An atheist that Believes

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That’s right, folks. You read it correctly. More to the point, a recent CNN article “Meet the Atheist … who believes in God” was published on 6/10/14.

 

Meet Frank Schaeffer and his opinion piece to CNN.  Mr. Schaeffer has written one of the most vocabulary challenged articles on the subject of belief and non-belief that I have seen in quite some time.

 

Let’s have an excerpt from the first twelve sentences:

 

“All the public debates between celebrity atheists and evangelical pastors are as meaningless as literary awards and Oscar night. They are meaningless because participants lack the objectivity to admit that our beliefs have less to do with facts than with our personal needs and cultural backgrounds.

The words we use to label ourselves are just as empty. What exactly is a “believer?”. And for that matter what is an “atheist?” 

Who is the objective observer to define these terms. Maybe we need a new category other than theism, atheism or agnosticism that takes paradox and unknowing into account.Take me, I am an atheist who believes in God.

Let me explain. I believe that life evolved by natural selection. I believe that evolutionary psychology explains away altruism and debunks love, and that brain chemistry undermines the illusion of free will and personhood. I also believe that a spiritual reality hovering over, in and through me calls me to love, trust and hear the voice of my creator.”

Mr. Schaeffer says that we need a new term that describes a person that doesn’t have a belief in a day to day, in your face, fire and brimstone, old testament god. But, this same person might also believe that there is a being behind the scenes. One that brought about the beginning of everything, but then decided to step back and just let things develop as they may . The question to the answer of 42 of Douglas Adams’ fame, if you will. Interesting and provocative argument for the academics to sit down and debate about a new term for this new and exciting concept that you have come across.

 

Of course, if you have made it to this point, you probably know exactly where I am going with this all. But in the interest of those that may have just stumbled across this post in your meanderings around the interwebz, there just so happens that there IS a term for people that believe as Mr. Schaeffer does: deism

 

Deism is: “not a specific religion but rather a particular perspective on the nature of God. Deists believe that a creator god does exist, but that after the motions of the universe were set in place he retreated, having no further interaction with the created universe or the beings within it. As such, there are a variety of common religious beliefs that deists do not accept.

 

As another bit of icing on the cake, Mr. Frank Schaeffer asked us to consider apophatic theology. Apophatic theology is an attempt to describe God by what cannot be said of Him. Many of the terms used to describe God’s attributes have within them an apophatic quality. For example, when we say God is infinite, we’re also saying is that God is not finite (i.e., not limited).” As Dr. Evil would say….”rrriight”. For those of you that having a working knowledge of logical fallacies, you may recognize the tautology inherent to that notion. For those a little less geeky about logical fallacies, a tautology (in formal logic) refers to a statement that must be true in every interpretation by its very construction. By defining God by what God is not, you can always arrive at the conclusion that you want to come to. Also, I find it highly dishonest by calling apophatic theology just “the theology of not knowing”. By being that ambiguous, the lay reader can all to easily draw a correlation between apophaticism and agnosticism. Although I cannot be 100% of Schaeffer’s motivation to word that as it is, but it smacks of an attempt to blur the lines between the two.

Here is one of Schaeffer’s claims that I found truly insulting:

“If you want to be sure you have “the truth” about yourself and our universe, then prepare to go mad. Or prepare to turn off your brain and cling to some form or other of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular.” As Tim Minchin put so amusingly in his song Storm:

“You’re so sure of your position
But you’re just closed-minded
I think you’ll find
Your faith in Science and Tests
Is just as blind
As the faith of any fundamentalist.

“Wow, thats a good point, let me think for a bit”
Oh wait, my mistake, its absolute bullshit.
Science adjusts its beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.”

Exactly. Absolute bullshit. I no more cling to anything in the secular world than I would to a deity. Nothing is truly beyond reproach. All it takes to change the mind of a skeptic is empirical data proving otherwise. A caveat though: the more fundamental the thing that is being questioned is, the greater the evidence must be. Pass that? Again, nothing is truly sacred to the skeptical atheist

And, at last, we come to the very LAST sentence in the article:

“You—like some sort of quantum mechanicals physics experiment—will always be in two places at once.”

Ahhhh, to bask in the glory of the bane of every religious or pseudo-scientific practitioner, quantum mechanics. If you are not one of the few theoretical physicists that have dedicated their professional lives to pulling apart that Gordian Knot, the instant you utter “quantum mechanics” in defense of or analogy TO your claim, I dismiss everything you have previously said and will be not be truly listening to anything that you will be saying.

