Is God the Final Arbiter of Morality?

Ciao skeptics,

In today’s post, I am going to be talking about an argument which originally I could not find a problem with, due to the fact that it had all the bases covered. I knew there was something wrong with the argument, but I couldn’t find any holes with it. First though, some background.

In Ethics & Faith a fortnight ago, the topic for the lesson was morals, and I thought to my self how easy it would be to sweep the room, seeing how immoral the old-testament god is. I brought up the old idea asking whether or not killing 1 to save 100 is moral. He told me that killing the 1 to save 100 was immoral, and that he would do nothing, due to the fact that his bible told him to never murder. I then proposed the point that if killing 1 to save 100 is immoral, then god wiping out 2 whole cities, Sodom & Gomorrah, to stop them from a bit of rape and blasphemy must be magnitudes more moral. What he said next is the argument which stuck me up, he told me that god is the final arbiter of morality, what he says goes, and that his ways are higher than our ways.
I’d heard many Christians say before “God’s ways are higher than our ways”, but I had never heard the murder of the old-testament god justified by this cop-out. Basically telling me that god writes the rules, he can do whatever he wants because what he says goes, and that the definition of morality is god.

I immediately had to think about this one, and I could not find anything wrong with it, if you accept that god writes the rules. But both of the eventual holes I found with the argument came about during more recent discussions with the school father.

The first comes about due to a story about Jesus. When Jesus is growing up, he goes fasting in the desert for a while, and is tempted by the devil, so that he can experience the ways of humans. When I was reminded of this story, I had a light-bulb moment. If Jesus is god, and god can justify his actions due to the fact that he is god, then why doesn’t Jesus succumb to temptation and do what the devil says. I mean, it’s not a sin when Jesus does it, because god writes the rule book. Jesus can do what ever he likes, turn the stones into bread, because he can write a loop-hole in the rule book which allows him to do it. After thinking “So god can write and re-write the rules when he likes then… that reminds me of something I know” I had a second argument against this excuse of god.

The second inspirational moment I had was during school worship, when our Father told us (and god) that God is worthy of much worship and praise. Any god who can do what they want, when they want, even if it is against the rules they write, is definitely NOT worth praise!

Anybody who has ever been outside around children has met somebody who changes the rules when they like to suit them. There are people like that who still act that way into their adulthood. When you spend some time with them, you get very angry at them, and have some thoughts about them which can be summed up with “Hypocrite!”
Now imagine that this person is your god! If you knew that your god could kill you right now, as well as the rest of your family and friends, for no particular reason, and justify it by saying “Well, I write the rule book, so I can do what I want.” I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of eternity with this bloke, living by his rules, which could change at any time, whenever he wants to do something the rules don’t allow him to.

God, if he is allowed to do whatever he likes, because he writes the rules, is not going to be a very good god to live with, and is a god who I would not call god. He would be the sort of guy who would say “Do as I say, not as I do.” which is a huge sidestep on morality.

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Does Science Uncover What the Scriptures Predicted?

Hello there, skeptics and critical thinkers,

I have recently been listening to ‘Unbelievable?’ the podcast on Premier Christian Radio, and they have been championing a view which I have heard by quite a lot of Christians. They believe that the new discoveries of science all point towards what the bible has been saying for the last couple of thousand years. They say that the bible has been saying things about the multiverse, fine-tuning of the universe and evolution for years and years, and will point to specific verses in the bible which is said to talk about these topics. Today I will be giving my two-cents about this idea.

One of the most common verses is that the bible says that the earth is a sphere, and point to Isaiah 40:22, which states, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth”. Many point to this and say, “See, the Bible thought the Earth was a sphere even before Science thought it”. Other’s will point to Hebrews 11:3 and say, “Aha! The bible also predicts atoms!”, Hebrews 11:3 actually states “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do”. A few things can be said about these verses. First of all… VAGUE!!! These are just a small snippet of the amazingly wishy-washy talk which is the bible. Most psychics could make much more specific claims than what we just read, and we all know how vague and unspecific psychics are.

