Sunday, December 27, 2015

The disingenuous Christian "Die for a lie" argument/question

I was working on a review for the book I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (to be referred to as IDHEF from now on) and they pulled the "Die for a lie" argument in Chapter 9. In the book, they ask, “Why would the Jews [particularly the twelve apostles] who converted to Christianity risk persecution, death and perhaps eternal damnation to start something that wasn’t true? (p. 234)” I do think it is an interesting question to ponder, but they, of course, aren't actually interested in pondering the question. The point of the question is for the reader to jump to the conclusion that they would not have done so. The reader would certainly do no such thing! Therefore, it would seem reasonable to conclude that neither would the apostles. Therefore, Christianity must be true!

It really shouldn't take too much serious thought to realize how wrong this argument is. Other blogs and websites make references to the 9/11 hijackers, Jonestown, or Heaven's Gate, but one of the better counter-examples, in my opinion, is Mormonism. Early Mormons would have been in a similar position to what is claimed of the apostles: they personally knew their prophet and they were persecuted and even killed for their beliefs.

So would those who ask such a question agree that we should probably be Mormons then? Most likely not. This is because there are assumptions or other beliefs that are baked into the argument/question. One of the first time I ever heard this question (about dying for a lie) was from a video of Lee Strobel addressing such counter-arguments. Strobel acknowledges that people will die for things they sincerely believe to be true, but he won't admit that people will die for something they believe to be false. That's fair. He goes on to say he was told what the difference between these other cases and Jesus's disciples is that they were in a position to know that Jesus rose from the dead as opposed to merely believing it. In the case of Mormons, they would not have personally seen Joseph Smith use his supposed seer stone to write the Book of Mormon.

The problem with what Strobel says, though, is that he doesn't know that the apostles were in such a position. No, he merely believes this. A very similar problem can be found in IDHEF. There, they make certain claims about the apostles in the form of a question, asking, "Why would they, almost immediately, stop observing the Sabbath, circumcision, the Laws of Moses, the centrality of the temple, the priestly system, and other Old Testament teachings? (p. 234)" What they don't do is make any effort to establish these claims as facts. In other words, is it really true that the apostles did all of these things?* Where are they even getting the idea that this may be true? (And how would they respond to someone claiming the first Mormons abandoned a bunch of their prior beliefs?) It better not be from the apostles themselves! The same goes for Strobel's belief that the apostles were in that unique position. Does he believe that because the apostles said they were?

This is what makes the argument/question disingenuous. This logic essentially breaks down to "It's true because it says it's true." I would hope most people would recognize the silliness of such an argument. What can make arguments like this tricky, though, is that the real argument is buried in a foundation of assumptions. This can fool a lot of people as the presented argument seems reasonable and many won't think twice about the foundation.

In conclusion, the "Die for a lie" argument/question is not at all convincing. The argument itself has little bite as there are people from other religions that certainly cannot be dying for the truth because of the contradictory claims made. What would give the argument its bite is in other details of the story on which it is founded. However, I have never seen that foundation to have the support it needs, leading me to reject the argument.

* I would note, too, that Paul and even Christians today have written about why Christians don't need to follow Old Testament law (a.k.a, the "Laws of Moses"). This suggests that there were early converts who did not, as the authors of IDHEF claim, stop following these laws "almost immediately." Or maybe they use the phrase "almost immediately" in a way I would not. "Almost immediately," in my mind, means a matter of days or maybe even a few weeks. If they mean it to mean 20-30 years, then I find their description to be dishonest.

Update 1/1/16: I also remembered that Matthew 5:18 (NIV) reads, "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." Note that the IDHEF authors believe that the Gospel of Matthew was actually written by Matthew, so I would find it really interesting if Matthew actually did "almost immediately" stop observing the Old Testament laws. Why would he have done so when he recorded Jesus telling people the law wasn't changing? This just makes the claim even more dubious. (I believe I've brought it up on this blog before, but it's also scary the way Christians can justify this verse. The most common justification I've heard basically boils down to "It's OK to break the law now.")

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Religious Morality That Isn't

In a recent post, I discussed how some religious people buy into what they are sold in church about needing a god for morality without giving it much thought. There are more problems with this than those arguments about how we arrive at our moral structures. It should come as no surprise that if they're not thinking about the how, they're not putting much thought into their moral system itself. As with the how, this means a sizable portion comes from being told by some sort of authority figure what is good and bad.

