Sunday, October 31, 2010

Religion and Morality II

The religious are constantly saying that they need god to prevent them from being immoral. They actually ask non-believers what keeps us from raping, robbing, and murdering. They say that god is what stops them.

I have mentioned before that if this is true, then they are essentially all admitting to being psychopaths with only the fear of punishment to keep them in line. Could it really be true that they would all become murderers if they stopped believing in god? It really doesn't seem likely. There is certainly no evidence for it.

Why do I say there is no evidence for that idea?  Because, as I have also discussed, the threat of god's punishment is a nearly non-existent deterrent.  God will forgive anything if you ask him.  The chances of being punished are very slim, and the punishment is in the far distant future for most believers.  Yet, they are not all murderers and rapists, only a slightly higher percentage than one would expect given their proportionate representation in the general population.

In addition, I have mentioned that statistics show more serious crime in religious countries than non-religious countries. I have also mentioned that there are disproportionate number of religious people in prison.

On the other hand, in societies where local religions or religious type philosophies have no concept of god or of a watching vengeful god, there seems to be no drastically larger amount of violent crime than other places.

To a certain extent, I think many believers say this sort of nonsense simply because they have been taught to believe it their whole lives. I also think there is some truth to the notion that the religious are less moral. My personal observations and the research shows that in fact the religious do have less morality. Many of them are, indeed, psychopathic, judging from their behavior.

But, would they all really become murderers tomorrow if someone proved god didn't exist? I don't think so. So, what is it really that they are afraid they might do? Perhaps some of their other obsessions might give us a clue.

One of those obsessions is their fear and hatred of homosexuality. Their hostility is all out of proportion to any rational response. The bible bans a lot of other things with the same vehemence, but you don't see believers threatening to stone adulterers or disrespectful children or people who eat shellfish.

The religious frequently tell us non-believers that our children will grow up to be gay. In fact, that is often one of the first things they say to us when they are on the attack.  This indicates that they think homosexuality is caused by a lack of fear of god's punishment.  If one is a heterosexual, however, one refrains from homosexual behavior because of a lack of interest in it--not because of fear of punishment.

Remember, people who think homosexuality is a choice are called bisexuals. This is exactly what the religious think. Again, perhaps many of them are simply and unthinkingly mouthing words and notions they were taught as children. But, it is surprising the number of them who get caught doing it.  When sex scandals erupt amongst the clergy, there are a surprising number of incidents involving homosexual behavior.  Speaking as a heterosexual, I have always been shocked at the emotion the religious invest in their homophobia.

I don't like the idea of engaging in homosexual acts myself, but I can't imagine hating people who do.  The religious frequently express the desire to kill them, say that AIDS is god's punishment (but isn't enough), engage in gay bashing, etc.

For years, I have heard gay people say that the number of gay and bisexual people in our society is much greater than poll numbers reveal and that most of them are deeply in the closet. At first, I thought they were simply trying to puff up their numbers and buttress their arguments for acceptance. I have begun to suspect, however, that they are right, both for the reasons I mentioned above and because they would be in a better position to know, having had sex with many closeted gays and bisexuals or having at least seen them at gay establishments clearly looking for sex with someone of the same sex.

In addition, there is quite a bit of evidence that bisexual tendencies are often latent in otherwise heterosexual people. Many people admit to having had an "experience" of that sort. The behavior of single sex populations deprived of contact with the other sex for prolonged periods is well known.

All of these factors lead me to a tentative conclusion. When the religious express fear that they won't be able to control themselves without belief in god, it is not rape and murder that they fear they will commit, it is homosexual sex.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Lie that Nazism Was an Atheistic Movement

Among the many lies the allegedly moral Christians like to spread is the calumny that Hitler and the Nazis were atheists.  This is slanderous defamation of atheists of the worst sort.  It is aimed at both atheists as a group and at individuals and used as an excuse to abuse them outrageously.  It is particularly heinous because it is leveled against atheists by the very groups who were, in fact, the rank file of the Nazi Party and its army:  Christians.

I have posted numerous times on this subject because I find it disturbing that so many religious apologists are trying to claim that the Nazis were atheists.  These claims are lies.  They are hate speech.  They are code for "kill them all".

The only way to deal with this sort of outrageous lie is to know the facts, especially the details that make the claim obviously preposterous.  Here are some of those facts.

First and foremost is the platform of the Nazi Party:

I have pointed out the overwhelming evidence that they Nazis were Christians, but there is one particularly damning piece of evidence that I did not include in previous posts:  The Nazi Party Platform.  It states in Article 24:
"The Party stands for positive Christianity, without associating itself with any particular denomination." 
This, one would think, would put the debate to an end conclusively.  The Christian nature of the Nazi Party was enshrined in its very platform, which is a political party's defining document.  But, given the devious and dishonest nature of religion and religious people, the debate rages on as the religious' lust for power rather than truth causes them to, once again, play on the ignorance of the populace.

The next time you hear a believer spreading the outrageous lie that Hitler or the Nazis were atheists and you want to reply with something relatively subtle and non-confrontational, you can simply ask the following:

"Why would atheists try to exterminate the Jews?"  (You can then add:  "A lot of Jews are atheists.")

Or you can say:

"Have there been other incidents where alleged atheists tried to kill or otherwise persecute Jews?"

or

"Do you have any evidence proving that atheists would hate Jews enough to persecute them?"  "Or have ever persecuted them?"

The truth, of course, is that atheists have no reason to hate Jews.  In fact, given that Jews tend to be much more tolerant of us than members of other religions, it might even be said that we are more likely to actually prefer them.  I know I usually do.  You can point that out as well:

"Jews have virtually no history of hostility toward atheists.  In fact, they are usually quite tolerant of usAn atheist would be much more likely to see Jews as natural allies because we are both hated and persecuted by Christians and Muslims."

This point is a good example of the type of relatively subtle points we need to make.  It points out a rather obvious problem with the way the religious think without being too confrontational.  It is highly unlikely that the religious person has ever given this any thought.  At most, they may have some vague notion that the holocaust was a sort of attempt to practice Darwinism, which, in their minds, is inextricably bound up with atheism.

While they are right that atheism and Darwinism are connected, there is no connection between Darwinism and the holocaust.

The Holocaust was clearly an example of "artificial selection" not "natural selection". Artificial selection was around for thousands of years before Darwin and has nothing to do with his ideas. His idea was that natural selection, over time, would result in the creation of different species. There is nothing in Darwin's work about artificially selecting members of your species for extermination because they don't have the right religion. That is an age old religious idea.

People with evil intent will always look for ways to make their goals seem respectable, and there are undoubtedly people who invoke Darwin to support their callous social politics. In fact, I have heard people do just that. They happened to be religious people, however.

Calling it Darwinism is a misnomer and a perversion of Darwin's thesis. Because there is no evolution of a new species occurring or even being encouraged. Such people may talk about breeding "new men", but they don't intend to bring about a new species. They simply intend to cull the herd of those they consider defective.

Darwin's thesis has two essential components: 1) natural selection over time--which has no design but is brutally non-random; and 2) accumulation of naturally selected traits resulting in the creation of new and distinct species.

So-called "social Darwinism" has neither of these.

Atheists have no reason to hate Jews and no history of persecuting Jews, but christians have a very well documented history of hating and persecuting Jews.  In fact, they even had published debates over the course of centuries as to whether or not they should kill all the Jews.  Again, I refer you to James Carroll's wonderful book "Constantine's Sword" for further reading documenting this history.

