Guilty and unrepentant

You know, there are some folks as would stab you in the back, and then complain that you got blood all over their nice clean knife. Here‘s Chuck Colson, weeks after Christians used Proposition 8 to violate the civil rights of gays, complaining about the same few, isolated incidents that their villainy provoked:

It began with shouts—foul and violent verbal attacks. Then the assaults became physical. Rioters threw hot coffee on people and began shoving them. One thug yanked a cross out of a woman’s arms and stomped on it. Another grabbed a woman’s Bible, struck her on the head with it, knocked her to the ground, and kicked her. Others engaged in sexual exhibitionism.

This was the vicious aftermath of the passage of California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex “marriage.” The attacks were perpetrated by homosexuals angry that voters had passed the measure. They directed the worst of their venom at Mormons, who played an active role in passing the law. It was thug politics at its worst—and believe me, I’ve seen the worst.

The nearest antecedent for the pronoun “it” is “the law,” i.e. Proposition 8, and I would have to agree that it is indeed thug politics at its worst—a bunch of Christians ganging up on an unpopular minority to impose cruel and inhuman punishments on them just because they don’t like them. But Chuck isn’t telling the whole story about the “attacks” this bigoted injustice provoked.

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Posted in Society. 8 Comments »

TIA Tuesday: Twisting in the wind

We’re ready to start Chapter 15 of TIA, suitably entitled “Master of Puppets or Game Designer.” Not a terribly flattering set of alternatives either way, but given that Vox himself is a video game programmer, it makes sense that he would follow the traditional Christian practice of inventing God in terms of his own background and interests.

He begins with a cursory overview of the problem of evil.

When one surveys the long list of horrors that have engulfed countless men, women, and children throughout the course of history, the vast majority of them innocent and undeserving of such evil fates, one finds it easy to sympathize with the individual who concludes that God, if He exists and is paying attention to humanity, must be some sort of divine sadist.

Because doubts are reasonable, normal, and inevitable, they should never be brushed aside, belittled, or answered with a glib phrase, for not only does decency demand that they receive a sensitive hearing, but they also can have powerful ramifications that resonate long after the doubter himself has had them resolved one way or another…

But if God exists, it is a basic theological error to attempt to place the blame for earthly tragedies on Him. In fact, it is not only a theological error, but also a fundamental error of logic to conclude that God, even an all-powerful God, must be to blame for every evil, accident, or tragedy that befalls us.

Before we get to Vox’s answer to the problem of evil, though, he spends an entire section trying to belittle and brush aside a related issue, the question of God’s omnipotence.

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Proof… (sorta)

Via Answer the Skeptic comes this gem. It’s a long, rambling, and breathtakingly ignorant “proof of God” by David Pack, the intellectual heir (if not legal successor) to Herbert W. Armstrong. Armstrong, as you may know, was the founder of the Worldwide Church of God, a group regarded by many mainstream Christians as a heretical cult. After Armstrong’s death, the organization cleaned up its act quite a bit to become more orthodox, which led to a number of splinter groups, like Pack’s, splitting off to continue the Armstrong legacy. Apparently, though, either the folks at Answer the Skeptic don’t know about David Pack’s theological heritage, or else don’t care that they’re turning to cults for help in buttressing their apologetics.

Pack begins by promising everything an apologist could ask for.

This booklet presents numerous absolute, immutable proofs that God does exist. After reading it, you will never again doubt the answer to this greatest of questions! Some proofs will amaze you. Others will inspire you. Still others will surprise or even excite you. All of them will fascinate you with their simplicity. We will first examine some traditional proofs and then consider material that rests on the cutting edge of scientific understanding, before returning to established proofs. You will learn from biology, astronomy, chemistry and mathematics.

Conspicuously absent from this list is anything that would involve, you know, God actually showing up in real life. In fact, Pack’s “proofs” are so vague and superstitious that they could serve equally well as proof of Norse gods, Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Spontaneous Magical Entropy Reversal Fields (SMERFs). Pack could have greatly abridged this piece simply by stating, “I do not know squat about science—therefore GOD EXISTS.”

