Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Candid Reflection on Myself

Know thyself, in ancient Greek
I'm going to venture out into a little more personal territory tonight.  I'm feeling emotional, and I want to capture some thoughts.  Please bear with me.

Most people have come across the maxim "know thyself" at some point in their life.  The saying was inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (pictured left), and it is probably one of the most important, sagely bits of information ever spelled out for humankind.  Afterall, what more helpful piece of information can there be than to understand your place in the world, how you fit, who you are, who others are in relation to you, what enlivens you to the world around you, what feeds your passions and snares your hopes; simply stated, what makes you who you are?

In the end, I cannot think of another more insightful charge than to get to know myself.  By doing so, I wonder how much of who I am would change?  I mean, part of knowing who you are is knowing who you're not, and then being brave enough to jettison those falsities.  Nevertheless -- and I'm certainly not the only one who does this -- I hold on to what I know is false about myself; I hold on to who I'm not.  And the end result of such a morbid practice is manifold: I don't get to know myself truly, others are forced to look past the veneer I unintentionally present them with, my values become blurred, and I act in ways that are disingenuous.

So why would I, and all the others who undertake to obscure themselves from themselves, do such a thing?

First, I think that it is partly unintentional.  There isn't a soul alive who isn't conditioned by their experiences along the way to adulthood.  No-one lives in a vacuum.  And because we are all influenced by the contexts under which we experience life, we are forced to endure many untruths that we unwittingly take on.  For example, a person growing up in a well-meaning family may experience a lot of sarcastic humour from their parents.  While this in itself is not intended for bad, the long-term side-effect of sarcasm may be that a person develops a pattern of self-demeaning.  That is, when he achieves something, or recognise something about himself,  he may automatically and unintentionally detract from his accomplishment by telling himself things like, "you could've done better," or "why didn't I do this sooner?" or "I've seen better."

The sarcasm of the well-meaning family helped condition a negative response in a family member who, for all intents and purposes, means to treat himself respectfully and kindly.  Nevertheless, the wholeness and intimate awareness of that person's actual selfhood is obscured by a needless and detrimental tendency to self-demean.  Such a person, while he may know himself quite well is, sadly, not in possession of his full selfhood.

Shame-based identity
Second, I think people obscure themselves from themselves because they are afraid they may end up disliking who they actually are.  That is, people are afraid of who they may actually be so they go to great lengths to hide behind preferred projections of who they'd like to be. 

I'll use myself as an example: when I was roughly 12 years old, I had enough self-awareness to understand that I constantly felt ashamed of myself.  To protect myself from the growing depression my sense of shame was engendering, I pictured myself as a strong, handsome, nigh omni-capable man bent on battling the forces of evil and preserving precious antiquities for the rest of the world.  And if you read between the lines of that last description, yes, I fancied myself a budding Indiana Jones.  I even went so far as to steal my uncle's cream-coloured leather gloves, and convince my grandmother to purchase a genuine fedora at the Stetson warehouse near where we lived.  In order to save myself from myself, I pretended to be someone else.

I didn't like me because I wasn't capable of seeing myself soberly.  What I saw when I looked into myself (usually at night when I was alone in the dark of my room) was a scared, disappointed, hurt, and lonely person.  I saw the negative remarks I heard around me, and the resulting shame I thought I should feel for being dissatisfactory to others.  I wasn't a carpenter like the rest of the men in my family, and I wasn't a regimented and orderly engineer-type like I thought my mother's family was.  I was too different to be acceptable, therefore I didn't accept myself, and that resulted in a shame-based identity.  And that shame came out in fear-based searches for an identity that modelled who I'd like to be, ideally: Indiana Jones.  I didn't like me, but I really liked Indiana Jones.

All these years later, however, I still haven't completely shed the shame-based identity of that little boy.  I still haven't been able to make a coherent picture of who I actually am.  The difference now is that I'm eager to know myself because, at bottom, I really have no other recourse than to come face-to-face with myself if I want to actually live, if I want to be a genuine person, if I want to embrace the moral complusion that "Know thyself" implies on a person to be fearlessly real.

Who I am
I am not Indiana Jones.  I am not a carpenter like the men in my family.  Being twenty-four years in advance of my 12 year-old perceptions, I have come to understand that I am not a regimented and orderly engineer-type like I thought my mother's family was, and neither are they!  Still, who I am is a little murky to me at this point.  A lot has happened in my life to muddy the waters, as it were, which makes self-reflection that much more difficult again.  But mud settles, and ripples eventually steady, and what should be left, if I am patient enough to wait and see, is a loveable, enjoyable, and whole person staring back at me; a person I can call 'me'.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Has Not Yet Killed Us

If you recall, I posted that Saint Cynic will be taking on an additional subject: Fitness and Nutrition.  To that end, I have been shoring up some titles of books that I will be borrowing from the local library so that I can read, learn, and inwardly digest.

My purpose behind tackling the field of fitness and nutrition is not to set myself up as any form of authority on the subject; I'm certainly not that.  However, because I was gifted with a modicum of brain-power, and a rational self-interest in my own well-being; because I'm not getting younger and I've frittered away many years of valuable time poking about in areas of interest that have done nothing to stabilize really any area of my life; because I have a swelling interest in improving the quality of my life as a whole; and because I would rather widen the margins for avoiding any possible heritable disorders in my family, I am going to journal my findings as a personal catalogue that others can (hopefully) benefit from.

If nobody besides myself benefits, so be it.  But because I will personally benefit from this new journey then that's one more person who has stepped beyond the pale of faulty "conventional wisdom" and into the light of proper self-actualization, and a more refined sense of actual autonomy.

To begin with, it is true that you are what you eat.  What you take into you, in part, logically comprises aspects of the physical self.  For example, if you habituate yourself to a diet of fast-foods, rancid vegetable oils (which are the oils found in most store-bought food products), and multitudinous forms of sugar then you'll ride out your days on unnecessary insulin spikes that overtax your liver with harmful carbohydrates and result in unhealthy weight gain.  Thus if you eat unhealthy, you will grow into a robust example of ill-health.  What you eat helps determine what you become.