Until the 20th Century, most christians chose not to kill all the Jews, not out of the goodness of their hearts or their alleged moral superiority but because Augustine reminded them that the Jews were the one's whose holy prophecies Jesus supposedly fulfilled.  Thus, he reasoned, they should be allowed to live to serve as witnesses to the existence and genuineness of the prophecies.  Otherwise, someone might argue that the whole story was made up.  (Of course it was, but that is another topic.)

What is important to remember here is that Augustine felt the need to publish reasons for not killing the Jews back in the 4th Century.  This was less than a century after the christian church gained worldly power under Emperor Constantine.  In other words, the debate had been going between christians virtually throughout the whole of their history--at least since the time they gained political power and made genocide an actual possibility.

Given this history, it is nothing less than astounding to me that anyone could possibly believe that the Nazis were "godless" or pagan.  The history of this "debate" amongst christians is quite well documented and should be mentioned as one of the many reasons that the recent attempts to blame atheists for the holocaust are scandalous, disgusting, and falsely defamatory to the point where any such claim should be considered hate speech aimed at non-believers or pagans.

Anytime you hear or read of another person asserting that the Nazis were atheists or otherwise godless, you can add the fact of these long public debates amongst christians regarding the "Jewish question" (as the Nazis called their continuation of the debate) to the long list of reasons to consider the accusation that the Nazis were atheists or pagans an outrageous lie.

One of the ways in which Christianity has tried to distance itself from the Nazis is to focus on the pagan influences amongst the leaders of Nazism.  Undoubtedly, there were such influences.  As I mentioned before, however, this is akin to the Nuremburg defense.  The fact that the leaders were less than purely Christian in outlook does not relieve their Christian followers of moral culpability--especially given that these Christian followers were the ones who committed the actual atrocities and did so eagerly with only a little encouragement from their leaders.

In addition, this is akin to the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy in which a person argues that a perpetrator of bad acts could not have truly been a member of the group simply because his actions are inconsistent with the idealized view of the group.  Thus, the bad acts are said not to reflect upon the group as a whole.  Obviously, this is a "tails, I win; heads, you lose" argument.  It is a circular argument in which the conclusion (no one in my group is bad) is taken as an immutable given.

Most Christians have their individual opinions about the particulars of their religion.  In fact, no one person can define in detail what it means to be a Christian--though many claim to be able to do so.  Thus, when a Christian does something very unpopular, the other Christians will argue that he wasn't "really" a Christian.  In doing so, they will try to get everyone to focus their attention on the ways in which that individual differed from many other Christians--failing to mention that the same type of "distinctions" can be made about all Christians.

One of the most useful bits of "evidence" the religious have for this subterfuge is the Nazi symbol, the swastika.  The swastika is an ancient symbol found in many cultures.  So ancient, in fact, that its pagan origins are undeniable--it predates Christianity.  This does not mean, however, that it was adopted as part of the Nazi's rejection of Christianity any more than the adoption of various pagan symbols used at Christmas and Easter mean that Christianity is pagan.

The swastika was simply an ancient good luck symbol.  The word swastika came from the Sanskrit word svastika, meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck.  It was adopted by some Christians just as were ancient fertility symbols--rabbits and eggs.  In fact, the name for it in German is Hakenkreuz or "hooked cross".

To the best of our knowledge Hitler saw the swastika as a Christian symbol.  Hitler's first encounter with the swastika was in his boyhood catholic school, which had it engraved on its wall in several places as part of its crest.  (See Anna Elisabeth Rosmus, Out of Passau: Leaving a City Hitler Called Home, p. 35.)

Hitler's family moved to Lambach, Austria, in 1897.  For several months Hitler attended a Catholic school there located in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister, where the walls were engraved in a number of places with crests containing the symbol of the swastika.  It was in Lambach that the eight-year-old Hitler sang in the church choir and entertained the fantasy of one day becoming a priest.

Thus, if presented with this argument, one can say:

"There is no reason to believe that Hitler or the Nazis saw the Hakenkreuz as any less Christian than a Christmas tree."


or

"If the swastika proves the Nazis weren't Christian, then Easter and Christmas prove that the majority of those who call themselves Christian aren't Christian either."

Hitler stated repeatedly in public that the Nazis were Christians and that atheists were their enemies.  Among the many statements:

            "We are a people of different faiths, but we are 
    one. Which faith conquers the other is not the 
    question; rather, the question is whether Christianity 
    stands or falls.... We tolerate no one in our ranks who 
    attacks the ideas of Christianity... in fact our 
    movement is Christian.  We are filled with a desire 
    for Catholics and Protestants to discover one another 
    in the deep distress of our own people.

-Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Passau, 27 October 1928, Bundesarchiv Berlin-Zehlendorf, [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Hitler's actions and that of his regime were motivated largely by, and based squarely on, Christian teachings about Jews, which were taught and spoken of openly for centuries until after the Holocaust was exposed.  See Joseph Daniel Goldhagen's book "Hitler's Willing Executioners".  Since that time, the Christians only speak of this and teach it in private, but they still do it.

The Nazi movement was inherently hostile toward atheism: freethinkers clashed frequently with Nazis in the late 1920s and early 1930s. On taking power, Hitler banned freethought organizations (such as the German Freethinkers League) and launched an “anti-godless” movement. In a 1933 speech he declared: “We have… undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”  The Freethought Hall in Berlin was given to a Christian Church at that time by the Nazis.

In other words, atheists were one of the Nazis' primary political opponents and victims.  If anyone tries to make the argument that the Nazis were atheists, you can say something like:

"That's an absolute lie.  Atheism was not tolerated under the Nazis."

You can add:

"Nazi Germany was officially a 'Christian Nation' with no separation of church and state."

Anyone who bothers to do any research on this knows it is a lie to say Hitler or the Nazis were atheists.  Here is a link to a group of articles de-bunking this outrageous claim as a first step to anyone interested in the truth.  In addition, here are some of the more salient facts that show the allegation to be a lie and which are of a sort that are useful in conversation:

Hitler was raised Catholic, attended Christian services, and never publicly disavowed the Catholic Church nor Christianity in general.  Nor did the Church ever disavow or excommunicate Hitler or any of his followers, even after their crimes against humanity had become clear.  In contrast, the atheistic communists worldwide were excommunicated all at once in 1948 with the stroke of a pen by Pius XII, the same Pope who signed the Concordat with Nazi Germany and then ordered his followers to obey their political leaders--meaning the Nazi government. 

See  http://www.montfort.org.br/index.php?secao=documentos&subsecao=decretos&artigo=anticomunismo&lang=eng 

By 1948, everyone knew about the full scope of the Nazi's incredible atrocities.  There can be no pretense that the Pope "didn't know".  Why didn't the Pope excommunicate the surviving Nazis instead of helping them escape?

Throughout the war, all Nazi soldiers wore belt buckles that had "Gott mit uns" (God is with us) engraved on them.

 The highest decoration the soldiers could receive was an iron cross--obviously it wasn't the iron that made it a decoration, and a cross as a symbol wasn't picked at random but was based on the Christian cross. 

