Saturday, May 14, 2011

Atheists of BYU

Wanted to post earlier but it seems Blogger didn't want anyone posting or commenting.

I still am underground, in a way, but I keep sticking my little atheist head up out of the hole to survey the Savanna. By this I mean I keep making comments that relate to what I'm actually thinking, and I'm doing it more often. Or that I've made my FB page much more obvious about what my views on God and religion are, or I wear my atheist shirts around town.

I'm out of Provo now, up in SLC, and it seems I may never return. I still go down to see everyone but I'm slowly getting disconnected from the whole atmosphere down there. Regardless, more and more people join the group weekly, and still more people are coming out of the woodwork at BYU. One person has made several videos, explaining his positions on Mormonism, and his doubts over the God hypothesis.

Here's his views on God, and how he debunks several arguments in a nice, short, cute little series of videos. Here's the first, you can go from there:

And this is a video explaining his atheistic views. While wearing a robe or towel and wearing shiny glasses.

He also has some on Mormonism but I'm betting he views himself more as an atheist than an ex-Mormon. Also, I wish to note that I actually do know this person in real life, even though I'm talking as if I don't, :P

As I said in an earlier post, the "I am an ex-Mormon" videos guy is coming to Utah for a bit, and several atheists from Utah Valley have approached him and he said he'd love to do as many videos as he can with all of us. I may even do one. We'll see how that goes.

PS: also, the kid in the videos is NOT me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TBM Email Part 5- Finale

Okay. Here is the final segment of the TBM email to my Atheist Friend. Let the finale amaze you.

In reply to our atheist friend saying that God is the ultimate genocidal maniac – “It is incorrect to judge a society 3500 years past through the lens of modernity.” – What? It’s God right? And God can’t tell people how to act right? We do have examples of small and large societies in history that were ethically far more advanced than other societies in their times, why couldn’t God just teach people correct principles instead of halfly correct principles? I guess this is the same reasoning of why we can't dislike apostles from 50 years ago who said racist remarks monthly about the blacks.

“Evil men and women live in all societies and generations of time, and use whatever power structures are present to do their wicked deeds. Atheism doesn't provide a philosophy to deter Mao; he was working for the 'greater good,' what did it matter if a few people died? Religion condemns Mao, because its morals are Absolute it condemns those that do evil in its name. Atheism provides intellectual cover for any deed imaginable.” – Yes, evil men and women have lived in all societies and generations but the difference here is that he won’t blame religion or religious beliefs, only atheism. Which is similar to some militant anti-theists who don’t acknowledge any good coming from religion. But then, ‘so what if a few people died,’ seriously? Like God doesn’t do this allllll the time in Mormonism theology? For the greater good? Flood, Nephite history, church history when people didn’t listen or maybe it was just a sacrifice for a family to lose their children. Atheism doesn’t intellectually cover Mao! Atheism says, “Mao, I’m Atheism and I don’t believe in any gods.” That’s it.

“Atheism can only be approached via pride. A humble and intellectually honest atheist can only 'at most be an agnostic,' admitting, "I don't know what the truth of God is.' To choose atheism is a choice of pride, it can only be believed by relying on one's intellect and reason being supreme.” – Can ONLY be … can ONLY at MOST be … can ONLY be believed … on one’s INTELLECT and REASON being SUPREME. Give me a break. This is so loaded and capricious. What kind of fallacy is this, to tell someone their unbelief in God means they have to think in these ways and nothing else? What is that? False dichotomy again? This is all beside the fact that he uses the Negative Proof Fallacy to support his beliefs and to go against atheism. True genius at hypocrisy and double standards. Also beside the fact that most people don't believe in God for emotional reasons with their reason, intellect, etc....

“Consider your statement "If this all turns out to be true, I'm not so sure I want to live with Him anyway." I don't want to step on feelings, but consider the how completely illogical this statement is. Are you truly saying, that you, a frail, puny, weak human, would tell God -by definition omnipotent and omniscient - that He is wrong and you are right? By definition you would be telling a perfect being that He is wrong!” – All I can say is that if I either can live by myself and have no more sex, or that I have to live in a mansion with all my relatives and have to have endless sex with a near infinite amount of women and then have to raise children for eternity … then maybe I’m not cut out for any of the Mormon kingdoms either.