The second is that these verses are open to quite a lot of interpretation. Take Isaiah 40:22, for example. This verse could be interpreted as meaning that the world is a flat disc. Seeing that it says ‘circle’ and not ‘sphere’ would probably suggest that it means ‘circle’. It’s quite a leap to go from “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth” to “the Earth is a sphere”. When people bring up this verse to suggest a circular earth, they often also say that the ‘science’ of the time and throughout the middle ages thought the earth was a disc. What they are forgetting is that they probably made that judgement based on what they read in these few passages.

Another thing to bring up is this. When people scour through their bible to find passages like this that support the science of today, they are forgetting and reading past the MOUNTAINS of biblical scripture which is in direct contradiction with science. They ignore the entire Genesis story, the rising of Lazarus and Jesus, parting of the seas, and countless miracles which are strictly in disagreement with what science thinks about the universe and nature.

There is a large scope of views on this point, from Hugh Ross, founder of ‘Reasons to Believe’, who thinks that all of modern science has been predicted by the bible, to views like mine, who think that they are all just some lucky guesses amongst a vast sea of incorrect statements, logical fallacies and falsehoods, written in a vague, wishy-washy talk which is similar to the psychic predictions we are all familiar with. But I hope that I have swayed you towards a more skeptical view of these claims.

Science is the Only Way to Test Reality

Hello there skeptics,

Today I am going to be blogging about the wonderfulness of science, and how it is not some abstract way of looking at the universe (as the post-modernists will have you believe), it is actually a fundamental part of the universe, and is THE way to test reality.

Something my mother has told me for a long time since I came out of the closet about being a skeptic and an atheist, is “Science is not the only way of knowing things, there are plenty of other ways.” I’ve never asked her what these other ways might be, but should could be talking about either of two lists of ‘ways of finding out things’ :-
1. The ignorant list – she could be talking about things like logic, philosophy etc., in which she is just being ignorant and does not know that both logic and philosophy stem from science.
2. The post-modernist list – She really means what she says, and thinks the other ways of knowing are things like belief, spiritualism, mysticism etc., in which she is also being ignorant, because these things are either testable by science or not real.

I will start with a distinction, the fact that science is able to test anything is not just some blatant statement, its true. Anything which is real (reality), is testable by science. Now you may say, “Supernatural things are not testable by science”, this is a common misconception, supernatural things like ghosts and spirits are testable by science, but once they are testable by science they are not supernatural. A common misunderstanding is that there are things that science can test, there are supernatural things which cannot be tested, but are real, and there are things which don’t exist. This is wrong. Things are either real, (have some sort of measurable effect on the universe) or they are not real. Ghosts, for example, they could be real, and in which case, they are testable by science, or they could not be real, in which they are not testable by science. If something can be measured, (demon possessions, spirit hauntings, homeopathy, acupuncture etc.) then it is part of the real world and can be tested by science. There is no possibility of something having an effect on the universe around us (curing a patients cancer, making a possessed person’s head spin 360°, create the universe etc.), and not be testable by science.

That is because science is just measuring the world around us, in the purest and simplest form, and this is amazing to me, because it is the only discipline where you know that the same thing will be found over and over again. Think of the greatest three scientists of the last two centuries, Darwin, Tesla, Einstein. If these people were never to have existed, then somebody else would have made their discoveries instead. Somebody else, probably Wallace, would have published the theory of evolution, somebody else would have invented the Tesla coil (albeit with a different name) and AC electricity, and somebody else would have theorized special and general relativity. This is true because the outcomes of science are based on reality.