I had a discussion with a religious coworker last year on the topic of the why question of morality. They seem to be a good example of someone just gobbling up what the religious authorities told them without much question. A good indication of this was that they went straight to the topic of murder, which, as I stated last post, is a very cliche topic for the religious to bring up.

But a really funny thing also happened later in the discussion. One tactic religious apologists like to use is to make it seem like the world would just be a chaotic place if morality were at all relative. We were unable to finish this part of the conversation, but my coworker presented a hypothetical where I had a dictatorship, but then my son* takes over and changes a bunch of the rules. Again, since we didn't finish, it wasn't clear where they were going with this, but I suspect it was to present such a system as undesirable because of how it can change on little more than a whim. I hope some of the concern was how it is based on the authority of a human, but I have doubts on that.

There were a few things I found intriguing about this. One is how such people seem to be oblivious to the fact that the are trying to make logical arguments for a morality that they imply one cannot make a logical argument for (because their god puts it in our hearts, or whatever). That lack of awareness has both funny and sad aspects to it.

The second thing that I noticed right away is that they were presenting more of a hybrid relative morality. I thought they were trying to discuss relative morality, but that was not what was presented. With relative morality, morality would be relative to those within this hypothetical dictatorship, meaning those under the rule of the dictator need not agree with said dictator.

What was most intriguing, though, took me quite some time -- months, perhaps -- to notice: They were describing something rather similar to religious morality, much like the morality they subscribe to, particularly in regards to the authority part of it.

This got me to thinking how religious morality actually works. Through this process, I realized that a lot of the morality comes from an authority figure in the church, but I know from stories from pastors who lost their religion that the morality cannot be changed on a whim. I ended up figuring out why this is. While it is a church leader that has to dictate the morality, the morality is not associated with the church leader but rather a person or persons that are long dead, if they even existed at all. In the case of Christianity, this would be Jesus or God. With Islam, it is much the same where it is associated with Allah or maybe even Mohammed. Such a structure can even be found in non-deistic religions. Karl Marx being associated with Marxism would be one example. Or, in the USA, one can find a sort of State religion that worships the Founding Fathers.

All of these systems have the issue that one need not think about what they are doing. They just do what they believe their moral guide wants them to do. It's a scary system. One only needs to look at ISIS to see why this doesn't work. If my coworker's focus was on the idea of morality changing on a whim, their concerns seem to be not in the proper place. The authoritarian system is way more problematic. There could be a system of morality that gets everything wrong but never changes. I would hope my coworker would be more concerned about that system, but then they'd have to reject their own morality, which is why I suspect the focus was indeed on the idea of morality changing on a whim. I'm thoroughly unimpressed.

* Of course it had to be a son in this hypothetical! The regressive moral standards my coworker likely has may not allow for a woman dictator.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The irrationality of "That's different" or "That's an exception," etc. Plus, more on biology!

It would seem a point made in my post on transgender bigotry needs to be repeated because old habits need to be broken and, hopefully, the way to break them is to send the constant reminder that one is engaging in the habit. From that post, I said the following:
As I had said to my friend, if someone makes the claim that all swans are white and I then show them a black (or, really, any non-white color would do) swan, it is illogical for that person to stick to their claim. The claim has been falsified; they need to back down from the claim. The same holds true here. If the claim is that all people with an XY chromosome are male, then those questions I raised above need to be addressed. This, though, may actually explain why McHugh does not clearly define what he means by "biological sex." It's hard to falsify a non-specific claim.

This friend, however, in a discussion regarding same-sex marriage, told my wife, who is intersex, and I that our situation is "different." This statement has a similar problem as McHugh's claims: Different from what, exactly? What is the claim being made that this is different from?

Unfortunately, these statements of "That's different" or "That's an exception" are all too common. I recently saw a blog post that put this in a slightly different perspective:
Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out, perceive, accept, and remember information that confirms beliefs we already hold, coupled with the tendency to miss, ignore, forget, or explain away information that contradicts our beliefs.