“Many times I have wanted nothing more than to go use drugs and have as much illicit sex as I can. I try to stay true because I believe this is the truth.” – How come, in a debate, the theist always HAS to say this? 'Oh, I've been tempted by drugs,' or 'oh I've been tempted to kill people many times,' or 'oh, I've been tempted to molest little girls.' To appear more human? Or tempted by the devil so ‘he knows what you’re going through?’ How about if everyone feels this way, that they want to experience life and that maybe their life is boring or not as exciting and fulfilling as they want it to be, that they just say that these things are okay? That, sure, go try some drugs, or go have sex, everybody wants to and I’ve always wanted to. I’m sure this isn’t for everyone, but what is the harm in having a drink of coffee or having sex with a person you love? Culture certainly is to blame for a lot of the thoughts on sexuality in the world, but these things can change.

“Might I suggest one or two books that addresses your concerns far more eloquently than I am able to? I would suggest The Abolition of Man, by CS Lewis, The Everlasting Man by GK Chesteron, and Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce by CS Lewis. Dawkin's God by Alister McGrath is very good. A wonderful book is also The Language of God, by Francis Collins.” – I actually enjoyed C.S. Lewis, though I think now I agree with him most in A Grief Observed where he says his whole faith was a house of cards and if he wants to believe he better just keep believing for goodness sake. How come TBM doesn’t offer this book to our atheist friend? Seems like a reasonable book for someone doubting. I haven’t read Chesteron, and I’ve heard Collins book upsets creationists so good for him. But Alister McGrath? Again, why doesn’t TBM offer books on the new atheism by atheists? Why go to some guy who attacks Dawkins and offers this as proof that there is a Christian God? Many people realize that the new atheists are not philosophical giants, though Dennett does impress me often in the realm of philosophy. I am offering here that the books are decent choices, but it certainly rounds off the character of TBM.

“Atheism per se does not ask you to do good for goodness sake. Some atheists might. But the doctrine of atheism does not. In any event, atheism EXCUSES evil's excesses as merely the ends justifying the means” – What is this babble? (to quote Hitchens). Back to that whole religion of atheism thing, doctrine an all. Why can’t atheism excuse good’s excesses as merely the ends to justify the means? Completely backwards. Why does it have to be inherently evil now instead of good if both are of the same value, as he said earlier. Complete and utter bull. That’s what his much longer set of emails are, much more than I even quoted here. I am now dumber for having read them, and I am sad that I at any time used any of these arguments against religion.

… F***. That’s all I have to say.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Morality For Atheists

Another long post. I decided to sit down and try to write out some more thoughts about morality. Here's the rough draft of what I have.

There are two towns, one named Town A, and the other named Town B. Both are purely hypothetical and nonexistent (so far as I know) and the proprietors who named them were not very imaginative. In each there are everyday citizens who go about their everyday lives. Each community is small and people generally know each other.
In Town B Larry, a normal to-do citizen wakes up and greets his Guardian standing in the corner of his bedroom writing in a notebook. The Guardian is a member of the town’s police force. See, in Town B they feel a need to watch over their citizens to make sure they all do the right thing. Of course no one really watches over the Guardians and no one is allowed to question their authority. This is partly because the Guardians are made up of other average to-do citizens as well, except for the Father Figure at the head of the order of Guardians, who no one has seen, except the Head Guardian, who speaks on his behalf (am I being subtle enough?) The Head Guardian relays the orders the Father Figure gives to his Guardians and the populace of Town B and they all follow obediently.

Larry rises and gets ready, his Guardian watching him throughout the morning, even while on the toilet, and making sure he doesn’t do anything nasty in the shower, and then they head out to Larry’s work. On the way Larry passes by Susie, another nice to-do citizen with her Guardian, making sure she lives the laws to a ‘T.’ However, Larry notices Susie fumbling with her purse and some papers when her coin purse falls out on to the sidewalk. Susie, preoccupied with the papers, and her Guardian, preoccupied with making sure she doesn’t curse under her breath, don’t notice the coin purse fall out and continue on. Larry runs over and picks up the coin purse, opening it and noticing that there are not only coins but several bills of money and for a moment contemplates stealing the purse when he meets the gaze of his Guardian writing in his notebook. Afraid of the retribution Larry calls out to her and returns her purse.