We apply the same principle to how we think ("think positive and you'll be positive", etc.), so why would the same not hold true for your bodily intake?  The simple answer is that it does.  This is incontrovertibly true as borne out by evolutionary history.  And the human body, simply said, cannot adapt to those things that, in effect, weaken it, damage the gene pool, and eventually kill it off.  So, despite Neitzsche's famous quote, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger," it simply does not equal out that poor food intake, while it does not kill you quick enough to pique other's awareness, makes you any stronger, or that our present state of (un)health as a human race will make us any stronger in the future.

The facts are continuing to roll in: we are not dead, but what has not killed us is, in fact, weakening us and, sadly, fattening us up for the eventual slaughter.

With that in mind, I plan to bolster my awareness of proper fitness and nutrition, and change the trajectory of my life overall by improving my understanding of the issues that attend to our culture's declining health.  To begin with, I will be reading Gary Taubes's famous and perrenial volume Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Taubes's credentials are impressive (this blogger has noted them), and he has shaken the dietary world to its core with his über-well-researched essay.  I am looking forward to gleaning everything I can from Taube's work, and then applying his conclusions in their proper directions.

I will offer my reflections on Taubes's work as I go, and hopefully generate some fruitful discussion for everyone involved.  So keep watching Saint Cynic for my reflections on Taubes's book and, of course, for my usual stock-and-trade articles criticising the religio-philosophical world around us.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Normal

I don't like the word 'normal.'  It's one of the most overused, thoughtless, and empty words in the English vocabulary.  Mathematics defines normal as 90°.  After that, normal gets weird, dodgy, connotative and, well, abnormal.

You see, there is no normal in philosophy -- that strange application every one of us does to varying degrees in our lives.  Science really has no normal beyond importing the mathematical definition of the word.  Social sciences harbour freakish political mindsets abstracted from reality and imposed on fledgling minds; their 'normal' is the particular partisan persuasion of the institute teaching the social sciences.  And most often that persuasion happens to be in conflict with reality.

Economics doesn't have a 'normal'.  There's no 'normal' in environmental sciences.  There's no 'normal' in music.  Really, 'normal' just doesn't exist beyond being a sentiment that reinforces the guilt we're taught we should feel if we don't quite "fit in."  Add to the injury of that guilt the insult that mainstream media chats into our ears: be an individual.  So while it is that we should be concerned about 'fitting in', so that we don't appear abnormal, we should also be individuals (just like everyone else!), which is a message to stand in stark contrast to the status quo (i.e., the normal expectations around us).

Well, having explained my bafflement with the uncouth concept of normality, I will leave off this article with Ellen Goodman's famous quotation about what constitutes 'normal'.
Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.
Yeah. There's nothing like aspiring to mediocrity. How pathetic is that?

Boxing Day and Circumcision

The two topics don't really meet up in any meaningful way, aside from the fact that I've been debating with someone about 'circumcision' today, on Boxing Day.  That being said, I will state flat-out that I think circumcision is 99.9% of the time a horrific and immoral practice. 

Yes, the Abrahamic covenant in Scripture compels those of the Judeo-Christian persuasion to consider whitling the phallus down as a godly action, one that marks a person as God's chosen.  Yes, the argument can be made that baptism replaces circumcision because circumscribing the heart (i.e., cutting one's self off from the debauchery of the world) is far nobler.  And I will agree that the metaphysic of baptism is far more laudable than the partial emasculation set out in the Old Testament as a means of currying favour with Yahweh.

Nevertheless, I am four-square against the practice of circumcision, and consider anyone who elects to have their children mutilated in such a fashion to be unthinking, inconsiderate, brutish and immoral.  Harsh words, I know.  And perhaps you may know me, and now understand what I think if you have had your child ravaged by such an invasive, and insidiously injurious barbarism (sometimes referred to vapidly as a "common surgical procedure").  I'm not concerned.  I welcome conversation.

That said, I have been debating a woman about circumcision.  Her position is essentially this: if you do it, or believe its fine, then it is.  She believes, as a Christian, that it is a matter of faith.  That is, she has faith in circumcision.  I think her position entirely ridiculous.  I responded by saying as much, but in more words.

...that you would say, "[my] faith tells me that it’s NOT a harmful or damaging thing" is really what concerns me about your thinking.  Why?  Because 'faith', definitionally, is not a content-rich position.  That is, faith is not an information-filled premise upon which to base your conclusion that circumcision is not harmful.  The basic facts bear this out quite well.

First, faith is, definitionally, a 'hope' or 'basic trust' in a proposition (in this case, God).  The Greek word for 'faith' used in NT scripture is pistis (noun, used 244 times).  It is the name/noun given to the quality of a person that can 'hope' or place a 'basic trust' in the claims of the apostles, Jesus, and scripture.

Second, because 'faith' is essentially a compulsive quality that enables a person to believe certain truth-claims, it does not follow therefore that a person can utilise faith for whatever topic, issue, or subject they fancy.  Faith is not a scapegoat that allows you to place all your reasoning on hold for the simple expedient of relaxing your responsibility to reason things out.

Third, because you are not excused from reasoning just because you have faith, you are in the position of having to consider that the first action of circumcision is to harm the male phallus by slicing off its foreskin.  This involves inordinate amounts of pain, long-term suffering, and possible pain in the future if the foreskin is cut back too far (e.g., it hurts some men to have a full errection because they were cut back too far).

The point is this: whenever the human body is somehow harmed, depleted, altered, or even augmented (e.g., deviant piercings), it is mutilated.  Plain and simple.  Therefore, circumcision, because it involves harming the male phallus in a way that disfigures it from its natural state, is abjectly immoral and wrong.  This is basic logic informed by simple observation, irrespective of a contentless position like 'faith'.

If the first action of circumcision is injurious to the male phallus, and therefore the male who undergoes it, it is undebateably harmful.  And where harm is inflicted against another's will and natural sanctity; where harm is inflicted without the utilitarian measure of doing harm to save a life; where harm is invited on a person in such a way that potentializes long-term psychological, emotional, and physical effects (which circumcision does do), it is therefore wrong, immoral, evil, and ungodly.