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

 

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Sunday Best

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One only need to go to the store, a restaurant, or simply out driving, on a Sunday to be able to aptly refute the concept that being religious makes someone somehow a good person. I spent some time out today, and it really illustrated this fact better than I ever could with words alone.

In the course of about two hours, I encountered hundreds of people dressed in their Sunday Best. Now, these aren’t their formal wear, for weddings or funerals. There’s a palpable difference in clothing between that and what someone sets aside purely for the purpose of that Sunday ritual called church. They’re sporting crosses and Jesus t-shirts and all the trappings of being deluded by the divine.

And they are MEAN.

They would cut me off and scream at me from their car, in front of their children, also dressed for church. They play bumper carts in stores, because they have to get done fast, and nobody better get in their way! At a buffet, someone even nearly knocked my food out of my hand, so they could get to their table a second or two faster by cutting me off.

I heard profanity, vitriol, yelling at children, yelling at each other. It brought back distinct memories of the days, long ago, when I attended church myself.

This may be an anecdotal rant, but I’m sure many of you are sporting a knowing grin as you read, because you see it too.

As a non-believer, and a Humanist, I strive everyday to treat people with respect, and love an ethical and morally sound life, focusing on the human well being of those around me. My “Sunday Best” has nothing to do with clothing, or miming some words in some building with a cross. My “Sunday Best” is my everyday best.

Those who are Humanists and read this know what I mean. Those are religious and read this, consider the above words the next time you put on your “Sunday Best” and head off to church. Your religious fervor doesn’t make you a good person. Your actions do.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Apologetics Quick Resource Guide

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There’s sometimes a challenge with finding the right resources to study apologetics or counter apologetics. I hope this quick resource guild will help anyone who’s interested in studying further.

In the early Christian church, when the first apologies were beginning to be written by the more educated people that were being converted to Christianity, there were many very well thought out apologies, because these people were truly defending their faith, and contending with the many scribal changes, errors, and discrepancies in the texts.

Today, they’re split into two styles that I’ve been able to figure out. There are the very honest, true believer types of apoligists. These would include things by Alvin Plantinga, Ray Comfort, or C.S. Lewis. While Comfort may not be good at it, he’s friendly and honest to a fault. Lewis had a mastery of the langauge. Plantinga is a master logician.

The other style is that of William Lane Craig or Answers in Genesis. These are are the more dishonest apologies. They rely more on Sophist tactics of out arguing someone to win the debate, rather than making a logical argument, or even a good theological argument. The tactics are far more dishonest than most. Having debated many of Craig’s students, believe me, it’s like trying to herd cats…that are dead.

 

Some good sites to use for apologies are

http://www.closertotruth.com/

http://www.answersingenesis.org/

http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1887#.UztRbvldWa8

 

Counter-apologetics have two real types as well.

The first is the type you see from The Atheist Experience, people like Matt Dillahunty, or Christopher Hitchens. These are very in your face, hard nosed counters. They’re accurate and effective, but won’t win friends easily.

The newer school of thought comes from Peter Boghossian and John Loftus. These are very close to the friendly, I’m here to help you style that Christian evangelists use.

 

Resources here are:

http://www.atheist-experience.com/

http://www.streetepistemology.com/

http://www.hitchenszone.com/hitchens_vs_true_believers.html

 

One of the harder to research topics, of course, will be Islam. You may see this from time to time, though, so I have some resources.

 

For Islamic apologetics:

http://carm.org/islam

http://www.apologeticsindex.org/605-islam

 

There are a couple good places for Christian counter apologetics to Islamic arguments, which is an interesting dynamic.

 

http://www.answering-islam.org/

http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.5216329/k.FD6A/Christianity_Is_Getting_Creamed_by_Islam_Apologetics.htm

 

And there really isn’t much from the Atheist side in counter apologetics here. I think this is because a large portion of the Atheist community tends to be liberally aligned politically, and people still have trouble separating criticizing a belief with being ethnocentric.

 

The best I have here is Sam Harris or Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

 

http://www.samharris.org/blog/category/islam

http://theahafoundation.org/

 

Also, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s controversial video, Submission, is pretty powerful for counter apologetics.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGtQvGGY4S4

 

I hope this helps. Let me know if there’s anything more I can do, or questions I can help with. You can always email me at the address below.

 

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Michele Bachmann Supports Evolution Education!

