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Thinking about Sincerity January 7, 2020

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
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24 comments

When theists try to convert unbelievers, they often try to reinforce how sincere they are about what they believe.  And they often seem surprised that their sincerity isn’t taken as a sign that their assertions should be accepted.

So this is a thought experiment to illustrate the weakness of “sincerity”.

For the purposes of this experiment, let’s assume that a god actually exists, and that it’s the christian biblegod, or something very similar.

Imagine that standing in front of you are five people.  And each one of those people says “God talks to me”.  Are they right?  They each sound completely sincere about this, and in fact each one assures you that they really really know this to be true.

(I’ve provided you with lovely stickman artwork, showing off my amazing skill at Powerpoint.  You’re welcome.)

But here’s who you’re actually seeing: (more…)

Should I be honored or insulted? September 26, 2019

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Responses, UbiDubiKids.
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13 comments

I’ve written about this event in some assorted blog comments over the past few days, but I think it deserves a full post of its own, as documentation.

There is an apologist, Tom Gilson, who writes for The Stream, and apparently also has his own blog, which I won’t link to here.  About a year ago he wrote an article, supposedly rebutting Lawrence Krauss on the issue of divine hiddenness.

Now I have no interest in reading The Stream, and generally avoid apologists in general, unless they show up on an atheist site trying to convert people.  I was totally unaware of this article, until recently when Bob Seidensticker wrote a response to it at Cross Examined, here: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2019/09/another-attempt-to-explain-gods-hiddenness-or-nonexistence-fails-tom-gilson-the-stream.

So as I’m reading Bob’s post, I come across a quote that Gilson used to start off his article, supposedly from Lawrence Krauss:

[Suppose something happened] completely inconsistent with the operation of the universe as we know it, something impossible. . . . For instance, if the stars rearranged themselves to spell a different bible verse each night. Or if the tree in my front yard started growing KJV bibles instead of crabapples.

And my jaw just dropped.  I knew that quote wasn’t from Krauss, because I recognized it.  Because I WROTE IT!

That’s a direct quote from a post I wrote in 2016.  I did some quick checking, to be sure that Gilson wasn’t picking up an instance of Krauss quoting me.  I don’t know that Krauss ever has quoted me, or even knows who I am, but I like to be thorough.   Gilson doesn’t give a source for his quote, and the Krauss source he does link to in his article doesn’t include it.  I let Bob Seidensticker know about this, and he quickly posted an update to his article.  I also left a comment on the original Gilson article, which immediately went into moderation, and hasn’t shown up yet.  I don’t expect that it will ever be approved, since it would be an embarrassment to the author.

You can read Gilson’s article here: https://web.archive.org/web/20190924200235/https://stream.org/god-himself-obvious/

And here’s my original post, that he plagiarized from: https://boldquestions.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/answers-to-a-question-for-atheists/

Sheesh.

10 questions for Atheists February 18, 2019

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Responses.
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44 comments

I haven’t done one of these lists of questions for a while, especially since they tend to be so repetitive.  But Makugutu put up this list of questions, which were originally collected by Godless Mom.  It includes some different questions that had not come up before, so I’ll give them a shot:

1. How do atheists name their children, if most names have some sort of religious background?

However they want to.  I chose old family names for my kids, which also happened to be popular names in the English Renaissance.  They are coincidentally also biblical names, but that’s not why I chose them.

2. Is atheism a form of Satanism?

By definition, no.  Someone who believes there is a “Satan” is holding a belief in a powerful supernatural being, in other words, a god.  So someone who actually believes in a real Satan is a theist, just as much as any christian is.  (However, most modern “Satanists” actually use Satan as a symbol only, and don’t profess belief that there’s a real Satan out there, so those people would qualify as atheists.)

3. Why has atheism become so popular in the 21st century?

The internet.

Really, I think that’s it.  We can talk to each other now.  When I deconverted 30+ years ago, it was just me and a lot of books.  I didn’t have anybody else to talk to about it, and it took all the way til the end of college for me to finally get to full deconversion.  The internet would have helped a lot.

4. Why do atheists choose atheism?

We don’t just “choose atheism”.  People don’t wake up one morning and say “gee, I think I’ll become an atheist now.”  Some people never had a belief in a god, but others spend a long time thinking about what they believe before concluding that they don’t believe there’s a god.   Suggesting that someone “chooses atheism” in the way that they choose, I don’t know, a laundry detergent, really minimizes and disrespects difficulty and seriousness of  the thought processes that go into this.

5. Are atheists a threat to the United States?

Not in any way.  We are, however, a threat to the religious organizations that are currently holding too much power and influence in the U.S.  (I think those organizations are themselves an actual threat.)

6. How do atheists keep a positive outlook on life?

The meaning and purpose of our life is ours to decide for our ourselves!  It’s ours to create!  And every day is a precious thing to be appreciated, not a “vale of tears” to be endured.  That’s way better than any “good news” any religion pushes.

7. Why do some atheists insist that atheism is not a “group”?

Because it’s not.  People who don’t watch TV are not a “group”.  People who don’t collect stamps are not a “group”.  There are various organized groups of atheists out there, but atheism itself is not a “group”.

