Reminder: There is no objective morality that comes from your god. Not all Christians being homophobic demonstrates this.

One of the most common claims I read in atheist vs theist debate groups was that atheists have no morals. It’s the flip side of the argument from morality – the claim that morals come from your god. Incidentally, it doesn’t follow logically that atheists wouldn’t have morals, even if we were to assume the claim that they came from your god was true. Does disbelief “uncreate” your god’s creations?

I have always responded to this claim by arguing that morality is subjective, and that since moral values are different in different locations, even in the same year and same religion, this demonstrates that the claim of objective god-given morality is nonsense. But I forgot about something: homophobia.

asshole_god

Not all Christians are homophobic. That inconsistency should tell you something. Some of them claim that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin. Some do not. In fact, one has to reach and use some creative interpretation to find anything that truly refers to homosexuality in the Bible. As always, believers read their own morals into the Bible, so those who hate LGBTQ people will always tell you it’s a sin. Those who don’t, will not.

I don’t care what your Bible says about it. It’s a book of nonsense anyway. The only reason it matters to me is that these different interpretations of it apparently result in Christians who have very different moral values, right now. A couple of hundred years ago, Christians’ morality involved accusing people of witchcraft, and punishing them for it. So without even considering that Christians, who mostly no longer believe in witches, used to stone or burn them hundreds of years ago (and still  do in some remote places), we can see that right now, morality among Christians is subjective.

That’s the way it has always been. You get your morals regionally… from your parents, your peers, and the beliefs prevalent in society. Then, if you are religious, you read those morals into your religion, and claim that they came from your god. And as the meme used shows, if those “morals” happen to be hateful, you claim it’s not you, but the rules of your god.

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What is God? (Baby, don’t smite me.)

Don’t smite me… No duh.

Heeeey, guess what? I’m fine. I can be as irreverent and disrespectful as I want. No deity ever does anything about it. And since I don’t live in a Middle Eastern country or a rural isolated area of Africa, the worst that ever happens is religious people stop talking to me. And that ain’t so bad. As I mentioned last time in the post about reification, the Biblical world where stuff happens such as god coming down and doing shit, is something of myths and fables and the imagination, that we are supposed to accept existed thousands of years ago. It isn’t real.

As much as you reify your Biblical world and your god, it is just an idea. God is an abstraction that explains the unknown and puts it in a neat little black box, a ready-made magical answer to everything. If you’re a believer, you simultaneously know that god is abstract, and forget it, but because you treat this abstraction as something concrete, it remains conveniently undefined and ambiguous. And convenient. Above all, it is a great convenience that your god remains undefined because you never have to qualify what this vague idea of a god actually is. When somebody questions it, it’s easy to turn the tables and expect them to satisfy the burden of proof. But that’s not my main subject today…

Today I want to comment on this stupid Dawkins scale that pops up in every atheist group over and over again:

vyp5iompt1s01

According to every other analysis everywhere:

  1. Positions 1 and 7 are impossible.
  2. Number 6 is left as the strongest possible (in other words rational) atheist position.

But I call bullshit.

I get the drill. I can’t prove that some unfalsifiable god doesn’t exist outside of the bounds of the laws of physics, and I can’t prove a negative; therefore the strongest position I should rationally take is that of an agnostic atheist. According to this argument, the existence or lack of existence is unknowable. But I still don’t buy it.

I also can’t prove that there isn’t a monster hiding under my bed. Maybe it moves when I look there? But you know while reading this that the monster is not real and I made it up.

Here’s the thing… Even in that argument, god is treated as something concrete. It reminds me of the media bias called false balance, where two “sides” of an argument are always treated as equal, even if one side is a fringe view based on outright nonsense. (Edit: That seems to be an example of a fallacy I hadn’t heard of: Argument to moderation.) The two sides here are positions one and seven; certainty that a god exists versus certainty that a god does not exist. Sure, when you phrase it like that, it seems reasonable. But it isn’t. God is nothing more than an abstraction. So god certainly exists, but not like theists think… God exists only as an idea. God is man-made but it is the reified deity that the argument refers to. And thus it is perfectly reasonable to take position seven. I don’t have to prove that a man-made fictional deity doesn’t exist, just like I don’t have to prove there isn’t a monster hiding under my bed.

