Atheism on the political right 10

World Religion News recently interviewed Lauren Ell, the founder of REPUBLICAN ATHEISTS.

She makes many interesting points, among them these:

WRN: Is there a historical precedent for this [Republicans being atheists], or would you call this a relatively new thought process?

LE: I don’t think atheist Republicans are new. They are new in the sense of being more outspoken about their atheist views, but they have existed as far back as the Civil War era. My organization, Republican Atheists, is the first organization I know of at this point that is representing atheist Republicans.

WRN: So you’ve mentioned you had this treatment by certain podcasters and writers, could you go into that in more detail?

LE: I started Republican Atheists in February of 2017 as an experimental project. I haven’t been involved with atheist organizations at all in the United States, such as American Atheists, Freedom From Religion Foundation, or Secular Coalition for America. Originally I had assumed these organizations would take some interest in Republican Atheists. I didn’t expect them to embrace our political views, but I thought at least they would maybe mention the existence of Republican Atheists to their base, considering many of these atheist organizations claim they are representing the entire atheist community in the United States. But I found when I contacted groups I did not get much response from them. They did not respond to the idea of mentioning Republican Atheists to their base. I was in contact with the Secular Coalition for America who at first had interest in Republican Atheists and said they would publish a guest article by me. I was in touch with their media coordinator and we discussed a topic to write about, and I wrote an article for them. It ended up being scrapped because they didn’t like my wording in the article, so I wrote it according to what they recommended and did multiple edits over a period of months. Despite all that time and effort of meeting their requests, at the end of the day they did not publish the article and didn’t even mention Republican Atheists to their base. They actually have not been responsive to me ever since. Some organizations haven’t responded to us at all, so I keep chipping away to build our relevance in the atheist community.

WRN: I would be interested in knowing about podcasters because you mentioned that specifically.

LE: I had an experience with one atheist podcast called Cognitive Dissonance. I actually hadn’t listened to them much, but I sent them an email introducing myself and offered to be interviewed on their show. They agreed to do a 45-minute interview. I was pretty excited because they are one of the more known atheist podcasts. I would say they have around 17,000 followers on Facebook. I ended up doing the interview with them, but they hung up on me 15 minutes into the interview because I mentioned something they didn’t agree with. They called it “the dumbest interview they’ve ever done”. I have actually been met with much more interest in gaining understanding by Christian podcasters.

WRN: What was the particular issue they didn’t agree with?

LE: We were talking about prominent movements such as Women’s March and the Occupy Movement which was big back in 2011. We discussed who is behind the movements in terms of people who financed protests, and I mentioned the name George Soros. The hosts didn’t want to continue the conversation after that.

In the course of the interview Lauren was so kind as to make favorable mention of our editor-in-chief, and simple vanity brings that part of the interview to this post:

WRN: So they’ve associated specific views on issues that don’t relate to Christianity directly, but they still associate it with Christianity. You’re saying within the Republican Party base you can reach a similar conclusion but through a different process and different thinking?

LE: Yes, that is what I do when I communicate with Republicans and Christians. I don’t bring up my atheist views up front and instead focus on what we have in common. I actually never really feel the need to talk about my atheist views unless I am trying to make a point about the existence of atheist Republicans. When I talk to people, I try to find what we have in common in terms of political policies and social policies. We’ll talk about education, taxation, freedom of speech, and so forth. I find a commonality with them, and once we have that commonality, they see that even though I’m atheist we have a lot in common. That is the situation I like to be in.

RN: This reminds me of Christopher Hitchens who was both an outspoken atheist and had several politically conservative stances. Is there anyone who you look to as a person who’s advocating besides of course yourself?

LE: There is a woman who is very impressive, and I wish she was mentioned a lot more. Her name is Jillian Becker, and she manages a blog called The Atheist Conservative. One thing I point out about Jillian Becker is she does not promote the Republican Party. Her thing is just conservatism, and there’s a difference. I always have to point out there’s a difference between an atheist conservative and an atheist Republican. I know a lot of people get it intertwined and sometimes conservatives get a little irritated. But Jillian Becker and I get along pretty well because we see eye to eye on a lot of issues. If you look her up you will see she has an impressive resume. She’s on Wikipedia. She has spoken with the British Parliament in regards to terrorism in the past. She’s a published author, has been featured in interviews, and is very outspoken. She is older now, so I wish she was mentioned more often. I also note Heather Mac Donald who is a published author and a conservative atheist. She was recently shut down on college campuses in California, and she has been interviewed about it.

We too are admirers of Heather Mac Donald, and strongly recommend her books – all of them.

Read the whole interview with Lauren Ell here.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Conservatism, Religion general, United States by Jillian Becker on Thursday, June 14, 2018

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Threats to freedom: a view from Britain 11

Under the auspices of The Freedom Association in Britain, Theodore Dalrymple – author of many excellent books, two of them often praised and quoted by Thomas Sowell, Life at the Bottom and Our Culture, What’s Left Of It – gave the inaugural Annual Jillian Becker Lecture on March 23, 2018. 

The annual lecture is in celebration of Individual Freedom and/or The Nation-State. It is given by a person who has spoken or written consistently in defense of either or both. Beyond that, the ideas expressed by the lecturer need not conform to either Jillian Becker’s views or those of the Freedom Association. A wide variety of opinion and context is to be expected and welcomed.

The surprise here is that the lecture is introduced by a Christian priest, the Rev. Peter Mullen, who mentions, in good humor, that both Jillian Becker and Theodore Dalrymple (aka Anthony Daniels) are atheists.

The Freedom Association fought long and hard for Brexit, and was one of the organizations that contributed significantly to the victory of the Leave campaign.

The title of the lecture is: Threats to Freedom.

Enlightenment, atheism, reason, and the humanist Left 25

This is a kind of review. But it is more of an argument about ideas that vitally affect the real world.

I am in emphatic agreement with roughly half of what Professor Steven Pinker says in his new book Enlightenment Now: the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress*, and in vehement disagreement with the rest of it. Like him, I esteem the Enlightenment most highly; profoundly value science; and certainly want progress in everything that makes us happier and better informed, our lives longer, healthier, less painful, and more enjoyable. Like him, I am an atheist. It is chiefly with his ideas on Humanism that I disagree. Which may seem strange since humanism is atheist. And, certainly, on all his criticisms of religion I am in complete accord. More than that: where small “h” humanism is concerned with humane morals – the imperative to treat our fellow human beings and other sentient beings humanely – the great professor and I could sing in harmony.

“The moral alternative to theism,” he writes, “is humanism.”

But Humanism-the-movement holds principles that I not only do not like, but strongly dislike. They are principles of the Left. And  while he is not uncritical of the Left, Professor Pinker upholds those principles. Humanism, wherever it may be found, is a Leftist ideology. And because the Humanist movement is well-established, widespread, its opinions prominently published, and taught (or preached) where scholars gather, atheism is assumed by many to belong to the Left, inseparably, part and parcel of its essential ideology.

Atheism may be indispensable to the Left, but Leftism is not necessary to atheism.

Atheism as such carries no connotations. No political or ethical ideas logically flow from it. It is simply non-belief in the existence of a divine being. Nothing more. A person’s atheism does not itself make him more humane or less humane.

Steven Pinker implies that it does. Although he states that “atheism is not a moral system … just the absence of supernatural belief”, he also declares that “secularism leads to humanism, turning people away from prayer, doctrine, and ecclesiastical authority and toward practical policies that make them and their fellows better off.”

He reasons along these lines:

“Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.”

Not from holy books. Agreed.

“Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change.”

Agreed.

There being no supernatural moral authority, and as human beings have natural needs –

“Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.”

So far, no cause for quarrel. But he elaborates on this last statement to demonstrate that Humanists do this “deriving” well:

“Humanists ground values in human welfare, shaped by human circumstances, interests and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem …”

There it comes, as if it followed logically from scientific knowledge and humane secularism, one of the main obsessions of the Left: concern for the planet, for which, the Left claims, human beings bear responsibility. The words “man-made global warming” silently intrude themselves; as does the “solution” for it – global governance, by those who know what the human race must do; total communism, the highest principle of the Left; its vision of a whole-world Utopia. Though Steven Pinker himself is not a Utopian, he writes a good deal in this book about the virtues of “globalist” politics. He sees globalism as an enlightened, reasonable, science-based, progressive, humanist creed. To “maximize individual happiness”, he remarks, “progressive cultures” work to “develop global community”. He has much praise for international institutions – including, or even led by, the (actually deeply evil) United Nations. He is confident the UN and other international bodies such as the EU, formed after the end of the Second World War, can help keep the world at peace. In fact, there has not been a single year since 1945 when the world has been without a war or wars.

