September 16, 2007

Tell Me All Your Thoughts on God

It occurred to me to that that I don't think God likes being called "omniscient." "omnipotent." That word is clearly the ugly face of discrimination showing up in our holy places.

This must stop.

From now on, God should be referred to as "differently abled."

I feel confident that if you do, blessings will be headed your way. Or you might wind up with a lot of milk and honey all over the place. It's hard to tell with these things.

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September 12, 2007

Morality from Religion

I've still not made much of a dent into The God Delusion, but it has sparked lots of interesting thoughts. On my train ride home this evening, I was reading about what Dawkins refers to as the NOMA God, where NOMA stands for Non-Overlapping Magisteria. Never mind what that means exactly, it got me to thinking.

I've heard lots of people say something to the effect of "I don't really believe in God, but I do think that religions like Christianity do have something good to offer us in terms of ethics and morality. They teach people to love one another." Ignoring the fact that this is ridiculously untrue, something else struck me.

The metaphysical philosophy of religion involves mysticism and the supernatural. After my ranting earlier, I'm just going to assume for the sake of brevity that you agree that such ideas are so ridiculously primitive that they can't be considered anything but laughably idiotic.

The epistemology of religion involves faith. Faith is the opposite of rational thought. Remember when I was talking about certainty, probability, possibility and the arbitrary? Well, faith involves the arbitrary exclusively. If you have any evidence at all to believe something, then you don't need faith. So, faith is really for those things that are completely made up and/or utterly impossible. I don't have to point out how stupid THAT is.

Ok. I just wanted to recap the first two fundamental branches of philosophy to make sure we're all on the same page before we talk about ethics.

See, ethics is the branch of philosophy dealing with right and wrong and how people should behave in their lives. Your ethical philosophy is founded on your metaphysical and epistemological views.

This begs the question: if religion gets metaphysics and epistemology wrong, how can we trust it on ethics at all?

Now and then, a mystic will say something that makes a little bit of sense, like, "Baby Jesus doesn't like it when people steal" or "The Goddess frowns on pedophilia." I do agree that stealing and pedophilia are morally reprehensible, but I didn't come to that conclusion by babysitting for Mary, stinking up the place with burning sage, or whatever it is those people do to find out about this stuff. Since they used completely foolish means of coming to those conclusions, I think the most generous thing we can say is that they were right in those instances completely by accident.

You wouldn't trust your doctor to work his way through heart surgery by accident, so why would you entrust your lifetime of happiness to it?

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One Complaint about Richard Dawkins

My biggest complaint about Richard Dawkins is that he is one of these modern skeptics who believes that certainty is not possible to humanity. He holds the strange position that unless one is omniscient, then one cannot be "absolutely certain" about anything.

Dawkins provides us with the example of seeing color to illustrate his point. In The God Delusion he writes:

An example might be that philosophical chestnut, the question whether you see red as I do. Maybe your red is my green, or something completely different from any colour that I can imagine. Philosophers cite this question as one that can never be answered, no matter what new evidence might one day become available. (p.47-48)

Dawkins goes on to outline seven different judgments about the existence of God, which fall along a gradient from certainty that God does exist (1) to certainty that he does not (7). Dawkins describes himself as a 6 because God's existence is "undisprovable."

Dawkins even says that he's a 6 about the existence of fairies in his garden. Telling.

The color example is invalid and I'll explain why.

"The perception of green is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 520570 nm." Wikipedia.

"Red is any of a number of similar colors evoked by light consisting predominantly of the longest wavelengths of light discernible by the human eye, in the wavelength range of roughly 625750 nm." Also Wikipedia.

Regardless of your ability to perceive it, if a bit of light has a wavelength of 550nm, then it is green. If it has a wavelength of 650nm, then it is red. If it has a wavelength of 900nm, then it is neither red nor green. This is because "green" and "red" describe light at their respective ranges of wavelength.

There are methods of measuring the wavelength of light which do not involve using your eyes.

When you perceive a certain color, cells in your eye are stimulated which send a signal to your brain which your brain then interprets as being a certain color. Your eyes or brain (or both) may be broken, however, and you may come to the conclusion that light of one wavelength is actually of a different wavelength.

