Sunday, April 20, 2014

Quotation

"Improving on what I wrote in Logics of Delusion, I would now say that the delusional subject believes in the immediate truth of what is compulsively revealed to him. In general, he has no suspicion that it may be false or illusory. This is also because he has remained intimately attached to the logic of desire, which cancels any contradiction between the possible and the impossible, the attainable and the unattainable, and because he has experienced this archaic logic as true even when the reality principle was imposed on his unwilling consciousness. In other words, he has not entirely made the transition from the logic of desire to that of the acceptance of bonds, to the logic of a relatively well-consolidated rationality."

“Afterword”
Logics of Delusion, 2nd Edition
Remo Bodei 

A title as bad as the content

Unlike so many other pieces I've come across, Jonathan Merritt's "4 surprising places to encounter God" is pretty well titled for what follows. It's unfortunate that what follows is rather pathetic. I admit that over the years I've been rather critical of Merritt but this one is rather sad even for him. Even setting aside that he specifically writes opinion pieces for the Religious News Service.

The only thing this blog post seems to accomplish is to reveal how muddled some theists views are of God. Merritt uses "Jesus" and "God" interchangeably which works or doesn't depending on which flavor of Christianity you prefer. Usually, he seems more aware of such a discrepancy. I have also noticed over time that he mixes different versions of the God concept (scriptural vs. abstract) fairly regularly. However, within a given piece he tends to be more consistent than in this one. In either version, finding God in "surprising places" is telling. The scriptural God is prone to whimsical and temperamental behavior. Why be surprised by the actions of a character who consistently acts rashly? If you switch over to the more abstract version of God it makes even less sense. As the perfect all-powerful creator, God would not only have to be the source of everything but also be everything. Where could you possibly go where God doesn't exist?

Merritt's main premise/title is just silly. It only makes any sense if you've never thought seriously about what the various versions of the God concept entail.

What makes it a "taunt"?

Normally I wouldn't be bothered by a bogus story floated by the likes of The Washington Times and Fox News but this one is fairly common and connects to a variety of equally stupid myths and misrepresentations. "Jesus is a myth" is not a taunt. I'm sure if you actively hunt for an atheist who chooses to use it as if it is one you will find such an asshole. The majority of atheists I've come across who have reached the sound conclusion that there is no historical Jesus do not use it that way. For the sake of clarity I would point out that not all atheists concern themselves one way or the other about whether an actual Jesus figure ever existed.

Personally, I fail to see how anyone who either respects or is familiar with historical scholarship can still hold to the notion that there ever was an actual Jesus. Once you remove scripture there is nothing left. Jesus literally disappears in the absence of scripture. That there isn't even one verifiable fact about this supposedly important figure has nothing to with being either a theist or an atheist. It also has nothing to do with what I or other atheists would want or not want to be true. Reality and the facts don't change just because we don't find them they way we might want them to be. Assuming you are intellectually honest.

I didn't start out with the conclusion that Jesus is a myth. Right up to college I had always assumed there was an historical figure on which the various legendary stories were based. I always thought the hippy version of Jesus was pretty cool. Once I became curious enough to look into the "real" figure behind the stories I started to learn that there really wasn't anything substantive to base the stories on. It was only after I did my own research that I realized the Jesus narratives were strictly theological and devoid of any factual basis.

Basically, shit pieces like "Atheists’ Easter taunt to Christians: ‘Jesus is a myth’" is just a sad attempt at smearing atheists while allowing theists to insulate themselves from the facts. By definitions alone the idea that saying "Jesus is a myth" amounts to a taunt is ludicrous. According to Chambers 21st Century Dictionary a taunt is:
"verb (taunting, taunted) to tease, say unpleasant things to or jeer at someone in a cruel and hurtful way.
noun a cruel, unpleasant and often hurtful or provoking remark.
Derivatives
taunting noun, adjective.
tauntingly adverb."
Considering that I, like many other atheists, have family and friends who are Christian it makes no sense to make statements that would be intentionally harmful. I have no interest in being mean or hurtful. I also have no interest in denying reality or belittling history as a field of study.

Jesus is a myth. That is what all valid historical research indicates. People can accept it or not just as they can perceive it to be unpleasant or not.It makes me wonder how many would insist on this type of sham if instead of "Jesus" you substitute in "Gilgamesh"? I'd be willing to bet that the "evidence" that can be created for Gilgamesh would be on par with that for Jesus.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Quotation

"Owing to the distorting lens of our evolved theory of mind - distortions that warp our perception of reality in systematic, predictable ways because they served our ancestor's genetic interests - we know now that what feels real (even when these thoughts are shared with other sane, healthy, completely normal people) is not always a good measure of what is real."
Jesse Bering
"God as Adaptive Illusion"
The Belief Instinct

The internet is not "killing religion."

Jessica Ravitz' CNN Belief blog post "Is the Internet killing religion?" is probably one of the best pieces I've ever read on that site. The question posed in the title is interesting if a little misleading. What is most impressive is the fact that the title doesn't necessary reflect the content yet is still connected to it. Ravitz does not write the piece with a foregone conclusion in mind. Her intent seems to be to encourage others to seriously think about the question and its possible implications.

Personally, I don't believe it is possible for the internet to kill religion. I seriously doubt religion will ever completely go away. Even if I am wrong on that point, which I hope I am, I fail to see how the internet could be the sole or even primary cause of its demise. The internet is really just a tool. It does make the dissemination of ideas much easier and faster but it is the ideas that matter the most. It is unquestionable that the internet is playing an important role in a variety of discussions and debates across numerous subjects. I am not trying to belittle its importance and usefulness. I just think it is important to try to keep things in perspective.

The internet will never be a killer of religion. At best, it may end up being an accessory to attempted murder.