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Michele Bachmann announced today, after a 2 day fast and communion retreat with God, that evolution is the accurate depiction of how God created life on earth.

In an interview with Fox News, Bachmann states “God revealed to me the fallacy of the young earth model. He created the earth with all the laws of nature intact, including evolution. So yes, I will fully support evolution education in our schools moving foreword.”

Her supporters, however, are skeptical. In one interview, a young christian explained, “I don’t care WHATs he says now, something evil must be influencing our leader! She can’t turn her back on us now!”

Well, there you have it…Michele Bachmann has been called by her flock to either support their ignorance or she loses them.
And here at Rationality Unleashed!, I hope you’re all enjoying this April Fool’s Day. Have a good one.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

5 Internet Argumentation Tips!

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 Image from xkcd

Debating topics on the internet is vastly different than doing so in person. It can, however, be a valuable tool for sharing knowledge and influencing minds, but it needs to be done correctly. Here are a few tips to help you make the most impact.

TONE

Tone is difficult in text. People are incredibly good at reading tone in someone else’s words dependent upon how they, themselves feel. The best is to ignore tone altogether. Don’t try to read the tone of what someone else writes. Just stick with the content of their words.

Always strive to keep your own words, and the tone you type them in, calm and even. Stay away from loaded language that can imply anything other than an even tone.

BUZZWORDS

Buzzwords are the bread and butter of the internet. They’re used to draw out emotional responses, often in otherwise rational people. Don’t use them. If you’re talking about GMOs, stay away from “shill” or “sheeple” or even “chemicals.” If you’re talking about religion, stay away from the common insults. Buzzwords are a terrible plague on our society right now. When your interlocutor uses them, dismiss them. They can only take away from the content of the discussion.

EVIDENCE

Understand the burden of proof, and when it lies on you, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, back up your claims with good evidence from reliable sources. Try not to use blogs as a scientific resource, unless they include a good set of reliable references (even if they’re entirely correct). Blogs are useful in political or social commentary that doesn’t rely as much on studies or physical evidence, but on opinion and analysis. Steer clear of YouTube.

When the burden of proof lies on your interlocutor, make sure they know it. Don’t start debunking their assertions until they provide evidence. Then, dismantle whatever evidence is unreliable or discuss any evidence that may be valid.

ASSERTIONS

If your interlocutor refuses to provide evidence, and only fires off more assertions, then the conversation is over. Don’t be upset about it or storm out with a “rage quit.” Just realize that they are so terribly uninformed that their worldview revolves around sound bytes, and not data. If you make an assertion, ANY assertion, be prepared to support it. Always.

HERD MENTALITY

This is very important. When you’re speaking on the internet, other people can usually see the conversation. They may be a point where you become outnumbered. This can go one of two ways. Either the conversation can continue to be a rational discourse, just with more people, or….it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you often see your opponents start to play off each other and cheer each other on. When this happens, the conversation is over. No amount of evidence, logic, or rational discourse will change the mind of someone who has cheerleaders.

Now, there are times where those same people will reflect later and have learned something, but in the moment, it’s no longer worth pursuing.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Religious Persecution and Attacking Ideas

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Today, I made a couple of posts regarding religion. One was regarding the need to religious ideologies to be criticized in the political sphere and the other was a simple counter-apologetic question for people to discuss and play with. In the wake of these, I was accused of attacking religion and persecuting the religious. I believe that this needs to be discussed.

Christopher Hitchens, in a lecture on free speech put it very well…

 

I exempt myself from the speaker’s kind offer of protection that was so generously proffered at the opening of this evening. Anyone who wants to say anything abusive about or to me is quite free to do so, and welcome in fact, at their own risk.

But before they do that they must have taken, as I’m sure we all should, a short refresher course in the classic texts on this matter. Which are John Milton’s  Areopagitica, Ariel Pogetica being the great hill of Athens for discussion and free expression. Thomas Paine’s introduction to the age of reason. And I would say John Stuart Mill’s essay on liberty in which it is variously said — I’ll be very daring and summarize all three of these great gentlemen of the great tradition of, especially, English liberty, in one go: What they say is it’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear. And every time you silence someone you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself the right to hear something. In other words, your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as is the right of the other to voice his or her view. Indeed as John Stuart Mill said, if all in society were agreed on the truth and beauty and value of one proposition, all except one person, it would be most important, in fact it would become even more important, that that one heretic be heard, because we would still benefit from his perhaps outrageous or appalling view.

