Archive for the ‘atheism’ Category

Richard Carroll, Hero to Atheists in Arkansas.

In Arkansas, atheism, Law on February 18, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Lots of people don’t realize this, but the Arkansas state constitution has specific wording in it to keep people who don’t believe in God out of public office (and from testifying as a witness in court). In Article 19, Section 1 it states:

“No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court.”

Well, if Richard Carroll of North Little Rock, a member of the Green Party and a Catholic gets his way, the constitution will be amended. He has introduced house resolution 1009: AMENDING THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION TO REPEAL THE PROHIBITION AGAINST AN ATHEIST HOLDING ANY OFFICE IN THE CIVIL DEPARTMENTS OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS OR TESTIFYING AS A WITNESS IN ANY COURT.

Of course, the U.S Supreme court ruled provisions such as the one in the 1874 Arkansas Constitution unconstitutional back in 1961 in a ruling in a Maryland case.

This Maryland religious test for public office unconstitutionally invades the appellant’s freedom of belief and religion and therefore cannot be enforced against him.

And Arkansas apparently isn’t alone in this, there are about a dozen other states with similar provisions lurking in the depths of their constitutions. Perhaps bringing to light these provisions might be a good tactic for atheists to let people know that we should be afforded the same religious protections as any other citizen.


My answers to Lee Strobel’s recent questions

In atheism, friendlyatheist, Lee Strobel on January 31, 2009 at 2:22 am

Recently Lee Strobel sent a series of questions to the readers of friendlyatheist.com. Here are my answers to his recent round.

What argument is most convincing to plant the seeds of doubt (or, rather, faith) in an atheist’s mind?
Do you mind if I restate your question while retaining its original intent? It might be more interesting to phrase it this way: Atheists on this site have kindly submitted questions for me, but what questions would I ask an atheist? As I pondered that issue, I decided to send emails to some of my friends to get advice on what they would ask. Here are a few of their replies — all of which I agree would be excellent to ask a skeptic. If they’re considered fully with all of their implications, they might indeed plant some seeds:

Historian Gary Habermas: “Utilizing each of the historical facts conceded by virtually all contemporary scholars, please produce a comprehensive natural explanation of Jesus’ resurrection that makes better sense than the event itself.”
These historical facts are: (1) Jesus was killed by crucifixion; (2) Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them; (3) The conversion of the church persecutor Saul, who became the Apostle Paul; (4) the conversion of the skeptic James, Jesus’ half-brother; (5) The empty tomb of Jesus. These “minimal facts” are strongly evidenced and are regarded as historical by the vast majority of scholars, including skeptics, who have written about the resurrection in French, German, and English since 1975. While the fifth fact doesn’t have quite the same virtual universal consensus, it nevertheless is conceded by 75 percent of the scholars and is well supported by the historical data if assessed without preconceptions.

Let’s take these so called “facts” in order shall we?

  1. Assuming you can trust the accounts of Jesus existing and being crucified in the normal Roman way, I’ll grant him this one. Be aware though that there are no ROMAN accounts of this. But the romans crucified lots of people, perhaps this one just didn’t get recorded.
  2. Hrm, this is interesting, okay, I’ll even grant you that the disciples might have believed he rose and appeared to them. But just because people believe things, doesn’t mean they are true. People believe lots of incorrect stuff.
  3. Okay, so Paul believed to. I’m beginning to see a trend here.
  4. Ah, and so does James. Geez, that’s almost 14 people so far!
  5. Okay, just for humor’s sake I’ll grant you an empty tomb. Of course, there are lots of explanations for that. Perhaps the tomb was looted? Perhaps these so called “believing” disciples believed so much that they faked the empty tomb. Both possibilities are more likely than any supernatural event… And that’s just off the top of my head, there are probably dozens of more likely explanations that don’t require magic.

Philosopher Paul Copan: “Given the commonly recognized and scientifically supported belief that the universe (all matter, energy, space, time) began to exist a finite time ago and that the universe is remarkably finely tuned for life, does this not (strongly) suggest that the universe is ontologically haunted and that this fact should require further exploration, given the metaphysically staggering implications?
“And, second, granted that the major objection to belief in God is the problem of evil, does the concept of evil itself not suggest a standard of goodness or a design plan from which things deviate, so that if things ought to be a certain way (rather than just happening to be the way they are in nature), don’t such ‘injustices’ or ‘evils’ seem to suggest a moral/design plan independent of nature?”

