Keeping it Small and Simple

2008.04.05

Why do I doubt God’s existence?

Filed under: Religion — Tags: , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 20:12

*sigh* Here we go again. I am responding to this.

Part 1

We know God exists through the things He has made. “Since the creation of the world, invisible realities, God’s eternal power and divinity have become visible, recognized through the things He has made.” (Rom. 1:20)

Hermeneutics. This just establishes the claimed existence of a god by reference to a book. Give us a method for testing the claimed facts.

Often the reason people reject God’s existence is not based on logic, but on emotion.

Care to back this claim up? I, as I have mentioned in several posts, neither deny nor accept the existence of any god. I do not believe in gods, but I am aware of the impossibility of conclusively proving God’s “non-existence”.

Imagine if we turn the statement around: often people claim that God exists based not on logic, but on emotion. That sounds at least as reasonable as the original statement. I am sure that there are a lot of people on both sides that make a lot of emotional claims.

They do not want to believe in God because this would mean they have to keep His commandments.

Another claim without any support whatsoever. There are many non-religious reasons to follow at least some of those commandments. Laws against killing and stealing, for instance, seem to be pretty universal, even in societies that are not Christian. And of course, the Christian church has historically killed people who have questioned its authority.

St. Augustine says: “He who denies the existence of God, has some reason for wishing that God did not exist.”

This is just a quote from one author, who happens to have been a Christian. The quote confuses the words deny and wish. Asking people who don’t believe what their reasons are would quickly refute this claim.

If there was a Big Bang, who caused it? Every cause has an effect, and there cannot be a limitless number of limited causes. Ultimately there must be an uncaused cause. If we have a line of dominoes and they fall down, something must have moved the first one. God is the uncaused cause, the unmoved mover.

Now here is a really interesting question. Now of course, it is fully possible to be an atheist and not believe in the Big Bang theory, but let’s for a moment pretend that every non-believer also is a believer in Big Bang.

It is an unanswered question what was the original energy that caused everything to happen. That could point to a god, but not necessarily. There could be other explanations, including ones that we haven’t even thought of. And if a god was the original source of energy, does that mean that Christians then accept the Big Bang theory? Because if they don’t there is no need to put this argument forward, since a Big Bang initiated by God is still in opposition to biblical claims.

I could go further and ask why this should point to the existence of the Christian god. Why couldn’t the original energy be Thor? Or Jupiter? Or any other god.

Part II

Here the author lists a few “arguments” for the existence of god.

Argument from Design
This is so stupid I don’t even know where to begin. I can’t speak for all atheists, but I have never met an atheist that claims that everything happens “by accident”. The creation of the universe is normally explained as having happened through a series of physical processes. Hardly an accident, in other words. I’m an agnostic, so I’ll be a bit more careful about proclaiming what actually happened, at least I can see conclusive evidence.

Moreover, this has absolutely no bearing on the very determined building of a car in a factory. The car is built because there is a factory there, there are materials and workers, there is a company that has set up operations in order to produce units of car for a purpose (normally sales).

Argument from Dependency
Even if we accept this it in no way establishes the existence of a god. And even if we choose to use this as an argument, in what way does it establish the existence of the Christian god as opposed to any other god?

Argument from Conscience
Many people deny the existence of absolute moral law. And there are many moral absolutists who deny the existence of god. Utilitarians, for instance, believe in an absolute moral law, but are not necessarily religious (although individual utilitarians could be religious).

Pascal’s Wager
This is pretty the argument that C.S. Lewis’ put forward for believing in God. The problem is that what if you genuinely do not believe? Should you still pretend to believe “just in case”? That doesn’t seem reasonable to me. Of course, the Christian church would still want you to, because they are interested in your money.

The Purpose of Life Argument
This whole argument presupposes that there is a purpose of life. Of course, the author does not present any support for that claim. It may well be that it is valuable for people to think that there is a purpose of life. That does not mean that there actually is one.