To the globalist view he opposes the populist view. Not wrong when stated thus. But he does not see the populist view as the one held by 63 million Americans who voted Donald Trump into the presidency of the United States because they wanted more jobs, lower taxes, and secure borders; or that of the British majority who voted to withdraw their country from the undemocratic and corrupt European Union. No. He sees populism as a cult of “romantic heroism”, a longing for “greatness embodied in an individual or a nation”.

He is adamantly against the nation-state. He thinks that those who uphold the idea of the nation-state “ludicrously” envision a “global order” that “should consist of ethnically homogeneous and mutually antagonistic nation-states”. Who has ever expressed such an idea? And he puts “multiculturalism” (the failing experiment of enforcing the co-existence of diverse tribes within a nation’s borders) on an equal footing with “multi-ethnicity” (the melting-pot idea that has worked so splendidly for the United States of America).

To him, nationalism is ineluctably authoritarian and fascist. He sees President Trump – who is in fact unswervingly for individual freedom – as a “charismatic leader” of the dictatorial Mussolini mold. The politics of the Right for Professor Pinker are irredeemably dyed in the wool with Nietzschean anti-morality, “superman” aspirations, and genocidal urgings. Libertarianism is tainted with it too. He writes: “ … Ayn Rand’s celebration of selfishness, her deification of the heroic capitalist, and her disdain for the general welfare had Nietzsche written all over them.”

Interestingly – and restoratively to my esteem for him – he also asserts that certain Marxists and certain Leftist movements are equally, or even more, colored with Nietzsche’s inhumanity: “[Nietzsche] was a key influence on … Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault, and a godfather to all the intellectual movements of the 20th century that were hostile to science and objectivity, including Existentialism, Critical Theory, Post-structuralism, Deconstructionism, and Postmodernism.”

Steven Pinker’s humanism, then, is not far to the Left, just “left-of-center”. And most of the humanists I have known (and argued with) would also place themselves on that section of the political spectrum. “[T]he moral and intellectual case for humanism is, I believe, overwhelming …,” he writes.

He concludes (and here he specifically rejects Utopianism):

We will never have a perfect world. And it would be dangerous to seek one. But there is no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing. This heroic story … belongs not to any tribe but to all humanity – to any sentient creature with the power of reason and the urge to persist in its being. For it requires only the convictions that life is better than death, health is better than sickness, abundance is better than want, freedom is better than coercion, happiness is better than suffering, and knowledge is better than superstition and ignorance.”

That is the vision of the Decent Thinking Western Man. He believes that all human beings ultimately want the same things; that the good life is defined for all in the same general terms; that all  would agree to the Golden Rule, which has been “rediscovered in hundreds of moral traditions”.

But are those beliefs true? He himself records that there are many who do not value knowledge above ignorance, reason above superstition, freedom above coercion, even life above death. Which is to say, he writes about Islam (in which there is no Golden Rule). He knows Islam has no trace of “Enlightenment humanism”. He declares it an “illiberal” creed, and observes that “[M]any Western intellectuals – who would be appalled if the repression, misogyny, homophobia, and political violence that are common in the Islamic world were found in their own societies even diluted a hundred fold – have become strange apologists when these practices are carried out in the name of Islam.”

He finds one explanation for the double-standard of these intellectuals in their “admirable desire to prevent prejudice against Muslims”. But when it comes to revulsion against ideologists of repression, misogyny, homophobia, and political violence, is it prejudice or is it judgment? He says also that some of the apologetics are “intended to discredit a destructive (and possibly self-fulfilling) narrative that the world is embroiled in a clash of civilizations”. (Or, as I see it, of civilization against barbarism.) I wonder how anyone can look at the drastically changing demographics of Europe, or at least the Western part of it which will surely be under Islamic rule before the century is out, and not notice the clash.

But he does say that “calling out the antihumanistic features of contemporary Islamic belief is in no way Islamophobic”. Being the decent thinking Western man that he is, he is firmly for critical examination of all ideas.

His optimism shines out of the book. He thinks Islam can be reformed, even that a Muslim Enlightenment is possible. He believes there was an earlier age of Islamic Enlightenment, an “Islamic Golden Age” which could serve as a precedent. Well, if one wants to see bright possibilities, Islam may come to prefer science to the assertions of its prophet. It may become humane in its law and stop oppressing women. It may contribute to human progress. But whatever changes may come to Islam in the future, at present it does not value life above death, freedom above coercion, knowledge above superstition. And there is no good reason to believe it ever will.

 

Jillian Becker    April 12, 2018

 

*Enlightenment Now: the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker, Viking, New York 2018. The quotations in the article come from the last chapter, Humanism.

No, Stephen Hawking is not with God 46

Yesterday, lured by a picture of Stephen Hawking, I read an article by Randy DeSoto, recording Franklin Graham’s regret that Hawking was an atheist.

I went to the comments. Some share the regret; some insist that the late great physicist is now – despite his atheism – with God. A few are by irritated atheists.

I succumbed to the temptation of writing something in the empty slot that had my thumbnail beside it. I asked: “What did God make matter out of?”

A design engineer, Matthew Winter, answered that as matter can neither be destroyed nor created, God must have given up some of his own energy to “create” matter. Not an entirely nonsensical notion. Matter is a form of energy.

He apparently understood God to be eternal and primal energy plus will. I wondered if he saw this theology of his as deism. I asked him if that was the same god who begat himself upon a virgin and answered personal prayers. I have not yet had a reply.

Some Christians, some believers in the gods of many religions, try hard to reconcile their faith with science. They often misquote Einstein to back up their arguments – as is done in the article on Hawking.

They fail, of course. Faith is not Reason. Science does not support the idea of divine creators, or of anything outside nature.

I continue to be amazed that adult, sane, educated, intelligent people can believe in the supernatural.

 

Jillian Becker    March 16, 2018

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Religion general, Science by Jillian Becker on Friday, March 16, 2018

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Gods and the Three Worlds 6

The “god” idea persists. (Where Was God When The Florida Massacre Happened? asks the atheist, Professor Steven Pinker, today – pointing out that “God” was nowhere.)

So let’s speak of it.

The human species is the only thing in our known universe that is a creator and moral law-maker. If “God” is a creator and moral law-maker, the human species is “God”.

Not any particular human being, but the species as a whole.

It is not omnipotent, it is not omniscient, but it is conscious. It consciously creates – not always successfully. It formulates moral principles. It judges, it rewards, it condemns – not always justly. It is a fallible god.

And it is subject to nature’s laws.

Nature’s laws – the laws of physics – were accepted as “God” by Spinoza and Einstein. And by the authors of the Declaration of Independence.

Nature’s laws are all-powerful, but they are not conscious; they are not moral. Conscious humankind can use them for its own purposes and control some of them sometimes. But cannot dominate them. Rather, they dominate – in that they produced, and sustain, and can destroy humankind.

Human consciousness and the laws of nature. Two “gods” then? Yes if you want to call them that. But: They do not need worship. They do not need ritual. They do not need sacrifices. They do not need temples. They do not need priests.

Call them two gods or call them, more interestingly and fruitfully, two interdependent worlds. And together they produce another, a third world.

Which brings us to the Three Worlds of Karl Popper*:

World 1: The physical world – material objects, natural events.

World 2: The mental world – individual consciousness, perception and interpretation of World 1.

World 3: The artificial world – things produced by interaction of World 1 and World 2 eg. speech, books, documents, buildings, ships, vehicles, cities, sciences, theories, governing laws, institutions, machines, computers, gardens, animal and plant hybrids, pianos, songs, works of graphic art …    And gods.

All three Worlds interact with each other.

There is nothing that is not of one, two, or all three of these worlds.

There is no supernatural “god”.

Non-existence does not have to be proved.

“Seeing no reason to believe is sufficient reason not to believe” – Karl Popper.

Or, as Christopher Hitchens puts it:

 

 

 

*Knowledge and the Body-Mind Problem by Karl Popper, Routledge, New York & London, 1994.

Posted under Atheism, Religion general, Theology by Jillian Becker on Sunday, February 18, 2018

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Censoring the internet 26

The internet was a revolutionary environment that liberated individuals to make their own choices. Bloggers could compete with big media. Leaked emails could bring down a government. But the internet is becoming less free. Access is controlled by a handful of tech companies that keep getting bigger and bigger. The survivors of the scale wars will combine cable, content and commerce in new ways. And in a politicized culture, they won’t just signal their political views, they will enforce them.

