Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Yes, even a "Redemptive Hell" is the work of a Tyrant

This is another post that is the outcome of a Twitter exchange, so I'm going to have to provide some background if anyone is reading this didn't follow said exchange.

After a Twitter discussion with Randal Rauser the other day, I had exclaimed that I would prefer it if my suffering happened for "no reason" rather than for a "redemptive reason".   My justification for this view is that I'd prefer it if my life were not the plaything of some divine tyrant.

This lead to a further exchange.  My justification for calling the Christian conception of god a divine tyrant is as follows:

1.) This god allows for suffering, and Christians believe he has morally justifiable reasons to allow this suffering.
2.) These Christians also believe that a hell of some sort exists.
3.) Therefore, these Christians believe that the suffering of those in hell has a morally justifiable reason for it being permitted.

Randal, being the progressive Christian that he is, rejects the idea of a purely retributive hell and so thinks that in doing so he avoids my objection that the Christian conception of god is a divine tyrant.

I replied that any kind of a hell, even a temporary or finite one, is going to be relevant for my objection that any conception of a god that includes a hell will be one where that god is a tyrant.  Randal in turn wanted to know what my objections were against a "redemptive hell", and so we get to this post.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Reasonable Doubts

It was at least a few months ago that I learned that the Reasonable Doubts podcast would no longer be continuing. Then yesterday I learned that the four brilliant members of the cast were recording a proper final episode for the show.

When I first heard the podcast was ending, I immediately went on a donwloading spree through their archives so that I'd always have them.  The podcast is immensely special to me, and I wanted to write up why.

I've wrote up my Deconversion story years ago at this point, but that was just the beginning of my journey in atheism.  If you know my story, you know I tried to go back into the faith after initially becoming an atheist. That project failed pretty horribly, and afterwards I was existentially a mess.

Christian apologetics was my first real exposure to any kind of serious philosophy, at least in a way I was motivated to give the time of day to.  When I first became an atheist I was a bit of an emotional wreck, and I think part of that was giving up the implicit philosophy I had just absorbed via osmosis growing up in a Evangelical Christian culture bubble.

My personal life was also starting to take a downward turn. My wife and I were starting to have the strain of my non-belief and her still holding onto some form of Christianity be a (luckily short-lived) issue for our marriage. Not long after that, we were told by my wifes doctors that we probably weren't going to be able to have children.

To cope with that, we decided to get a dog. Through some friends at work my wife and I ended up with two rather large dogs. Not exactly the plan we had in mind, but we fell in love with the two of them.

We still lived in a rather small townhouse and the dogs were used to a bigger yard. As such they needed long walks for exercise.  It also was barely a week into getting the dogs that my wife found out she was pregnant with our daughter.

This lead to my being the one to walk both dogs to give them their exercise multiple times a day.  It was at this point that I found Reasonable Doubts.

I remember going on podcast-long walks with the dogs, soaking in nuanced atheistic philosophy and answers to apologetics.

It wasn't long before I was downloading their entire backlog to listen to a new episode, and my listening expanded from dog walks to trips to the gym and snippets at work.

The podcast was like an existential life line for me, acting as a sort of ground wire for what I was dealing with.

When your whole worldview is up-ended, you're left with a lot of open questions. Reasonable Doubts either provided me with answers, or at least equipped me with the clues I needed to be able to do my own research to establish viewpoints on things like philosophy of mind, morality, free will, and a host of other topics.

I appreciated each doubtcaster.  Jeremy and Justin were there for what really engaged me, counter apologetics and philosophy of religion.  Luke was able to tie issues in philosophy to explanations via psychology that both made a lot of sense and de-mystified a lot.  And finally there was Dave who not only made me laugh with his poly-atheism segment each episode, but he was also the voice who would ask the right questions when the other guys got a bit too technical.

Eventually my addiction to the podcast necessarily tapered off. I had consumed their backlog and was just listening to new episodes. The group would go through periods where they were having a hard time recording consistently, which is eminently understandable.  I eventually had a newborn daughter to take care of, and the long-walks had tapered off since the dogs didn't mesh well with her (fortunately their previous owner regretted having to give them up and so they went back to a happy home).