Meanwhile in Town A, Amelia wakes up and enjoys using her bathroom in privacy. See, in Town A there is no Guardian force or Father Figure that keeps watch over everyone. In fact, everyone simply keeps track of themselves and others around them. So Amelia’s morning goes by quickly without happenstance and she leaves for work. On the way she notices Frank, another well-to-do citizen. Frank, fumbling with his keys and briefcase and wallet, slips his keys into his pocket but his wallet misses and hits the ground. Rushing on, he doesn’t notice, but Amelia does. Running up to the wallet she finds several hefty bills hanging out and looks up after Frank who is getting away. Realizing that she could take the money but that Frank would most likely sorely miss the amount and be saddened, she calls out to him and returns the wallet, full of his bills, to which he thanks her by offering dinner at a nice restaurant later, where they meet, talk, get to know each other, all of which leads to an eventual marriage that ends happily ever after.

Now, all the absurdities aside with the two cases, there is one point I wish to make with this story and it is about the type of morality being displayed. In Town B the morality is enforced by an all-seeing, seemingly all-powerful being and his subordinates. The townspeople live each day knowing they are being watched and tested, and that a record is being kept on whether they do, or don’t do, the right and moral thing. Larry returned the coin purse as he was afraid of punishment. In Town A (for Atheist, it seems those prospectors may have had creative minds after all) Amelia acted out of empathy and sympathy for Frank and didn’t seem to expect any monetary or physical reward from him for returning his wallet, though the possibility was there. The question I pose is this:

Which seems more moral?

As I said, this example has only one purpose, I am not asserting that Larry couldn’t learn to be moral without a Guardian, or that Town A shouldn’t have a police force (every community needs to enforce their laws through some means), or that Amelia was incapable of doing the wrong thing (she certainly could have stolen the wallet); I am merely asking as to which action is more moral based on the circumstances?
The theist, especially with the classic omnipotent and omniscient God, cannot carry out any action which won’t be recorded by their God. Their God sees and knows all, and they are aware of this. Their ethical system is laid out as a stick-and-carrot game, a system of rewards and punishments. For the atheist the moral system requires a level of empathy and understanding, on top of the choice to simply do ‘the right thing,’ in this case “not stealing.”

Children grow up as selfish beings unless taught the joys of sharing, of understanding there are punishments for bad behavior. They also learn that good behavior can bring rewards, that sharing with a kid means that the same child may share with them in the future, or that Santa only brings toys to good boys and girls. Eventually the child will learn that other children don’t like to be hurt and eventually, though perhaps not till junior high, they will grasp an understanding of empathy; being able to put themselves into someone else’s shoes.

Religion actually is aware of this. Religious parents don’t till their children to play nice because the Bible says so, rather they will tell little Timmy that hitting Jane hurts her, or telling Gina that calling Bobby names hurts his feelings. Parents of all beliefs generally teach their children empathy rather than bringing up the validity of their holy scriptures.

Empathy is a higher moral stance than simple rewards and punishments, and though there is debate around the reality of altruistic behavior, empathy comes much closer than weighing an action based on whether you’ll get anything out of it or not. The religious moral systems rarely approach this level, and most religious zealots do not. The atheist, if she cares at all about the world (and most say they actually care more about humankind than before when they were religious) has to design an ethical system based off of empathy and sympathy, not just reward and punishment. Studies show that atheists are more likely to help strangers than the religious, and this further explains that atheist morals may in fact be stronger than the theist who simply thinks of their mansion in Heaven. Indeed, the atheist has to think about their system more, and it is no easy task.

In the end morals and ethical systems are not easy to design or uphold in any fashion. No system so far is perfect, and there is always a level of selfishness, whether it be helping someone because you may get something back or just helping someone because it helps to raise your self-esteem and you get a sense of happiness out of it. Many people, both believers and non-believers, have ethical systems that they try to live by and break daily, often without notice. We can all do well to have a little introspection into our thoughts and actions.