That some Bronze-age agrarian polytheists took a fancy to Yahweh, one of the Canaanite gods, and lopped off the dangly bit of their penis to show him contrition does not make such a stupid act respectable, healthy, or worthy of propagation.  Abraham's story is just that: a story.  It is an embellishment protracted through centuries of oral repetition, and enforced upon untold millions of people all in an effort to appease their vengeful god.  They may as well have thrown the most beautiful virgins into a volcano.  The mentality would've been the same: hurt people to please God.  It's patently irrational and not worthy of being a faith-issue.  Faith has a certain dignity that is smudged, distorted and sullied when measured against such ruthless and insipid practices as circumcision.
I'm interested in this lady's response, but since this debate has been rambling out over the coarse of the past week, and her rebuttals have been far from inspiring or persuasive, I'm not counting on much.  Perhaps her ability to reason has been circumcised by her faith.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christo-Solstice

Christmas will be happening a little late for the Saint Cynic household; I am scheduled to work the holidays. In any case, for the rest of you who have somewhat normal lives, Merry Christmas!
And for those of you who are of a different mind concerning Christmas, I hope you have a superb Solstice Season!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Steven Wright and A New Pope

One of my all time favourite comedians is Steven Wright. I find myself in stitches almost every time I see one of his shows, or read some of his quips. So, in an effort to push some of you readers into a fit of raucous laughter, I have embedded a wee clip of his Comic Relief appearance. Enjoy!

video

And since this blog really wouldn't be complete without a little stab at institutional religion, I present you with the following brilliant little mock-up called, "A New Pope".

video

Friday, December 17, 2010

Saint Cynic Tackles Fitness and Nutrition

This blog will be taking on a new subject, along with keeping to religio-philosophical criticism.  Saint Cynic will now also be tackling fitness and nutrition.  I have been participating in P90X and in a nutritional lifestyle called the Primal Blueprint, and I can say that both fitness models in combination have done wonderfully for me, so far.

Briefly stated, P90X proposes to "shred" fat off your body and help you build lean muscle mass within 90 days.  But to do this, a person has to follow the nutritional guide provided by Team Beachbody, the manufacturers of said program.  After leafing through their nutrition guide, my wife and I decided that it was not suitable to our physical needs.  Essentially, there is too much emphasis on carbohydrates in the P90X dietary guide, to the point where one could legitimately wonder, "isn't this the kind of diet that would be better suited to fattening up cattle?" 

Well, the argument certainly could be made that by taking on P90X's dietary advice you would have to make your whole lifestyle about working out.  Incidentally, that's also one of the criticisms about P90X in general: that it requires an overall lifestyle change such that everything you do has to revolve around working out, and finding the time to work out.  For those people who have that kind of leisure, that's fine.  However, there are those of us -- myself, for example -- who just don't have the kind of time that P90X demands.  Nor do I have any interest in eating in such a way that I'm constantly having to monitor my caloric intake, or working out to burn more calories than I take in (a poor bit of advice that I'll dispell at a later date).

So, to deal with both the nutritional end of things and the issue of time, I've taken on the Primal Blueprint for Fitness and for Nutrition.  In a nutshell, the Primal Blueprint draws attention to the harmful effects of "cereal" grains, and emphasizes the overarching importance of a fat-burning metabolism.  Thus, a person should not be eating grains, which sap the body of its mineral and vitamin stores, but should be eating whole foods, fermented vegetables, good fats, lots of protein from healthy meats, and discarding as much sugary intake as possible to avoid insulin spikes (which are correlated to an increasing rise in diabetes).

More though, Primal Blueprint speaks to fitness in a way that legitimizes an easy-going fitness routine that still maximises physical benefits.  Says Mark Sisson, the creator of Primal Blueprint:
Our exercises should make us stronger, faster, and more capable of accomplishing just about any physical feat the world throws at us. They should be enjoyable (pleasure-giving), brief (without sacrificing effectiveness), sustainable (lifelong), immediately accessible (to young, old, and untrained), and infinitely scalable (from beginners to elites). A fitness program, then, should meet these benchmarks.
So while it is that P90X will kick your ass and make you burn, ache, and sweat -- which is all very useful when getting fit -- it does not propose the fluidity of Primal Blueprint as described in the quote above.  Nevertheless, P90X can be used in conjunction with Primal Blueprint on certain days.  For example, if you're needing to "lift heavy things" (a category familiar to primal-goers), you could easily sub in one of the lift routines from P90X, or even just a portion of a lift routine.  Also, in the winter months, when it's really not easy on your body to run around outside, you could do one of the cardio routines from P90X, or, again, just a portion of one.

However you chose to approach the Primal Blueprint, P90X, if utilised appropriately, can be of great benefit.  As a stand-alone, however, I found P90X to be a little tedious and overly time-consuming.  In turn, the harsh time commitment of P90X nags a certain point: can I sustain such a rigorous routine in the face of everyday life from now until old-age?  My answer is "no".  And I suspect that may be the answer for a large number of people who would like to reap the benefits of P90X but just can't afford the time.

There is a solution, however, and it consists in making a hybrid of the Primal Blueprint for Fitness and Nutrition, and P90X.  And in my opinion, the relaxed pace of primal fitness is better adapted to the actualities of human living in the modern world where so much of our time is at a high premium, and where coping with even a minimal fitness and nutrition routine can rub us up against the demands of work, family, and other pursuits.

More to come...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Richard Lynn: Disbelief and IQ

The Telegraph, a newspaper out of the UK, has put out an article detailing the findings of emeritus psychology professor Richard Lynn.  Lynn teaches out of Ulster University and has recently suggested that people with better than average IQs are less likely to believe in God.

Lynn's critics have labelled the findings "simplistic", and based on what I've read so far, I'd have to agree.

According to Lynn, the decline in religious affliation and belief in God dropped dramatically in the 20th century because people have become more intelligent.  A quick glance at the basic evolution of the human being, however, suggests that we may not have been as smart as our neanderthalic ancestors.  If that is true, then Lynn's findings are not only "simplistic", as his critics have charged, but inevitably wrong.

Neaderthals were highly religious (though not in an organised sense), even superstitious people, yet their overall cranial capacity suggests a larger brain, and therefore a possible better overall cerebral capability.  Mind you, as the documentary Battle of the Brains indicates, the jury's still out on whether a bigger brain means more potential capacity.  For some, smaller regions of the brain are more efficient than others who have larger regions, and visa versa.

So, while it is that neanderthals may have been smarter and people with better-than-average IQs may be less inclined to believe in God, there is no clear-cut link between belief in a set of propositions and the overall intellectual horsepower of a person's brain. 