To be honest the show kindled a then new found love of philosophy in me that I didn't have before I deconverted.  They were the direct inspiration I had to start this project of a blog and YouTube channel. Eventually I was able to converse with most of the doubtcasters either via email or Twitter, and I'm personally very glad to have listened and spoken with them.

I'm really looking forward to hearing their last episode when it's released.  I'm also happy to know that they each have other projects in the works.  I know Justin has recently launched his own YouTube channel which has been fantastic thus far. I look forward to hearing what Jeremy, Luke, and Dave have planned and will post up about it when I find it out.

I just wanted to end with a heartfelt Thank You to the Doutcasters. You gave a lot of time and effort to make a wonderful program, and it personally meant a lot to me.  I wish nothing but success and happiness for each of you.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Is Creationism just as irrational as Young Earth Creationism?

I've had this topic in my head for a while, but I've never got the motivation to put bytes to webpages to write it until last night when I saw this tweet by one of my favorite atheists on the internet, Justin Schieber:

Normally this sort of sentiment would get my full endorsement.  The idea seems pretty straight forward, once you've gotten to a certain level of philosophical understanding anyway.  In the end I may be agreeing with Justin here, but I want to try and hash our my thoughts on the subject, and writing helps.  Jump below the fold for my thoughts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

No Hemant, these aren't 5 Ways to be a Better Atheist

I really like Hemant Mehta, better known as the Friendly Atheist.  He's not really into philosophy, but he's got a good enough head on his shoulders to be able to avoid the general mistakes of superficial internet atheism, and at the same time call out the bullshit of religious apologists.

He's also great at blogging, and is a generally a solid voice of moderation in "online atheism".

So I was kind of shocked to see him (or his team) share this article on his Facebook page this morning, saying that he thinks it's "a pretty good list".  Since Hemant is a good guy who may be falling prey to a Golden Mean Fallacy, I wanted to write this post why I think he should re-evaluate the list.

EDIT#1: Hemant has kindly replied on Twitter. He didn't post the link himself, and agrees that many of the arguments are silly. He does think that atheists need to do a better job of communicating our answers to these philosophical questions.  This is a position I wholeheartedly endorse. You can read Hemant's updated comments on this on his Facebook page.

EDIT#2: I wanted to add an update based on what I'm seeing in reactions from someone I highly respect, Justin Schieber.  I can agree that for 3/5, probably 4/5 of these general principles are things atheists should do.  I think that they are actually things people in general should do (well 3/5 of them anyway).  We should make concessions, where warranted.  We should be open minded to the existence of the supernatural, when warranted. And we should admit the weaknesses of our position, when warranted.  This doesn't negate the fact that in the arguments that Patton tries to make following these general points are in fact terrible. Or that atheists are not following the relevant general principles.

Jump below to see why.

Monday, July 27, 2015

More back & forth with Blake!

Blake amended his post with another response to me (scroll down for Part 2).  He's gone straight for the meat and I shall return the favor in kind!

Necessary Beings & Theism

Blake says:
"I wouldn’t quite try to get to theism from NBE; that’s too bold even for on overzealous apologist like me! The relevance of NBE to theism is that it was one of theism’s entailments. With NBE confirmed, theism is to some degree less risky now--there are fewer ways for it to go wrong. At least in type, confirming < NBE > is to < God exists > as confirming < aliens exist > is to < red aliens exist >. I don’t think atheism had any such entailment, but either way, this makes theism more modest than it otherwise would have been. In Bayesian terms, doing this plays an important role in boosting theism’s “intrinsic probability."
 I can agree somewhat, in that I think theism is more unlikely than pure naturalism, since theism is a very particular subset of "supernaturalism" which per our conversation before is simply the claim that the fundamental nature of reality is mental instead of physical. So yes, if you're going to do the Bayesian game, then I can see the relevance of this step, though it's very minimal compared to what you were doing in the debate (ie. I still have strong issues with the arguments about NBE being personal, etc).

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Counter-Counter-Reply to Blake Giunta

In my last post, I put up a review of the debate between Matt Dillahunty and Blake Giunta where I largely was responding to the arguments Blake was making.