Also I wish to stress my point that usually religious parents are teaching their children the same set of ethics that non-religious do; that being simple empathy as the apex of ethics.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Atheist Books - The 5th Segment

I will cut into the TBM email and make another post about atheist books I've read. I may soon make a post about books not found in the atheist section of your nearest Barnes and Noble, such as The Grand Design, in another post briefly covering some of the books I've read that support a naturalistic view of the world and where God is seemingly pointless or at least not necessary, as put forward in The Grand Design.


For now listen to epic music and here's some more books.

God and His Demons

By Michael Parenti, this was a good book and I enjoyed it a lot. It began feeling like another rehashed 'new atheist' book and very similar to Hitchens' God is Not Great, but then it changed drastically when he went into all the historical accounts in recent history of how religion does bad in the world. And he has tons of examples. And he just keeps the punches rollin' page after page. And he hits hard. He spends about 3 pages on Mother Theresa, then Gandhi, then the Dalai Lama, and just digs up dirt on everyone with nearly EVERY sentence having a note or reference attached to it. By the end I was sad it was over.

Parenti is careful to point out at the beginnings of several chapters that he believes in 3 things that he wishes his readers to understand: he doesn't believe his points disprove God's existence, he thinks moderate religion is okay and is the norm, and he doesn't wish to attack sacred cows. But he assaults everything else. This book is heavily enlightening and gives tons of references if you wish to go read the books, studies, or articles he did in putting it together. I highly recommend this read to everyone.

The End of Faith

By Sam Harris, many people think this book is what triggered the sudden rush of devotedly atheist books over the last 6 years or so. The End of Faith was surprisingly good and I think it shows Harris is a thinker. He makes many philosophical points and uses his understanding of psychology/neuroscience to further his arguments. True to his bias one of his longest chapters is purely on Islam, which he detests more than any other religion so far as I can tell. Towards the end he brings up how eastern religion is much more intellectual than western religion (such as an understanding of consciousness), especially the Abrahamic ones, and how Buddhism is more empirical, especially with meditative practices. His views on this upset many atheists but I think he has points as the book, Destructive Emotions gives plenty of scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation and how yogis really do have some peculiar abilities in controlling their bodies.

What is Secular Humanism?

This tiny little book was okay. It's more of a pamphlet than anything, and seems similar to a religious tract you'd be given by missionaries. However, it was useful in how Kurtz explains exactly what secular humanism is by definition and meaning, and gives a brief and shallow history of the philosophy. Atheistic while promoting humanistic morals, the little thing was fun, but not worth the price, and makes me view Kurtz like some evangelist.

I've recently been reading a book about Victorian atheism and it is quite good. Besides this I've also been reading another book on atheism by Walter Kerry, which is surprisingly deep in it's approach which is nice. Most likely I will be posting more books in the next couple weeks. And, as promised, I will post non-atheist atheistic books at some point too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

TBM Email Part 4

I've been busy again lately, but I should be able to post regularly for a week or so before I possibly get busy again. I'm a little hit and run with my posting, but I try to keep serving you guys and gals up.

Here is some more of that TBM email. This is really part 2, being this is the TBM's second email. I'll go through it in two more posts, and then I'm done. I mentioned before that it only get's worse, and this one proves that. To see the other parts go back to the April posts.

NOTE: What I'm doing here is replying to a TBM who emailed an atheist friend of mine. She replied on her own, and my replies have not been sent to him. In essence I'm debating him without letting him know I am debating him. Really I just pulled out the more funny or absurd things. He really seems like a nice and intelligent guy, but I have a hard time being nice by this point in his emails as he gets worse and worse. His statements are italicized.

You say that 'we could be open to the possibility if presented proof.' Why would God, Omnipotent, have to provide you with a secular proof? … I do not find atheism an open philosophy. It assumes God is discernible via crude, man made systems of finding objective truth. It is entirely reasonable to assume that God can only be found on the terms He sets.” – What exactly is a ‘secular proof’ for God? I’m not sure even I understand what that means. If God sent Moroni, or was it Nephi, three times during the night and repeated the same message, declaring the gospel true and Mormonism correct and then again later the next day, I think I would believe. Is that secular? Is that ‘asking for a sign?’ You know, asking for Him to do what he did for Joseph Smith and what many Mormons ask for all the time with their begging for answers to prayers and to know it’s true.

