“Fan” mail

From time to time I see references to this blog in the comments people submit to other blogs. They’re especially interesting when they come from Vox Day supporters, like this one does. I’m particularly fascinated when Vox’s supporters find fault with my arguments at the precise points where I agree with Vox.

For example, in referring to last Tuesday’s TIA post, “Mike T” writes:

It is a very weak argument, that fails to even understand the point that Vox was making that the Golden Rule is simply not a moral statement at all because it provides no inherent, objective guidance on what we should do. If a psychopath or a sociopath were to follow the golden rule as the foundation of their moral code, it could lead to some extremely *ahem* “interesting” situations. Hence why Vox said that the Golden Rule only makes sense as a means of applying a pre-existing, objective moral system to your actions.

Mind you, Vox didn’t actually say that the Golden Rule makes sense as a means of applying a pre-existing, objective moral system (at least not in Chapter 14 of TIA), but he did say that it was not a perfect basis for determining morality, and I did agree that “Yes, the Golden Rule is not a perfect and infallible guide to morality.” But if agreeing with Vox makes my argument weaker, then perhaps I ought to revisit the topic.

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, The Gypsy Curse, TIA, Unapologetics. 1 Comment »

TIA Tuesday: Not the Golden Rule

One thing I’ve been noticing in Chapter 14 of TIA is that the longer Vox rambles on with his “Occam’s Chainsaw” arguments against atheism, the less and less his atheistic arguments resemble anything atheists actually say. Case in point, the so-called Argument from the Golden Rule.

It is often asserted that Christian morality is no different than other ethical systems that are based on the Golden Rule. And it is true that one can find pre-Christian examples of the same concept in the Analects of Confucius, in the Mahabharata, the Dhammapada, the Udanavarga, and even the histories of Herodotus. Still, there are two errors in this argument because Christian morality is not based on the Golden Rule, and because the Golden Rule, which states that a man should not do to others what he would not have them do to him, cannot provide a basis for a functional moral system.

Vox is partly right: Jesus didn’t base his religion on the Golden Rule, and more’s the pity because it would have produced a better moral system if he had. But the standard atheistic argument is more an observation that the best parts of Christianity, the parts worth keeping, are not original with Jesus, but were absorbed into Judaism and Christianity from the moral systems of the surrounding cultures. Vox, once again, is merely fencing with a straw man.

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, TIA, Unapologetics. 7 Comments »

TIA Tuesday: Getting low on gas

Believe it or not, Vox is still trying to chew his way through what he calls Occam’s Chainsaw, but the teeth on that old saw are just getting duller and duller, and the engine is starting to sputter like it was low on gas. Here’s his rendition of what he calls “The Argument from God’s Character.”

This is another superficial argument popular with Low Church atheists, although it pops up from time to time among the more militant High Church breed. It states that even if God exists, the morality He dictates is so abhorrent to the atheist and inferior to the atheist’s own moral sensibilities that the atheist cannot believe in Him. And in the unlikely event that the atheist is ever confronted by God, he will refuse to acknowledge His divine status let alone His right to rule over Mankind.

One is tempted to think that Vox expects most thoughtful and rational readers to have abandoned his book before now, leaving him free to say whatever he likes without worrying too much about whether or not he can get away with it. Surely by this point only his fans are still tuned in, and they’re not going to worry too much about whether he’s really addressing substantial arguments against God or merely breaking rhetorical wind, so long as he talks like he’s refuting the Bad Guys.

But we’re still here, Vox.

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, TIA, Unapologetics. 6 Comments »

TIA Tuesday: The unfairness of Hell

There are a lot of arguments you could make with regard to the unreasonableness of the doctrine of Hell, but in Chapter 14 of TIA, Vox manages to come up with one so hopelessly garbled and confused that even he calls it “a particularly stupid one.” Not surprisingly, he does not quote any particular atheist making this particular argument, but he attributes it to atheists anyway.

This argument takes the possibility of the supernatural a little too seriously for any of the New Atheists, but one probably encounters it more often from Low Church atheists than one hears all the previous five arguments combined. And since it’s a Low Church argument, it is naturally a particularly stupid one that manages to ignore huge quantities of readily available evidence pertaining to human behavior while simultaneously assuming perfect long-term rationality on the part of every individual human being. This argument states that because Heaven is really good and Hell is really bad, the purported choice that God offers between the two really isn’t a choice, because what sort of idiot would choose to go to Hell? Therefore, it would be unfair for God to send anyone to Hell, and therefore neither God nor Hell can possibly exist.

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TIA Tuesday: The beast and the bank

As we mentioned last time, there are artists who can sculpt some rather attractive (if prosaic) wood sculptures with a chainsaw, but in the hands of a klutz, a chainsaw is a danger to everyone, especially the wielder. We continue our look at Chapter 14 of TIA, which Vox entitles “Occam’s Chainsaw,” with a look at his attempt to hack up “The Argument from Fiction.”

This argument states that because the Bible and every other sacred text is wholly man-made and as fictitious as anything written by Shakespeare or any other classic from the literary canon, there is no reason to take them seriously, much less base moral systems or societal structures upon them. The problem here is that the Bible has not only proven to be a more reliable guide in many instances than the current state of secular science as well as an accurate historical document, but sometimes a better predictor of future events than the experts on the subject. I bought Euros back when they were worth just over ninety cents on the dollar because of the eschatological interpretations of the Book of Revelation that the European Common Market would one day become a single political entity, the endless vows of the European elite to the contrary notwithstanding. Now, the EUR/USD rate is bouncing around 1.36. Maybe it was just a fortuitous coincidence, but on the other hand, if a northern country shows signs of invading Israel, let’s just say I won’t hesitate to short their currency.