So Sultan Knish writes at his website on the subject of internet censoring by those who control the technology:

How can you tell that internet censorship is really taking off? Easy. It’s becoming a business model.

Steven Brill is raising $6 million to launch News Guard. This new service will rate news sites on their trustworthiness from green to red. Forget politically unbiased algorithms. The ratings will be conducted by “qualified, accountable human beings” from teams of “40 to 60 journalists”.

Once upon a time, journalism meant original writing. Now it means deciding which original writing to censor.

“Can trust be monetized?” The Street’s article on News Guard asks. But it isn’t really trust that’s being monetized. It’s censorship. It’s doing the dirty work that Google and Facebook don’t want to do.

But nevertheless do, as we know from experience. We will come to that.

The Dems and their media allies have been pressuring Google and Facebook to do something about the “fake news” that they blame for Trump’s win. The big sites outsourced the censorship to media fact checkers. The message was, “Don’t blame us, now you’re in charge.”

Facebook made a deal with ABC News and the AP, along with Politifact, FactCheck and Snopes, to outsource the censoring for $100K. When two of these left-wing groups declare that an article is fake, Facebook marks it up and viewership drops by 80%.

Eighty percent!

Not only does the roster of fact checkers lean to the left, but so do its notions of what’s true and false. For example, Snopes and Politifact both insist that General Pershing’s forces never buried the bodies of Muslim terrorists with pigs. But General Pershing specifically stated in his autobiography, “These Juramentado attacks were materially reduced in number by a practice that the Mohamedans held in abhorrence. The bodies were publicly buried in the same grave with a dead pig.”

Both the New York Times and the Scientific American reported on it at the time. Despite that Snopes rated this widely accepted historical fact as “False” and Politifact marked it as “Pants on Fire”.

Snopes also recently marked a story that Christ Church in Virginia is removing a George Washington plaque as false even though the church publicly announced that it was doing so.

Politifact and Snopes are entitled to their incorrect opinions. The trouble is that they don’t extend the same privilege to those they disagree with. And Google and Facebook promote fake fact checks while burying sites that discuss actual historical facts. The big internet companies don’t want to get involved in all these arguments. But nor are they willing to let their users decide for themselves anymore.

And so Net Nanny for news has become an actual business model. Instead of protecting children from pornography, News Nanny protects adults from news. And from views outside the left’s bubble.

By adopting the News Nanny model, Google and Facebook are treating their users like children.

The News Guard model is in some ways even more insidious than biased fact checking because it sets up lists of approved and disapproved sites. Google is rolling out something similar with its “knowledge panels” for publishers. Search for the New York Times and the panels will tell you how many Pulitzers the paper has won. Search for Front Page Magazine and the panel note describes it as, “Political alignment: Right-wing politics”. No note listing a left-wing political alignment appears in the panel for the New York Times despite its recent laudatory series about the Soviet Union and Communism.

The media never has an official political orientation. Not even when it’s cheering Communism. But its opponents and critics always have one. Follow Google’s link for Front Page’s political alignment and the top entry states, “Right-wing politics hold that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable.” 

That’s a wholly inaccurate description of either Front Page Magazine or conservative politics in America. And it’s another example of how the fight against “fake news” by the left actually ends up producing it.

Fact checking has become a pipeline to censorship. The big social and search companies outsource fact checking to third parties and then demonetize, marginalize and outright ban views and publishers that those third parties disagree with. Fact checks are no longer an argument. They’re the prelude to a ban.

Google and Facebook respectively dominate search and social media. When they appoint official censors for their services, those left-wing fact checkers become the gatekeepers of the internet.

And the internet isn’t supposed to have gatekeepers.

Senator Al Franken, of all people, made that point at the Open Markets Institute. OMI’s people have emerged as the leading opponents of big tech monopolies on the left.

“No one company should have the power to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t,” Franken said. “And Facebook, Google and Amazon, like ISPs, should be neutral in their treatment of the flow of lawful information and commerce on their platform.”

We never thought we’d have a good word to say about Al Franken. But this time we like what he said.

There is no more obvious example of the lack of neutrality than Facebook and Google’s partnership with “fact checkers”. If Net Neutrality means anything, it should strike down Google’s partnership with Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network and Facebook’s use of Snopes to silence conservatives.

