Apparently, stated intent is magic

Sam Harris weighs in on the destruction going on in Gaza. He proceeds very, very carefully, explaining that the situation in Israel is complicated, they’re a largely secular state with a historical justification for their establishment, people with a history of oppression should have a safe haven, wars in any cause all cause casualties, yadda yadda yadda. And I agree emphatically with that. The people of Israel have a secular right to autonomous existence; they have a unique history of persecution (becoming increasingly less unique, unfortunately) and it is morally right to correct an injustice; every war is an evil that has unintended consequences, which is why we should be reluctant to enter them, and only engage when absolutely necessary (and I will also concede that the calculus for determining that is murky). But all that is just a prelude to his justification for Israel’s actions: it’s because their enemies are evil, and deserve it. Somehow, I’m not surprised at that.

Needless to say, in defending its territory as a Jewish state, the Israeli government and Israelis themselves have had to do terrible things. They have, as they are now, fought wars against the Palestinians that have caused massive losses of innocent life. More civilians have been killed in Gaza in the last few weeks than militants. That’s not a surprise because Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Occupying it, fighting wars in it, is guaranteed to get woman and children and other noncombatants killed. And there’s probably little question over the course of fighting multiple wars that the Israelis have done things that amount to war crimes. They have been brutalized by this process—that is, made brutal by it. But that is largely the due to the character of their enemies.

Strangely, he never seems to question the necessity of fighting a war to keep a people oppressed, or considers the possibility that Palestinians see themselves as victims of the Israeli state, ghettoized and kept in a perpetual condition of essential serfdom…and that even that tiny bit of land that they do hold is constantly threatened by settlers and politicians eager to annex the place by one means or another. There is no consideration of alternatives, that maybe war is not the best solution to an extremely complicated (as he knows!) social problem. But to admit that they are committing war crimes, but that it is all the enemy’s fault, is simply disgraceful.

I must emphasize that this is NOT A DEFENSE OF HAMAS. As Harris points out, their goals are indefensible and despicable.

The truth is that there is an obvious, undeniable, and hugely consequential moral difference between Israel and her enemies. The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions towards them. The charter of Hamas is explicitly genocidal. It looks forward to a time, based on Koranic prophesy, when the earth itself will cry out for Jewish blood, where the trees and the stones will say “O Muslim, there’s a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.” This is a political document. We are talking about a government that was voted into power by a majority of the Palestinians.

That is an evil statement, and I condemn it whole-heartedly. But condemning one side does not mean I endorse the other — it is possible to see that there is a lot of indefensible and despicable activity on both sides. Also, I’m not saying “a pox upon both houses” — I don’t think the evil Jews deserve to die, any more than I think all those evil Palestinians deserve it. There needs to be a solution to a complicated hatred between both sides, and the simple solution of war until one side is broken does not resolve it. Short of genocide (do I need to argue against that?), it only exacerbates the issues. Does anyone really believe blowing up houses, killing terrorists (and incurring lots of collateral damage), building giant walls, and imposing more and more restrictions on the lives of Palestinians, will actually accommodate themselves to Israeli rule?

Elie Wiesel, in Legends of Our Time, wrote this:

Every Jew, somewhere in his being, should set apart a zone of hate — healthy, virile hate — for what the German personifies and for what persists in the German.

Should we use that to argue against the legitimacy of Israel? It’s an example of emphatic hatred directed at a whole people (even though he walks it back in a footnote — he’s decrying racism, not all Germans — and he also visited Germany and felt no desire to kill everyone he met.) Persecution tends to do that to people, to feed the fires of hatred. It’s not an excuse, but when you kill and torture and oppress, normal human beings tend not to reply with love and forgiveness.

Then Harris trots out the most stupid argument ever.

Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we—the Americans, or Western Europeans—have used in any of our wars. They have endured more worldwide public scrutiny than any other society has ever had to while defending itself against aggressors. The Israelis simply are held to a different standard. And the condemnation leveled at them by the rest of the world is completely out of proportion to what they have actually done.

I’ve been hearing a lot of this sort of thing, and it’s nonsense. With American gun laws, I could buy an assault rifle, modify it to be fully automatic, get a couple of extra large clips, and march into the local Catholic church and gun down the entire congregation (NO, I would never do such a thing). We have that power. So if I get a rifle and shoot just one Catholic as they were walking down the street (also never going to do that), could I use the excuse that I was exercising commendable restraint? If I did kill 10 innocent people, could I then claim that I was being judged by a different standard, because I could have parked a truck full of fertilizer explosive outside the building and killed hundreds and destroyed the whole church, just like Tim McVeigh?