I’m struggling to express this clearly and reading it back, remain uncertain if I have. Have I? There are multiple claims of gods, and believers often quote the words of their various claims (like the Bible or whatever) but seem to miss on something important: the existence of a claim does not make the claim true. It is evidence only of the belief and not in the subject believed. The fact that many such claims exist only makes it interesting in terms of the need to believe, and the mistake of treating this abstraction as concrete being common. If even Richard Dawkins can bake this mistake right into his scale, it says more about the way the human brain works than it does about an idea, like god, that the human brain came up with. I hope Dawkins would agree with me on this.

I mock religion and I won’t stop. Here’s why…

I’ve mentioned before how I lost my belief in god when I was sixteen years old, but I never really told the whole story and I think it’s a story worth telling, because it does show my choice to mock religion incessantly in a new light.

ReligionVsThinking

I was sixteen years old and in standard eight as we called it then – school kids these days would call it grade 10. I was a quiet and shy teenager who mostly kept to myself, or sometimes voiced my sarcasm and cynical criticism of pretty much everything softly in the back of class so that the louder “trouble-making” teens might hear me and repeat my words; which they frequently did. So basically I was as I am now – mostly quiet but always thinking and sometimes voicing my views. Because my statements were mostly perceived as “clever”, nobody bullied me or harassed me and I was for the most part left alone.

Such was not the case for Meri, a girl who had immigrated from Finland. Her accent, her vastly different views, her attitude, and the fact that she would not back down when challenged, especially for a girl, made her the butt of many jokes and the victim of unnecessary verbal abuse. I remember one day overhearing the end of an exchange,  between her and two or three others, including my friend Dale, who I respected until that day. Dale was one of the most intelligent people I knew, super smart – and my basis for this was that he was better than me at maths. Anyway, the argument was about religion. Dale laughed at her for not believing in god. Dale and whoever else was involved, but I can’t remember who the others were. They mocked her and she was almost in tears. Just because she didn’t believe the same as them. I remember Dale even saying to me, “How can she say there is no god?” as if the very suggestion was completely absurd because everybody “knows” god is real.

So after the conversation, I approached her. To be fair, I had my doubts about religion – I just hadn’t told anybody. I asked her, as a Christian, why she thought there was no god. She laughed. She scoffed. She could not understand why anyone would believe in anything obviously so absurd. She didn’t even say more than a few words, and that was it, my “Eureka!” moment. I knew at once that she was right. I knew that someone like Dale, who laughed at her, was dismissing her despite his intelligence. His intellect, even though it was greater than mine, was working against him. His high IQ was a reason not to think, and I knew at once that’s how it always works. When brushing off those like Meri who questioned the existence of god, we used our intelligence not to think, but to come up with excuses to continue believing what we already believed. That’s how it works. As an indoctrinated person, you think you “know” your god exists. Then when you dismiss people like Meri, your logic is no more than, “I believe what I believe because I believe it”. And that is no reason to believe. With that realization, my Christian faith dissolved instantly.

I wish I could say that was the end of it, but I am not that smart. I stopped believing in any god from that moment onwards, but my journey into my position of atheism I have now took many years. At the time, I still believed in ghosts, a soul, an afterlife, and all kinds of other nonsense. My position now, of not believing in anything for which no evidence exists, took more than another twenty years for me to reach.

However, I knew then what I know now about arguments for the existence of god: There aren’t any good ones. Every single argument, no matter how complex it may appear, has no more substance than that of 16 year old Dale’s argument. Every single argument starts with the assumption that god exists, because the believer thinks he or she “knows” this to be true. I have seen this proven to be the truth over and over again after joining Facebook debate groups. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of theists in debate groups are not clever like my friend Dale. There are clever theists, but the majority of debaters, especially those who partake the most and those who are more vocal about it, are absolute blithering idiots.

