Monday, December 31, 2012

A few words about "atheist spirituality"--"spirituality" for the godless

I meditate. I've meditated regularly, at some times more seriously than at others, for well over a decade. Though I subscribed to a continually waning degree of pantheism and/or panentheism during the first eight percent or so of that time, and thus would have to concede that my practice developed for what we might call "religious" reasons, since dropping all pretenses and pretending about the supernatural and woo of all sorts, I've continued the practice, continued to find it valuable, and, most interestingly, haven't had to change anything about it except my underlying motivations for doing it in order to continue it.

I'm not particularly aiming this post at meditation, though. Since I opened with it, I'll make a very brief statement that I tend to be rather closely aligned with Sam Harris's view on meditation--it is a valuable practice that requires no belief in gods or magic or the supernatural to return major benefits. Unlike Swami B.V. Tripurari, who recently wrote a piece for Huffington Post Religion, "Is There a Secular Meditation?", I see absolutely no reason to introduce any sectarian anything into the practice, i.e. I disagree with him fundamentally and think his piece was outrageous bordering on egregious. I'm not particularly surprised, though, given that he is a swami with a nonsense theology to protect and promote, for it is what he bases his life upon and how he makes at least some portion of his living.

After reading the swami's piece the other day and realizing that the tenth chapter of my God Doesn't; We Do is about "Spirituality without God," I put something about atheism and spirituality on Twitter to see what kind of reaction I might get. It was pretty interesting, once someone bit, though it was predictable: a sharp disdain for the term "spirituality" was expressed by a few folks who want to steer thoroughly clear of any bridges to the supernatural--for which they can hardly be blamed. Indeed, I was even informed, rather to my amusement, that I'm missing the "point of atheism."

A more astute comment pointed out that indeed, this is a matter of semantics. As I see it, the term "spirituality" already exists, already means something, could never have included God (because there is no God, almost surely), already resonates with people, and thus could be reclaimed from the religious, as morality has been (unless you ask the super religious). Indeed, I make the analogy to alcoholic spirits, team spirit, spirited people, diabolical villains, and sprightly gymnasts all without needing to invoke any thoughts of the supernatural. Why can't the set of practices and experiences that people already call "spiritual" retain that name without calling to anything more than what they really are (which is nearer to self-actualization combined with a set of practices and emotional and psychological states)? As a matter of fact, another term that is not identical already exists to capture most of the woo, and it is spiritualism, not spirituality.

Sure, it's playing with fire. I've already noted that the word "God" is broken, in my opinion, as a metaphor. It carries too much connotation with it and means too many things to too many people, and my goal is not to create a sect within the set of atheists who would claim that they are "spiritual but don't believe in gods" because that is already a notion that is being abused (mostly by pantheists) and is thus misleading. I admit it, the terminology here has to be careful, but there's apparently not better terminology available yet because the religious terminology has dominated the entire scene for millennia, negating the need to create another term that encompasses all of these states, emotions, practices, methods, and goals in a neat package that already resonates with people.

Frankly, I think purely  secular "spirituality," to use this term in quotes to indicate what I meant via the last sentence, not only can exist, but that it can do the job that people seek it for better than religious approaches can. On the one hand, secular approaches need carry no baggage (often harmful) like all other religious ideas do. On the other, secular approaches to any mental activity are going to be de facto imbued with more freedom because there are no explicitly stated rules, regulations, goals, or other nonsense when one is a freethinker (indeed, the swami indicates that all meditation has the goal of "ego-death," which is nonsense that applies only to his particular religious conception of meditation). Furthermore, secular approaches, more trustful of science, are more likely to be well-informed by the findings of neuroscience and psychology regarding "spirituality" than their sectarian cousins. Even further still, secular approaches are vastly more likely to employ rational skepticism and thus avoid overstepping the boundaries whereby, in the words of one fellow on Twitter, people will "seek emotional experiences and label them supernatural." Um, not if they don't think there is a supernatural.

I'm particularly caught by an observation by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor (do follow this link to watch her describe what follows), which she hit upon through the unfortunate circumstance of having a rather severe stroke that, fortunately, did not kill her. This insight hit me hard, largely because I spend years meditating very seriously and achieved some of the "deep" "spiritual" experiences that the mystics talk about and because I deeply value science and skepticism and knowing how everything works if I can. I made a connection almost immediately that grounds "spirituality" in the natural instead of the supernatural, and it even sheds light upon how the esoteric Eastern meditative traditions may be missing the point.

In very short, the "ego-death" that the swami talks about in his rather narrow piece could very possibly be what Taylor describes as taking offline (or quieting) the brain's left hemisphere's interpretation of reality, opening up the experience of the right hemisphere. If that is correct, then the goal of "ego-death" is a very limited goal. Sure, learning to get the brain to handle interpretation in a fundamentally different way is a very difficult task, but then to take that (and the profound insights it offers) and mistake it for the "true" reality is to fall for an illusion every bit as misleading as the "illusion of the ego" their traditions attempt to teach people to transcend. (Here I can meet Sam Harris at a term that he uses with caution that Christopher Hitchens advised may be beyond redemption or even completely nonsensical.)

The goal of godless "spirituality" would be, then, to engender the kinds of states of mind and psychology that allow us to have these tremendous insights offered by the meditative spiritual traditions and then to see them in the proper, scientifically-grounded light, taking from them the kind of benefit that they have to offer while keeping connection to the reality that we seem to be minds that arise from brains that have halves that each process information about reality profoundly differently. I include in these "spiritual" pursuits the fulfilling emotional states that people often call "divine," a term whose other meaning indicates immediately that seeking these is almost certainly worthwhile, as well as psychological goals like self-actualization, as described by Abraham Maslow (or perhaps, if it makes sense, some state of realization beyond actualization).