The Nazi government used baptismal records to determine who was Jewish and who was not, thus making Christianity the national religion of Germany and a requirement for living (as opposed to dying) in Germany. http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/28/175235/329


See The Encyclopedia of Unbelief By Gordon Stein Contributor Gordon Stein, Paul Edwards Published by Prometheus Books, 1985. Page 290. "The Union of Proletarian Freethinkers was banned by the Nazis as early as 1932, and the Prussian National Socialist faction introduced a bill banning the Union of Freethinkers. The end of all freethinking unions arrived in 1933, with the consolidation of Hitler's power." 
See The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939 By Adolf Hitler, Norman Hepburn Baynes, Royal Institute of International Affairs Published by H. Fertig, 1969. Page 378.
See Richard Steigmann-Gall (2003). The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Roughly two-thirds of Germans were Protestant, almost all of the rest Catholic. Many Nazi soldiers, including many who partook personally in the massacres perpetrated by the Nazis were from countries such as Poland, The Ukraine, the baltic states, Croatia and other heavily Catholic countries.

It is sometimes alleged that the Nazis were pagans.  Some of them apparently had pagan beliefs.  It is not always clear if those individuals were completely pagan or combined paganism with their own understanding of Christianity.  The Nazi Party as an institution, however, clearly was Christian with merely a few pagan symbols and ideas added because of their link to the German/Aryan past.  The pagan minority was extremely small, in any event.

See http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/paul_23_4.html 

The addition of a few pagan ideas doesn't make an institution pagan.  If it does, then almost all Christian churches are actually pagan.  Easter, Christmas and the worship of the Virgin Mary and the Saints all have roots in pagan religions that were engulfed by Christianity.  In fact, Easter is the name of a pagan god. 

Many of the people who claim that the Nazis were atheists draw almost all their authority for the statement from a book entitled "Hitler's Table Talk", which purports to give an account of things Hitler said in private.  What this book actually reveals is that Hitler may have privately ceased to believe in the Christian Church and criticized it, but the alleged conversations reported in it (especially in the more accurate German language versions) show that he still believed in god and thought he was doing god's work.  He thought Christ was an Aryan whose work had been perverted by Paul (who had been a Jew, don't forget).  He saw himself as Christ's successor ridding the church of Paul's "jewish" influence. 

The English translation of this book is completely unreliable.  It contains numerous fabrications, omissions, and mistranslations.  It is based on the French translation and not the original German, and the French translation was produced by a man who perpetrated a hoax in the 1970's when he tried to market a forged "Hitler's last testament".  There are numerous other indicators of this particular man's lack of honesty throughout his lifeAnyone quoting from the English translation (by W.H. Trevor-Roper) can be pulled up short by pointing this out. 

Even if it were true that Hitler had become an atheist, this is nothing but an even weaker version of the Nuremburg defense.  The Christians are now essentially arguing that all the Christians who did the actual killing were ordered to do so by a man who was secretly an atheist and therefore all the blame rests with this one man and with his alleged secret atheism. 

The Nuremburg defense was not accepted at the Nuremburg trials and it should not accepted as a basis for a defamatory allegation against people who were, in fact, victims of the Nazis.  Such an outrageous and harmful claim requires real evidence.  The evidence, however, points most decidedly toward those currently doing the accusing as the guilty parties.

There is not one shred of evidence that Hitler's alleged atheism had any role to play in what happened.  Hitler was also a vegetarian.  Saying that the Holocaust occurred because Hitler lacked morals as a result of being an atheist is the logical equivalent of saying that it occurred because he was a vegetarian and his brain was deprived of protein.

In addition, as I have explained in other posts, the alleged link between religion and morality is not only non-existent, it is actually the opposite of the truth.  All evidence and logic show that religion actually leads to less morality--which explains why the Holocaust was perpetrated by so many good Christian soldiers.

One wonders why these good Christian soldiers would follow such orders.  One also wonders why the man who allegedly gave them went to such lengths to portray himself to them as a Christian.  The obvious implication is that he knew they were devout Christians and that their Christianity could be used to control them.  He also knew that they would do literally anything if they thought it was in the service of their religion.

The claim that the soldiers were in fear of their lives has been rejected and has been proven to be false.  Joseph Daniel Goldhagen found several cases while researching his book "Hitler's Willing Executioners" where soldiers told their superiors that they simply could not participate in such things and were not punished at all.  Some were simply sent home to Germany and resumed their civilian careers.  He found no instance where a soldier was executed for failure to participate in massacres. 

Even if Hitler were secretly an atheist, there is no evidence that he actually killed anyone or even ordered the death of anyone in the Holocaust.  The authorization he gave was either little more than encouragement or off the record.  See e.g., Christopher R. Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, 2004, p. 309 et seq.

Apparently Hitler didn't have to try very hard to get his soldiers to do the killing.  Why?  Because those soldiers had been prepared by centuries of anti-semitic propaganda from the various Christian Churches to think of their victims as vermin who deserved slaughter.  This propaganda is not in doubt and in some cases it continues to this day.  The larger churches have ceased overtly urging their followers to hate Jews and others, but the idea hasn't gone away.

It is particularly irksome to hear this slanderous lie from Catholic leaders.  During the war, the Catholic clergy in the Third Reich collaborated, informing the authorities which of their parishioners were actually converted Jews or the descendants of converted Jews, telling German schoolchildren that the Jews were simply getting what they deserved (I was told this by a man who actually was one of those schoolchildren), and in most cases doing nothing to stop it. 

After the war, the Catholic Church helped surviving Nazis escape justice, giving them new identification papers and sending them to countries controlled by the Church, such as Argentina and Paraguay. 

See, e.g., Phayer, Michael. 2008. Pius XII, The Holocaust, and the Cold War. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34930-9.

There were a few Catholics who resisted the regime and were killed or sent to concentration camps as punishment, but it must be remembered that they did so because of their individual consciences and in defiance of the orders of their church.  Now the Church wants to pretend that these few were the only Catholics living in the Third Reich at the time and were representative of the Church's policies.  Just like they want to pretend that Hitler's alleged secret atheism explains the whole thing.  Neither assertion is true.

When the Nazis began euthanizing the mentally ill during the 1930's, the Catholic Church not only heard about it right away but put up an almighty stink and literally put a stop to the program.  The number of "defectives" who were to be euthanized was only about 250,000, so that was a very small project compared to the millions of Jews later killed.

Yet, the Church wants everyone to believe that they had no knowledge of the Holocaust even when many of the people directly involved were Catholic.  Apparently, they would have us believe that in a world where three people can keep a secret only if two of them are dead that none of these Catholics ever told anyone what they knew--even in confession.  This is simply not believable.  Rather, as is the case in the current child-abuse scandal, it is clear that the Church's leaders have lied and are lying in order to protect the Church.  After all, if the Church collapses most of them will probably go to jail and the rest will have to get real jobs.

Many of the records involving the "final solution" were sealed for decades and only recently became available.  (Eerily similar to the Vatican's centuries old refusal to allow access to its records of trials for witchcraft.)  It is clear from a recent report of the participation of the German foreign service in the Holocaust that knowledge of the "final solution" was widespread and not just limited to those few thousands directly involved.  Likewise, anecdotal reports both of survivors and Germans willing to speak honestly indicate that knowledge of what was going on was widespread.  How could it not have been?  When so many good Christian Germans were living close enough to the camps to smell the stench?  Yet those same people lied repeatedly and nearly unanimously about their knowledge--giving strong reason to believe that all such denials from those who should have known are lies.

I don't want to pick on the Catholic Church in particular because it is clear that German protestants were just as bad or worse and that Martin Luther was one of the most virulent anti-semites of all time.  The Catholic Church, however, being a single, hierarchical, authoritarian organization was uniquely positioned to prevent what happened--just as it prevented full implementation of the Nazi euthanasia program--but did nothing.  Worse, the Catholic Church has been in the forefront of the movement to lie about this and claim that Hitler and the Nazis were atheists.