And let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the world's major educational institutions are anything shy of nonreligious to begin with.  Hence people who flourish in academic settings are going to be much more highly influenced by the philosophical climate of the institutes they attend.  In our youth, we usually call that kind of exemplification "peer pressure", but somehow, when we peer into the upper-eschelons of academia the notion of that same "peer pressure" is overlooked, and people start exculpating themselves with unfounded excuses such as 'people are just smarter now.'  Nonsense!  People are able to access much more information now and, consequently, they are better equipped to meet the demands of reality face-on.

In any case, being better informed and having more ready access to information doesn't make a person smarter, and really doesn't show a link into disbelief.  The familiar logician's addage "correlation is not causation" is instructive here: while there may be an argument to suggest that readily available information can persuade people not to believe in God, that accessibility is not definitively the cause of a person's unbelief.  And let's not forget that there are many sincere, highly intelligent religious folk who have access to the same information that most other people do -- and they keep believing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Arken Counter (It's a Copyright thing...)

World famous young earth creationist, Ken Ham -- of Answers In Genesis fame -- has stepped up and asked for donations of $24.5 million dollars to make an amusement park out of Noah's Ark.  Said distraction is, thus far, banally labelled, "Ark Encounter".

Yes, that's right, Mr. Ham is set to dazzle the world by recreating a big boat.  And he wants everyone else to pay for it.  Isn't that nice of him?

Well, in the spirit of charity, I decided to pop over to his blog and feed him a reflection.  However, because my response there was not immediately supportive but more probative, I have been placed in 'moderation' while others after me (because they're enthusiasts) have been permitted their breezy remarks.  Here is what I wrote:
If people are willing to donate multiple thousands of dollars to contribute a peg, plank, or beam would they also be willing to contribute the same kind of money to something more practical, like hosting a dinner for homeless people? Or, perhaps, renting an apartment for a struggling university student?

Why not do something more useful for God’s people? If the biblical stories are true, then we’ve already had an ark. Why do we need another one; especially one that’s just meant to impress viewers and serves essentially as vainglory?

And has anyone realised the contribution to deforestation this project entails?
I think my comments and questions are fair.  Why do we need what would essentially amount to a theme park attraction imaginatively abstracted from the pages of a 5000 year-old book?  And while the U.S. economy rides the waves of recession and depression, is it really essential to anchor otherwise useful funds into a boat-shaped playground?

And why build the bloody thing inland?  What kind of a stupid waste is it to have a giant, brand new boat sitting inland?  At least make the damn thing funtional!  Ooo!  I know: load on board the young earth creationists two-by-two and let them float away somewhere where we don't have to listen to their illiterate twaddle about the earth being 6000 years old. 

And on that point (about the earth being 6000 years old), I think Sam Harris summed it up best when he wrote in Letter To A Christian Nation, "This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue" (Vintage, paperback ed., p. x - xi).  But, if you're going to beat a dead horse, you may as well have glue as an end-goal.  Then maybe the young-earthers will have a little something-something to seal their planks and beams against the unfloods and inland breakers.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Don't Believe In Hell

I don't believe in Hell.  I think the whole idea is contemptible nonsense.  If someone does believe in Hell, they must agree to some version of the following paradigm:
  1. God created everything, including people;
  2. People did stuff they shouldn't have and that made God upset;
  3. God set-up a place for people who make him miffed, and it is called 'Hell' (there's all sorts of unimaginably horrific torture that goes on without end in Hell);
  4. God wants to forgive everyone for not only doing irksome things themselves, but also for inheriting the irksomeness of the first people to ruffle God's feathers, as it were;
Conclusion: If you exist, you've been created sick, commanded to be well by asking forgiveness for sins you didn't commit but inherited, and if you don't ask forgiveness for those sins, then you'll suffer unmitigated torture forever and ever.  Amen.

Nope.  Sorry.  I don't buy it.  If the Christian message holds true, then Christ shouldered the burden of everyone else's sins.  That leaves everyone else standing on their own two feet, not taking on myriad generations of others misgivings.  That also means that if God created everyone sick, and demands that they be well, then there's no point in condemning them for the state he created them in.  Why bother creating anyone in the first place just to condemn them if they don't recognise their malady?

That is the message of a capricious and malevolent deity.

I think God's a little better than that.  If I can think of a more moral outcome to being a little spiritually daft, then I'm sure God must be slightly ahead of regular human morality, no?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review Suggestions

I'm thinking of doing some book reviews for my blog.  Trouble is, I'm tossed as to which books to review.  Here are a few I'm interested in.


Still, I wonder, which books would you like me to review?  Keep in mind your suggestions are just that: suggestions.  I may not take them up, but I'm willing to look into them, absolutely.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Having Their Cake And Eating It, Too

I don't really know anymore if it is morally acceptable for me to pick on such unwitting targets.  However, the Catholic Church really does provide a limitless storehouse of stupidity to whittle away at.  For example, I just learned that the Catholic Church has listed the "attempted ordination of women" amongst their roster of horribly horrible crimes.

The Catholic News Service notes that,
the "attempted ordination of women" will be listed among those crimes, as a serious violation of the sacrament of holy orders, informed sources said. As such, it will be handled under the procedures set up for investigating "delicta graviora" under the control of the doctrinal congregation.
And let's not forget that the delicta graviora is also the same description pinned to such base crimes as "sexual abuse."  So, while it is that the Catholic Church and I can agree that there are a good many actions and states that are horribly immoral, we certainly must part ways when it comes to whether a woman can chant the mass and preach a sermon.  And just for those technically-minded Catholics out there, we can still part ways on whether it is immoral to give a spiritual appointment (ordination) that sets a woman up as an authority in the assemblies of God.  Because while I really see no problem with dashing the hopes of an oudated and repressive patriarchy, those technically-minded Catholic parrots who just put-up with whatever's tossed at them are just as immoral, in my mind, as those people who are actually committing crimes against humanity.

How?  They've decided to jettison their reason in favour of allowing someone else -- namely the pope and his posse of misogynistic cronies -- determine their morality in opposition to observable reality.  In general, this sort of misguided acceptance of a single ruler's decrees is understood as a dictatorship, which most of the world considers immoral and inhumane.  But as long as suppressing and oppressing women is considered acceptable because such actions are declared under the banner of a "religion", then it's fine.  Because once religion is appended to a dictatorship, what is instinctively understood to be really fucking evil, is suddenly moral.