Given sufficient knowledge and understanding of human eyes and brains, we could scan you and tell you how you perceive color. We can't stop you from lying, but we could see how things are.

Thus, we could, in fact, tell whether or not the red you perceive is the red I perceive. All facts of existence are this way. Anything you want to discover about reality is actually discoverable.

I stress "about reality" in the sentence above, because if something is not a part of reality, which is to say that it doesn't exist, then there isn't anything for you to discover about it.

In science, it is appropriate to describe conclusions using probability. "We are X% sure that Y is the case." This is because we are looking at reality and we are aware of the fact that we lack additional, relevant information. Additional experiments with predicted outcomes add to the probability that something is the case.

At some point, with sufficient information gathering, we become certain of the conclusion because there is no evidence to the contrary and no niggling doubts about it. Saying that you aren't omniscient is not a doubt, but a fact that isn't really relevant to the description of your newly established knowledge.

When all the evidence supports a given conclusion, that is certainty. Assertions to the contrary which are unsupported by any evidence are not knowledge and should be regarded as arbitrary. Similarly, if there is no evidence for a particular conclusion and no evidence against it, it is also regarded as arbitrary. You, literally, know nothing with regard to that particular statement.

Dawkins cites an example given by Bertrand Russel in which it is suggested that there is a teapot orbiting the sun somewhere between Earth and Mars and it is too small to be seen by our most powerful telescopes. That suggestion is arbitrary, but Dawkins regards it as having some probability by the mere fact that it is possible. There is absolutely no evidence to support such a claim. It has no probability.

The term "possible" is not properly applied to things for which there is supporting evidence. It only describes things that do not contradict our understanding of reality. For example, it is possible that there is a teapot orbiting the sun between Mars and Earth. We have absolutely no reason to think that there is, but if there were, it would not make us question our sanity or anything in particular about the rest of reality. (Hang onto that thought because I'm coming back to it.)

Some people, like Richard Dawkins probably, think that "certainty" means that you know everything and therefore know that a particular statement is false. They are usually only willing to apply certainty to things like math. 2 + 2 is CERTAINLY 4.

But what if I had two apples and then I got two more apples? Is there any doubt that I would have four apples at the end?

But if the only situations in which "certainty" is possible are cases where we know everything means that the term "certain" is rendered utterly useless and ridiculous. Given that we don't know everything, might we not discover a case in which two apples plus two more apples results in some amount other than four? How do you know it won't? You don't know everything. So, certainty doesn't even apply to math.

All of our knowledge and learning is derived from reality including math and all the branches of science. This also means that all of our knowledge, including mathematical proofs, is interrelated. It also builds upon itself.

If you discover something that contradicts your previous knowledge, then all the conclusions you drew based on the thing you just disproved would be called into question. This actually happens in science from time to time. The more fundamental a premise that is contradicted by newer evidence, the more revolutionary the new discovery is.

If someone discovered some evidence that contradicted some obscure notion in quantum physics, some people might be upset, but daily life would probably continue unfazed. If someone discovered that 1 + 2 = 4, all hell would break loose. Actually, I think we'd all be dead. That's how crazy that is.

With certainty, I can tell you that no one will ever discover that 1 + 2 = 4.

This is also the case with God. There is no evidence for the existence of God and for that reason alone, you might be an atheist (lack a belief in God) or call yourself an agnostic (claim no knowledge of God). But I don't stop there.

God cannot exist any more than someone might uncover an ancient tablet somewhere that proves that 1 + 2 = 4.

Either a thing exists or it doesn't. But when people talk about the supernatural, they're talking about something other than existing or not existing. They hope to create a third case, some sort of mysterious higher plane than mere existence. They don't stop to ponder the logical problem with something existing that isn't a part of the set of things that exist.

I would never ask a scientist to do some research into all the cases where 1 + 2 = 4 and I would never ask a scientist to write about the biology of Richard Dawkins garden fairies. They do not and cannot exist.

But Richard Dawkins leaves the door open to the theists suggesting that evidence for these things, including God, is possible even if improbable. A commentor recently made a remark to that effect, to which I responded:

I do want to point out that impossibility does preclude improbability; impossibility describes absolute improbability, actually, so to suggest that the impossible is probable at all is to contradict the first premise that something is impossible.