It is also clear that the Catholic Church was willing to look the other way because they saw the Nazis as the alternative to the communists.  See, e.g., Phayer.  If the communists came to power throughout Europe, the Church would have been in great peril.

For that reason the Church was the driving force behind the Spanish Civil War, which began after a left-wing government came to power through free elections.  The Civil War was fomented and prosecuted by the right-wing of the Church in order to overthrow a democratically elected government.  Which side did the Nazis support and actually fight alongside?  The Church's side, of course.

(There are also good reasons to believe that the Catholic Church was instrumental in pushing America into the Cold War, including the intervention in Vietnam and various Latin American countries.) 

In some non-Catholic countries, Bulgaria, Denmark, and Norway, the local populace and the local (i.e., Protestant or Orthodox) churches refused to go along with the holocaust and effectively prevented the extermination of most Jews living in those countries.  Their refusal was based on the fact that they knew what the Nazis were doing.  They knew that the Jews weren't simply being "re-settled".  How could the Catholic Church, which is a de facto network of spies thanks to the sacrament of confession, not know? 

At the same time, one of the worst regimes that supported the Nazis was the ultra-Catholic regime in Croatia, which committed atrocities that disturbed even hardened Nazis.  Many of the atrocities were actually committed by Catholic Clergymen.  That story is so shocking it deserves to be treated as a separate topic in a later post.  The embedded link, however, should give anyone interested a good start. 

The one nation allied with or occupied by the Nazis that absolutely refused to persecute Jews was Japan, which isn't even Christian!!  Japan didn't have a population raised to believe in the blood libel against the Jews and wasn't subjected to centuries of anti-semitic propaganda.

For those actually implicated in the Holocaust to try to blame it on atheists is shameless scapegoating of the worst sort.  It is the classic sort of behavior one would expect from the emotionally disturbed and psychopathic.  It is exactly the sort of "BIG LIE" that the Nazis used so often and planned to use to cover up their crimes.

For nearly 2,000 years Christians used the Jews as scapegoats for nearly everything.  Now that the Christians have gone too far and actually tried to kill them all (as they threatened to do for centuries) public relations considerations prevent them from using Jews as scapegoats anymore.  Yet, they need a scapegoat more than ever to blame that little escapade on, so they turned to their convenient enemies the atheists and tried to pin the blame on them.

Finally, this is an example of the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy in which someone will argue that it is impossible for someone from his "group" to have done such a thing so either it didn't happen or the person wasn't really from his group.  Although it is often referred to as a logical fallacy--because an unproven premise is accepted and allowed to take precedence over all objective evidence--it is really more akin to a delusion and a symptom of an ego based mental illness in which the person's fragile ego prevents him from accepting facts if they make his "group" look bad.

That, in a nutshell, explains what is going on and why such obviously false lies are being spread.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More Lies About School Prayer

If you read the comments posted at websites with news stories about school prayer, then you will undoubtedly run across comments such as "no one is forcing anyone to pray" or "they could just stick their fingers in their ears if they are offended".

http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_186930.asp

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2010/oct/20/national-group-demands-end-prayers-soddy-daisy-hig/?local

First, as I mentioned before, it is not just a question of being offended.  I would like to urge all non-believers and believers who support the separation of church and state to stop saying that it is objectionable because someone might be offended and to correct anyone who says that it is.

It is objectionable because it gives the appearance of government support for religion, intentionally sends a signal that conformity is required by the community, and because it violates the rights of the individual to keep his or her religious beliefs private and not be forced to choose between making them public or pretending to go along and violate the dictates of his or her conscience.

When confronted with the usual lies about school prayer, you can respond with:

"It's not that someone might be offended, it's that it makes it impossible for people to keep their beliefs private."

or

"The problem is that it makes it impossible for people to keep their beliefs private."

You can follow that with:

"It clearly sends a message that conformity is expected by government and by the majority of the child's schoolmates."

Followed by:

"It is nothing but a rather obvious form of bullying."

Then:

"If the student doesn't conform, he will be bullied and his family might even be run out of town.  There have been numerous cases where that is exactly what happened."

The truth is that any student who doesn't pray in such situations will be forced to do so or else leave town.  Remember that this sort of thing will only happen these days in school districts with an overwhelming percentage of believers who are all in very similar religions.  Otherwise, the school prayer issue would have long since reared its head and been resolved by a decision to follow the law.  Only in an extremely religious school district would the decision be made to ignore the law.

Thus, first and foremost, the non-believer who chooses not to pray will be subjected to social pressure to conform.  The very existence of the unnecessary public prayer sessions proves that, because that is the only reason to have such public organized prayer sessions outside of a church.

If the non-believing child refuses to bow to this implicit social pressure, greater pressure will be brought to bear.  He or she will be picked on and ostracized by the other students.  Worse, the adults (who, of course, were the ones who made the decision to thumb their noses at the law in the first place) will use their positions of power and authority to pick on and ostracize the student and deprive him or her of things like membership in sports teams or clubs.  Most important, the adults will cease to properly supervise the situation and will allow the other students to treat the non-believer badly or even encourage such mistreatment.

Numerous non-believers have gone through this sort of thing.  Most of them either cave in emotionally and delude themselves into believing, pretend to conform, or move away.  They usually do this quietly and without involving the authorities--not surprising given that they are usually in a place where even the authorities will approve of their mistreatment.  Because most of the cases involve such quiet resolution, you don't hear much about them unless you go to online chat groups, meetings or conventions of non-believers where some of the victims end up in later years looking for support from the like-minded.  In those places, you will meet many people who have gone through such things.

Every now and then, however, you have a case where the victims were able and willing to fight back.  In such cases, you not only see exactly how the situation will play out and the true motives of the believers, you also get a public record of what happened.  The Smalkowski case is such a case.

The Smalkowskis were new to their small Oklahoma community and that explains both why they fought back and why they were successful.  They simply could not believe that such outrageous things were happening.  They were not inured to this sort of intolerance and pressure.  They had no extended family members in the community who were believers pressuring them to conform or who were subject to outside pressure or blackmail.

(I hate to say it--but it's true--but this also meant that the believers had no spies in the Smalkowski camp.  I will write a post on the nature of the "inquisitiveness" shown by the religious at another time.  But, in short, their nosiness is a form of psychopathic power seeking.  They are digging for dirt to use against others and to make themselves feel superior.)

The steps in the escalating pressure and abuse that I spoke of above were followed right up to the point of trying to imprison Mr. Smalkowski on false charges.  Don't ever let anyone say that school prayer doesn't force people to pray.  It does, and that is the whole point of it.

One of the things you can say is:

"There is no reason to have organized school prayer EXCEPT to coerce people to conform."

The way the religious lie about this is simply unbelievable.  If Franz Kafka and George Orwell collaborated on a novel it would almost certainly be called "Religion" and it would prominently feature official, public group prayer sessions resulting in the bullying and abuse of anyone who didn't conform combined with outright lies about what was happening.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's a Free Country! Or Is It?

As I mentioned before, the school prayer scenario and numerous other scenarios where believers either force everyone else to declare their religion or at least try to pry it out of them combined with their very often, and sometimes not so subtle, demands that we shut up about our disagreement tells us one thing very clearly:  The believers want us to conform and will accept nothing else. 