There's no need to inject the supernatural into any of this, and indeed, many good reasons to keep it out, and yet there's no need for the common a-theistic knee-jerk away from the term "spiritual" and everything that hides beneath that umbrella--of note, again, not including any spirits, which have never been there in the first place. What we are short on, perhaps, is a better term, but in the meantime, I'm entirely content advocating for an effort to take it back from the religions, pointing out while we do that they don't even have the proper perspectives (rational skepticism, evidentialism, pragmatism, etc.) to make the most of the effort--to say nothing of how they mostly peddle "Spirituality Lite" (Chapter 9 of God Doesn't; We Do) instead of anything resembling real "spirituality."

For suggestions, I'm all ears. I certainly don't intend to mislead, though honestly, just as Christians have usurped holidays to their advantage over the centuries, I'm not afraid to use a term to draw people out of religious traditions if part of what keeps them there is that they fear they'll be losing a cornerstone of their experience if they drop the belief in myths, legends, magic, and dogma.


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If you enjoy my writing, you can read more of it in my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. If you choose to pick it up, I thank you for your support of myself, my family, and indie authors in general.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What the hell is theology? Where are the theologists?

The fundamental problem with theology is that there are no theon--no gods--to study, a fact that sets it distinctly apart from the other -ologies. That leaves us with the question of what theology is, then.

The dictionary tells us that theology is either "the study of the nature of God and religious belief" or "religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed, as in 'Christian theology.'" Do these definitions make sense? Do they tell us what a person needs to know about the term "theology," given that the etymology (study of gods) is plainly misleading?

The first definition is the more interesting one to sort out, and along the way, we'll be able to handle the second definition in a sentence. "The study of the nature of God and religious belief." Well, that's two things, and we call the second one of those "religious studies," as "theology" means something else. Particularly, "religious studies" study the religions, which are social constructs that actually exist, and one certainly need not believe in any sort of God or gods in order to be an accomplished researcher in this field. Notably, such researchers are not usually called theologians. Wikipedia summarizes neatly:
While theology attempts to understand the nature of transcendent or supernatural forces (such as deities), religious studies tries to study religious behavior and belief from outside any particular religious viewpoint. Religious studies draws upon multiple disciplines and their methodologies including anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and history of religion.
That said, we can remove any confusion or illusions, sometimes proffered by theologians, sometimes intentionally, that theology is a study of religious belief. That is incorrect. "The study of the nature of God" is vastly more accurate, although theology can be considered to take on some of the question about how their beliefs play out in society, at least from an insider's perspective. This, by the way, is the long and the short of the second definition of "theology," although the juxtaposition in "religious theory" literally makes me cringe.

There's a problem with "the study of the nature of God," though, and it's exactly what I started this post with: there is no God, and thus no nature of God, to study.

[To stay within the boundaries of academic honestly, lest the academically dishonest brigade tries to shoehorn something in here, there is absolutely no good evidence upon which we can believe there are any Gods, the "nature of God" is not known and is often declared to be unknowable, certainly cannot be agreed upon by almost anyone, and we have absolutely no indications about what the supposed nature of God would be--unless we accept Irony, the Equivocator, as being God.]

So what the hell does a theologian study if there is no [known/knowable/defined/definable/agreeable-upon] nature of God? Their own thoughts on God. These are usually supplied in some vague sense by either the scriptures of philosophers, and then they are "studied" in the sense that they are taken by the theologian and wedged awkwardly into constructs used to understand reality. In other words, theologians study how to take a certain brand of make-believe and then how to cram it into people's minds with the nearly explicit goal of simply bypassing their bullshit meters. Theologists, then, are experts primarily in overcoming doubts.

Theology would be a subfield of philosophy, then, if we could meaningfully use the term "philosophy" to name the effort of attempting to force a class of fictions to be considered true. We cannot, though, without bringing the conditional with us through the door. That is to say that if theology wanted to qualify as a branch of philosophy, it would have to start essentially every one of its sentences about its central topic with "if God exists...." Here I'm even willing to concede the rest of that: "if God exists and does anything or in any other way holds any real meaning."

The rest of what theologians do when doing theology--at least the "sophisticated ones" (in God Doesn't; We Do, I argue that there are no sophisticated theologies since they are all sophistry instead)--is abuse terms and attempt to undermine other philosophical approaches, ironically by attempting to put them on the same base as theology. This is where they get into the deep-sounding definitions like "God is the necessary agent cause of contingent reality" and "God is the uncaused first cause." Oftentimes other notions are simply assumed as well, such as moral perfection, the ideal of love, perfect benevolence, etc. The theologian's -ology rests in trying to square these circles while dancing around the fact that it's all just a sticky, gish-galloping web of non sequiturs and question begging--until they establish their god with evidence.

Theologists

Perhaps this is why we call theologians theologians instead of theologists, and perhaps it is time to unleash some theologists on the world. Theologists would be scientists that study evidence concerning theon. But, of course, there are no theon to study, and thus no evidence for them, so what would these folks study? They would study the negative evidence that makes it very difficult to accept these claims as true. This evidence is available in enormous abundance, and only pathetically flimsy arguments by their rivals, theologians, attempts to keep us from seeing it as such.

In the title, I asked "where are the theologists?" Doing better things with their time, of course.

The so-called "New Atheists" really stand out now because there are scientists, most notably Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, Carl Sagan, and (more lately) Lawrence Krauss, (also Sam Harris, who came to science from philosophy because of this question) that have taken time from their otherwise busy schedules of figuring out how the universe actually works to illustrate that the lack of evidence for religious claims actually does constitute evidence against them. Other non-scientists, like Richard Carrier, carry this torch even further, making strong arguments about how the lack of evidence for the religious claims is strong evidence against them.

Generally, though, there are no theologists because theology is a waste of time--a waste of time that one can actually earn a doctorate in, making it a grand waste of time! It wastes the time of the theologians, it wastes the time of the laity, and it wastes the time of the would-be and will-be theologists that work to dismantle it. Ever since the concept of "burden of proof" has been invented, particularly when coupled with the bias-removing scientific method, theology has been a lost cause, a black hole that has swallowed innumerable hours of many of the most academically talented people to have ever lived (on both sides of the debate).


One day, I hope, we'll make better uses of our talents.



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If you enjoy my writing, you can read more of it in my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. If you choose to pick it up, I thank you for your support of myself, my family, and indie authors in general.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Theism (and religion): "mind virus" or "mind cancer"?

This post is a modification of a comment I left on John Loftus's blog, Debunking Christianity. You can read the original post and the comments here. The discussion I engaged in actually meets a commenter that is expressing frustration at attempting to reason with religious believers, feeling it is a lost cause and that they are better ignored. I don't totally disagree with this notion in principle, but at present, they have too much momentum behind them to be able to do it and to promote the freedom from religion that we're really looking to help people achieve.

The comment here, as follows, has been edited from the original. I really intend to develop the idea with which I have titled this post: is religion more of a "mind cancer" than a "mind virus"?



We often hear the analogy that religion is like a "mind virus," but I think this is at best partially right. Religion is communicable like one, but the "disease," if you will, of theism manifests more like cancer than a virus. Cancer isn't a disease. It's a whole bunch of diseases, and it doesn't just make you sick--it literally is a corruption of how your tissue is supposed to grow and manage itself. Often it entails tissue growing unchecked by the body's normal regulatory processes and thus causing major problems as a result. Here, the analogy would be that cancers literally corrupt the mental processes once an infection happens, and they can happen in a number of ways and in a number of venues within the mind, eventually metastasizing into other aspects of thought and changing their growth as well, almost always into something unhealthy. Note that these two metaphors are not mutually contradictory--many cancers can be triggered by genetic damage caused by viruses in the first place. The damage here, of course, is memetic instead of genetic, but the parallels are in some ways quite striking.

Note also that we, in the laity, usually label cancers by the tissues they corrupt, say breast or colon or prostate or liver, but this isn't sufficient--or even correct. There are many kinds of each of those cancers, and each represents a strikingly different disease process. "Breast cancer," for instance, far from a monolithic illness, is an umbrella term for many different kinds of cancer that have entirely separate prognoses, manifestations, threats, and treatments. With religion, we could talk about different religions being different kinds of cancers, but it is probably more accurate to talk about different ways of thinking about the world becoming corrupted. We see different believers, even different kinds of believers, manifesting modifications in different regions of their worldview: moral/ethical, intellectual, and emotional, at the surface level. There will be different ways to twist evidence to support different classes of belief, for instance, from confirmation bias to outright science denialism, and this is just within the intellectual category.

In medicine, each type of cancer might require a completely different treatment protocol down to different chemotherapy drugs. Each may well have ways to reverse it via other means as well, but for the purposes of the analogy, we'll assume that there is a relatively small number of ways to reverse the disease process and achieve successful treatment. Medically, chemo and radiation are kind of like a carpet-bombing approach used alongside surgery to get rid of most cancers, and the patient really suffers from the treatment almost more than the cancer (at least in the short term, if not in the long). The hope is to hit the cancer with something that will arrest it, and even if this process is getting better and better at targeting the cancer itself, it's still an apt metaphor to call it "carpet bombing." In the case of dealing with theism, rational and ethical appeals are the main tools, the chemo and radiation of dealing with mutated and dangerous mental processes.

Likewise, when anti-theistic writers and activists like John Loftus (or Dawkins, Harris, etc.) employ reason- and evidence-based arguments, often in hammers of books that cover many, many topics (here's a shameless plug to my own, which you should check out!), it's rather like chemo and radiation against a cancer. The hope is that something in the cocktail (often as much of it being moral appeal as intellectual, actually) will be the thing that knocks the crack in the wall of belief.

For me personally, it was the David Koresh incident in the 1990s. It suddenly struck me listening to the news about it that David Koresh was plainly crazy, and yet we have no good evidence that Jesus wasn't the David Koresh of his day. "What if Jesus was just a David Koresh of 2000 years ago?" was the question that cracked the shell, even if it took a while for me to hatch all the way. For my friend, it was the death of his dad. For another, it was how patently absurd the idea of praying proves (prayer, if you haven't noticed, doesn't work). For another, it struck him that religion was more about controlling people's thoughts and behaviors than about providing them with anything. For another, it was the seriousness of Muslims at worship in a contradictory tradition. For another, it was a disgustingly brutal murder near where we live. Countless others have named books like John's or those of the "horsemen" and others: Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, etc.

In each of those cases, the evidence of the world (and voices within it) carpet-bombed the "diseased" mind until a weak point was found, a spot where the cognitive dissonance of maintaining beliefs against the evidence became unsustainable. Carpet-bombing isn't the best way, but it might be the only really good way to go about it in broad publications rather than targeted ones (i.e. individual conversations, a tactic which I have used but which can take literally many months per already interested person). Still, cancer teaches us that even in highly individualistic cases, it is still very difficult to find the right combination of techniques and drugs to be effective, and we're also still prohibitively limited by what we are actually able to know. (For example, I'd bet that abiogenesis, which we're close to figuring out now, will drive younger, relatively scientifically literate people out in a significant exodus.)