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Posted in Amusements, Science, Unapologetics. 4 Comments »

Christmas Special: Top Ten Reasons why Santa is Better than Jesus

Just in time for the holidays, here are the top ten reasons why Santa Claus is better than Jesus:

10. Santa laughs more.

9. Santa does not demand your time, your obedience, your worship or your money.

8. Santa doesn’t expect perfection, and even if you screw up, you start the next year with a clean slate.

7. No one was ever burned at the stake for translating the story of Santa into the language of the common folk.

6. Santa’s not all hung up on sex.

5. Santa comes once every 12 months, not occasionally every few thousand years.

4. Santa doesn’t try to “prove” his love for us with some bizarre ritual self-destruction.

3. Santa doesn’t start wars with people who say “Happy Holidays.”

2. Santa doesn’t judge people’s moral character by whether or not they believe in him.

And the number one reason Santa is better than Jesus…

1. Santa doesn’t make you wait til you’re dead before he brings the goodies.

 
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TIA Tuesday: The chainsaw runs out of gas

I’ve been looking forward to the end of this chapter of TIA: low-hanging fruit is supposed to be easy to pick, but when it hangs so low that you have to squat down to reach it, it gets tiresome. At least “Occam’s Chainsaw” sputters to a halt on a fairly light note as he tries to address what he calls the “three rational atheisms.” And lo and behold! Vox falls prey to the Gypsy Curse!

There are three variants of atheism that can be considered at least partly rational: these can be described as Somerset atheism, Nietzschean atheism, and Post-Nietzschean atheism.

Somerset atheism is the common practice of moral parasitism described in the previous section. It is a partially rational atheism that functions perfectly well on an individual level but cannot function on a societal level because it depends entirely on the existence of an external morality to support it.

Christianity, of course, borrows its morals (such as they are) from the surrounding cultures, which is why the only real moral innovation in Christianity is the impractical and rarely-practiced notion of loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate you. In his haste to do evil to his enemies, Vox accuses them of a flaw that is actually a Christian failing, thus fulfilling the Curse and repeating the stumble that has brought him down so often in TIA. But we still have two more atheisms to go…

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, The Gypsy Curse, TIA, Unapologetics. 3 Comments »

An obligation to the facts

Let’s see, where were we? Oh yes, cleaning up some loose ends in Anthony Horvath’s attempted rebuttal.

The important thing for now is that we recognize that our chief obligation is to the facts of our existence, and sometimes reality appears inconsistent and contradictory- and yet there it is.  What does one do in this situation?  Do you throw out your data?  The point being is that you must deal with your data and if you are reasonably confident that your data is legitimate it does not cease to be so just because you perceive it to be ‘inconsistent’ or contradictory.

I say all this because it is absolutely wrong headed to apply Herr Professor’s technique and attitude to supernatural claims and deeply ironic.  Herr Professor, like so many other atheists, deeply imbibes on scientism.  But science itself- meaning, the natural framework alone- provides us with contradictory notions, and yet the data compels us to consider them.  And that’s just within our natural framework!  Never mind revelatory claims!  Nature itself confounds us.

My approach is to verify the facts and to interpret them in the light of the principle that truth is consistent with itself, so it’s hard to see why it would be “wrong-headed” to apply that approach to claims about the supernatural. But I don’t think he really meant to imply that the supernatural is somehow resistant to attempts to discover the truth about it. I think he just wanted to insinuate that scientists have some kind of systematic filter that causes them to reject otherwise-valid evidence just because it happens to be “supernatural.”

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Posted in CAMWatch, Realism, Science, Unapologetics. 4 Comments »

Flatland: the rest of the story

I’m pleased to see that Anthony Horvath wants to discuss my analysis of his attempt to excuse the contradictions in the Gospel story. Alas, in true Gypsy Curse fashion, he seems to have misunderstood my arguments, and consequently accuses me of having misunderstood him. For instance, I remarked early on that, while Horvath’s announced topic concerned transcendence and immanence, the bulk of his discussion concerned what God can and cannot do, i.e. how transcendence applies to the question of what God can and cannot do. Horvath apparently understood that to mean that I thought transcendence was an entirely separate and unrelated topic, which gives him a license to dismiss my entire argument as the irrelevant consequences of an incorrect analysis.

H. Professor’s failure to see how these two fundamental claims about the nature of the thing under discussion connect to the rest of the argumentation I made is the underlying mistake of both of his posts.  That we are talking about an entity that is both transcendent and immanent is absolutely critical to the rest of the argumentation.  In fact, H. Professor makes complaints that I already answered- but because he fails to see the relation between these attributes and the rest I said, he fails to recognize them.

