Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Satanic Sitemeter

Apologetic chutzpah

Today, I got ahold of Why I am a Christian, an impressive anthology of Christian apologetics. I got it mainly out of interest in two essays by Gary Habermas on the miracles of Jesus and the general reliability of the New Testament. The essays were pretty weak--they took Habermas outside of his narrow specialty of the resurrection--but one bit struck me as particularly bad. Habermas tries to rebutt the claim that we should be skeptical of the gospels because they contain miracles, arguing that so do other ancient historical works. But look at the examples he uses:
[I]n his widely recognized account of Alexander the Great, Plutarch begins by noticing Alexander's likely descent from Hercules. Later he tells how the gods favored and assisted Alexander in his battles and how Alexander talked with a priest who claimed to be the son of the god Ammon himself. Near the end of his life, Alexander took almost every unusual event to be supernatural, surrounding himself with diviners and others who foretold the future.

But such is quite normal fare in ancient historical writings. Tacitus reports worship of the caesars, even by the Roman Senate, and people that saw normal occurances such as crop failure as omens. Suetonius provides a wider range of examples, including the working of fate, sightings of spirits and ghosts of deceased emperors, prayers to the gods, prophecies, rulers who read horoscopes and animal entrails, as well as an entire host of omens and portents manifest in comets, lightening, dreams, and even birds. Strangely, some of the caesars, convinced by signs taht their death was imminent, awaited their demise in a dire state of mind. (p.154)
A couple of these examples aren't bad, but can Habermas really be so blind as to fail to see the difference between "Jesus walked on water" and "Alexander consulted an oracle"? Would he also fail to see the difference between The Amityville Horror and a newspaper story about Nancy Reagan's astrologer? Between Charles Manson levitating a bus and a religious figure saying God favors America? Between "scientists drill down to Hell" and a story about a nutcase claiming to be the Second Comming?

Unfalsifiable and falsified

Among various criticisms of creationists is that they have incoherently claimed that evolution is both unfalsifiable and has been falsified. See, for example, TalkOrigins:
Claim CA211:

Any fact can be fit into the theory of evolution. Therefore, evolution is not falsifiable and is not a proper scientific theory.

Response:

...This claim, coming from creationists, is absurd, since almost all creationism is nothing more than (unsubstantiated) claims that evolution has been falsified.
In spite of everything wrong with creationism, this is not as incoherent as it appears at first. A claim may be reasonably said to be both unfalsifiable and falsified if:

1) There are observations which, on the face of it, would falsify the claim
2) These observations are made
3) In response to the observations, proponents invent auxiliary hypothesis or special rules which make it clear that no evidence would convince them that the claim is false.

I've already described the strained defenses of inerrancy put up by Christian fundamentalists. Another example of a falsified, unfaslifiable claim is parapsychology. The pattern laid out above happens again and again. One striking example is Susan Blackmore, once a reasearcher in good standing with the parapsychological community, now a member of CSICOP. In 1986, she wrote in Fate magazine that after sixteen years of reasearch, she had found no evidence for psychic phenomenon. On the face of it, she had managed to falsify claims of parapsychology. However, Blackmore's declaration did not phase parapsychologists. In a relpy appearing in the same magazine, Scott Rogo rationalized her failures as possibly the result of unconscious use of psi by Blackmore to inhibit results.

A somewhat more controversial, but nonetheless arguable, example, is the claim that the universe was created by an all-powerful, loving God. There is overwhelming disconfirmation of that claim in the form of the famines, plagues, and genocides that have afflicted this world (see my version of this argument). Theologians, of course, have spent much ink trying to resolve this problem. Setting aside the question of whether they've even opened up a logical possibility of God's existence, it is clear when one reads their work that they have not left any possible observations which would contradict their claim that God exists.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mighty Uniter

Michael Reynolds of The Mighty Middle is promoting a campaign called Unity '08:
We’re a movement to take our country back from polarizing politics. In 2008, we’ll select and elect a Unity Ticket to the White House— one Democrat, one Republican, in whatever order, or independents committed to a Unity team. We want you to join us - and you don't have to leave your party to do it.
We'll see who the canditates are, but it's worth a shot.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Hmmm...

Miles Philips was an English sailor, stranded in Spanish Mexico. He and his fellows were brought before the Inquisition in the year 1574. They were asked "Whether we did not believe that the Host of bread which the priest did hold up over his head, and the wine that was in the chalice, was the very true and perfect body and blood of our Savior Christ, Yea or No? To which," Philips ads, "if we answered not 'Yea!' then there was no way but death.
-Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World
O'Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

'How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?'

'Four.'

'And if the party says that it is not four but five -- then how many?'

'Four.'

The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston's body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O'Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.
-George Orwell, 1984

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Is I Peter authentic?

Incinerating Presuppositionalism says no, in great detail. This is a blog I need to keep track of through bloglines. It isn't updated often, but the posts are excellent.

On ridicule

Richard Chapell has defended "passionate polemic and harsh criticisms" and then retracted. I side with the first position. Some views (such as Biblical inerrancy) are so absurd that a straightforward, rational critique cannot but make them look ridiculous.

CotG 41

The 41st edition of the Carnival of the Godless is up at Frank's place.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

On apocalypticism

I'm currently reading The Apocalyptic Jesus, a debate between four scholars on the subject of whether Jesus thought the world would end within his lifetime. It's somewhat lopsided; Dale Allison (see my review) on the pro side with three scholars on the con side. It's interesting material nonetheless.

When I got to the essay by Marcus Borg, though, I found myself wanting to bang my head against the wall. He says that there are two ways to understand the idea that Jesus was an apocalyptic:

One: "apolcalyptic conviction was not the primary energy driving his mission or shaping his teaching. Rather, it is one element in a fuller understanding of Jesus."

Two: "Not only did Jesus expect that God would soon intervene in a dramatic fashion to bring in the 'end time' events, but this conviction was central for him. It animated his mission and pervasively shaped his message."

Borg then says that the first view might be worked into the picture of Jesus held by himself or J.D. Crossan, but Allison seems to hold the second view, and this creates all kinds of problems when you look at other parts of Jesus' teaching. For example:
Teaching about wealth. Divest yourself of wealth and give to the poor. Why? For the primary apocalyptic: because the last judgement is at hand. But why is it that one should give to the poor - so that one will be rewarded at the last judgement?