Science by definition, is the measuring and describing of the world around us, and it is the one and only way to find out things about the reality of the world we live in. I will eave you with a quote from

The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of the Creation-Abiogensis/Big Bang ‘Debate’

Hello there, all my moral, just, secular people,

Today’s post was inspired by a television show which aired on the ABC (Australia) entitled Q&A, which every week presents a handful of politicians, public figures, theologians and atheists, for an open discussion and Questions from the live and internet audiences, hence the name Q&A. This weeks program was a special program, because it put forward only two panelists, along with the host, and these where the Atheist Richard Dawkins, and Catholic priest George Pell. Richard Dawkins has made appearances on the show before, but this was the first time he went ‘head-to-head’ with only a Christian joining him on the panel. The show has made quite and impact in the media, with a lot of discussion about it going on even on the radio the next morning. The show can be viewed in full right here at this link here -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi1EDDuMksw. I will surely be making my comments on the show over the next few days, but here is today’s rant.

During the show, this oft quoted argument was brought up by George Pell, he said (not an exact quote) “Science can tell us a lot about the ‘how’, with evolution and the big bang, but it doesn’t tell us a lot about they ‘why.'” This argument is talked about by Roy Williams in his book I am reading at the moment, and I have heard it from others too. This whole argument is both a red-herring and a non-sequiter, and Richard Dawkins summarized it very well, “That’s just not a valid question.” The whole question of ‘why’ does the universe exist, is not relevant, its like asking why unicorns aren’t very good at snooker. In that way it is a non-sequiter.

Even if you do grant that ‘why’ is a valid question, it is not a question for the science, nor is it a question which could change the fact that the big bang or abiogenesis happened. The question is for philosophers and humanists.

The ‘Why’ question, “Why are we here.” Is also a good example of the unstated major premace fallacy, the question just assumes that there must be some meaning for our existence, when it is quite plausible that we could have no purpose to exist.

This question is also a red herring because it side-steps the real question of the ‘how’. This is the whole problem with Roy Williams’ book, at the start he asks the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ question, and he says, “Science knows the how, but not the why, I’ll write a book about the why.” In this way he can write a whole book without having to address a single question about ‘how’.
It is a really annoying question, because to people who are not aware of the fact that ‘why’ is not a logical question, the argument can have some weight. Most people like to have a purpose for their life, and this is where they get all caught up. The miss the point that Atheism has a point too, “We only live for 80 or so years, and we have no afterlife to look forward too, so lets just make the world as good as possible in this short time.”

I will leave you with my favourite quote from the entire evening where George Pell accidentally walks all over his own argument to try to just contradict Richard Dawkins on everything,
“Dawkins: the only thing that might convince me that Christianity is true is if a 700 ft Jesus walked into the room and said ‘I exist’, and I’m not even sure if that would convince me.
Pell: I’d say ‘you are hallucinating’.”

‘And God Created’ Running Theme in the Bible

Hello there, half-banana men,

Today I am going to be talking (well, writing actually, but you get what I mean) about an argument used by my chaplain at school to show that god created the universe. But first I will say how proud I am to have a RE teacher like him, because he is the sorta guy who says, “Yes, evolution happened, and it was probably natural, but god set it all up at the start with the big bang.” I like those sorts of religious people, he even reckons that bio-genesis could  have occurred naturally. I almost have to put him as a non-creationist, but he did put forth an argument a few weeks ago which I think is logically invalid.

He first showed us a video, created by some young-earth, AiG supporting, genesis-is-true video company, about Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden, the story of Genesis visually. After that he proceeded to tell us, “I don’t believe that is true, I don’t think the earth is 6 000 years old, it is best to be just treated as a metaphor.” He then showed to us an outline of the story of Genesis. Here it is,
“God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.
He then showed us the pattern of the story of Genesis.
God created…
God created…
God created…
God created…
etc.
He then told us this:-
The story of Genesis is a story that was passed down from generation to generation through the ages, and this means that some of the details of the story were a bit off, but the main pattern of the story still holds, “God created…” The story of Genesis is not literal, but it shows us one key thing, god created the heavens and the earth.