No. I judge by a consistent moral standard, rather than the relative one Harris is using. Killing people is not a good thing, whether it’s one or a thousand or six million, and the existence of one gigantic moral atrocity, like the Holocaust or the Indian genocide, does not suddenly diminish the significance of numerically smaller crimes. It’s horror all the way around.

There is also a kind of moral blindness at work here. He says the condemnation is out of proportion to what they’ve actually done…so what exactly have they done? Harris comes right out and tells us.

But there is no way to look at the images coming out Gaza—especially of infants and toddlers riddled by shrapnel—and think that this is anything other than a monstrous evil. Insofar as the Israelis are the agents of this evil, it seems impossible to support them. And there is no question that the Palestinians have suffered terribly for decades under the occupation. This is where most critics of Israel appear to be stuck. They see these images, and they blame Israel for killing and maiming babies. They see the occupation, and they blame Israel for making Gaza a prison camp. I would argue that this is a kind of moral illusion, borne of a failure to look at the actual causes of this conflict, as well as of a failure to understand the intentions of the people on either side of it.

The “Palestinians have suffered terribly for decades under the occupation”. Stop right there. What do you mean, we critics are “stuck”? Isn’t that a terrible, awful fact of Middle East history that is being blithely glossed over? Of course it is. Sam Harris apparently does not think it’s that big a deal that the Palestinians are suffering under an occupation, and for someone who wants to claim we have to look at the big picture to see the causes of the conflict, he doesn’t seem to see how that could have led to the hatred expressed by Hamas. Again, not to excuse it…but if you want to address it, you can’t simply call the Palestinians evil bad guys and offer no solutions other than shooting them. Both sides have deep antecedents and a thousand justifications.

See the Elie Wiesel quote above. Many of the Palestinians hate the Israelis, no small wonder. You don’t fix it by shooting their cousin, or dropping a bomb on the local schoolhouse.

But all that matters to Harris is intent.

And this gets to the heart of the moral difference between Israel and her enemies. And this is something I discussed in The End of Faith. To see this moral difference, you have to ask what each side would do if they had the power to do it.

What would the Jews do to the Palestinians if they could do anything they wanted? Well, we know the answer to that question, because they can do more or less anything they want. The Israeli army could kill everyone in Gaza tomorrow. So what does that mean? Well, it means that, when they drop a bomb on a beach and kill four Palestinian children, as happened last week, this is almost certainly an accident. They’re not targeting children. They could target as many children as they want. Every time a Palestinian child dies, Israel edges ever closer to becoming an international pariah. So the Israelis take great pains not to kill children and other noncombatants. 

Whoa. So the reason we know that Israel would not commit genocide if they could do anything they wanted is because right now they have total power and can do anything they want, and they aren’t committing genocide. But that’s not true! Israel’s military power is strongly dependent on foreign support — maintaining good relations with the United States is a major constraint (well, maybe not that constraining, because so far it looks like Congress rolls over and does whatever Israel asks). Further, in his cautious prelude, Harris emphasized that Israel has a complex society with a very strong secular component — there are Jewish elements who resist the idea of wholesale murder, too. Right now, Israel has external and internal constraints, so it’s silly to argue that they don’t.

Israel has elected a government that is aggressively militant. If that government were released from all restraints, I suspect that they’d push for an even more thorough campaign of extermination. But that’s speculation about intent — I’m more interested in the actual evidence. I look at the casualties, and there sure seem to be a lot of dead Palestinians for an enemy that takes “great pains not to kill children and other noncombatants”. And then there’s the distribution of the deaths.

The United Nations estimates that more than 70% of the Palestinians killed were civilians, including 226 youths and 117 women. More than 150 were members of armed groups, the United Nations says.

UNICEF said Monday that about two-thirds of the children killed were 12 years old or younger.

We’re supposed to believe in reason and evidence. When I see a thousand dead bodies, many of them children, and city blocks reduced to rubble, I tend not to accept the claim that that was reasonable restraint. Likewise, when Hamas launches rockets into Jewish suburbs, I tend not to accept that they are acting under reasonable restraint.

We get another of those hypocritical arguments used by IDF apologists.

The truth is that everything you need to know about the moral imbalance between Israel and her enemies can be understood on the topic of human shields. Who uses human shields? Well, Hamas certainly does. They shoot their rockets from residential neighborhoods, from beside schools, and hospitals, and mosques. Muslims in other recent conflicts, in Iraq and elsewhere, have also used human shields. They have laid their rifles on the shoulders of their own children and shot from behind their bodies.

OK. So we should excuse the deaths of all the civilians caused by the Israeli military because they are a regrettable and unavoidable consequence of fighting in an urban area with a high civilian population density. But we have to blame the Palestinians for fighting in their homes in an urban area with a high civilian population density — they should have found some nice open fields somewhere and deployed an army that could be met by the Israeli army, I guess.

