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Conclave evidence March 16, 2013

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Humor, Rants.
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5 comments

Religious people often accuse atheists of being “closed-minded”, claiming that we wouldn’t believe in their god even if they showed us evidence. I’d be perfectly willing to reconsider my position on the subject, if any solid evidence were ever provided. The problem is that they have an entirely different standard of what evidence is, and how much evidence is enough. Their god-claim is an extraordinary claim, and as such requires extraordinary evidence to support it. Their usual routine of “Look at how complicated the world is, I have a holy book, and I feel it in my heart” just doesn’t fly with me. But there are things that I would consider as good evidence pointing to a god, if they ever happened. But they don’t.

The recent conclave was a great opportunity for a god to give the whole world evidence that he actually existed. We had a bunch of powerful men running a corrupt institution, who were meeting to select a new leader who will protect and defend that institution from all outside threats. If there were no god, what we would expect is that these hard-liners will select a hard-liner from among their number who will continue running things just as they have always been. (Which is what always happens, and did again this time). But if these men actually had the kind of close link to a god that they claim they do, and if they were actually trying to listen to and obey the will of that god, then this would have been a great time for a god to produce an entirely unexpected result, and get the attention of the whole world.

Scenario One:  Cardinals emerge from conclave: “We’ve had a clear message from God that none of us is qualified to be Pope.  We’re all too involved in scandals and we’re totaly corrupt.  The next pope is to be chosen by popuar election, and present clergy are ineligible to run.”  This woud get my attention.

Scenario Two:  Cardinals emerge from conclave: “God told us not to elect any more Popes.  We’ve all been ordered by God to sell the Vatican, give all the money to the Red Cross and Planned Parenthood, disband the College of Cardinals, and then retire to a monastery.”  This would really get my attention.  I might start to think there actually wassomething to this god stuff  if something like that happened.

Scenario Three:

White smoke from the chimney (because if the Cardinals were actually guided by god, there would never be a need for any other kind).

Cardinals emerge onto the balcony and one steps to the mike.

“Erm, hello.  Yes…well…the thing is…    Um…well, we were expecting that God would lead us to elect a Cardinal as our next pope.  But we all had this vision first thing this morning.  Every one of us.  And then the jam in our breakfast oatmeal kept swirling around to form a name.  There was a face on each of our pancakes too, and it was all the same face, a face we recognized.  We thought, ‘This can’t be right!  We’re supposed to select a Cardinal!  We’re supposed to select a clergyman!  We’re supposed to pick a Catholic!  We’re supposed to pick a man!’

So we took our ballots, and we each wrote down the name of a Cardinal, and the ink actually moved on the page to spell a different name.  Every ballot!  Cardinal Dolan here even filmed it on his cellphone, just to be sure.  We’l post it on YouTube later today.

So…um…yeah…

Here’s your new Pope.  Chosen by God, this was totally not our idea:

(more…)

Ten Questions to Ask an Atheist May 31, 2012

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants.
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6 comments

I found this list of questions  on The Bittersweet End, and took a stab at answering them without reading the comments there first.  The comment system messed up my formatting as I was trying to copypasta my answers in from Word, so I’m also posting them here:

“I’m going to answer these without reading the other comments, so they won’t influence my answers.  So sorry if any of this is repetitive.

1. If there is NO God, then there is no Measurement or Standard for morality? Then what will define morality?

We are an aggressive species, but our success comes from being a social species as well.  Morality is just the set of rules that we have developed that allow us to live and function in groups.  As our connectedness with the rest of the world grows, we have to rework these rules.  “What works” is the standard.

2. If there is NO God, then there is NO meaning or purpose to Life; So not everything meaningless since there is no God? So what will the purpose of living? Without God, does the Atheist have purpose?

We are not given a purpose.  Purpose is something we have to create for ourselves.

3. Are you an advocate of New Atheism and Darwinism? If so then the most extreme and logical form of Darwinism is Eugenics, Survival of the fittest. Would you support this? Why or Why Not?

New Atheism is just the same as Old Atheism, except that we have gotten sick and tired of having to be quiet and pretend like we don’t exist.  So we’re not being quiet anymore.

I think Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is the right answer to the problem of how organisms change over time.  Eugenics has nothing to do with natural selection; it is an attempt to use artificial selection to produce better humans than three million years of the battle for survival has been able to.  Farmers have used artificial selection for thousands of years, and produced many useful plants and animals, but they always come with a trade-off.  We have plants that can’t reproduce without our help, purebred dogs with physical, temperamental and neurological problems, and sheep that are docile, fleecy, and completely helpless.  Using this idea to try to improve humans in some areas would produce humans that would completely suck in others.  It’s a terrible idea.

Survival of the fittest describes how we got here, not how we should live cooperatively in the present.

4. If we are ancestors/descendants of Apes, then why are there no transitional fossils or species to support this theory?

There are tons of transitional fossils, and we are finding new ones every day.  Pretending there aren’t any doesn’t make it so.

5. Do you believe in Human Nature? It is Human Nature to believe in God, if so, why do you go against human nature and not believe in God?