In recent years, one hears more and more people saying, in all seriousness, that the U.S. is a "Christian nation".  This is a recent development.  Prior to the last 10 or 15 years, one didn't hear that except perhaps in Western History classes where it was meant explicitly to refer only to the fact that many of the settlers of the U.S. were Christians or from countries in the part of the world considered Christian.  Even in that context, it was unusual to hear such a thing.

What one heard instead, as the commonly accepted characterization of the U.S. was:  This is a free country.

I think it is telling that "this is a free country" has been replaced in the minds of many with "this is a christian nation".  Those who have done this have, unknowingly I suspect, juxtaposed the two choices facing us:  Freedom or theocracy.

Whenever you hear this sort of "christian nation" nonsense, I suggest that you say:

"No.  This is a free country."

You can follow that with this:

"If you don't like living in a free country, perhaps you should leaveThere are many countries that have theocracy instead of freedom.  You should move to one of those."

Moment of Silence

One thing the religious and the media consistently fail to mention is that there are many school districts in the U.S. that are ignoring the Supreme Court's ruling on school prayer to this very day.  Every now and then, one of them gets into the news, but the story seems to be too unimportant to warrant much coverage in the eyes of the media and quickly fades away.  (This is a problem with our media.  As profit seeking enterprises, they tend to cover stories that are popular rather than stories that matter.  But, that will be the subject of another post.)  Anyone who spends any time conversing with atheists knows that there are many places in the U.S. where the law is being flouted.

The religious who understand (just a little) that they have lost the battle for school prayer sometimes advance the idea that there could be a "moment of silence" every morning during which kids could pray if they wanted.  I think that this would obviously be simply the nose of the camel under the tent--the rest of the camel will follow quickly.  If the religious already violate the law frequently when no organized prayer is supposed to be allowed, what will happen if they are given a legal fig leaf like the moment of silence?  Obviously, the violations of the law will simply increase because it will be more difficult to bring legal action.

Even if the law regarding the "moment of silence" were followed to the letter, the same situation would be created with regard to the poor child or children who don't belong to the dominant local religion.  The only thing that would change would the absence of a voice over the intercom reciting prayer.

This is not an area where abuses should be tolerated.  We don't have a special "moment of hesitation" rule for red lights at busy intersections.  There is no "fudge factor".  Frankly, compared to freedom of religion, speech, and thought (all of which are implicated in school prayer situations), traffic laws are trivial.  The idea of a "fudge factor" in that situation is even less acceptable that the "moment of hesitation" at red lights.

School prayer infringes on the most basic rights of children.  For that reason alone every decent person should be up in arms to prevent it.  But that is not the half of it.  Worse yet is that the continued brainwashing of children threatens our civilization and maybe even the very existence of humanity.  Those children will grow up to vote and to seek positions of power and try to put their crazy ideas into effect.  A democracy with a huge nuclear arsenal where a large number of voters are looking forward to the end of the world and think death isn't real but is only a prelude to eternal life clearly represents a danger to all humanity.

The ascent of Christianity to political power in the 4th century led to the downfall of civilization and more than a thousand years of darkness for mankind.  Modern Theocrats speak openly of the Enlightment being a bad thing and make no secret of the fact that they actually yearn for a nuclear holocaust and a return to the dark ages (though this time with better weapons).  Of course, they don't think it will be a dark age; they think baby Jesus will re-appear. 

Consider for a moment the plight of non-believing children and members of religious minorities living in the bible belt of the U.S. where religious intolerance is encouraged.  Imagine yourself as one of those children.  (This is essentially the problem with religious people and why I now realize that it they are emotionally disturbed:  They cannot perform this simple act of empathy and imagine how such children must feel.)

Imagine you are at the football game mentioned in the story below and you are not a member of the dominant religion.  After the announcement about "voluntary" prayer, what do you do?  Do you continue to sit in your seat while everyone else goes to the end of the field to pray?  How do you think that will make you feel?  How do you think the others will treat you in the future?  As you contemplate being the only (or one of the few) who doesn't go to pray, do you not think that the idea will occur to you that you have to go and pretend to pray or else they will run you out of town? 

This is the result of having a "moment of silence":

http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_186911.asp

Prayer Breaks Out At Soddy Daisy Football Game
Despite Caution From County School Superintendent
posted October 22, 2010

Click to Enlarge
Prayer broke out after all at the Soddy Daisy High School football game on Friday night.

After the Freedom From Religion group of Madison, Wis., protested, County School Supt. Dr. Jim Scales instructed Soddy Daisy High School Principal John Maynard to no longer have prayers over the loudspeaker prior to football games.

Mr. Maynard said he would comply.

The Trojans were on the road against Rhea County in Dayton on Friday night.

A fan gave this account:

"The stadium announcer made a respectful remark that everyone should be aware of what had taken place in the Hamilton County School system this week and to honor Dr. Jim Scales' wishes they were asking anyone who wished to participate that they could meet on the field with the players of both teams for prayer.

"Both sides of the stadium emptied and joined the teams, bands and cheerleaders for a heart-felt prayer led by a female student from Rhea County High School."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Prayer in Public Schools

As I mentioned before, this is one of those hot topics where the religious lie constantly.  They constantly misrepresent what the Supreme Court said, constantly misrepresent what the Constitution says, constantly misrepresent what actually happens, and constantly misrepresent their own motives.

They constantly, repeatedly, insistently lie and say that the Supreme Court has told them that they cannot pray in schools.  This is completely untrue.  The Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to pray.  All the court said was that the power of the Government cannot be used to do so, especially with a captive audience.

Since any individual can pray whenever he or she wants, there is nothing stopping these people from praying before sporting events, during school, in courtrooms, etc.  So, why don't they just pray, quit bothering the rest of us, and quit complaining about the Constitution and the Supreme Court?

Because it isn't the actual prayer that they really want.  They already have that.

What they really want is a public show of unanimity, or at least a showing of their numbers.  They also want to signal to each other that they belong to that group.  What is the point of this?  Obviously, it is meant to reassure themselves that they are the dominant group and to publicly display that dominance.  It is meant to make them feel more secure and to send a message of intimidation to anyone who is not one of them.  It is, in short, nothing but a primal status display.

In other words, they are actually upset that they no longer can use the power of government specifically for the purpose of bullying others.

Why is this so important to them?

It is much easier to get people to believe in things for which there is no proof if everyone around them seems to believe in it too.  Once the kids reach the age of reason, it will make it easier for them to ignore that little voice in their heads that says "you know, this sounds like something some primitive person just made up."  When some of the students are actually saying that sort of thing out loud, the brainwashing process will be seriously hampered.

The religious know that such childhood "training" is necessary, just like faith is necessary, to get most people to believe.  In fact, if you listen to believers, you will hear them say repeatedly how important it is to "raise" children as Christians.  Their insistence on organized school prayer is another one of those things that reveal that, deep inside, a lot of believers know their beliefs aren't really true.

If this not so subtle coercion fails to elicit conformity, then the child will be forced to identify himself as a non-believer and suffer the inevitable ostracism and bullying that result.  In case you doubt that this is true, simply research it.  Go to atheist groups, websites, online groups, etc.  You will find numerous non-believers who will report that this sort of thing actually happened to them or their children.

Thus, we reach one of the essential purposes of school prayer:  to identify non-believers--to target us.  They want to know who we are because only then can they bully us into conforming or leaving the community.  This is a gross violation of our human and civil rights.  And, in case it isn't clear, using the power of the government to force people to identify their religious beliefs so that they can then be targeted for ostracism and bullying is un-Constitutional, not to mention immoral and indecent.

