to check out Dr. Gart's book, as she has received support with reviews by Richard Dawkins, Valerie Tarico, Peter Boghossian, Sikivu Hutchinson and other renowned atheist authors.

If you wish, you may find Dr. Garst’s blog at and you can even pre-order this excellent book which I had the pleasure to read a beta-copy of.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Get Strange Comments

This comment was left on The Advocatus Atheist backup blog on Word Press.

"Dear author of this blog:

Just present to mankind what is your atheists’ concept of God; don't talk uselessly on and on in the cloud without your concept of God adequately presented, in term of the first and foremost role of God in the universe, in man, and in everything with a beginning; otherwise you are talking nonsense because you have not presented your concept of God, which you insist there is no being in objective reality corresponding to the concept.

Always present the concept of the thing you are in end purpose denying to exist, otherwise you are inanely talking endlessly to no precise definite direction."

My response.

Pointing out that God may be a manmade concept doesn’t mean atheist literally believe in God.

It means they believe God is a manmade concept.

I don’t see how this confusing to people.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Is New Atheism a Religion? Theism vs. Atheism. Which is more Rational?

A recent commentor left some statements regarding atheism on my other AA blog regarding his views on atheism. Among the statements he made, he claimed that atheism wasn't the more rational position. That theism doesn't need to prove itself even as it has made the positive claim. And that New Atheism is a religion even though atheists won't admit to that fact.

I think you'll find that these are your typical apologetic statements which many Christians are taught. It's a bit of anti-atheism rhetoric that doesn't actually deal with the claims or try to engage in skeptical inquiry, but merely attacks the other side's position without giving thought to what is actually being said.

Both theists and atheists on both sides have been guilty of going off half-cocked in the past. But my article wasn't about any of this, per se. I was talking about probabilities and why atheism is more rational because there are no convincing reasons to compel us atheists to go from a high probability to a low probability belief assumption. Quite literally so, otherwise there wouldn’t be such a thing as atheists. Therefore atheism remains, at least in my mind, the more reasonable position given the failure for theism to properly (and adequately) demonstrate it's positive claims.

Anyway, that was the gist of my argument. 

But let me address some of the other misconceptions as well.

I was criticized for attacking the religious by saying they are less rational. Of course, I didn't mean that religious people are less rationally minded than non-believers. What I meant was they take the less rational position. There's a difference here. And one who takes the less rational position is clearly being less rational.

I only said this after a lot of proving, and talk about probabilities along with numerous of examples. You can read the article Is Atheism More Rational than Religion if you want to. I think you'll agree I wasn't denigrating theists by calling them less rational. I was saying that because there are numerous factors which seem to make theism a less rational position to take. Granted, I could be wrong. But read the article for yourself and make up your own mind.

Later my interlocutor went on about "religious logic" vs. "atheist logic." I think he may have misunderstood what I was criticizing exactly when I invoked the term "logic."

I think he may have taken offence by my saying atheism was a logical response to theism's failure to demonstrate its claims whereas theism was not a particularly logical response to the real world.

In fact, I felt as though he was jumping the gun when he criticized me here because I wasn't saying that atheists are more rational because "religious logic" is bogus.

Of course, I wasn't talking about logical deduction or analysis quite yet. I was more concerned with taking a stance on specific belief propositions. And logic, in this case, comes after you have data to analyze. But beliefs do not require data, or even evidence, simply to be held. And that was my main point.

Belief and knowing are two separate things. And theists usually conflate the two. I doubt they realize they are even doing it half of the time. But I continually have to point this out in nearly every discussion I have on the subject.

Where belief propositions are concerned, I mentioned the fact that it does us well to examine why we have accepted beliefs or not when we are the ones making positive claims about the status of real world objects.

That's why evidentialism plays a big role in how one comes to hold conviction in the belief claims they have accepted as prima facie true. Subsequently, this is also the main reason why New Atheism is *not* a religion and why I tire of hearing such a claim in the first place. It doesn't act like religion, it doesn't function like religion, it is, however, a response to religion. 

Of course, it may be the case that religious apologists have misinterpreted New Atheism to be anti-theism for anti-theism's sake on top of pushing strong-atheism simply for the love of not believing in things, and that its zeal arrises from some egoistic desire to be right, rather than being what it really is -- a response to contemporary forms of theism. It only appears to the religious as a form of religion because they don't fully understand what it's trying to do. It's mysterious to them. And, well, in their world that's indistinguishable from religion.

In terms of atheists being the more rational (position) claim, what I was saying was that atheism takes the null hypothesis when the positive claim cannot be corroborated or verified beyond a reason of a doubt. That is, we side with what nature appears to demonstrate to be the case, that is is just a mundane natural world, rather than making up rationalizations for why nature hides her true metaphysical nature or reality from us, as the theist does.

New Atheists, of course, often get chided for pointing this out. It's at this point where the religious like to throw out pejorative terms and call New Atheists worshippers of the alter of science, and label accusations of scientism. 