In more modern times this has been put, I think, best by a personal heroine of mine, Rosa Luxembourg, who said freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently. My great friend John O. Sullivan former editor of the National Review, and I think probably my most conservative and reactionary Catholic friend, once said — it’s a tiny thought experiment — if you hear the Pope saying he believes in God, you think, well, the Pope’s just doing his job again today. If you hear the Pope saying he’s begun to doubt the existence of God, you think he might be on to something.

You see, all ideas can and should be criticized. They should be poked and prodded from all directions. How else will we know if those ideas are worth of holding onto? If an idea cannot withstand criticism, then it should be discarded. Any idea that is placed on a pedestal and exclaimed as being protected from criticism is the most dangerous of ideas, and should be torn down immediately for the sake of free thought and honest discourse.

Now, let’s talk about persecution and what that means.

When we attack ideas, that’s all that we’re doing. We aren’t attacking people. If the people who hold those ideas are offended because those ideas are being called into question, then they need to seriously reevaluate their worldview. If I’m criticizing an idea and someone is offended, that is entirely on them. That is their fault and their problem. If their idea cannot be criticized, and handle that criticism, but instead needs to use to the “I’m offended” cop out to survive, then it should be discarded, because it’s not worth holding onto.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair put it well when she said…

I’ll tell you what you did with Atheists for about 1500 years. You outlawed them from the universities or any teaching careers, besmirched their reputations, banned or burned their books or their writings of any kind, drove them into exile, humiliated them, seized their properties, arrested them for blasphemy. You dehumanised them with beatings and exquisite torture, gouged out their eyes, slit their tongues, stretched, crushed, or broke their limbs, tore off their breasts if they were women, crushed their scrotums if they were men, imprisoned them, stabbed them, disembowelled them, hanged them, burnt them alive.

And you have nerve enough to complain to me that I laugh at you.

You see, even now, in other parts of the world, I have friends who live in religious theocracies and are frantically trying to get out of them. The problem they face is that the penalty for apostasy is death. If you don’t believe in the god of the state, you are subject to capital punishment under the law.

In America, we have a growing movement of Christians who are insisting that the government should be a Christian based theocratic entity. This movement has taken over one of the major political parties, the Republicans. It should not only be acceptable, but even morally mandatory for Americans to stand up and speak out against this ideology.

Christians are not being persecuted in America. They are the standard, the default. It’s like being a straight, cis, white male…they hold all the privilege when it comes to belief systems. Even today, in 7 states, an atheist is prohibited by law from running for office. In many communities across the country, atheists are still terrified to be known as one, because they’ll face bullying and persecution from their overtly religious community.

So, when people start whining that criticizing religious beliefs is somehow a personal attack or persecution, it becomes increasingly obvious that they haven’t looked at the state of the nation in any meaningful way, when it comes to religious belief in America.

 

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Against God

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For a long time, I wasn’t particularly vocal about how I see the world. I was always part of the “agree to disagree” crowd. Eventually, when I started paying more attention, I realize that those words are the biggest cop out and hindrance to progressive discourse in existence. So, like so many others, I stopped being silent.

This of course led to countless friends that I had known for years to exit my social media pages (and my life) in droves. People don’t like being contradicted when they hold a belief. They don’t like their closely held beliefs questioned. I have, however, managed to reach some of them. I can live with that ratio.

This brings me to the thing that is on my mind this morning. You see, I’ve recently returned to hometown. The funny thing about a somewhat small town is that you tend to run into….everyone. Even after years, they feel this strange need to justify their leaving your life. The most common reason is this:

“Well, you’re against my God!”

 Now, my stock, pithy response has always been “I’m not against your god, because I don’t believe in your god.” It’s good, effective, and allows me to wander off while they’re still trying to understand it. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about that response, and it isn’t an honest one. Of course I don’t believe in any gods, but the idea of being against their god requires far more than a quick one-liner.

My response now needs to be more like this.

“I don’t believe in your god, but, let’s assume for a moment that the Abrahamic God exists. If so, in the bible alone, he was responsible for millions of deaths. He tortures people for eternity for the thought crime of disbelief. Today, every minute, innocent children suffer and die from starvation and malnutrition. If he is all knowing and all powerful, then he knows it is happening and can stop it…but chooses not to. His own followers violate children, and he does nothing. So, if the Abrahamic God does exist, he is responsible for innumerable crimes against humanity, and by moral necessity, I would be obligated to not only be against him, but actively work to bring him to justice for his crimes.”

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.