“ontologically haunted”. LOL. (He means “there is a god”, I think he just wants to sound smarter than he is, either that or he wants us to imagine god lurking in the shadows ready to jump out and go BOO.). Anyway, on to the point.

I don’t know why people keep saying the universe is fine tuned for life. Have they looked around? There’s a large portion of our planet that isn’t very hospitable to life. Most of the solar system is downright hostile to life. Even probes sent to Venus MELT within a few minutes of landing. That’s not to mention the vast miles of interstellar space, and all the stars, and black holes, and quasars, and pulsars and well, you get the point. The universe is pretty hostile to life.

As for his second point. I don’t believe in the existence of objective morality in the same way I believe in the objective reality of say, a rock. Think about it this way. If there were no human beings. Would anything be EVIL? Good and Evil are concepts that humans use to describe actions and behaviors we like or don’t like. That’s it. I can’t emphasize this enough. “Meaning” is something human beings assign to things. “Meaning” is not a thing like a rock is a thing.

Talk show host Frank Pastore: “Please explain how something can come from nothing, how life can come from non-life, how mind can come from brain, and how our moral senses developed from an amoral source.”

Let’s take these in order as well.

Something from Nothing:
Well, as nobody is really claiming this, I’m not sure what you mean. At least SCIENCE doesn’t claim this. If you’ve heard a physicist talking about something coming from nothing, they were probably paraphrasing. The Big Bang is all about all the matter, time and energy being created from a single thing, a “singularity”.. That’s sure as hell not “nothing”. As for where the singularity came from? We don’t know. But we certainly aren’t claiming we do know. Only theists do that.

Life from non-Life:
This is called the theory of abiogenesis. Much is not known of the actual process.

Mind from brain:
Well, where pray-tell do you THINK that the mind is? Floating in a cartoon bubble outside our bodies? In another dimension? In a supernatural realm? If so, how does it communicate with our body? Through what mechanism? Ah, you don’t know. Then why are you making the claim? Also, see Functional MRI studies.

Moral from aMoral:
I guess the best answer to this is to say that humans are not the only creatures to have a morality. The great apes definitely have morality, and as you look around the animals kingdom you see lots of animals with differing moral “codes”. I will say that you only see these in the social animals ( like the apes ). This was probably an evolutionary advantage long ago.

Historian Mike Licona: “Irrespective of one’s worldview, many experience periods of doubt. Do you ever doubt your atheism and, if so, what is it about theism or Christianity that is most troubling to your atheism?”

Actually, this is funny. I rarely doubt my “atheism”. Once I had run through all the logical problems with God existing, I was kind of done. I had far more doubt when I was a Christian and Deist.

Author Greg Koukl: “Why is something here rather than nothing here? Clearly, the physical universe is not eternal (Second Law of Thermodynamics, Big Bang cosmology). Either everything came from something outside the material universe, or everything came from nothing (Law of Excluded Middle). Which of those two is the most reasonable alternative? As an atheist, you seem to have opted for the latter. Why?”

I’m not going into the something from nothing thing again. I’ll just say it this way.

There’s no such thing as Nothing.

Also, quit using a false dichotomy. You forgot the choice that science actually shows.. Everything came from a singularity. The singularity BECAME all the matter and energy in the universe. In other words. Things that exist, exist. Things that don’t, don’t.

I didn’t email Alvin Plantinga, considered by many to be among the greatest philosophers of modern times. But based on his assertion that naturalism is self-defeating, we could formulate this question (thanks to William Lane Craig for some of the concise wording): If our cognitive faculties were selected for survival, not for truth, then how can we have any confidence, for example, that our beliefs about the reality of physical objects are true or that naturalism itself is true? (By contrast, theism says God has designed our cognitive faculties in such a way that, when functioning properly in an appropriate environment, they deliver true beliefs about the world.)

Ah, Plantinga. I recently finished reading his tome “Warranted Christian Belief”. He sure can fill up pages with words. I’ll have a long post soon on his work. So for now I’ll just say this. Learn how science works. Do some actual science experiments. (They can be simple ones) Think about how you know what you know. If you do the work, you’ll eventually understand. Here’s the trick. Human perception was evolved for survival and not for truth. We use the methods of science precisely because our senses and brains are so bad at discerning what is true. This is why we have things like double-blind studies. You trust the data, not your senses.