Compassion and mercy. Why be compassionate? For primary apocalyptic: because the last judgement will come soon. Similarly, be merciful to others so that God will be merciful to you in the last judgement. But is that why one should be compassionate and merciful?
Borg goes on like this for just over a page. The implication is that that if one sees Jesus' teachings in apocalyptic context, something is lost - Borg calls it a "flattening."

To show what is wrong with this, I want to look at a more recent example of apocalypticism. The book When Prophecy Fails describes a small 1950's cult led by a woman who believed herself to be in contact with an extraterrestrial reincarnation of Jesus. The group had a creation story where the original battle between God and Lucifer took place on another planet, with Lucifer leading a group of evil scientists who made nuclear weapons (it does not seem that there were any good scientists on the planet).

This is a group that had a very strong belief that the aliens on God's side would be bringing about the end of the world soon. Now, if we apply Borg's analysis, we would have to downplay this element of the group's belief because putting too much emphasis on it would undervalue the group's concerns about nuclear weapons. "Why be worried about nuclear weapons? Because they are the work of Lucifer. But is that really the reason one should be worried about them?"

Such an analysis would be gravely mistaken. The group's leader did not randomly assign nuclear weapons to Lucifer, and then decide that they were a bad thing. Rather, the way science and nuclear weapons became incorporated into the group's beliefs was determined by pre-existing opinions on the things.

Similarly, seeing Jesus as primarily an apocalyptic preacher does not mean seeing everything else in his teaching as "merely" a by-product of apocalypticism. Instead, his apocalyptic preaching may be seen as an expression of other sentiments, sentiments deserving of respect. Understanding the sentiments behind an apocalyptic movement does not keep that movement from being wrong, or even keep its beliefs from being bizarre and maladaptive. It is something that should nevertheless be understood rather than dismissed.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Going all Muslim on Dan Brown

I still remember how insanely ironic it felt to hear about how a newspaper had published cartoons implying Islam was inherently violent, and Muslims around the world responded with violence.

Now, Dan Brown, who has written a book that portrays the Catholic church as willing to use violence to surpress truth, is being targeted with violence:
New Delhi (ENI). Some Indian Christians are so incensed with the fictional blockbuster "The Da Vinci Code" they want the government to ban it and one Roman Catholic has offered a bounty of US$25 000 on the head of author Dan Brown, leaving other members of the faithful embarrassed by the reaction.
At least in this case, allegedly reasonable people seem more upset about the violence than the victim's offense.

Random doodle

Everyone knows appealing to consensus is a fallacy!

...This was originally going to be a one-sentence post, but as it happens, John Loftus did a post a few days ago on informal fallacies. Enjoy.

Wow

I think this picture, taken from Randi's commentary, needs no comment:












I will say, though, that when the original picture says "B.S. in alternative medicine," I don't think it's making a joke.

Carnival linkage

Haven't had much time for posting recently, but I can at least direct my readers to carnivals to entertain yourselves at: the Carnival of the Liberals and the Skeptic's Circle. The later has a post I was particularly glad to see: "Loose Marbles," a debunking of the 9/11 conspiracy video Loose Change. Be sure to check out parts two and three of that one as well. Congrats to the site's writer, who went far beyond my debunking of that video.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Militant Christianity... Bush supported?

There's some stuff at Daily Kos about a rally for a very scary fundamentalist group called BattleCry. The rally included fake Navy SEALS getting up on stage and firing blanks into the audience to get across the message that Christians are being "hunted." It was kicked off with a letter of support from George Bush. I immediately wondered if it was a forgery, but I doubt it. Politicians sign all kinds of shit without knowing what they're doing. It does kind of frighten me though that the President feels the need to show his support for every nutty Christian group out there.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

If God exists...

...everything is permitted

Lame ass

Lame ass.

Lame ass.

Lame ass.

That's the official Google bomb for someone who's impersonating Skeptico.

There's some debate at Skeptico's blog over whether it was an accident or not. I'm inclined to think not. He seems to have posted at two blogs where Skeptico is well-known, one being this blog. Even if it was a mistake, he still needs to get a new URL.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Review: Resurrecting Jesus

Resurrecting Jesus, by Dale Allison, could almost be viewed as two books: one on miscellaneous issues in New Testament scholarship, and another on the resurrection of Jesus. Each is roughly 200 pages long. I checked out the book for the second one, but the first provides some good reading material as well.

Allison's previous books include Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet and The Apocalyptic Jesus: A Debate, with Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Stephen Patterson. As one might guess from the titles of these books, Allison is the proponent of the view that Jesus believed the world would end within his lifetime or within the lifetime of his followers (he's the only proponent of this view in the debate book, making the thing sound somewhat lopsided). However, he still identifies as a Christian, and says he finds the idea that God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead attractive, since Jesus' message was one of vindication, and a death without vindication would have "invalidated his eschatological optimism" (p.214).

Chapter one provides a good (though not introductory) survey of New Testament scholarship, while chapter two looks at the issue of Jesus saying different things to different people. Allison's status as a good scholar who isn't always comfortable with the results of his research comes across most clearly in chapters three and four, "The Problem of Gehenna" and "Apocalyptic, Polemic, and Apologetics." The first argues that Jesus likely held a view of Hell that Allison does not share, though it does soften the blow a little by showing how Jesus's view of Hell was given to him by his culture, contrary to what Dan Barker has said (that Jesus introduced nothing new "except hell"). The following chapter provides more on his struggles: "a Jesus without eschatological error would certainly make my life easier. I might, for instance, be able to tell some of my relatives, without them shuddering aghast, what I really do for a living." He also quotes Crossan's response to his position on the resurrection: "Having said that Jesus and all other millenarian prophets were wrong (so far), you could hardly claim that God raised Jesus from the dead to prove he alone was transcendentally wrong." Chapter five argues Jesus had a mixed approach to Jewish law, sometimes conservative, sometimes liberal. Allison gives this a backdrop of Jewish interpretation of the time, though it may be more a matter of human nature: plenty of pastors today behave in a similar manner.

