Unopposed hypocrisy

I am what libertarians would describe as a ‘statist’. I believe that the government can and should play an active role in maintaining the stability of the society, as well as being actively involved in the economy. Of course, the word ‘statist’ has a bunch of other baggage that doesn’t apply to me at all, and I certainly have some libertarian leanings that my more liberal brethren disagree with, but suffice it to say I am not in favour of a completely hands-off approach to governing, nor do I necessarily think that the private sector will do a better job than the public sector in controlling costs or delivering high-quality services.

The only way that the democratic process can work well for the people is if there is a strong and effective opposition. The government’s interests should be to best represent the people, but as history shows us, it tends to become self-serving. Regular elections help balance that out, but an effective opposition can bring light and voter attention to issues that might otherwise escape notice. In the absence of a powerful opposition, or when the opposition has power but cannot wield it effectively, the government has a free hand to indulge in its favourite pastime: soul-crushing corruption and hypocrisy.

US state department spokesman PJ Crowley has resigned from his post following controversial comments involving the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. The news on Sunday came three days after Crowley was reported to have criticised the Pentagon’s treatment of detained US soldier Bradley Manning. Crowley said the defence department’s handling of Manning, who is accused of leaking thousands of confidential US documents to WikiLeaks, was “stupid” and “counterproductive”.

So… let’s get this straight. A non-violent, non-enemy military person leaks non-mission-critical information to a journalistic outlet that makes the info available to the world. That person is locked in a maximum-security prison, deprived of his civil rights, humiliated and held without trial. This, according to the Obama administration, is in no way cause for anyone to be fired. Despite repeated violations of the constitution and basic decency, there are no deleterious consequences for the way in which Manning is being treated.

Someone within the administration voices a perfectly reasonable criticism of this atrocity, and he’s pushed out. Someone, incidentally, with years of experience in a time when experienced state officials are sorely needed. And the rabbit hole of hypocrisy and self-immolation doesn’t stop there:

Of course, it’s also the case in Barack Obama’s world that those who instituted a worldwide torture and illegal eavesdropping regime are entitled to full-scale presidential immunity, while powerless individuals who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing and illegality are subjected to the most aggressive campaign of prosecution and persecution the country has ever seen. So protecting those who are abusing Manning, while firing Crowley for condemning the abuse, is perfectly consistent with the President’s sense of justice.

Also, remember how one frequent Democratic critique made of the Right generally and the Bush administration specifically was that they can’t and won’t tolerate dissent: everyone is required to march in lockstep? I wonder how that will be reconciled with this.

This, from a Republican president, would be a not-so-shocking example of executive overreach. From a Democratic president who campaigned on changing the way politics is done in America, this is a disgusting betrayal not only of the trust of those who voted for him, but of liberal democratic principals and basic human decency.

So where, pray tell, is the outrage over this issue? Where are the Republicans to stand up for the constitution, for civil rights, for open and transparent government? Oh right, the Republicans are more concerned over stripping the rights of workers to stand up to their employers and the rights of women to sexual self-determination to bother with something as trivial as the rule of law.

An effective, well-coordinated and disciplined political opposition is crucial to the health of a democratic state. No matter who is in power, she/he will invariably become corrupt and begin abusing her/his power. A political opposition provides a check on that power, to ensure that corruption is exposed. When your opposition is completely incompetent, then the interests of absolutely nobody are represented, and everyone loses.

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Psychology beats “bootstraps”

Crommunist is back from vacation, at least physically. I will be returning to full blogging strength by next week. I appreciate your patience with my travel hangover.

Here’s a cool thing:

You don’t have to look far for instances of people lying to themselves. Whether it’s a drug-addled actor or an almost-toppled dictator, some people seem to have an endless capacity for rationalising what they did, no matter how questionable. We might imagine that these people really know that they’re deceiving themselves, and that their words are mere bravado. But Zoe Chance from Harvard Business School thinks otherwise.

Using experiments where people could cheat on a test, Chance has found that cheaters not only deceive themselves, but are largely oblivious to their own lies.

Psychology is a very interesting field. If I wasn’t chasing the get-rich-quick world of health services research, I would have probably gone into psychology. One of the basic axioms of psychology, particularly social psychology, is that self-report and self-analysis is a particularly terrible method of gaining insight into human behaviour. People cannot be relied upon to accurately gauge their motivations for engaging in a given activity – not because we are liars, but because we genuinely don’t know.

