TIA Tuesday: why they invented bibs

We’re up to Chapter 11 of TIA, which is going to go fairly quickly. If we limit ourselves to the essential substance of what Vox is saying in this chapter, we learn that

  • Vox Day does not like Michel Onfray.
  • Vox also does not like the French.
  • He does like the Jews, and thinks that in general they are superior to virtually any other race or ethnic group, at least intellectually.
  • He does not, however, like Michel Onfray.
  • Hitler was an atheist no matter what he said about God, because he killed people and real theists don’t kill people.
  • It’s not the Catholic’s fault that they didn’t do more to save the Jews, who after all were non-Catholics, and why should any Catholic care about the Holocaust?
  • Vox is only too glad, however, to insinuate that guilt for various “atheist atrocities” ought to be associated with atheists in general and Michel Onfray in particular (whom Vox apparently doesn’t like).
  • The Enlightenment was evil, and did only bad things, and is in some way Michel Onfray’s fault.
  • Vox would like to blame the Enlightenment for sexual slavery, and thinks that Michel Onfray would enjoy forcing a woman to have sex with several men at the same time
  • Michel Onfray wants to burn Western civilization to the ground and worship Satan.
  • And oh yes, I almost forgot—Vox does not like Michel Onfray.

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TIA Tuesday: Morality for game designers

There are many ways in which a career in video game programming fails to prepare you for the larger issues of real life, and Vox Day has a good example of one of them:

Theists have a perfectly logical and objective basis for the application of their god-based moralities that even the most die-hard rational atheist cannot reject, given the theistic postulate that God actually exists and created the universe. In short, God’s game, God’s rules. If you’re in the game, then the rules apply to you regardless of what you think of the game designer, your opinion about certain aspects of the rulebook, or the state of your relationship with the zebras.

Vox’s goal is to show that his idea of morality has a solid foundation, and Daniel Dennett’s doesn’t. But not only is Dennett’s system far stronger than Vox seems to realize, the “God’s Game, God’s Rules” morality he espouses has so many flaws that it’s hard to know where to start.

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TIA Tuesday: Irony and morality

Today’s taste of TIA offers just a bit of irony before diving into the morass of morality. Here’s the irony:

[W]hile Breaking the Spell is unquestionably superior in almost every way to the Unholy Trinity’s four books on religion, the scientific-sounding speculation that fills it is nothing more than that, speculation. The literary editor of The New Republic underlined this point in an utterly brutal review of the book which appeared in the New York Times, reminding the reader that at the end of the day, Breaking the Spell is not science, but a book of speculative philosophy written by a science-fetishist.

There is no scientific foundation for its scientistic narrative. Even Dennett admits as much: “I am not at all claiming that this is what science has established about religion. . . . We don’t yet know.” So all of Dennett’s splashy allegiance to evidence and experiment and “generating further testable hypotheses” notwithstanding, what he has written is just an extravagant speculation based upon his hope for what is the case, a pious account of his own atheistic longing.

So desperate is Vox to discredit Dennett’s questions about theology that he accuses them of being “just…speculation.” And yet, since God does not show up in real life, theologians have nothing to study but their own speculations, and the speculations of others, about the meaning of things that still other men have written, that have “no scientific foundation.” In fact, Vox could have condensed his argument a great deal by simply accusing Dennett’s book of being little more than abject theology. It wouldn’t have been entirely true, but at least this would have captured the essence of Vox’s rebuttal: it’s wrong because it’s too similar to what Vox thinks is right.

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Leavitt’s Loophole

One of the problems with trying to mingle church and state is that religion often depends on emphasizing belief over real-world consistency, and that can lead to policies that not only fail to address real-world issues effectively, but ultimately conflict with religion itself. For example, the Bush-appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services wants to make it a law that medical professionals cannot be compelled to provide services that they find morally objectionable.

I have on two previous occasions written in my blog about the principle of health care provider conscience. Federal law is explicit and unwavering in protecting federally funded medical practitioners from being coerced into providing treatments they find morally objectionable…Today, HHS will file a rule in the Federal Register aimed at increasing compliance with existing federal laws protecting provider conscience. The proposed rule clarifies that non-discrimination rules apply to institutional health care providers as well as to individual employees working for recipients of certain funds from HHS. It requires recipients of certain HHS funds to certify their compliance with laws protecting provider conscience rights. The HHS Office for Civil Rights is designated as the entity to receive complaints of discrimination addressed by the statute or the proposed regulation.

Now, this sounds good to the Religious Right. All the code words are there: this is supposed to be a law designed to allow doctors to deny medical care to women seeking abortions, to gays and lesbians, and to whoever else might be contrary to conservative Christian approval. The problem is, this proposal opens the door to all kinds of abuses that might not be what the Christian supremacists want.

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TIA Tuesday: Does Vox really understand?

In reading Vox’s response to Daniel Dennett, in chapter 10 of TIA, it’s sometimes easy to jump to the conclusion that Vox doesn’t really understand the issues Dennett is talking about. For example:

[Dennett] raises [the] possibility that religion is merely a by-product of evolution, otherwise known as a spandrel. It’s here that the philosopher finds himself in logical trouble. Both of Dennett’s memetic proposalsand [sic] his subsequent argument against Starke and Finke’s economic case for the rational value of religion directly contradict his assertion of the way that evolution’s remarkable efficiency means that a persistent pattern amounts to proof—”we can be quite sure”—that the pattern is of benefit to something in the evolutionary currency of differential reproduction. How, one wonders, does Dennett fail to grasp that a creed which explicitly states “go forth and multiply” is likely to be inordinately successful in evolutionary terms, genetic or memetic?