The last sentence reveals the second prong of Horvath’s attempt to make my arguments irrelevant: because I considered each of his arguments step by step, pointing out the problems that require further defense, he accuses me of raising objections that he had already answered (in subsequent parts of his post). He apparently did not understand that I was following the flow of his own logic: that there must be a reason why the “God can’t do nonsense” argument does not suffice to end the discussion, and why Horvath feels compelled to seek other solutions. I simply laid out what those unresolved problems are, at the beginning of the discussion, so that we could approach the rest of the discussion with an appropriate background.

There is a lot more I could have said, of course, and I’m grateful to Mr. Horvath for having given me the opportunity to explore this topic further. He raises some interesting points, and clarifies some others, and, if you can bear with me through a longish post, I think we’ll see why his defense of the Gospel actually constitutes a full-fledged concession of defeat, and a retreat into universal agnosticism.

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Posted in CAMWatch, Realism, Science, The Gypsy Curse, Unapologetics. 6 Comments »

XFiles Friday: Padding the list

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 11.)

We’re approaching the end of Geisler and Turek’s “Top Ten” list of reasons why we ought to buy whatever the NT writers try to sell us. I’ve suggested before that they seem to be padding their list somewhat, and items #8 and #9 really bring that home. Here’s number 8:

8. The New Testament Writers Challenge Their Readers to Check Out Verifiable Facts, Even Facts About Miracles.

We’ve already seen some of the claims of accuracy the New Testament writers made to the recipients of their documents…

In addition, Paul makes another claim to the Corinthians that he wouldn’t have made unless he was telling the truth. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul declares that he previously performed miracles for them. Speaking of his own qualifications as an apostle—someone who speaks for God—Paul reminds the Corinthians, “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Cor. 12:12).

Now why would Paul write this to the Corinthians unless he really had done miracles for them? He would have destroyed his credibility completely by asking them to remember miracles that he never did for them! The only plausible conclusion is that 1) Paul really was an apostle of God, 2) he therefore really had the ability to confirm his apostleship by performing miracles, and 3) he had displayed this ability openly to the Corinthians.

I’ll take “You Can’t Be Serious” for $10, Alex…

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 4 Comments »

The n-dimensional God

I’d like to continue yesterday’s look at Anthony Horvath’s post attempting to find a way to resolve (or at least rationalize) some of the contradictions in the Christian Gospel. In the second part of the post, Horvath takes us on a tour of Flatland:

In Flatland, the characters exist in a two dimensional world and have their geometry- and logic- all worked out.  Until, that is, a sphere breaks into their world.  Now, a sphere is a three dimensional object, so naturally the 2D entities have great difficulty perceiving what they are seeing.  A sphere, breaking through a plane, appears first as a single point and then a varying sized circle depending on how far the sphere comes in.   Are the triangles and squares face to face with a logical contradiction?  Not at all.  Rather, the logical rules that apply to the 3D world incorporate and transcend the logical rules of the 2D world.

“Incorporate and transcend”—a very key term, as we shall see. The laws of 3-dimensional geometry do not contradict the laws of 2-dimensional geometry. They are consistent with it, at least at their point of intersection (no pun intended). And that is going to pose something of a problem for this particular attempt at reconciling the inconsistencies in the Gospel.

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Can God do nonsense?

There’s an interesting post up at our old friend Christian Apologetics Ministries. It presents itself as a discussion of immanence vs. transcendence, but the bulk of the discussion focuses on the topic of understanding what God can and cannot do.

I can begin with by trotting out the old ‘Can God create a rock that he cannot lift or move?’ line. The contention is that if God is all powerful he should be able to do this but in doing so he would simultaneously undermine his own omnipotence. Most of the time this is answered by pointing out that some statements are just nonsense and God’s omni-characteristics do not require him to be able to achieve the nonsensical… Something doesn’t become reasonable just because you insert ‘Can God’ in front of it.

Most people accept this explanation and I’ve found that even nonbelievers come around to accepting it. (Not all of them do, which is why 17 year olds with Google can still find the question to ask it)

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Posted in CAMWatch, Unapologetics. 12 Comments »