I think most religious believers, though perhaps not the superstars of theology, have breaking points where they can no longer support the cognitive dissonance, and then the house of cards can start to fall. As a matter of fact, it seems almost every "I used to be a believer" has one of those moments where suddenly the entire "epistemology" supporting their beliefs starts to deflate from a single hole knocked in it by a single academic or moral fact. It turns out to be very, very difficult to know (or even find out) where that hole is or will be, and as I noted, perhaps the superstars are those without those holes (or best able to patch any breaches to their hulls).

What do you think? Can we think of theism as a memetic virus that causes a mental cancer?

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If you enjoy my writing, you can read more of it in my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. If you choose to pick it up, I thank you for your support of myself, my family, and indie authors in general.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The outcome of atheism

For whatever combination of reasons, I have recently seen a lot of Christians asking what the "future outcome of atheism" is. For comparison, they cite the outcomes of Christianity as being "to bring peace and love to the world and eventually get everyone into heaven." For the first of those, they see atheism short on the necessary constructs (read: dogmas) to achieve goals like widespread peace and love, and for the second, they rightly identify that atheism does not attempt to get anyone into heaven--atheists tend not to believe that there is a  heaven to get into.

Widespread love and peace?

Let's be real first before I talk about the "outcomes of atheism." Institutionalized Christianity is roughly 1700 years old now, and the movement itself approaches its second millennial. That means that Christians have had a rather long time to start demonstrating their ability to manifest goals like peace and love in the world. Frankly, it's not going too well, and however well it is going now is primarily in spite of the doctrines and dogmas of Christianity, whatever they want to claim Jesus said, and not because of it.

Consider, for example, the Inquisition. "Believe as we do, or we'll do you the 'favor' of torturing you until you say you do, confess to imaginary crimes you didn't commit, and then publicly gut you or set you on fire as a warning to everyone else," it effectively said, presumably under the banner of achieving those two outcomes. We can presume that their reasoning included the idea that if everyone believes the same thing, there may be far less reason for strife (particularly when the sources of the beliefs are strictly controlled as they were at the time--it was still a capital crime and supreme heresy to possess a Bible in any vernacular language of Europe), and if heretics confess their sins and come to Jesus, they get to go to heaven--and in either case serve as a useful example for others to follow concerning how serious the matter of getting into heaven is. The frightening bit is that this entire affair can be warped via Christian doctrines into being part of "love" (and the infamous Westboro Baptist Church does exactly this to justify their protests), largely thanks to that threat of hell and "promise" of heaven. And so we might wonder if this is what is meant when Christians say that the outcome of Christianity is widespread love. I'll take my chances without that, thanks.

What stopped the Inquisition? Society at large decided it had had enough, and that arm of the Church was revealed for what it was: horrible. It is exactly what we expect to see from a totalitarian organization built upon patently bogus nonsense, though, and it only stopped doing that when it lost the power to do it.

The Inquisition is hardly the only example of the doctrines and dogmas of Christianity run amok, causing immeasurable suffering before society at large corrected it. This process has happened due to secularization, regardless of whether or not a less brutal sect of Christians led the charge, as secularization is a process by which the strictness of the sect is loosened. As people read their Bibles for themselves, once King James put them out in tongues people understood, they saw many of the horrors contained within that Bronze Age collection of stories, and they saw them for being patently incompatible with anything resembling civil society. This process continues today, largely because the United States is so powerful, so modern, and so outlandishly religious, and too slowly but steadily the nonsense is beaten out of the religions, the society becomes more secular, and people view more and more of the scriptures at their cores as being, at best, admonishments for a time gone by. Slowly, sometimes centuries too late, the religious institutions themselves come around and change their beliefs--as was seen quite clearly in 1978 when the Mormon Church claimed a "revelation" that God no longer curses people with dark skin.

What about widespread peace? This is surely a bit of a joke, right? At the centers of these religions, since they are no longer truly accepted as explanatory constructs for everything (thank you, science), there are many veils that just barely cover a set of sincere and meaningful fears. Those fears are only successfully covered when there are no other competing ideas that threaten to lift the corner of the veils, revealing them for what they are. Christians (to say nothing of other religions) have a demonstrably hard time agreeing upon much of anything about their religion, and there are literally tens of thousands of denominations that prove this. Churches--particularly Protestant ones--split like racked balls in a pool hall, effectively creating new sets of doctrines that represent the "true Christianity." Over time, these become serious enough to where some denominations recognize others as being false religions, and if these folks were to sit down and compare notes, again about what gets someone to heaven and hell in the main, they'd get along far less than they do now, which is mostly another result of secularism and the cultural tolerance that comes with it (in addition to a perceived need to be more unified against a rising tide of non-religious life).

In short, we shouldn't necessarily trust the "widespread love" and have no reason to expect the "widespread peace" that Christianity claims to seek as an outcome. Like every other article of faith, there simply isn't any evidence to warrant them. It is worthwhile to note, before moving on, that this belief in heaven and hell is something of the key that drives truckloads of these problems into religious thinking (making such beliefs consequentially unethical).

"Atheism" isn't what they think it is.