Vox seems to like the argument that religious people are more likely to reproduce than non-religious people—as though nobody really cared much one way or another about sex until Moses came along and showed them in Genesis 1! This kind of silly, superficial thinking suggests that Vox hasn’t really put much effort into trying to understand how religion and evolution would interact in the real world. All he really seems to be interested in is mining the idea for talking points he can use to make religion sound better than atheism.

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TIA Tuesday: Evolutionary reasons for religion

The subtitle for The Irrational Atheist is “Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens”. This week, we start Chapter 10 of TIA, in which Vox turns his attention to the fourth member of the “Unholy Trinity,” Daniel Dennett.

This book did not proceed exactly according to plan. Originally inspired by a trilogy of columns entitled “The Clowns of Reason,” it was supposed to be devoted to dissecting the anti-theistic arguments of Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, and Sam Harris. However, when Christopher Hitchens appeared on the scene and began wreaking such a wide path of intellectual devastation by trouncing noted theologians such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and Chris Hedges, the author of The Christian Right and the Rise of American Fascism, it became clear that Hitchens was an atheist tour de force that must be addressed at all costs!

And thus was Dennett bumped down to fourth place. Let’s see if Vox has any more luck with Dennett than he did with Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins.

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TIA Tuesday: Wrapping up Hitchens

Vox Day closes his chapter on Christopher Hitchens with a look at three topics where he feels Hitchens does particularly badly: historical Biblical accuracy, child abuse, and charity. Let’s look at the first of these and see how Vox does.

In discussing the Bible, Hitchens claims that the four Gospels were not in any sense a historical record and claims their multiple authors “cannot agree on anything of importance.” His only source is Bart Ehrman, an apostate former evangelical whose Misquoting Jesus is an interesting and respected textual criticism of the inerrant inspiration of the New Testament. But Hitchens is apparently unaware that Ehrman has been forced to admit that the Gospels are in accordance that 1) Jesus was crucified and buried, 2) his tomb was discovered to be empty, 3) his disciples believed they encountered him after his death, and 4) his disciples sincerely believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

That’s an interesting rebuttal, considering that the earliest and most reliable manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at chapter 16 and verse 8, which mentions an angel and an empty tomb, but not any actual encounters with the allegedly risen savior, or subsequent belief on the disciples’ part. So of the 4 areas of broad general agreement that Ehrman was “forced to admit,” two of them aren’t even in the originals of one of the four Gospels.

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TIA Tuesday: The Salvation of Christopher Hitchens

Last week, Vox was telling us that Christopher Hitchens had essentially eviscerated his own arguments, thus “proving” his intellect to be a fatally flawed and impotent one. This week, he’s going to argue that Hitchens is just about ready to become a Christian, or at least a theist. (Hmm, I wonder if those two claims are supposed to be related?) He bases this latter claim on Hitchens’s “four irreducible objections to religious faith.”

If these four objections are truly the basis for Hitchens’s hostility towards God and religion, then the irrepressible atheist may be much closer to returning to the faith of his fathers than anyone suspects, because one of these objections is trivial, one is irrelevant, and the other two are simply wrong.

Hitchens on the verge of seeing the light? This should be interesting.

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TIA Tuesday: Punch drunk

Vox Day has a knack for spotting his own habits whenever they show up in the behavior of his adversaries. Chapter 9 of TIA gives us a good example of this as Vox describes Christopher Hitchens as someone who “writes as he debates, as if there is a team of judges keeping track of the total number of punches thrown and awarding points for each one landed.” True to form, Vox spends the rest of the chapter (has he has spent most of the book thus far) throwing rhetorical punches at Hitchens and awarding himself points for each one, whether it lands or not.

Last week we saw Vox accuse Hitchens of evading the questions of one Doug Wilson, despite the fact that Hitchens gave succinct and accurate answers to Wilson’s “bombshell,” while Wilson studiously avoided making any substantial response to Hitchens’s. Vox’s next major punch is to accuse Hitchens of “self-evisceration” for having said “what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” According to Vox, this gives Hitchens’s critics “carte blanche to legitimately dismiss the greater portion of Hitchens’s own book.” Nicely thrown, but does that one really land?

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TIA Tuesday: god is not Great

We’re up to Chapter 9 of TIA, which brings us to Christopher Hitchens. Reading the first few pages, one gets the impression that Vox feels a certain kinship for Hitchens, if not a grudging admiration. That, however, does not stop him from criticizing. After a few pages, we get to the first substantial critique, based on a published debate between Hitchens and theologian Doug Wilson. Vox claims that Hitchens bobs and weaves, avoiding Wilson’s pointed question about where atheists get their morality.

From the very first of his six responses to Hitchens, Wilson is forced to repeatedly ask Hitchens for his atheist basis of respect for the individual, for the reason why an individual should care one way or another about what Hitchens, or anyone else, happens to believe is good or evil, and exactly what the fixed standard by which Hitchens declares Christianity to be not good happens to be. After initially ignoring the question, followed by evasive digressions into everything from etiquette to Epicurus, from Spinoza to innate human solidarity, from slavery to stem cell research, Hitchens finally breaks down under the unrelenting pressure and answers

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