“I don’t know” never means God did it.

This morning my 5:30AM toilet visit was entertained by this status:

image

I’m not complaining. I needed some motivation to shit. Thanks, oh enlightened one…

I replied to it with only two words: False dichotomy. Do I need to explain all the faults here? Here are a few of them…

  1. The opposite of creation is not some other kind of creation.
  2. The opposite of “I don’t know” is not creation by an intelligent designer. There is no opposite to it.
  3. The argument from first cause simply moves the problem to a magical answer named god that is assumed not to have a cause, violating it’s own premise (Everything has a cause and the first cause is god, but god does not have a cause), but is defined as something you are not supposed to question. In other words, special pleading.

As with all such arguments, the theist believes he knows his god is real. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s literally what faith is. And as long as you are making a statement about your faith, it’s all good. But you shouldn’t pretend to be logical.

There’s nothing logical about starting with your assumed conclusion and working backwards. It’s intellectually dishonest. I know this is what’s going on because I used to be a believer. Since the person is indoctrinated, he assumes his god exists, then does not admit it but instead uses motivated reasoning to come up with a pseudo-logical argument that comes to conclude what he assumed upfront. (That was not enough for me. Fundamentally that is why I lost my faith as a teenager.)

Making that leap is equivalent to writing the non sequitur, “One plus one is equal to two. Therefore dogs are better than cats.” There is no logical connection between the two sentences, other than the one in the brain of my hypothetical person in this analogy. Likewise, every argument for a god does exactly what my example does… but usually in a way that jumps through a few more hoops. Bullshit baffles brains and the verbosity and/or apparent sophistication of such arguments fool the ignorant as well as those who make the same assumption. But such “logic” isn’t logical at all and never fools anyone who actually can think critically about the subject.

When you examine the arguments raised in this poll, they are very weak. God is nothing more than an alternative to “I don’t know” and is synonymous with magic. In other words, magical thinking.

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.

Fallacies of relevance: The redness of your red herring doesn’t make your irrelevant statement relevant

Following up on yesterday’s post, a factually correct but irrelevant statement is fallacious. Its factual correctness doesn’t make it suddenly relevant.

Yesterday the example I used was “Islam is not a race”. My original Facebook post, featuring only the meme, led to many responses. Almost every one of them amounted to “But it’s true!”

Yes, it is true that Islam isn’t a race. But that statement is almost always used by people who have made racist statements against people who happen to be Muslim, right after they get called out for their racist statements. Therefore it is irrelevant.

In the example given, the fact that Islam is not a race has nothing whatsoever to do with the gross generalizations made by the person about other people, generally members of a Middle Eastern country seeking asylum, or immigrants who are already in their country.

This really isn’t difficult to understand.


Astute readers may notice the connection between the last three posts. Maybe I should tag them all fake news?

Another post worth writing is about the misuse of the word “egalitarian”. Claiming to care about all rights as an excuse to deny equality to women and attack feminists is common – almost fucking trendy nowadays.

Even skeptics have blind spots when arguments agree with their beliefs? (On an argument stating that addiction is a disease.)

Well, this sucks. I shared to disagree with this bad argument the other day, only to find that some of my friends, who are atheists and skeptics, agreed with it.

ChoiceStrawman

Now consider this:

People who think Jesus is not God

You’re simply incorrect. It is not an opinion or debate because Jesus has been known to be god since about 50AD. The facts have disagreed with you for nearly two thousand years. You are not a priest and your Facebook rants have no merit because the theological community views Jesus as the True God. Pick up the Bible and Jesus will be there. It is a theological FACT that Jesus is God. Believing otherwise is literally delusional.

It is irrelevant whether or not addiction is a disease, although I believe it isn’t a disease and I’ll make my case further on for interest. The point I want to get across today though, is that this is a poor argument.

  1. Nobody claims addiction is a choice. That’s a straw man. I chose to use meth, not to be an addict. Addiction is a bunch of things, including being chemically dependent on a drug, being psychologically dependent and convincing yourself that it being difficult to stop means you can’t (hence falling for the “you were powerless” claim of 12 step programs is easy), and the behaviours associated with the effects of the drug on your brain, including denial of having a problem.
  2. How long something has been believed doesn’t make the claim true.
  3. Not all doctors, psychologists, or neuroscientists accept that addiction is a disease. Cherry picking only literature that agrees with you is an example of selection bias. The lines are blurred… I can’t do an online search and easily find where the dogmatic NA/AA info ends and real science begins, or determine how much bias there is in science that presupposes 50 years of 12-step type dogma to be right. There are published papers that support both conclusions and I am not qualified to read most of them. (But keep point one in mind – nobody is claiming that addiction is a choice and real arguments against it being a disease are more nuanced than this meme will have you believe.)
  4. Asserting that those who disagree with you are delusional while not even considering what their actual arguments may be, but instead arguing against the “addiction is a choice” straw man argument, is a great way of dismissing contrary views without knowing what they are. It’s also ad hominem. (You are delusional if you don’t agree with me… Seriously?)

I found it shocking that some of my fellow atheists and skeptics could agree with such a terrible argument. I’m disappointed.

Whether or not addiction is a disease is not the point today, but just to clarify my views…

I chose to use drugs. Then I became dependent on those drugs, chemically and psychologically. My behaviour and brain chemistry was altered by the drugs, but not in any way that wasn’t expected. My argument is simply that every effect fell within the expected and predictable neuroscientific effects of methamphetamine on my brain. So addiction is nothing more than a name for a bunch of symptoms and behaviors around something that is quite normal, a brain responding to adverse conditions. Stop the drugs for long enough and all those symptoms disappear. So if this is a disease, it is one that can be treated effectively by doing nothing at all, which has worked very well for me by the way. Next month I’ll be clean for five years.

Furthermore, the standard way of treating addiction via 12 step programs is nothing more than a placebo. I don’t care whether or not you believe in god or a higher power. I don’t, but even if we were to assume that this god exists, the “relationship” that you have with it is one-sided. It’s all in your head. And so is the way treating addiction works. As I see it, addiction treatment is all about bullshitting yourselves into thinking you are actually doing something about your addiction, even though you are not. In reality, you are doing nothing, just like me, but thanks to the placebo effect, you think you are actually working on your addiction. Bullshit baffles brains.

Thanks for reading.

A reminder: Atheism isn’t about the belief that we were created from nothing. (Again.)

I can’t believe I’m writing this again, but more posts on this subject will hopefully get one or two curious believers to read one of them…

Yesterday, on a flat Earth Facebook page of all places, I once again rebuked the claim that atheists say we came from nothing, and someone argued with me. He argued that both Dawkins and Krauss have stated it. Your quote mining (without the quotes???) doesn’t change what atheism is.

Atheism is the disbelief in god(s) due to lack of evidence. It is the rejection of the claim that a god or gods exist; the rejection in the claim of creation. (Creation from what, by the way? Nothing? Then the “nothing” argument applies to theism, not atheism.)

The only argument relevant to us atheists is the requirement for evidence that your god exists. We make no claims. We do not propose some alternative argument to creation. We simply reject your claims. The burden of proof lies on the claimant to provide evidence to support the claim.

I’ve argued several times with people who insist that atheism makes some alternative claim. It does not. And no matter how many times you insist that it does, it still doesn’t. Just because you start with the assumption that what you believe is true does not exempt you from having to provide evidence. Projecting your belief of creation onto atheists and insisting we believe in creation from nothing is a straw man argument. When you base your entire argument on this, it also avoids the issue of your lack of evidence. Just because every argument you have is like this and every argument is about as logical as a child who insists Santa is real, does not change the facts.

Insisting that we atheists need to give some answer to where the universe came from is another example of avoiding the issue. We don’t. I’m quite satisfied with “I don’t know”. That doesn’t mean I have to accept your answer, an answer that doesn’t answer anything. It just inserts a placeholder called “god” at the beginning, and by definition that placeholder was always there. Insisting that god doesn’t need a creator is an example of special pleading. If god doesn’t need a creator, neither does the universe.

Gap of the gods

I don’t have anything to write, other than my swapping the words around in the title, which I couldn’t resist…  just wanted to share the excellent image I saw on this article

I love this because it’s a great parody of those arguments from personal incredulity/complexity, AKA god of the gaps. The image speaks for itself, so I don’t need to write anything further here.

creationist_wheel_of_misfortune

Some annoying loaded questions for atheists

So recently I saw this shared on Facebook:

LoadedQuestions

This was the original text:

A close relative from my hometown area contacted me this morning. This person said that they have been watching my page for sometime and have recently had severe doubts about the existence of God. Below is a summary of the questions asked. I thought it would be great if my FB Atheist friends could share their opinions to show the light (so to speak).

Note that all those questions are loaded with assumptions. My friend who shared it mentioned being open to honest questions. Are those questions honest? Maybe I should give the benefit of the doubt and take them to be so, but while they may be honest, they certainly don’t make any attempt to understand what atheism is before asking. (I’m sure that sounds reasonable, until you consider that this is how people debate all the time. They ask us questions and attempt debate without knowing what atheism is. How can you debate something when you don’t have a clue what it is?)

To me, the questions don’t seem to come from someone who has doubts, which contradicts the quote that came along with the OP. My answers below are thus not directed at anyone who has serious doubts about the existence of god… They’re the sort of answers I give when debating someone who strongly believes. Maybe I’m being unfair, but the below is how I deal with people of faith.

Perhaps it is worth noting that I didn’t come to this position overnight. When I was about 16, I stopped believing in god. Letting go of a belief in a soul or afterlife took years. So don’t take this too hard if you are somewhere between belief and disbelief as I was for so long. I try, in my answers below, to address not only the questions but also the assumptions that are loaded into those questions.

As an atheist, what do you believe?

Atheism isn’t a belief system. It isn’t some polar opposite of belief in whatever god you believe in. I don’t believe in any gods, or a soul, an afterlife, or creation, because there is no evidence to support the claims that any of those things exist. Religion makes claims. Atheism simply rejects those claims. As an atheist, I’m standing over here pointing at you and saying, “Nope, that’s bullshit”.

The burden of proof lies with those making the claims. But instead of those who insist that their gods exist making any attempt to prove it (because they can’t), they ask us who don’t believe to explain ourselves. That’s backwards. It’s only this way because religion spreads by indoctrination, by brainwashing children to believe before they are old enough to think critically. So instead of intelligent debate, we get religious apologetics, which seeks to rationalize reasons for believing despite zero evidence, often by bad arguments and logical fallacies or assuming that other things are evidence for god, and we get loaded questions like these, asking those who take the rational approach to explain why they don’t believe what you assume to be true.

What happens when you die?

You no longer exist. There is no evidence for a soul, an afterlife, or a creator. Just because you assume those things to be true does not make them so. As an atheist, I not only do not believe in any of those things, but it’s also not like I connect the idea of a creator to an afterlife. Those things are assumptions you make when you buy into your specific religion.

Not only does the burden of proof mean you need to prove that the god you believe in exists, but also, you need to provide evidence that a soul exists, which means there should be some way of showing that something other than our brains are responsible for our thoughts and awareness. Then, you need to point out why your god is the right one, instead of one of thousands of other gods that were claimed to exist, and establish why worshipping your god is a prerequisite for the afterlife that you assume exists.

To quote Louis C.K.

“What happens after you die?” “Lot’s of things happen after you die – they just don’t involve you.”

Why are we here?

Why should there be a reason? This question is not honest. When faced with difficult questions such as, “Why did your god let millions of innocent people die?”, you tell me, “The lord works in mysterious ways”. So because I don’t buy that, because I don’t accept this magical placeholder for the unknown, the origin of which should not be questioned – unlike the universe – I don’t have a purpose? And you do? What is that purpose?

Just because you claim a deity created you and everything and everyone else, does not give you a purpose. There isn’t a reason and your assumption says more about you as a believer than it does about me as a nonbeliever.

Where do morals come from?

They come from laws, in societies that have evolved where breaking them is detrimental to us an a species on the whole, because upholding those laws is an advantage to our survival. But ultimately they come from us empathising for one another. Ironically, this argument from morality has been made since before man created your god, and will likely still be made at some point in future when belief in some other god is popular and your god has been relegated to myth just like Zeus or Odin.

Edit: My friend Gareth explains the empathising better than I do. He commented the following answer to this question on the original Facebook share: “Evolutionary programming. You feel protective toward babies because you are programmed, and that programming is so deep that you feel the same way toward kittens.

No doubt believers will then credit their god as being responsible for that evolutionary programming? Go ahead and assume that, but know that you just made another claim that isn’t supported by evidence. Also, it’s the same as taking the “works of god” to be evidence that god exists… To take the things that you assume god did to be proof of god is circular reasoning, as the premise of your argument assumes the conclusion to be true.

Furthermore, if a creator was responsible for some kind of objective morality, then all religious people would have exactly the same morals. They don’t. OK, so maybe all Christians since the beginning of the religion have identical morals? Sorry, no. OK, so maybe all Christians in all parts of the world right now have identical morals? Sorry, no.

Just because you credit your god with morality doesn’t make it so. And morality existed before your god’s teachings were written. Of course, in that case you can claim that god-given morals existed before then since “god revealed himself to us”. Really? Well, in that case, we come back to all religions being equal. Why then, do Christians tell me I have to accept Jesus, and Muslims tell me I must accept Allah? If every religion is the result of god “revealing himself to us”, as some of my Christian friends tell me, then maybe they ought to stop insisting other religions are wrong. You can’t have it both ways… As it happens, when you believe in things that contradict each other, and it makes you uncomfortable enough to pretend those contradictions don’t exist, there’s a name for that: Cognitive dissonance.

Why is it that I, as an atheist, have no reason to prejudice against gay people, or transgender people, or people who practice different religions? And also, I have no reason to believe that women are inferior. Even though I’m male, I’m a feminist because there is no reason for everybody not to have equal rights. And even as a white South African, I believe that white privilege and systematic racism is wrong and must be opposed, because it is the decent thing to do. Why is it that without any god, I have better morals than so many Christians? Maybe it’s because I learned my morals from my parents, my peers, and common decency? (Just like the bigoted fucks, but my parents and peers were not assholes like theirs.) Maybe it’s because morality is subjective?

How did the universe begin?

I don’t know, but then neither do you. I don’t pretend to have an answer.

I don’t have a magical placeholder in place of “I don’t know”, call it “God”, and insist that its origin can’t be questioned. How did god begin?

If you insist that god is eternal, then all you have is magic that isn’t allowed to be questioned. It makes no logical sense. You have no more an explanation than I do, but you just don’t know it, and because of indoctrination, you think that belief in god answers everything. It doesn’t. Actually there’s a name for this kind of flawed logic: Special pleading. If everything needs to have a creator (or a cause), but god doesn’t, then your conclusion violates the premise of your argument.

If god doesn’t need a beginning, why not the universe too? It could be a loop. Big Bang. Expand. Cool down after many billions of years. Collapse. When everything in the entire universe has been swallowed by black holes that then merge, there is no longer any mass. Without mass, time no longer exists, and the size is once again minimal. Next Big Bang. The loop repeats. I’m not saying that this is the answer, but the point is, inventing a god that the origin thereof by definition may not be questioned, simply moves the unknown that the god placeholder replaces, into a dogmatic solution that doesn’t solve anything.

Aren’t you afraid of going to Hell?

No, not in the least.

Like the first question, this one is loaded with assumptions. Threatening an atheist with Hell is like telling an adult that Santa won’t give them Christmas presents, only worse. It’s beyond absurd. We see through your religions. We understand that belief in gods does not explain anything about where the universe came from, does not give you better morals, and does not give you purpose. If you believe it does, goody for you! I’m glad that your belief gives you some sort of meaning and that your false comfort makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Just don’t project that shit on me and others like me.