I think that humans have a psychology that developed to help us survive.  Part of that includes built-in mental shortcuts that help us make quick decisions under stress and with limited information.  Unfortunately, those shortcuts often lead us to jump to conclusions about whether a pattern exists, and whether an intentional agency is involved. (Better to assume every time that the rustle in the grass is a tiger who wants to eat you, even when it isn’t, than to get it wrong and be devoured.)  With our over-active pattern and agency detectors, we default to thinking “who is responsible” instead of “what is responsible”.  Nothing about this indicates that a god exists.

6. Can Nothing come from Something? Doesn’t that violate The First Law of Thermodynamics?

I think you meant “something come from nothing”.  In quantum physics, something comes from nothing all the time.  We don’t even know if “nothing” is stable, maybe it isn’t.  And we don’t know what “preceded” the singularity at the beginning of our space-time universe, so we can’t assume it was “nothing”.  We also can’t assume it was the war god of a mid-eastern Bronze-Age tribe of goatherders.

7. It seems that a society of Atheist are immoral and self-destructing. Why would anyone want a Godless Society, just look at our examples, North Korea, Maoist China, Stalin, & Pot Pol?

You listed totalitarian states, where blind devotion to a religion has been replaced, by force, with blind devotion to a leader, or to a political ideology.  I would not call any society where blind devotion is mandatory an “atheist state”.  They’ve just replaced one “religion” with another.

A better example is Sweden.  They are prosperous, happy, and one of the healthiest nations in the world.  The government does not try to force the people to be devoted to anything.  Religion is allowed, but most of the people don’t give a flip about it.  That’s a goal to aspire to.

8. If you were to die, and you were before God. And he was getting ready to pass judgment on you, What would be your reaction or thoughts? What plea would you give him so he does not judge you harshly?

I’d tell him he has a lot of explaining to do!  How dare he presume to pass judgment on us!  If he created us, then he created us as we are – imperfect.  Then he hid himself and made it impossible to tell for sure whether he was there or not.  He allowed horrible human suffering, not just from how we treat each other, but from natural disasters outside our control.  He allowed thousands of different religions to spring up, none clearly superior to any other. And then, since belief in various religions is clustered geographically, correct belief is highly dependent on what region one happens to be born into.  So he would presume to judge us for being born in the wrong place or the wrong time or not being gullible enough, or just plain being imperfect?  WTF?     I will grovel to no such incompetent tyrant.

9. What would convince you atheism is wrong? And that Christianity is Right?

I have a pass-phrase.  I’ve never told anybody what it is, or written it down.  It’s not a phrase that you will find in any book, to anybody else it will sound like nonsense.  I’ve thought it in my head many times, very loudly.  If your god is omniscient he knows what it is.  If he is omnipotent, he can communicate to someone what it is.  And if he wants me to know he exists, then all he has to do is tell a True Believer to come up to me and say this phrase.  When that happens, that’s the person I will listen to.  Until then, I assume all evangelists are equally full of crap.

Or – I suppose if the tree in my front yard started growing KJV bibles, that would get my attention.  Or if the stars rearranged themselves into a different bible verse every night.  But faith healing?   Faces on grilled cheese sandwiches?  Prayers that work no better than placebos?  Exhortations from TV preachers?  Give me a break.  If that kind of stuff would convince me, I would never have left religion.

10. Why are you an Atheist? Why do you NOT believe in God? Why do you reject God? (You can be as detailed as you want.)

I have insufficient evidence to support such a hypothesis.

If you don’t require evidence for believing in things, you might as well believe in the tooth-fairy, or the invisible space pickle or Flying Spaghetti Monster (pesto be upon Him).”

My Pass-Phrase March 22, 2012

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants.
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This is my standard response to persistent godbot trolls. I just had to use this on another one today, so I will post it here for easy reference in the future

This is a challenge to them to put up or shut up:

 “I have a pass-phrase.

I have never written it down or told anybody what it is.

It’s a sentence in plain english that is really unlikely to come up in normal conversation. I have thought it in my head, really loudly and clearly, many times.

If your god is real, and if your god is all-knowing, then he knows what it is.

If your god talks to you, and if your god is all-powerful then he can tell you what it is.

If you want me to think that you are a messenger from god, and not just a prattling child repeating fairy tales, then you are going to have to get your god to tell you what my pass-phrase is.

Go pray to your god, ask him to tell you the one specific sentence that will let me know that you are not full of BS, and then come back here and tell me what it is. If and only if you get it right, then I will listen to what you have to say. Since your god is supposedly “perfect” you should only need one try at this.

Now go away, and don’t come back until you have it. And if god won’t or can’t answer such a simple prayer for you, maybe you should think really hard about why.”

If there actually were an all-powerful god that communicates with human beings, that would be an important thing to know.  But I think the likelihood of this being true is vanishingly small.  So I’ve chosen a phrase that is unusual enough that the odds of an evangelist stumbling upon it randomly are similarly vanishingly small.  No cheating on this one.  No tricks or fakery will work for this.  They get it, word-for-word, or they fail.

My pass-phrase is very personal to me.  If a member of my immediate family heard what it was, they would say “Yes, of course, that’s totally what you would pick”.  But I will stick with not telling anyone what it is, not until some preacher somehow gets it right.  They are welcome to come here and leave my pass-phrase in a  comment, so I’d know that,  for once, there is a preacher that isn’t spouting nonsense.  I’m not holding my breath, though, they won’t get it.