License Plate Redux

In atheism, church/state separation on May 22, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Oh no, more religious license plates.

This time it’s South Carolina, but the plate is going to look just like Florida’s old one.

Actually though, I don’t have a problem with this cross plate… as long as you allow any group who can get 400 orders to get a plate. Which means atheists in South Carolina ( I wonder if there are 400 of them ) should band together and order a plate with the scarlett A on it.

What bother me worse is Arkansas’s plate, which I’ve written about before.

It contains a picture of the Arkansas state capitol building with the slogan “In God We Trust” at the bottom. To me, this is more a violation of the first amendments establishment clause than one saying “I Believe”. After all the “I Believe” obviously refers to the person driving the car, not the state. While “In God We Trust” implies the collective state government of the people.

Follow the link below to read the whole story about South Carolina’s new license plates.

Cross could adorn state license plates


National Simulcast For Church-State Separation This Wednesday

In atheism, atheist, church/state separation on March 25, 2008 at 3:47 am

Hemant over at friendlyatheist.com writes:

All the details on this simulcast are here.

Actors, musicians and comedians will join church-state activists from across the country March 26 to put church-state separation on the national agenda during the 2008 election season.

In movie theatres in 25 cities across the nation, interested citizens will gather to learn about the threats to church-state separation and to demand that presidential hopefuls and candidates for other offices answer questions about key issues dealing with individual freedom. A list of 10 great questions to ask candidates will be featured.

It’s no longer 25 cities, either; several more venues have been added bringing the number up to 37.

Here’s the full list of those cities which will host the event:

State City Theatre Time
AR Little Rock Breckenridge Stadium 12 5:00pm
CA Sacramento Natomas Marketplace Stadium 16 6:00pm
CA San Diego Mira Mesa Stadium 18 6:00pm
CA Mountain View Century Cinemas 16 6:00pm
CA Woodland Hills Promenade 16 6:00pm
CO Denver Denver Pavilions 15 7:00pm
FL Tampa Citrus Park Stadium 20 6:00pm
FL Jacksonville Regency Jax 24 6:00pm
GA Atlanta RGL Perimeter Pointe 10 6:00pm
IL Savoy Savoy 5:00pm
IL Batavia Randall 5:00pm
IL Woodridge Cinemark @ Seven Bridges 5:00pm
IL Peoria Willow Knolls 5:00pm
IN Lafayette Eastside 6:00pm
IN Portage Portage 5:00pm
IN Indianapolis Galaxy Stadium 14 6:00pm
MA Boston Fenway 13 6:00pm
MI Canton Canton Cinema 6:00pm
MI Lansing Lansing Mall Cinema 6:00pm
MI Kalamazoo Kalamazoo 6:00pm
MI Ann Arbor Quality 6:00pm
MI Saginaw Saginaw/Quad 6:00pm
MO Springfield Springfield 5:00pm
MO Columbia Forum 5:00pm
NC Raleigh Movies @ North Hills 14 6:00pm
NY New York Union Square Stadium 14 6:00pm
OH Columbus Georgesville Square Stadium 16 6:00pm
OK Oklahoma City Tinseltown USA 5:00pm
OR Portland Lloyd Center 10 Cinema 6:00pm
PA Philadelphia Riverview Plaza 17 6:00pm
PA Harrisburg Regal Harrisburg 14 6:00pm
SC Columbia Sandhill Cinema 16 6:00pm
TN Nashville Opry Mills Stadium 20 Plus Imax 5:00pm
TX Houston Houston Marq*e Stadium 23 5:00pm
TX Austin Metropolitan Stadium 14 5:00pm
VA Glen Allen Virginia Center Stadium 20 6:00pm
WA Seattle Pacific Place 11 6:00pm

If you’re close to any of those cities and you can make it, consider coming out to support the event! All you need to do is reserve your free tickets.

If anyone is planning on going to the Cinemark @ Seven Bridges in Woodridge, IL, let me know!

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[From National Simulcast For Church-State Separation This Wednesday]

My wife and I will be at the Little Rock one. I’m going to take pictures and blog about it once it’s over.