This accusation of scientism arises, in part, I think, because the atheist has taken the time to at least attempt to familiarize themselves with the scientific literature. And in their newly acquired scientific knowledge, they see that the theistic claim is simply not possible in the realm of natural science. 

Consequently, saying that your particular brand of metaphysics cannot be explained by science frequently invokes the ire of the religious who say -- exactly. And why should it? And this comes back to our previous point about New Atheists accepting the world as it is, or at least as it appears, and not making undue rationalizations to explain why it isn't some other way imaginable to us.

Now, atheists could very well be wrong in this. When all is said and done, theism may very well be true. What the atheist continually reminds theists of is the fact that there is no evidence to confirm that such a position is valid. If there was, there'd be no contesting it.

On the other hand, atheism doesn't need to prove itself valid as it is not offering an alternative, competing, metaphysical explanation of the reality we observe. It's merely siding with it. As such, it's merely a response to theism. It's simply a stance opposing theism based on the grounds that theism has failed to demonstrate its metaphysical claims about the nature of reality.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily work the other way around. Theism isn't a counter-claim to atheism. It isn't making any negative claims or taking opposing stances about atheism because atheism hasn't demonstrated itself. This is because atheism hasn't made any positive claims about the nature of reality.

One might choose to argue, as certainly many have, that strong-atheism does, in fact, make a positive claim about the nature of reality as we understand it. But, once again, I'd argue that strong atheism is a position of belief. Just as strong theism is. And therein lies the rub. The problem itself is with the nature of belief. 

I think rational minded people will temper their conviction with healthy skepticism as much as possible. When it comes to the New Atheists, or any other form of atheism for that matter, a person pushing for strong atheism might be doing so as a counter-measure, or a contra-argument, against theism. Perhaps as a way to try and get theists to be more skeptical of their own claims as well. It doesn't automatically mean New Atheists believe in scientism and are merely being anti-theists for the love of raging on religions. I've met very few atheists who are ardent strong atheists because they simply "believe in not believing" in things. That, in itself, wouldn't be a very rational position to take.

That's not to say there aren't irrational atheists in the same way there are clearly cases of irrational theists. But when it comes to making rational assumptions about the world, vs. striving to be more rational, there is a key difference to be noted between the approaches of atheists and believers.

Rationality, in this case, deals with what we can know. What is irrational, in my mind, is pretending to know things that cannot be discernible, or that you don't have adequate evidence for, or that are defeasible in the way things are when they are verifiable via systems of demonstration, and thus must be taken on a matter of faith. 

That's merely affirming a belief. But many beliefs, even mundane one's, even among atheists, are not always rationally held.

That's just the nature of belief.

But if you say that something is more than a mere belief and that something is real, then you've gone beyond just affirming belief in a mere thing. You've essentially claimed you have *reasons* to justify your belief in it.

Atheists merely ask that theists follow through with such claims when they mean their statement is more than a matter of simple belief. Such as "knowing" or being "witness" to things inexplicable. That's when rationalism begins to play a big role in helping to determine whether the beliefs we hold are rationally sound. 

I hope that helped to clarify any misconceptions about atheism and New Atheism vs. Theism and what it is I meant when I said, in effect, that atheism is more rational than theism.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser: Guest Post on Abortion

Since I was on the topic, Bruce graciously allowed me a platform to talk in-depth about the subject of abortion and women's rights on his blog. 

If you'd like to check out my guest article "Is Abortion Murder?" please go to The Life and Times of Bruce Grencser and read it by clicking HERE.

Thank you!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Abortion is Evil and Equates to Murder! Period!

"Abortion is Evil and equates to murder. Period."

If you are the type of person who believes this, I'm sorry to be the barer of bad news, but in all likelihood you've been brainwashed.

I don't say that to be divisive. Really. I don't.

It's just an observation.

See, the thing is, you can't exactly talk about the meta-ethics regarding something as complex as abortion in absolute, black and white, terms and still expect to be taken seriously. It's just not gonna happen.

Saying "all abortion is evil" and "abortion is murder" is a very binary way of thinking, it's either right or wrong, good or bad, and leaves no room for discussion.

It is a lot like a doomsday preacher giving the date of the end of the world. You might believe it, sure. You might scream it at the top of your lungs. But the fact remains, it's simply not true because you want to believe it's true. One's mere opinion is not an adequate substitute for a proper argument and in noway displaces the bulk of knowledge already accumulated on the subject, philosophically, ethically, and otherwise.

Saying that "abortion is evil" or that women who have had abortions are "murderers" is just a defense mechanism you've developed to prematurely end a debate you don't want to have.

I know. Because I used to be in your exact shoes. I was a conservative, pro-life, advocate who berated abortion. But now I'm on the other side of the fence. Fancy a guess as to why?

No, it's not that I think I'm better or smarter than anyone else. You'd be surprised by how many people use that deflection to take the burden off them to have to answer the question of why they feel that way. Often you don't get well thought out reasons. You get emotionally charged justifications. That's how you know that you've been brainwashed.