To sum:

1. The Catholic Church and I agree that sexual abuse is wrong, even evil;
2. The Catholic Church and I strongly disagree that attempting to ordain women is just as evil as other crimes against humanity.

Mind you, as an independent entity, Catholics can set up their own rules for self-governance and internal expectations, and women wanting to become priests really ought to look elsewhere.  But when the threat of damnation is extended to people who are not part of "the true Church", why would a sincere believing woman who has all the giftings of a priest not want to be a Catholic priest?  If by not being a Catholic you risk your salvation, then an intensely devout woman who wants to be a priest has to make the decision: forget her dreams and self-identified personhood, or risk her soul.  So, essentially, the priestly woman is damned if she does, and damned if she doesn't.  Looks like the Catholics can have their cake and eat it, too.

But don't worry: that same woman can just go home and have 12 babies, like a good little Catholic.  She can be "saved through childbearing" (1 Tim. 2:15).  You know, where she can find true fulfillment.

Here's another source on the same issue.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Muzzle the Man, Please

Darth Benedict, head of the Catholic Empire, has used his force to publish a book.  Again.  This time, in Light of the World, one of the topics he tackles is the subject of condom use -- something he and his other spindly-fingered, virgin Sith Lords know a lot about.  I suppose when we want advice, we're all be beholden to the experts, right?

Anyway, Catholicism's chief mouth-breather has announced it to the Empire, and to the scattered remnants of the Rebel Alliance (i.e., Protestants and Non-Catholics alike) that people can hereby use condoms in exceptional circumstances; e.g., if you're going to have sex with a male prostitute.  Or perhaps he should add "if you're going to have sex with a priest."

In any case, people are going to hit the sheets.  There's no exception to that reality.  So, just what kind of "exceptional circumstance" warrants capping one's John-Thomas?  Why, if one's John-Thomas is going to potentially threaten the life of another, of course!  But if you just want to have an hour well-spent with your partner, and not be given over 9 months later to an 18-20 year responsibility, well that's just wrong, evil, sinful, and damnably ungodly.

So are condoms valid in AIDS-riven Africa?

"The Pope made clear in his view condoms were no answer to the Aids pandemic."

So there you have it, commmoners, Darth Benedict has indicated that despite the exceptional circumstances of sexually transmitted diseases that will kill you, they are not the kind of exceptional circumstances that warrant a latex moment. But if you're an African male prostitute, perhaps with AIDS, well that's fine. Go ahead. It's exceptional only when it's exceptional, and not all exceptions are the same. Excepting exceptional circumstances, your circumstances are only exceptional if they're exceptionally exceptional. Then you can put a cap on it. But don't do it if you're just out for some fun. That would make you an evildoer.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rational Warrant: A Critique, P. I

An argument for belief in God attempts to establish credible evidence for a divine overseer orchestrating, or being aback of, the universe.  The direction of all argumentation concerning God's existence is to start with what we do know and extrapolate outward to the best possible conclusion concerning things we don't know. 

For example, the Cosmological Argument proposes that from matter we can extrapolate that there must have been a designer because all of what is, is contingent (i.e., dependent on other material things).  That everything material is contingent necessitates that there must have been one non-contingent, or wholly independent beginning to everything else.  This wholly independent thing is often referred to as "God."

From the example of the Cosmological Argument, it can be seen that the argument progresses from what is known (the existence and characteristics of the material world) to what is unknown (God).  A note on that point: by 'God as an unknown', I simply mean that the argument itself does not prove the existence of a super-being so much as it illustrates a logical correlation; namely, that the material world seems to exist in such a way that it must have derived its existence from a point not dependent on it.  However, correlation is not causality, so the Cosmological Argument cannot be used as a proof proper for God's existence; it can, however, be used as a reduction to a possible conclusion; a "rational warrant", as it were.

Which brings us to the point of this article: I do not consider rational warrant to be anything more than begging the question (circular reasoning), or a cheap rhetorical trick that ends in relativism.

First, anyone reasoning along the lines of a classic proof such as the Cosmological Argument already has in mind the inevitable conclusion, which is fine if you are attempting to defend the cosmological proposition for God.  As a friend recently reminded me, all debate happens that way: the opposing sides know what their conclusions are, and they argue accordingly toward those conclusions.  But notice that the conclusions are already assumed.  Philosophically speaking then, arguments for and against the existence of God already assume the conclusion to the proofs they offer.  This is wholesale question-begging: X is true, this is how X is true, therefore X is true; or, God is real, the cosmological argument shows that, therefore God is real.

Now, as my friend stated, and I agreed, such reasoning is fine in a debate setting because it would be a little improper to go into a debate not knowing your position on the resolution.  However, for a philosophical proof and a didactic aide, such reasoning only gives a person logical permission to assume a plausible conclusion; that is, "rational warrant."  And rational warrant, is not proof.  Rational warrant cannot firm up the link between correlation and causality, therefore it is not conclusive proof.  Rational warrant is only a fancy way of giving yourself permission to believe a given plausibility clause when the hard work of reasoning through a syllogism is over.

That brings us to my second point: "rational warrant" is a cheap rhetorical trick.  Suppose I was to say to you, "there is a 900 lbs. hungry tiger in the next room," and you realised there was no door between you and the hungry tiger.  You would suddenly have a swell of emotions that correlate to your inward ideas of a hungry tiger, what that tiger is capable of doing to a person, and your own need for safety.  You would, in fact, have what Kant described as a noumenal experience.

Even before you encountered the hungry tiger, you would start experiencing that tiger as if it were real, and as if your life were in danger because of it.  Then you would take whatever measures you had to to ensure your personal safety.  All very logical, and all quite appreciable.  However, you still haven't received any proof of a hungry tiger in the next room, so you have effectively believed my proposition that "there is a 900 lbs. hungry tiger in the next room" because it was reasonable for you to believe me (at least for the purpose of this illustration!).  In effect, you had "rational warrant" to believe my claim.

Now let's say that two days later, you learned that I was just tricking you.  You would be right to be irritated, but you would also recognise the falsity of your "rationally warranted" beliefs concerning the 900 lbs. tiger.  And this is where the notion of "rational warrant" really breaks down: simply reasoning to a plausible conclusion is not proof, and that's all "rational warrant" is: reasoning to a plausible conclusion.  It is a stylised flash of rhetoric that gives a veneer of reason to a belief-claim.

