Why Reason is Incompatible with Abrahamic Religions

Suppose I come up to you and claimed evolution is true.  Perhaps you believe me right away, or perhaps you want to make up your own mind; after all, lots of people tell you things that don’t turn out to be true.  Go ahead and do that, I tell you, but if you arrive at any other conclusion besides mine, I’m going to throw you in jail, where you’ll rot for the rest of your life.

Most people would immediately see the problem here.  Have I in fact allowed you the luxury of reason to investigate and believe my claim?  No, I haven’t, because I’ve really only one given you one choice, and that’s to simply accept the claim that evolution is true.  Even providing you with what I consider rock-solid proof of evolution doesn’t alter the calculus in any way.  When I threaten you, I automatically remove reason as an allowable means to accepting my claim.  I’ve in effect determined your choice.  If you were truly free to exercise reason, I would have to accept its outcome no matter what, even if I considered you gravely mistaken.  Punishment for arriving at a wrong conclusion turns reason into a thought-crime.

So when believers like Christians or Muslims contend their faiths are based on reason, one may simply object that this can’t be so because their god in fact doesn’t allow it.  Using reason to arrive at any other belief than the correct one will earn you an eternity in hell.  Thus, reason is in reality an evil to be avoided, as Martin Luther concluded a long time ago.  Blind, unquestioning, and unexamined belief is what the theist’s retributive god truly desires, not a belief grounded in reason.

(via Making My Way)

I’ve already expressed my views on why any religion that preaches hellfire is pure foolishness, but I like this objection as well.

Hell was invented to eliminate the possibility of rational decision-making, and any religion that relies on the concept of eternal hellfire to keep people from asking logical questions and using reason to determine the answers should be abandoned and ridiculed for what it really is. Nonsense.

Black Jeezus’ News Quickies

A new segment here on BlackJeezus.net: News Quickies. Get ready for a bukakke of current events…

* * *

Turns out Ergun Caner, Liberty University’s seminary president, may not have been entirely truthful about the details of his “Muslim upbringing” in “Turkey,” and his “jihadist past” and “expertise in Islam.” But I guess it’s okay to lie if you’re doing it for Jesus, right?

Just ask Mike Warnke.

* * *

Think. What’s the worst possible thing you could be caught doing when someone says “I’m against this bill, because it disrespects too many women in the state of Florida”?

* * *

Let’s say you’re at work (you happen to be a government employee), and a customer spits on you. What would be the appropriate amount of time off you’d need to “recover” from the incident?

Well if you’re the average New York City bus driver, you’d “need” about 64 days.

I’m no labor market expert or anything, but I think that’s a little excessive. Especially when taxpayer dollars are paying for those days off.

* * *

Martin Gardner, mathematics/science writer and one of the founders of the skeptical movement, died last Friday at the age of 95. I very much enjoyed reading his writings and math puzzles, and highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Aha! Gotcha posthaste.

Since I think there’s nothing more appropriate than reading thoughts on death from someone who’s just recently died:

“It does not fortify my soul in the least to know that after I die all unmarried men will still be bachelors, that 37 will still be a prime number, that the stars will continue to shine, and that forever I will have been just what I am now. Away with these fake immortalities! They mean nothing to the heart.”

True dat, Marty. You will be missed.

HuffPo: The Secret to World Peace (that will never, ever work)

Ugh… I swear, lately the Huffington Post has been promoting more woo-woo than Jenny McCarthy’s bookshelf.

I’m kidding, of course. Jenny McCarthy doesn’t read books.

Andrew Pessin wrote an article in the Religion section of the HuffPo that made me roll my eyes more than I ever have in a ten minute period, titled How to Be Certain Your Religion Is True and Still Get Along with Others.