Likewise every “militant” atheist is a victim just like Meri. Every one of us has been singled out and humiliated because we dare not to believe but to think and question. We who do not claim to have a personal relationship with the creator of the entire universe are called arrogant for it. We are victimized and persecuted all over the world. We are bombarded with common phrases assuming that we believe the same as everyone else, and have to struggle with our children having the same nonsense imposed on them, even in supposedly secular countries. In my country (South Africa), the majority is Christian, and most Christians are quite oblivious to the way they impose their Christian-normalized views and privilege on everybody.

So I mock religion. I scoff at it just like my 16 year old friend all those years ago. I probably overdo it, but I don’t care, because my mockery of religion doesn’t even begin to approach the level it is imposed on people like me, and if I can reach through the brainwashing to even one mind, as Meri did for me all those years ago, it’s all worthwhile.

On the difference between theism and atheism

Every now and then I try to explain the difference between theism and atheism, trying in vain to show that atheism isn’t also a belief system. After some debate on a random Facebook status (not in a debate group but with an intelligent theist), maybe it’s time to have another go?

The misconception that many people appear to have is that atheists assert there is no god. Thus atheism is posed as a belief system, a belief that god doesn’t exist. It isn’t, but yet we do often say or write “god isn’t real” or “god is imaginary” or even “there is no god”. So it can sure as bad sex look like a belief system…

But the truth is more subtle. I started out as a theist, a devout Roman Catholic, and one day at sixteen years old, I stopped believing. Another way of phrasing it is that I rejected my former belief, and all other claims that a god, a creator, or some sort of deity exists. I didn’t suddenly assert “there is no god”. I just stopped believing in what I’d been taught.

I don’t recognize that any god claim is a valid claim. God is not even a thing. “God” is nothing more than a magical explanation for what is unknown to us, and when you think about it, this god explanation doesn’t even solve the problem it was created to solve… Because by definition you must not question where god came from, it just puts “the unknown” in a little box named “god” that by definition must not be questioned. Take away the little black box called god, and you still have everything that was there before, but with the admission that there are things we do not know, and we don’t need to invent a god to explain them. The unknown is just that – unknown.

So unlike a theist who thinks he or she “knows” their god exists, because of indoctrination conditioning him or her not to think far enough to question it, that is someone who simply assumes their god exists and starts every argument without knowing they made that implicit assumption, when an atheist says “there is no god”, it’s a conclusion. We didn’t start with it, didn’t beg the question as theists do, but concluded it after rejecting your various god claims and realized that the god concept itself is not even a valid assertion. Atheism is not some polar opposite belief system, because god is not even a necessary thing. There is no opposite claim to be made.

Your Biblical world projected on reality is not reality–the map is not the territory

I realized the other day that much of the religious belief I hear believers describing may very well come down to the fallacy of reification – the fallacy where an abstraction is treated as something concrete. “The map is not the territory” is another way of describing this fallacy where a model of something is sometimes confused with the thing itself.

If I’m right, it makes sense that I ended up an atheist, because I work with abstractions all the time as a programmer. Understanding abstractions quickly is one of my strengths. It’s the physical and mechanical stuff that I struggle with.

I’ll use Christianity as an example, purely because it is the religion I grew up with, but you could switch it for any other religion and make the same points…

When you grow up Christian, you are taught to see the world through a Christian-centric view, and so from early childhood where you are taught from children’s Bibles, you build this Biblical “world” if you will, a model of reality.

  1. The Biblical world was created by God, and in this abstraction, he also created the first people.
  2. Snakes can talk. So can donkeys later on.
  3. People lived much longer thousands of years ago, in this model. But this can’t be proven; you must simply accept that this is true.
  4. Everything that can’t be explained was done by God.
  5. Heaven is a place that literally is up in the sky. Jesus and his mom flew up there after they died.
  6. When bad things happen, like the plagues in the Old Testament, it was because God was pissed off. He got pissed off a lot back then; not so much in the New Testament.
  7. Once he even drowned everybody. But they were being very naughty.
  8. Being gay is bad. But someone like Lot offering his daughters to be gang raped was perfectly fine. (They were only women, so no big deal.) Also fucking them to have children was OK. But don’t love someone the same gender as you. That’s unnatural.
  9. Don’t eat piggy. Piggy bad. Other meat good.