I am going to advance my reasons for why this argument is invalid. First of all, I agree with one of his first major premaces, that stories change  over time, but I don’t think he has taken it to its full extent. He says that the big pattern of a story will always hold, but almost all scientific studies done on memory show that the details are not all that memory malleability keeps itself too. It can change almost anything in the story, from the timing of things or the emotions or the exact way your mother’s face looked when you smashed her vase, all the way to things like who was in the room, which vase you broke, how big the vase was, whether it was intentional or accidental, whether you used a baseball bat or a golf club. Any of those things can be changed over time with a memory.

My second objection to this argument is a logical one. My question for him was, “How was the story kick-started, who got the inside scoop that ‘goddidit’? Nobody would have been around before big bang to witness god write the rules and light the match. This question, he had no answer too because the bell was 10 minutes away and he decided it was time to pack up.

I will leave you with a quote from Josh Thomas, “As an atheist, having a Christian threaten me with hell is like having a hippy threaten to punch me in my aura.” Josh Thomas, An Australian Comedian of some note.

Roy Williams is making yet another straw man

I am reading through god, actually, by Roy Williams and I have decided that I am going to be blogging about all off the big errors he makes in his logic. Today’s post will be about how Roy has yet again oversimplified and misrepresented atheism, agnosticism and skepticism. Roy has made the claim that atheists fall into two categories when it comes to how we perceive ourselves (humans) in the universe. He has summed them up as follows:-
One extreme is the belief that humans are just another animal, they are in no way different from chimps or mice or dogs or frogs or sheep or mosquitoes.
The other end of the spectrum is that humans are superior to all other things in the universe, and are very special. and are gods of the universe, humanism. 

Williams then shoots down the first point by saying that humans are a special sort of animal, with conscience and cognition.
He also then dismantled humanism by saying that we do not have free power over the whole universe, and that we do not have the whole universe to use as a mining site.

I am going to be arguing about these two misconceptions in today’s post.

When Williams states that some atheists believe that humans are just other animals, to some extent I agree with him, but he has taken it beyond the extreme, a classic straw man argument. Any atheist who believes that humans are just another mammal will agree that humans are a very unique type of animal. We do have very good cognition and a conscience to base our decisions on. but atheists do not say that humans are just exactly like chimps and apes and we have no special worth on this planet.

The other end of the spectrum is also just the same straw man. Most humanists believe that humans are a special type of mammal, but that they have arrived out of all other mammals. No humanist that I know believes that humans are gods of this planet.

Williams then asserts that humans are unique and that this must mean that there is a god which designed us. I do not think that this is a logically valid assumption. It is easily explained by nature how a species like us could have come into being, but I will talk about that tomorrow night.

I will leave you with a quote from John Ralston Saul, “Humanism: an exaltation of freedom, but one limited by our need to exercise it as an integral part of nature and society.” John Ralston Saul, a Canadian author of some note.

Why is heaven not that appealing to me?

Hello there skeptical people all over the world,

Today I am going to be blogging about the prospect of heaven, and how, if it is how the bible sets it out to be, it probably wouldn’t be such a nice place to live in.

In the bible, heaven is defined as the place where god dwells. Obviously, this is not the only place god in present, remember, god is everywhere, and in everything. But heaven is the place where he is the ruling spirit, and the devil is not allowed to come into. This also means that there is no sin in heaven, and it is supposedly the happiest place that could ever exist. Imagine the greatest place you could be in, well, heaven would be better than that.

Now, hell is not mentioned in the bible as much as heaven is, but according to most Christians, we can get a pretty good idea of what it would be like. Apparently, People who say to god, “I don’t want to have you in my life”, god says to them, “OK, here is your wish, you can live without me, for the rest of eternity”, This would be a place full of only sin and torture and the devil and a lot of bad things. Quite a lot of bad things.
If you stopped reading here, it would sound like a very simple choice, to go with heaven, but I don’t think it is quite that simple.