8. Why do so many atheists fail to understand that belief doesn’t require proof?

You can believe in anything you want to without “proof”.  If you don’t need evidence, you could believe every fairy tale and work of fiction is actually true.   But if you are concerned that the things you believe ought to be true, or at least likely true, you should have some kind of reason for belief, some evidence that points to your belief being true.  For most atheists, religious claims do not have sufficient evidence to support them, so we don’t believe them.

9. What is paramount for most atheists?

I can’t speak for most atheists, you would have to ask them.  But for me and a lot of the atheists I know, I’d say it’s making the most of the limited time we have.

10. Is it difficult being an atheist?

Sometimes.  It depends on a lot of factors.  For me where I am now, not so much.  In some cases the US people have faced expulsion from their families or shunning by their friends, or loss of work, when their disbelief became known.  In some other countries, lack of belief carries the death penalty, so I’d say that’s difficult, yeah.

 

So that’s it for this list.  Any different answers?

No coincidence January 16, 2019

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Events, Humor.
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8 comments

I just had to write a quick post about something fun that happened recently.

My spouse and I took a weekend at a local hotel for our anniversary. (33 years!  Woo!)  One of the drawbacks to our tiny townhouse is that it doesn’t have a proper bathtub, and a long hot bath is one of my favorite ways to relax.  There’s a hotel near my office that has a whole bunch of jacuzzi suites, so we have occasionally gone there for our anniversary weekends over the past years.

Whenever I go to a hotel I check to see if there is a Gideon bible, and there usually is.  And before I check out, I’ll leave some helpful annotations in it.  Sometimes on the pages where they are recommending certain passages to read for certain concerns, I’ll add a note to be certain to check out the actual story of Gideon, or the story of Dinah, or Judges 1:19, or some other part that most christians aren’t aware of.  But I’ll always go to the first page and line through “In the beginning” and write in “Once upon a time”.

We cut our trip short this time because of way too much snow, but as we were packing up I realized that I hadn’t done my usual annotations yet, so I pulled out the bible to at least add a quick “Once upon a time.”  But it was already there!  I grinned – was somebody else doing this too?  Were there enough people not taking this book seriously that I had encountered another “fixed” bible?  Wow!

Alas, I quickly realized that the annotation was in my own handwriting.  Apparently we had stayed in the same room in a previous year.  Oh, well.  At least that shows how little used those bibles are.  The book looked brand spanking new, no wear and tear at all.  And even though the Gideons encourage people to keep the bibles if they want to, nobody had taken this one.  It was still there, pretty much untouched, for years.  I hope that someday all “holy books” can be so thoroughly ignored.

You won’t believe the BEST reason for being an atheist! February 5, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Brain Glitches, Responses.
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18 comments

A while back Jim posed a question on his blog, The Common Atheist.

His request was “If each of you would share right here one of your best arguments for atheism…”

And I replied with one of my best reasons, but since it was in a comment thread I tried to keep my answer brief.  However, I think the point I was making deserves a more careful discussion.  So here’s a full post about it. (more…)

“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Deprogramming (Part 2) February 4, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Rants, Responses.
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1 comment so far

So this will be the last post in this series, I think.  It’s been interesting to peer into this world, where devoting two years of young adulthood to being an overworked salesman for a religion (at your own expense) is considered an important Thing To Do.

For anybody just joining us, a while back I found this book at a used booksale:

This is not the official LDS book of rules, this is supposed to be a helpful guide, based on the author’s experiences, and those of many returned missionaries she knew over the years. It was published in 1968, but it’s obvious that some of the advice and tips in it are from many years before that.  I’ve been looking at it chapter by chapter, and it’s been interesting to see what’s changed, and what hasn’t. (more…)

No true Santaist December 23, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Humor, Rants, Responses.
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6 comments

Over on ex-christian.net, there has recently been a commenter who seems very earnest, but less prepared than most to defend what he believes.  He assures us that he knows god personally, and that he knows because he is “filled with the holy spirit”.  But of course he is unable to demonstrate this in any way, and we’ve replied to him that we also had strong feelings back when we were religious, and that his personal feelings in no way establish the truth about his claims.   He’s been asserting that all of the ex-christians were never True Christians™ because, of course, anybody who left christianity could never have been a real christian.  He’s sure that nobody who has felt what he has felt would ever change their mind.

You can read his commentary here:

http://new.exchristian.net/2017/12/love-is-not-christian-it-is-human.html

So after trying to talk to the guy for awhile, an idea for a  cartoon about this guy popped into my head, and would not go away until I drew it.  I have very limited skills with computer graphics, so I just used powerpoint’s drawing tools to create this.  I’ll put it after the break, so there won’t be spoilers for any small children who are reading over your shoulder. (more…)

Quotes worth stealing June 16, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Responses.
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2 comments

I ran across a couple of amazing quotes recently, from a couple of my favorite bloggers.  They are too good not to share, plus making a post will help me remember them.

