Monday, September 8, 2014

For Heaven to be Perfect, You Can’t be There

If heaven is defined as the best possible afterlife, there are at least as many concepts of heaven as there are religions in the world. I’d argued there are as many different concepts of heaven as there are people who have ever considered it. Perfection is seemingly a subjective idea as strange as that sounds. Be it virgins, streets of gold, reunions with family, or nirvana, most agree that the bad things we experience in life, do not occur in heaven. They don’t occur because they fundamentally can’t.

If I’m in heaven and a fellow worthy dead guy wants to do something I don’t like, they just can’t do it because it would conflict with my perfect world. Yet if they can’t act on their desires, then their experience is lacking and therefore not a fulfillment of their ideal. The only way around this is to say, despite appearances, perfection is not subjective. There is one perfect experience for all of us, we are just not yet able to know it. This still poses a problem--that person who knows this hypothetical objective perfection, isn’t you.

Even predicting you will become that person is folly. That person is so fundamentally not you that I’m completely justified in saying that aren’t going to heaven. Heaven, as understood by believers, is an infinite dimension after our finite life. That means any being that can experience things will experience an infinite amount of happiness there. That being will also experience an infinite amount of sadness, guilt, suffering, envy, ect. In fact, an eternal timeline for any of us will result in an infinite amount of every positive and negative emotion and response. If the being who goes on to such a place is anything like us, it really doesn’t matter whether we go to heaven or hell--the experience is functionally the same. For heaven to be devoid of the negative, we must be rendered incapable of experiencing everything from pain to boredom. By the time you are a being who is like that, that being won’t bare any resemblance to you.

Think about yourself at five years old. You are likely made up of entirely different atoms today. You think entirely different thoughts and have entirely different knowledge. Some memories may be shared, but chances are most only feel the same and are different from what actually happened. That child is the you of the past, but is only tangentially related to the you of the present. Imagine how much more different the you of the future would be divorced from most of the experiential ability, intelligence, and freedom of will we’re capable of now. It would be like a saying a computer that has had all it’s software and hardware replaced is the same computer. No, you’re not going to heaven. If heaven exists, that other guy is.

Come to terms with the fact that collectively we aren’t compatible with a universal perfection and work towards a best-case world in which everyone gets a fair shot at social happiness.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Deity Shmeity Quickies

Faith, as unsubstantiated belief to the degree of perceived certainty, is the most anti-intellectual concept ever created. When applied to religion, it's effectively ignorance worship.

Last month's PewResearch data that shows how atheists are viewed relative to religious groups. (Spoiler: not great)

I find that theists tend to project their beliefs onto reality. Concepts--like right and wrong, the mind, love, truth to some extent--are all more than abstractions, they are considered real in some way beyond the use of the people that conceive them. The support for this is always along the lines of "I feel it's true" or, my favorite, "we all know it, even those who put on a show of denying it." You can believe something, you can even really believe something, but you can't believe something into existence.

You Are Not So Smart is becoming one of my favorite podcasts. Each episode goes over a topic related to the human experience with a focus on thinking and biases. This episode is particularly relevant to those who spend probably too much time arguing on the Internet (or anywhere.)

Religious apologists have a problem with infinite regress, but considering they believe in a being who has always existed, I don't understand why. If we ask when an everlasting being existed before any given moment, the answer would be the moment before, ad infinitum. If we ask what caused any given effect in an infinite causal series, the answer is the cause before it, ad infinitum. So far, no one has showed what the essential difference is between the two claims or why infinite regress is logically inferior. If you know, let me know.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Teaching via Mockery

Religious apologists often confuse the word objective with words like absolute, transcendent, and universal--especially when talking about morality. To illustrate what objective means, I will now insult these people.

They are least in the subjective sense, which is a judgement I'm making influenced by personal feelings and opinions. However, in the recent past, I could test these people and state objectively that they are morons, imbeciles and idiots--each of these labels corresponding with an IQ score of 51–70, 21–50, and IQ of 0–20 respectively. A metric, like an IQ score, means that feelings and opinions can't factor in. Your IQ is your IQ regardless of what I personally think of you, and therefore objective.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Evolution of Nothing

“Nothing” is a concept that has meant different things at different points of humanity’s understanding of the universe. When our planet was effectively understood as the universe, empty air space was reasonably defined as “nothing.” Upon discovery that space exists beyond our atmosphere, the meaning shifted to exclude air as now the vacuum of space was a valid option. The march of scientific discovery theorized magnetic, gravitational and other fields were “something” that may even correspond to particles that clearly aren’t applicable to the concept of “nothing.” And finally it was realized that space and time itself were dimensions that could conceivably not exist, which they wouldn’t in the case of a hypothetical “nothing.”