Think of the whole idea of the church, to stop people from sinning. Sin is not a very good thing to do, and without it we would all live sinful lives. It also seems that a lot of very enjoyable things in life are sinful. Adultery, being proud, blasphemy and over-indulgence are all considered sins. So it also follows that if heaven is a sinless place, then there would be a lot of things that you would miss out on. Hell would be a place with all of these things still included. So a place which is sinless might not be all that much of a hoot.

Lets also consider the people who would be dwelling in these two places. In heaven you have people like
your local pastor (mine freaks me out), your mother-in-law, your neighbor, your religious ex, Hitler and Benny Hill. Also consider the fact that if somebody like me makes it into heaven, they will be pointing at me and saying, “I told you so!”
Lets consider the sort of people who you would be expecting to be in hell. Most good comedians, your atheist friends and Christopher Hitchens. I would much rather be sitting around with those guys for eternity than Benny Hill.

I will leave you with a quote from Christopher Hitchens, “By trying to adjust to the findings that it once tried so viciously to ban and repress, religion has only succeeded in restating the same questions that undermined it in earlier epochs. What kind of designer or creator is so wasteful and capricious and approximate? What kind of designer or creator is so cruel and indifferent? And—most of all—what kind of designer or creator only chooses to “reveal” himself to semi-stupefied peasants in desert regions?” Christopher Hitchens, a famous atheist and author of some note.

Investigating Agnosticism

Hello there!

Recently, during my internet browsing, I have been finding a few articles critical of agnosticism. They talk about how agnosticism is self-defeating by definition and is a silly, fence-sitting, worthless position to take on the stance of religion. I am going to contend that view in today’s post. It is worth pointing out that these attacks on agnosticism or in fact, staw-men logical fallacies, which will be covered at a later date. I will start by drawing out a few lines in the sand. I am going to define the four main different types of agnosticism.

The first, and weakest agnosticism is the view that there has never been and will never be any proof for god, for evolution, for creation, or anything historical or theological, also known as forever an historical agnostic, or FHA. When talking about this sort agnosticism, I agree that it is a very weak position, and there is no science to back it up. There is nothing going for this agnosticism, and it is just making a bad name for agnostics as a whole. It is more often a made up position by Christians trying to attack some secular position than one taken by seculars themselves.

The second stage of agnosticism is a weak one, and is on about level pegging with the third stage of agnosticism, but I rank this one lower because it is easier for a creationist to attack that level three. This agnosticism states that there is never any way in which science could prove or disprove a god, because supernatural things are outside the realm of science, also known as forever a theistic agnostic, or FTA. This is also a very weak view on religions, because obviously, there is a way in which a god could be proved. You simply observe a true miracle, which has no possible other mechanisms of action, something truly amazing. This would be some interesting evidence for a supernatural deity, but more than one account would be required.

The third stage of agnosticism is still a very weak position that I do not agree with, and it takes the view that there is currently no evidence for god, or a supernatural deity, and that at some day there may come to bear some proof either way on the subject, or currently agnostic, CA. This is a position that I will agree with, but that I do not take up myself. It is a correct view to a sense, and I take up some of the ideas of this agnosticism. But the bits I do agree with from it are better fit into the final stage of agnosticism.

This fourth stage is probably how I would best describe myself. It is a much stronger view on deities, and I think that most of the world’s atheists will technically fall into this group. This agnosticism is of the view that there is currently no proof for a god or deity, (no proof = current disproof in science) and that a god is almost impossible, because of some fundamental boundaries. However, if it comes to pass that there is some proof of a god, then this view will change to suit that observation, otherwise known as agnostic atheism, or AA. This is my world view.
There is almost certain proof against an all-powerful or all-knowing god in today’s world, but if it is proved that there is a god, then I will happily bow down and worship him, once proper evidence comes to bare.

That’s all for agnosticism today, I will leave you with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, ” Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.” Kurt Vonnegut, an American Writer of some note.

How I want my funeral to be

Today I went to the funeral of a neighbor of mine, we have known each other for about 10 years since he moved to our area. After the service, I got to thinking about how I want my funeral to be like. I don’t often stray from the science on this blog, but I will today. Of course, none of this is for my pleasure, I will be dead in a casket, but I want the people paying their respects for me to enjoy the funeral. I hope this helps.