Well, fuck. I went off the rails a little there. I must admit, I don’t have this Biblical model down pat.

The point I meant to make is that you project this Biblical world onto the real one. And in your indoctrinated perspective, the Biblical world where miracles happen, virgins give birth, and so on, is the real one. The two worlds are one and the same, and so when your missing car keys show up, it’s not because of coincidence, it’s because god led you where they were. (In your own fucking house where you live in some arbitrary place where you carelessly left them. It’s a fucking miracle.) Because god exists in the map and you don’t know the difference between the map and the territory.

It doesn’t even matter that there is no Heaven up in the sky. Once indoctrinated, anything inconvenient becomes allegory, even if only in that moment where debate is required. You change the model where it suits you.

I had more, but alas time is up and I must get to work.

I quit smoking, and some clarification on why I don’t debate theists (again)

Two unrelated subjects today, but both were on my mind as I tried, in vain, to fall asleep last night.

I’m done with smoking cigarettes

I’ve tried half-heartedly to quit before, but was always quick to give up. In fact, I’ve often wondered how it could be that I gave up meth easily more than five years ago, but cigarettes were the one addiction I held onto.

But I think I have an answer: Just like five years ago, when I had motivation, I have motivation now. It’s a week ago that my mother died of complications trying to treat lung disease, most likely cancer caused by smoking. So just like when I quit meth, I am quitting cigarettes “cold turkey”. No pills or cigarette alternatives, no 12 step program – not that they do that for smoking cessation, but I am comparing this to quitting meth… No “just for today” nonsense because this is for life.

I hope this gets easier because I am craving a cigarette right now. But that’s OK; I craved meth for a day or two as well (after quitting at the end of a week), and then it got easy the next week.

Why I’m not going to debate you; the theist who attempted to initiate a debate yesterday

I’m not going to write who it was or quote fully. Long term readers might be able to figure it out, but that doesn’t matter because it absolutely does not apply to that one person only.

First of all, I do not get “defensive when criticized”. It’s avoidance. When you try to push me into a debate, I politely back off. It’s not defensive and I am quite capable of being aggressive as my arguments are good. But I don’t want to. I see no value in debating you after already explaining my position multiple times, only to have you stampede into yet another attack on me while caricaturizing my position.

I am not arrogant about this. To condescend and accuse me of arrogance when I do not believe I have a personal relationship with the creator of the entire universe, is more than a little ironic. Look at yourself a little closer.

As an atheist, I do not say, “There is no god”, at least not as a start to an argument. That’s a possible conclusion. Unlike you, I would never start with a conclusion. I reject the claims that gods exist. I don’t accept them, and I don’t make a counter claim that a god doesn’t exist. To accuse me of claiming to have special knowledge is dishonest after I have explained this literally every time you or anyone else tries to push me into a debate.

Since I was also indoctrinated in my youth, I understand the theistic perspective. When the arguments used always caricaturize my position, and with the type of arguments used, it is clear exactly how many theists think:

  1. You believe you “know” god exists, but won’t admit that.
  2. That is, every argument starts with the implicit assumption that god exists. Everything else (that isn’t about some straw man of atheism) is then using motivated reasoning to continue believing what you already believe.
  3. You assume that atheism is some kind of polar opposite of theism, so you project this opposite claim that “there is no god”.

Since the theist not only starts with his conclusion, but also argues against himself in the form of a twisted projection of some kind of assumption of what atheism is, and ignores everything I say, there really isn’t much point to debating.

Even when I did debate in the past, it was never to win. Watch or read any debate and pay attention to those who observe and support the debaters, not only the debaters themselves. In almost every case, both parties believe they won, and both groups of supporters believe their candidate won. Belief bias is strong.