Just for reference, let’s look at the part of the Book of Revelation which predicts that the European Common Market would become a single political entity whose currency would start out low relative to the dollar and then rise in value (again, relative to the US dollar):

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.

I can’t help but think that if the Wall Street financiers had only followed the sage financial advice in those two verses from Revelation 12, our economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

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TIA Tuesday: The “decline” of science

One of the first lessons I learned in life is the importance of using the right tool for the right job. A razor has a sharp edge and a fine line, and is the tool you need for making careful, precise, well-defined cuts. A chainsaw, by contrast, is loud, smelly, and not well suited to making fine distinctions, preferring to chew its way through things and throwing the chips however they may fly. In the right hands, a chainsaw can be a powerful tool, and can even be used to make folksy carvings out of raw logs. In the hands of a klutz, however, it can be dangerous to both wielder and bystander alike.

We’re in Chapter 14 of TIA, watching Vox wield what he calls “Occam’s Chainsaw,” which he seems to prefer to the similarly-named Razor. It’s an apt distinction, as shown by his hack-and-slash approach to trying to craft a rebuttal to atheistic arguments. For example, see if you can figure out why he entitled the argument below, “The Argument from Temporal Advantage.”

One of the obvious weaknesses in the atheist concept of the conflict between science and religion is the fact that many, if not most, of the great scientists in history were religious men. Even the first great martyr of Science, Galileo Galilei, was not an atheist but a Christian. For every Watson and Einstein, there is a Newton, a Copernicus, a Kepler, and yes, a Galileo.

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TIA Tuesday: Occam’s Chainsaw

We’ve made it to Chapter 14 of TIA (whew!), and that brings us to what Vox modestly labels “Occam’s Chainsaw,” a shotgun approach that attempts to address atheistic arguments against God by hurling a whole lot of crap against the wall in hopes that something sticks. Once again, Vox seems to be in a hurry to get through the material, devoting only a few sparse and poorly-reasoned paragraphs to each attempted argument. Let’s start with the first three.

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TIA Tuesday: A maze of twisty passages, all alike

Vox Day has a very important question to ask us all.

Why should a belief in the non-existence of God cause one individual to kill another, much less make it possible to predict that it will cause political leaders to liquidate large numbers of their own citizenry? How was it that Bertrand Russell was able to foresee the inevitable bloodshed to come in 1920, two years before Stalin became General Secretary and four years before he consolidated his power by banishing Trotsky? And even more importantly, why did the atheist Russell believe that the civilized world not only would, but should, risk a descent into barbarism by following the awful Soviet example?

Gosh, it seems like it was just a few pages ago that Vox was assuring us that government was the source of all that is evil in the world, and now here he is blaming blaming atheism again. And not just a lack of belief in God (or Santa), but a positive, declaratory assurance that God does not exist, is what Vox appeals to as being an active motivation for mass murderous behavior. Given the number of gods which even Christians believe do not exist, the potential for mass destruction must be truly terrifying!

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TIA Tuesday: Government is the root of all evil

Vox Day has an interesting strategy for dealing with hostile facts. Step one: make a pretense of agreeing with the truth, so as to give what follows an air of impartiality. Step two: introduce some kind of fallacious or erroneous quibble, so as to make it sound like you’re presenting the other side of the argument. And step three: pile on a huge stack of well-documented but irrelevant facts so as to make it sound like you’re proving your point. There’s no step four, because all that really matters is creating the impression that you’ve refuted step one, and if steps two and three  don’t do that for you, you’re probably dealing with someone who is unreasonably biased in favor of objective truth, and you shouldn’t waste your time trying to convince them.

We’re in the last section of Chapter 12 of TIA, in which Vox tries to deny the charge that Aztec human sacrifices is an example of religion leading to a needless loss of human life. Here he is giving us Step One of the three-step tactic.

If one looks at the history of the world, there are two facts which no reasonable man can deny: first, that people do bad things, and second, that religion has been central to people’s lives for as long as history has been recorded. The centrality of religion in past societies means that it has been a mechanism for an amount of these bad things people have done, which occasionally makes it appear that religion is the source of the evil behavior.

Despite the weasel-words (“occasionally makes it appear that religion is the source…”), this is a fair concession that religion and violence do go hand-in-hand at times, and that, far from being an irrelevant fantasy that has nothing to do with how people behave, religion is actually central to many people’s lives and how they live them. Halfway through the second sentence of this section, however, we’re already easing our way into Step Two.

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TIA Tuesday: Hitler, the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition

After the breathless and and almost hypoxic hysteria of Chapter 11, Chapter 12 of TIA comes as a welcome respite, a breath of sanity in the book thus far. Vox has a tremendous enthusiasm for history, and even a commendable command of the subject, so long as he is not trying to use it to score some partisan point or other. He brings this enthusiasm to his consideration of three historical topics that, in some sense, are related to the writings of the New Atheists, though as Vox points out, the New Atheists haven’t had a lot to say about them. It’s purely Vox’s own interest, plus a bit of a nod to typical atheist/believer dialogs, that leads him to spend time on the subject.

This is Vox Day we’re talking about, of course, so even this relatively mild discussion has its own special character. He manages to avoid blaming Hitler on the atheists, but he spends far more time trying to convince us that Hitler was a non-Christian than he spends acknowledging that Hitler was, indeed, a theist, albeit a neopagan one. And yes, the Spanish Inquisition did torture and kill people, but not nearly as many as you might suppose, and in fact was such a model of restraint and objectivity (for the time) that it almost seems that Vox wouldn’t mind seeing it revived again. There is no doubt that he thinks we need to revive the Crusades, since he comes right out and says it’s the West’s only real hope of resisting the Muslim onslaught.

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