  1. I want to have an organist who knows how to play the organ. The organist today was not that impressive. I have been teaching myself how to play the keyboard for about a month now and I am better with a sustain pedal than he is.
  2. If there are songs sung, I want them to be sung by somebody who has passed at least level 3 in singing. The singer today was also the organist, and he was struggling to juggle the words and the keys. He also had the voice of a man who has had their voice-box replaced with a block of wood. It was not a pleasurable sound.
  3. Obviously, I want a secular funeral. I want not Jesus crosses or mentions of god, Jesus, savior, holy spirit, spirit, soul, master, lord, etc.. This is not because it will be annoying for me, I’m dead, I won’t be able to hear what is being said. It is also not because some people may think I am religious if they here the words spoken during my funeral, again, I’m dead, what do I care about my self-image. The main reason I intend on having a secular funeral is because hopefully, my children and family and friends will be atheist or agnostic, and it would be annoying for them to hear of me being spoken about as ‘being seated with god’ or having ‘his soul going to a better place’. This would be bothering for them.
  4. I don’t want to have sad organ music playing, I don’t want people to be sad at my funeral, so I want them to put on something a bit more upbeat, just to lift the mood a bit. I know this sounds strange, that I don’t want people to be sad at my funeral. I think that people can be sad at home if they want, I want people to remember me at my funeral, not think about my death.
  5. There will not be any bad sandwiches served in the fellowship after my funeral. Every single sandwich will be chosen by me, on rye bread. I want egg & salad; corn meat & strawberry jam; tomato, cheese & ham; peanut butter. The only other thing at the fellowship will be plain sponge cake, orange juice and coffee. (No tea, I hate tea.)

I will leave you with a quote from Mark Steel, “The annoying thing about being an atheist is that you’ll never have the satisfaction of saying to believers, ‘I told you so.'” Mark Steel, A social columnist, comedian and author of some note.

Explaining my beliefs

Hello skeptical fellows,

I will start with an apology. I haven’t blogged for the last few days due to the fact that my mother banned me from doing so for 2 days. I don’t know why, she just banned me. But any way. I recently to explain my belief about deities and other things. I will do so with this post.

I will give a title to my belief now and justify it in the post. If asked to be pinned down on my beliefs, I would have to call myself a Militant Agnostic Atheist. That may sound paradoxical, militant and agnostic, but I will explain.

I am atheist because I do not believe that there is any supernatural deity that watches over us and observes every action we take, or care about us in general. I do not believe in a god that you can pray to in order to ensure yourself of having a good day. I do not believe that there is any god that has the power to change the laws of physics. I also do not believe in any god which wrote the physical laws of the universe, or even set the big bang in motion.

I am a Militant atheist because with the current state of the science, I am pretty sure that there is not a god. I am almost certain that no deity exists. It would take a lot of evidence to convince me that there is a god, because of all of the evidence against god, all the logic against god, and the fact that god is unnecessary in our universe. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

I am also an Agnostic Atheist because if you showed me reasonably well that a god must exist, then I would be happy to change my world view to fit what the science says. I am agnostic because I will change my beliefs if it is obvious that I should. Agnosticism, (the proper kind, not the “oh, evolution requires faith as well as creationism” kind of agnosticism) will change to suit the evidence, because agnosticism does not require any predisposed beliefs about the world, it just listens to the facts. I am agnostic in this way.

This is similar to Douglas Adam’s view, He believed very strongly in the atheist world view, not because he has already has a prejudice towards atheism, but because he spent a lot of time looking at all the evidence, examining all the logic, examining it to a great level, and has decided that there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is a deity. He really did believe that there was no god. That is why, despite being truly an agnostic, he called himself a radical atheist, just to show how strongly he felt about his world view.

I will leave you with a quote from Douglas Adams, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” Douglas Adams, English writer and atheist of some note.