Skeptimus Prime » Judaism One atheist's thoughts on politics, religion, and philsophy Wed, 22 Apr 2015 06:30:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rabbi Moshe Averick explains to us how he doesn’t understand evolution or atheism. Fri, 27 Jul 2012 21:13:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I’ve written about Moshe Averick a few times before.  Every so often he like to make some inflammatory  post over at the algemeiner about how atheists are amoral and so on.

So he decided to chime in over Rick Warren’s tweet about the Colorado shootings.  I do not believe Warren’s explanation about how it was really referring to premarital sex, but even if it was, it wouldn’t really make the tweet less stupid.  His ignorance of evolution is still there for all to see.

Anyway, Averick’s post is the usual inane ramblings about how we atheists have no reasons to not be pedophiles, but there are a few points to bring up.  First, atheists do not say we are animals, biology says that, and it wouldn’t matter if there were no atheists, hell it wouldn’t even matter if evolution turned out to be false, we would still be animals.  Further, this fact has no bearing on how we should behave, nothing to say about how we form our ethical framework. 

He tries to argue further that without god we are only accountable to ourselves so we can do whatever we want.  However this is simply not true.  Our ethics are formed through a complex process of biological and societal influences, and further refined by our own observations about the results of our actions and the goals we set in our society and as individuals.

Certainly we can choose to shirk the accountability of those systems and ignore the results our actions cause, but what exactly stops theists from doing that too?  Couldn’t we tell god to fuck off as easily as society?  Sure he may punish us the afterlife for it, but if your only motivation for behaving is a possible punishment then is that really morality?  Plus we have no experience of said afterlife punishments anyway so how much of a impetus for good behavior could it be?  Psychology shows that most humans are more scared of knifes than guns because most people have been cut but never shot, a pain you have never felt is not a very useful threat.

In any case, statistics don’t lie on this, theists are no less likely to commit crimes or behave immorally than atheists.  This is a fact that is roundly ignored or sidestepped every time this topic is brought up.  To claim that the reason for this is because we atheists were raised in a Judeo/Christian society, as Averick claims, demands evidence which he seems reluctant to give.

Of course one of the reasons Averick gives for his claims is that after all, atheistic philosophers agree with him on this.  (argument from authority anyone?)  Of course he backs this claim up with a quote from Philosopher Dr. Joel Marks from an article here.

“I have given up morality all together! [I] have been laboring under an unexamined assumption, namely that there is such a thing as right and wrong. I now believe there isn’t…I experienced  my shocking epiphany that the religious fundamentalists  are correct; without God there is  no morality…Hence  I believe there is no morality…The long and short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and  since I am an atheist, I must  therefore embrace amorality…even though words like “sinful” and “evil” come naturally to the tongue as a description of, say, child-molesting, they do not describe any actual properties of anything…there are no literal sins in the world because there is no literal God…I now maintain nothing  is literally right or wrong because  there is no morality…”

Well, there you have it folks, Marks agrees with Averick completely. It does seem like pretty damning evi….wait what are those three little dots at the end?  Could it be that there is more to the quote?  Lets read the rest.

Yet, as with the non-existence of God, we human beings can still discover plenty of completely-naturally-explainable internal resources for motivating certain preferences. Thus, enough of us are sufficiently averse to the molesting of children, and would likely continue to be so if fully informed, to put it on the books as prohibited and punishable by our society.

OK, the rest of the quote starts with a “yet,” This usually implies that he is going to say something different, and he does.  I can’t personally say I totally agree with Marks even here, but still this completely undoes Averick’s argument that Marks agrees with him.

I would like to give Averick some room here and say that maybe he just didn’t realize that he was quote mining this guy like a political speech writer, but it is hard to believe that he could have accidentally missed the guy completely contradicting Averick’s argument here.  Here is a tip, when you see the words like “yet” or “but” there is probably something important there for you to read. 

He then continues his weird line of quotes by quoting Jeffery Dahmer, as if the fact that a psychopath used evolution as a rationalization for his crimes says something important about the science of biology. 

What was I just saying about theists having no better ethics than atheists?

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True reason ain’t what it used to be. Fri, 23 Mar 2012 06:09:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Some of you may know about the Reason Rally going on in Washington D.C. this weekend.  I am unfortunately unable to attend, but I did come across a website for a Christian group calling themselves True Reason.  (humble I know) This group is planing an “outreach,” which is another word evangelism, at the Reason Rally to convince us that Christianity is the most logical position and they even wrote a book entitled “True Reason” for the occasion.