Our consciousness exists in a constant state of being in the present, but making evaluations of the past and attempting to predict the future. As a result, we search for explanations for things that we’ve done, and use those to chart what we’d do in the future. However, as careful study has indicated, the circumstances under which we find ourselves is far and away a more reliable predictor of how we react to given stimuli than is our own self-assessment. This isn’t merely a liberal culture of victimhood, or some kind of partisan way of blaming the rich for the problems of the poor – it is the logical interpretation of the best available evidence that we have.

Part of the seeming magic of this reality of human consciousness is the fact that when we cheat, we are instantaneously able to explain it away as due to our own skill. Not only can we explain it away, but we instantly believe it too. A more general way of referring to this phenomenon is internal and external attribution – if something good happens it is because of something we did; conversely, bad things that happen are due to misfortune, or a crummy roll of the dice. When seen in others, this kind of attitude is rank hypocrisy. When seen in ourselves, it is due to everyone else misunderstanding us. This is, of course, entirely normal – everyone would like to believe the best about themselves, and our minds will do what they can to preserve that belief.

The researchers in this study explored a specific type of self-deception – the phenomenon of cheating. They were able to show that even when there was monetary incentive to be honest about one’s performance and cheating, people preferred to believe their own lies than to be honest self-assessors. However, the final result tickled me in ways that I can only describe as indecent:

This final result could not be more important. Cheaters convince themselves that they succeed because of their own skill, and if other people agree, their capacity for conning themselves increases.

There is a pervasive lie in our political discourse that people who enjoy monetary and societal privilege do so because of their own hard work and superior virtue. This type of thinking is typified by the expression “pulled up by her/his bootstraps” – that rich people applied themselves and worked hard to get where they are. The implication is that anyone who isn’t rich, or who has the galling indecency to be poor, is where they are because of their own laziness and nothing more. It does not seem to me to be far-fetched at all that these people are operating under the same misapprehension that plagued the study’s participants – they succeed by means that are not necessarily due to their own hard work, and then back-fill an explanation that casts themselves in the best possible light.

Please do not interpret this as me suggesting that everyone who is rich got their by illegitimate means. If we ignore for a moment anyone who was born into wealth, there are a number of people who worked their asses off to achieve financial success – my own father is a mild example of that (although he is not rich by any reasonable measure). However, there are a number of others who did step on others, or use less-than-admirable means to accumulate their wealth. However, they are likely to provide the same “up by my bootstraps” narrative that people who genuinely did build their own wealth would, and they’ll believe it too! When surrounded by others who believe the same lie, it becomes a self-sustaining ‘truth’ that only occasionally resembles reality.

The problem with this form of thinking is that it does motivate not only attitudes but our behaviours as well. It becomes trivial to demonize poor people as leeches living off the state, and cut funding for social assistance programs as a result. People who live off social assistance programs often believe this lie too, considering themselves (in the words of John Steinbeck) to be “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” who will be rich soon because of their furious bootstrap tugging. While it is an attractive lie, it is still a lie that underlies most conservative philosophy – which isn’t to say that liberals aren’t susceptible to the same cognitive problems; we just behave in a way that is more consistent with reality, so it doesn’t show as much.

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The hypocrisy of the religious right

Crommunist is back from vacation, but still slowly putting his life back together. I will be posting something every day, but don’t expect it to be up to my usual standard until next week.

So obviously this title will raise exactly zero eyebrows among those who have read my previous discussions of religion. I find so many aspects of religious expression hypocritical (accusing atheists of arrogance whilst insisting that the universe is created specifically for them, accusing others of immorality whilst maintaining a hideous behavioural track record), there is one form of hypocrisy that I find unique among the political right wing:

A florist in Riverview, N.B., is refusing to provide wedding flowers to a same-sex couple, according to the event’s planner. After agreeing to provide the flowers for a wedding, Kim Evans of Petals and Promises Wedding Flowers sent an email last month to the couple, saying she didn’t know it was a same-sex wedding and would have no part of the ceremony. “I am choosing to decline your business. As a born-again Christian, I must respect my conscience before God and have no part in this matter,” the email said.

The religious right has two gods: their own perverted vision of Yahweh as some kind of doting father cum eternally judgmental asshole, and free market capitalism. If one takes even a fleeting glance at the agenda of the Republican party of the United States (and anyone who thinks that Canadian Conservatives are functionally different from Republicans, or that the evangelical wing of the Christian faith is anything other than CPC boosters needs to pull her/his head firmly from her/his asshole and take a look around), one cannot help but be inundated by people who’ve never cracked Friedmann in their lives talking about “common sense economics” and the virtues of small government.