Blake caught wind of this and in replying to me decided to put up his own response to me on his blog.  This caught me at a decent time and he was very kind in his reply to me, so I decided to answer some of his questions that he posed as well as to respond to some of the things he said.

 Jump below the fold for my response!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Debate Review: Matt Dillahunty vs. Blake Giunta

After hearing that Matt Dillahunty was debating Blake Giunta, I was excited to see a YouTube video  of the debate go up and had it on as background for work this morning. 

I happen to like Matt and I actually like when I’ve heard Blake on various atheist podcasts, like Dogma Debate. He certainly comes off far better than the majority of popular apologists I’m familiar with.

I was prodded from my Blog/Video slumber to put something up for this debate, so here we go.  Let’s start with Blake’s case.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Quickie on Catholic Apologetics

Followers of this blog will have noticed how sparse things have been lately.  Short story is that work is insane and I'm gearing up for a move.

However, while looking at Reddit this morning, I stumbled across a post on /r/TrueAtheism that caught my eye and I ended up typing a reply there that should be put up as a post of its own.

The post on Reddit references this blogpost by a Catholic that is arguing for god's existence.  Below is my response from Reddit:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cheering for Justin Schieber

This weekend Justin Schieber of the Reasonable Doubts podcast is going to be debating Randal Rauser at the University of Alberta. 

These two fine gentlemen will be following up their debate the next day with a dialog on Belief and Doubt in the 21st Century.

Fortunately for those of us unable to travel that far, plans are to have at least audio, if not video of the debate and discussion available for public consumption online.  Hopefully it won't be long after the debate before it's available.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quantum Eternity and Young Earth Creationists

Yesterday's post about scientific evidence that something material having always existed got some interesting reactions off site.

Eventually I came across this Q&A by William Lane Craig to attempt to answer what Sean Carroll called the Quantum Eternity Theorem.

Here's the first part that truly struck me:

"Saying that the time variable t runs from −∞ to +∞ just implies that quantum time evolution is information-preserving: “given the current quantum state, we can reliably reconstruct the past just as well as the future.” In other words, we can extrapolate from the present indefinitely into the past or future. This allows us to describe a moment prior to a given moment if there is such a moment; but in order to know whether there is such a moment we must look to empirical evidence. "
- William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith Q&A

This was very similar to an argument I got elsewhere that things like quantum mechanics don't really address whether or not material things were created or not, but rather describe "already existing systems".

This is part and parcel of how apologists will try to evade the kinds of points I brought up saying how we have some evidence that "something material has always existed".  It's effectively a way to insist that there is a metaphysical question that can't in fact be answered by any kind of scientific evidence.

In order to respond to this, it's very important to see exactly what the theist is claiming here.  As charitably as I can interpret them, it goes like this:

The material world is described by laws (or regularities) that make it look like it has always been there, if we assume those laws have always applied.  However, theism does not assume that those laws have always applied. Effectively there is no logical contradiction to believe that god created a universe that looks like it can't be created or destroyed once it exists.

So what are we to think of this?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Evidence that the Universe has Always Existed

This is a topic that comes up fairly often for me, given that the cosmological argument is what drew me into counter apologetics.  If you've followed my videos as well as the more prestigious debates on the topic, none of the information here is going to be new to you.

I've said before that both theists and atheists necessarily think that "something has always existed".  So long as you accept the axiom that "something can not come from nothing", you're going to be faced with the above conclusion.

Theists think a god has always existed.

Atheists (generally) think that something material has always existed.

What I wanted to do is provide the philosophical and scientific evidence that we have for the atheists conclusion.

Both the theist and the atheist agree that "something material" currently exists, and certainly theism is compatible with the idea that something material has also "always existed".  It is notable that the specific Christian dogma creation ex nihilo is not compatible, so they're going to have problems with the evidence I'm about to present.

So lets get to it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hitting Philosophical Bedrock with the Shovel of a Stupid Question

Yesterday I became embroiled in a debate of sorts about meaning, purpose, and value with apologist Tom Gilson of

Presumably in response to the points I was making, Tom replied to me on Twitter linking his 2012 blog post: What Made This Dust Into a Meaning-Maker?

