Magical thinking is dangerous, especially now

I guess on some level I’ve always been aware of magical thinking. What I didn’t know was how widespread it is. I first noticed someone whose beliefs were unusually aggressive when I was in school, standard 4 (grade 6 as they call it now), with a teacher, Mr Barnett, who would somehow include the words “Lord Jesus” at least twice in every sentence. I thought he was whacked in the head, and he no doubt was a little off-kilter, but no more so than many others whose extreme beliefs are less in-your-face.

It was a few years before when I’d learned the Bible stories from the Old Testament, and I realized then that people used to ascribe natural disasters to an angry god, a god who would punish the people for their wrongdoings unless they repented. I grew up being taught those things as if they were true, but never believed them, and assumed (incorrectly) that everybody else also didn’t believe them. (Because obvious nonsense is obvious.)

Then, years later, having messed up quite seriously and become addicted to crystal meth, I entered into “recovery” with unfortunate naivete, expecting addiction treatment to be evidence based. (It isn’t.) There I found that addiction treatment is in fact based entirely on a religious foundation, filled with platitudes and magical thinking. It took me four years altogether to find my own way of staying clean and sober, one that works for me and does not involve those ridiculous 12 steps of woo.

But now, we are facing COVID-19, a virus still mutating, one for which there is no cure, where we are infectious but asymptomatic for 14 days, a virus that is killing people and potentially on par in terms of fatalities with the Biblical plagues. This is a time when we all need to take the necessary precautions, but instead of that happening, we have religious people fucking it all up for the rest of us.

There are people sharing misinformation and conspiracy theories about the disease; people sharing prayers and claiming that their faith will protect them – it doesn’t work like that, for fuck’s sake! Inhaling the contaminated air that an infected person exhaled is all you need, and the easiest way for that to happen, the most effective way of spreading the virus, is large gatherings, crowds, in confined spaces. This is a problem particularly because you can have massive viral loads and be highly infectious while asymptomatic. Yet many religious leaders are refusing to back down and encouraging their believers to carry on as usual. This is, of course, a reckless and irresponsible abuse of their authority (for a change?), considering that believers trust them.

Meanwhile, we also have people who blame every disaster, including this virus, on minority groups who make easy victims for them, such as same sex couples or transgender people, claiming that their god is angry with those people. It seems we have not moved on at all since the OT, and collectively we remain driven by this dangerous magical thinking.

Why, oh why… would you believe that this god created the entire universe, but has a problem with what members of one particular species of great ape do with their gonads? It is absurd that people believe this. But they do. We are a race of fucking idiots.

 

 

 

 

 

Another reminder of what atheism isn’t

I had a discussion with a family member yesterday, where the person claimed that I am depressed because of being an atheist and not one day seeing my parents again, and claimed that I very much want to believe there is no god. It wasn’t an argument or debate, but it did remind me of the stark contrast between atheism and what theists think it is. So let me try to explain it one more time…

When I was a believer, which ended in my teen years, I thought I knew that god exists. Thus I started with the assumption that this god I believed in existed. And if I debated it, I would come up with pseudo-rational reasons that led to a preconceived conclusion. So my arguments were disingenuous and inherently dishonest.

One can not argue rationally when one’s position is based on faith, because faith is belief despite no supporting evidence.

The easiest way I can think of to explain this is, when one stops believing in Santa Claus, one does not then switch to some kind of polar opposite belief, another “kind” of Santa Claus. One realizes that the Santa “claim”, for lack of a better word, is unnecessary. Likewise, when one does not assume that god exists, the claim becomes unnecessary. Atheism is not faith based; it is not a polar opposite to a faith based position, but is rather a conclusion when one does not have faith. Anyone who claims that atheism is also a belief system simply does not understand what atheism is.