The religious sometimes say separation of church and state is not in the Constitution.  What they mean by this is that Jefferson's famous phrase about "a wall of separation between church and state" is not a quotation from the Constitution.  But, they say it in a way that is misleading to anyone not educated in the law, which, sadly, includes many Americans.  They say it in a way that implies that the Supreme Court "created" this separation on its own.  This is a lie.

If the Constitution actually used Jefferson's famous phrase, it would be quite confusing.  How would a judge or official apply such a phrase?  By requiring the building of actual walls?  The First Amendment provides for this separation in a way that can be called "legalese".  It is phrased in a way that is intended to give judges and officials a rule that they can apply.

The very first thing the First Amendment says is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."  This means quite clearly that the Government cannot adopt an official state religion.  The word "respecting" means that the Government can't even enact laws that amount to less than official establishment if those laws might be part of such official establishment.

The second thing the First Amendment says is "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."  This clearly means that the Government cannot restrict the rights of citizens to pray, etc.

The religious these days like to argue that the rule against organized school prayer abridges their right to freely practice their religion.  This is tantamount to arguing, in this context, that the second clause overrules the first.  Because, if that were the case, then a religion that required "an establishment of religion" as one of the duties of its adherents could easily brush aside the first clause pursuant to the alleged primacy of the second.  But, if that is the case, then the first clause would never have been written and it would not have been first.

Obviously, some restriction on the exercise of religion has to be allowed.  (If a religion considers it a holy practice to sacrifice a non-believer every Sunday, the Government can clearly interfere with the exercise of their religion and stop them.  Or, a more pedestrian example, if a church says it must pray in the middle of the road during rush hour, the Government can intervene.)

The rule is really quite simple, you can exercise your religion so long as that exercise doesn't interfere with the rights of others, which includes the right not to believe and the right to be free from the threat of government coercion.

Along with the right to freedom of speech comes the right to choose not to speak.  Children at school are a captive audience.  If an organized prayer session is held, the children are deprived of their right to keep their opinions to themselves.  They must choose to communicate on the very emotional topic of religion either by praying or by refusing to pray and thus revealing their disagreement whether they want to reveal it or not.  The religious are very fond of telling us non-believers to keep our opinions to ourselves but then do their level best to make it impossible for us to do so.

This is probably one of the best things to say:

"You believers keep telling us to keep our opinions to ourselves.  Well, school prayer deprives us of the right to do so."

Of course, the school prayer scenario and numerous others where believers either force everyone else to declare their religion or at least try to pry it out of them combined with their frequent, and sometimes not so subtle, demands that we shut up about our disagreement tells us one thing very clearly:  The believers want us to conform and will accept nothing else.

The school prayer scenario is inherently coercive--everyone else (or nearly so) is doing it and the authority figures are running the whole show.  How could a child not feel coerced?  The first and most obvious goal of this inherently coercive situation is to send a not so subtle message that conformity in this matter is required to be part of our society.  I want everyone, especially any religious readers, to think about that:  School prayer sends the message that members of this society DO NOT have freedom of religion.  It is not just a question of "offending" non-believers as the lie so often told by believers goes.

It sends this coercive message to our most vulnerable citizens, children.  And, that, of course, is why the religious deem it so important.  It is an integral part of their program to brainwash their children and bully everyone else's.  Otherwise, the religious could simply pray with their children before taking them to school, or instruct them to say a non-disruptive prayer at the beginning of the day.

The Insanity of Religion III

It has been my experience that, because I am an atheist, many religious people will scrutinize everything I say and do in order to twist it into some unrecognizable calumny that can be used to paint me as the most evil person imaginable.  So, it is with some trepidation that I post these links and these words.  I am sure I will be accused of anti-semitism or of blaming the Jews for provoking the Holocaust, but it is because these articles involve Israel and Judaism that they reveal so much about religion and it's destructive interplay with human nature.

First we have an influential Israeli rabbi saying that gentiles were meant by god to serve the Jews.  This is precisely the sort of thinking that the Nazi's accused the Jews of in order to justify their genocide.  Only someone completely blinded by egotism would make such a statement under such circumstances.

The second is an article about the rise of Jewish fascism within Israel, which indicates that the Rabbi is not alone in his thinking by far and that many people don't learn from history more than they need to prop up their egos.

What more proof can one really require to see that religion is a sickness that does nothing but divide us and set us against each other for no objective reason.

Lie: The Church "Preserved" Western Knowledge

You often hear this little Orwellian tidbit from those who are in denial regarding the fact that the Dark Ages were caused by Christianity.  (Some are in denial simply because it hurts their egos to think they are part of such an evil group; others are in denial for the additional reason that they want to drag humanity back into that cesspool--only with better weapons this time.)  If you hear it, you can reply with:

"The church burned entire libraries and preserved only those books it found suitable because they weren't a threat to the church.  The church wasn't "preserving" knowledge during the dark ages, it was controlling it."

This is just another Big Lie, another attempt to poison the well in the marketplace of ideas, another example of the religious re-writing history to make themselves look goodAn unknown number of ancient works were destroyed by the Christians.  The Dark Ages ended and the Renaissance began only because ancient works were discovered preserved in libraries of the Muslims, who, though hardly more tolerant these days, showed a great deal of tolerance during the European Dark Ages.

The truth about the church's motives and actions in this regard is instructive regarding its current actions.  The church wants very much to once again have control over knowledge so that it can prevent apostasy using ignorance and manipulation.  This insight goes a long way toward explaining their insane insistence on organized school prayer.

That issue is their new "wedge strategy" to try to force the enactment of school voucher laws or, better yet, scrap the public school system altogether.  The result of such a change, of course, would be to turn over almost all education to churches.  If you don't think this is important to the churches, take a look at recent history in countries like Spain and Chile where governments tried to do the opposite and kick religion out of the education business.  The churches literally overthrew the elected governments in those countries because of it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tolerance?

“Christianity persecuted, tortured, and burned. Like a hound it tracked the very scent of heresy. It kindled wars, and nursed furious hatreds and ambitions. It sanctified, quite like Mohammedanism, extermination and tyranny . . . ”
George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952), Little Essays, No. 107, "Christian Morality"

It has become amazingly commonplace to hear or read of Christians accusing atheists of intolerance.  This is nothing short of Kafkaesque.  The majority of Christian churches still have intolerance as their official policy with regard to atheists and others.  They have for centuries hunted us down like vermin for the pleasure of torturing us to death.  Even now that they have been forced to give up that sport in most countries, they wax eloquent about their desire to see us burning in hell for eternity and about how much they will enjoy looking down from heaven to watch our torment.

For a theist to accuse an atheist of intolerance is the historical, logical, and moral equivalent of a Nazi accusing a Jew of intolerance.  Any Christian who does so is a combination of insane and ignorant.  Such a person simply is not in touch with reality and should be avoided because he or she is clearly able to delude himself into hating you for simply existing.  There are many such people out there and their twisted way of rationalizing their insecurities into hatred can only be the product of religious education.  A real education would have left them with some knowledge of the reality of the history of their religion as well as the difference between "disagreement" and "intolerance".

Tolerance means that a person can believe whatever he wants and the rest of us don't bother him about it, but it doesn't mean that the rest of us don't have a right to disagree and say so.  The religious would have us believe that we are being intolerant of them simply for saying that we disagree. This is a clear case of psychological projection and an implicit threat.  A person who can twist disagreement into intolerance can and will twist anything you say or do and use it as an excuse to try to bring harm to you.

