No benefit for human beings is more obvious than the benefit of demilitarizing the world. Every dollar spend on weaponry and war is a dollar not spent improving our lives. As Glenn Greenwald’s review of military expenditures shows, one country’s outlandish military spending is driving a worldwide spike that, if not stopped, will make the 21st century far bloodier than the 20th (which was far and away the bloodiest in human history). That country, of course, is the United States, which in 2008 will spend $623,000,000,000 — approximately $123,000,000,000 more than the rest of the world combined, nearly 10 times more than China will spend and a dozen times more than Russia. The U. S. could dramatically slash its military budget in half — to $311 billion — and still spend more than the military budgets of the next 7 biggest spenders combined: China (65 billion), Russia (50 billion), France (45 billion) , UK (43 billion), Japan (44 billion), Germany (35 billiion) and Italy (28 billiion). Wouldn’t that be enough? Continue reading
December 25, the holiday long celebrated as the birthday of the Unconquered Sun, but more recently as the birthday of Jesus Christ, the central figure in Christianity. Jesus is generally presented as a pacifist, author of the sermon on the mount with its beatitudes (“blessed are the peacemakers…”), but more recently his followers in America find it preferable not to love their enemies but to torture them.
These Christians, who generally call themselves evangelicals and fundamentalists because they take the fundamental tenets of their religion seriously, have managed to become powerful enough to dominate the Republican party and in 2000 they elected* one of their own as President of the United States. Within a year, this very Christian President began laying out plans for torturing his enemies.
Christianity and torture have, unfortunately, a long historical association. Indeed, the Spanish Inquisition perfected many of the most famous torture techniques, including waterboarding. You might think that Christians would be eager to strand Christianity’s associations with torture in the distant middle ages. You would think wrongly. Under the champion of Christianity residing in the White House, torture of prisoners became the official policy** of the U. S. Government. Continue reading
Why am I an atheist? Since atheism is still a somewhat unusual point of view, let me be candid about why I believe no God exists.
Before proceeding, it is important to define God — otherwise no coherent discussion is possible. I define God as “the solitary, perfect, non-physical being who created the physical world.” By non-physical I mean “bodiless, not consisting of matter/energy (as those terms are used by physicists and other scientists).” Here then is an outline of my reasons for rejecting the existence of God, in order of importance: Continue reading
The International Humanist and Ethical Union monthly news email just came. Among their recent activities they have endorsed a letter sent by Diana Brown of the World Population Foundation to the U.N. Human Rights Council objecting to their resolution (also brought to the UN General Assembly) against the “defamation of religion”.
The problem is that the U.N. Human Rights Council’s wording is so broad that it condemns not just biases against people of various religious traditions, but any “defamation” of the content of those religious traditions. Instead of defending, this betrays human rights. Continue reading
Adam has written another elegant post over at daylight atheism:
We must face the facts: our lives, in the grand scheme of things, are short. Like the leaves falling from the tree, we bloom, flourish, and inevitably wither. Vast expanses of time preceded each of us, and equally vast expanses of time will follow us. We were not there, will not be there, to know what happens; we will never meet the people who inhabit those times, as they will never meet us. Our existence is, as Robert Ingersoll said, like a narrow vale between two cold and barren peaks.
And yet, in that narrow valley in between, there is a wondrous thing: a creature who exists, who lives, and who is conscious of that life and that existence. —http://www.daylightatheism.org/2007/10/fragile-trappings.html
We don’t need religious nonsense in order to convince ourselves that life is wonderful, that being human is worthwhile. In fact the religious nonsense gets in the way of appreciating reality in its fullness. It throws up a smokescreen, it imposes a fake “holiness”—fake God or gods—between us and the real holiness: physical life itself. Access to this holiness is free: we don’t need to fill the coffers of any religious sect, hop to unnatural moral commandments, or swallow any impossible nonsense. We are bodies, and that gives us direct access to the great reality itself. Continue reading
In his book, Faith & Reason, Ronald Nash introduced what he calls Christianity’s “touchstone proposition.” A touchstone proposition, Nash explained, is the “control-belief or ultimate presupposition” that encapsulates the “fundamental truth ” of a worldview. [p. 46] Nash followed with a quick introduction to Naturalism as “the major competition to the Christian world-view” [p. 47]. He then explained what he considers Naturalism’s touchstone proposition to be. I will disagree.
Nash declared that Naturalism’s touchstone proposition is that
Nothing exists outside the material, mechanical (that is, nonpurposeful), natural order.
We see right away that in phrasing this, Nash put his Christian thumb on the scale. He made sure to throw in “mechanical” and “nonpurposeful” because that provides something juicy to attack. Continue reading
It’s often said that the only thing atheists have in common is what they disbelieve. It’s also often said that disbelieving in God is just as much a religious belief as is believing in God, or more exactly, that both belief and disbelief rely on faith. All of these assertions are incorrect.
Atheists don’t have a religion — but they do have something in common beyond what they disbelieve. What atheists share is a natural worldview.
Sometimes that worldview is a bit confused, incorporating too much from the still dominant supernatural worldview. But understood clearly, the natural worldview is simply the belief that body precedes mind. The supernatural worldview, of course, takes the opposite tact: that mind precedes body. We see right off from this that naturalism is not merely a refusal to believe in supernaturalism. It’s based on its own specific hypothesis about the nature of the world. Continue reading
(On the Subjective Value of Non-Existent Beings)
When I bend my knee meekly
and throw up a thoughtless prayer
to a God greater than me
I feel better immediately.
But it works regardless who I supplicate
with my fevered wishes.
I can pray to the moon
just as effectively;
since the moon is so beautiful
and moves through the cloudy darkness in such majesty.
Or Mars, or Marduk, or Minerva
Aten, Aphrodite, Athena
it doesn’t matter the god I pray to Continue reading
Perhaps the most popular objection to naturalism is the claim that without a God life is meaningless. Let’s take a look at it. This is actually a two-part claim
- under a natural world view life has no meaning
- God provides meaning to life
But right away we notice something strange about this: it implies that we must obtain our meaning from something outside of us, namely God; and yet apparently there is no need for God to obtain meaning from something outside of himself. There is an unspoken assumption here that God is inherently meaningful. Or else the assumption is that God doesn’t have a need to be meaningful.
Why wouldn’t either of those options apply not just to God but to us as well? Continue reading
Time is a function of change — if there were no change there would be and could be no time. Time in fact is only a way of measuring change by comparing it to a standard clock (a standard clock is something which changes in an extremely regular way). Since time is the result of a comparison of change to a standard clock, time can only exist if (1) a standard clock exists, (2) a change to be compared to the clock exists, and (3) a being capable of doing the comparison exists. This is a matter of logical necessity from the definition of time.
It follows that time only comes into existence once all three conditions are met. The most limiting condition is the 3rd, the existence of a being capable of doing the comparison, and I say this because 1 and 2 are known to come into existence billions of years before 3 comes into existence.
When Stephen Hawking and other cosmologists talk about time coming into existence with the big bang, they pretend that there is a scientist like them, a being capable of doing the comparison which creates time, right back there at the beginning of our universe looking on. That of course is a conceit. Since time is a comparison, it can only exist in a mind. Unless one is a theist (Hawking and most other cosmologists are not), one has to admit that time cannot exist until the evolution of organisms with minds capable of doing the right sort of comparison.
The scientific conceit is that we are right there at the big bang, looking on. Continue reading