I realize that most of you have no time to read through arguments by Christian apologists so I have gracefully done it for you.  Let me say that every time I pick up a book by an apologist I think to myself that this could be the one that convinces me.  Perhaps Christianity is reasonable after all and I just missed it.  Of course  I don’t feel this as strongly as I did a few years ago but I always hope, at least for their sake, that theist in question has managed to come up with something new.  Anyone willing to bet money on that?  I didn’t think so.

The book is a compilation of essays by a host of the “most reasonable” fundamentalist Christians so of Course William Lane Craig makes this list.  For those who pay attention to apologetics you might remember Craig as they absolutely horrid person who tried to justify the biblical genocide of the Canaanites by saying that the true victims where the Jewish soldiers who must have suffered a lot from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after all that baby killing god order them to do.

I quote from his article here:

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites?  Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement.  Not the children, for they inherit eternal life.  So who is wronged?  Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children?  The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

Now I don’t care what degree’s Craig has, if this is the standard for high levels of rationality in Christianity then they have already lost their argument before it began.  However, In the books defense Craig’s chapters mostly focus on the Kalam Cosmological argument, an argument which has been dismantled so many times I won’t even bother.  Check out the Iron Chariots Wiki for a detailed rebuttal.  However, writers of the chapters dealing with moral arguments fair little better than Craig does.

Now, it would be impossible for me to go into all of the failures in reason I found in this book even in the chapters I have read thus far. So for the moment I will focus on on Chapter Fifteen by Glenn Sunshine which is about Slavery.  The reason for this is that history happens to be a topic I am better versed in than many of the others, and one that Sunshine is apparently quite ignorant (or just lying) on despite his degree in the subject.

So here is the first mistake I noticed, he says:

Whatever the reasons for being enslaved, throughout the ancient world slaves were legally property, not persons, and their status was permanent unless for some reason the master chose to set the slave free.  The sole exception to this was Israel.

Now, this is a gross oversimplification of the issue to the point of being inaccurate.  First, the notion that slave status was permanent in all other ancient cultures is wrong.  In Rome, for instance, though it was not common it was possible for a slave to buy his freedom.  Secondly the institution of slavery in Israel according the bible was not the kind and gentle institution he seems to want us to believe.  The exception he speaks only allows one to be slave for 6 years, however, of it only applied to Jewish men, all women and foreign men could be enslaved forever.  Further, in Exodus 21:4-6 the law gave the owner a way to turn someone into a permanent slave.  He could give the man a wife from his female slaves and upon manumission the slave would have to pick between his freedom and his family, since his wife and children would still belong to the slave owner.

He also engages in very selective reinterpretations of various passages.  Take this quote.

…and if a servant died soon after being struck by a master, the master was considered guilty of murder.  (Ex:21:20)

Uh….is that really what that passage says?  Lets take a look.

When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished.  But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.  Ex: 21:20:21

Does anyone notice how he doesn’t quote the second verse?  He doesn’t even correctly reference verse 20, the passage does not say the owner is guilty of murder, it says he will be “punished.”  True it doesn’t name the punishment, but considering this is the book that makes being an unruly child a capital crime I think we can assume that if they had wanted the person killed for it they would have said so.  So this is clearly not considered murder, in fact as long as you only beat the guy bad enough to make live a few agonizing days before he dies then you get off with no punishment at all, after all he is your property.

He continues his series of audacious claims by saying that Christianity was alone responsible for the  decline of slavery in western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.  This is a typical post hoc fallacy.  It is true that slavery did decline after the fall of the Roman Empire, but the causes for its decline were varied.  Even his own arguments seem to defeat this position, for instance he mentions that one of the reasons that most Christians in the Roman empire where not abolitionists was because it slavery was such an intrinsic part of Roman culture and economics.  One of the reasons slavery declined was the total collapse of the economy rendered it infeasible for most people to own slaves, and the collapse of the legal system meant that slaves who escaped could not have been tracked down as easily as they could have been prior to the fall.  Owning slaves was simply more difficult after Rome’s fall.