When sites picked and chose content based on algorithms, they were deciding which content reached users based on what was likely to be popular. And, occasionally, based on their own agendas. Now they are picking and choosing which content reaches users based on political orientation.

While the advocates for Net Neutrality rage against cable companies, Comcast and Charter aren’t engaging in political censorship. No matter how they disguise it, Google and Facebook’s news nannies are. …

Trust in the mainstream media has never been lower. Yet the big tech companies insist that mainstream media sources are the only trustworthy ones. They want us to trust them, because they don’t trust us.

We do not want our posts to be “about us”. But this time we make an exception. Our Facebook page is being subjected to what is called “shadow-banning”. Fewer and fewer people are “reached”. Day by day the number of “likes” is decreased, stripped away, usually by twos and threes, but now and then by larger numbers. Last week we lost 30 in a few days. (The “likes” at the moment of this writing stand at 10,779; the number of our followers at 10,425.) Sometimes  when we have asked to “boost” a particular post (for which a charge is made), our request has been denied. We posted a complaint about being stripped of “likes” and having ever fewer readers, and sent it directly to Facebook, asking them why this was happening. We received no reply. But a regular long-time reader of our page sent us this information:

Well I just found out it’s worse than you know – I’ve been relying on my “feed” using the FB app for Android to see your posts since I both “like” and follow TAC. However, I just explicitly went to your page and encountered hundreds (yes, literally hundreds, going back many months) of TAC posts that have never appeared in my feed! What the hell can we do about this blatant censorship?

The discouraging answer is – nothing.

The Left, though politically weak, owns the culture. Owns the mainstream media. And owns the internet.

It is not our Atheism which offends our Facebook censors, it is our Conservatism.

A path of agony 5

An ex-Muslim talks about his religion-tormented childhood; his terror of hell; his attempted suicide; his path of agony, to reach at last the relief of atheism.

“The only way to reform Islam is to get rid of Islam.”

Posted under Atheism, Islam by Jillian Becker on Monday, July 17, 2017

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The moral messages of religious myths (1) 12

[Continued from the post immediately below.]

Dr. Peterson says that it is the body of religious myths that carry the “transcendent values” that provide us with eternal guidance to moral rectitude.

So from time to time we will look at the myths themselves.

Today, the myth of the first Man and Woman in the Garden of Eden and their Sin, aka the myth of the Fall of Man.

The message of the myth of Eden presents itself as this: by becoming aware of good and evil, humankind lost its innocence. In a state of innocence, human beings could have lived forever; but  getting to know good and evil made them guilty. Their getting to know good and evil was their Sin. Because they were guilty of Sin, they had to die. Sin made them mortal.

Their discovery of morality made them mortal? Once they could tell right from wrong they deserved to die?  

Yes.

How did they discover morality?

They ate of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They did this despite being ordered by God their Maker not to eat the Fruit of that Tree. Why did they disregard God’s order ? Because they were  tempted to. The First Woman was tempted to eat the fruit by a Serpent who dwelt in the Tree. She succumbed to temptation. The First Man was tempted to eat the Fruit by the Woman who had already done so. He succumbed to temptation. Hence their Fall from Grace, their Loss of Innocence, their expulsion from the easy life of the fruitful Garden, their eventual Deaths.

It could be observed that the real Tempter was God who put the Tree there in the first place. (Also the snake.) No tree, no temptation, no fall.  So why did he put it there?

Religion does not encourage the asking of why. But it is asked, and the usual answer is that God put it there to test them. He gave them the capacity to choose – aka Free Will – and they chose wrong. Point is, they came to know Good and Evil. That’s how humanity came to know Good and Evil, and because our species came to know Good and Evil our lives must come to an end.

So the “transcendent value”, the precept, the moral in the myth by which everyone, consciously or unconsciously, is living by  – or failing to live by – today is … what?

Hard to see. Sure, the myth gives an explanation, if a rather puzzling one, to those who wonder why we must all die; why the God they are told is all-good, all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, condemns us all to death.

Our remote ancestors did something very wicked: they disobeyed God and ate something they shouldn’t have, so  that’s why?

Yes.

Okay, but is there an actual, useful, moral precept in all that? A do or a don’t for us to follow? After all, the Fruit cannot be un-eaten. No action can be taken by you or me now that will undo what the First Man and Woman did, make us immortal again, put us back in the ever-fruitful Garden, wipe  the knowledge of right and wrong clean out of our brains …

And come to think of it, why is it a sin to know the difference between right and wrong?