It is certainly defensible to hold these two positions in concert, although it should be fairly obvious that neither one is contingent upon the other. It does not follow, for example, that limited government is necessary because Yahweh deems it so. Conversely, being a laissez faire capitalist who believes in allowing the chips to fall as they may does not lead one down the path to accepting the supremacy of Jesus Christ. The conflation of the two non-overlapping positions is a carefully constructed marriage, match-made by the Republican party in an attempt to get a single-issue voting bloc.

Laissez-faire capitalism dictates that someone should attempt to make as much money from a potential customer as possible, provided that doing so does not break the law (well, strictly speaking it doesn’t, but I’ve never encountered a libertarian or conservative who believes that people should flout the law to make money). Considering that gay marriage is legal in Canada, Ms. Evans is behaving in a decidedly anti-capitalist way by refusing to provide a service to a law-abiding person.

Now I have no proof that Ms. Evans is a conservative. My suspicion in this matter stems from the fact that I have yet to meet any evangelical who does not also immediately grant the superiority of unregulated free markets. If she is not a conservative, she should be strongly condemned by conservatives for being anti-capitalist. However, the comments section overfloweth with supportive comments from her CPC brethren.

Dollars to donuts this is going to soon end up on a Christian website as a “prime example” of religious persecution against Christians.

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Special post: Crommunist goes to America

So this whole past week I was visiting two of my good friends in the Northeastern United States. One, a friend from graduate school, lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The other, a friend I’ve known since I was a kid, lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I talk about things in Canada quite a bit, and was excited to get a bit of a perspective on the differences between living in Vancouver and being in a major American city.


I’ve never been to Philadelphia before, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My preconception was to think of Philadelphia as a mostly white industrial city, but I was surprised to learn that it has one of the oldest black communities in the country. In our touring around town we came across the African American Museum of Philadelphia, which had a very cool interactive display that detailed some of the stories that comprise the history of Philadelphia. I was happy to see a number of couples of various ages and racial backgrounds there (at 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon). It was particularly eye-opening to hear some of the stories of how black entrepreneurs, politicians and activists had to struggle simply to achieve basic human recognition.

Because of its lengthy black history, Philadelphia has a huge black population. In fact, the city has roughly an even number of white and black residents. There is a thing that is common among black people (at least in places where there aren’t a lot of black people) where we will recognize each other with a reverse head tilt (also known as “the black guy nod”). I kept catching myself having to inhibit my instinct to perform this action every 5 or 6 seconds, as I’m sure I would look like a total spaz.

Here’s me at the Liberty Bell:

The bell is a profound symbol of liberty and was used by the Abolition, Suffrage and Native rights movements alike. There is a certain irony present in the fact that a nation founded on liberty took more than 100 years to recognize the equal status of women, and another 50 to recognize certain ethnicities:

I really enjoyed my time in Philadelphia, minus the fact that the city seemed to be completely bereft of people having any fun (except the gay bars). It was then off to Boston for the second half of the trip.


I’ve been to Boston once before, back in 2008. The city has a feel that is not very dissimilar to being in a Canadian city – it’s clean, people are friendly, and there is government-funded health care. There were far fewer people of colour in the city, but more than I expected and definitely more than I see in Vancouver. The “black guy nod” might have made an appearance once or twice in a moment of distraction when I forgot I wasn’t at home.

Boston has a deep connection to the history of the United States. The whole city is structured to allow even casual tourists the opportunity to connect with history. As I might have mentioned before, I find cemeteries fascinating. Boston has old cemeteries in the middle of the city that you can visit. It was there that I learned that one of the first victims to be shot in the Boston Massacre was a black former slave named Crispus Atticus. We also saw a tomb marked with the name “Freeman” – usually the name of a freed slave (but not necessarily a black slave).

Part of tourism in Boston is what is called the “Freedom Trail” – a self-guided footpath through the city that highlights a number of sites of historical interest. Part of the trail is the Black Heritage Trail – a side-trip that showcases a few sites of import to the African-American community in Boston, one of which is the Abiel Smith School:

Sadly, I didn’t have time to go inside the museum, so I’ll have to save that for either a later trip or a few afternoons spent poking around with Google to see what I can see.