In fact, even as Sunshine begins to talk about the middle ages he points out that Clovis II passed laws against slavery because of the influence of his wife, Bathilda, who was a former slave.  Exactly where was the influence of Christianity in this?  However, the truly humorous part of this is when he mentions that by the 11th century a law that banned the enslavement of Christians

…effectively abolished slavery in medieval Europe, except at the southern and eastern interfaces with Islam where both sides enslaved one another’s prisoners.

So Christianity ended slavery…except for the slavery they didn’t end?  Why did non-Christians not get protection under the law?  Also, how can you argue that slavery is not a religious issue when people started drawing legal lines on who you could enslave based upon the religious beliefs of the individual?

Most of the rest of the article devolves into a string of no true Scotsman fallacies.  He basically admits that a lot of people who practiced slavery used the bible to justify it, but they weren’t “true” Christians.  Even Pope’s like Innocent the VIII don’t escape his quick dismissal.

In the end Sunshine manages to completely miss the point of the criticism that atheists bring to bear on this point.  His entire argument is a straw man of the position of most atheists on this issue.   When we point out that Judaism institutionalized slavery we are not saying their culture was horrible or that it was worse than any other culture of the time.  We are pointing out that it is exactly the same, and thus the notion that the book was inspired by an all powerful being is in question. 

Sunshine’s argument amounts to saying that the Jewish or Christian cultures he writes about are very slightly better than the other cultures around them, and even if I were to grant that argument, which I don’t, it would be an incredibly weak one.  If the Bible were only the work of men living in that time it looks rather like we would expect, but if it were the work of the creator of the universe we ought to expect much better, not slightly better.

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James Dobson and Daniel Lapin get together and say crazy things. Wed, 22 Feb 2012 05:38:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  Dobson and Lapin Blame Feminism for Everything, Scold Bill Clinton and ‘Womanizer’ Newt Gingrich

Rabbi Lapin

I ran across this article on earlier and saw something worth noting.  You can listen to Dobson’s full program here if you can manage to make it through the whole thing.  Anyway I noted this particular quote from Rabbi Lapin with my own comments interspersed.

Once you remove the religious restraints to rampant sexuality, and all you got to do is relax those religious restraints and male nature will take care of the rest and bring about the decline of a civilization,

Fundamentalists no matter the religion have a big drive to control people’s sexuality with fear tactics like this.  Of course he also makes a jab at men, who apparently are just beasts who can’t keep in in their pants without the fear of god in them.

one of the mechanisms is of course as we’ve discussed economic because in a sense it requires the same kind of control and self-discipline to get up every single morning and go to work whether you like it or not as it takes to restrain various appetites.

Amazingly many cultures and people who have not restrained themselves sexually in the way Dobson or Lapin’s religion requires have still been able to manage to go to work.  I wonder if Lapin has ever read a history book, no civilization in the history of the world, including Victorian era England has ever been as puritanical as Christianity or Judaism requires. 

So when you weaken one muscle you weaken everything else as well and not only do we have a tendency on the part of a society that has relaxed all form of sexual restraint to also go into free fall economically but what also happens is such a society tends towards becoming a more feminine society in a sense.

More feminine? I’m not exactly sure what he means here but no matter how you interpret this it sounds sexist.  It also seems to contradict what he said earlier about “male nature.”

Islam, fundamentalist Islam, which is essentially a brutal and violent culture is seducing a somewhat effeminized American culture because there is no other way to explain the love affair that America’s leftwing and secularized elites have with Islam.

Yes because us liberals just LOVE us some fundamentalist religion, nothing we like better than to have our liberty taken away by some crazy religious zealot.  That was sarcasm in case you were wondering.

I really am not even sure where he is getting this from, he seems to believe that we, “secularists,” who have fought tooth and nail to wrest our civil liberties from the hands of fundamentalist Christians in this country would just hand it over to another group who is even more extreme than they are.

Islam has at least as bad if not a worse track record on women’s rights, sexuality, free speech, and many other issues.  Why would he think that secularists would just turn over our rights to them?  If there is anyone who would it is most certainly not me or any of the members of skeptical/atheist movement.  The idea that any of the feminists in our movement, the likes of Greta Christinea or Jen McCreight have some love affair with fundamentalist Islam is ridiculous.

It also strikes me a rather funny that he talks about Islam as being a “brutal and violent culture” when historically Judaism and Christianity have been very bad too.  Indeed the world Dobson and Lapin want to create in America doesn’t look any better than the ones fundamentalist Muslims want to create.

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