Another important point to make here, and again and again and again apparently, even to atheists, is that atheism is not a thing. This point cannot be overstated. Atheism is a lack in a certain kind of beliefs, and it doesn't have a "goal," though widespread atheism would have an "outcome." Now, there are "things" within atheism, meaning movements with goals. In the linked article, I mentioned two primary ones, but I can add to that now that I've thought about it more:
  • The Secularism Movement: This is a movement to advance secularism, which means primarily to remove religion from the public square (meaning government, not people being individually religious in public). Many religious people are also secularists, so it's not limited to "atheists." A major goal of this movement is to remove all religiously motivated legislation from the law books of a modern, advanced, secular society.
  • The Freedom From Religion Movement: This is mostly a wing of the Secularism Movement, and its primary goal is to ensure that everyone in a secular society is as free from the influences of religion as they want to be. This movement particularly seeks to keep religion and state separate. Though more atheists see this as important than do religious folks, largely because of the discrimination we face in an overly religious yet "free" society, minority religions are often involved in this as well.
  • The Out Campaign: This is yet another wing of the overarching movement for secularism, and this one focuses on getting nonbelievers "out of the closet," i.e. to get them to be unashamed to be who they are openly. Since "atheists" are rather discriminated against and because there are heavy family and social pressures to conform to the religious beliefs of family and peer groups, the Out Campaign seeks to help closeted atheists and agnostics be open about their lack of beliefs. This group also has the goal of making it more clear that nonbelievers aren't alone, as many of them feel, particularly throughout the Bible Belt of the U.S.
  • The Secular Humanism Movement: Secular humanism is as close to a religion as atheists usually get, but unlike religion, it is actually a moral framework. The idea here is to promote humanism in a secular society, where humanism is a philosophy that good is served by advancing the cause of humanity. Many secular humanists extend this notion to other species as well as human beings.
  • Project Reason: This is less a movement and more a nonprofit with the goal of promoting logical and scientific, as opposed to authoritarian and ideological, thinking. 
  • Other endeavors that have goals that are common to nonreligious people (and also to many religious people) are science advocacy and rational skepticism. These, like Project Reason, primarily aim to enhance evidence-based thinking. They are identifiable with "atheism" because religious faith is, by definition, not evidence-based thinking, though many religious people are science advocates.
Atheism itself, the lack of belief in gods, does not have any goals, though movements common to atheists do. That, it turns out, does not mean that atheism doesn't have an "outcome."

The outcome of atheism

The outcome of atheism--in context meaning what we can expect if a vast majority of people (or everyone) were atheists--can be seen by considering what the functional difference between atheism and theism is: a lack in belief in gods. Gods are a particular class of pseudo-explanations for phenomena, ones that happen not to have any evidence to support them. Belief in gods, i.e. theism, amounts essentially to accepting these pseudo-explanations on insufficient evidence. Widespread atheism, then, would remove the acceptance of this class of pseudo-explanations.

It's not entirely fair to say that an outcome of atheism would be a society that is more evidence-based in its thinking, but in a way, that's exactly what would happen. One enormous and influential class of non-evidence-based thinking would be removed from the situation. That would leave us, in terms of explaining things, with evidence-based science and non-evidence-based pseudoscience. It's difficult to say whether or not we would be more rational as a result (I actually doubt it), but this is still enormously significant.

Why is it significant? Flash back to the earlier parts of this post to get an idea--people are more serious about religious beliefs than they are about pseudoscience. It is not uncommon to hear of religiously motivated violence, even murders and wars, but it is incredibly rare to hear about such things that were inspired by astrology, energy healing, or homeopathy. The cores of pseudoscientific constructs are not as poisonous as the cores of religions. Of course, this is because the fears that religions attempt to paper over are so much more powerful, but in a purely atheistic society, there would be much more motivation to help people cope with the hard facts of being a living consciousness in a mature and healthy way instead of attempting to cover them up with exclusionist nonsense and outright lies. Indeed, perhaps the reason we don't have good coping strategies for these difficulties already is because we've been so freaking religious that we've never attempted to actually deal with the problems.

This is the outcome that many atheist people seek, although most would frankly be satisfied with people keeping their personal beliefs to themselves and out of legislation (Freedom from Religion). The evidence is abundance that God doesn't provide us with "widespread love and peace," and even if we cannot do that for ourselves, we can at least remove some of the most problematic pieces of our violence puzzle.

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If you enjoy my writing, you can read more of it in my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. If you choose to pick it up, I thank you for your support of myself, my family, and indie authors in general.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kindle edition of God Doesn't; We Do now on sale

From now until the end of 2012, the Kindle edition of God Doesn't; We Do is on sale for $3.99 (56% off the usual Kindle price of $8.99).

For more information about the book, check out my The Book page.

Here's a thoughtful review left on Amazon by a reader:
James has placed the god of monotheism under the microscope of reason, as well as on issues of politics and ethics, and in so doing has breathed new life into the largest argument - or elephant in the room - that the people of world have still yet to properly tackle.
Aimed more at those with their own questions concerning one or other of the extant monotheistic faiths, James has answered the need for a fine grain look at what it is to believe or not believe. Drawing from ancient, contemporary and of course his own works, the author elucidates on more of the nuances of the argument than any other author I have read to date. Not just a book of nay-saying, being a charge often proffered, James has honestly outlined and expounded upon a great deal of agnostic/atheist thought. Discussing principles and cultural tides and morals that, though not always explicitly to do with gods, axiomatically flow from the the burgeoning free-thought and sceptical communities the world over. Thoroughly recommended.

Get it now (with my many thanks and kindest appreciation). I'd love your honest reviews too, if you're willing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

God Doesn't; We Do, In good company

Here's a photo of God Doesn't; We Do with some of the books that inspired it.

I can't recommend these five books (and my own, frankly, but that's sort of self-serving) too highly. Do pick them up (mine too, please?) and give them a look.

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If you enjoy my writing, you can read more of it in my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. If you choose to pick it up, I thank you for your support of myself, my family, and indie authors in general.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The easiest lesson from the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting tragedy

There are many lessons that we can draw from the shooting tragedy from Newtown, Connecticut, this week. This is the simplest one:

God doesn't; we do: only humans can solve human challenges.

Don't bother praying that we learn it. It won't help. Commit yourself to learning it and sharing it instead. From here we rebuild, again, and choose how to go forward. It's up to us to do it, and it's up to us to do it wisely.