How many times have you either said yourself or heard someone else say, “well, that’s an exception?” Is it, or is it just data? By calling an example an “exception” you are assuming that there is a rule it violates. This is a way of dismissing information that contradicts your beliefs.

As with my swan example, the idea here that people try to cling to their claims in the face of contradictory information is the same. To put it simply, if someone says there is an exception to the rule, then the rule isn't a rule. Period. It may be a tendency (or trend) at best, but not a rule. I think that is what my friend was meaning when they said "different." But, if the case is that they were saying that our case still fits the rule, then what's the rule?

Frankly, I became much more of an advocate of gay rights upon meeting Amy and it's largely because that helped me learn that the typical rules people spout about XY chromosomes make someone male were bunk. I hope my friend can someday realize the same. Granted, though, I didn't have the extra challenge I suspect my friend has of ditching the belief that this rule is imposed by some supposedly perfect deity, meaning the rule would be perfect by extension.

I was half-way through writing this when I realized McHugh's error isn't exactly confirmation bias when I realized he isn't exactly trying to apply a rule. Rather, he's saying the rule is through biology. I.e, the rule is whatever biology determines it to be. He does not need to define this rule because it's not his job to define it. This is instead an argument from ignorance, which can be seen where he says, "No evidence supports the claim that people such as Bruce Jenner have a biological source for their transgender assumptions." I noted in my post that just because evidence has not been found does not mean evidence does not exist. The swan example still applies, but would need to be twisted just slightly to fit. Instead, one might say, "All swans are white as no evidence supports the claim that non-white swans exist." When stated in such a way, I hope the logical error becomes more apparent: that no non-white swans are known to exist is not support for a claim that all swans are white. Similarly, that no biological source is known is not support for a claim that no biological source exists. As noted in that previous post, though, that claim of "no evidence" is hogwash. Yeah, sure, there's no direct evidence to show what, exactly, may cause transgenderism in humans, but there is evidence that gender is not a binary. In humans, the existence of disorders of sexual development and intersex people demonstrates this. And here's a new one I learned about in other animals: Apparently, temperature impacts the sex of bearded dragons. Hotter temperatures tend to cause bearded dragons that are genetically male to be female instead.

This also made me remember epigenetics. This is, from what I hear from biologists, getting to be a big field of study. This field studies how environment impacts the expression of genetics. The aforementioned impact of temperature on bearded dragon may be an example of this, though it seems the environment may actually impact their genetics and not just the expression.

The larger point, though, is that there is a lot that we humans don't know yet about biology. So, for one to argue that transgenderism can't be biological because "no evidence" exists is highly irrational and shows their ignorance of biology.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Bigotry: A Pathogenic Meme

Two weeks ago my wife was upset by a post claiming transgenderism is nothing more than a meme. Given that I've had some conflict with my own family on this topic, I've avoided tackling the article, waiting these two weeks to even read the piece. I figured it would be riddled with logical errors and it turns out it is. Also to little surprise is that it is riddled with bigotry. What I failed to expect, but should have, where tricks, for lack of a better word, to make one's claim seem more certain than they actually are.

Perhaps I should start with these tricks. Mainly, this is about the author boasting about how they care about "reality" and/or "truth" and then proceeding to make dubious claims. What concerns me about this is I worry that readers may become less skeptical about the claims being made. If the author cares about reality/truth so much, then certainly the claims they are making are likely to be true, right?

Wrong. It could well be the case that the author is arrogant. They are so sure of themselves that they twist facts, perhaps unconsciously, to fit their conclusion. As I read this post, I see signs of potential arrogance. McHugh brings up an analogy to The Emperor's New Clothes and then states, "I am ever trying to be the boy among the bystanders who points to what’s real. I do so not only because truth matters, but also because overlooked amid the hoopla—enhanced now by Bruce Jenner’s celebrity and Annie Leibovitz’s photography—stand many victims." He doesn't directly say this, but this analogy would imply that everyone knows that transgenderism isn't real, but people just won't say so. Now not only am I going to be even more skeptical of his claims, but I'm finding this guy to be a bit of an asshole.

It is of little surprise that, after he says all of this, he makes perhaps the most critical claim in the entire article:
The most thorough follow-up of sex-reassigned people—extending over thirty years and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered—documents their lifelong mental unrest. (Emphasis mine.)