God, or the Absolute Law is the only ultimate thing that prevents a descent into hedonism, and it is not a logical error to say so.” – Well, at least he admits it. Of course I don’t expect him to do any research into secularists, atheist, nonreligious, and agnostic countries, groups, or peoples. In fact, in the last sentence he mentioned he liked Carl Sagan … how the hell was Carl Sagan such a good guy if he was agnostic/atheist?! Where did his morals come from? Why wasn’t he a hedonist? Maybe TBM would say he was.

You say that "Religion was created..." This is an unprovable assertion; thus it is another faith based assumption of atheism.” – Religion as a whole? Perhaps he’s right. But specific religions? We have the general and sometimes specific events and times for essentially all religions in the world. And by religions I am separating them from spiritual views, such as paganism obviously. For this though we not only have the birth of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but also Mormonism.

The moral code of atheism is whatever the atheist says it is in the morning.” – And your moral code is whatever old white men tell you, or 150-3000 year old books and writings. Not much room for anything else. Very specific. The atheist is more open, such as to say that women have fundamental rights that need to be allowed and enforced, or that blacks are not lesser in any significant ways to whites or any other race of human being, or that it is okay to doubt in God and to entertain these thoughts and that you don’t have to be depressed in Mormonism, you can get out! Yes, the moral code of the atheist is far less than the one offered by Mormonism.

One horrifying aspect of atheism is this: a 9 year old african girl is gang raped by 10 thugs. She's laying on a hospital bed, about to die, wracked with pain and horror. As an honest atheist, the only thing you can say, right before you fly back to materialist comfort of the west, is 'tough luck.' And you can hardly blame those 10 thugs. They could get away with it, and since they're nothing more than organic machines, they're doing what they're genetically programmed to do, namely, pass their genes on.” – My question is this: why are theists obsessed with saying that because there’s no God and that we evolved we must act like animals and no reason, logic, emotion, or intellect can tell us otherwise. We all must act in our best and most selfish interests. Holy f***! What is it with people and this statement? If you want to use logic to say:
I am a human being
Human beings need to procreate to survive
Therefore, human beings should rape

Then I will say:
I am a human being
Human beings like to be happy
Therefore, I will not rape.

Same logic, same argument. This is such a retarded argument.

I fail to see how this is more moral than Judeo Christian teaching which teaches the opposite.” – Fuck you. Am I the only one offended by this? I think our atheist friend should be more offended by this statement, which followed his 9-year old African girl (why Africa?) example. First he says, ‘this is what you believe in the faith of atheism!’ and then says he’s better with his scriptural and doctrinal history of being a Mormon. This is hubris.

All educated religious people I have met follow God because He loves them, and they're trying to love Him.” – All you’re educated religious friends are probably Mormon, mystery solved. The more I read the more poisonous I feel Mormonism and religion. It gets to the point that you feel nothing will get these people to look at the world in a better light = that things could change, things can get better, and that the world isn’t another Sodom and Gomorra and we should discriminate. Please refer to older posts on why I don’t think religion is inherently good.

Atheism does not ask you to be good because being good is a good thing to be. Under atheism, the word 'good' is meaningless, it is whatever each individual claims it is. It is always open for debate. Under Judeo-Christianity or Islam, good is what God says it is. What you call 'good' is (excuse me for being presumptious) largely Judeo-Christianity morals that your parents, community, and country have taught your for the past 20 years. There's no logical reason to assume that such morals are 'right.' Religion confirms that they Absolute; atheism says they are arbitrary for all people.” – Demosthenes brought this up a while back and I still don’t buy that Christianity has been the leading moral system for the whole world and most cultures for much of recent history. Influence, yes, definitely, along with all other moral ideas! Some of which are very secular. Again our TBM guy says there’s no logic behind religion, not in morals, not in understanding or knowing God. I don’t know if he means to but he sounds as if he believes in the contradictory Nicene creed.

And that's half of his second email. The next post on this will be the last. Till then.