2008.03.16

Islamophobia

Filed under: History, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 10:48

The reflexive hatred many people feel towards Muslims today is nothing new. Humanity has gone through this before. One of those episodes led to something that has been given the name the Holocaust. The victims were different, the sentiments that led up to it were not.

In Europe (yes, Antisemitism was not limited to Germany) Jews, among others, were stereotyped. Through these stereotypical images, the Jews became non-people, capable only of being Jews, wicked, greedy, and so on. Jews desired “Aryan” women. Jews were the cause of Germany’s defeat. Jews were greedy. If you have read your history, you’ve heard it all before.

Today, Islam is painted as The Great Evil. Muslims are terrorists. Muslims are evil. They beat women. They beat children. They are fundamentalists. They blow people up. You can get a fair idea of popular sentiment by just looking around on the Internet, by watching the news or even comedy shows. Notice that many of the people expressing these views are not what you would call extremists. They are “common” people.

A Muslim today is stereotyped to the point of being nothing but a Muslim. The facts that Muslims are also part of social classes, have educational backgrounds, have dreams, fears and hobbies are discarded, unless of course they help to reinforce the negative image. In our day, a Muslim is a person who has been reduced to the point of being a non-person. An evil terrorist, planning to harm us all.

By extension, Arabs are also hated to an equal extent. Arabs are equated with Islam. Those ignorant of their Biblical history cannot imagine a Jewish Arab or a Christian Arab. They simply don’t exist. They are all fundamentalist Muslim terrorists. Muslims desire our women. They take our jobs. They want to kill us all. Those are the sentiments one can hear in 2008.

Much has been said about how the “Muslim world” responded to all the so-called “Muhammad cartoons”. I agree fully that death-threats are wrong, and they must be condemned. But their is another side of the coin. Those cartoons were insulting. Remember the Jewish cartoons that were a part of Nazi propaganda? The ones that helped to further reinforce stereotypes. The cartoonists who drew the Muhammad cartoons should have given a little thought to what kind of consequences their actions may have. Not only in the “Muslim world”, but among the Muslim-hating world. It gave them more stereotypes.

The “Muslim world” is that other world. The world of fundamentalist. The people who hate, for no apparent reason. The people who have no feelings. The people who look differently, dress differently, listen to different music. The people who do not yearn for democracy. The people who are non-people. The people who are just like in those cartoons.

Terrorism is absolutely wrong. The vast majority of Muslims will agree with this. They also have a particular reason to fear terrorist acts that are committed in the name of Islam. They know that they will ultimately suffer for it. Ordinary Muslims, who just want to go about their lives, earn an income and take care of their families. They will be the ones singled-out as different. As fundamentalists. As terrorists.

And if terrorism is wrong, then all terrorism must be wrong. Including the terrorism against Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Chechnya, Iraq and all the other acts of terrorism committed by powerful nations against inferior enemies. (I could list so many. I don’t mean to belittle the suffering of the people who haven’t been listed here.)

And terrorism is the result of something. If somebody were to ask themselves the question “why do terrorists exist” and really be interested in the answer, a little bit of research into the history of the Middle East can be enlightening. The way the Muslim nations have been treated historically has led to a lot of resentment. The way the West will speak democracy but ultimately support oppressors has led to resentment. Resentment, poverty, hypocrisy and greed are powerful ingredients that can easily blow up. It has.

The incident that has become etched into our collective memory as 9/11 was obviously a horrible act. There are those who think it was the most horrible atrocity ever committed but are unable to see that the senseless killings in Palestine and Iraq are equally horrible. They are essentially making a distinction between life and life. When it happens to us it is bad, when it happens to somebody else over there it doesn’t matter.

One of the most tangible results of 9/11 was the oppression of the enemy from within. Civil liberties suffered as a result. The U.S. government gave itself authority that is directly unconstitutional. In this way one can draw a parallel between the events of 9/11 and the Reichstag fire. Conspiracy theorists typically take that comparison to its logical conclusion. It is absurd to think 9/11 was an inside job. But the effects of 9/11 are comparable to those of the Reichstag fire incident.

