Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Faith in God IS a Crutch

This article was sent to me after I said that faith, at best is a crutch.  The original article can be found at gotquestions.org.  In the usual fashion, I will put the article here as it appeared on 01 January 2015, and my comments will be in red ink.
Question: "Is faith in God a crutch?"
Answer:Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota, once said, “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers.” Agreeing with him is pornographer Larry Flynt, who commented, “There's nothing good I can say about it [religion]. People use it as a crutch.” Ted Turner once simply said, "Christianity is a religion for losers!" Ventura, Flynt, Turner, and others who think like them view Christians as being emotionally feeble and in need of imaginary support to get through life. Their insinuation is that they themselves are strong and in no need of a supposed God to help them with their lives.
Such statements bring a number of questions: Where did such thinking start? Is there any truth to it? And how does the Bible respond to such assertions?  Again here is the common tactic of using the bible to refute an argument.  Where this becomes a problem, is that to the theist, their sacred texts are unquestionable, and infallible.  To the non-believer, they are just fiction.  What this means is that if a theist wants to put forth an argument it must not be scripture based, as the scriptures have no rational authority.  The scriptures only have authority for the congregation, not those outside of it.
Is faith in God a crutch? - The Impact of Freud
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist who founded the practice of psychoanalysis, a system espousing the theory that unconscious motives dictate much of human behavior. Though championing atheism, Freud admitted that the truth of religion could not be disproved and that religious faith has provided comfort for untold numbers of people through history. However, Freud thought the concept of God was illusionary. In one of his religious works,The Future of an Illusion, he wrote, “They [believers] give the name of ‘God’ to some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves.”
As to the motivation for creating such illusions, Freud believed two basic things: (1) people of faith create a god because they have strong wishes and hopes within them that act as comfort against the harshness of life; (2) The idea of God comes from the need for an idyllic father figure that eclipses either a non-existent or imperfect real father in the life of a religiously-minded person. Speaking of the supposed wish-fulfillment factor in religion, Freud wrote, “They [religious beliefs] are illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind. We call belief an illusion when a wish-fulfillment is a prominent factor in its motivation and in doing so we disregard its relation to reality, just as the illusion itself sets no store by verification.”
For Freud, God was nothing more than a psychological projection that served to shield an individual from a reality he does not want to face and cannot cope with on his own. After Freud came other scientists and philosophers who asserted the same thing and said that religion is just an illusion/delusion of the mind. Robert Pirsig, an American writer and philosopher who typifies Freud’s followers, has said, “When one person suffers from a delusion, it's called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it's called religion.”
What we have here is the build up of a classic straw man.  Freud new little if nothing of archaeology or anthropology as they were primarily new fields of study in Freud's lifetime.  Thus, Freud based his views on his own flawed research into psychoanalysis.  Freud is often attacked for the God is a crutch argument, because his is the easiest to build an argument against.  This is so, because Freud's argument is that the Christi-Muslim concept of an all powerful God is a fairly recent development in human history.
The history of religion begins with mythological explanations for natural occurrences.  Along the way, the idea of a spirit comes into play.  This is due to how human conscience works.  We are able to not only distinguish ourselves from, say, a lamp but our sense of spacial separation (or self) is so great that it is flawed.  It is flawed in that we can separate "our self" from our body.  It doesn't take a great imaginary leap to conclude that animals, rocks, trees and the sky have these "souls" or "spirits" too.  
I'm actually surprised that the author didn't include Karl Marx's claim that religion is the opiate of the masses.  Instead, he quotes Robert Pirsig, a practicing Buddhist author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Where the author gets that Pirsig was a "follower" of Freud, I don't know. I can't find any information on that.
Below is a simple illustration as to how religions can evolve over time.
Why does it rain?  
The sky-god sweats.  
Why isn't it raining now?  
We must have pissed off the sky-god.  
What does he want?  
A new bride!  
Ok, let's sacrifice a virgin to send her spirit to the sky-god.  
There are no virgins, except for small children.  
Then let's make some rules that girls cannot have sex until they take a husband.  
They'll never go for that.  
Then tell them that the sky-god commands it!  They will be rewarded by the sky-god if they stay a virgin until marriage, and punished if they do not.  
But if they have premarital sex and are not punished, won't that give up the game? 
Hmmm.  I know! We'll tell them that the rewards and punishment are for their soul and come after they die.  
What about the above charges? Is there any truth to the assertions made by Freud and others?
Examining the Claims of the “Crutch Crowd”
When making an honest examination of these claims, the first thing to recognize is what those making the assertions are claiming about themselves. Deriders of religion are saying that Christians are prone to psychological and wish-fulfillment factors that they, the skeptics, are not. Not at all.  Any person is prone to flights of fancy, and wishful thinking.  A skeptic is one how uses the tools of reason, science and logic, to keep their own flights of fancy in check.  Occasionally, Skeptics have to keep an eye out for those who wish to force their flights of fancy on others: such a priests, ideologues, quacks, and other con-men. But how do they know that? For example, Freud saw the need for a Father God as an outworking of emotionally needy people desiring a father figure, but could it be that Freud himself had an emotional need for no father figure to exist? And perhaps Freud had an outworking of wish-fulfillment that manifested in not wanting a Holy God and judgment in the afterlife to exist, a wish for hell not to be real. Demonstrating the plausibility of such thinking is the writing of Freud himself who once said, “The bad part of it, especially for me, lies in the fact that science of all things seems to demand the existence of a God.” Again, more build up of a straw man.  Freud was a shrink, and a bad one at that.  He wasn't a philosopher and really didn't follow the scientific method.  Consider that he is the one who turned everything cylindrical into a phallic symbol, yet said that "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Freud is easily picked on because he has no credible defenders.  