In short, Pessin notes that most believers fall into the paradox of being certain that everything they believe is true, while simultaneously admitting that another set of beliefs that run contradictory to their own could also be right. And therefore, he thinks he’s got the secret to world peace:

What I suggest instead is that we simply acknowledge the paradox: that is, recognize that both contradictory propositions are, in their own right, extremely plausible. In the preface case this actually seems quite easy to do. My ultimate hope, then, is that world peace will break out when enough people simply acknowledge the paradox as well and begin applying it more generally.

Why is that?

Because acknowledging the paradox allows you simultaneously to say two things.

Choose some important, life-governing, very controversial thing you happen to believe in with great fervor: the existence of God (or perhaps atheism), the truth of Christianity (or Islam or Hinduism, etc.), absolute morality (or relativism), etc. Focusing on religion as our example, you can now say, first, that you believe, with certainty, on the basis of reason and evidence and testimony, in the truth of, say, the various individual tenets of your version of Christianity, and thus believe, with equal certainty, in all the things entailed by that belief: that, say, all other competing religions and doctrines are simply false.

But then you can say, second, something else: that you may be wrong.

Got it? You can simultaneously be certain that Christianity is true and everything conflicting with it is false, and yet acknowledge that you may be wrong without taking away your certainty. You can thus keep your certainties without having to claim that you are, in fact, and grossly implausibly, infallible. It’s what everyone (other than bakers) has yearned for since time immemorial: the proverbial cake, both eaten yet had!

Imagine, now, that all parties came to acknowledge the Paradox of the Preface as well. Then theycould say that they are certain that (for example) Islam is true and everything conflicting with it is false — and yet acknowledge that they may be wrong without taking away their certainty.

Charming. So I can believe with certainty that a spaceman chose only one specific book to communicate to the beings he created the message that he hates queers, as long as I admit that I could be wrong. Muhammad was the one true prophet of Allah and I believe with certainty that anyone who does not accept this fact is destined to fry in hell for all eternity… but maybe not. Is that how it works?

This kind of thinking is naive, at best. Either something is true, or it isn’t. And if we allow religion to assert truths without demanding proof, then we open the door to allow it to weasel its way into the science and social studies classrooms, into public policy, and into other areas of society where it doesn’t belong.

Sometimes, people are just wrong.

And it doesn’t help anything to say “it’s okay… you can continue to believe that, and act on those beliefs however you want… just as long as you say that you could be wrong.”

Bruce Bartlett on Libertarianism

On Rand Paul:

I don’t believe Rand is a racist; I think he is a fool who is suffering from the foolish consistency syndrome that affects all libertarians. They believe that freedom consists of one thing and one thing only–freedom from governmental constraint. Therefore, it is illogical to them that any increase in government power could ever expand freedom. Yet it is clear that African Americans were far from free in 1964 and that the Civil Rights Act greatly expanded their freedom while diminishing that of racists. To defend the rights of racists to discriminate is reprehensible and especially so when it is done by a major party nominee for the U.S. Senate. I believe that Rand should admit that he was wrong as quickly as possible.

A great argument against libertarian philosophy, sure. Provided none of your readers know anything about libertarianism. Or the Civil Rights movement. Most of this article is a string of non-sequiturs.

I’ve already commented on Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act, so I’ll not repeat myself. It just seems to me that Bartlett hasn’t done much research.  Most libertarians are in favor of the bulk of the Civil Right Act of 1964, precisely because segregation was enforced by the states.

Federal laws are perfectly acceptable (and necessary) when they’re intended to protect the rights of minorities to vote, marry, travel, and own property. I’m willing to bet that almost no libertarian will disagree with that sentiment. The disagreement is over the efficacy of forcing private organizations and businesses not to discriminate, if the ultimate aim was to diminish racism. Liberals and progressives have yet to propose an effective government policy for achieving this end better than the free market would.

To Sue BP, or Not to Sue BP

The media has been in quite a fucking frenzy over the BP oil spill, and it’s sparked considerable debate over whether regulation or tort is the best way to prevent future oil spills and environmental disasters in general. Neither of these, I think, would be completely sufficient.