Because "rational warrant" is a catch-phrase or byword indicating the right of every person to believe whatever they'd like based on their subjective experience of a thing, or a proposition, it reduces even further to relativism.  That is, the notion that what I believe is just as true and valid as what you believe, even if we disagree.  Objective reality (A is A) is thrown out the window, so to speak, in favour of a solipsistic encounter with the world.  Which is fine if you're a solipsist, but for those of us who don't simply assimilate external realities into our self-projections on the world, the relativism of "rational warrant" simply doesn't supply a useful tool to interacting with the world.

The idea of "rational warrant", as I recently learned, can only apply to those beliefs which are actually true.  In effect, this means that a vast majority of beliefs held through history have not been rationally warranted.  But that can only be known in retrospect because once a belief is shown to be false, it is no longer rationally warranted, and it can only be shown to be false after people have already believed a certain belief and thought themselves rationally warranted in doing so -- that was a mouthful, I know.

So for a believing Christian, say, they would consider their beliefs "rationally warranted" because they are able to determine correlations between what they experience (mysticism),  the contingencies in nature, and what they already assume about supernatural realities (e.g., that God exists).  Oddly though, a believing Christian would disagree with the beliefs derived of a Muslim experience, and visa versa, even though they may agree on a good number of things, too.  And both the Christians and the Muslims would be "rationally warranted" for both their agreements and disagreements surrounding their particular metaphysic.

Given the clash between competing belief systems, how can "rational warrant" be rationally claimed?  Simple answer: it cannot.  As I stated before, it is a cheap rhetorical trick used to prop-up the arguments of one set of beliefs, sometimes in the face of a competing set of beliefs.  And if competing beliefs cannot both be true (see: law of non-contradiction), then anyone claiming rational warrant for their beliefs has also to claim a relativistic mindset concerning reality.

In part II, I will discuss how a relativistic mindset toward reality not only denies reality but also reduces belief-sets (e.g., Christianity, Islam, religion in general) to agnosticism.

***Thank-you to AgnosticInnocence for the picture.***

Friday, October 29, 2010

ADD & Me

I've recently learned that I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).  And while it is that knowing what afflicts you is helpful -- it certainly brings to light some of the reasons that I have chronically underachieved my whole life -- it is also, to my addled way of thinking, a tad bit detrimental. 

For example, I now have the added pressure of realising that so much of what has gone wrong in my life has been directly as a result of my scrambled brain.  So, not only do I have to make up for what I messed up, but I also have to correct my neuro-inheritance; i.e., the way my brain turned out because of my undesirable upbringing. 

Then, when I have accomplished that much, I have to set to work correcting my most important relationships: my marriage, and my fatherhood.

I feel dragged out, and beaten down by all of this.  I'm sure some of you out there can relate.

Something interesting has come of this for me, however.  Specifically, my wife commented to me a couple of weeks ago that "if [I'm] not thoroughly repulsed by the reasons why [my] brain has ended up the way it is, then [I'm] not ready to change." 

I'll admit that, at first, I was a little confused by what she said.  Why would I need to tread back over old feelings: anger, confusion, depression, etc. just so I could change my brain chemistry.  It didn't make sense.  However, as she explained more of what she meant, it became abundantly clear that she was right: I have to purposefully determine to reject any and all notions or behaviours that contributed to the reason why my brain has been disordered.  Until I do so, I'm not individuating from those occurences (e.g., childhood abuse), and I'm allowing myself the discomfort of keeping company with past shames.  Essentially, I'm living a shame-based identity.

Once my wife had explained this more, I felt a strange sense of liberty: it's okay for me to be really angry, to be pissed-off, unremittingly maddened about what contributed to my neurosynaptic misfirings, and deeply disgusted by how that has contributed to some fairly self-destructive patterns and underachievement.  It's not even unChristian of me to do so.  In fact, it would be entirely unChristian of me to deny myself and wish my condition away on a fanciful prayer or two.

No, no.  I have the work ahead of me.  And dammit!  I'm going to fix the problem and not leave this as another area where I've underachieved and self-destructed.

I love my wife.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Starting Again, Soon

After a bit of a pause, I will be starting this blog up again.  Thank you for your patience, and I hope the wait wasn't too long for you.

Take care,
Kane

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Trails

And so, without notice or further ado, I will be taking a hiatus from this blog. I don't know how long my departure will be, but I will be concentrating on writing my book, and some stories for my children over the next while.

I must follow my urgeo ut scriptor (urge to scribble).

Take care. I'll see you in a while.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Things That Make You Go, "Hmm."

video

I'm not saying I agree, but it is certainly a thoughtful presentation. It has me thinking, that's for sure.

By way of The Thinking Atheist.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Logic Goes A-Walking

The Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC) and the fallacy of False Dichotomy (FD) were out walking one day.

Turning his syllogism to regard FD, LNC quipped, "I've been thinking about you lately, and it occurs to me that you're either a false dichotomy, or you're not."

Slowing from a brisk modus ponens to a casual modus tollens, FD regarded LNC. Smirking FD returned with, "According to our mutual friend, the Law of Identity, it would be contradictory to state that I'm anything other than what I am. I am only that that I am, nothing else."

LNC, cooly calculating his next thought, spoke up, "Of course. Come on! We're going to be late meeting with Begging the Question, and you know how she gets when she spends too much time with Ad Hoc. Anything could happen!"

Picking up their cumulative case, the pair sped along their path to Deduction-ville.

The end.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Two Rabbits

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tid-Bits

Well, here's a tid-bit to get you thinking about some of the common slang slung about in religious-speak. It turns out that the etymology of the word "testimony" comes from the Latin word, testis, which means "witness". The same word, testis, provides the root for what we commonly call "testicles".

The original meaning of the word 'testis' referred to the credibility of a man due to his evident virility. Thus a man who had 12 children was more credible than a man who had, say, 3. So, if man with more children were called upon to present a case for something-or-another, he would testify. That is, he would speak out knowing that because his balls work well, people would believe him.

I suppose Christians have something else to consider now when they give their testimonies.

Pascal's Wager: Rejected

Pascal's Wager. The notion of wagering on God's existence occurs at note 233 of Pascal's Pensées (literally, 'Thoughts').

And as one reader noted last year, the idea is that "It is better to believe in God and find out that he doesn't exist, than to not believe and find out he does." That is not a direct quote from Pascal, but it is the best summation of his famous Wager that I have heard, to date.

I'm not a fan of the Wager, personally, for a number of reasons, one of which is that citing the options of polar opposites (belief and unbelief) is not a reasonable premise for me to choose either of those polarities. I already know as much.

On top of that, however, I question the relevance of determining whether this-or-that thing is 'better' than another without having any real content to demonstrate such a claim. For example, simply stating that cheese is better than non-cheese tells me nothing about cheese that I should consider it 'better'. Similarly, telling me belief is better than unbelief tells me nothing about the content of 'belief' or 'unbelief' that I would consider one or the other 'better'.

As a conclusion to a well defined argument, the Wager can have its place. Still, Pascal's Wager is wholly dependent on having a rational, well-placed argument to render any meaning or purpose to wagering at all. And, incidentally, Pascal was not attempting an argument when he penned his famous wager, nor did he consider his Wager to be a sufficient premise to bring about salvific understanding. Pascal simply intended the Wager as an observation of the fact that people ultimately make choices; and the existence of God is just another choice about which someone can be right or wrong. Thus it is a wager, and not an apologetic.

Unfortunately, the Wager has been used as an apologetic in and of itself to coerce people into making a decision for or against Christ. Sadly, the few times I've seen this tactic used one of two results occur:
  1. The person feels anxious and afraid that they may choose wrong and suffer some terrible consequence -- hell, or some other uncertainty about death and after-death.
  2. The person becomes riled and considers Christians to be a batch of noisy idiots.
So, as a tool for evangelism, I've yet to see Pascal's Wager have a postitive net effect. It's simply too confrontational on a deeply instinctual level, and people feel deeply insulted to find themselves in the position where they have to gamble on eternity without any real understanding of why they're gambling. As a finishing pen-stroke for a well-honed apologetic, it can be used, but it does beg certain philosophical questions that weaken its seeming strength.

Quip

Semantics assures we're up to the same antics.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nostalgia

The photograph below was taken 162 years ago, in 1848.


It's a picture of New York.

My, how times have changed...


I like the old New York much better.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Work, Pray, and Lager

On one of the chat-boards I participate on, a member was concerned that his job was in danger. The situation is simply that his two bosses -- one an evangelical Christian, the other an orthodox Jew -- were requiring that each work-day start in prayer. To add, the employees were informed that they would be required to lead prayer.

Being as the concerned board-member is an atheist, he wanted to seek out advice for how to handle the situation.

The most creative response so far has been the following:
Recite this prayer:

"Our lager, Which art in barrels, Hallowed be thy drink. Thy will be drunk, I will be drunk, At home as it is in the tavern. Give us this day our foamy head, And forgive us our spillages, As we forgive those who spill against us. And lead us not to incarceration, But deliver us from hangovers. For thine is the beer, The bitter, The lager.

Ramen."
My abdomen now hurts from laughing too hard.

What would you suggest this atheist do?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Yeah. Okay.

Don't you wish we could have some more 80's spandex-metal bands again? Don't you miss them?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. on Science and Religion

"Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary. Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mary and Nepotism

I participate on a theology board on occasion. Tonight, a concerned question was raised by a poster named Nightingale. What follows below is Nightingale's question, and my tendency to be cheeky while attempting a playful point.
In researching the development of Marian dogma, I've found that most of the first Protestants held a very high opinion of Mary. Both Luther and Calvin believed in her perpetual virginity and divine maternity, Luther believed in her immaculate conception, and Oecolampadius even taught that she was the Mediatrix of all graces! Why has this switched around to the point where I've heard many Protestants discourage even talking about Mary?
Remember the context of the time: Luther and Calvin were both Catholic priests before they reacted against Rome. Those things that were relevant to worship, they kept. Those things that they deemed hinderances, they tossed.

That same tradition continued post-Luther, post-Calvin. Even more than the Reformers, however, were the Radicals (sometimes known as the Anabaptists) and their maniacal fervour to reduce Christianity to some basic sediments, and dispense with the froth and foam. They considered Luther heroic, yes; but they also thought he didn't go far enough. Hence they set in motion a type of puritanism that acted as a distilate to anything beyond the pale of scripture, preaching, and symbolic sacraments. Thus Mary, while respectable, really was only instrumental insofar as she birthed Jesus. After that, she's little more than a biblical after-thought.

Carry that same creeping puritanism forward to the present day, and you have some memetic tendencies in Protestant circles to dispense with Mary altogether because she seems to get in the way of Jesus by being part of a grammar people are afraid will lead to Catholicism.

Despite my hearty agreeance that Catholicism is a frightening thing, for most Prostestants it is an evil thing. And if Mary is going to have the dogmatic fortitude to be mediating between Jesus and the rest of the world, then the misgivings of Protestants will no doubt exculpate her from such a nepotistic scheme, and set her where she belongs: in a manger, and at the foot of the cross, and no more.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Christendom: A House Divided

In Christian theology there are three main theories of the atonement:
  1. Jesus's crucifixion was to appease the wrath of God. God cannot countenance sin, and in his holiness must obliterate sin. Therefore Jesus, as a representative of the human race, was nailed to the cross as a sacrifice for all of humanity's sins -- past, present, and future. That is, Christ voluntarily assumed the sins of humanity on himself and died in place of the rest of humanity. This theory, crudely summarised as it is, is known as the penal substitutionary atonement.
  2. Christ came to conquer death by dying on the cross. Effectively, Christ acted as 'bait' to draw the devil away from humanity, and in so doing removed the devil's hold on humanity. It's a compliment to the words Christ uttered early in his ministry, "I have called you to be fishers of men." This theory is known as the "Ransom theory", or more recently the Christus Victor atonement.
  3. Jesus acted as the ultimate exemplar, and when we take heed of his sacrificial love our moral intentions are influenced christward. In short, Christ's life and sacrifice inclines our morals godward, thereby sanctifying us to be in his presence. This is known as the moral influence theory of atonement.
In the past few years, there has been a re-visitation of these theories. Theologians from different loyalties have bandied about their prefered vision of Christ's soteriological efforts. One book in particular has risen to the top of the academic list, Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ (2007). The book explores the various reasons for the necessity of certain theories, why the authors believe the theories they do, and how those theories are applied to everyday life.

It's editor and contributing author, Brad Jersak, admits his preference for the penal substitution theory. Nevertheless, in this article, professor and author Hans Boersma cautions against placing all one's philosophical capital in a single theory of the atonement. "The problem, said Boersma, is to take any one of these approaches and insist it is right and the others are wrong." This is sensible because prizing one theory exclusively excludes the beneficial points of the other theories.

The same holds true in other Christian academic applications. The novice theologian will place great import on a certain 'proof' of the existence of God. I had a fondness for the Ontological Argument back in my college days, but turned a snooty nose up at Kalam's version of the Cosmological Argument, for example. It wasn't until a good friend of mine, the late Hugh Hill (1958 - 2007) turned my head to the notion of a cumulative case for God's existence that I recognised it wasn't necessary to remain beholden to this-or-that particular 'proof' for the existence of God.

It's in that respect that I think it inane to cite a particular view of the atonement as the exclusively right view of Christ's death: it is the place of a novice or dilettante to throw one's lot in with a singular theory of the atonement.

To press this point a little further, it is instructive to note Boersma's final contribution to the article noted above:
Therefore, it is important to "bring humility to the table" and try to understand each other. We can "never say we have explained it all," said Boersma, since human language is "always inadequate to fully define the divine mystery."
True: human language cannot adequately define either the 'divine' or 'mystery'. Which is why I think Boersma would've done well to admit more by saying less. If Boersma had said in regards to the atonement that we can "never say we have explained it" and that human language is "always inadequate" we may have had a better rendering of the case. We would also have cause to graduate beyond the useless amateur quibblings of exclusivist atonement theory loyalties.

On a much grander scale, this is the same issue I have with Christian communities as a whole, if I can say that and make any sense. Let me explain. No-one is surprised when presented with the fact that Christianity is divided into many houses: Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Congregationalists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, the Emergent Church, the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, ad-seemingly-infinitum.

Each grouping considers itself the model of unvarnished and inviolate orthodoxy alive today. I like to call this peculiarity of Christendom "local orthodoxy by attrition". That is, if it's said long enough and loud enough, eventually everyone will concede that "that's what so-and-so thinks about itself, so just let them have their illusions; we know that we're really the true orthodoxy." The same psychology, quite interestingly, holds true for liars, too: if they repeat their falsehoods long enough, they eventually believe them to be true.

Such self-exculpating tactics only reinforce what they're trying to avoid. That is, by denying the notion of orthodoxy to other Christian communities while remaining loyal to another one, a person can only be left with patronising concessions to faith-traditions not their own. This means that one believes their own particular faith-community to be the purest expression of biblical community above and beyond all others. This is a mark of superficiality, specious reasoning, and religious snobbery adopted by most Christians very quickly after conversion. Catholics and Lutherans, especially with their notion that they are the "one true church", are quite masterful at perpetuating such insidious sophistries.

It is much more sensible to regard the Christian communities of the world as part of a cumulative culture for Christ than a "house divided against itself", to borrow Christ's portentous words. But as long as Christians bark and bellow over which atonement theory is better and more right, which 'proof' is more accurate, which faith-tradition is purer, more orthodox, and therefore more fully in the faith -- as long as the house of Christianity remains divided against itself, we can reasonably speculate on Christ's conclusion that that house "will surely fall".

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

High On Jesus



Well, here's an interesting one. Enjoy.

(Via Unreasonable Faith)

Monday, May 31, 2010

What if...

...Christianity isn't true? What would change? I mean, what practical, visible, hands-on realities would change?

People would feel a loss. A tremendous loss, no doubt. I imagine it might be like an unbearable funeral where everyone is gathered at the six-foot plot weeping and gnashing their teeth, but with nothing to bury. The anxiety, the angst and confusion fixing everyone to their spots would seem at once tragic and amusing. Like watching a mime.

Would anyone feel relief after they buried their mistaken beliefs? I know I've never felt relieved when I've found out I've been horribly mistaken. I've felt awkward, socially spent, emotionally void, confused; I've wanted to hang on to my denial.

So, what if Christianity isn't true? Then what?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Alright...

...I've put some of my philosophical readings on hold to concentrate on fictional literature. Admittedly, I'm feeling the pangs of withrawal. I absolutely love reading philosophy, social commentary, and religious history. But I also love reading fictional literature. In fact, I think that Christopher Hitchens is entirely right when he notes that philosophical themes, and morality are best meted out in fiction.

So, because I am a nerd, and because I don't want to stray from my healthier habits (philosophy) and immerse myself entirely in fiction (which can be a negative form of escapism for me), I have settled on some philosophical fiction. Specifically, I am going to embark on two modern classics by the wonderfully innovative and insightful philosopher, Ayn Rand.

To begin with, I will tackle the massive story (1070 pages), Atlas Shrugged.

From there, I will read The Fountainhead.

And finally, I will take on a much shorter novel by Rand, Anthem.


This should be quite a trip down Philosophy Lane, while at the same time being a purposeful break from heady academics. At the same time, I'll be learning about Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, and growing in my understanding and appreciation of how other's look at the world around them.

I'll leave you with this penetrating quote from Ms. Rand.

"Damnation is the start of your morality, destruction is its purpose, means and end. Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demands that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accepts his own depravity without proof. It demands that he start, not with a standard of value, but with a standard of evil, which is himself, by means of which he is then to define the good: the good is that which he is not.

It does not matter who then becomes the profiteer on his renounced glory and tormented soul, a mystic God with some incomprehensible design or any passer-by whose rotting sores are held as some explicable claim upon him - it does not matter, the good is not for him to understand, his duty is to crawl through years of penance, atoning for the guilt of his existence to any stray collector of unintelligible debts, his only concept of a value is a zero: the good is that which is non-man.

The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin. A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man's sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man's nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code.

Do not hide behind the cowardly evasion that man is born with free will, but with a 'tendency' to evil. A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice. It forces man to struggle through the effort of playing, to bear responsibility and pay for the game, but the decision is weighted in favor of a tendency that he had no power to escape. If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.

What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge - he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil - he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor - he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire - he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy - all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man's fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was - that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love - he was not man.

Man's fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin. His evil, they charge, is that he's man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives. They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man."

Thank you to Atheist Media Blog for bringing this to my attention.

Now off to reading...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday Quote

"Only religion could suppose an unjustified certainty to be an improvement on ignorance." ~Victor Stenger, Philosophy Now, Issue 78, What's New About the New Atheism?