That is what I'd like to respond to here. 

In the article, Tom makes the same move that is made by very many apologists, which to quote Sam Harris "hits philosophical bedrock with the shovel of a stupid question." 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Problem with Contemporary Christian Apologists

So the trend lately is for me to find something online which then prompts me into writing.  I suppose this is good because I've neglected my blog for too long.

This post was inspired by an old favorite, Randal Rauser, in his post Apologetics and the Problem of the William Lane Craig Clones.

For those who don't know Randal Rauser is a Progressive Evangelical Apologist and Theologian, so his take on the "problem" of WLC clones is from a very different perspective than my own.

What is telling is that we actually can agree that there certainly is a problem with contemporary apologetics and imitation of William Lane Craig.  Admittedly I also think there's a lot of problems with Craig himself, contra Randal, so my critique is going to be a bit harsher than his.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Response to Forbidden Fruit

Forbidden Fruit,

I came across your video yesterday on reddit’s /r/atheistvids and was a bit surprised to see an objection to this post from Ed Brayton on FTB: “Atheists, please stop saying these things”.  I considered what Ed said to generally be pretty sound, and effectively it’s an appeal to be more philosophically nuanced in our critiques of theists.

I disagree with almost all that you said in your video, and for whatever reason I felt compelled to write up a response.  I apologize for not doing a proper video reply, but work and family really get in the way of me doing videos right now.  

I’m writing this to try and convince you why I think you’ve got these things wrong on most of these issues, largely because we’re on the same team.  Like Ed I don’t like seeing atheists make these arguments either, and I don’t want to see people “on my side” make arguments that can be dismissed by apologists who can see the same flaws I do.  Hopefully we can come to some agreement here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Stranger than Fiction

In Warhammer 40,000, the space Ork technology works only because the Orks think it will work.  Their collective psychic energy as a race is literally what causes their technology to function.

There's a story in the game about human tech-priests trying to fire an ork gun and having it fail.  They inspect the weapon, only to find it has no firing mechanism, just parts welded & screwed together.  Unfortunately for the tech-priests, an ork was able to break into where they were conducting their experiment.  The ork promptly grabbed the gun, slapped it shut, and shoots everyone to death (much to the surprise of the tech-priests).

Why is this amusing story relevant to a Counter Apologetics blog?

Because Deepak Chopra denies that HIV causes AIDS.  More specifically, he claims that a persons belief in material causation - that HIV causes AIDS, is what actually makes them susceptible to the disease.  So when such a person contracts HIV, they get AIDS.  Like firing Ork technology.

"Chopra: HIV may be a precipitating agent in a susceptible host. The material agent is never the cause of the disease. It may be the final factor in inducing the full-blown syndrome in somebody who’s already susceptible.
Robbins: But what made them susceptible?
Chopra: Their own interpretations of the whole reality they’re participating in.
Robbins: Could that be translated into their thoughts, their feelings, their beliefs, their lifestyle?
Chopra: Absolutely. . ."
Deepak Chopra is worth $80 million dollars. Games Workshop, the company that makes Warhammer 40k is worth about $38 million.

Personally, I think they should sue at this point.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Is Natural Theology Self Defeating?

Suffice it to say, if you're familiar with my blog, you'll know that I find natural theology to be a failure. I'm pretty dedicated to showing exactly how and why such arguments are false.

However, on thinking about the topic last night I was struck by a line of argument I've had on the periphery for a while.

Consider the definition of natural theology: "Natural theology is a program of inquiry into the existence and attributes of God without referring or appealing to any divine revelation."

Lets assume for a moment that if natural theology actually worked, that it was gods intention that it work. So it's not say, incidental to Christian theism being true.

Next, consider the direct implications of Christian focused natural theology: There is a god, and this god wants you to believe he both exists and has a specific set of properties.  This god wants you to be a Christian. More specifically wants there to be evidence for his existence, and for belief in him to be achievable through reason.

Lets also consider a less direct implication of being a Christian: This god wants you to believe the bible is his divinely inspired word which is, liberally interpreted, "true in all things it teaches".