Anyway, for a history nerd like myself, walking through Boston was great. Philadelphia too. While my agenda was to party (hence last Wednesday’s post… for which I apologize), I’m glad I was able to learn something and get to connect physically with sites that marked major events in world history. As I said, it will take me a couple of days to get back into my groove, but expect me to go back to my regular post quantity and quality starting next week.

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Secularism isn’t pro-Islam

Crommunist is on vacation this week, so blogging will be spotty. I’m going to make sure there’s at least SOMETHING up every day, but they’ll be short. Things should be back to normal by April.

An argument that is commonly leveled against pro-secular activists is that Christianity is the only thing preventing the Western world from being overrun by Islamists. The reasoning (if you can call it that) is that when secularism knocks Christianity out of its privileged position, there will be nothing to stem the creeping tide of Islam from overrunning Western civilization. It belies a worldview that places Islam and Christianity as dueling forces, battling for world domination. In the dichotomous view of good and evil, Christianity is the reason why western civilization exists, while Islam is threatening to tear down our freedoms and impose and international caliphate.

Egypt is showing us that this is not true:

The founding committee of the first Coptic secular party in Egypt, dubbed The Free National Coalition Party and presided over by a Muslim legal expert, is to convene its initial meeting in Alexandria on Saturday to discuss recently proposed constitutional amendments The committee will also discuss the latest sectarian violence against Copts in the wake of a church burning in the village of Sol, located in Helwan, south of Cairo. The attendees will also hash over the bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Moqattam area where at least 13 people were killed and scores injured in recent days.

Secularism is equally intolerant of all forms of religious domination. In Egypt, a country dominated by Islamic traditions, secular forces are aligning to protect the Copts from systematic discrimination. Secularism is inherently friendly to minority groups, since those groups are almost invariably made minorities through systematic discrimination. At the moment in Western countries, Muslims are minorities whose rights are consistently infringed upon by an unfriendly majority. Secularists defend Muslims because of this fact, not because secularism is inherently anti-Christian or pro-Muslim.

To make the claim that secularists are contributing to an eventual Muslim takeover is to set up a dichotomy between Christianity on one side and Islam on the other. This view completely obscures the fact that both Christianity and Islam are worldviews that are fundamentally opposed to individual freedom and the dignity of human persons. The fact that contemporary Western secularists are defending Muslims at the (seeming) expense of Christians has more to do with how Christians treat Muslims than any sympathy that they (we) might have for Islam.

Besides, if we’re strong enough to overthrow centuries of Christian domination, we can definitely handle an influx of Islam. We’re dealing with single-digit percentages here. Let’s try to keep some sense of perspective.

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Yeah because THAT’S fair…

Crommunist is on vacation this week, so blogging will be spotty. I’m going to make sure there’s at least SOMETHING up every day, but they’ll be short. Things should be back to normal by April.

Fair warning – this post was written whilst VERY drunk.

A revised citizenship study guide for new Canadians released Monday contains a single sentence on gay and lesbian rights, which is a sentence more than in the first version of the book published a year and a half ago. The added material on gay rights — a topic completely absent from the first release of the federal government’s guide in November 2009 — was among several notable additions to the document unveiled by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, including denunciations of violent extremism and forced marriage.

I am usually fluent in the English language. In the state I am currently in, I would barely pass the citizenship test that is the subject of this news post. I am trying to marshall all the cognitive ability at my disposal. Fuck Jason Kenney. Fuck the Conservative Party of Canada.

While it is commendable that  SOME mention of Canada’s gay population made it into the citizenship guide, considering the fact that Canada was one of the first countries to bite the bullet and recognize that gay people are PEOPLE, this should be a selling point; not a shameful thing to sweep under the rug. The CPC is wearing its cross on its sleeve.

Sooo not sober. I blame society.

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Dispatches from the gender gap

Crommunist is on vacation this week, so blogging will be spotty. I’m going to make sure there’s at least SOMETHING up every day, but they’ll be short. Things should be back to normal by April.

If there is one thing that science can do for us, it’s challenging our assumptions and the resulting underlying myths that they propagate. While we are mostly blind to the narrative that we tell ourselves on a day-to-day basis, we can at least test the truth of those assumptions through the scientific method:

Despite its relative wealth, Canada is tied with Australia as the sixth best place in the Commonwealth to have been born a girl, a new study has found. New Zealand took the top spot in 54-country ranking, released Monday, followed by Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Seychelles. Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Pakistan, Gambia and Bangladesh were among the lowest-ranked countries.

