Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Quote of the Day: Christine Hayes

‎"[T]he Bible's not for children. I have a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old. I won't let them read it. I won't let them read it. Those "Bible Stories for Children" books, they scare me. They really scare me. It's not suitable for children. The subject matter in the Bible is very adult, particularly in the narrative texts. There are episodes of treachery and incest and murder and rape. And the Bible is not for naïve optimists. It's hard-hitting stuff. And it speaks to those who are courageous enough to acknowledge that life is rife with pain and conflict, just as it's filled with compassion and joy. It's not for children in another sense. Like any literary masterpiece, the Bible is characterized by a sophistication of structure and style and an artistry of theme and metaphor, and believe me, that's lost on adult readers quite often. It makes its readers work." 
--Christine Hayes. ( Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How to be a Christmas Douche


Step 1)
Vandalize perfectly harmless sign because you are threatened by any idea that differs from your own.

Step 2)

When the authorities refuse to take action, go vigilante and steal the sign yourself, thereby (temporarily) silencing those you disagree with, allowing you to freely censor the message like the little bitch you are.

Step 3)
Giggle like a little bitch as if you got away with it, at least until the next atheist sign goes up. If that happens...

Step 4)
Repeat steps one through three.

Meanwhile, instead of vandalism and your basic close-minded dougebaggery, your friendly neighborhood atheists will be enjoying their Christmas doing a bit of this...



And...



Some of this...



Because we godless heathens really love our eggnog.

Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays everyone! 

And to everyone a goodnight. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guns Don't Kill People. More on the Gun Problem in America


Earlier this week I made the comment that, "Guns are simply tools designed for the purpose of killing. Not protection. If you want protection, buy a taser, or rubber bullets, or a higher a body guard. Gun are tools and their purpose is to deal a lethal blow to your enemy."

My pro gun friend stopped me and said: Nooooo! Guns are designed for shooting bullets.

Well, yes. Technically, he's right.

But this was his objection to my point. You see how it is flawed, right? 

If we want to get real specific, we could say: guns are for propelling explosive metal projectiles at near the speed of sound in order to penetrate your enemy's face and render them dead.

So, you see, if you use such an argument, please follow it to its logical conclusion.

Other arguments I've heard that are just lame ducks are:

Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

That's like saying: toasters don't make toast. People do.

Talk about your logic fails. No matter how hard I've tried to press the bread between my hands, it has never turned into toast.

I also pointed out that (and this is a fact) statistically less guns equates to less gun crime, and more guns equates to more gun crime, and even more guns... well... I think any logical person can guess the statistical trend. 

But low and behold, I had people actually telling me things like, "Guns aren't lethal weapons, they're just designed to shoot bullets."

That was an actual argument for why people should be allowed to have guns!

Another one I got today was in response to my suggestion to tax guns and ammunition and use that extra funding for mental health care, such as psyche exams for gun owners. A reasonable suggestion, right? I met this response: But hunters need their guns too! And it would ruin the economy if you raised taxes on their firearms.

Literally, this is the type of moronic stuff we have to deal with.

People want their guns soooooo damn badly that they'll literally say anything in order to keep them.

Anything.

But here's the deal, it's not entirely about the guns. The guns are just one fraction of the problem. It's mainly an issue about psychological and mental health.

That's the key point that everyone seems to be aware of, but too many are glossing over.

Not only this mental health issue, but other mental attitudes, such as the violence aspect of Americans must, in my mind, seriously be investigated. 

Like Roger Ebert and all these "the media makes us violent" excuses, that's all they are, excuses! Excuses to blame the media so that you can feel better.

As for all the soccer moms and conservative nutters blaming it on video games and violent TV, even as these things are proved to make a person less sociable, that's about all that can be said. Besides, this argument doesn't sit well with me either. Canadians have all the access to American programming and video games that we do, and they don't go bat-shit crazy violent on each other--not even half of a fraction as much as Americans do. What's with that? I for one want to know. Really. I do.

I brought up the example of rape to show (and compare) how drastically violent America is compared to other countries of equal population density, etc. 

Japan roughly had 2,000 reported rapes in 2005 and America, brace yourself, upwards near a 100,000. Even if you doubled Japan's population to match the U.S., it's still only 4,000 reported rapes. (Sure, the cultures are different, but the difference which is obvious is the violent tendencies of Americans is obviously greater. Car theft is another good comparison.)
Whether or not the media is to blame for increases in violent behavior, we are still culpable for our own actions. It's a pretty simple concept. What it reveals, however, is there are too many Americans struggling with this notion of culpability.
So maybe what we need is better parenting and better counseling for troubled youths. Certainly better health care is a must.

If we can teach our teachers and our  children to identify such mental illness in their peers and co-workers, then maybe we could prevent further atrocities by identifying the problems early on.

At any rate, we should begin to investigate not only why Americans are so psychological hooked on their guns, but what is compelling them to feel they need them so badly? 

Do Americans really feel that unsafe in their own homes? In their own neighborhoods? Are American streets really so dangerous as to compel you to pack heat? If so, the problem is far greater than just who has or doesn't have guns. The problem goes much deeper.

But adding more guns to the problem is only adding fuel to the flame. It will blow up in everyone's face, and that is a statistical prediction which nobody can deny. And those that do deny it are simply living in a fantasy land--and well--that might explain half the problem right there.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Meanwhile On my other Blog: Guns!


