Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You Can't Get Ought From Is


David Hume famously described the Is/Ought problem: there is no logical means of deriving moral values from statements of fact.  Well before there was any evolutionary theory of morality, he recognized that our will is a "slave of the passions".  Our motivations do not derive from reason alone.  Through instinct, we make judgments about what is right and wrong.  Through our sense of pride, humility, love and hate, we are motivated, and we experience social approval or disapproval as a result of our actions. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Basics of Non-Belief


In my previous post, I noted that in conversions between Christianity and atheism, the stories people typically tell about their own conversion experience are starkly different.  The convert to religion is often driven by emotion, while de-conversion is often rational in nature.  This may have led some readers to think that my opinion of emotional experiences in general is negative, and that I treat those religious conversions derisively.  I certainly didn't mean to convey that impression.  Nevertheless, as an empiricist, it is my opinion that a belief that derives from a rational thought process based on objective evidence is likely to have better epistemic justification than a belief that stems from emotional experience.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Basics of Belief



Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see
It's a story we've heard throughout the ages.  I was miserable.  I was depraved.  I was suffering.  My life was lacking something.  And then I found religion, and my spiritual needs were fulfilled.

Some variant of this theme is ubiquitous in stories of conversion.  I have pointed out in the past that the big difference I have observed between accounts of religious conversion and accounts of de-conversion is as distinct as night and day.  The atheist de-conversion story is usually a tale of intellectual dissatisfaction with the fantastic claims and the illogic of theism, while the religious conversion story tells of emotional dissatisfaction with the vagaries of life.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hypocrite-In-Chief Changes His Tune


The current situation in Syria is shocking to people around the world.  Dictator Bashar al-Assad has apparently attacked the Syrian people with sarin gas, resulting in at least 70 deaths, and many victims suffering horribly from the effects of the deadly chemical.  This situation has had an effect on the Donald, too.  He has called it an "affront to humanity", and now says that he is re-thinking his position on Assad.  We'll see how much his position changes.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Refried Epistemology


Last time, I wrote about the arrogance of Christians when it comes to claiming the high ground of morality.  This attitude derives from their absolute certainty in the existence of God, without which, their morality would have no grounding whatsoever.  But this raises the big issue that is still more fundamental: what makes them so arrogantly cocksure about their God in the first place?  Does Steve Harvey have any kind of sound basis for his arrogant dismissal of atheists?  Perhaps it's just a blind acceptance of what the bible tells them.  Sometimes, religionists seek to justify the certainty of their beliefs with arguments, as we see here, but they never doubt that belief, and would never seriously consider any arguments to the contrary.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Grounding of Morality


Having been involved in many discussions with religionists on the topic of morality, I often hear claims that have no basis in reality.  It is particularly annoying when they arrogantly proclaim they hold a monopoly on morality, for example.  This is due to their belief that God is the source or the ground of all moral values.  Without God, they say, there could be no moral values and no moral behavior.  As with their belief in the existence of God, the idea that morality is dependent on God is not consistent with reality.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Parody Turns On Itself


I have found myself the subject of yet another post at Christian Cadre.  This time, by none other than JP Holding.  JP is somewhat famous for making gratuitously insulting responses to well-known atheists, such as Ed Babinski, Robert Price, and Bart Ehrman.  Should I feel honored by this?  Hardly.  JP doesn't know the difference between a scholarly argument and a third-grader's crude retort.  To him. they're all just "fundy atheists", they're all stupid, and they can all be answered with facile responses.  Check out his channel at YouTube.  There, you will find many cartoon videos that go something like this:
Stupid atheist says some thing stupid.
Smart Christian says something clever to prove him wrong.
The End.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mikey's Alternative Facts


Never admit you're wrong.  This is the modus operandi of arrogant and dishonest people for whom winning is everything, and the ends are justification for any means.  When Donald Trump is caught in a lie, he doesn't admit that he's wrong.  He doubles down, piling more lies on top of his lies.  It's a show of strength.  Better to be seen as strong man who can fool lots of people than a weakling who fools nobody, and will compromise his values on the altar of truth.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wall of Separation


It seems to be a common trope among religionists that the First Amendment to the US Constitution is designed to keep government out of the affairs of the church, but that in no way should inhibit the church from meddling in the affairs of state.  They say the so-called "wall of separation" is just a myth, mainly due to the unfortunate wording of Thomas Jefferson, in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, which has been misunderstood.  In their misguided view, Jefferson was not describing anything like an actual wall that separates two things from one-another, but rather something more akin to a pen that keeps the government within bounds, but places no restrictions on the church.  But that raises the question: If that's what Jefferson meant to say, then why didn't he say that?  One answer that seems to elude them is that Jefferson actually meant what he aid.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Trump's Orwellian Speech


One thing that struck me about the president's address to congress was it's positively Orwellian nature.  The speech was fairly well-received, mainly because he stuck to his script, reading from the teleprompter, and not interjecting his usual ad-libs that would likely lead him into trouble.  When this president speaks impromptu, he invariably insults some segment of society, cites "facts" that are patently false, or otherwise puts his foot in his mouth.  That's why simply sticking to the script makes him sound "presidential" by comparison.  On the surface, that speech had a positive tone, and to most people, sounded better than the dark, disparaging, and divisive words we have become so accustomed to hearing from this man.  That is, unless you look beneath the surface, and realize that the picture painted by Trump's words is not what it appears to be.