The first thing I noticed about chapter six--perhaps because I began reading with the index--was that Allison is perfectly happy to interact with the partisans on both sides: he refers to the work of both evangelical apologists such Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig and secular critics such as Richard Carrier and Jeffery Jay Lowder. His approach is to attempt to steer a middle course. The high point of the section, I think, was on the skeptical side: he brings together massive amounts of data on apparitions, hallucinations, and visions, arguing that the post-mortem appearances of Jesus are not terribly unique. He also analyzes seven pro and seven con arguments for the claim that Jesus' tomb really was found empty after his death. He concludes each side has two good arguments, but the pro arguments are somewhat stronger. I think he has perhaps misweighed the arguments, but his attempt to weigh them honestly is a refreshing contrast to William Lane Craig, who has never heard an argument for the empty tomb that he doesn't like.

Ultimately, he concludes on one hand that apologists are wrong to think the resurrection can be proven on evidence (from his lengthy discussion of hallucination and realization that there are other ways to get a body out of a tomb), but on the other hand that skeptics cannot disprove it. He toys with the idea that Jesus came back as a ghost or something like one, a perfectly logical move if one shares Allison's belief (which I do not) that the dead sometimes communicate with the living. I don't think this is quite what he was hoping for, though, when he spoke of God's vindication of Jesus. He had his mind set on a more orthodox miracle, on the idea that Jesus was different that all the other people who have been allegedly seen after there deaths. Though this book has won my respect for Allison, I will be blunt in assessing his argument that the orthodox view cannot be disproved. When he argues it, he is essentially saying, "It looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, but because we have not captured and dissected it, we may believe by faith that it is not a duck."

In spite of this one flaw, Resurrecting Jesus is an excellent book. It is hardly an introductory text, but I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone familiar with the basics of New Testament scholarship.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Another letter to the editor

Here's a letter I just e-mailed to the Star Tribune:

I am writing about the interview with author Lee Strobel that appeared in your paper on the 19th.

Your readers should know that Strobel has a track record of promoting demonstrable falsehoods. In his book The Case for Christ, he claims an ancient historian performed a study which "meticulously examined" the rate at which legends developed which showed they would have to have developed unbelievably fast for the stories about Jesus to be legends. I found a copy of the book in question, and discovered:

1) Its title is "Roman Society and Law in the New Testament," and only deals with the question of legendary development in a few pages in back.
2) This section concedes that legends can form quite rapidly
3) It cites two cases where legends were exposed as such some time after the events in question, but this is hardly a meticulous study and does not prove that this is what will always happen.

This pattern of falsehood is continued in the Star Tribune interview. First, he claims evolution is by definition random, but any evolutionary biologist will tell you that some of the mechanisms involved, such as natural selection, are non-random. Also, he claims there are 500 eyewitness accounts saying that Jesus lived and rose from the dead. I'm no fan of the Da Vinci Code, but when Christians make claims like this, they forfeit their right to call it "nonsense."

Part of the problem with Strobel's books is that they are centered around uncritically repeating whatever evangelical "scholars" tell him. The Star Tribune can do better, though. Try fact-checking controversial claims made by your interview subjects.

The Lee Strobel tridilemma

When I read things that Lee Strobel has said and written, I am forced to ask a question very similar to the one that C.S. Lewis asked of Jesus, except that I have proof Strobel's claims are bogus, so my question only involves two questions: "Is he a liar, or is he really that stupid?"

This post was prompted by an interview that PZ Myers linked to. Myers took Strobel to task for parroting creationist nonsense, but I think this is even worse:
In the fall of 1979, my wife, Leslie, became a Christian. I was dismayed -- I thought she'd turn into a sexually repressed prude and spend all her time working in soup kitchens. She was being pulled into a subculture I didn't understand. But I saw positive change in her values, behavior and character.

So I started to use my journalistic and legal training to study Christianity. I read historical documents, interviewed experts and theologians. I saw that Christianity made sense.

On Nov. 8, 1981, I became a Christian. I had written down all the evidence I had compiled, and suddenly realized that it would take more faith to maintain my atheism than it would to become a Christian. Faith is a step we take toward the evidence, and the evidence flows powerfully in the direction of God...

...A rational person investigates the evidence, and there is plenty of evidence, over 500 eyewitness accounts, that Christ lived and died and rose from the dead.


Wrong. What Strobel is refering to is one line in one of Paul's letters that says after Jesus' death, he appeared to 500 people. Paul doesn't so much as say who these people are or where he got his information. Any idiot should know that "500 people were there" does not equal "500 accounts," but with all Strobel's bragging about his experience as a court reporter, I would expect him to know the difference between eyewitness testimony and hearsay.

Now, is it really possible that someone with legal training would be able to make a mistake that big on accident?

By the way, this takes the number of blatant falsehoods Strobel has spread up to eight.

A proposal on immigration

The solution is this: let anyone from Mexico or Canada who wants to come to the U.S. to work come. Those who hire them must follow all the rules, including minimum wage, etc. for American workers, but must additionally pay a fee to cover social services. Workers will be encouraged to begin the process of gaining U.S. citizenship. My reasons:

First, it should be obvious that the current state of affairs is unworkable. In spite of attempts to popularize slogans such as "No one is illegal" and euphemisms such as "undocumented worker," the truth is that people who come here against the law are, well, breaking the law, and they're doing it by the millions. It makes a complete mockery of the U.S. government. Crime is inevitable, but it should never be a regular part of a society. Something needs to be done. (That's the same reason something needs to be done about the situation with the drinking age—I'd advocate lowering it and fending off an increase in traffic accidents with harsher drunk driving laws, but that's an issue for another time).

So, what to do about it? Short of building a much bigger version of Israel's wall around the Palestinian territories, we aren't going to be able to stop people from coming or even limit the number of people who come.

If we don't want that, we let anyone in Mexico who wants to come here come. We don't want a non-citizen underclass like much of Europe (look at all the problems they're having with that). Also, we're kidding ourselves if we think we can put a time limit on guest worker-ship and get people to follow it.

The alternative to that is to treat Mexican workers, as many as want to come here, like everybody else. This would cost a lot of money in social services. Therefore, we recoup it by charging employers a fee for hiring immigrants. It's that or the Great Wall of America.