It’s not that I want to believe that god doesn’t exist. I’d love to believe. I’d love to believe in god, an afterlife, that my parents are watching over me, and that one day I’ll see them again. I’d love to believe that existence goes on after my life ends. But I can’t. I recognize that god is a man-made claim, an example of magical thinking to explain what we don’t understand; nothing more than a name given to a magical placeholder for the unknown. I realize also that belief in an afterlife is nothing more than wishful thinking – that we don’t want to face the fact that we die and no longer exist. My position is personal, one that I came to all by myself because I became an atheist and then only read atheists’ literature and watched atheist videos afterwards, finding to my surprise that many other people have come to the same conclusion. Because it’s a logical conclusion, and is certainly not a faith-based position as some people project it to be.


Incidentally, I’m finding this discourse with an extended family member interesting, if taken not as an argument but as an honest conversation about what we believe and why/how we believe it.

On the assumptions and arrogance of the argument from morality

I’m tired. Tired of seeing articles trending weekly where preachers claim that atheists have no morals because they don’t believe in god. I’ve written about this several times but was thinking it would be good to tackle it yet again, and hopefully produce something I can link to next time someone mindlessly repeats this argument.

In case you don’t know, the argument from morality is the argument that all morals come from god, and this supposedly proves that god exists. Of course to make the argument, you must first assume that god exists and then go from there, but that’s not the worst part. Theists who make this argument normally switch it around and claim that atheists don’t have morals.

So… let’s examine it logically, but instead of doing what religious apologists who make this argument do, which is to assume implicitly that their god exists, make some points that don’t add up, and then conclude what they assumed up-front, let’s do this in a syllogism that’s a little more honest, and actually state the assumptions as premises, state the inference that those premises lead to, and then sincerely ask if the world behaves as this syllogism tells us it does…

  1. Premise one: Assume god exists.
  2. Premise two: Assume god is the source of absolute objective morality.
  3. Premise three: Assume that somehow we are all bound (magically?) by this objective morality.
  4. Premise four: Assume that god also created free will, and that because of this free will, we may choose not to be moral.
  5. Conclusion: If all the above is true, we can infer that this objective morality binding all of us should be observable, across time and geography.

That’s a heck of a lot of assumptions (all of which are wrong) but that’s what the religious apologists assume. They’re just dishonest about them and rather argue pseudo logic that conveniently concludes what they assumed, but let’s ignore that. Does the world work like the conclusion says it should? Does it? Really?

The thing is, people of the same religion don’t all have exactly the same moral values. In fact, we have compassion for others, and that’s about all there is that’s close to absolute. Unless you’re a psychopath, you probably have some common values because you care about other people. The rest is learned… from our parents, our peers, our laws, and other factors in the societies where we live.

But those values change over time. We don’t burn witches or stone brides who are found not to be virgins. Not anymore. Except some people in less modern, and more religious cultures… still do those things. Interesting, isn’t it? Behaviour that most of would regard as primitive and less moral than ourselves, is linked to religion. But certainly there is no observable evidence of any kind of objective morality binding us.

More significantly though, even if we assume that objective morality exists, why would disbelief (in the god who you assumed created this morality) lead to a person without morals? It doesn’t follow logically at all.

As an atheist, I don’t believe in god, but that doesn’t mean I’m not good. It does mean that I’ve put a lot of thought into the religion I was brought up with, and that I rejected it. It also means that unlike some Christians who read their prejudices into their religion as an excuse for having them, for example for women, people of colour and people with different sexual orientations, I can’t do that. Having grown up a white man in apartheid South Africa, having heard racism “justified” by twisted religious rhetoric (and hearing in again recently from the likes of Donald Trump and his ilk), I had much time to think about those things and reject all kinds of prejudice, including misogyny, racism, and homophobia. Without religion to hide behind, I am a far better person.

The truth is, when someone claims that atheists don’t have morals, they out themselves as arrogant and narrow-minded people with hatred for their fellow human beings, but who are really saying, “I’m better than you because you don’t believe exactly what I believe”. They out themselves as people who aren’t terribly bright and who have poor moral values.

Being logical doesn’t mean you’re always right; The WRONGEST of the wrong people are always the most confident.

Consider the following stupid syllogism I just pulled out of my ass:

  • Premise 1: The sky is blue.
  • Premise 2: My pen is blue.
  • Inference: Somebody drew the sky. It must have been god, and the world is flat.

Obviously my syllogism is outright nonsense. But it is logical.

Last week I shared a contentious meme on Facebook. It was about the gender wage gap, although I was confused and initially thought it was about the gap between rich and poor. (But that’s besides the point.)

So, due to low data and being busy in real life, I spent only a few minutes online here and there. Lo and behold, on Sunday I see there was much activity in the comments, between one guy who insists that the gender pay gap isn’t real, and everybody else in the comments. (Everybody else being progressives and feminists, because probably around 90% of my friends have those sorts of views, as do I.)

Here’s a straw man mocking views like his…

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It’s extreme, but his reaction isn’t far from the generalization about men made by the above meme… Point out that women generally aren’t paid fairly, and at least one guy is gonna chime in that the gender wage gap isn’t real, women have been paid fairly for decades, and in any case it’s their choices that cause them to be paid less. That’s right, besides the fact that presumably they chose to have uteruses, he both acknowledges that women are paid less, and denies that there is a wage gap. And then point out he’s wrong, and he’ll call you all kinds of names.

What is this us against them bullshit anyway? I don’t get it. We’re all in this together, working for bastards who will use any excuse to pay us less… We could work together to make life more bearable for everyone, but instead like to make our little tribes where we are right and everybody else is wrong.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this. Rather it’s a pattern. Some twat tells everybody else that they are wrong, and will not even consider that maybe he could be the one who is mistaken.

I read another interesting article yesterday: The magical thinking of guys who love logic. Check it out as it’s worth reading.

Another typical “argument” from a theist debater

I don’t really have time for writing, but thought I’d show you this… another typical argument from a theist who thinks he’s logical. He isn’t.

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Not that this should need breaking down but just in case…

  • Premise 1 is a non sequitur. It does not follow that if objective morality exists, it came from a god. That’s a claim. So this premise is false.
  • Premise 2 asserts that objective morality exists. Another claim and another false premise.
  • The conclusion just concludes what was assumed upfront. That’s not how logic works.
  • Objective morality here is a red herring anyway. Dim Jim could have picked anything (because he assumes his god created everything) and use literally anything in the universe in its place. But whatever he uses, he’s still begging the question.

Of course there’s more going on in the brain of the “debater” here. But I’m really not interested in addressing the argument from morality here again.

Apparently I am a “scumbag” because I exposed some scumbags who believe we are living in “End Times”

Recently I wrote in bemusement about a certain End Times Facebook group. Well, somebody on the group found me out and screenshotted the Facebook share in a comment thread there, and called me a bunch of names, including “smug”, claiming I was taking advantage of suffering people. And one of them commented on the post, calling me a “scumbag”…

So listen up, nutjobs… You might be suffering but that’s on you. You’re not victims. If you so desperately need to believe the world is coming to an end, and you believe that you have “special knowledge” about it, and that everybody else in the world will die, I’m not the scumbag for exposing it. I’m not the smug one and I’m not the one who is arrogant. And it is not a case of schadenfreude, because you are not victims of misfortune, or anything else.

I am laughing at you. You got that right.

Amazingly I’m still in the group. I have been kicked out before, after I responded to photos of clouds that they claimed to show Jesus, with photos of clouds that looked like penises. (Pareidolia, loons.) But they let me right back in. So I will continue to mock them, “troll” them with facts, and share content outside of the group.

(I had another post about echo chambers in mind, but wrote this in response to the idiot’s comment.)

I have not seen a finer example of cherry picking

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Is the artist’s name Lugioid?

To see the word “god” in there, you have to ignore the markings which could also be interpreted as letters in between and before the “artist’s name”. Yet people are sharing this on social media as evidence of creation.

I’m sorry but if you are my friend and you share this shit credulously, I’m just gonna straight out call you an idiot.