A recent study, written about in this article, shows that even statements of the golden rule taken from other religions make the religious suddenly feel more intolerant rather than less.  As the article correctly points out, this is proof that religion's appeal often lies with in-group versus out-group competition and dynamics.

I have had personal experience with such people.  One cannot hope to sway them but pointing out the obvious absurdity of their statements and attitude can help to knock them off their moral high horse.  Here are some of the things you might say.  Generally, though, depending on the situation, you should immediately get away from such a person and never have any contact with him or her again.

"Disagreement is not the same as intolerance.  Calling it that is clearly an example of psychological projection:  You are simply accusing me of what you feel."

"Given your religion's centuries old tradition of seeking out and exterminating all atheists, for you to accuse me of intolerance is the historical, logical, and moral equivalent of a Nazi accusing a Jew of intolerance."

They will undoubtedly reply to this second suggested statement with accusations about how Stalin and Mao killed millions.  You can reply:

"Stalin and Mao did not hunt down and exterminate every religious person they could find and they certainly didn't burn any of them at the stake.  Most of their victims were political opponents or died as an unintended result of a radical switch to a new and non-functioning economic system."

The Attack on Public Schools

"An imperfect system is much better than no system at all."

The truth of the above statement should be obvious to all.  So, what is really going on?

What is really going on is a long term plan by the religious to implement a tried and true tactic to control the marketplace of ideas and thus our society.

These days, one hears quite a lot about how bad our public schools are both from religious fanatics and from people who should have the sense to know better. Atheists should definitely know better, but a surprising number don't. When you hear these criticisms, remember that, like most things you hear from the religious, there is a hidden agenda. Here are some points everyone should know, both for purposes of determining whether an atheist really belongs on this bandwagon--or is just being a "useful idiot"--and for purposes of fighting off the theocrats and their agenda.

Some of the criticisms of our schools have some validity. It is true that the public school system can be said to have been designed "to train good little workers".  (Considering that the vast majority of students are destined to be workers, this is not entirely a bad thing.) It is true that the schools usually follow the Medieval instructional model, which can be criticized on various grounds (but which can't be replaced without substantially increasing costs).

Many atheists who have hopped on this bandwagon were once bright students unhappily trapped in public schools.  Instead of being angry at the prejudice that judged them based on the economic circumstances of their parents or at the lack of willingness amongst the adults in their lives to fund a better system, they became so angry at the schools themselves that they want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

What people tend to forget, however, is the abysmal state of affairs that preceded the advent of public schools and prompted their establishment. Prior to the establishment of public schools many children simply received no education at all. Many others received extremely inadequate educations.

In an agrarian society, this might not have seemed such a bad thing. Well, the days when the U.S. or any Western country was agrarian have long since passed. Furthermore, in any society where every citizen has a right to vote it is clearly a problem, regardless of the basis of that society's economic system.  These days, complete ignorance amongst citizens would threaten both our democratic institutions and our economy.

All the arguments for getting rid of public schools boil down to criticisms of their performance. Not one of the critics ever responds with a decent argument (or any argument, usually) addressing the point that an imperfect system is much better than no system at all.  If you engage anyone on this issue, ask them to defend what will happen if public schools are eradicated.

The obvious implication of the failure to address this point is that it is true, and the inference to be drawn from that is that the criticisms are just a ruse to distract from a hidden agenda. The hidden agenda is not hard to discern. The religious want control of our schools as well as of our Government. First and foremost, they want vouchers so that public tax dollars could be used to finance religious education. Later, they can have anything they want because control of our society will be in the hands of the students they train.

Not only is the current system better than no system, most of the criticisms could be easily remedied, but those changes require money. Simply put, hiring more and better teachers ALWAYS improves the performance of students. Furthermore, if we hired enough of them we could even have separate classes, or other instruction, for children who don't fit the "authoritarian sponge" model that public schools have to follow.

Instead of making our children the priority, the first thing to have its funding cut in a budget crunch is the public schools. This is about as sensible as a farmer eating the seed he was going to plant next year because he traded his food grain for a new ATV.

The most important thing any society does is raise its children. This is simply and obviously the primary reason humans have societies at all. We have societies for the same reason monkeys live in troops--to protect each other, especially the young and the weak. People ARE their society, and those children will be voting, adult citizens in a very short time. Thirteen years is usually the longest time lag, even for the youngest.

If you really can't muster any concern or compassion for other people or other people's children, then consider this: When you become, once again, one of the weak members of society, when you reach old age and are dependent on a pension and your society's health care system, those children, whose education you thought was not worth a few dollars of yours, will be the ones caring for you and deciding whether and how this society should care for you.

Given that this "get rid of public schools" movement is really driven by the religious fanatics who want to make sure all education is religious education, that thought should terrify any atheist with a brain. The people making decisions about you in your later years could be a combination of the un-educated and religious fanatics--mostly the religious fanatics, because the un-educated will simply be there to empty your bedpan or hold you down while the others euthanize you after finding out you are just a dirty atheist. (And, the un-educated will probably be voting the way the media tells them. The media will, of course, be controlled by the only educated people left--religious fanatics.)

What sets humans apart, what makes us successful, is our brains. The potential for discovery and wealth production locked up in our brains is limitless. One has to wonder how many Einsteins were lost during the dark ages because they had the misfortune to be born in some small village with no school at all, or were indiscreet and made fun of the silliness or evil of religion and lost a chance to get an education (or perhaps even to live). Likewise, one has to wonder how many such contributors to humanity's overall wealth have been lost even today because they were born in a third-world backwater or in one of the U.S.'s "red states" where ignorance is seen as a virtue.

A small fraction of the money funneled (shoveled?) into the maw of the military-industrial complex each year could dramatically improve our schools, and the end-result would almost certainly be a dramatic increase in our wealth as a society.  Rather than climb on board the "public schools are bad" bandwagon, we should be working to make them better.  When you hear anyone attacking the public school system, especially if that person is a non-believer, please make the points I mention above.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Does the Universe's Existence Prove God's? Part III

As I have pointed out before, this is the only remotely effective argument the religious have, and the more intelligent of them know it.  But, do not shy away from it.  The argument is based on unfounded assumptions and such unfounded assumptions render it unsound logically.  They are its big weakness; focus on them.

Chief among those unfounded assumptions is that there is no other possible explanation other than god (in other words, magic, which implies a magician).  Pin them down on this point.  Make them prove it.  It will come as no surprise that they cannot.  When they assert that god is the only explanation or ask you to provide the alternative hypotheses, refuse to accept the assertion or play along with the "we can't think of anything else, so it must be god" game.

"How do you know that god is the only explanation?"

They will inevitably reply by demanding that YOU provide the alternative explanations.  (Once again trying to shift the burden of proof on assertions they know they can't prove.  And they want us to consider them to be more honest than us?!!!)

In reply, one tactic is to ignore the demand that you supply the list of possible explanations and go straight for the jugular:

"You haven't given me a good reason to think that an 'invisible magic man in the sky' should even be on the list of possible explanations."

Otherwise, you can say in reply:

"You're the one who claims to know the entire list of possible explanations, and, frankly, you haven't yet proven that god should even be on the list."

or

"I don't claim to know things no one knows, but I think it is clear that god doesn't belong on the list of possibilities.  It's obviously just a primitive myth for superstitious people.  The 'invisible magic man in the sky' theory is not a serious theory."

Followed by:

"If you have any evidence showing that god is a possible explanation, then I would be glad to consider it.  But, if you don't, then your logic fails because it is based on a faulty factual assumption."