UPDATE: An Andrew Sullivan reader explains why the wall won't work. A key point, which Andrew fails to adress, is that the coyotes seem to be looking forward to it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Quote of the Time Being

I, for my own part, had much rather people should say of me, that there neither is nor ever was such a mas as Plutarch, than they should say: "Plutarch is an unsteady, fickle, forward, vindictive, and touchy fellow."
Plutarch, explaining why some modes of religion are worse than atheism.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Letter to the editor

Here's a letter I sent today to the Wisconsin State Journal:

I am troubled by Robby Kjonaas' letter in today's paper, which equates "blasphemy" and "insulting Christianity" with persecution, and proposes taking legal action against these things. This is the sort of rhetoric for which the word "Orwellian" was coined, making words mean the opposite of what they normally do. Persecution is "entering house after house, dragging off both men and women" for what they believe. It is not expressing a belief that somebody dislikes.

Some commenters have talked of the theocratic elements in the modern Religions Right. The increasing tendency to equate criticism with persecution is the major area where these elements have a chance to be more than the fears and fantasies of a few. Do not be deceived by rhetoric about Christians being persecuted. It is a cover for desires to persecute non-Christians, the sort of Dark Age occurances that our founders sought to avoid with the First Amendment.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Memo to Christians on Da Vinci

It has come to my attention that many Christians feel in some way threatened by the movie The Da Vinci Code, in that the books claims about Christianity's origins have made them worry about the validity of their beliefs, or that the movie is a powerful tool of Satan to lead people astray.

Please stop.

The claims contained in The Da Vinci Code are complete and utter nonsense. Even Robert M. Price has written a debunking. Among it's bogus claims is the idea that the books of the Bible were selected and rewritten in 325. The truth is that the books of the Bible had been around for a long time, and cannonization was a long process, perhaps somewhat messy, but not performed by imperial fiat. Yes, there were some alterations made over time (see the widely respected NIV on John 7:53-8:11 and Mark 16:9-20), but there is no evidence of wholesale rewritting at a single date.

Speaking as someone who has no special desire to see Christianity prosper, I am still sadened when I hear people say that The Da Vinci Code made them worry serious about their faith. It speaks to an unfortunate human tendency to believe everything we hear. Learn to exercise a little skepticism, especially when dealingly with claims appearing mainly in sensational media outlets.

Oh, and who can feel threatened by a movie that makes its actors look this bad on screen?:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Quote of the Time Being

Have you considered asking your girlfriend to take a virginity pledge? It sounds crazy, I know, and you want her to fuck you now, while you're still 17-and-a-half, not save herself for marriage! But a Harvard report claims that half of all teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until they marry give up the pledges within a year.
-Dan Savage

Good jab, though as a skeptic, I have to ask: where's the control group?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why Intelligent Design gets scientists mad.

This past semester, I joined, as part of the honors chemistry class I was taking, a research lab on campus. I became part of a group trying to understand the workings of a protein called Integration Host Factor, which is found in many bacteria.

The work in the lab was an ordeal. I had gotten the basics of lab work from the previous semester's chem class plus the first few weeks of that semester, but it was still a steep learning curve. I think I got 1/3 of my data in the last week. The main thing I did was run electrophoresis gels. What was the purpose of that, you ask? The gels would show how the protein existed in solution under various conditions: monomers (units of one), dimers (two), tetramers (four), or something else. With that data the lab would then use a machine called a CD to figure out how the protein gets from one state to another. That data could them be worked into the model for the IHF binding do DNA - a great, complex issue in and of itself. Suffice to say, I did a very small part in the overall project. Near the end I mentioned to one of the guys in the lab that I felt I should have done more, that after all that time I only had a little data, and his response was "That's the way it is."

Though this was a conclusion greatly reinforced by my time in the lab, just seeing the outlines of what was going on on the first day gave me a flash of insight into why scientists get angry about ID. Nature is a hideously complicated place, and figuring it out is hard work. Michael Behe's precious "molecular machines" are not something we discovered looking through a microscope. One might get the impression, looking at textbook pictures of cells, that their inards are there to be looked at. The reality is that understanding something like DNA or any other part of the cell's aparatus requires lots of slow, indirect tests. Obviously, it would be absurd to say that just because we don't understand it all means we should go back to the theory of vital forces. I suspect that the "molecular machine" crowd would be the first to complain if we did.

Yet that's exactly what ID does. If we don't understand something, they take it as proof that God did it. Need we repeat the Hippocratic observation "Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, there would be no end of divine things." It is worse than that, though. In Hippocrates' day, it was not as if epilepsy was basically understood, with scientists slowly figuring out more and more of the specifics. That is the situation with evolution today. The problem with Intelligent Design is it wants to flush good, quite difficult research down the toilet in favor of hand waving.

"Is it true?"

A subversive question not to be asked if you work at an evangelical college:
WASHINGTON — Patrick Henry College, the small evangelical Christian school founded six years ago to train students for careers in public life, gained national prominence for placing many students in White House internships and other government positions. Now five of the school's 16 faculty members have left, saying the school's approach is too doctrinaire to prepare students for the realities of American politics...

Noe and another professor wrote an article in the college magazine March 8 urging open discussions and saying Christians should not "hesitate to learn from a pagan."

"There is much wisdom to be gained from Parmenides and Plato, as well Machiavelli and Marx," the professors wrote. "When we examine the writings of any author, professed Christian or otherwise, the proper question is not, 'Was this man a Christian?' but 'Is this true?'"
Guygs, guys. We can ask both at the same time. Ask if the man was a Christian, and if the answer is no, the you know the things he said can't be true.

Seriously, though, folks. They think being doctrinaire isn't good prepartion for American politics? That is so pre-Bush.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Certainty

Today, I picked up The Politics of Cultural Despair by Frtiz Stern, who recently made the blogosphere buzz by drawing parallels between the modern situation with Christian right and the rise of Nazi Germany. I've only begun reading the book, but I've already found one striking passage: "their one desire was for a new faith, a new community of believers, a world with fixed standards and no doubts, a new national religion that would bind all Germans together."

I've observed previously that much of the pull of fundamentalism is the promise of absolute certainty. Could that be a mark of nascent totalitarianism?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

On the distinction between reason and unreason

This post was prompted by a Christian Forums discussion thread that I participated in recently. It started out with a post declaring there is proof of Christianity in the form of the resurrection of Jesus. Here are some choice quotes said by the original poster along the way. The first was in response to a point about alien abductions:
If eyewitness accounts are not reliable, then why ask for one as proof of God?????? I happen to agree with you, but we can't have it both ways. Ask to be an eyewitness to a miracle and then claim that such accounts are unreliable.
*snip*
Look. My point is this. We have all the proof we need. Any more proof than what we have would amount to compulsion which is something God will not do.
*snip*
All I am saying is what difference does it make, if you hear about it or witness them yourself. It doesn't really. Either way you can chose to believe or not believe.
*snip*
People believe the 9/11 attacks happened because they saw it on television. In other words, they *believed* that the pictures on TV were true (although they could have been made up as we all well know given how realistic movies are these days). As it happens, there was no TV 2000-odd years ago. So, we have to believe in what the eye witnesses of that time tell us. The same argument holds true for photographs.
It's worth making a brief comparison to a passage from the writings of Richard Carrier:
I can imagine my pet fish suddenly speaking to me, telling me that God gave it the power to tell me that He loves me. As a rational person, my first hypotheses would be either that I am being tricked by someone, or that I am suffering from hallucinations--either from a brain disorder or chemical influence. Indeed, I would be running through my memory to recall if I drank anything that someone might have dropped a tab of acid in. I would then test all those hypotheses. Can others hear the fish talk? Can the fish tell me anything that I could not have learned any other way--like the name and location of a lost child? Is the sound unmistakably coming from the fish--even when I move it, and change its bowl? Can others confirm all of this? Can doctors confirm that I have no drugs in my system and no obvious brain disorder? Under these conditions, I believe I would have enough proof to call this a miracle under Purtill's definition (this example is borrowed from my article "A Fish Did Not Write This Essay").
Now, let's look at how the mind of our first subject works. Eyewitness acounts are not considered reliable. We just chose what to believe. Running somewhat against the grain of the idea that no evidence is absolute proof, we have the idea that the evidence must be ambiguous enough to allow us to chose. However, the moral thing to do is believe whatever one hears.

In contrast, the second mind recognizes that there are some things which we should be skeptical of. However, the fact that we can doubt even our senses does not mean we can never have good evidence of anything. Something that seems impossible can be scrutinized and, at least in theory, shown to be probably genuine.

Most importantly, chance never factors into the equation. There is no step involving chosing whether to believe the fish, just trying to puzzle out the situation from every possible angle.

This, I think, is a defining aspect of the rationalistic mindset. Belief is not a matter of choice, but of following the evidence wherever it may lead. For some reason, many people have trouble with this.

The classic example is Pascal's Wager. I first encountered this argument at a fairly young age (11 or 12, maybe 13). It was in a book called Philosophy for Dumies, by an author who clearly believed in God. He was honest enough to point out the problems in a number of arguments for the existence of God, but was quite impressed with this one. It appeared in his book after discussing a few arguments for the existence of God and the problem of evil. His version assigned a probability of ".5 or so" based on the fact that "there is evidence and argument that can be marshaled in either direction, as we have seen." From there it is argued that the payoff for believing in God and being right is infinite, while the payoff for disbelieving and being right is finite, so we should believe.

I largely credit Philosophy for Dumies (along with C.S. Lewis) for getting me to think rationally about the existence of God. So strange, then, that the book would make a logical error that seemed obvious even to me at 12. The problem was that if you begin believing that God's existence is uncertain, you can't argue from there to the point of believing he exists - that's a contradiction. It seemed to me that beliefs are basically forced by reason and evidence.

More recently, I described my final rejection of theism as simply sitting down, considering the arguments, and deciding there were no good ones. To me, this still seems like the most natural thing in the world. I think the sort of extreme self-deception described in 1984 is possible, but would be very difficult to learn. However, in describing this to a friend, I was told that very few people can do what I did.

Is what I did really so unique? I don't know. However, I am convinced that being compelled by evidence and reason, rather than seeing belief as a choice with one option a moral imperative, is the basic mark of a rational mindset.

CotG 40

The 40th edition of the Carnival of the Godless. Alongside my thoughts on the Rabi Gellman flap are those of Brent Rasmussen. Also present are No More Mr. Nice Guy!'s thoughts on the Da Vinci Code - somewhat more positive than mine. You can read my criticisms of his post in the comments.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Left Behind video game

Was watching ABC this evening. Suddenly, a preview came on for a news story about attempts to produce a more wholesome Christian alternative to Grand Theft Auto type games. On screen was a picture of soldiers forming battle lines in a street, blowing eachother away. I'm left wondering "Is this the game or what they're trying to counteract?"

When they got to the full story, I found out what I had seen was a clip from the new game, based on the Left Behind series. Ugh. You hear about video games desensitizing people to violence, can there be any doubt that this is even worse when the video game we're talking about is based on books which teach all infidels are evil? Arguably, this is worse than GTA: with GTA, there is a very thick line between reality and the fantasy. Few players believe that they'll find themselves as gangsters (or fighting the Galactic Empire, or in WWII, or fighting aliens). This Left Behind game will be marketed to people who believe the game is likely to be their future world.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere:
Word to the Wise on the Left Behind game
Radical Congruency on the Left Behind game

Friday, May 12, 2006

I am God!

Light posting here for today, but if you want something entertaining, read a debate I've gotten involved in at ChristianForums.com.

The original post challenged the maxim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I responded by declaring myself to be God. Several dozen posts down the thread, my claim has yet to be refuted.

That's not all there is to the debate, though. It's worth reading if you're willing to stand a little thick-headedness.

New profile pic

I finally got that old picture of me levitating in my profile. I think it goes much better with the quasi-superhero name.

New profile pic

I finally got that old picture of me levitating in my profile. I think it goes much better with the quasi-superhero name.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Quote of the Time Being

...right-wing, left-wing, dorsal-wing, ventral-wing or whatever.
-Bronze Dog

Skeptic's Circle

The 34th edition of the Skeptic's Circle is up at The Second Sight.

Quasi-apology to Richard Swinburne

I recently got ahold of a copy of Richard Swinburne's The Resurrection of God Incarnate. It's bad, but not for the reasons suggested in some reports.

The report emphasizes his use of probability in his work, and makes it sound rather like he reasons "God would either become incarnate or not, so the probability is 50%." Instead, he offers arguments for God being incarnate, and concludes that there's a 25% chance there's a monotheistic God who would become incarnate. Then he discovers - surprise, surprise, that Jesus fits his idea of what a God incarnate should be like.

Look what he's done here, though. Christianity is the only religion with a monotheistic God becomming incarnate. When Swinburne lists God's hypothetical motives, they're all drawn from Christian doctrine. Also, it seems to strike him as obvious that a God incarnate would behave as Jesus supposedly did in the gospels. When you get to the point where he's actually talking about evidence for the resurrection, you realize he's asking you to grant a 1 in 4 chance, a priori, of Christianity being true.

This is dubious on the face of it. Why should Christianity be more likely to be true than any other religion? Some doctrines are odd to say the least. The idea that God would need to get himself killed to be able to forgive us is like saying a father should draw a knife across his arm before forgiving a child. Then there's the issue what incarnation even means (a question that immediately brings to mind Josh McDowell's brilliant bad ant argument).

If we grant that Christianity might be true a priori, but is no more likely to be true than any entry of a list of 100 other religions, the chance of the resurrection having happened (assuming Swinburne is right about everything else he says) falls to less than 1 in 2, and further decreases if we add other religions to the list. Of course, the list could easily be a thousand or more entries long if one includes every little tribal cult in the world. The argument fails badly.

However, I feel I need to apologize to Swinburne. The book is bad, but bad in a different way than it initially appeared, so I, Mark Chu-Carroll et. al. were still being unfair.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

. . .

I just read this. Showed up on my referal log.

CotL 12

The 12th Carnival of the Liberals is up at Daylight Atheism.

This might be useful to me

I'm plannin on going to med school after college, but I've never been entirely sure what I want to specialize in. Now, Orac has posted this handy chart to help out people like me:

















Thanks, Orac!

Basic science, applied science, religion

Food for thought at the Secular Outpost.

Quote of the Time Being

Some places are flush with waterless urinals.
-The Economist

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More confident than Josh McDowell

Liberalism and Western style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems.
We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point – that is the Almighty God.
-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

HT: Andrew Sullivan

Rabi Gellman doesn't get it

A couple weeks ago, there was an internet uproar about a Newsweek article by Rabi Marc Gellman titled Trying to Understand Angry Atheists. It contained a remarkably telling passage:
I don't know many religious folk who wake up thinking of new ways to aggravate atheists, but many people who do not believe in God seem to find the religion of their neighbors terribly offensive or oppressive, particularly if the folks next door are evangelical Christians. I just don't get it.
No, you don't get it, even as you stumble close to the truth.

He is dimly aware that it is evangelical Christianity that mostly upsets people, but he doesn't know why any religion, anywhere, would offend anyone.

Herein comes the paradox of pluralism. I first enccounted Gellman, and his "God Squad" partner Thomas Hartman (a Catholic priest), through their book How Do You Spell God?, a fairly representative bit of religious pluralism. It explains the basics of the major world religions, constantly repeating that all are equally valid. He conceeds that some people do bad things in the name of religion, but that's them corrupting the religion, not the other way around.

Such sentiments are superficially noble. As I learn more and more about the history of ideas, I hesitate to give one source for any single idea, but I think it would be safe to say that much of the appeal of this one is a matter of history. For centuries, the dominant mode of religion was an intollerant one that did hideous things to dissenters. The results were particularly horrific post-reformation. We recoiled from "one way to heaven," rightly detesting the thought that "Plato and Cicero, Tacitus Quintilian Plyny and even Diderot, are sweltering under the scalding drops of divine Vengeance, for all Eternity." This, unfortunately, led us to reject "one truth" as well.

Never mind the incoherence of allowing that it is both true that there is one god, and true that there are many. Such a pluralism, worse still, has left us defenseless against the very ideologies it was supposed to oppose. It forces to grant equal validity to ideologies which proclaim that dissenters are "condemned" under an "awful doom."

Need it be explained why this is a bad thing? The absurdity should be self-evident. I cannot conceive of how any rational person could endorse the spending habits of our current administration, but should those who do suffer infinite punishment for it? No!

The doctrine, furthermore, is the mother of a hundred other monsters. It bears a large part of the responsibility for the frequent persecution of unbelievers in Muslim and Christian countries. Who can find fault Thomas Aquinas' reasoning that, if unbelief leads to damnation, spreading it is worse than any other crime and should be punished more harshly? It seems many find no fault with it. In the Left Behind series, which has sold tens of millions of copies, unbelievers are killed in graphic detail with a single word from Jesus' mouth. That is the mindset which this doctrine breeds. What will happen should men who think this way amass more power than they already have?

Many evangelicals, admittedly, recoil from the medieval sadism of Timmothy LaHaye. Here, the damage remains real, though more subtle. When the doctrine of hell is softened but tightly hung on to, what are we to make of it? I think the way to understand it is as a complete subordination of everything in the believers live to orthodoxy.

When it is orthodoxy uber alles, the damage is great indeed. critical inquiry is condemned. Alternatively, hollow declarations are made that God wants us to think for ourselves, but it is made clear that thinking for ourselves must never mean reaching unorthodox conclusions. We get the position of William Lane Craig, that reasoned rejection of Christianity is forbidden and that reason is largely a tool for gaining converts. Then there is Michael Behe, who recently declared that "The danger to Christians from osmosing alien, materialistic presumptions, I think, far outweighs the danger of being wrong about any particular scientific point."

In fact, even basic honesty can be subordinated to orthodoxy. That is a truly perverse effect: subordination of truth to Truth! Yet it is unavoidable. John 3:16-18 says only that believers live forever and unbelievers are condemned. The means by which belief and unbelief is achieved is irrelevant. The conclusion is inevitable: creationists who dedicate their lives to spreading lies have led many to heaven, while Stephen Jay Gould is rotting in hell.

This is a hard idea to swallow, leading another monster. It is insisted that all unbelievers must be being dishonest. They fail to become Christians because they love darkness rather than light.

This isn't even the whole story. The doctrine of damnation for unbelievers is only one daughter of the monster of orthodoxy, which I got such a clear expression of yesterday when reading the philosopher Steven Davies: "I would be greatly heartened if univeralism were true... The fact is that separationism is taught in the Bible and that the so-called 'universalistic passages' do not teach universalism. That is enough for me; that is why I am a separationist" (Risen Indeed 154).

So yes, many atheists are angry, with good reason. And the salt in the wound is that, for all their cries of "persecution," evangelicals do better in America today than atheists. One survey said that while just about every group has a favorable/unfavorable ratting on the favorable side, with evangelicals at 57/19, atheists come in at 35/50. It seems that most Americans, like Rabi Gellman, don't get it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Let's get rid of Christianism

And I mean the word.

As much as I like Andrew Sullivan, his attempts to come up with a new name for fundamentalism are wildly off base for reasons best expressed by Mad Magazine in the classic "Non-slanderous smear speech," which has a politician attack his opponent by saying "...at a time when we must be on our guard against all foreign 'isms', he has coolly announced his belief in altruism -- and his fervent hope that some day this entire nation will be altruistic !"

WELCOME SULLIVAN READERS!: Wow, look what trackbacking to Andrew Sullivan does to one's Sitemeter! Welcome all. A little background for my jab at him: I am an atheist. I am disgusted by fundamentalism, and glad to have liberal believers like Sullivan identifying it rather than appeasing it under the name of tolerance.

Don't take my jab to seriously. Take a look around, you might find something you like. You might especially want to take a look at my manifesto.

Random doodle

CFact. CFact run. RunFact, run!

Good news from the front!

Josh McDowell's newest book is called The Last Christian Generation. (You can the first chapter at the link provided.) Of course, with chapter titles like "Our young people's distorted view of Christianity" and "Our young people's distorted view of the True Church" one gets the hint that he is mainly worried about Christian fundamentalism dying. Anyway, that is good news, and presumably if he's saying so there's something to it.

Some caution in interpreting this might be warranted, though. The top Google search for his book is not for the book but a critique by a professed fan who thinks McDowell, which says, "I don't think he is really trying to use scare tactics, but with the numbers he uses and the way he uses them, I kind of wince every now and again. De facto, he is using scare tactics." Is this a death knell, a rally, or both? What do you think?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Quote of the Time Being

...we are not answering back to God; we are answering back to fellow mortals who seem to think they are God.
-Robert M. Price. This would be a good one for a counter tract.

Intervention?

Matt is still reading The Evolution Cruncher, a creationist book he began fisking last November. This was, to an extent, inspired by an earlier series of posts on Kent Hovind. That one was good - and somewhat useful, Hovind is fairly well-known - but I wonder about this one. I find it painful enough to read Matt's summaries; what must this be like for Matt?

Maybe the skeptical blogosphere needs to get together and tell him "Listen... Matt... It's okay... You don't have to do this..."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Michael Behe, fraud

I really don't think that word's too strong to describe people who pose as serious scholars or scientists while admitting (to ideological allies) that they put dogma above evidence. Here's Michael Behe responding to a young-earth creationist:
I appreciate Jackie Lee’s and Carmen Catanese’s letters, which together help to illustrate the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature. The danger to Christians from osmosing alien, materialistic presumptions, I think, far outweighs the danger of being wrong about any particular scientific point.
HT: Panda's Thumb (I'm a little late to this one, but this is one of those things that is worth documenting).

Friday, May 05, 2006

Da Vinci Code and Gnostic gospels

Here's continuing my critique of Blomberg:
It is hard to know whether to laugh or to cry when one encounters people who think that literature of this kind forms some kind of threat to historic Christian faith.
Here, he is right to an extent - the "historic Christian faith," the "only bigots deny the historical reliability of Christian documents" faith, that Blomberg defends is a naked emporer already. It would be on shaky grounds sans things like GoPeter, and books like Judas can't add much to the embarrassing mesh of non-cannonical legend that already exists.
But because it is unorthodox, some who never tire of attacking the canon apply a double standard and propose far more optimistic theories about the historical truth of the document. The essayists in this volume are for the most part more cautious than this, but one would never have guessed that just from the recently televised National Geographic program on this new Gospel.
I'm cool with criticizing TV sensationalism, but if the scholars are being more responsible, why the personal attacks? And who are these mystery scholars spinning more optimistic theories - are they really the same scholars Blomberg dislikes, or is he simply using media sensationalism as an excuse to discredit scholars? And if the former, why doesn't he name names rather than going after people he admits are being relatively responsible?
What is really sad are the Christians who tell others not to read books like the Gospel of Judas at all (or to see movies like The Da Vinci Code). What a wonderful opportunity for believers to become informed and share intelligently with their non-Christian friends whose interest has been sparked in Christian origins in ways that pure scholarship alone seldom accomplishes.
This is a nice segway into what I was thinking of saying about the Da Vinci Code. Books such as that one are doubly bad. First, because they promote nonsense (and Da Vinci Code is nonsense), but it makes fundamentalist propaganda look good by comparison, and that's quite a feat. Consider the booklet I got from Campus Crusade earlier this week. The cover says "Interview with Biblical scholar Josh McDowell." McDowell is an apologist who claims he was once skeptical, but then decided it was obvious that the Bible is historically reliable. This "obvious" point, defended in only a few pages, basically constitutes his entire defense of the historicity of the resurrection in one of his books. Beyond that, he doesn't even produce original apologetics (I was tempted to say "propaganda," but that term should be reserved for things that sound convincing). His work is entirely derived from other apologists. Now, though, he's touted as a serious scholar.

And the worst thing is that people who look into this will find out that Da Vinci Code contains much that is bogus, and just might come off with a good impression of McDowell. Ick.

Gays in Iraq update

Andrew Sullivan has a post that ends on a quite pessimistic note:
I have yet to hear anything from the major national gay groups. Surprise! Alas, I don't expect the Bush administration to protest this - because they need Sistani so badly. But they should.
I have a bit of more encouraging news. When this story broke, I dropped e-mails to both Wisconsin senators as well as Tammy Baldwin, my representative here in Madison. I had the most hope that the one to Tammy Baldwin would too some good because she herself is a lesbian, and I think I was right. I got generic responses from Kohl and Feingold, but this is what I got from her yesterday:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the treatment of gay
individuals in Iraq. I am happy to hear from you, and I apologize
for the delay in my response.

I appreciate you forwarding the article from the New Republic
regarding efforts by certain groups in Iraq to persecute gay
individuals. I am appalled and outraged at the allegations of
intimidation, violence, and murder of homosexuals in Iraq. I find
it particularly alarming that persecuted homosexuals are finding
the United States authorities indifferent. Any threat to human
rights in Iraq deserves the same respect and consideration from the
U.S. authorities, regardless of the sexual orientation of the
individual. You can be assured that I will look into these
allegations.

Again, thank you for sharing your views. Your opinion matters to
me. If I can be of service to you in any other way, please do not
hesitate to let me know. As a result of the anthrax incidents, all
mail sent to Congress is first irradiated. This process causes
significant delays. To ensure the fastest response, I encourage all
constituents who have access to the internet to contact me through
my website at http://tammybaldwin.house.gov.

Sincerely,


Tammy Baldwin
Member of Congress
The odds of this doing much good in the long run appear long, but it's something. Writing your representatives is not always the waste of time it seems.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Da Vinci Code and Gnostic gospels

(Update 13 July 2007: The comments on this post are very important. Note that I have corrected the spelling mistake pointed out by Blomberg, and made some other minor edits.)

This is a post that was inspired first by Craig Blomberg's attack on the publication of the Gospel of Judas and then by getting a propaganda booklet from Campus Crusade for Christ in the mail. I will deal with each of those in turn.

Here is to venting a beef two tendencies: the tendency of people outside orthodox Christianity to greatly overestimate the value of certain ancient documents (like the Gnostic gospels), and the tendency of orthodox Christians to greatly overestimate the value of certain ancient historical documents (like the canonical gospels).

Case in point: the resurrection narratives in Mark, Matthew, and Peter. Here they are, in order:

Mark: Jesus is buried. Women go to the tomb, find the stone rolled away. Inside, instead of Jesus' body is a mysterious young man who gives them a message.

Matthew: Jesus is buried. The Jewish leaders place guards around the tomb. Women go to the tomb. An angel with an appearance like lightening comes down from heaven, rolls away the stone, sits on stone. The guards are paralyzed with fear. The angel gives the women a message.

Peter: Jesus is buried. The Jewish leaders take guards to the tomb, pitch a tent, and stay with them to keep watch. A great crowd from Jerusalem comes to the tomb. Angels come down from the sky, the stone rolls back by itself, and the angels go in. They return with Jesus, who is so tall his head is literally in the clouds. The cross talks.

The orthodox are right to say that Peter was after the canonical gospels and contains legendary material. However, the fact that Matthew was written before Peter does not mean Matthew contains no legend, clearly it does. For the orthodox to insist that canonical and non-canonical gospels be classed in completely different categories is an act of astonishing blindness.

Now let us turn to Craig Blomberg's damage control operation. Blomberg, for those who don't know, is a rare example of a scholar (does that word need quote marks?) who is willing to insist that the early church was 100% correct about who wrote the canonical gospels. Realize that F. F. Bruce granted that our Matthew wasn't written by that apostle:
So what dramatic new teachings actually appear in this "Gospel of Judas?" What provokes Bart Ehrman (the Chapel Hill scholar who has taken it upon himself to highlight every unorthodox ancient document possible in his unrelenting campaign to argue that our canon is merely the product of the winning side) to declare this to be the most significant historical discovery pertaining to Christian origins in the last sixty years? Sadly, precious little. One understands now why the initial media hype kept quoting the same two or three excerpts from this Gospel. There is little else that does not match what scholars conversant with the Nag Hammadi Library have read many times over in past decades. Ehrman is the other writer to compose commentary for this publication, as he locates Judas among the other unorthodox Gospels, claiming how much our understanding of the diversity of early Christianity continues to broaden. Except that we knew about all this diversity already, though it is of course always significant to recover an actual text that may well be what we previously knew about only from second-hand, Patristic references.
Question, Dr. Blomberg: Imagine a world where, in 4000 A.D., Jehovah's Witnesses are the only remaining sect of Christianity, and we know about your evangelicalism only through their polemic. Wouldn't recovering texts by evangelical Christians help people of the 41st century understand the world of today? Wouldn't it help to know that bit of history from more than one perspective?

Of course it would. But equally sure is that Blomberg really doesn't differ much from Ehrman here. He admits that this is "significant," he just doesn't like people saying so so loudly, for he worries that doing so might wake some domgatic slumberers.
Furthermore, Ehrman (like Elaine Pagels, who is quoted on the front book jacket, and numerous other scholars whose personal religious pilgrimages have left them with transparent axes to grind against historic Christianity)...
Transparent axes to grind? It wasn't Ehrman who said that no amount of evidence would get him to change his scholarly conclusions. I wonder if, in making such personal attacks on mainstream scholars, Blomberg is motivated by a unconscious realization that they are what he could have been if he had summoned a little more intellectual honesty in college. He has noted similarities between his own personal history and Ehrman's, and tried to persuade himself that his stance of inerrancy was reached through historical study while saying how relieved he was to find apologetic works to keep opinions reached through other means.

Sometimes, when I read apologetics, I can think of the arguments as merely naive. Then I read displays of hypocrisy such as this and my generalized disgust with Christian apologetics increases.

I'll write more on this tomorrow.

On level with PZ Myers

I ended up taking the below test thanks to PZ Myers, who scored exactly the same as I. The fact that he didn't score higher made me wonder if it was even possible to do so, though yes, it is. When that happens, you get "Satan's little helper" as your ranking.







The Ardent Atheist
The results are in, and it appears that you have scored 76%...
You are an atheist, pure and simple. You think God is just one big lie, and consider religious people to be both annoying and beneath you. Ardent atheists will argue tooth and claw for their position, and have no truck with people that won't listen. You think being an atheist is the only way to lead an honest life, and see no reason to accept the pleas of faith. Ardent atheists are the backbone of atheism. Be proud.







My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:










free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on pentagrams
Link: The Atheist Test written by chi_the_cynic on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Computer trouble

I'm currently sitting in the computer lab at Memorial Library. I was planning to serve my readers with a post on the Da Vinci code and apocryphal gospels, but I'm having computer troubles and now the thing's in the campus tech center getting fixed. I've also got a paper due tomorrow and another due Thursday, so I've decided to hold off on blogging until then. Expect that post some time on Thursday.