We have an amazing, wonderful country in which women do better than in most places in the world. We should not take for granted the fact that women in Canada are among the most privileged in the history of the world. We as a society worked hard (women particularly) to ensure that women have a greater level of opportunity than any woman has had as long as human society has existed.

However, going hand in hand with not taking the advances of women for granted comes not being complacent about the progress that has been made. Are we doing better by women than we have done in the past? Absolutely. Is that enough? Absolutely not.

Canadian girls, she added, report that gender-based violence remains pervasive in schools, on dates, in workplaces and over the Internet. They complain that girls remain under-represented in science and technology and that the problems are even worse for aboriginal girls, girls with disabilities and visible minorities.

This is the age-old problem of the downward comparison. Just because we are doing better than other places – countries that cannot compare to us in terms of economic power or political stability – does not mean that we can lean back and rest on our laurels when it comes to the rights and treatment of women.

The great strength of the scientific method is that it allows us to challenge the assumptions that lead to our gender complacency. We can make specific, targeted observations about the differential treatment of the disadvantaged sex, allowing us to investigate specific discrepancies in how we treat our vulnerable groups, of which women are one. It is this ability to ask specific, targeted questions – rather than simply relying on our cultural prejudices – that  allows us to ensure that all people are treated fairly, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

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I get e-mail

From Greta Christina, apparently:

Hi, fellow atheist bloggers/activists. Greta Christina here. I’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of prominent atheists of color — as well as atheist organizations predominantly focused on/ participated in by people of color. It’s on my blog here:

Atheists of Color – A List

If you can help publicize this list in any way you can — on your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, your email list, whatever — I think it might make a big difference to our movement. And if you’re in touch with other movers and shakers in the movement (conference organizers, organization leaders, bloggers, etc.) who you think would or should be interested in this information, can you please let them know about it as well?

There’s a common perception in our community that there just aren’t that many non-white people in it. I think getting more people (especially more movement leaders) familiar with this list, and other lists like it, could go a long way to helping diversify our movement and making it more welcoming to a wider range of people. And if we can publicize the existence of organizations specifically (or largely) devoted to supporting atheists of color, I think it could go a long way to making people of color who are on the fence about religion — as well as people of color who are already non-believers but aren’t out about it — feel more welcomed and included in the godless community.

Also, if you see any errors in the list, or any names/ organizations that should be on it and aren’t, I’d very much appreciate hearing about it. And if you’re on this list yourself and don’t want to be — or if you’re happy to be but need your information corrected — please let me know. Thanks!

-Greta Christina
Greta Christina’s Blog

P.S. In case you’re not already familiar with it, Jen McCreight has compiled a similar list of female atheists: A large list of awesome female atheists

So requested, so done.

The embedded assumptions of belief

I recently had an old acquaintance of mine contact me over Facebook for a status update. I had opined that homeopaths deserve to burn in a “non-existent hell” for stoking hysteria over the Japanese nuclear crisis to sell their snake oil. My friend (who I will hereafter refer to as “Janice”) felt that it was of the utmost importance to contact me and assure me that hell is indeed a real place, and that the earthquake was part of a currently-unfolding Biblical prophecy.

Janice and I haven’t spoken in a number of years, and so it’s not surprising to me that she was unaware of my atheism. It was surprising to me that she didn’t just ignore my heathenism, instead preferring to blindly assert to me that she had special insight into the mind of the Creator of the Universe. In the interest of avoiding a completely unnecessary fight, I thanked Janice for her concern, and suggested that she probably didn’t want to have ‘the religion talk’ with me. After all, I spend a good number of hours every week exploring the bankruptcies of religious arguments, whereas she in all likelihood has never really crossed swords with a Gnu Atheist before.

Janice, not willing to pass up an opportunity to educate me about how great her god is, kept pressing me. She told me that she believed in the 100% truth of the Bible, and that if I only believed as she did, I would also be able to foresee the end of the world by volcanic cataclysm and world war. I won’t go through the entire back-and-forth between us – it was overflowing with the usual atheist responses to tired theist clichés – but suffice it to say I was unconvinced.

The way I left it with Janice (and, assuming I have succeeded in dissuading her from bringing this topic up with me again, the way this conversation has completely left off) was to list some of the several reasons why her assertions about the Biblical forecast of impending armageddon would never be even in the least bit convincing to me.

First Assumption: the universe was created by a conscious, intentional force of some kind.

