An informal competition

In honor of the new year, I’m going to try something different. We’ve seen a few billboards over the years whose goal is to promote atheism in some way. Some have been good, some have been meh, and a few have been counterproductive (in many people’s eyes, at least). We need more good ones.

So here’s my idea. Let’s have an informal contest to design a good billboard promoting atheism and/or skepticism. To enter, grab your favorite graphics program, put together a mockup whose proportions match a standard billboard size (but reduced to monitor-friendly pixel dimensions of course), and then put it up on Flickr or deviant art or some other online picture service and send me the link. Then at the end of January, 2013, I’ll nominate the 5 submissions I like best and put it up for a vote. It’s just for fun, and unfortunately I can’t promise any cash prize or anything, but maybe if we get some good designs, some individual or organization might pick one and make a real billboard out of it.

Official rules below the fold. [Addendum: in rule 3, clarified that entrants are responsible for securing their own licensing, permissions and releases for any materials and/or persons appearing in their entries.]

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Superstition and necessity

One of the things I’ve been observing during my interactions with presuppositionalists is that at least some of them seem to have a strange view of what “necessary” means. The presuppositional argument declares that there are two types of entities: necessary things and contingent things. A contingent thing depends on something else for its existence and characteristics, whereas a necessary thing exists because it must necessarily be real. There follows a certain amount of philosophical discussion (and/or hand-waving, and/or smoke and mirrors) gradually working its way to the conclusion that everything depends on God being real, and therefore God must be real. And not just any God, but a specifically Christian, Trinitarian God to boot.

The obvious flaw in this argument is that, even if we accept the existence of a necessary being, there’s no reason why it should have to be any sort of god, or even any sort of person. God might arguably be a conceptually possible being, but if He’s only a possible being, then by definition He’s not the necessary being. Yet presuppositionalists (or at least some of them) clearly believe that God is not just a possible being, but a literally necessary one. And I think I might have some understanding as to why and how they think that.

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New year, same old hate

The Catholic Church in England has issued a broad denunciation of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, and called for a full investigation of any individual or organization involved in systematically molesting children or aiding and abetting in such molestations. Or wait, I read that wrong. The real evil they want to combat, according to the NY Daily News, is two adults being able to experience the same kind of loving, committed marital relationship as any other couple.

Roman Catholic leaders in England and Wales took to the pulpit on Sunday to rail against proposed legislation that would allow same sex couples to legally marry.

“Government policy cannot foresee the full consequences, for the children involved or for wider society, of being brought up by two mothers without a father’s influence or by two fathers without a mother’s influence.” Most Reverend Bernard Longley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, told parishioners in a letter that was read aloud during Sunday services.

Ah, see, I knew there was something about children in there.

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Honest inquiry vs. rationalization

One of the reasons why so many people believe wrong things is because it is so easy to rationalize things to make them sound true when they’re not. What’s worse, it’s very difficult to recognize rationalization when we’re the ones doing it. And that goes double when it’s someone else trying to convince us that we’re rationalizing. But there is at least one significant difference between rationalization and honest inquiry that helps clarify which one we’re actually employing.

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