This is a big claim for those who follow psychological views regarding transgenderism. The American Psychological Association, for example, states, "Many other obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance within society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault." McHugh is suggesting that this is incorrect; social acceptance is not, in fact, a factor. McHugh, then, is dismissing these alternative explanations through this claim.

My friend who indirectly brought this article to my attention had quoted Christopher Hitchens in a comment on the article. Well, there is another Hitchens' quote that is appropriate for this situation: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." McHugh, as one can note, did not provide any evidence for this claim. No, instead, he had spent the previous three paragraphs setting himself up as a bearer of truth. On top of this, he perhaps expects us to have a view of Sweden as being a country that is more accepting than ours. While I would agree with such a sentiment, is Sweden as accepting as McHugh claims? And, remember, we can't just look at Sweden today, but we have to look at it in the time-frame of this study he cites, which started back in 1973. Given that he provided no evidence to back this claim, I would have to, as per Hitchens' Razor as quoted, dismiss the claim.

In addition to this, there was a similar claim made earlier in the article that I had overlooked upon my first reading:
Publicity...has promoted the idea that one’s biological sex is a choice, leading to widespread cultural acceptance of the concept. And, that idea, quickly accepted in the 1980s...

Hold on...what?!? Gay rights are only now just becoming accepted (as in like only the past 5 years). Transgender rights are most certainly not to the same level of acceptance. Additionally, as my wife had noted in a Facebook comment on this article, those who are intersex have been, and still are, struggling for acceptance. In other words, this claim is just utter bullshit! Or, as McHugh might say, "nakedly false." If he is so delusional to believe transgenderism was accepted here, in the United States, in the 1980's, there is no way I can take his similar claim about Sweden seriously without evidence.

Getting back on topic, much of this article is riddled with claims that McHugh fails to back up. About the only claim he does back up is about this study that he cites from Sweden regarding a 20% increase in suicide rates amongst sex-reassigned transgendered individuals. I did my due diligence and followed that link. What I noted is that remarks made in the link don't fully match up with what McHugh says in his article. According to McHugh, "Ten to fifteen years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to twenty times that of comparable peers." There are a few issues with this statement. For one, what is a "comparable peer"? Is it someone who claims to be transgender but does not undergo sex-reassignment surgery? From what is written in the study, it would seem the answer is "No." The conclusion states, "Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population." The emphasis there is mine. So this comparison is not against other transgender individual. Given that McHugh fails to back up his claim about Sweden being "strongly supportive," this claim is unimpressive.

Additionally, the authors of the study do not appear to agree with McHugh's position. As they state, "Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group." Once again, the emphasis here is mine. They note that the sex reassignment has benefits. This should raise the question of why would this be if, as McHugh claims, transgenderism is "nakedly false"?

McHugh also makes misleading claims. At one point he states, "Although much is made of a rare “intersex” individual, no evidence supports the claim that people such as Bruce Jenner have a biological source for their transgender assumptions." Even if this were true, this does not support his conclusion. Absence of evidence, in this case, is not evidence of absence. Meaning, just because people have not been able to find such evidence does not mean such evidence does not exist. It could be the case that we just have not found such evidence yet.

In addition to that error, the claim is actually largely false. While I can agree that no evidence has been found for a specific source, it is incorrect to say that no evidence exists. As an article from Nature states, "Some researchers now say that as many as 1 person in 100 has some form of [Disorder of Sex Development]." This does not seem rare to me. The article continues:
New technologies in DNA sequencing and cell biology are revealing that almost everyone is, to varying degrees, a patchwork of genetically distinct cells, some with a sex that might not match that of the rest of their body. Some studies even suggest that the sex of each cell drives its behaviour, through a complicated network of molecular interactions. “I think there's much greater diversity within male or female, and there is certainly an area of overlap where some people can't easily define themselves within the binary structure,” says John Achermann, who studies sex development and endocrinology at University College London's Institute of Child Health.

I'd add to this that, according to PZ Myers, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota - Morris, in regards to said Nature argument, "My only quibble would be with that “now”. You’d have to define “now” as a window of time that encompasses the entirety of my training and work in developmental biology, and I’m getting to be kind of an old guy. Differences in sex development (DSDs) are common knowledge, and rather routine."

I'll repeat: DSDs are routine, not rare (though I will note that not all DSDs would be labeled as intersex conditions). It would seem, then, that McHugh is rather ignorant about biology. But even if DSDs were rare, there are implications that McHugh does not bother addressing. As he said, "much is made of a rare “intersex” individual." There is a reason for that. (By the way, what is up with his use of quotations around the word "intersex"?) Take my wife as an example. She has complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS). Essentially, she has an XY chromosome pair, but her cells are unable to respond to androgens, so she developed a female body. But what effect does that have on her brain? This is a question McHugh needs to address, but does not. Does McHugh think my wife has mental issues because she identifies as female though she has XY chromosomes? Does McHugh think androgens are responsible for why someone has a "male" brain?

Actually, thinking about this question myself, this is a hugely important question. I note that McHugh does not actually make clear what he thinks makes a man a man and a woman a woman. He merely speaks of "biological sex" but does not define this phrase. This is not only problematic, but hypocritical given his objection to there supposedly being "no evidence" for a biological source for transgenderism. What is his evidence for a biological source for gender? XY chromosome? Then he needs to explain how intersex people fit into his model; he can't be dismissing them as "rare." As I said, there is a reason why intersex individuals are brought into these discussions; they do not fit into the binary model of sexuality, which should be a clue to people like McHugh that there model may be wrong.

As I had said to my friend, if someone makes the claim that all swans are white and I then show them a black (or, really, any non-white color would do) swan, it is illogical for that person to stick to their claim. The claim has been falsified; they need to back down from the claim. The same holds true here. If the claim is that all people with an XY chromosome are male, then those questions I raised above need to be addressed. This, though, may actually explain why McHugh does not clearly define what he means by "biological sex." It's hard to falsify a non-specific claim.

In the end, I find McHugh to just be a bigot. He doesn't actually make a good case for his position. Rather, his case seems to be largely based on cultural ideas around sex, which is why I find that it is actually McHugh who is victim to "a pathogenic meme."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Arrogance called out in SCOTUS dissents vs. Christians

Something occurred to me regarding my last post: Some of the Supreme Court justices on the losing side of gay marriage accused their fellow justices of arrogance much like I did with liberal Christians. They accused them of having special insight that no one had had for thousands of years prior, much the same as I did with liberal Christians. I disagreed with those in the dissent for committing an argument from tradition. Yet, I still think I'm correct in calling out Christian arrogance. Here's the difference: With Christians, they are claiming that wisdom was bestowed upon some humans by Jesus nearly 2000 years ago, but it is only just now that humans are figuring out that wisdom. In the other case, there is no such claim; it is a case of humans figuring out their own wisdom, which is a process that takes time. Plus, we can see the gains in wisdom over the course of time, whether it be creating a democracy in an age dominated by monarchies, ending slavery, allowing non-landowners and eventually women to vote, etc. There's no special insight here. It is, as Martin Luther King, Jr. described it, the long moral arc of the universe bending toward justice.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Arrogant pro-LGBT Christians

These may be some of the most obnoxious Christians one can encounter. They actually hold OK views in regards to humanity, but it seems like they want to credit Christianity for it. They'll go about calling themselves "true Christians." It is so terribly arrogant. Just think about some of the implications:
  • Most Christians throughout history have not been "true Christians." And it is in only recent history -- we're talking only 20 years here -- that the percentage of "true Christians" has risen, and risen quickly.
  • No Pope has ever been a "true Christian." Not even the current one that people like to believe is progressive.
Sorry, but I find it really hard to believe that after nearly 2000 years Christians would only just now be reaching a tipping point of the majority discovering the "true" message of Jesus. Not buying it. As far as I can tell, the change in attitude is all thanks to the LGBT community refusing to put up with discrimination. Christianity played no part in this. Yet, these Christians act like it somehow did. It's frustrating because it's been Christianity that has provided the most resistance to change and it will likely be Christianity (and other religions) that provide the most resistance to changing future injustices. These liberal Christians are doing the world no favors by trying to keep their mythology alive.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Buying the Morality Pitch - The Failure of the Religiously Indoctrinated to Think Through Morality

I saw an article about Jason Lisle, a doctor of some sorts, speaking with Ben Seewald (husband of Jessa Duggar) claiming atheists really don't exist because, essentially, some book says there is sufficient evidence for the existence of god. Yeah, the book was, of course, the Bible. If the circular reasoning wasn't bad enough, they continued to provide a cliche morality argument as a reason atheists don't exist. The argument is rather simplistic and goes something like the following: "God is necessary for there to be a difference between right and wrong. Atheists believe there is a right and wrong. Therefore, atheists really believe god exists." They do have arguments for why they think a god in necessary, but they're not all that great of arguments.

This all just got me to thinking how often I hear morality used as an assertion for the existence of god...people flat out saying that I'm wrong because of this. (Or people saying that religion is required for morality.) But, really, morality, at a basic level, is actually quite simple...if one would bother to put thought into it. So whenever I hear some Christian bring up morality and making claims such as this, I'm often at a loss for what to say because they essentially lead me to suspect that they've just gobbled up what their pastor has told them at church without giving it a second thought. Is it really worth my time to engage? Because their minds seem rather closed off to the topic.

Also, they seem to be really selective in their examples. By which I mean they select examples that would seem to prove their point while avoiding often numerous examples that don't. Jason Lisle uses an example of baking powder, saying, "What one chemical accident does to another is morally irrelevant. I mean when baking soda and vinegar react and they fizz up...that's just what they do. You don' get mad at the baking soda." The idea here being that without a god and us just being a chemical "accident,"* it doesn't make sense to get mad at an accident.

Except we do. I can quickly think of numerous counter examples: People getting upset at a tornado ripping up their town. People getting upset at a rain storm(s) for causing flooding. People getting upset with tectonic plates for causing earthquakes. Etc, etc, etc. Sure, they're not upset with those things in the same way they'd be upset with people, but that has to do more with the difference in the sentience of the thing they are mad at. The point here is that people do get upset over chemical accidents. (It is also worth pointing out that people speak of "Mother Nature" as though nature were sentient.)

I find it rather obvious why Lisle does not use those examples. He's saying since getting mad at chemical reactions is not rational that a god is necessary to create a moral standard in order for us to be mad at other human beings. Now, here's the question he doesn't want you to ask: "Why would god set up a moral standard in such a way that we'd get mad at inanimate objects?"

Any answer I can think of is not satisfactory. They can't say that this is not part of the moral standard created by their god and is just something that humans do because that would shoot down that premise that it is impossible without the involvement of a god to get mad at a chemical reaction. Another option I could see is to say that this god's moral standard is not perfect. I shouldn't need to state why that answer is problematic.

What I really want to talk about, though (which was only given a very brief mention in the linked video), is how they tend to bring up murder as their key example. The idea seems to be that since virtually every culture has prohibitions against murder that there must be a universal standard.

It always seems a bit silly to me because it should be blatantly obvious that there are numerous issues in which humans do not agree. A few excuses are made for this. For some, they try to claim that there only appears to be a difference, but if you take a closer look, there is no difference at all. One example of this I found in the book I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist was about Hindus not killing cows. It isn't that Hindus have a different morality, see! It's because Hindus believe their grandmothers get reincarnated as cows and they don't believe in killing their grandmothers, just like you and me! I just find that jaw-droppingly stupid. (For one, while I'm not an expert on Hindu religion, I don't believe that's quite how it works. I had always thought the belief in reincarnation also included what they considered "lesser" animals that they have no problem killing.) A second example, also from that book, used the killing of so-called "witches." They excused that claiming that people thought these "witches" had killed people. That would imply they think capital punishment is acceptable. That, then, is problematic because they then need to explain why people disagree on capital punishment.

Getting back to murder, it's just not true that this is universal in quite the way that they claim. Most cultures are absolutely fine with murdering people they deem to be enemies. Oh, but I suppose that goes back to the idea of capital punishment. I'm going to suspect that they don't call that "murder;" that's just "killing." "Murder," you see, is an unjustified killing, but all these other forms are totally justified. Or so they would claim. I'm darn near rolling my eyes just writing this over how weaselly Christians can be about their claims. It's not only that their claims are silly, but they are a bit frightening as well when I think at how easily they can find justifications for killing people...and then turn around making these claims that one needs religion to be moral.

Yet, as I have suggested, figuring out murder isn't all that hard. We can work it out with only just a few premises:
1. I don't have a desire to die anytime soon.
2. The family members of a person who is murdered often wish to seek revenge, often in a form of "an eye for an eye" type of revenge.
From here, we can then figure out that if I were to kill someone, then others would want to kill me. I don't want that happening because I don't want to die anytime soon. So, if I don't want that to happen, what should I not do? Right! I shouldn't murder!!! Pretty frickin simple.

What would probably happen now is the Christian will engage in a tactic called "shifting the goal posts." They'll likely now assert that it is because of their god that I have that desire not to die and/or it is because of their god that people seek revenge. At such a point, I'm most certainly done engaging. If a person comes to me with a claim and I show their claim to be bogus, they don't get to readjust their claim. If that was really their argument, they should have started there in the first place. That they didn't says to me that they are just trying to fit their god into the equation anyway that they can. Much like I said near the beginning of this post, it shows that they are beholden to the idea of a god and are not actually open minded. I'm not interested in carrying on such dishonest discussion.

* I also love how they use loaded terminology to make their points. Go ahead and look up "accident" in a dictionary. While you can probably find some definitions that fit what he's trying to describe, the more common definitions of "accident" refer to an event being unfortunate. That, though, seems to be the point of using such language...get your audience to react with a "I'm not an accident!!!" emotional response as opposed to a rational response.

I also want to bring up another odd argument Christians will sometimes use, which is to compare morality to math. I suppose the idea here is that they would think most people would agree that math is universal. Therefore, if they can make morality seem much like math, then one would have to agree that morality is universal, too. This comes from C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity where he is quoted as follows: "Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five."

In order to be making such a comparison, though, he would need to think that a god is necessary for two plus two to equal four. Seriously? He thought it takes a god for two sets of two objects to produce four objects? That's just mind boggling. What that says to me is that this person is so predisposed to the existence of god that they may be beyond the capability to be reasoned out of that belief. (It also suggests that they think that anything universal must come from a god. Yet, they don't really bother proving that premise, which is largely why such arguments don't phase me. In order to be comparing morality to math to show that morality comes from a god, they also need to demonstrate that math comes from a god.)

On a side note, C. S. Lewis is said to have been an atheist at some point of his life, so one might argue that he wasn't predisposed to the existence of god. I disagree. While I'll accept this claim that he was an atheist, he has also been said to have been "mad at God for not existing." It would seem to me that he was an atheist predisposed to believing in a god, even if he couldn't actually convince himself at the time. In short, one need not actually believe in the thing they are predisposed to believing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Liberal Tribalism Regarding the Pope?

First, a quick announcement that I'm hoping to pick up the pace on this blog a bit. I have ideas for another two or three blog posts and just need to dedicate some time to actually writing them!!!

For today, though, I just want to keep one that's short and quick about something that's been on my mind a bit. Once again, it involves the Pope. I guess it's been about two weeks since the Pope said the following:

If my good friend Dr. [Alberto] Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, then a punch awaits him. It’s normal. One cannot provoke. One cannot insult the faith of others. One cannot make fun of faith.

I saw a post on RawStory with Piers Morgan criticizing the Pope, accusing the Pope of endorsing violence against critics of religion. I agree with Morgan. Yet, the strangest thing happened in the comment section. RawStory is a liberal website, so the commenters are generally liberal. And what I saw was potential liberals both defending the Pope with comments along the lines of "That's not what he was saying!" and fun poked at Morgan with comments in the theme of "Is Morgan auditioning for a job at Fox News?"

One thing I noticed here recently is that Bill Donohue of the Catholic League had said something similar the week before when he said, "Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction."

Actually, unlike the Pope, he actually said killing is not an appropriate response, something the Pope failed to do. Yet, Donohue got skewered by liberals, as he should have. (I'll note, though, that Donohue said other things suggesting that those who were murdered at Charlie Hebdo kind of had it coming, which would seem to contradict his condemnation of killing in response to insult.) So what's going on here that the Pope gets defenders while Donohue gets skewered? I fear there is some tribalism here. Donohue is known to be a conservative, so he's not part of the liberal tribe and is fair game. There are many liberals who (falsely) believe that the Pope is liberal. So it would seem some liberals are willing to rally around him and protect him when he reveals his true colors. This concerns me.