One might think this speculative absence of everything would be the purest nothing to which both atheists and theists could agree, but of course it’s not. Modern physics has shown that quantum fluctuations can spawn temporary virtual particles out of even this “nothing.” There is no particle or field or dimension or anything to exclude at this point. It is entirely nothing, then something, then nothing again. The only way an apologist, motivated to believe in a nothing in which God is the only creative power, can define nothing at this point is arbitrarily. Nothing, to them, is that without the natural potential for something. A baseless, speculative meaning only used by a minority that special pleads in order to create the illusion that the arguments they insert this term into is valid.

“That without the nature potential for something.” The special pleading is apparent with the qualifier of “natural.” It allows for another baseless and speculative category of the supernatural which isn’t only without scientific evidence, but conveniently beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. Something coming from nothing in our reality is only permissible, in their minds, through magic in which the spell caster is their deity of choice and only their deity. This “nothing” is just another example of a term in the apologetic handbook that when applied to the handbook’s official syllogisms, makes them entirely fallacious.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Idealized Conservative on Church & State

After hearing more and more conservatives openly promoting the unity of Church and State (only their Church, or course) I found this quote from one of their favs ironic.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Incomplete & Circular Apologetic Definitions

Are you healthy? I don’t know much about you, reader, but if you are the average American your answer is probably close to “sure...I guess” or maybe even a straight up “I don’t know.” That’s because the term “healthy” is an imprecise word that means different things to different people. A judgement of health, when poorly defined, is subjective and not very meaningful. If, on the other hand, I asked if you are overweight then provided a scale, tape measure, and the calculation to determine your Body Mass Index, we could objectively see if your BMI is over 25 and therefore overweight.

In debates with religious apologists, I’ve noticed their moral arguments rely on the imprecise meaning of right and wrong--of good and evil. Ask them to define them clearly and you will be met with resistance. Define them secularly and those meanings will be dismissed. Push, and you will likely hear one of two meanings.

  1. Good or evil are inherent properties of the action in question.
  2. That which is right is that which we have a moral obligation to God to do and that which is wrong is that which we have a moral obligation to God to refrain from.

Let’s take the first one first. “Good or evil are inherent properties of the action in question.” The first problem is that most will latter disagree with the definition they provided. If evilness or wrongness is an inherent property of lying or killing, then it can’t ever be right. However, they will almost certainly agree that lying to protect others or killing in self defense isn’t wrong or evil. In Catholicism there is something called The Principle of Double Effect which allows Catholics to break commandments to achieve what they judge to be the greater good. Hell, most theists in America support the death penalty, that should tell you something.

The second problem is that the property definition is incomplete. It’s like explaining to a child that wetness is a property of water without ever getting into what it means to be wet. Wetness could mean it’s liquid, it could mean it’s clear, it could mean it’s made of molecules. What does the property of good or evil say about the actions? From here they might falter and give secular reasons regarding a harm vs. benefit analysis of the actions, which would negate the perceived need for a deity entirely, or they might move to the previously mentioned secondary definition.

“That which is right is that which we have a moral obligation to God to do and that which is wrong is that which we have a moral obligation to God to refrain from.” Not only does this mean nothing to anyone who doesn’t already believe and therefore has no persuasive power, it also undermines the moral argument entirely. Assigning morality a definition that assumes God exists, cannot then be used to demonstrate that God exists. It is a simple example of circular reasoning. The crazy thing is, I’ve heard many apologists be fine with that--to the point that they ask “what’s wrong with circular reasoning?” Jesus Christ!

Don’t follow apologists down the moral rabbit hole until you know just what they mean by right and wrong. Depending on how these terms are framed, morality can be subjective, objective, relative, conceptual, nonsensical or anything in between.