Zealously only cares about being right for the sake of being right. It does not care about truth -- even when, or I should say *especially when, the truth proves the zealot wrong.

Don't worry. I get it. I do. Chances are you were taught to think this way. You didn't examine all the facts, you never sat down with a distraught mother who just had a miscarriage to talk with her about it, you didn't take time to interview other women who've had abortions for all kinds of reasons (most of them probably medically valid reasons at that), and you probably never chose to talk to an entire fleet of doctors on fetal development thereby educating yourself on the relevant material before jumping to the conclusion you liked best.

You just assumed that you knew better because some authority in your life told you that life, all life, was sacred and, well, it stems to reason that if life is sacred abortion is evil because it expunges life.

Again. That's not how morality works.

We don't get our morals from on high, from some supreme source. Of course, there's philosophical reasons why Divine Command theory, just to name one example, is problematic. But that's a discussion for another time. Let's just be satisfied with knowing it has never been demonstrated -- and maybe, just maybe, we should learn to accept that moral considerations aren't so simplistic.

The Good VS Evil binary thinking doesn't have a place in the intricate realm of ethics where subtleties and nuances play a big role in determining the rightness or wrongness of an act.

Bio-ethics, and the gray area where medicine and human life enter the equation, the fact of the matter is that solutions to tricky ethical problems aren't always crystal clear. This certainly applies to abortion. If you don't think so, then chances are you've never heard of anencephaly -- i.e., literally being born without a brain.

And if you say life begins at conception, which it very well may, but you haven't considered the Ship of Theseus paradox, odds are you probably shouldn't be saying life begins at conception. You still haven't defined "life" -- and although you are entitled to your own opinions, you aren't entitled to your own facts. 

Furthermore, even if you had a clear idea of what precise point life technically begins, and how to define this life, you still must ask yourself: does my conclusion comport with science?

This is important. Because, if not, then your conclusion runs against the scientific consensus and probably has more in common with a lot of hocus-pocus than actual science.

If you say *all abortion is evil, but neglect the fact that 20 out of 100 women (in America alone) experience spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) before they turn 40, then you have no right to speak on abortion. If you don't think miscarriages are *technically the same thing as other forms of abortions, you have no right to speak on abortion. Your opinion is not a valid argument. And in this particular case, saying *all abortion is evil makes you anti-woman. Don't be that person.

If you say all life is sacred, but just so happen to eat meat, support enlistment into the armed services, and are for capital punishment, yet are against things such as stem-cell research, you are contradicting yourself in the extreme and don't understand the first thing about ethics. In this case, you'd best go and educate yourself before spreading your thin veil of wisdom over everything. Because as flimsy as your opinion is, it's just going to come back riddled with a myriad of holes. Swiss-cheese logic has no place in serious ethical debates, I think you'll agree.

If you think that being pro-choice means you're anti-pro-life, you're mistaken. Pro-choice advocates do not call for the death of babies. We merely support the rights of the mother as an autonomous individual. And the fact is, whether you like it or not, unborn fetuses aren't autonomous individuals. Their rights aren't the same as an adults in the same way a child's rights aren't the same as an adults.

If you think being anti-abortion equates to being pro-life, you're equally mistaken. Anti-abortion is unscientific and almost always predicated on anti-woman platforms. It's a perversion of the pro-life stance. Pro-birth is the re-branding of anti-abortion to try and dupe people into agreeing with anti-women policies. Don't be fooled.

Oh, and if you think that pro-life and pro-choice are opposite sides of the same coin, you're still wrong and chances are you need to do some major research before weighing in on the matter.

Just to be accurate, the pro-choice stance is a contra-argument to the legal, ethical, and philosophical problems that are raised by the pro-life stance. But in order to know this you need to know what both stances entail. You have to look at both sides arguments as objectively as possible. Leave the hyperbolic, alarmist, over emotional baggage at the door.

Assuredly, pro-life positions are almost always inherently flawed, logically, morally, and otherwise. This is due to the simple fact that pro-life advocates fail to logically defend their premise or find scientific support for their claims. Instead they just want to spout of moral pleas and platitudes. But this sabotages any attempt to form a rational argument, because everything devolves into a mess about feelings -- not facts.

I still have yet to see a fully developed, fully rational pro-life argument be made. It always comes down to crocodile tears for all the unborn children who never got to be born, and some questionable links to some alarmist, yet obviously doctored, abortion videos meant to give you a bit of the shock and awe treatment pro-lifers so blithely imagine themselves to be feeling whenever they think about the horrors of abortion. Horrors, which in reality, are extremely rare occurrences that happen less than 1.3% of the time. Which is about the same as saying almost not at all.

Pro-choice has its own flaws, sure, although in my experience they are easier to find adequate solutions for. It's not as cut and dry with the pro-life side of things, I think you'll find.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist