I post mostly messages and commentary about religion and politics, and the scary occasions when they collide.
I am a: Liberal, Green, Christian, Math teacher
Lover of Math, Philosophy, Animals, Civil Rights, and Arguments of all kinds.

30th July 2014

Post with 5 notes

"The Bible was written by humans, and humans are corrupt"

Both are true, and neither implies that the teachings or history of the Bible are false. Nor are they the reason why the speaker believes the teachings of the Bible are false. How do I know that? …Because this same person will never make the argument that evolution is false, or medical science is false, or that mathematics can’t be trusted because they are ideas created by corrupt humans. 

Tagged: religionlogicbiblechristianity

10th July 2014

Post reblogged from Overthinkings of a Philosophy Student with 21 notes

Not exactly an atheist but…

I like these sorts of questions, even if I hate the way they’re asked.

opinionsrfacts:

The site Today Christian posed 10 questions for every atheist andclaimed that it is unanswerable by honest people. So I gave it a try and tried to be 100% honest about it. These are the questions and my corresponding answers

1.       How Did You Become an Atheist?

Actually, by some definitions, I am. And I was an atheist back in high school. It was 2 things. 1. Evidence, or lack thereof. 2. Logic. the definition by organized religion of God really doesn’t hold up to logic.(See Heavy Rock Omnipotence paradox or something). The arguments by Saint Aquinas and other medieval philosophers are seriously flawed because 1.) it wrongly assumes the infinity of time and 2.) It’s basically a form of “I can’t provide an answer, therefore God”

Some of these questions, my problem with them is that they’re phrased in a way that eliminates the complexity behind them. There are legitimate questions that apologists ask atheists… but the ones asking kinda need to understand them to be credible.

With 1, the idea behind it is that there is no evidence that can point toward the non-existence of God. No one can come to the conclusion “naturally” that one does not exist, they can only fail to be convinced by the evidence. It’s somewhat meaningless to talk about the evidence for atheism, which is why I think agnosticism is more logically sound- still, that doesn’t mean that someone can’t be a legitimate atheist. Just means that I’ve yet to hear a logical argument for how they come to the conclusion that there is no God, only that they aren’t convinced by the alternative. Alright. The ‘Heavy Rock Omnipotence’ paradox is not a paradox, and it has been answered before.

Not sure how the infinity/finiteness of time is related, though. There are arguments for the existence of God, thus, it’s not a default position of a ‘lack of knowledge’. We have to learn religion, same as anything else.

2.       What happens when we die?

The people who loved us will miss us, mourn for us maybe, then we would decompose. We exist as memories to them, we decompose, and the energy in our molecules get dispersed to be reused in some other part of the cosmos. The deeds we have done would be remembered, and that would be pretty much it.

You’re attacking with the problem of nothingness, I presume? How can “nothing” exist and if it does, is it really “nothing?” I’m familiar with this argument. A language professor told us once that nothing is a qualifier. it’s an adjective. it’s descriptive. it’s not a noun, simple as that.

Also, if we reach “The Singularity” death would, theoretically, be obsolete.

I’m not fond of this particular question, because I don’t know how I’d answer it either. I believe certain things about the afterlife, but pretending to know my place in it seems arrogant and counterproductive when it comes to just living my life now… And saying that ‘nothing’ happens to us is an unsatisfactory answer for many people, but it’s not a good challenge that the atheistic one is wrong.

3.       What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

Pascal’s wager eh?

I really don’t think an all loving God would create a place of eternal punishment. As stated in answer #1, contradictions

Stating that one’s definition of a loving God is one that wouldn’t create a place of eternal punishment is circular reasoning- it assumes the definition of loving, therefore no eternal punishment, without defining either independently of each other. There are many theories on how both could coincide: My belief is that God allows us exactly as much of a relationship with us as we ask of Him. If don’t want a relationship with Him, therefore, He leaves us alone(thus explaining Hell and atheism). Hell is not described in the Bible as a form of eternal punishment, but one of eternal shame for our mistakes. Unpleasant, I’m sure, but no more than what we ask for, and what we deserve.

If one is an atheist though, Pascal’s wager should be pointless. Why  theorize about Hell(non-place) or what a loving God(non-existent) would do?

4.       Without God, where do you get your morality from?

Empathy maybe? Recognizing the rights of other human beings? Various schools and systems of ethics such as utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, the like?

Religion is not a prerequisite for morality. We should be better than that, doing or not doing stuff because of fear of eternal death or for the promise of eternal life. 

I would reverse question #3 here. What if there is no heaven or hell? Then would all the good deeds you have done in your life be for nothing? I don’t think so.

This has got to be one of the most misunderstood questions ever asked or answered. I think it helps to take the YOU out of it, because where YOU, personally, get your morality is not the point. “Where does morality come from, if not from God?” Where does empathy come from? Why did we develop a need for social justice and compassion for humans(and animals), even when it serves us no evolutionary purpose? Most religious arguments about morality don’t invoke Heaven or Hell as the ORIGIN of morality- only as the consequences of it. The origin is with God. Those who align themselves with His morality have a place with Him, in Heaven. And vice versa for Hell.

If there were no Heaven or Hell, I would still believe in God, and still believe in the existence of objective morality, as revealed by Him. Thus, nothing in my life would change.

5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

 Refer to answer above. Again, religion is not a prerequisite for morality.

That doesn’t really answer the question. Again, whether an individual ‘you’ or ‘we’ wants to rape or murder is not the issue- ultimately, if there is no “real” standard for judging good or evil, does it matter if one commits acts that a particular society has laws against? Who is the judge of whether an act is right or wrong, and what gives that authority? If the answer is ‘collective society’, then why one society’s laws versus another’s? If there is no judge, does it matter if someone commits a crime and is never caught? 

6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

With or without God, the meaning of life will always be a debate. The inner nerd in me wants to answer ‘42’ but meh.

Personally, I believe that the meaning of life is what we, as humans make of it.

I think this is a variation on the question about the afterlife. Truth is though, many people who believe in God ask themselves about the meaning of life all the time. ‘Doing God’s will’ isn’t always so clear an answer.

7.       Where did the universe come from?

Nobody’s actually sure. So please don’t pretend that you actually know everything, that’s just not a healthy kind of thinking.

The prevalent theory for now is the Big Bang Theory. Don’t go saying “but it’s just a theory!” on me. Know what it means for a hypothesis to become a scientific theory. This is in the language game of science, mind you.

I have no objections to the Big Bang Theory(which answers ‘how’ but not ‘from where’), which leaves the problem of what started it, and why. There are theories about it, and some of those theories point to God. Saying ‘no one’s sure’ doesn’t answer the question. Plenty of people are pretty darn sure they do know in the scientific and religious community(and both). You can’t claim atheism and a lack of knowledge about that question at the same time. If God doesn’t exist, He didn’t create the universe, so something else did- simple.

8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

Keyword here is “claim”. Nuff said? No? okay.

And saints can be seen, maybe, in everyday people who selflessly do good deeds.
Maybe Jesus is connected to those who really apply his teachings (which is basically love thy neighbor)
And maybe angels are in Supernatural, portrayed by the likes of Misha Collins. JK. maybe angels, meaning good people, are among us.

That’s a lot of maybes, but no specific miracles addressed.

9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

 Honestly? interesting people. Their thoughts are interesting and thought provoking.

They’re ignorant of theology, philosophy, a great bit of science and logic, and they’re rather proud of it. At least two of the three are sexist, at least one of those is also racist and xenophobic. Not much fond of them myself, and they’re hardly a credit to atheism.

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

Karl Marx is credited with saying that religion is the opium of the masses. Anthropology suggests that religion was made to fill in the knowledge gap for things yet unexplained by science. 

And no, i don’t think every society has a religion.

If Karl Marx says it, he must be right? That’s not an answer, and neither is the claim from anthropology. If there have been societies which lacked religion, the thing to do would be to research them. You thinking it doesn’t make it true. To date, I’ve yet to hear of a society that was without a religion… theoretically, at one time the Soviet Union and China  counted, but the ‘state’ was a form of religion there, too. 

At the very least, it should be an interesting question of WHY human societies create so much religion- enough to do some research into it!

Tagged: religiontheologymoralitygodatheism

8th July 2014

Question with 4 notes

provoice said: Re: your refugee children post: I've been reading my Bible from Genesis (working towards Revelation) and when I was in Leviticus, I came across Leviticus 19:33-34 - I read it over a couple of times and was like, "Why haven't I heard anyone talk about this?" I also found Deuteronomy 29:19. I'm disappointed in how the people of our country are treating these children, honestly. Do you have any thoughts on those verses?

Leviticus 19:33-34- “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Deuteronomy 10:19(I think this is the one you meant?)- “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

And also:

Leviticus 19:10- “And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”

Exodus 23:9- ““You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

Of course, the sojourner was presumed to be adults in those passages, not children. I couldn’t even quote the number of passages dealing with our treatment of the poor and outcast, which would be more applicable. I would also quote one of my favorite passages in contrast: 

Matthew 25:40- “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

-Because the ‘sojourner’ described in the first four could not even be considered the least of our brothers and sisters. They were adults, in no immediate fear for their lives(beyond poverty), requiring temporary assistance in their travels. And the command from God is to give them that assistance, to treat them the same way we would treat our neighbors and friends.

But the refugees coming across the border are children who have no safe home to return to, and in large part have absolutely nothing. How much greater obligation do we have to them? 

Still, I don’t want to give the impression that the choice is easy, cause only the moral outrage part of it is easy. I understand where those in opposition are coming from, and at the same time I firmly believe that their opposition to helping is reprehensible. Christianity isn’t supposed to give us easy moral decisions, and if it is, we’re doing it wrong. That it’s something not many are talking about as a moral issue is a symptom of our culture of rigid individualism(shifting responsibility to the ‘other’) and of feel-good Christianity: God loves us, God forgives our sins, and nothing more is required of us than that.

Bullshit. Christians are called to emulate Christ. We are forgiven for not meeting His standard, but not absolved of making the attempt. Christ gave of himself to feed the poor, to comfort those who were suffering, to reach out to those in need, and ultimately to die for their sake. Whatever less than that we do for these children is still far more than the ‘nothing’ that many Christians are willing to offer- and that fact should make any ashamed to call this a “Christian nation”. 

Tagged: religionchristianityrefugeesbiblemorality

8th July 2014

Post with 8 notes

What it means to be pro-life, refugee children

Much as I dislike memes, there are a few good points behind the, “If you think fertilized eggs are people, but refugee kids aren’t, you’re going to have to stop pretending your concerns are religious.”

One way to read it might be that it’s shaming people who are pro-life. There’s a more relevant point though, and it concerns what pro-life beliefs mean, what should be valued, and why. “Are fertilized eggs people?”- depends on how you define personhood. They are certainly alive, but wholly without a voice or conscious mind. It both makes it difficult to justify them as full persons, and easy to defend as being “helpless” and “innocent”. From a religious perspective, if we are born in sin, then there is nothing so pure as a being that hasn’t been born yet.

However, one thing I dislike about the anti-abortion(as opposed to pro-life… and there ARE some genuine pro-lifers) movement is that it’s a cause that’s incredibly easy to support. It requires no effort on the part of its advocates beyond shouting at the people who are actually burdened with the decision they oppose. Those ‘burdened people’ are rarely friends or family, and their decision causes no more inconvenience on anyone else beyond moral outrage- in all regards, the perfect cause for someone whose activism doesn’t move past a computer screen. Whether abortion is objectively wrong(in God’s eyes) is beside the point. It’s a convenient moral issue.

Where does that leave the refugee children? Don’t pretend that this cause is the same as being pro or anti-abortion: It’s certainly not. Having hundreds of thousands of undocumented children crossing the border has enormous impact financially, legally, on our ability to provide space and education/job training for them, and on political conflicts between us and the countries they come from. The consequences are far-reaching, they have no simple solutions, and they involve- potentially, in the form of taxes- sacrifice from people who are not related to these children, who may never meet them. Morally, we may all agree that allowing children to be killed is wrong- but logistically, financially, what do -we- do with -these- children? I’ve never heard opposition to helping these ‘undocumented children’ on religious grounds. There are no religious objections to make, even if there are plenty others. 

The question is, do you value life only when it’s easy to do so, when there’s no risk involved in doing so, and when it’s other people making the “wrong” decision- or is life worth defending even if you, personally, might have to suffer financially in exchange?

I don’t know what should be done about the refugees. I can only say that Christianity doesn’t allow us to answer ‘no’ to the latter question.

Tagged: abortionproliferefugeesreligionchristianitychildren

3rd July 2014

Link with 29 notes

Christians Call Out Hobby Lobby For Hypocrisy →

Deeply held beliefs never seem to be an issue when money is involved. At least not for the “corporation” branch of the human race.

Tagged: religionpoliticsabortionchristianityhobby lobby

1st July 2014

Question

Anonymous said: What are your thoughts on Lillith (Adam's first wife)? And would you consider Lillith to represent feminism and equality?

Well, the story of Lilith as Adam’s first wife didn’t originate until the middle ages. It’s not biblical canon for that reason, but a later Jewish myth. 

Within the myth, Lilith represents many different ideas related to women: A seductress, a devourer of children, a representation of chaos and godlessness… and sometimes, of feminism and the rejection of patriarchy. It’s tempting to want to invoke the myth for the latter, but I would point out that Lilith was not created as a feminist icon, rather, she was a misogynistic one. The myth of her being Adam’s first wife did not end well for either of them- a hundred of her (demonic?) children killed each day, and she making an agreement with God and the angels to not kill human children in exchange. It’s not an especially liberating story for women, and doesn’t have anything to do with Christianity.

That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with re-imagining the Lilith myth as a feminist symbol, i.e. the rejection of patriarchal rule of the husband and of Adam’s sexual dominance. That’s fine, but that’s a very modern interpretation. 

As far as my personal beliefs, I love the Lilith story, and the Lilith figure herself, however she’s imagined to be, and often use her as a character in my writing. But I don’t take her as a representation of feminism(at least, not a perfect one) because I don’t see any need to: There are plenty of real women who could be used as feminist icons without rewriting an old, if appealing, myth.

Tagged: lilithreligionchristianityfeminism

11th May 2014

Post with 2 notes


feelingthatibelonged said:woah i’m not sure that’s how i would describe my protestantism.

Ok. Keep in mind, I said that Protestantism(as a philosophy) puts a higher emphasis on the individual believer and their relationship with God. Catholics tend to place a higher emphasis on the church body as a whole. Neither branch says that either is unimportant.

So, this is just a general rule about Protestantism(which itself covers a HUGE number of denominations). I’m not dictating how any individual Protestant views anything.

Tagged: religion

11th May 2014

Question with 6 notes

Anonymous said: Can you explain the basic differences between baptist, catholic, anglican, protestant and orthadox? and any other ones?

I can try, but that covers a lot of denominations.

The main differences between most are a matter of influence: What they consider to be the most import aspect of faith. The actual beliefs don’t vary a great deal in most cases, and individual members of every denomination are going to be very different from each other, and from the ‘central’ tenants. For an overview of what most of mainstream Christianity believes, I’d recommend Mere Christianity, even if it’s a pretty old book now.

Baptist: Put a great deal of importance on scripture and often believe in biblical inerrancy/infaliability. They believe that Christianity is the only path to salvation, but they have no central authority structure, so views vary widely.

Catholic: The largest Christian denomination with highly formalized(and universal and closely followed) rituals for services. Some of the most notable differences between other denominations are the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, veneration of saints and the role of the Pope in church authority, and the higher focus they place on both scripture and the church to guide believers.

Anglican: Is a middle way between Protestantism and Catholicism. Most of the beliefs are in line with the Protestants, but the rituals and worship is closely associated with Catholics. They are led by a democratically chosen body of bishops, are virtually identical to the American branch(Episcopals) of the church.

Protestant: Put a higher emphasis on the individual believer and their actions(faith through works) than on following scripture or the word of the church. Both are important, however, to both Catholics and Protestants, and after Vatican II, there are many fewer differences today between the two than there used to be. Protestantism originally came about from disagreements with the church authority on translating scripture.

Orthadox: I don’t know enough about this group to explain the differences.

There are many, many, others(according to Google, potentially 300,000 different denominations, though the actual beliefs don’t vary nearly so much). There are also quite a few that some might not be willing to call Christian denominations(like the Westboro Baptist Church), even if they call themselves that.

Lutheranism, Methodists, Church of Christ, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Pentacostals, Unitarianism to name some others… though there are disagreements whether all of those are actually ‘Christian’, and most Unitarian churches I’ve known don’t associate strongly(if at all) with Christianity.

Hope that helps!

Tagged: christianitydenominationsreligion

11th May 2014

Question with 2 notes

Anonymous said: What are your thoughts on feminism?

Feminism is the same as any other social justice movement- so long as there is a disparity and unequal treatment between men and women, and women unable to provide for themselves or their children, there is a need for feminism. Christians should be as much concerned with the rights for women as for the welfare of the poor(as unfortunately, those two groups often overlap). 

I do consider myself a feminist. Women should have as much right as men to be safe, have their opinions respected and their choices validated. The idea of women owing their obedience to men could only possibly apply- if at all- to married women. And in that case, husbands and wives were to submit ‘to each other.’ This sort of unequal relationship that some preach is not practical in most marriages, and it is stressful and limiting for both men and women.

There are also some ideas in feminism that I don’t agree with, same as everything else.

Tagged: religionfeminism

23rd April 2014

Question reblogged from Hands That Help with 17 notes

Anonymous said: I get annoyed whenever people say that Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever is a "religion". It isn't, especially since it's made to mock other religions. I just don't know how to exactly explain to jerks that religion is a lot more complicated and complex than just believing in something and wearing specific garments to that religion. Sorry, I just had to vent.

youratheistfriend:

Much of what I’ve seen the Flying Spaghetti Monster used for, aside from a good chuckle now and then, is illustrating the privilege that the religious enjoy within American society. The example that springs to mind is someone being able to wear a pasta strainer as a hat in a driver’s license photo because they claimed it was part of religious garb. Head coverings are allowed for official state ID only if they’re part of religious attire. 

The question might be, then, why would a person want to wear a pasta strainer on their head, since they obviously don’t believe in the associated deity? It should be obvious why the believer does- the symbol has meaning for them! I’m not sure I’d call that a privilege, unless non-believers really think they’re missing out on wearing ridiculous garments, for some reason? 

Additionally, it’s a good absurd example for people who ask “But how do you prove God isn’t there?” The answer being “I can’t. But I also can’t prove that there isn’t a Flying Spaghetti Monster who created everything, and you don’t believe in that.”

But the question isn’t what the “unprovable God” looks like, whether male or female or pasta, but the fact that atheism is no more a proven concept than theism… but theism seeks to explain a very basic question that, thus far, atheists(generally) have not: Why are we here, and where did we come from? FSM doesn’t answer those questions, which are the most relevant to the God-issue. Not appearance.

liberalchristian:

Not a problem, I understand.

I see the comparison of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as exemplifying the trouble with many in the atheistic/anti-theistic movement, in the way they go about attacking faith. First, it’s not a logical argument against religion, nor FOR anything else(questionable whether it’s intended to be)- so what’s the point? It questions nothing about theology(which most atheists are uninterested in), it doesn’t provide a realistic comparison for God(strawman fallacy), and it doesn’t point out what might be actual problems with religious belief(though many religious people are capable of doing this themselves!).

Why do they use it at all? …Most likely, because doing any of the things that I mentioned would be a lot harder than mocking someone else’s belief. It demands nothing more from the one using the FSM example than the ability to memorize a few catchy internet slogans, and it makes their opponent angry, and consequently, foolish for arguing with them. For the atheist, it’s a “win” with no risk and no effort. For the Christian, it’s a loss the moment it begins.

Frustrating as it may be, there’s just no reason to answer that particular “challenge.” It’s not an attack on faith or religion for anyone wise enough to realize- as you noted- that religion is a lot more complex than that. Thus, there’s nothing to defend, and the atheist in question wasn’t planning on listening anyway. Walk away :)

God bless!

And that is not a Strawman fallacy because the only usual comparison is that Christian’s claim God is there with no evidence and the claim that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there also has no evidence. As far as I’m aware, the Flying Spaghetti Monster ordered far less genocides in the relevant lore. 

If by “the only usual comparison” from Christians means, “Christians who are no more familiar with theology than atheists who use the FSM example are”, then I might agree with you. But the church itself and apologists who study these questions have been doing so for thousands of years… and comparing FSM to their work is most definitely a strawman fallacy! Your last sentence is also an argument-by-outrage fallacy. The question of whether God exists is irrelevant to the question of whether you like or agree with things He might have said.

It should also be said that a person’s inability to argue well has no bearing on whether their particular belief is true… and that is so regardless of whether the person in question is religious or atheist.

Thanks for the comments. :)

Tagged: religionatheismatheistchristianitychristiantheology

Source: liberalchristian