I have written an article about Gun control on my Scideological blog. Check it out.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Countries which Murder Atheists: And My 7 Indicators of Civilized Society


The Washington Post recently did an article on which countries you can be imprisoned and even killed with a state ordered execution for simply being an atheist.

Now I ask you, what kind of sense does it make for killing people for what they DON'T rightly believe in?

I have seven basic rules about what I consider a true civilized society.

1) You have to be for equality across the board (gender, sexual orientation, race, etc.). 2) You have to have healthcare for your people.  3) Blasphemy laws must be non-existent. 4) There has to be freedom of speech. 5) The must be freedom of religion and conversely freedom from religion. 6) Porn must not be illegal. And finally, 7) you have to be able to make and enjoy soft ice-cream.


Only if these prerequisites are met would I consider a civilization a "true" civilization  Now I have many reasons for why these factors are important and why they contribute, and thereby constitute, civilized living and thinking, but there can be numerous other factors as well. These are just the seven that I've narrowed down which seem to distinguish a civilized society from most uncivilized societies.

At any rate, I won't be traveling to any of the (above) countries listed as anti-atheist anytime in the near future. For they prove themselves truly uncivilized and barbaric nations where the hate, narrow mindedness, and intolerance is so great that you couldn't even enjoy a nice cold creamy ice-cream cone while watching your favorite porn all the while not having a thought about a God which you don't believe in the existence of.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Is Free Will Dependent on the Arrow of Time?


The concept of Free Will confuses me. It's one of those subjects I skirt around simply because I have no real opinion on it.

Recently, however, I read something interesting in the American physicist Sean Carroll's book From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time.

He mentions in the preface that Free Will is defined by the arrow of time. The arrow of time is the strange physical properties of space-time in which time seems to flow in only one direction, even as there is no clear reason for this. As such, all events seem to progress in a linear fashion along the direction of this arrow. This gives rise to causality. In other words, we can remember the past, and perceive the present, but we cannot see the future. So events seem to unfold in an A, B, C, or 1, 2, 3 type pattern.

What this means is that all our experiences happen within the same framework of the arrow of time. So whatever choices we make, however we make them, appear to fit the patter of A, B, C and 1, 2, 3.

Needless to say, Free Will is the observation of causal choices we make. I realize that this in itself doesn't answer for how we go about making a choice in the first place, but this is a secondary consideration (I'll explain why below). 


A choice is made, something happens, and then there is a reaction to it, and our observation of the event falls into the past as the reaction plays out in the present along the direction of the arrow of time. So events leading up to choices made and the reactions to them must inevitably conform to a simple A, B, C, and 1, 2, 3 type pattern.

Therefore, it seems to me, our understanding of Free Will is dependent on our understanding of causal events. Coincidentally , however, I think this leads to an interesting assumption. That Free Will is just as real as the ticking of a second hand on the face of a clock.

Now there is a lot philosophy and science have to say on our perception of causal events and how choice arises in the first place. I am not about to get into all of that, as it seems a discussion for another time. What I merely wanted to point out is that before we can even get to that broader discussion about how Free Will works and how it is understood from various points of view, that ultimately, we must  acknowledge that it exists as certainly as time exists. 


We may not understand everything about how time functions, and certainly we don't understand everything about Free Will, let alone the human mind, but it seems, to me, that those who say Free Will is an illusion are the same who would deny the existence of time, calling it an illusion, because there is no clear way to understand it's properties for why it conforms to a linear pattern and moves in only one direction. Actually, that's only partially true. We do know why time plays out (because entropy) but what we don't know is why the arrow is fixed. Why couldn't the arrow go in reverse? Why doesn't the arrow go in both ways simultaneously? 

Well, the point I am trying to make is that we eventually must get comfortable with the idea that the arrow is fixed. The same could be said of Free Will. It exists, since we can perceive it causally, meaning that somewhere in the making of a choice, and the events leading up to it, and subsequently the events which follow, there is a fixed progression of cause and effect daisy chaining to create what we call an awareness of the past and present. I think this is interesting, because it predicts that if we could not perceive the present as we do now, as a series of causal events playing themselves out, then Free Will would not be perceived at all. 

On the other hand,  if we could see the future, then the choices we make would already have been written, and thus Free Will couldn't exist. This distinction is important. It is precisely because the future hasn't been written yet that allows for the existence of free will. Free Will is dependent on the arrow of time in this way. Thus the actions or reactions we make create events which will ripple throughout time until all the causes and effects play themselves out, or else trigger new causes and effects, thereby creating new ripples (like the skipping of a stone on a lake which gets interference with other ripples from a stone plunked in nearby from another part of the lake and then creating a new set of ripples between them).

As I think about it, Free Will has everything to do with causality progressing along the arrow of time, and this fixed perception of causality, along with our inability to foresee the future, has everything to do with how we come to recognize there being such a thing as Free Will in the first place.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Upcoming Book Publication

If I haven't been around lately, it's because I am knee deep in piles of essays which I have to get edited for an upcoming anthology I'm producing with fellow skeptic Jonathan M.S. Pearce.

Jon is a philosopher of religion and you can check out his blog A Tippling Philosopher at SIN (Skeptic Ink Network) as well as find his philosophical and religious publications online at Amazon.com.


In the meantime, here is a sneak peak of the cover design I am currently working on. It's still tentative, but this is the basic concept thus far. Meanwhile, the book should be out sometime next spring. 




Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist