Monday, June 27, 2016

A New Take on New Atheism

I was reading one of Ed Feser's recent posts, in which he takes his customary swipe at "New Atheists".  This time, he didn't criticize anything that a particular person said or did, holding it up as an example of the bad behavior that he so often decries among the breed of modern atheists that he so despises.  This time, Feser takes a pot-shot at the broader community of modern atheists who he thinks fail to understand the implications of their own beliefs in the manner that some of the "Old Atheists" like Nietzsche did.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Religious Gays at War With Themselves

As pundits everywhere struggle to understand what motivated Omar Mateen to shoot scores of people in an Orlando gay nightclub, we see an ideological split among folks of different political persuasions.  Was it Islamic radicalism?  Was it hatred of gays?  The left wing tends to want to pin it on homophobia, while the right wants to pin it on Islamism, each according to their own political agenda.  Blogger and Christian culture warrior crude, naturally, is in the latter category.  In a recent post, he manages to make a slam against gay culture while at the same time ridiculing the notion that the attack was the product of anything but Islamism.

It seems reasonable to me that the real picture is more nuanced than either side may be willing to admit.  There is good reason to think that Mateen was homophobic - after all, he chose to target gay people in his attack.  At the same time evidence indicates that he was gay.  Also, Mateen publicly declared that he conducted this attack in support of ISIS, in retaliation for the people killed by US air attacks.  But he was a US citizen, born and raised in America.  And by the way, America, with its predominantly Christian culture, is where he learned to be homophobic.  So there seems to be at least some merit to the claim that our Christian culture might have had something to do with it.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fundamentalism Is About Fundamentals

After the terrorist attack in Paris, Richard Dawkins tweeted the famous line "If you don't like your religion's fundamentalists, then maybe there's something wrong with your religion's fundamentals".  This often-repeated statement echoes the sentiment of many skeptics of religion who believe that religious scriptures encourage the kind of violent behavior we see so often these days perpetrated by fundamentalist Christians and Islamists.  As described by Jake Stimpson in this article, the fundamentalists are the truest adherents of their religious traditions.  It is the religious moderates who deviate from them.

Sam Harris and others have written extensively on this topic.  Harris is critical of religious moderates for their role in perpetuating Iron Age barbarity, as seen in this excerpt from his book The End of Faith.  But as we know, Harris is a "new atheist".  As such his every word is subject to harsh criticism from self-appointed defenders of religious nonsense like Mikey at Shadow To Light.   Mikey is so intolerant of reason that he refuses even to listen to the argument of any so-called "gnu".  Instead he proceeds to cut down a straw man.  And as is his custom, he makes a complete fool of himself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Trump's Bombast and Bravado Appeal to the Stupid

The Donald has established a large base of support by creating a persona based on two main pillars that appeal primarily to people who are unable to discern illusion from reality.  First, he has set himself up as a friend of the regular Joe working class white guy.  Second, he comes across as a tough guy who promises to restore America's position of strength, both domestically and in world affairs.  Both of these pillars are fictions.  His policies are fraught with problems that should be apparent to any sensible voter.  But his target demographic does not consist of sensible voters.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Reppert's XYZ Question

Victor Reppert presents a challenge to everyone concerning the question of what constitutes evidence.  He states it this way:
It goes like this. X is evidence for Y just in case Z.

I've answered the question here at various times, and people are dissatisfied with my answer. Fine. I want to know your XYZ answer. If you are going to tell me I don't have any evidence, then apparently you have a different answer to the XYZ question than I do. But when I ask people what their answer is, I never find out.
Presumably, he wants people to provide some substitution for Z such that it makes a reasonable definition of 'evidence'.  Now this is a topic that he has written about before in his article Victor Reppert on the No Evidence Charge.  His own answer is "X is evidence for Y just in case X is more likely to exist given Y than given not-Y."  This may sound reasonable on its face, but it leads people down the wrong path before they ever have a chance to address the question of "What is evidence?"

Monday, June 6, 2016

On Militant Atheism

What does it mean to be militant atheist?  This is the adjective that is increasingly in vogue among Christians these days when applied to vocal atheists.  The word is defined in Merriam Webster as "having or showing a desire or willingness to use strong, extreme, and sometimes forceful methods to achieve something".  So the term "militant atheism" seems to imply the use some kind of undue coercive measures to remove religion from society against the will of believers.  It is therefore pejorative.  A distinction is drawn between the ordinary atheist, who is tolerated, and the militant atheist, who is seen as a plague upon society.  The ordinary atheist remains meek and silent, and poses no threat.  If he speaks up at all, it is only with deferential respect.  The militant atheist, on the other hand, says what he thinks, and in so doing, threatens to ruin everything for the believer.  And what is his method of forcing his odious beliefs upon the rest of the world?  Free speech.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Republican Support for the Earned Income Tax Credit

Wealthy Republicans say they hate socialism.  They despise anything that smacks of "redistribution of wealth".  That's why they hate any kind of taxation.  A person should be able to keep the money he earns, they say.  And government should be small.  Many believe that the only legitimate function of government is to defend the country, and protect life and property.  The purest of the capitalists will even say that there should be no public roads and schools.  Private businesses can provide such things, and do it more efficiently than government.  People who need to use roads or educate their children would pay only for what they use, and nothing more.

But even most Republicans understand that this Randian model is unrealistic.  Government must play a role in providing infrastructure and services that are part of a thriving economy.  Republicans support government to the extent that it helps them to prosper.  They need roads and bridges and other infrastructure elements to get their goods to market.  So rather than paying for it themselves, they support taxpayer-funded infrastructure.  When it comes to schools, they would prefer to send their own children to private schools, but it sure would be nice if they could get the taxpayers to pay for that too, so they support voucher programs that take money from public schools and hand it over it to them so they don't have to pay their own tuition bills for private education.