Sorry. Don’t know. That why does not seem to have been answered, even reluctantly, by interpreters of the myth!

Okay, well how about this for the moral message?: You must not disobey God. Obeying him now won’t save you from death, but it might keep you from getting him angry and condemning you to some awful punishment.

Mm-hmm. So how will I know what God wants me to do and not do?

We can learn that from the myths of the Bible.

Can we?

We’ll try to find out by exploring more of them in the near future.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Judaism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Thursday, June 29, 2017

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No problem for atheism 9

We much admire Dr. Jordan Peterson when he talks about politics. We agree with all we have heard him say on political issues.

We do not agree with him on the subject of morality as he discusses it here;

Our arguments against Dostoyevsky’s young villain-hero Raskolnikov are too numerous to set out here. Enough to say that one person’s need for something is not a reason why another person should give it to him.

But to come to why Dr. Peterson cites the novel:

He agrees with Dostoyevsky’s declaration (made in the novel by Raskolnikov) that “if there is no god then you can do whatever you want”. He is willing to substitute the word “higher value” or “transcendent value” for “god”.

To explain why he agrees, he asks: “What the hell is irrational about me getting exactly what I want from every one of you whenever I want it at every possible second?”

He adds:  “It’s as if the psychopathic tendency is irrational.”

He asks: “Why the hell not ‘every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’?”

These are arguments very often put against atheism. They are not difficult for an atheist to answer.

He thinks that atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins* do not realize that the ethics they take for granted are predicated on a long tradition of moral principles encapsulated in the myths of religion. The myths convey, down through the ages, the “higher”, the “transcendent” morality – which, he says, “can be personified in the idea of God”.  Those moral principles, he suggests, are not just divinely revealed, they can be said to define and constitute the Divine itself.

The implication is that at certain moments in ancient history, revelations of some “transcendent” moral truths were imparted to certain men. If not by a god at least from some source of divine wisdom. And because these come from that “higher” source, they are the right guides for human behavior.

He is referring of course to the “moral religions”. Most religions contain no moral precepts whatsoever, if the meaning of “moral behavior” is behaving well towards our fellow human beings.

So let’s examine the moral precepts of the moral religions. Convention has it that there are three of them: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (Some oriental religions such as Buddhism and Jainism command your right behavior towards others, but to serve a different end: not in order to benefit them for their own sakes, but entirely in order to put a shine on your own soul.)

Islam may as well be excluded straightaway. It commands Muslims to be good to other Muslims, not to anyone who is not a Muslim. Dr. Peterson is unlikely to include that idea in his notion of transcendent values.

What does Judaism command? That you love (respect) your neighbor as yourself, and that includes even the stranger in your midst. That is sensible. Enlightened self-interest requires the same thing. Judaism is essentially a religion of law. Law is good. The Mosaic laws forbid murder, theft, false testimony, adultery, and covetousness. Divine revelation was not needed for law to forbid murder, theft, and  false testimony. They were forbidden in far more ancient secular codes of law, such as the Hammurabi Code which was written down some 600 years before the Mosaic law is alleged to have been revealed by Jehovah through Moses to the Children of Israel. As for adultery and covetousness, they are not punishable by law or despised by custom in our time. As to the rest of the Jewish religious laws, a reading of the “books of Moses” is very unlikely to support the view that they are of “transcendent” value, fixed stars in the moral firmament by which we may be rightly guided forever. They forbid homosexuality, for instance. Is that a transcendent value?

And then there is Christianity. It too forbids murder, theft, false testimony, adultery, covetousness and homosexuality. It commands you to love (love) your neighbor, to love everyone, to love all mankind however unlovable your neighbor, or your enemy might be. It commands you to forgive sinners, though you may condemn the sin. It demands, in other words, the impossible, and discards the genuinely and supremely moral idea of justice. It recommends self-abasement and self-denial. It asks human beings to act against human nature. Transcendent and eternal values?

No. The bodies of myth that compose the scriptures and moral commandments of certain religions do NOT set a guide to right behavior, or supply a bedrock of moral values.