They might also try saying that they can't imagine any other explanation, which is just a polite way of daring you to supply one.  Instead of trying to propose other explanations, just say:

"Your ability to imagine another explanation is not relevant to the issue."

The creation paradigm is born of our earthly experience.  We have no way of knowing if the assumption makes any sense in the very different context of cosmology or if (as I think) we are merely stuffing an incomprehensible mystery into a familiar paradigm.  Thus, the previous point can be followed with:

"You are stuffing an incomprehensible mystery into a familiar paradigm and you don't have any justification for doing that.  Your or my inability to explain something  doesn't justify it."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dogmatic Atheists?

Yet another outrageous calumny heaped upon atheists is the charge that we are dogmatic.  Why do theists say this?  Because we are not agnostic.  As I said before, theists insist that we call ourselves agnostic unless we claim to be 100% certain there is no god.  They want to box us into this corner so that they can then make the argument that we have asserted a positive proposition and therefore have the burden of proof.

Calling us dogmatic and fundamentalist and other such offensive names that obviously apply with much more accuracy to the religious is their way of trying to bully us emotionally into either shifting to agnosticism or stepping into their burden of proof trap.  (They find agnosticism more acceptable because it implies that their "invisible magic man in the sky" theory of cosmology is a serious theory, which it most certainly is not.  It is obviously a primitive myth that has survived by hook and crook--literally--into modern times.)

They stick to the notion that atheists believe something most of us don't and that even though atheists have told them that many or most of us do not define ourselves as those who "know" for certain that god doesn't exist.

The dogmatic label is another example of intellectual dishonesty, because there simply is no atheist dogma to be "matic" about--unless you want to argue that it is dogmatic to think that only objective reality based considerations are properly taken into account when one is making decisions that involve other people.  That isn't dogma, that is simply common sense and respect for the right of others to determine for themselves whether they want to have supernatural beliefs.

A similar point can be made regarding decisions that affect only the person making the decision.  Atheists very strongly encourage others to make such decisions based only on objective reality.  We respect the rights of others to make such decisions based on their beliefs, however, at least as much as the religious respect the rights of members of other religions to make such decisions in that manner.  In fact, I think it is clear that we respect their rights in this regard more than they do ours or each others.

Simply put, a dogma is a teaching that must be adhered to by members of a particular religion.  Atheists have no such teachings.  The only thing we have in common is that we don't think that supreme supernatural beings exist.  Other than that we are all over the map regarding what we think.

Does the Universe's Existence Prove God's? Part II

When you hear the "existence of the universe proves god exists" argument, one of the ways to counter it is to boil their logic down to its essentials so that they can see it for the ludicrous argument that it is:

"Essentially, your reasoning is that if there is a question no one can answer and someone offers an answer anyway, then that must be the right answer--no matter what.  And, you say that it remains the right answer until someone disproves it (even if it can't be disproved) and proves an alternative--even if the first answer was never subject to such a test of proof."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Indicia of Falsehood About Religion

As I have mentioned, there is not only no evidence that supports the god hypothesis, there are also significant indicia of falsehood that come with the notion and its presentation by its advocates.  It is a good idea to know what they are:

 1.  Faith is the single biggest indicator that the whole thing is false.  Propositions supported by facts and logic don't require faith.  Religion does.

 2.  Bad logic.  The arguments used to support the notion are always logically invalid or unsound--often both.  Particularly telling is the constant presence of bullying.

 3.  The proposition is quite extraordinary.  An invisible being?  With infinite magic powers?  Really?!!  The more extraordinary the proposition the greater the burden of proof.  The existence of unicorns is a most extraordinary proposition.  The existence of a being capable of creating a universe is an even greater one.  In fact, I would say that unicorns are much more likely.  After all, horses and their numerous relatives exist in fact, as do animals with horns.  There is no question that the category of creatures into which unicorns would be grouped does exist.  Supernatural beings, on the other hand, have never been shown to exist in any form.

 4.  Believers not only use bad logic, they use two standards of proof--one for their favorite god hypothesis and another for all other supernatural propositions.  This indicates intellectual dishonesty and outright delusion.  It robs both believers and their belief of credibility.

 5.  Past experience with such hypotheses that were proposed to explain something that could not be explained with science shows that such hypotheses have ALWAYS turned out to be fanciful myths once the actual, natural explanation is found.  There is no reason to think this line of reasoning, which has always proven false in the past, will suddenly be proven correct in one of the cases yet to be disproven.  That reasoning has been shown to be invalid, yet it is the best argument believers have.

 6.  Past experiences with other religions that even today's believers recognize as false, such as Thor or Osiris.  So many false gods suggests that they are all false.

 7.  Past experience with the force so often used to convert others, and present experience with the bullying used to silence critics and those who disagree as well as the efforts to cover up what they have done in that regard.

 8.  Present experiences with formations of new religions.  They are all the obvious creations of immoral, disturbed charlatans who are seeking to control others to get money or sex or both.  The age of a religion doesn't immunize it from having had similar origins.  In fact, it makes it more likely because the conditions and standards in the distant past were so much more lax.  There was little or no science.  Almost everyone lived in a world of myth.  Their minds knew little else.  There was no mass media with cameras and recording devices to record and report the charlatan's slip-ups.  There was no mass communication to report the ludicrous nature of the cult's beliefs to the whole world before it had a chance to smooth away the rough edges and re-package what it had to say.  There were almost no notions of mental illness.  Schizophrenics who heard voices could easily have been taken seriously--which may explain the presence of "prophets" in ancient writings.

 9.  The holy writings of the various religions are clearly the work of people with the knowledge of bronze age tribesmen.  There are numerous inaccuracies and clear instances of primitive ignorance.  Furthermore, they steal their plot lines from earlier writers--just like any other fiction writer.

10.  The universe does not show the slightest sign of any design or deity.  A theologian once asked a famous naturalist what his study of the creatures of nature revealed about the almighty.  The reply:  "An extraordinary fondness for beetles."  Meaning that since there are so many of beetles and so many species of them, then the almighty must be very fond of them.  Could it be that beetles are in fact the "chosen ones"?  The more likely explanation is that there is no design or choosing, just nature running its course like a mindless stream.

11.  God as an explanatory model is no more useful or valid than saying "magic".  Resorting to it serves only to sweep the questions behind an unnecessarily complicating additional layer of mystery.  We had mystery enough already, thank you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Privacy, Theocracy and the Burden of Proof

What goes on between consenting adults in private really is no one's business except the individuals involved.  This concept should extend to religion as well as other activities.  If people keep their religion private, that privacy should be respected.

The trouble, of course, is that believers don't keep their religion private.  They are quite eager to put on a public display and even to force others to abide by it or pretend to believe it.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the burden of proof generally will fall on the party making an assertion of fact to prove that the assertion is true.  This is not just a rule of law but of logic and even civilization.  

If you are speaking to a believer who, like almost all of them, wants to make his or her religion part of your government, then you have the right to demand that the believer produce proof that his or her beliefs are facts and not delusions.

"If you want to make your religion part of my government, then I have a right to demand that you prove it's true."

or

"If you want to make your religion part of my government, then you are the one making the assertion that something is true and have to prove it."

This is similar to a point I made in an earlier post about faith in that it makes it clear that the believer ought to have the burden of proof, but this time it isn't a question of the believer simply being logically perverse and childish.  This time, the believer has really put his foot in it.  He has effectively declared not only that his beliefs are true facts but that everyone in the society should be forced by the government to treat them as such.