Despite creationist and other theist protestations to the contrary, the universe shows very little sign of intentional creation. Aside from the fact that the physical laws of the universe permit stability and predictability (a fact that is not as complicated to explain as has been repeatedly claimed), there is nothing at all in the universe that suggests intentionality. There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone, with another 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Only arrogance or ignorance (or some combination thereof) could lead someone to believe that this fact points to Earth as being a unique product of specific creation, or to achieve some specific purpose in which human beings play any part.

This assumption has insufficient evidence to demonstrate its truth, and doesn’t even have the appearance of being likely.

Second Assumption: the conscious, intentional force involves itself in human affairs.

Even if we simply grant the above assumption for the sake of argument, there is a second embedded assumption. Not being content with simply creating the universe and then remaining absent and abstract, this creative force (who I will for the sake of clarity call ‘Phil’) has chosen one specific species on one specific planet in one specific galaxy to reveal itself to. Phil is intimately concerned with the behaviours, actions and thoughts of this one species – so much so that it has created an eternal destination of paradise, and another of unimaginable horror specifically for this species to experience forever.

Looking around at the pattern of belief (and public expressions thereof), there does not appear to be any reason to accept this assumption. Prayers to Phil don’t seem to grant any favours or special treatment – Phil seems almost entirely indifferent to the successes or failures of his special creation. It doesn’t even seem that Phil is particularly interested in convincing us of its existence. There is, once again, no real reason to suspect that this assumption is merited.

Third Assumption: Phil has contacted humans and revealed its plan

Again granting the above assumptions, we have to again assume that Phil has expressed its wishes to humankind. Not only does Phil have a plan for humans, but it has told specific individuals this plan at various points throughout history. Phil has interacted with specific people, rather than the entire species, to convey its wishes. Phil does this communication in ways that are largely indistinguishable from mental illness or some other kind of psychological frailty, common in the species.

It is trivially easy to imagine a method of communication that is far superior to the way in which Phil has supposedly chosen. In fact, humans have developed a multitude of methods for mass communication of ideas. Phil has used none of these. There’s no real reason to suspect that this assumption is worth granting either.

Fourth Assumption: of the multitude of groups that have claimed special communication from Phil, the claim by the Israelites is genuine

There are literally thousands of groups that, throughout history, have claimed to have a special insight from Phil. Each of them claims that their insight is real, whereas those others that conflict are incorrect. There is no real reason to suspect that this one particular group, from this particular time period, in this particular area of the world, has the genuine article while all others are simply worshiping “false gods”. Even if it was genuine, it is highly suspicious that there have been no further communications from Phil (at least any that concur with the Israelites’ initial claim), especially in a time when mass communication of information is trivially simple to achieve.

Fifth Assumption: the Israelites, a non-literate group of nomads, were able to accurately transcribe the original communications of Phil into one book

Once again granting the above assumptions for the sake of argument, the contents of the Bible pre-date a time when Israelite scholars were able to write down the stories that had been spread by word of mouth. Having read a smattering of mythology that comes from oral retelling (the works of Homer, other Greek myths, Roman and Norse mythology, African and Caribbean creation storytelling, First Nations mythology), I immediately recognize the stamp of oral transcription whenever I read the old testament. The new testament has a very well-documented history of human origin, with various councils assembled to decide (by popular vote) which passages and books are the work of Phil and which are apocryphal.

Reality is not decided by vote, and as a direct result I cannot accept the fifth assumption as having any merit.

Sixth Assumption: Janice’s particular interpretation of the words of Phil is the correct one

Janice has asked me to just grant the first 5 assumptions, each without any convincing evidence, not just for the sake of argument, but to accept them as truth. She then goes on to demand that I also accept this final assumption with the justification that she has the Holy Spirit™. Now far be it from me to question Janice’s sincerity or her honesty – she is a great person who I hold in high personal esteem. However, there have been millions of contradictory interpretations of the bible, all from people who claim the same divine inspiration. Even if I were to grant the several particular assumptions (separate from the above 5) that would be required for me to accept the existence of such a spirit, I could not be less persuaded by Janice’s claim to have exclusive access to it.

While I was content to debate with Janice having granted the truth of the first 5 assumptions, I was not really interested in prolonging the discussion. Janice’s beliefs are strong, and completely irrational. She is not a random denizen of the internet, but a personal friend who I do not wish to alienate. However, it is incumbent upon me to be honest and open with her in my objections to being harangued for not believing in her version of the biblical account. I’d rather preempt a long and potentially fractious argument by laying out the many reasons why a discussion that is based on the truth of the bible is basically a waste of time for both of us.

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