And please, please stop characterizing specific groups with specific issues and causes with global Islamism. I despise that religion myself, but that does not mean you can simply lump Palestinians under the thumb of Israel with Muslims in Iraq or unsourced claims that Muslims use their own children as shields, or complaining about ISIS when talking about the events in Gaza. Let’s start by recognizing that Palestinians have legitimate grievances, as Harris tacitly acknowledges, and not ignoring them under the umbrella of simply declaring them wicked and deserving of all that they get.


Here is an example of Israel’s measured response.

At least the title gets it right: the author is a “Know Nothing”

It’s weird. There’s this new Dawkins’ Flea, Nick Spencer, who has written a book called Atheists: The Origin of the Species, which I have not read nor am I interested in reading. But it also has this positive review by Michael Robbins in Slate, and I get so much mail about it — either people who declare “Checkmate, Atheists!” or “This is really stupid, you should rip into it”, in equal measure. I’m going to have to side with “it’s stupid.”

It’s unoriginal. It’s the same old nonsense parroted by anti-atheists for the past decade. In fact, all I had to do is skim the thing and see familiar tropes jump out at me, and until people started sending me link after link, I didn’t bother to read it carefully.

Let me tell you, reading it carefully did not make it any better.

Here are the key arguments that bored me:

New Atheists aren’t new. Oh, please. Anyone who tries to make this argument is an idiot and can be simply dismissed. WE KNOW. Every big-name New Atheist I know has grumbled about this stupid label. We didn’t come up with it. It was imposed on us from the outside, and every time it was brought up, we’d grumble, “But these ideas have been around for a long time…” and get ignored. And now we get accused of being ignorant of history, philosophy, and literature because we think we came up with this stuff for the very first time. We didn’t, and we sure don’t believe so. Fuck off.

Nietzsche! Nietzche, Nietzsche, Nietsche. This one is just annoying, but it’s a good, reliable marker for pseudo-erudite apologetics for religion. When they start talking about Nietzsche, you know exactly where they’re going: it’s not that he was an interesting, complicated, and unique philosopher, but all they want to tell you is that he was the last good atheist. Why? Because he was an anguished atheist who saw the loss of faith as a great tragedy for our culture, that was going to cause massive upheavals. You are allowed to be an atheist only if you feel deep regret and show the proper appreciation for the magnitude of religion’s contributions to humanity.

Many atheists do feel pain at leaving religion, especially if they were brought up deeply imbedded within it. Becoming an atheist means saying Mom & Dad & Grandma & Grandpa were completely wrong about something they thought was extremely important in their lives, and that’s sometimes very hard to do. But they still feel it’s clear enough and important enough to deny tradition, because that religion they were brought up with turns out to have been evil bullshit. I’d like to see these apologists make a similar argument against egalitarianism — the last good person to promote equal rights was the one who expressed deep remorse over his cherished lost racism, and who was unhappy that ending slavery would change the world.

And some of us atheists were brought up largely outside the fervent cults, and we look at religious culture and laugh. No brainwashing that we have to struggle to overcome, you know. And that’s a good thing.

Atheists are arrogant, Christians are humble. Yeah, Robbins actually pulls this old chestnut out of hat as the conclusion for his essay. Right. The people who claim to have a direct line to the Creator Of The Universe, Invisible Master of All Things, Who tells them that they have a special purpose and will live for Eternity, and who have a Divine Mission to make sure everyone else follows God’s marching orders, are humble. The ones who say we live in a thin skin of water and air on one small rock among uncountable trillions in the universe, who say existence is fragile and we need to work to maintain it, and that we’re nothing special, except to ourselves…those are the arrogant ones.

Here’s the big one: Religion is not an explanation for the facts of life. I have heard so many variants of this nonsense; of course Karen Armstrong and Marilynne Robinson and David Bentley Hart are cited, those masters of effusively saying nothing at all. When you point out a contradiction or a fallacy in their holy doctrine, theologians are always quick to start waving their hands and shouting that the Holy Book is not a science text! You have to read it metaphorically! You have to interpret it in a proper historical and social context! OK, I can do that. Given that it gets so much humanly wrong, we must conclude that these documents are the expressions of human beings’ struggle to understand their place in nature, and lack any sign of special, privileged knowledge from a divine intelligence. They are no more magic than Shakespeare’s plays, which means they might be good and interesting historical literary works, but only contain truths that were accepted as common knowledge at the time.

What always annoys me is that they expend so much wind telling us that their faith is not a science project, and that it is so unfair to try and impose standards for truth and understanding on it, that they never bother to get around to telling us what it is. At best we get a thesaurus dump: a flurry of adjectives and adverbs attached to a set of nebulous terms — but something does not become more true in correlation with the floweriness of the language. And sometimes we get outright nonsense, like this:

Science and religion ask different questions about different things. Where religion addresses ontology, science is concerned with ontic description.