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If you enjoy my writing, you can read more of it in my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. If you choose to pick it up, I thank you for your support of myself, my family, and indie authors in general.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The three hard facts of consciousness

There are three fundamentally hard facts to being conscious animals, so far as I can reason (perhaps there are more is what I mean by this qualifier). Those hard facts are simply things that conscious animals with sufficient reasoning capacity to struggle with them, including ourselves, must face, and they are all uncomfortable. Religions, though they have served other functions as well over the centuries, have been ways at their cores of papering over these three hard facts and the discomfort and fear that comes with them. That has not yet changed.

These aren't the same as the big displacements, like heliocentrism and evolution, although those are hard enough facts for animals that are determined to believe themselves special. I don't wish to elaborate on this now, so I've mentioned it only to get it out of the way that these are not the kinds of hard facts I'm talking about. The truly hard facts hit us deeply in the centers of our psychology, and they are actually hard, unlike those scientific discoveries, to wrestle with and eventually accept.

The three hard facts of consciousness that I have identified are
  1. We each will die, and death is final.
  2. There is no ultimate and objective purpose.
  3. We are fundamentally alone. 

We each will die, and death is final.


This is beyond doubt. Every animal that has ever lived has died--particularly the ones that we might cite as being conscious and with sufficient reasoning capacity to get a grasp on what that means. Despite various myths and legends, and despite medical interventions within short timeframes and under particular conditions, no death has ever been undone, not in the full and proper sense. Given enough time being clinically dead, which is not a very long span of time, and there is no coming back.

Religions have tried to paper over this reality because it is scary for most people to reconcile the fact that their consciousness, which is literally all they have ever known and ever will know, will end. Some religions tell us that if we behave in certain ways or believe the right things, we get to come back reincarnated into another life--human, animal, or other--although memory of previous lives is not necessarily guaranteed. Other religions tell us that if we behave in other certain ways or believe different right things, we get to go to a different realm and live forever as spirit, maybe rewarded, maybe punished, maybe lost in some kind of limbo. Some tell us that we get a new body, the same body back again, need no body, or that we all become part of one great cosmic One. None of this has any evidence to support it, however, and a great deal of evidence suggests it is unlikely to be true.

The fear of death is central to living, as it is in many, many cases the fear of death that keeps us alive. Evolution would favor an innate fear of death as well, as there is a self-preservation mechanism to it. Thus, we are animals innately afraid to die, and we know it. Thus we invent ways to cheat death or to imagine that death is an illusion. Nothing gives us support for those imaginings, though, except the weight of belief itself.

We will each die, and death is final--knowing it and dealing with it is a hard fact of consciousness. Dealing with it has the benefit of putting the value and meaning of our lives in this life instead of in the hope of another.


There is no ultimate and objective purpose.

Not only will we die, everyone we know will die. Not only will everyone we know die, our entire society will die. Not only will our society die, our entire species will die. Not only will our entire species die, all species will eventually die. This is a simple result of thermodynamics, and though it may take a very, very long time for it to happen (with local catastrophes being far more likely in the meantime, so far as anything we'll ever be likely to be able to impact), it will still happen. The universe, being itself inanimate (though containing animate bits in very small proportion), is not able to intervene on our behalf, and it isn't able to care whether or not it should intervene. It merely grinds on, impersonal because it has no agency. It will grind us and our entire impact to essentially nothing eventually.

Indeed, the impact that we can have on the universe is remarkably small and provincial. Technology may widen that scope at some point, but it is unlikely to be able to widen it to any significant portion of the galaxy, much less the universe at large. We will continue to find purposes, as we always have, but they will be here, as they always have been.

There is a fear of meaninglessness contained in this, rather like the fear of death on steroids. Even our legacies will succumb eventually to nothingness. That's how it is. There is no room for purpose in our endeavors in a universe that will eventually grind them all to nothing.

Religion papers over this fear by inventing objective purposes. Some call them God, Salvation, or escaping Samsara, but these purposes are imaginary. They make it easier to cope with the fact that in a sense--the vastly wrong sense to focus upon--there is no meaning or purpose to what we do. It covers up the reality that we each, as tiny little provincial beings, work upon tiny little provincial things, however hugely consequential those things happen to be to the individuals who experience them.

There is no ultimate and objective purpose--and it's a hard fact of consciousness to know it and deal with it. Dealing with it has the benefit of finding our purposes in ourselves and in each other, so far as we can reach them and for however long that will matter, seeking to enhance the subjective experiences of sentient creatures as well as may be for as long as that is possible, for only there does purpose lie.


We are fundamentally alone.

Do you see the color red the same way I do? Do you smell pine the same way I do? Do you experience the world the same way I do? You can't know, it seems, but this has been tested. People do not experience the world in the same way. Your experience is your own.

However much empathy you possess, you will never feel the physical pain or pleasure of another human being (or animal) as they feel it. You will never think about things exactly as they do. You will never have the experience of being anyone other than yourself, your entire experience of everything filtered through your sense organs and your nervous system, particularly your central nervous system, which color your entire experience according to their unique makeup. Your experience is your own.

You can attempt to share your time or your experiences with others, in person or through writing. Communication, including nonverbal communication like touch, enables us to extend our nervous systems outward, affecting other nervous systems, but ultimately, every one of us will experience those nervous systems as us, not as someone else. We are, inescapably and in a real way, fundamentally alone.

Religion very effectively papers over this hard reality. On the one hand, religions are great community endeavors in most cases, a primary function of religion being to create a assumption and perception of shared values that create the illusion that other people aren't so different from us (and in reality, they may not be much different, though they are different). On the other hand, religions often posit the existence of a supernatural agent, perhaps God, that is fundamentally with us at all times and with whom we can have a personal relationship. Because God is always with us and constantly offering us a personal relationship, we are never truly alone, even when no one else is around us. The paper is thin, though, and translucent. The only agent someone can know for sure is always with him with whom he can have a personal relationship is... himself.