Government regulation would dissuade oil companies from drilling domestically in the first place, which would make oil prices more expensive and drive the business overseas, where there are fewer regulations. This is a problem with nearly all heavily-regulated industries.

Then there’s the nightmare of figuring out which pointless regulations to pass, who’ll enforce them, and how. All of that will take time (and tax dollars), and will most likely result in some kind of impotent compromise that benefits no one, and places the economic burden on everyone. These regulations also need to constantly be updated, to avoid companies trying to weasel out of paying large-scale damages.

To even persuade U.S. oil companies to deal with heavy regulation and drill here anyway, the government would have to add some sort of provision that would exempt these companies from some or all liability for any accidents that occur so long as they follow regulations (this is common in heavily-regulated industries), which then means it is up to the government to repay the damages. More tax dollars.

On the other hand, relying on pure tort liability won’t do much to dissuade companies from being careful and not cutting corners when drilling. And if a spill does occur, the damages won’t be paid if the company has already gone bankrupt from the aftermath of cleaning it up and losing market share. Tort liability is also difficult to enforce for a large-scale disaster.

Jeffrey Miron posted an interesting solution on his blog, which I must say makes a lot of sense.

Here is one possibility: if the government grants a company like BP the right to drill in an area like the Gulf, where enormous damage to both private and public property is possible, it should also require BP to post a bond equal to something like the expected environmental damage.

In short, under this plan, if an oil conglomerate successfully drills without any accidents or spills, it gets the money back from the bond after it closes its wells (presumably with interest). This gives the company incentive to be careful when drilling.

However, if property damage does occur as a result of the drilling, the oil company will lose some or all of the bond money. And those parties collecting damages would not have to worry about trying to collect money from a company that may already be bankrupt, since the money has already been put aside.

This approach has a few minor problems, of course. It would be a challenge to calculate an appropriate figure for the potential damages, and oil companies would try to litigate their way out of paying damages in the event of a spill.

But it seems much more likely to work than regulations or pure tort, if the ultimate goal is to prevent future environmental damages.

Holy Water: The Cure for Atheism

Sometimes, Christians really don’t seem to get it.

Allow me to illustrate:

Let’s say Parties A, B, and C are teachers. Parties B and C have certain opinions and beliefs that Party A does not share. Party A openly expresses this fact. Parties B and C respond by bullying and mocking Party A and sprinkling a magic fairy-dust potion on her. School officials respond by transferring Parties B & C to another school district.

Now, in keeping with the educational theme of this post, take out your scantron and a number 2 pencil, and answer the following questions:

Question 1: Who, in the above scenario, was being bullied and/or persecuted?

(a) Party A
(b) Party B
(c) Party C

Question 2: Does the answer to Question 1 change if it is known that Parties B & C are Christians, that Party A is an atheist, and that the “magic fairy-dust potion” is holy water?

(a) No
(b) Yes

If your answer to both these questions was not (a), you are an idiot.

If you’re a clergy man, and decide to call a meeting of local clergymen to talk about the “injustice” being done to Christianity from the mere act of punishing bullies, you are a complete idiot.

“We were contacted, and we agreed to hold the meeting at our church,” said the Rev. O’Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center. “We have to make sure this is not an attack on Christianity. It is totally unfair to remove the two teachers, and allow the other teacher to remain. We need answers and for them to be returned to the classroom.”

My father is clergy, so I know that not all clergymen are completely devoid of scruples and level-headed thinking. But this is just silly, and reflects poorly on Christians as a whole.

I guarantee that if the roles were reversed and it was an atheist spraying water on a Christian teacher, these same clergymen would still be defending the Christian and saying that the school board was totally right in transferring that abrasive atheist bully away from the poor, persecuted Christian. It has nothing at all to do with “persecution” or “injustice.” Dred Scott v. Sanford was an injustice. This was merely two bullies getting exactly what they deserved for being obnoxious assholes.

Sorry, Christians. Being the majority doesn’t give you permission to claim “persecution” any time your archaic world-view isn’t given preference over simple principles of humanity and recompense.