For those not up on the lingo, ontology refers to the nature of things, and their relationships. It’s actually an important topic in biology — systematists, obviously, but also in my molecular biology background it’s a major concern in understanding the genome. Figuring out the relationships between genes is genetic ontology, and it’s something lots of people are studying! I have two major objections to that statement, though.

  1. If religion is about ontology, it’s fantasy ontology. Trying to puzzle out the relationships of gods and humans in the absence of any evidence that gods even exist is a silly game. Let’s start talking more about the marriage of Zeus and Hera, or the bizarre father-son dynamic of Odin and Thor.

  2. You really shouldn’t talk about ontology without epistemology. The only mention of that big subject, though, is to accuse atheists of “epistemic arrogance”. It’s true, though, that atheists and scientists think it’s very important to know how we know something, and it’s absurd to pretend that theists don’t, even if they are just taking the stupid “goddidit” shortcut.

But all that is par for the course for apologists. Deny, deny, deny; name-drop some philosophers; fling around some airy deepities; express profound indignance that anyone would dare to question the authority of ancient cultural dogmas and traditions. My eyes glaze over. They have no substance. Goodbye.

A mundane story

This documentary about a cult, Christian Assemblies International, and its founder, Scott Williams, is notable for the cult’s ordinariness. It was the same old formula: a leader who claims to have direct insight into the mind of god, demands for obedience to the leader, sermons that raged at the evil heathens outside the church, extorting money to support the good works of the tribe (often involving pampering the leader)…all common stuff that is going on in churches all around Morris right now. Of course, Williams carried it further, and starting demanding that the young men in the group have sex with him, and he was scamming huge amounts of money from his congregation.

But what struck me is that in all the pictures and video clips of Williams, he comes off as incredibly boring and uncharismatic. He’s a pudgy schlub; his speeches are droning and awkward. He could be me! There’s just something wrong with people’s brains. We’re too susceptible to the formulaic nonsense behind religion — it’s like it’s designed to trip the gullibility circuits we all have, so that all a walking potato like Scott Williams has to do is recite a familiar pattern with confidence, and some small percentage of people will accept it.

Also, that it doesn’t take much to get rich: he went recruiting in Europe, and built up a congregation of “hundreds”. Hundreds! From countries with tens of millions of people! And that was enough that he could go on a spree, buying up valuable properties, and skipping from country to country, ahead of the authorities as they got wise to him.

That makes sense, too. We’re not talking about someone asking for small donations, ten bucks here, pocket change there, but an organized campaign to get those few hundred people to each cough up 10% of their income, hand over any inheritances, and make extra, large donations. It all adds up.

So there you go. If you’re sufficiently unscrupulous, and willing to embrace the proven con of religious bullshit, any of you can go off and get rich right now. Practice being really sincere and devout — that’s all it takes.

Leveraging religion into money and death

The Korean ferry Sewol that abruptly capsized and sank last spring sank because of an act of god … that is, the depredations of a scummy Christian cult. A story in the NY Times today summarizes the causes. The company that ran the ferry was a front for a religious cult run by Yoo Byung-eun, called the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea. He had a whole network of enterprises, all funneling millions of dollars into the pockets of Yoo and his family. One of the ways they profited was by cutting corners on everything, including safety.

Scores of cabins and even an art gallery laden with marble were added to the ferry’s upper decks, making the ship top-heavy. So much extra cargo was crammed on board that there was sometimes no space to secure it properly with chains and lashings. And, prosecutors say, the ferry’s crucial ballast water, needed to balance all the additional weight, was deliberately drained so that the vessel would not sit too low — a telltale sign to inspectors that the ferry was dangerously overloaded to bring in more money.

“It was a miracle that the ship actually sailed as far as it did; it could have tipped over any time,” said Kim Woo-sook, dean of the graduate school at Mokpo National Maritime University. “For them, cargo was cash.”

The art gallery was there to feed Yoo’s monstrous ego — he fancied himself an artist, and with so much cash flowing through his hands, he spent millions to get his photographs displayed at the Louvre. He claimed to be just about everything.

Mr. Yoo, who in his guise as Ahae cultivated an air of mystery by only allowing himself to be photographed from behind or the side, is described by the website of Ahae Press as a sort of renaissance man: “an inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, environmental activist, martial artist, painter, sculptor, poet, and photographer.”

Con artist. Murderer. Ruthless exploiter. Christian. Or at least, someone who saw Christianity as another easy gimmick to prey on the rubes.

But hey, they spent some money on safety.

In one of their more damning findings, prosecutors say that so much money was being siphoned away from the ferry company to Mr. Yoo and his relatives that it was starved of funds and spent just $2 last year on safety training for the Sewol’s crew members. The money went to buy a paper copy of a certificate.

There is no justice, though. The elder Yoo’s rotting corpse was found in his garden, cause of death unknown. Most of his family (apparently one son is still on the run), who all profited from his schemes, have been arrested so at least there’s that.

If only Christians weren’t so damned ahistorical

Here’s yet another of those pious Christian groups protesting same sex marriage, using a bogus argument. It’s infuriating: they know so little of human history that they think their local, recent mores are the universal and eternal dictates of their god, when Christian perspectives on marriage and politics and every damn thing have been evolving in all sorts of directions for two thousand years.

We get the same thing from creationists. They pretend their interpretation of the Bible is exactly as Jesus intended it, when really, modern creationism would have been regarded as heretical madness by Christians at any time before about 1960.

At least this bunch provides some comedy relief. Their strategy for dealing with same sex marriage is to fast for 40 days. Only not.

A Christian group that is planning a ‘fast’ in opposition to same-sex marriage has claimed that members don’t actually have to stop eating food to take part.

Like the rest of their platform, none of this makes any sense.

My only prayer is that Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee

This is news to me, but it’s an old story that needs wider circulation. Hillary Clinton is a conservative Christian with ties to the anti-choice movement. She’s not imbedded deeply in that crap, but she likes to affectionately skirt the edges of it.

That’s enough for me — my nightmare would be an election with Clinton vs. some ratbag Republican, with me in the voting booth vomiting all over the ballot.

Can we please have a secular candidate? Please, please, please?

Church camp looks so … fun?

Look at this video and images from the Rose of Sharon Summer Camp in Tennessee.

churchcamp

Please note that these were not selected excerpts chosen to make the camp look bad; these were publicly posted by a camp counselor who was overjoyed with what the camp was doing, and was trying to promote the camp to others.

All I know is that I’d never send a child of mine there. What a horror of a place.

Compare and contrast that with this video of Camp Quest, made with similar intent.

“Freedom to be who you are without judgment”…yeah, I like that.

Even scarier, the counselor who released the initial Rose of Sharon video was very surprised at the negative response it prompted on the net.

nitareplies

Chilling, isn’t it? She’s abusing children in the name of the Lord, who she loves so much. What you’re seeing there is the end result of generations of indoctrination, of the kind still being practiced at the Rose of Sharon.

It’s always ten

It’s Sunday morning. You’re lazing about in bed, or having coffee and breakfast, or otherwise having atheist happy time. You don’t have to go to church, but you could answer a few questions from a believer, I suppose. There is a set going around that are good for a laugh. Here’s the challenge:

Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! Which leads to some interesting conclusions…

Hmmm. Now I have to answer the questions, and I also have to ponder why a wacky Christian would think I couldn’t Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer them.

1. How Did You Become an Atheist?

Why would we be unable to answer that one? Most atheists can tell you exactly how they gave up on religion. I became an atheist because I thought seriously about what I was being told in church, and found it unbelievable. Later I found that religion drove people to do incredibly stupid and destructive things, like endorse creationism or control women’s reproductive rights, and I decided I had to be an active anti-theist.

2. What happens when we die?

The available evidence is that your physiological functions stop, brain activity ceases, your body cools, cells begin to self-destruct, and eventually bacterial activity and the work of decomposers cause your body to rot. Your flesh is dissociated and recycled by other organisms.

3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

I’m not wrong about the rotting bit. Oh, you mean your bizarre notions about a ‘soul’ that exists independent of your material body that goes on to engage in some undefined, mysterious post-life activity in some other undefined realm? That’s just silly. There’s no reason to believe that happens.

But OK, I’ll play along. If your metaphysical scenario actually played out, and “I” continued to exist after my body died, and I found myself in the fantasy land of your Bible…it would be terrible. Learning that our minds were playthings of some cosmic tyrant who at a whim would condemn you to an eternity of torture, or alternatively an eternity of servitude worshipping a monster would be nightmarish.

I’m relieved that there is no evidence for your evil dreams.

4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?

Reciprocity, empathy, a theory of mind, need. I’m a member of a social species with finely tuned instincts for interaction with my fellow humans, and I live in a culture where cooperative behavior is rewarded. I don’t really need anything outside of that to explain morality; I’ll also note that individuals who claim to have an external source of moral compulsions don’t actually behave in a more moral fashion than those, like me, who don’t have imaginary voices in our heads.

5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

Even with your phantasmal god, you’re free to murder and rape. God never seems to swoop in and stop anyone from murdering and raping, have you noticed? The ones stopping criminal actions are us. Ourselves. People. I don’t murder or rape because harming other people is repugnant and a violation of the social contract, because I have no desire to harm others, and because even if I did, there is a framework of law within my society that limits my ability to do harm.

6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

You know, imagining an invisible man who tells you what to do doesn’t give your life actual meaning. I find that doing things — sharing, teaching, playing, working, learning — gives me satisfaction. If I had an ultimate goal it would be to leave the world a better place for my children and others when I leave it.

7. Where did the universe come from?

Read a physics textbook. We’ve got knowledge of 13.7 billion years of the universe’s changing history, virtually none of which is in your holy book. It’s always funny to get that question from people who so despise the natural, physical knowledge of how the universe works that they think “god did it” is actually a good answer to their own question.

8. What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

People claim many things: they also claim that they’ve seen Bigfoot, that the Queen of England is an alien reptoid, that they can bend spoons with the power of their mind, that little grey men in flying saucers are deeply interested in their rectums. Show me the evidence. Others have tried, and it’s always garbage.

9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

Who would think this would be a difficult question for an atheist to answer? There are lots of different opinions of these men within the atheist community. Personally, I like Dawkins, I think he’s a smart person and a brilliant writer, who is a man of his place and time who is unfortunately a bit inept at seeing other social circumstances. Hitchens is dead…but in life, he was the best writer of the bunch, wonderfully courageous and outspoken, but also possessed catastrophically bad political views. I’m not a fan of Harris, at all.

And if you ask a different atheist, you’ll get completely different answers.

10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

If there is a god, then why does every society have a different religion, and further, why are there thousands of different sects within each society?

You know, your question only works if we were challenging the existence of god belief. We know people believe in gods, and that it is quite common; that many people believe in false things does not in any way make them true.

We were supposed to get some interesting conclusions from the fact that these are questions that atheists Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer, yet I found them trivial and easy to honestly answer. I think we can draw a conclusion from that, but it’s not particularly interesting.

I have to conclude that whoever composed that list was an idiot.

I get email

Sometimes it is even informative. I was sent a data dump on official Catholic doctrine regarding sexual relations — it is rather revealing. I don’t recall requesting it, though, but sure, I’ll take it. And grimace.

I was informed of an inquiry you made some 7 months ago concerning the morality that must be preserved in the relations of the bed.

Church laws teach that spouses must fight against or quiet libidinal pleasure when they have relations or else they commit a fault for seeking to enjoy the libidinal pleasure. In Her laws and practices the Church has condemned the belief that spouses can have relations for lustful pleasure and not commit any fault or sin. The March 4, 1679 Holy Office decree on the errors of various moral subjects condemns spouses who have relations for libidinal pleasure. Canon Law 1013 teaches that the secondary motive for the marital act is mutual aid but does not mention mutual love or indulging in libidinal/lustful pleasure. Pope Pius XI’s Enyclical Casti Connubii’s teaching on the quieting of concupiscence rules out seeking to enjoy libidinal pleasure. He teaches that the purpose of marriage is the procreation and rearing of children and that the secondary purpose is companionship and friendship through the struggle of life. He also says couples should pray in order for God to help them conquer temptations. The Church Fathers are unanimous on the necessity to fight against lustful pleasure during intercourse. The Church Fathers teach that spouses sin when they have relations for lustful pleasure. And some compare it to using one another as whores and prostitutes:

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, 6:23:18: “The genital ['generating'] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring.”

St. Jerome, Against Jovinian, 1:19, A.D. 393: “But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother’s seed.Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?”

St. Augustine, The Morals of the Manichees, 18:65, A.D. 388: “This proves that you [Manicheans] approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore, whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation, forbids marriage and makes the woman not a wife but a prostitute, who for some gifts presented to her is joined to the man to gratify his passion.

St. Augustine, Against Faustus, 22:30: “For thus the eternal law, that is, the will of God creator of all creatures, taking counsel for the conservation of natural order, not to serve lust, but to see to the preservation of the race, permits the delight of mortal flesh [i.e. the conjugal act] to be released from the control of reason in copulationonly to propagate progeny.”St. Augustine one of the greatest Church Fathers in Church History points to the fact that at times it does happen that a couple will climax. He points out that if this comes to pass and one did not seek it in any way: then there is no fault on the part of the couple. If for some reason the spouses or a spouse does reach the climax- which is the instant that the flesh is released from the control of reason and the flesh (body) at that moment follows commands of its own by moving involuntarily — it is not sinful when it occurs by accident. It must never be sought after and if it occurs when one does not seek after it — it is an accidental happening: and this accidental happening God permits for the sake of trying to procreate — and will not charge a person with sin who did not seek after it (i.e climax). Lustful pleasure must be hated with a perfect hatred. It does happen at times that men feel pleasure during the conjugal act. This is not sinful of itself but only when they don’t fight against it or if they seek it. If they seek pleasure and or if they don’t fight against it — they are guilty of the sin of Lust. A Manual of Moral Theology, by Rev. Thomas Slater, 1925, Chapter 2, The Capital Vices: On Lust: “Lust is an inordinate appetite for the pleasure which has its seat in the organs of generation. A wise and provident Creator has taken care that those actions which are most necessary for the individual or for society should be accompanied by great pleasure in order that they may be exercised more certainly and more readily. If there were no pleasure connected with eating and drinking, few men would trouble themselves about those necessary actions. The great pleasure felt in the act of procreation induces men to do what is necessary for the preservation of the race which otherwise would excite only shame and disgust. This, however, can only be done lawfully in wedlock. “