We are fundamentally alone--and knowing and dealing with this is a hard consequence of being consciously aware of it. The benefit of dealing with it is functional interdependence born of courageous independence blended with empathy. We go it alone, but we also know how it is to struggle with going it alone, and so we are more eager to reach out with help or for help seeing it as the only bridge we really have to each other.

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If you enjoy my writing, you can read more of it in my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. If you choose to pick it up, I thank you for your support of myself, my family, and indie authors in general.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Flippancy against apologists: The bible according to them

I've been spending some time on John Loftus's blog, Debunking Christianity, where I've had the delight of getting to discuss religion-related matters with actual Christian apologists, who seem to target him fiercely. In the course of that discussion, a notable apologist (I figure--I'm not really up on my make-it-up artists these days) there defined "theism" to mean "belief in a necessary agent cause of contingent reality." He did not defend why this belief needs to be in an agent cause, nor did he specify what someone should be called if they hold a belief in a "necessary non-agent cause of contingent reality." In other words, he tucked some question-begging deep within the heart of complicated philosophical language like a good theologian. It is noteworthy to mention that this definition also has been made so loose as to subsume deism into theism--indeed, this definition of god that he proposed is even weaker than the definition assumed by deists: a necessary agent creator of contingent reality.

All that criticism aside, I thought it would be fun and instructive (to see what a heap of bull it is to use this kind of definition) to plug it into the bible and see how it reads. This should give us a sense of how close to the original definition this new-fangled desperate-apologist's definition is. I've chosen to use the relevant book here, to give as much leeway as possible to the apologist, and chosen Genesis 1-3, where the necessary agent cause of contingent reality is going about causing the contingent reality. It is particularly worthwhile to notice the overwhelming amount of stuff that seems to be wrapped up in "causing contingent reality." It is also worthwhile to notice that this rendition creates more questions than it answers--indeed, it answers none of the challenges to Genesis except the question-begging in the first half of the first sentence (proving my points in God Doesn't; We Do that (1) people wrap a lot of extra baggage into whatever their definition of God and thus get away with a lot more with that term than they would if they were more careful with it and (2) it's harder than apologists pretend to leap from this kind of "easy" to establish definition of God to the ones that people, including themselves, care about).

The bible text is provided by BibleGateway. Enjoy! Annotations in brackets (and red, like the bible) are my own, indicating problems that jump out at me on a first reading. Feel encouraged to look for others and report them in the comments!

Genesis 1-3

 

New International Version (NIV)--Apologists' edit

 

The Beginning

 

In the beginning the necessary agent cause of contingent reality caused contingent reality and thereby created the heavens and the earth [why heavens and earth? I thought this was just the necessary agent cause of contingent reality.]. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the necessary agent cause of contingent reality was hovering over the waters.
And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let there be light,” and there was light [is light a necessary part of contingent reality or could it have come about on its own from contingent reality?]. 4 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that the light was good [by what measure of goodness?], and he [It's a male? Necessary agents of contingent reality usually are, I guess.] separated the light from the darkness [this seems like a lot more than 'causing contingent reality']. 5 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” [It speaks English and also makes our words for us?] And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. [Did it name "evening" and "morning" for us too, as part of its role as cause of contingent reality?]
And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let there be a vault [a vault? really?] between the waters to separate water from water.” [seems like this could follow from the creation of contingent reality and is a bit superfluous for our agent cause--also, what other water?] So the necessary agent cause of contingent reality made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it [???]. And it was so. 8 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality called the vault “sky.” [Again with the making up words thing.] And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” [Couldn't this have happened on its own, given what we know about contingent reality?] And it was so. 10 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” [Again with this.] And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [And this.]
11 Then the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” [And this.] And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [And this.] 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” [And this!] And it was so. 16 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night [And this!!]. He also made the stars. [So much making things that wouldn't need making if it was really just a necessary cause of contingent reality! We know contingent reality would make these things by itself and with fewer nonsensical errors in the process!] 17 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, [bullshit] 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [This again... big surprise.] 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
20 And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” [Here we go again...] 21 So the necessary agent cause of contingent reality created [Created! How?] the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind [Including bats, right?]. And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [...] 22 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” [Seems legit. Animals never have sex unless told to by a necessary agent cause of contingent reality.] 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” [What a control freak!] And it was so. 25 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [...]
26 Then the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” [Uh oh.]
27 So the necessary agent cause of contingent reality created mankind in his own image [Is man a necessary agent cause of contingent reality too, then?], in the image of the necessary agent cause of contingent reality he created them [redundant]; male and female he created them. [So "He" is both genders? Wtf?]
28 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality blessed them [blessing things is clearly part of the role of a necessary agent of contingent reality] and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number [People also apparently need to be told to have sex?]; fill the earth and subdue it [Um, we're working on that, and it's looking like a mistake. Is the necessary agent cause of contingent reality sure this is what (s)He/it meant?]. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Take that, creatures! Know your role!]
29 Then the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. [Here we go again.] 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” [I'm not a scientist, but I don't think this is going to work.] And it was so.
31 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw all that he had made, and it was very good. [By what jacked-up definition of good?] And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.


Thus contingent reality, apparently especially heavens and the earth, were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day the necessary agent cause of contingent reality had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. [Necessary agents get tired too, even if they are nonphysical. Causing contingent reality and then doing all that extra stuff is tiring.] Then the necessary agent cause of contingent reality blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. [Most holidays are once a year, but the necessary agent of contingent reality demands once a week. Damn.]