It would seem reasonable to conclude, as Freud and his followers have argued in their position, that the only way a person could overcome “demanding” black-and-white evidence of something is by creating an illusionary hope that overpowers the verifications of God’s existence, and yet they do not consider this a possibility for them. Some atheists, however, have honestly and openly admitted this likelihood. Serving as one example, atheist Professor/Philosopher Thomas Nagel once said, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and naturally hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope that there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.”
Most Atheists who hope there is no God are referring specifically to the God of Abraham.  The God depicted in the Torah (that's Old Testament to you gentiles), is a horrible god.  He is a boastfully jealous, petty, misogynistic, genocidal bully that has a fascination with genitals.  On the other hand, the Hindu Brahman, or even Spinoza's God do not scare the Atheist, and if such a being were real, an Atheist would want to know about it!
Another consideration to keep in mind is that not all aspects of Christianity are comforting. For example, the doctrine of hell, the recognition of humankind as sinners who are unable to please God on their own, and other similar teachings are not of the warm-and-fuzzy kind. How does Freud explain the creation of these doctrines?
Ah, the doctrine of Hell, and sin.  The original Hell can be found in Zoroastrian writings, as they have a version of it.  The same is true of Hades's realm, some parts of it can be considered a hell.  As far as sin, what is considered sin is a crime against God.  If you do not do what he says then you sin.  Judeo-Christi-Muslim religions aren't the first to conceive of a hell, or even sin.  But I think they may be the first to ABUSE their children by telling their kids that they are evil.
The idea of inventing an illness that only you have a cure for is an old con.  This is precisely what snake-oil salesmen do.  Have a bloated tummy?  It's too much gluten, by my over priced bread to ease your weight!  Have subluxations?  I'm the only one who can even see them, and with a quick snapping of your neck I can cure them!  Have sin?  Then do everything I say and they'll go away after you die, and it is all for the low low price of 10% of your income!
An additional thought that springs from the above question is why, if humankind merely invents the concept of God to make itself feel better, would people fabricate a God who is holy?  Social control. Refer to my example above.  It is a fictitious illustration, but one that took little imagination on my part.  It is hard for a ruler to justify sending young men into combat to be killed for royal glory and the ruler's personal gain.  However, if the ruler can convince his subjects that God commanded them to do so, then they will much more easily.  Why so many regulations?  Some are to keep communal order, some are to make a sense of tribalistic community (like rules on how long to grow your beard) and others are to keep control of family planning in the hands of those who are in control in the social hierarchy. Such a God would seem to be at odds with people’s natural desires and practices. In fact, such a God would seem to be the last type of god they would come up with. Instead, one would expect people to create a god who agrees with the things they naturally want to do instead of opposing the practices that they themselves (for some reason yet to be explained) label as “sinful.” What the author is trying to do is confuse the reader.  Here the "they" is supposed to be ALL of the followers who crafted the religion.  However, in reality, the "they" were the few in power.  And let's not forget that those in power mostly did not follow their own rules.  In biblical times, most kings were either held as gods, (like the Pharaoh, or Caesar), or were seen as direct voices of the gods.  Thus they got to make their own rules, and were not typically forced to keep them.
One last question is how do the “crutch” claims explain people who initially were hostile to religion and did not want to believe? Such people seemingly had no wish or desire for Christianity to be true, yet after an honest examination of the evidence and an acknowledgement of its “realness,” they became believers. What is meant by "realness"?  I have to say, that I find it amusing that the author had to put "realness" in quotes.  English scholar C. S. Lewis is one such person. Lewis is famous for saying there was no more reluctant convert in all of England than himself, that he was literally dragged kicking and screaming into the faith, which is hardly a statement that one would expect from a person engaged in a wish-fulfillment fantasy.
The crutch outlook has nothing to do with whether there is or is not a god.  
These issues and questions seem to be at odds with the claims of the “crutch” crowd and are conveniently ignored by them. But what does the Bible have to say about their claims? How does it answer their charges?
I've omitted the biblical section, which would go here as it is not necessary for the rest of this post.  Again the author tries to use the bible to prove god.  Again, the bible would only have authority of god exists, so using the bible to prove god is a circular argument.  One quickly tires of spinning of biblical proportions.
Is faith in God a crutch? - Conclusion
Jesse Ventura was wrong when he said that religion is nothing more than a crutch. Such a statement speaks to the prideful nature of man and epitomizes the type of people rebuked by Jesus in the book of Revelation: “You say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
The wish-fulfillment claims of Freud, Ventura, and others only act as an indictment against themselves and showcase their desire to reject God and His claim to their lives, which is exactly what the Bible says fallen humankind does. But to these same people, God asks that they recognize their true desires and offers Himself in the place of the false hope of humanism that they cling to.
The Bible’s statements regarding the fact and evidence of Christ’s resurrection bring comfort and real hope—hope that does not disappoint—and instruct us to walk in a way that trusts God and recognizes our true “weak” position before Him. Once that is done, we become strong, just as Paul said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
I have stated that this article is a straw man argument because the author is trying to refute the claim that since religion is a crutch, god does not exist.  That is not the claim at all.  To say that religion is a crutch is not to imply that those who are religious are weak and stupid.  At least not always.  Picture this, you see a man with no legs in a wheel chair.  Do you consider the man weak and stupid?  Of course not.  What about a girl with a leg cast, moving about on a crutch?  Nope, neither stupid nor weak, just hurt.  And that is how religion is a crutch.  There are times we need someone to lean on, and at times, a group to lean on.  Those you lean on act as a crutch to keep you from falling... to keep you on your own two feet.  And this is what is meant by religion is a crutch.  It is also what Karl Marx meant by religion being the "opiate of the masses".  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Suing Missouri in the Name of Satan

I've been following this story for the past few weeks and I've debated if I should write about it. The reason for it, is that as an Atheist and a Skeptic, I don't endorse any religion. But after reading an opinion piece by the attorney Howard Slugh in the National Review. I think the case bears mentioning.

The story is of "Mary Doe" who  appealed to the Satanic Church of New Your to help her sue Missouri over a 72 hour waiting period for abortion.  The suit declares that the 72 hour waiting period for an abortion violates Mary's religious freedom to get an abortion on demand.

Missouri, like many states has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), similar to Indiana's RFRA that got their Governor in hot water a couple of months ago. The difference between Missouri's RFRA and Indiana's is that Missouri's really doesn't have any teeth.

That brings me to Slugh's (what an unfortunate name) article. He begins by assessing the Satanic Church itself concluding that they don't really worship the devil, but "troll religious people".  This is kind of like how Prosperity Christians really don't believe in Christ, they just troll poor people.  What Slugh is doing is trying to discredit the Church's religious beliefs as "valid" religious beliefs (which is an oxymoron).

The suit rests that by forcing a woman to wait 72 hours and receive pamphlets on "alternatives" to abortion, violates the woman's right not to have religion forced upon her. In Missouri, women are subjected to sit through a lecture and read material that is anti-abortion in nature and then wait the 72 hours before the procedure.  The trouble with that is two fold.  One is that the reason women must endure the lecture, etc. is based on religious moralization.  The second reason, and the most heinous, is that the law treats women as incapable decision makers by assuming that women would not, or cannot, weigh the pros and cons of such a large decision for themselves; the state has to force them to do so.

Slugh, naturally, calls the suit frivolous, and he may be right, Missouri's RFRA has almost no teeth. Also, he states that the suit is over Mary being exposed to views contrary to her religion as the base of the suit (When does "life" begin? When is a clump of cells a person? different religions have different answers, different philosophies as well -- thus no answer is "factual" and belongs in a medical pamphlet) , but this is a misrepresentation.  However, an article by the Washington Post, that is more representative of  the facts of the case, point out that the 72 hour waiting period violates her religious tenets and her privacy.  This is the kind of case that may go to the Supreme Court.

Where Slugh is correct, and what led me to write this post, is that the case is not just about the violation of women's rights, but about publicity.  And what beautiful publicity it is! The case is highlighting the religious right's hijacking the public conversation of morality by institutionalizing their own morality.  That IS a violation of other's religious beliefs.  The law suit is another chip in the religious wall erected to silence non-Christian views, and will further push people away from faith-based morality and towards philosophical (secular) based morality.  Such a notion scares the religious right as the last refuge their push to accept religion is that without it, there can be no morality.  Of course this is a bogus claim (here's a video with a strong rebuttal to that claim).

While the religious angle is one battle in a much larger war, it is a little distracting to the main concern: Individual Reproductive Rights.  I say, individual rights because a person's right to plan their family goes beyond gender.  In this specific case it concern's a woman's right to plan when and how to handle her pregnancy.  And in Missouri, the state has decreed that women are not responsible enough to take the time and effort to think about a huge life decision, and thus must dictate how, and for how long they do so.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

LOLs for a Sunday: An Atheist Meme Gallery


Friday, July 3, 2015

My Little Heathens: Swearing and Skepticism


It sounds so cute coming from a 6 year-old.  But I cannot let him know this.  Instead I have to take a short break from making dinner and go be daddy-cop.

As a skeptic parent, you haven't lived until you've had to explain why certain words are "bad" to your six year-old child.  You try to tell them that certain words are considered rude and that children shouldn't say them.  Anxiety builds as this strange idea works its way into their head.  Then comes the most terrifying word a 6 year-old can utter, "why?".

Intense anguish grips your gut as you know you have to try to explain something drilled into your head as a child and accepted as a matter of course.  Yet you are proud the little bugger asked why; you know you're doing something right!  You try to explain that "the S-word" is a rude way to say poop.  Then the little guy asks the next impossible question:
"Why is shit..."
"Don't say that word, bud."
"Why is that word ugly, but it's ok to say poop?"

Ugh!  Those wankers at the hospital didn't tell me parenting would be so hard!  I've used up my weekly quotas of "because I said so," so I tell him that we will look it up.
"Can I go outside and play while we look it up?"
Smart kid.  He'll make a good politician some day.

After awhile he comes back in and I sit him down to explain why cussing is bad.  After an over exaggerated eye roll he resigned himself for my lecture.  I tell him that most cuss words are insults, they call someone a name and hurts their feelings.  As for why poop isn't bad but the other word is, I told him that a long time ago people decided that word was bad, and so it has been ever sense.

"That's silly, dad."
Yes, it is.  I think he'll be a Senator.

But some words, I tell him, were thought to hurt the gods.  Either physically or it would hurt their feelings.  The eye roll that produced was one of incredulity, "That's stupid, dad!" By his tone, I could tell he was getting annoyed with his old man.  I told him I was serious, but I don't think he believed me.
"Even Jesus, dad?" He learned about Jesus from his grandparents and his kindergarten teacher.
"Yup, even Jesus."
"That's stupid, dad.  I don't believe you."

I ask why not, and he said that no one is that stupid, so it can't be true.  I think he'll be President some day.

For further reading try the following:
Nine Things You Probably Don't Know About Swear Words
Cursing: A Damned Persistent Lexicon

ARGUMENTS FOR GOD PART 5: The Case Against God

This is my final video concerning the existence of God.
In this video I lay out arguments over the three main concepts of god-heads and how they cannot be.
I hope you enjoy:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

American Mythology: The Free Market

What is the Free Market? By definition it is an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses.  To achieve this a special form of Capitalism it requires: Laissez-Faire Capitalism.  With Laissez-Faire, the government does not regulate business, or does so in the most minimalist of ways.  Belief in the free market is a litmus test in the United States used to determine one's patriotism.  Yet, towards whom are we being patriotic? A look at Laissez-Faire Capitalism in American history and analysis of the problems with a free market will answer who is demanding our loyalty.

There are three main problems to the myth of the Free Market.  Below I will address each one in turn.

The Goods Expert

Quick: How do magnetic bracelets improve health?
What are the top 5 Blue Chips?
What do cerium and europium have to do with Apple?

The idea of the Free Market rests in part on the assumption that the buyer knows everything about the product.  Under Free Market theory, if a vendor is dishonest in its representation of the item, then future buyers will go to different vendors.  However, this is not always the case.  In cases of Monopoly, like having only one cable company in the service area, there may not be an alternative. Previous to the industrial age, this may not have been a huge problem.  People bought mostly raw goods and manufactured their own usable goods.  Simply put, there were not that many goods to know about.  In today's world that is not the case.

Most people don't know how the majority of their usable goods work.  Without devoting your life to learning how cars, computers, cell phones, the Internet, etc. all work, one won't know, meaning that endeavors like teaching and plumbing become side jobs.  At best, we can educate ourselves on how things work in a general sense, but there is not enough time in our lives to learn the particulars of every good and service available to us.  As such, the vendor, not the buyer has the power.