“And calling the multitude together with his disciples, he said to them: If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel, shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Mk. 8:34-36)

Catholic Encyclopedia, “Lust, by Joseph F. Delany, 1910: “The inordinate craving for, or indulgence of, the carnal pleasure which is experienced in the human organs of generation.The wrongfulness of lust is reducible to this: that venereal satisfaction is sought for…. at any rate, in a manner which is contrary to the laws that govern marital intercourse.(Nihil obstat: Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur: + John M., Archbishop of New York.)

And within marital intercourse one must not seek for pleasure. If pleasure occurs accidentally: it is not a sin before God since it is something out of their control. The laws which govern the marital act demand that the act be consummated as quick as possible, with the lights off and the spouses fully dressed — with the only areas of their body needed for connection uncovered somewhat. In that short space of time: if the couple did not seek for pleasure then they are without fault even if they might have felt pleasure.

St. Thomas Aquinas condemns lustful kisses and touches for married and unmarried people alike as mortal sins in Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Q. 154, Art. 4:

Objection 2: Further,fornication is stated to be a mortal sin as being prejudicial to the good of the future child’s begetting and upbringing. But these are not affected by kisses and touches or blandishments. Therefore there is no mortal sin in these.”

[St. Thomas Aquinas]Reply to Objection 2: Although kisses and touches do not by their very nature hinder the good of the human offspring,they proceed from lust, which is the source of this hindrance:and on this account they aremortally sinful.”

That is why St. Thomas even rejects in the same section (Q. 154, Art. 1) as lascivious and unlawful “acts circumstantial to the venereal act, for instancekisses, touches, and so forth“. St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “We may also reply that "lasciviousness " relates to certain acts circumstantial to the venereal act, for instance kisses, touches, and so forth.” (Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 154, Art. 1) And so it is clear that St. Thomas taught that all non-procreative and unnecessary indecent acts are sinful and against nature.

Oral and waste-organ stimulation is intrinsically evil and against the natural law

St. Barnabas,Letter of Barnabas, section 10:8, 74 A.D.: “Moreover, he [Moses] has rightly detested the weasel [Leviticus 11:29]. For he means, ‘Thou shalt not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouththrough uncleanness [oral s*x]; nor shalt thou be joined tothose impure women who commit iniquity with the mouthwith the body through uncleanness.’”

St. Augustine,The Good of Marriage, section 11-12, 401 A.D.: “But that which goes beyond this necessity no longer follows reason but lust…. they [must] not turn away from them the mercy of God….by changing the natural use into that which is against nature, which is more damnable when it is done in the case of husband or wife. Of so great power is the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of creation, that….when the man shall wish to use a body part of the wife not allowed for this purpose, the wife is more shameful, if she suffer it to take place in her own case, than if in the case of another woman.”

Very simply the mouth and the organ of the human disposal system have a purpose. Nature tells us that God made the mouth for the intake of food and drink: and the human disposal system for the disposal of waste. Moreover nature tells us that if we begin to use the mouth and the human disposal system organ in improper ways then bodily infection or disease and death may be the result.

The mouth and the human disposal system were not made to stimulate the g*nital organs. Nothing could be more evident than this fact. Catholic Tradition and the Natural Law clearly teach us that oral and human disposal system organ stimulation are sinful lustful acts and deviant s*xual behavior. Those who promote such perversions or believe them to be not sinful are guilty of the mortal sin of heresy for denying the Natural Law and as such are outside the Catholic Church.