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September 05, 2007

The Burqini

My female muslim readers need not give up the active lifestyle of their youth. Ahiida.com brings you active wear that Mohommed would approve of!

There's swimwear that is sure to avoid titillating anyone's senses by revealing too much skin. (Note: does not protect against water that may have at some point touched an unclean animal. Swimming with pork-eaters will condemn you and your children to eternal life without Allah's blessing.)

You can practice the Far Eastern martial arts and give a nod to real diversity with a gi that incorporates a Sharia-approved head covering! (Mind that you do not raise your hands against a man unless you want to be stoned straight to eternal damnation and shame your family.)

The modern muslim woman is concerned about her physical as well as her spiritual well-being and Ahiida.com helps her maintain her modesty while working on a bangin' bod for her husband or anyone who rapes her. Why should the men suffer the sight of flabby hips while they cut off your labia and clitoris? Think of the children!

Buy a Burqini today!

Warning: Some outfits may not fully conceal bomb vests from border guards.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 27, 2007

Condescension to the Highest?

I wonder if Christians ever worry that God is going to get pissed off with them for their prayerful presumption. I mean, if you're talking to someone who knows everything and you proceed to list a bunch of things that you either want or that need to be resolved in your life, wouldn't you expect them to ask you to stop wasting their time with all that?

Really, I would think that if God knows everything and can do anything, if you're going to pray to him, it should just be a long list of why you like him so much and why he's so much better than you. Yes, he knows these things, but it's already been well-established that he has a fragile self-esteem and never tires of being praised.

Humble yourself before the lord and praise him. Right?

Just a thought.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 01:55 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

August 25, 2007

Regulating Magic

I'm a little late in posting this. Diana posted a link to this MSN article that has reported that China has made a law forbidding reincarnation without a permit.

MSN: BeliefWatch: Reincarnate

Aug. 20-27, 2007 issue - In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." But beyond the irony lies China's true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region's Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

No, seriously.

Apparently, if you're going to be reincarnated, you have to apply for a permit. What I don't understand is what they think happens to a person if they don't apply for a permit, but they die.

My understanding of Tibetan Buddhism is very limited, so I might get some of this wrong, but my understanding is that the "final" stage of reincarnation is when a soul rejoins the universal soul. I have the idea that from time to time souls actually elect to leave the universal soul as well to start the process all over again because there's some kind of value in relearning enlightenment.

So, basically, there really isn't a purgatory for them. You just die and then you either take the next step forward, the next step back, or you do over the current step all determined by the sort of karma you've earned.

Obviously, I don't subscribe to any of this; I classify it with all other forms of mysticism. But if there's a law about it, someone has to have thought about this.

I say that, but I know it's not true. The Chinese government isn't honestly considering the logistics of reincarnation. They don't even think it's true. The article explains the political motivation behind this new law.

I think this speaks volumes about the ideological nature of the Chinese government. If they think it's false, then why do they want to regulate anything about it? Because the free application of one's mind -- even in adopting false ideas -- presents a threat to their power-mongering.

The nature of the Chinese government is well-known to the entire world, so I don't really need to prattle on about it here, but I can't help it.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 20, 2007

God the Hypocrite

I typed this post up once this weekend but then the computer I was using did something weird with a pop-up blocker and refreshed the page without saving and I lost the whole thing right at the end. I only hope that I can remember all the eloquent wit and insight from that original draft. If you find this post lacking in those respects, please write to Bill Gates about that browser of his.

I was thinking of this quotation by Epicurus that I read over on The Binary Circumstance:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

- Epicurus 341BC - 270 BC
Source

Emphasis added.

I recall that some say that God's unwillingness to stop evil (And it is a lack of will because in spite of his love, his will be done and that which is not done must not be his will.) is because he wants to test us. It is unclear to me why the self-esteem of an omnipotent being rests so heavily on the opinion of mere mortals, but that's what I've been told.

Also according to the rumors I've heard around the sacred font, the golden rule, the standard of moral virtue, is that one should do to others as we would have other do unto us. This is particularly tricky because I'm told that people are mean, greedy, selfish, prideful, small monsters who want nothing but for their own pleasure.