I am afraid that those who said never again spoke too soon. History is in the process of repeating itself. Fascism is back. We all let it happen. We read about what happened not even one hundred years ago, but we forgot so quickly. We haven’t had our equivalent of Kristallnacht yet, but it is coming. And when it does, few of us will have the wisdom to see which path we have chosen to tread.

2008.03.13

Cardinal Sins updated to v2.0

Filed under: Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 00:23

Okay, so half the blogosphere has heard of the “new” cardinal sins. They just doubled them. Luckily, hypocrisy wasn’t on the list, because then not only the Catholic Church, but most (if not all) religious organizations, world leaders, experts, professors, and a lot of others would be roasted in Hell.

I do have a few questions. I notice drug abuse is on the list. Maybe v2.1 could include a list of which drugs are included. Is consuming caffeine a cardinal sin? Nicotine? Alcohol? Cannabis? And if one consumes two or more of the ones I listed, is it possible to get bonus points?

And what is so sinful about genetic engineering? What, God can’t take a bit of competition? I always thought that Christianity was the capitalist religion. God’s definitely going to face an anti-trust suit on this one.

I’m not surprised about the abortion part. I mean, we wouldn’t want women to have control over their own bodies now, would we? Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before: abortion is murder. But then again, going into a country that does not pose a threat just to gain control over oil and senselessly killing people in the process seems a much worse crime (or “sin” since you guys love the word so much), but that didn’t make it onto the list.

And why on earth would the Catholic Church go out and proclaim obscene riches, pedophilia and causing social injustice to be cardinal sins? Isn’t that shooting yourself in the proverbial foot?

Personally, I don’t need any new sins. The old ones were fine. As a matter of fact, if lust (even just “looking lustfully at a woman”) were the only cardinal sin I would still be doomed. You see, it’s in my biological make-up. It is a requirement for that little thing we call reproduction (you know the one that gives you a new generation of people to subject to your religious dogma and to extract mone.. pardon tithes out of). Of course, in *my* book, lust is not a sin, but something to be celebrated.

2008.03.12

Atheist or Agnostic

Filed under: Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 10:38

*Sigh*.. I ended up in a little discussion over here about atheism and agnosticism. Dealing with dogmatic people, whether Christian or atheists, is obviously not much fun at all. So I’ll make a few clarifications of my viewpoint here, instead of spamming another blog.

Atheism is the denial of the existence of a god, nothing more nothing less. This is stated well here. Obviously, in order to deny the existence of some entity E, whether divine or not, you have to claim that it is possible to prove that such entity absolutely does not exist, otherwise there is no basis for the denial.

Not being able to do so would have to lead you to conclude that you cannot prove the non-existence of E but you still do not believe in it, which is what (theistic) agnosticism is (also clearly explained in the SEP article). (That is not necessarily true. One could at least conceive the idea of an agnostic who does believe.)

So how would one go about proving or disproving the existence of the entity E? To (empirically) prove the existence of E one merely has to find it. As soon as one finds just a single example of E it has been proven to exist, at least in that point in time. It becomes a lot more difficult to disprove the existence of E, especially if we claim that E can be anywhere in the universe and is mobile. That would require divine powers indeed.

A little example: suppose I ask you is there a cup in the room?. How would you be able to know? Well, you start searching the room. As soon as you find a cup, you can tell me yes, there is. But you would have to search the entire room before you could conclude that there is no cup in the room.

That is fine, but now let’s suppose I instead ask, is there a cockroach in the room? Again, you would have to search the room. If you find one you have your answer. (If you find cockroach shit you can merely conclude that it is likely that a cockroach either is there or has been there recently.) But if you don’t find one, does that mean there is no cockroach in the room, or simply that it moved around so it was never at the particular place where you were looking at the moment?

One might try to use logic to disprove the existence of gods. This has been attempted many times, but as is common with pure mind games, they easily run aground (not to mention, put you in a straitjacket). It is all too simple for somebody to come up with a counter-argument, and since neither can be verified you get stuck.

Various inductive arguments are possible, but then they still run into that little problem that Hume wrote about. We cannot use an inductive argument and then claim absolute certainty. Without absolute certainty, how do you deny?

It is possible (but unlikely) that one can sit down and work out some grand scheme that absolutely rejects the existence of any divine being(s). But that would probably take a very long time. Since I do not believe in gods and religion plays no role in my life, it is not a task I’m ready to undertake. I have better things to do with my time. Hence, I stay a non-believing agnostic.

I think many people who claim to be atheists are, from a philosophical point of view, not really atheist. They are more anti-Christian, probably outraged at the never-ending attempts by Christians to force their ideas upon others. And I fully agree, it is fucking annoying when you tell a Christian that you are not religious and their response to that is to invite you to church or some similar bullshit. Nothing pisses me off more. They should learn to respect the words “I do not believe in gods” instead of drooling over the prospect of yet another tithe-paying church member.

Theism and atheism are both absolutist viewpoints. These are excellent breeding grounds for fundamentalism and intolerance of other ideas. Agnosticism rests comfortably with the notion that one cannot know for sure, so just a little bit of humility is in order.

Further Reading

As always, don’t take my word for it. Go and read for yourself. Here are some starting points.

Stanford Encyclopdia of Philosophy – Atheism and Agnosticism: A good introduction to the subject.

Bertrand Russell – Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?: Clearly indicates the difference between atheism and agnosticism. Read the section “Proof of God”.

2008.03.11

So HIV is a gay disease..

Filed under: Religion, Sex — Tags: , , , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 18:58

..or at least this post attributes these claims to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Now, it’s rather interesting that this is a Catholic blog. What about Catholics and their *cough, cough* preferences for young boys? I guess that’s okay. After all, its not homosexuality, it’s pedophilia.

Hypocrites! If you stopped equating sex with sin and stopped poking your noses into other people’s sex lives the world would be a better place indeed. I think you people would be a lot less rabid and hateful if you got laid more. So for the benefit of the rest of us (who have to live with you lot), find yourself somebody to fuck. Just do it, over and over again, until all that hate and aggression is out of your system.

They may claim that their god is a loving god, but Christians are the most vile, hateful and intolerant people on the planet. Or at the very least the ones who make all the noise are. Just to be fair, I have actually met a few people who have been really decent, despite being Christians.

2008.03.06

Fuck fundamentalist atheists

Filed under: Religion — Tags: , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 01:21

There is a small but loud group of atheists who are giving non-religious people a bad name. This group behaves just like the religious people that they oppose. One might wonder if they were religious fundamentalists who switched over to the other side, much like a pendulum moves from one extreme point to the other.

Some want to burn the Bible. Why not burn Little Red Riding Hood (a book with equal truth value to the Bible)? Oh, I get it. Don’t worry, I can build a belief system around a little girl who gets eaten by a wolf on her way to Grandma. Does is qualify then? Fuck, the Bible is literature. Don’t go burning fucking literature!

The simple fact is this: I absolutely do not believe in a god. But, I cannot prove the non-existence of the god or gods in question. Doing that would mean that I have to check the entire universe at the same time. Needless to say, I cannot. I also don’t have the time nor the energy to sit and find justifications for my non-belief.

There is another point as well. Although I may not believe, I don’t want to remove my fellow humans right to believe. I may personally wish that they get freed from the constraints of religion. But I have no more right to force my ideas upon them than they have to force theirs upon me.

Finally, I have this little skeptic inside my head that keeps reminding me, “you know, you could be wrong!” For those who don’t know what too much certainty in your own ideas can do, read some history, for example, European history around the 1930s.

Therefore I feel it safest to remain a non-believing agnostic.

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