Women must never wear jewelry, make-up, tattoos, body painting, and fingernails longer than one-eighth of an inch. Their hairstyles must never be ostentatious, they are not allowed to dye their hair, and they must wear a veil when praying or going to visit a holy place like a church or if they go to see an ecclesiastic. They must also have a veil when they hear a sermon in whatever place they might be. They are not allowed to wear transparent fabrics, laces, nets, organdy, nylon, etc and flesh colored fabrics. They are not allowed to paint their nails either. A violation of any of the aforementioned rules is mortal sin at best and heresy at worst. It is an abomination for women to wear pants. It is a heresy for which women were burned at the stake. Women must wear dresses and feminine apparel that covers them at least beginning from just below the pit of the throat to all the way half way below the knees (inclusive). As for the arms they must be covered with sleeves passing at least the half way mark after the elbows. Another issue is appropriate undergarments. In fact there are instructions for what type of knickers women are to wear and what fabrics to avoid under pain of mortal sin and possibly heresy. Since some fabrics are masculine.Also it is heresy and an abomination for women to wear pants. In fact St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on the mere suspicion of the heresy of wearing pants. She was falsely accused before and given a free pass twice but when the accusation happened a 3rd time she was killed (in the first accusation/trial there were some false witnesses who testified against her as well as the 2nd trial and so she already had a strike 2 strikes against her; false witnesses testified against her again for the 3rd trial). This particular heresy is called ‘the monstrous dress’ (difformitate habitus). For having 3 strikes against you would indicate to the judges of a relapse into heresy- for the accused.

Pierre Cauchon the Bishop of Beauvais was an unscrupulous and ambitious man who worked for the English and was the mover and shaker of the false accusations and trials against St. Joan who had defeated France. He and the English were determined to have her blood on some pretext. They were always sad when they failed upon the previous occasions to secure the death of St. Joan at trial. It is alleged a trap was deliberately laid by her jailers with the connivance of Cauchon (for this had happened before). Joan- either to defend her modesty from outrage or because her women's garments were taken from her or perhaps simply because she was weary of the struggle and was convinced that her enemies were determined to have her blood upon some pretext: once more put on the man's apparel (not wearing it but just covering herself with it like a bed sheet) which had been purposely left in her way.She was deliberately (illegally) put in a jail (in the Castle of Rouen) tended by male guards (profligate English soldiers) even though there was one much closer that catered to females (she bitterly complained of the indecent mistreatment she received from them before). She was also treated harshly being chained by her neck, hands, and ankles(for she had attempted to escape by desperately throwing herself from the window of the tower of Beaurevoir because of the unspeakably indecent activity of the men- the judges at her trial called this act of hers reckless). So in all there were 4 trials concerning St. Joan . The first one concerned her visions and then the last 3 concerned the accusation of her wearing men’s apparel/pants.

Sports undergarments suppress the bustline to a degree but are also unhealthy for daily wear, especially by women who are of childbearing age because they are made of elastic and suppress the delicate tissues and structures needed for nursing.

The size of the blouse is determined by the size of the bustline. That size, in turn, determines how wide to make the neckline and armholes and how far from the neckline the armholes should be. Example: If I were to wear a top one or two sizes larger than my size, the neckline would gape open in the front and not lay against my chest (unless it was a turtleneck) and the sleeve seams would hang down the upper part of my arm, giving me a baglady look and also allowing curious eyes to peer down my blouse when I bent forward or was lower than the onlooker, such as when genuflecting. Women who are amply endowed need supportive undergarments or else they suffer from back problems. These supportive undergarments must be constructed in such a way as to support the weight being held and therefore they give shape which you simply cannot avoid except by layering your clothes (a sweater draped over your top or blouse) which is impractical and dangerous to your health in a warm or hot climate and often does not solve the problem. The weight of the fabric, the style of the pattern, the size of the bustline, the style of the waistline and the undergarments all affect how a top/blouse looks upon a woman. This blouse has a nipped-in or tucked-in waist so you cannot expect it to hang straight down which would thus less emphasize the bustline. Also, if a top/blouse is tucked into the skirt (as opposed to hanging over it), the bustline is more emphasized. However, the point of drape is still the bustline.

It is a sin for women to wear pants (even those designed specifically for females) or drive cars. It is a sin for girls to wear lace underwear. The rationale is the preservation of Catholic Dignity. For Pope St. Pius X said. “There is only one human dignity: and that is Catholic dignity.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFSQrKrrQqw&list=PLD841087C099E5B90 NFP: A Birth Control Deception 68 mins

http://onetruecatholicfaith.com/Roman-Catholic-Video.php?vid=254&vid_title=Michael+Takes+The+Bad+Man+Away&page=7

http://www.onetruecatholicfaith.com

It is amazing that the Catholic Church lasted for any length of time at all, but then I started thinking…women have always been a major proponent of religion, including Catholicism — they accepted these rules. In a world where men had total power and rape was a constant risk with little recourse for justice, and what sex there was was entirely focused on the man’s pleasure, a collection of rules that strongly discouraged sex might be seen by women as an important way to protect other aspects of their autonomy. If putting on the Armor of God means admitting that you are corrupting filth, well, that might be a small price to pay to get relief from abuse, and to have an institutionally supported way to fight back against those base, depraved men who want to touch your dirtybits.

This is what you get when the dudebros run rampant: women find repressing sex altogether more appealing and a more viable strategy than trying to find respectful partners.