Five years ago today

Over at Evangelical Realism, I’m taking a break from Justin Martyr due to a time crunch at my day job. To fill in the hole, I’ve reposted one of my earlier encounters with presuppositional apologetics, which didn’t turn out at all the way the apologist had hoped. It’s the first two of a series of back-and-forth exchanges I had with that particular group, but after my second post, they dropped presuppositionalism and tried the “Darwinist conspiracy” tactic instead, so my first two posts ended up being a good, quick, self-contained rebuttal.

God’s love

Just have time for a quick one today.

So I saw this bumper sticker that said “God’s love never fails,” as though that were some kind of supernatural, awe-inspiring power. But really there’s nothing to it. The reason God’s love never “fails” is because nothing that happens ever counts as a failure on His part. Sure, He allegedly knew all about the 9/11 attacks before they happened, and could easily have warned somebody in time to prevent them, save thousands of lives, and prevent at least two wars—but His failure to do so isn’t officially failure. Children starve to death every day, but His failure to feed them (when He could easily do so) doesn’t count as failure. The world is full of cripples and disabled people and people dying of horrible diseases, whom He could all easily heal, but His failure to do so has to be blamed on someone or something else, because it’s not His failure, by definition.

So you can count on God’s love: when God loves you, the worst that can happen is, well, literally the worst that can happen. But at least it won’t be His fault when it does. Comforting thought, eh?

Family values?

Years ago I used to be very interested in Mormonism, though that was when I was an evangelical Christian and my main interest was in converting them. But I learned quite a lot about them and even attended a Mormon church for a while (incognito, as it were).

One thing I learned was that, according to Mormon theology, every human soul born on earth was originally procreated in heaven by God the Father having sex with one of His many wives, who then gave birth to a “spirit child,” which in turn had to be born into a physical body in order to progress into eventual godhood. Considering that the current birth rate is something like 200,000 per day, that’s a whole heaping helping of heavenly humping!

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Luke 4 (the longer text)

And the devil, taking Jesus up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”

And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

And he departed from thence, and the devil was filled with rage. But as he lingered upon the mountain, behold, three of Jesus disciples approached him and said, “O great one, give us this power also, that we may have power over the kingdoms of the world. For we are not mighty like our Lord, and we fear lest our preaching be without effect, because of our weakness.”

And the devil said, “Behold, to you I shall give great power, and you shall build mighty empires, and at your word rulers will rise and fall. But there is a price you must pay.” And they said unto him, “Tell us.” And he saith unto them, “Behold, one day a man will arise who worships many gods, yea even a god with many wives. And you shall command your followers, that they obey this man and make him their ruler, for by such blasphemies does my own power grow.” And they said unto him, “How shall we do this? For our people will never elect a man who worships many gods having many wives.” And the devil said, “Go, for I will raise up a ruler before him, who will be different from his predecessors, and I will stir up hatred and enmity against him (for in hatred and enmity are my strength) and your people will vote for anyone just to be rid of him.” And they said unto him, “May it be as you have said.”

And their names were James and Jerry and Pat. And he gave unto them great power, and wealth, and many followers, and they commanded them to elect whomever their party proposed, even a ruler who worshipped many gods having many wives, and they obeyed, for they had grown accustomed to obedience.

And the devil was well pleased.


Bridges and barricades

Atheists are a pretty diverse group, and maybe absolute unity lies somewhere between unrealistic and undesirable. We have enough in common, though, that it makes sense for us to form a united coalition, and that means being willing to build bridges instead of barricades.

In that light, consider the following hypothetical post and comments:

POST: It would be foolish to try and build a social movement based on antisocial behaviors.

COMMENT #1: Oh, so you think everyone who disagrees with you is stupid. Great.

COMMENT #2: I think that’s an oversimplification. Antisocial behavior is annoying, but we need everyone’s support to succeed.

Everyone is entitled to express their opinion, but comment 1 isn’t actually an opinion. It’s an attack on the original poster, and a barrier to dialog—reading it tells you nothing about the original poster’s actual position on the issue is, nor does it inform you as to the commenter’s position, other than to express a certain vague hostility. This is the kind of approach that creates divisions and animosity within a movement.

Comment 2 also disagrees, but instead of erecting barriers, it builds a bridge—it expresses both the commenter’s position and the reasonings which led to that position. There’s enough information here that the commenter and the poster can have a dialog about whether tolerating antisocial behaviors actually does increase the amount of support. Maybe one has misunderstood the other, maybe further dialog will shed enough light on the topic that they can come to an agreement on at least a subset of the issues that divide them. But at least they’re being open, and the coalition as a whole can benefit.