Gordon Gekko "Greed is Good"The world is full of professions that are absolutely essential to modern society: farmers, teachers, plumbers, construction workers, firemen, just to name a few.  None of these professions make their practitioners rich though.  To become rich, one must either be born into money, or enter into a profession whose primary purpose is to make money.  The people who do this have only one interest in mind: their own wealth.

Those with the deplorable disease of greed care not about their fellow man, the planet, nor future generations outside of their own genetic legacy. In a Free Market system, the greedy do all they can to capture the market for themselves.  In other words, they want the freedom to economically enslave others.  The US is experiencing an era of greed that began under Reagan in the 1980s.  But this is not the first time greed has corrupted America.

The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age is empirical evidence on why Laissez-Faire Capitalism cannot work in a modern economy, and why the Free Market is a myth.

The post Civil War era is known as the Gilded Age.  It got this name because that is when the fruits of industrialization took off, enriching business owners more fantastically than any time in history. During the Gilded Age, there was no restrictions on collusion, monopolies, trusts, or any other form of business dealings.  Prices weren't determined by supply and demand alone, but through boardroom negotiations with the purpose of stifling any competition.

Simultaneously, they kept worker wages low enough that the workers could not get an education and their whole family had to work (including children), but high enough that the workers could eat. There was no health care benefits, no unemployment, no FDA, no USDA, no such concept as sexual harassment.  Work conditions were deplorable and if you got sick or hurt, you lost your job, often permanently. There was no welfare system for the disadvantaged, but Corporations often enjoyed welfare from the Government, like using eminent domain to buy property for Corporate use, or giving huge tracts of land to the railroads.

Then the government gets involved.  In the latter part of the 19th the Armed forces of the US spent most of its time "protecting US interests" in Latin America.  In other words, we toppled governments and invaded countries to protect US business assets in those countries. This trend continued into the 20th Century with the Banana Wars in Central America.  Not only was the US military used on foreign soil to enforce corporate will, but in the US as well.  The Pullman Strike of 1894, and the Homestead Strike of 1892 are prime examples where the Government Military was in the employ of a Corporation.

Before industrialization, pre-capitalist societies were ran by guilds at the authorization of the Crown. Before then, in the agoras of ancient Greece, and the dealings between hunter-gatherer tribes the Free Market may have been a reality.  The opportunity for one person to dominate a commodity or good was almost nil.  Wealth was not generated that fast.  That would change when labor became mechanized.

As labor was mechanized, wealth could be generated faster than ever before in human history. Around this time, improvements in communication transformed the finance market as well, adding to and compounding the wealth generation.  What this means is that once one person, one company begins buying out his competitors, the wealth generation increases, allowing more capital to buy more shares of the market.  In doing so, competition is stifled and the market is no longer free: it is ruled autocratically.

After acquiring a sizable share of the market on a good, the company becomes a monopoly. Through this tactic,among others, companies are able to keep their monopoly, but to what end? To prohibit upstart companies by pricing its goods at a loss.  This forces the smaller competitor to either take the loss and match prices, or lose business to the larger corporation.  Either way, this forces the new business, which may have a superior product, to go out of business.

With great wealth comes great power.  What power the rich lack they can purchase in the form of politicians.  Political power and economic power then gets further concentrated in the hands of the few.  In a democratic society, officials may be elected, but money then buys the official's vote.  At that point, the government is run not by the people, but by the corporations.

At that point, democracy becomes plutocracy.  Liberty dies not with a cry, but with the bell of a cash register.  And the free enterprise of the market becomes the sovereign domain of the privileged few.


"There are laws that enslave men, and laws that set them free."  That sounds like something Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln would say, but it is actually from the King Arthur movie, First Knight. Despite being an unmemorable movie, I have always remembered that line, and how true it rings. Slavery was the law of the land in the South before the Civil War.  The 13th Amendment set them free.

Government regulation is to free the consumer, and the entrepreneur from the tyranny of the plutocracy.  Theodore Roosevelt realized this when he went on his anti-trust crusade, and formed the FDA and USDA.  Franklin Roosevelt also realized this when his New Deal took up the task of rebuilding the America that the corporations ruined.  FDR also legislated in bargaining rights for workers, increasing working conditions and wages for millions of Americans.  The result of which was three decades of prosperity brought to an end by the resurgence of corporate greed and influence.

The free market litmus test does not test ones patriotism to the country, to mom and apple pie.  It tests the loyalty to the corporate oligarchs bent on using our great nation as their personal, exploitable resource.