First, this is from the latest post at Neil Carter’s Godless in Dixie,

Our religions don’t make us who we are. We just are who we are, and we learn to tell different stories about ourselves. We simply change lenses through which we see ourselves. That’s all.

And then I found this gem from Captain Cassidy at Roll to Disbelieve:

When a broken system and a toxic worldview love each other very, very much, they create hypocrites.

These are worthy of T-shirts!  I wish I could write like that.

Box of Apologetics June 8, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
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14 comments

Every Monday I listen to the previous Sunday’s broadcast of The Atheist Experience.  And generally the show is a lot of fun, lots of promotion of critical thinking and jousting with theists.  My favorite host is Tracie Harris, who just hits it out of the park, and it’s pretty satisfying when Matt Dillahunty hangs up on an annoying troll.  But lately I have been getting frustrated when some apologist calls in with their favorite clever twist on some tired old apologetic, and they proceed to argue in endless circles, because they just have to “get the atheist to admit that they are right”.  These calls tend to go on way too long and almost never accomplish anything.

I’ve realized that if I were hosting the show and one of these guys got going, that there is something specific I would want to say to them.  But since that’s unlikely ever to happen, I’ll just say it here instead:

“Hey Mr. Apologist!  Before you begin on whatever clever argument for god you are about to present, I need to ask you three background questions.  So, for the time being, instead of discussing it right away, we’re going to put your apologetic in a box.

This Box.

“We’re not going to unpack it just yet.  Not until I find out a few things about the person I am talking to.  First I need to ask you when you first started believing in god.”

(A typical theist will probably tell me that they have been a believer their whole lives, or from when they were very young.)

“OK.  And when did you first learn this argument you are about to present?”

(Let’s assume they tell us about the book they read in high school, or the class their church had recently, or some such.  It’s not likely that they learned a complicated argument in their earliest Sunday School classes.)

“All right.  And finally, suppose that your apologetics teacher (or Pope, or whoever is an authority for your sect) came to you and said ‘Dude, we found a flaw in this particular argument.  It doesn’t actually prove the thing it’s supposed to prove.  You have to stop using it.’  If that were to happen, would you still believe in god?  Would you have to reconsider anything about what you believe, or would you still believe exactly as you do now?”

(I would expect that a typical True Believer™ would declare that their faith would continue to be steadfast in that case.)

“OK, so let me review what we’ve learned about the argument in this box.

  1. It’s not what initially persuaded you to believe, because you didn’t have it at that time.
  2. It’s not what’s keeping you in your faith, because you would still be a believer even if you lost what’s in the box. 

SO, what that tells me is that we don’t actually need to open this box at all!  The question for callers is “Tell us what you believe and why.”  And we have just established that the argument in this box is not really part of your “why“.  So we can throw out this box unopened.  It’s not relevant.

“Here’s the box we ought to open up:

“What we should be talking about are the real reasons that you believe.   What initially persuaded you to start believing?  What things are so central to your beliefs that you would have to rethink your entire belief system if they were discredited?   I don’t know what’s in this box for you.  Maybe it’s things like ‘trust in your teachers,’ ‘personal experience,’ ‘clerical authority,’ or ‘biblical infallibility.’  Maybe it’s something else.  We won’t know until we start unpacking it.” Those are the interesting and useful discussions to have, not these circular apologetic word games.

If I ever were in the position similar to the hosts on TAE, I think that I would have to label some real boxes to use as visual aids.  Because, unless a caller says that their argument was specifically why they started believing, or that their faith would collapse without it, there’s no way that I would want to waste my energy listening to their endless philosophical wanking.  I have better things to do, like watching paint dry.

What’s the point of prayer? May 17, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Responses.
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15 comments

I recently left this as a comment on Wondering Eagle’s blog post about prayer.  Since I haven’t blogged much recently, and I’m pretty pleased with the comment, I thought I should give it its own post.

I’ve always been puzzled about the disconnect between what evangelicals say about god, and what they say about prayer. They say their god is all-powerful, all knowing, benevolent, and has a perfect plan for their lives. Then they spend time telling god things and begging god to change stuff. If god already knows what people need, why spend time telling him what you want? If god has a perfect plan, then why are they asking him to change it, just for them? And why do they think a request to change his perfect plan is more effective if they have more people doing it? Is god not going to “bless America” unless a bunch of christian politicians make sure to ask him to in their every speech? (This is why I laugh at the whole “prayer warrior” idea. It’s just magical thinking.) They say “trust god” and “let go and let god” and then they spend long hours in prayer not trusting him and giving him advice on what to do.

Back when I was a believer, the only kinds of prayer that actually made sense were things like “Help me understand. Help me be strong to do the things that I need to do. Help me cope with what I can’t change.”

Now the way evangelicals pray would make a lot more sense if they were talking about a limited god, like the ones in the Greek pantheon. Those gods didn’t have perfect plans, didn’t know everything you were thinking, and if you sucked up to them enough, and sacrificed enough cattle, they might be willing to take your advice about what to do. Modern evangelicals often sound like they are preaching about YHWH and Jesus, but then praying and tithing to Zeus.