 

Adam and Eve


This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created [what was that up there, then?], when the necessary agent cause of contingent reality, now also a LORD [I didn't vote for him.], made the earth and the heavens. [Again?]
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground [This doesn't match the previous part of the story. Maybe the necessary agent cause of contingent reality did it twice? It also seems to miss the water cycle part of contingent reality.], but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. [But... (s)He/it already made mankind, male and female. What the hell is this, a joke?]
Now the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed [Contingent reality needs a garden, you see, and gardens obviously need agent causes. Hello!]. The Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. [Here we go. Good planning, necessary agent of contingent reality. It's almost like (s)He/it isn't intelligent at all, though why should anyone assume a necessary agent cause of contingent reality has intelligence? Also, why isn't this tree or garden mentioned in the previous story about the necessary agent cause of contingent reality?]
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. [This is a bit trifling, we'd think, for the necessary agent cause of contingent reality to be getting involved in.]
15 The Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. [Know your role, man created in my image out of dust, a dust-born necessary agent cause of contingent reality!] 16 And the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality commanded [Necessary agents of contingent reality do a lot of commanding.] the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” [This is the strangest bit of behavior yet!]
18 The Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” [More dust, then?]
19 Now the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds [Including bats!] in the sky. [Looks like more dust, indeed.] (S)He/it brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. [The man, also a necessary agent cause of contingent reality, gets to name animals as part of his agency. See, it makes total sense, especially since man wasn't allowed to name the rivers.] 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky [Including the bats!] and all the wild animals.
But for Adam [Who? The dust-born man necessary agent cause of contingent reality is Adam now?] no suitable helper was found. [Because the necessary agent cause of contingent reality hadn't thought of seeing-eye dogs yet and couldn't just create a robot--(s)He/it isn't a creator, (s)He/it is just the necessary agent cause of contingent reality.] 21 So the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, (s)He/it took one of the man’s ribs [whoa! What happened to the dust?] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality made a woman from the rib (s)He/it had taken out of the man, and (s)He/it brought her to the man. [This is getting weird, like Voldemort-weird.]
23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh [read: my property]; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. [That makes sense since the woman in another family is made out of the rib of the man she will marry.]
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. [Sinners!]

 

The Fall


Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality had made [Nice work, necessary agent cause of contingent reality. Maybe instead of doing all this creating that you clearly screw up, you should have stuck to being the necessary agent cause of contingent reality]. He said [The serpent said? The necessary agent of contingent reality made snakes that can talk? That's trippy!] to the woman, “Did the necessary agent cause of contingent reality really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but the necessary agent cause of contingent reality did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” [That's not actually what (s)He/it said. Extra rules about not touching handed down from the necessary agent cause of contingent reality!]
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said [I'm still not okay with this talking snake thing.] to the woman. “For the necessary agent cause of contingent reality knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like the necessary agent cause of contingent reality, knowing good and evil.” [This is more than a little preposterous, even for a talking snake, but it highlights that even necessary agents of contingent reality like to keep trade secrets to maintain their power bases.]
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, [Did he talk to the snake too? Why doesn't it mention that? The religions of the necessary agent of contingent reality have taught us clearly that if the man had reported it, it would be vastly more believable. A man's testimony is worth far more than a woman's, after all, in these religions.] and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day [Necessary agents of contingent reality do enjoy a good walk in the garden in the cool of day, and surprisingly, they make sounds while they do it!], and they hid from the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality among the trees of the garden [like that could work...]. But the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality called to the man, “Where are you?” [Oh crap! It did work! Because, again, necessary agent causes of contingent reality need not be all-knowing.]
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And (s)He/it said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” [Uh oh.]
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” [The man pointed at the woman, deferring blame from himself, and started two traditions that has echoed throughout the entire history of believing in the necessary agent cause of contingent reality: blaming others and especially women. What a stud.]
13 Then the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust [or rodents and birds (including bats) and eggs and fish and amphibians and other serpents--but not honey badgers] all the days of your life [and equip you with poisonous fangs that can kill large animals with painful neurotoxins, for I am the necessary agent cause of contingent reality!]
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” [That's a reasonable response for the necessary agent cause of contingent reality to make.]
16 To the woman (s)He/it said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” [That's a bit misogynistic for the necessary agent cause of contingent reality, can't we agree?]
17 To Adam (s)He/it said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” ["Let that be a lesson to you about listening to your wife!" I am the Lord, thy necessary agent cause of contingent reality .]
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. [Except the animals, which apparently aren't living. Also, good luck with genetic diseases!]
21 The Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. [Pretty nice of (s)Him/it, given the above.] 22 And the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “The man has now become like one of us, [Us? So much for monotheism. Apparently the necessary agent cause of contingent reality is not unique but is rather one of many necessary agent causes of contingent reality.] knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” [Yeah! The necessary agent causes of contingent reality couldn't abide by having the necessary agent cause of contingent reality created in the image of one of those agents living forever!] 23 So the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After (s)He/it drove the man out, (s)He/it placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim [A what?] and a flaming sword [Made out of what, exactly?] flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. [I wonder if this cherubim, or the tree, is on Google Maps yet? It's probably one of those blurred areas.]

Well, that was fun. It's pretty clear that this is all ridiculous, not because I'm taking anything out of context but because the apologists are too willing (because of necessity for their arguments) to assign philosophically useful, but bullshit, definitions of God. In Chapter 7 of God Doesn't; We Do, I talk about how the very existence of apologetics acts as evidence against the validity of the religions they attempt to defend. I hope this helps make clear why that is the case.

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If you enjoy my writing, you can read more of it in my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. If you choose to pick it up, I thank you for your support of myself, my family, and indie authors in general.