I concede that my own moral standard is guided by that which leads to my own happiness and well-being and I do take particular pride in the fact that at work I have a reputation for charging customers more than everyone else would charge, although I do object to the tone used to describe me by those collared people use to say it. For the sake of this discussion, we'll just accept their accusation as true.

So, since we're just yucky critters, we would prefer it if others destroyed themselves serving our whims, wants, and fevered wishes. Following the golden rule, then, we would have to destroy ourselves helping others. I should think that there's a direct relationship between how much you want others to serve you that you would have to serve others. To their credit, most of the Christians I know don't do this, which, assuming they're perfectly faithful to the rule, means that they don't actually want other people to go quite so far to make them happy. Mother Theresa must have been a horrid person since judging by her actions she must have wanted people to do every wicked thing on her behalf.

The zombie-worshipers really liked Mother Theresa. If I understand them correctly, you're like a super-duper good person if you're really, really demanding of your fellow humans in your heart, but you prostrate yourself before the dregs of humanity in your devotion to God. That's why so many nuns and priests like to talk to criminals and savages. In fact, Jesus tended to associate with prostitutes, extortionists, and thieves and he wound up being tortured and executed as some sort of sacrifice to us.

I'm not so sure Jesus' execution should count as a sacrifice for several reasons.

First, he didn't really string himself up on the cross, he had some other people do it for him. The rule is that YOU do unto others as you would have them do unto you, not you have THEM do unto you and you would do if you were to have them do unto you.

Second, it is alleged that he rose from the dead (which kind of means that he was a zombie although I admit to having no corroborating evidence that he was in search of brains to eat) which is really an option only open to God or those he's imbued with magical powers. If you can just come back alive after dead it's really not all that much of a sacrifice to die. I mean, really, you could probably work out a way to die 30 days in a year and still hold down a regular job. I'm sure an employer would be OK with that if you explain that you're saving souls. (As your boss, I'd feel a deep curiosity about what you're going to do with the souls you save, but I don't know if I'd ask because I don't like to pry into people's personal business.)

Third, let's assume that Jesus dies for good, he could just impregnate another virgin and come back as a baby all over again. Again, I find the fact that God can just become human without even the usual fuss associated with making babies a reason to think that

Sidebar: Why doesn't anyone ever talk about the fact that Mary was unfaithful to Joseph when she schtupped with the Holy Spirit? And why doesn't anyone call Jesus a bastard since he was conceived out of wedlock. (The rules of bastardization are hazy to me. Can you just be married to anyone or do you have to be married to the father of the child to make a bastard?)

It's like how Jesus pulled money out of the mouth of a fish to pay his taxes. If you can just pull money out of a fish, why would you get a job? Money isn't worth very much if you can just take it out of any old passing fish.

And I don't know of the last time that god lavished me with gifts, burnt offerings, praise, thanks, and a deep fear of what I might do to him next. But that's how he treats me.

This is the beef that I'm bringing up in this post: it's like God is exempt from the standard of moral good. He doesn't treat others the way he thinks he should be treated and given his desire to stop people from masturbating, getting rich, eating really good food, cutting their hair or not cutting their hair as the case may be, wearing make-up, praying in public, eating bugs (I'm sticking up for you, Bear Grylls! Call me!) and a whole lot of other things that people think are fun, he should be doing an omni-amount of things for us.

I also don't think heaven is a good enough reward for doing unto God as we would have him do unto us. I mean, he's omnipotent. He can do better and he can do it now.

But he doesn't because he's testing us? I'm afraid that won't do.

We all agree that "good" isn't something the God makes up because that would make "good" a whim, a matter of divine opinion. God has to actually be good in order for us to describe him as good.

I propose that we stop letting God get away with this hypocrisy. I'm not going to talk to him until he sets these wrongs right. It's only just.

At the very least, I think we should send all the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses to his door so that he can find his way back to the path of righteousness. And if that doesn't work, we should send the Scientologists to give him a stress test. And if that doesn't work, I think we should send the muslims to show him a little tough loves. No one likes an infidel.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 11:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)