I go into a debate with an open mind, and am always willing to learn. But there’s nothing to learn in debating someone who begs the question, someone whose premise assumes his conclusion to be true. You’ve lost before the debate has even begun. That wasn’t always a reason for me not to debate, but years of wasting my time have made it so. I used to debate anyway, ask leading questions and try to get my opponent to reveal their assumptions, bring the intellectual dishonesty in their arguments to the surface so that others might see it. But that got boring when every theist debater made the same assumptions and used the same arguments, while none of them are self aware enough to realize the assumptions they make. Or honest enough to admit what having faith really means. (Faith is belief despite no evidence. If you are truly honest about this with yourself, you would realize that it is not something that you can rationally debate.)


Edit: Typical… This cigarette craving is driving me nuts so I forgot to include one of the points that whirlpooled ’round my head last night as my insomnia dragged me over into the new day… Lastly, I am not insecure in my beliefs, unlike some people. I’ve written about this many times and that need for my point of view to be understood is less urgent than it used to be. There are years worth of material going back on this blog and anyone who wants to know my personal view, anyone who actually knows me in real life, can read it here and understand it better than I can ever tell you in words.

So don’t try to force me to debate, please. Save your arguments from ignorance and your circular reasoning and your gaslighting of my life and my beliefs or lack of beliefs.

Many clever people believe in bullshit.

Hitchin's Razor

That doesn’t mean the shit is true.

Last night as he went to bed, my son asked me, “If somebody shoots me in the head while I’m sleeping, will I feel it?” It seems he thinks of death quite a bit, but I see his fascination with death and mortality as healthy.

I didn’t think of those things until much later. At his age, I was stuck in a rut… stuck on my religious doubt; wondering why it was that I struggled to believe in God, Jesus, Confession, Communion, while everyone else I knew believed strongly in those things. I looked to my peers, my parents, the Parish Priest, and thought to myself, “If all these clever people believe, surely it must be true?” I remained like that, unable to move past those thoughts until about the age of sixteen.

There were two faults in my thinking then:

  1. Argumentum ad populum (appeal to popularity): The fallacy where you assume something must be true because lots of people believe it. If this were true, there’d be a lot of nonsense we’d all have to believe.
  2. Appeal to authority: The idea that because an “expert” believes something is true, despite no evidence to support the position, it must be true. Of course when it comes to faith based ideas that are spread by indoctrination, there are no relevant authorities.

Sadly, there are many people, hundreds of thousands… maybe millions? I don’t know how many… who believe in bullshit. Besides the theologians, priests, ministers, Rabbis, Imams… there are also Naturopaths, Homeopaths, Reflexologists, Acupuncturists, Astrologers, Chiropractors, and all kinds of other bullshit professions. There are countless clever people who devote their careers, and sometimes their entire lives, to bullshit.

An argument sometimes used against atheists in online debates is one where the theist criticizes us accusing us of claiming to have superior knowledge. Ignoring the ad hominem and straw man… we make no claims. We reject theism. I also reject a lot of other stuff. I haven’t studied homeopathy, for example, but I know that it is bullshit. The point is, theists make this argument about us, when they themselves have plenty of things they don’t believe in. One does not have to walk up to the dog shit on the pavement, and study its shape and texture, to know that it is shit. Likewise, anything asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. I’d add to the popular Hitchin’s Razor that such things can also be rejected without study. To study something like theology for instance, involves the innermost details of the religious claims. They don’t have evidence – they assume their gods are real and go from there, and also study the assumed signs of the creator they can “see” in the assumed creations… The whole field is a farce.

The fear of Hell: Imagine the effect on the impressionable mind of a child

44987662_310738692858667_8649250066042716160_nAbout two and a half years ago I was driving my son somewhere – I forget where – when he turned to me and said, “Daddybear, will I go to Hell? I’m scared, because I’ve heard that children who are naughty go to Hell and I am sometimes naughty.”

That moment was confirmation that my decision to remove him from Sunday School was indeed for the best. He was only with me a few months then, and the pressure from extended family to bring him up as a Catholic was still on. Of course I told him what I believe… there is no evidence for an afterlife (among other things), so no, you don’t go anywhere when you die, and that, the finality of death, is one thing that makes life meaningful, that makes it worthwhile, and makes it important to be the best that you can be, in your one and only life.

But imagine… growing up afraid of going to Hell. Imagine growing up in terror at the threat of eternal torment. Do religious people not see the harm that they do? To teach your child that he has a personal relationship with the creator of the entire universe is arrogant, to say the least… but consider this: In their scripture, this creator drowned the entire population of the Earth, and then had the planet populated by incest for the second time. In their belief system, God loves you unconditionally, but will punish you for all eternity if you don’t love him back. Unconditionally with conditions? In their scriptures, women are relegated to second class citizens at best, while slavery and rape is condoned.

If you were to treat another person the way this deity supposedly treats his creations, and tell them you love them but will hurt them if they don’t love you, there is only one word that suitably describes that kind of relationship: Abuse.

Recently, a friend of the family had issues with their child. The child is now in a special school, and is barred from watching movies, playing games, playing with his soldiers, and so on. Bizarrely, those things that are not taught to be true or real, are to be avoided, as if some crackpot psychology of fifty years ago still holds. Meanwhile, the real harm, the faith based madness and delusion, utter nonsense that’s taught as literal truth… continues. It leaves me wondering if children who are taught religion are left with issues telling the difference between fiction and reality.

If you know some parts of the Bible are nonsense, why accept the rest? And why accept the religion?

First of all, this applies equally to other religions. As a former Christian, I only ever needed to reject the one to reject all religions. But this applies just as much to other religious texts, such as the Quran. I’m not picking on Christianity; I’m using it as an example.

To be fair though, I did think of other religions too… Another important factor in my rejection of religion was the consideration that although my religion taught me that it and only it was the one true religion, other people believed equally sincerely in other religions that stated the same, and the only difference between me and them was that we were born into different religious families. The absurdity of a god punishing people for believing in the wrong religion, for all eternity, in addition to my doubts inline with today’s post, became the strongest argument in my mind against belief in my teen years – right before I ditched that belief. But that factor is not the focus of today’s post. (Maybe next time, but I do think this paragraph makes the point well enough.)

Yesterday an article from 2015 was trending on Facebook again, one in which a teacher told a four year old child that being left-handed is evil. And once again, it occurred to me how arbitrary the evils and rules mentioned in the Bible are. Being left-handed, being attracted to someone of the same sex, being a woman according to many… Those are not things one can choose. The Bible is literally saying that those people are evil for simply existing.

Common sense says the Bible is obviously wrong about all those things, as does basic human decency. But do Christians realize that? No! No, they don’t. Either they ignore it completely, which is what I suspect most Christians do, or they actively preach the hatred with a fluffy red bow, like that hateful homophobic, child beating activist mommy bitch. People like her adjust their views on the world and make the world conform to their beliefs. In her mind, being gay is a choice, one that can be changed with prayer, and thus homophobia prettied up with words about god loving you is not hateful at all. She and all people like her are abhorrent.

Why? Why hang on to a belief that is so obviously heinous?

I’m guessing it is for the same reason that, a few years ago when he still debated me, an extended family member sent me hundreds of verbose words explaining why the Biblical plagues really happened…  (Edit – I’ve changed the phrasing here to clarify that it was hundreds of words and not hundreds of explanations. My extended family member is not insane.) No, seriously, he did that. “Scientific” explanations for plagues of frogs, locusts, a worldwide flood that wasn’t really worldwide… (Explanations that didn’t need a god to have sent those plagues and flood waters, so why use them to justify the belief?) Why fabricate such contrived excuses to hold onto a belief that isn’t based on reality?

Anyway, I have no answer for you today… Just the question. If you realize, on some level, that the events in the Bible didn’t actually happen, the rules in the Bible don’t actually apply (Christian women who don’t cover your heads – I’m looking at you), the people condemned in the Bible are often condemned for arbitrary things that make no sense, why believe in any of it?


Update: For clarity, my question is rhetorical – though I shouldn’t need to say so. Neither arguments nor facts matter if you start with the assumption that your religion is true because you assume your god exists, and go from there.