To answer Dr. Petersons’ remaining arguments:

What is stopping you from getting anything you want (“forcibly” is implied) from everyone else whenever you want to, is the will of everyone else. Your self-interest is best served by taking into account that everyone else is necessarily serving his own self-interest just as you are, and your survival and the satisfying of your needs depends on taking this fact into consideration. Or, as we put it in our own Articles of Reason: My liberty should be limited by nothing except everyone else’s liberty. That is rational. Mankind would not long have survived if many people had not understood the selfish need to tolerate and co-operate with other people. Rational self-interest keeps most of us  from living by the maxim “every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost”, because if we did we would be likely to die by it.

Finally, to want to get what one wants from everyone else is, he suggests, a “psychopathic tendency”, and that, he says, is not irrational. But what does “psychopathic” mean if not a sickness of the mind – a breakdown of sanity, of the capacity to reason? If psychopaths are the example of what we should not be, who would disagree?

Our final answer: no god ever spoke to any man. No moral precepts come from a divine source.

All are man-made.

None are set in stone.

Every moral idea, like every other idea, needs to be examined by reason.

 

 

* In the case of Richard Dawkins, we would concede that his Leftist principles derive from Christianity. In our opinion they are not good.

Posted under Atheism, Ethics by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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Republican Atheists 2

The Republican Party is very disappointing. To judge by the way Congressional Republican leaders, and numerous “NeverTrumpers” among “conservative” journalists, actively side with the “Resistance” against President Trump, it seems they would rather have socialism, Islam, corruption, violence, open borders, unemployment, hysterical racism, endless debate about who can use which public bathroom, high taxes, enforced unanimity of opinion in the universities, compulsory payment of huge sums to Al Gore to keep the planet cool, the shaming of white men for being white, and the running of everything by women.

If more Republicans were atheists, would the party become more rational, more principled, and more supportive of President Trump?

It’s an optimistic hypothesis, but who knows?

Some competent Republican atheists have formed an organization that will test the theory, perhaps lure any secret non-believing members of the party out of the closet, and even perhaps “normalize” atheism in the eyes of the religious.

We think it worth trying. So here is a flyer for the Republican Atheist movement.

Introducing Republican Atheists: a new face for secular conservatism

Republican Atheists is a nationally and internationally recognized organization that launched in the USA in February 2017 to build awareness of secular presence in the Republican Party.

President and founder Lauren Ell decided to launch the organization after becoming determined to showcase that being a registered Republican does not require being subscribed to religion. Ell also wanted to make a statement in the atheist community that atheists can have conservative views.

“I decided I’ve had enough of not being represented in both the Republican Party and atheist community,” Ell said. “I launched Republican Atheists to represent those who are in a similar circumstance as me and to give a stronger voice to secular conservatism.”

Ell was born and raised in Southern California. She is located in Sweden most of the year since Spring 2016. Ell has identified as atheist for over a decade and has education background in Marketing and Geology. She currently works as a marketing consultant and business owner while devoting volunteer time to Republican Atheists.

Despite having an exclusive name, Republican Atheists does not solicit strictly to atheists. The organization welcomes those who consider themselves agnostic, humanist and secular. In fact, everyone is welcome to tune into Republican Atheists when they have the time.

Republican Atheists has two official board members who are registered Republicans. First registered board member Republican State Rep. Brandon Phinney from Rochester, New Hampshire, provides insight into state level politics and communicating with the public. Phinney made waves in atheist and religious media outlets in Spring 2017 when he discussed his atheist views while being a Republican representative.

Second board member is well known author and speaker, Robert M. Price, Ph.D. in Theology and Ph.D. in New Testament. Price has taught in colleges and universities and has also served as director for NY Metro Center for Inquiry. He directs his own podcast known as The Bible Geek.

Additionally the organization is pleased to have Raul D. Empaire on board, official correspondent on issues surrounding Venezuela.

Republican Atheists has been featured by United Coalition of Reason, Secular Policy Institute and Friendly Atheist (blog). Ell has also introduced Republican Atheists at well known campus University of California, Riverside, located in Riverside, CA. With a growing social media following on Facebook and Twitter, the organization continues to expand its outreach and influence.

The team of Republican Atheists looks forward to building more awareness of secular conservatism through public speaking engagements, interviews and social media activity. For more information visit the official website:

www.RepublicanAtheists.com.

Posted under Atheism, United States by Jillian Becker on Saturday, June 17, 2017

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