Comment 1 was probably more satisfying to write, in a vent-your-spleen sort of way. But we should stop and think before posting. Is this sort of thing going to produce results that will make my life better? I think more often than not, the answer will be “no.”

Atheism+: A legitimate concern

One thing that’s mystified me regarding the Atheism+ movement is why anyone would be against it. I’ve seen and heard about various forms of opposition and/or abuse aimed at trying to kill it off and silence those who speak up about it, but so far I haven’t seen anyone offer a thoughtful and reasonable argument about why Atheism+ should be opposed.

Until now. FtBlogger Edwin Kagin raises what I think is a valid concern.

Atheism means without a belief in a god. That’s it. Within that shell are many many different points of view. This became clear a few years ago when several life members quit the organization American Atheists because it’s then President was actively working for the defeat of President George Bush. The quitting life members liked Bush and thought the organization had no business being against him, or for or against anyone else for that matter. I know this because they told me.

I could not imagine any atheist being in favor of Bush. But these folks were. I have also met atheists who are members of American Atheists and who oppose a woman’s right to choose. And who are opposed to gay marriage. And all sorts of things like that. The only thing that they all have in common is being atheists. Start taking sides on social issues and learn what chaos is all about.

He gives the example of the National Rifle Association losing half its members over taking a stand on abortion, and fears that a similar fate might befall organizations such as American Atheists, severely crippling their ability to fight for the rights of atheists in society.

That’s a valid concern, but I believe it’s one that can be addressed.

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Tolerance and justice

In a comment on yesterday’s post, Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort writes:

I hate the “intolerance of intolerance is intolerance” meme that’s spread around the religious world.

“You can’t be critical of my discrimination because it’s part of my religion and therefore you’re discriminating against my religion and that makes you the bigot, not me!”

I agree with Katherine. This is a meme that’s spreading because people don’t really understand what tolerance is, and how it relates to justice. So let’s clarify those concepts a bit more.

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Bishops call religious liberty a threat to religious liberty

Washington state’s four Catholic bishops have released a statement warning that if non-Christians are allowed to engage in non-Christian forms of marriage, religious liberty will suffer.

The bishops’ statement, issued Tuesday by the Washington State Catholic Conference, came as Washington-based Expedia became the latest major employer to come out in support of same-sex marriage.

In the most controversial passage of their pastoral statement, the Catholic bishops argue that passage of Referendum 74 would make THEM the objects of discrimination.

Really? And what kind of discrimination would that be?

“The legal separation of marriage from procreation would have a chilling effect on religious liberty and the right of conscience,” the bishops claim.  “Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique value of children being raised by their biological mothers and fathers.

“No institution or individual could propose that married mothers and fathers provide a singular benefit to children without being accused of discrimination.  Recent attacks on churches, businesses and nonprofit organizations that express their conscientious objection to the redefinition of marriage underscore the danger.”

In other words, the “discrimination” consists of not being allowed to discriminate against gays under the disingenuous facade of merely “promoting” whatever you imagine as the “unique value” and “singular benefit” of having opposite-sex parents.  Though when you come right down to it, the main benefit of having opposite sex parents is that doing so avoids the persecution and discrimination you’d otherwise be getting from people like the four Catholic bishops.

You can tell they know they’re on the wrong side by the way they can’t bring themselves to admit what it is that they’re really after. The power to persecute others is the exact opposite of religious liberty. So they call themselves defenders of religious liberty, in order to cling to their power to persecute. They ought to just bow down and confess their sin, and repent.

While they’re at it, they should go the whole way and admit that their God is a lie too. It’s not like that’s not obvious too.

The cockroach babies

It’s been a long time since I’ve visited the crew over at William Dembski’s abandoned blog Uncommon Descent, but this post by scordova caught my eye. He’s wrestling with the problem of malicious “designs” in nature, and gets right to the heart of the matter.

Can the Intelligent Designer of life create malicious designs? If the flagellum and other parts of bacteria are intelligently designed, it would raise the question whether microbially-based diseases and plagues are intelligently designed. It seems the best inference from the evidence is that even malicious designs are also intelligently designed.

Always the ID dilemma. Once you start confusing function with purpose, there’s no reasonable way to stop inferring design for everything, even the nasty stuff. And since ID, apart from superficial lip service to polytheism and panspermatism, is just window dressing for good old-fashioned fundamentalist creationism, the presumed design of the more “malicious” aspects of nature poses a theological problem of no small proportions.

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