Proof of God

What “Proof of God” justifies your position? (part four)

This is part four of a four-part series.

So God isn’t omnipotent. He’s still the Creator.

When believers say, “God is beyond understanding, beyond definition,” they don’t really mean it. At the very least, I would say, there is one characteristic that provides a very clear definition of God: “God is the entity that can determine the nature of matter and its interactions in a definable region. God makes universes, at least this one.”

That’s why Jews, Christians, and Muslims couldn’t possibly accept Zeus, Odin, or Brahma as “God”; none of those can claim they created the universe. This “creation claim” is unique to the Abrahamic religions and central to their beliefs.

Proof of GodI find this to be a beautifully scientific claim. There are all sorts of things that we may not yet understand, but that are potentially comprehensible to us: the nature of matter, the nature of physical laws, the nature of space and time (a definable region). We consider all these to be scientific; we can work with this.

Other claims of the miracles that God can perform are vague, silly, and somehow lesser than this one. We have biblical stories that God can change water into wine, raise the dead, stop the planet’s rotation for a while. These do seem rather “miraculous” (if given any credibility at all). I will claim however that these are nothing more than fancy applications of advanced technology.

Proof of GodModern medicine raises many people from the dead (myself included) when it brings back someone whose heart has stopped. You might say, “Oh, they’re not really dead, they need to be dead longer.” That just sounds like an application of more advanced technology. Has all metabolism stopped? Has all DNA degraded? At what point would believers want to claim God can raise someone from the dead? What if they have degraded down to their molecular components and been dispersed around the planet? What if they fell into a burning sun or a black hole?

Stopping the revolution of the planet is pretty impressive. One could conceive of the application of massive and powerful energies being applied and some kind of a stasis field to stop the oceans from sloshing around and people from flying off the surface due to the sudden deceleration. Highly advanced technology, to be sure, and we certainly have no idea how to do such a thing at our present stage.

But to say, it is not even achievable technologically in principle is to make a prediction about the limitations of the capabilities of future humans or any advanced civilization. Whenever one has made those in the past, they have almost always turned out to be wrong, providing they have any scientific basis whatsoever.

I claim there is only ONE capability that would give someone the “right” to call themselves “God.” That is the ability to impose a set of natural laws on real matter (equivalent to “creating a universe”). If you have the ability to create a universe, where the stuff of that universe behaves in a way that you determine, you are “God” (at least to that universe). Anything that constrains the kind of matter you can make or the way that matter interacts, limits your claim to be called “God.”

Any other entity, no matter how advanced its technology, that is constrained to operating within the natural properties of the matter in its universe, should not be considered “God.” A being that could determine the natural properties of matter would trump any other kind of technology. Only that being could be said to be Supreme.

The main theological claim of the Abrahamic religions is that, despite whatever logical or natural limitations there may be to God’s abilities, He is nonetheless the Creator of the universe (some may say, specifically, of the world and of life, but I think creating the universe encompasses these smaller claims).

Is “being God” the same as having advanced technology?

Proof of GodLet’s ask ourselves about “God, the Creator.” Does God understand how He does what He does? Does He understand the process of Creation in a scientific sense, the way we understand how computer chips work? If so, can God teach these scientific principles to another person, teach someone else how to be God?

There are only two possible answers: Yes or No.

No: If God has no idea how to create a universe, we really have to ask how He could lay claim to having done it. How does He know it came into existence by His action? Could He do it again? If we answer, “No,” we have to ask whether the “God claim” is substantiated.

Yes: If God understands completely the principles of universe creation, then it would seem to be a science. That is, it’s something that is comprehensible by some being (with sufficient intelligence, one would presume). One would expect, like most things that can be understood, that God can subsequently teach “godhood” (i.e. how to create a universe), i.e. that “godhood” is essentially a science.

If it’s a science, why can’t we discover it on our own? If it’s a science, then the “supernatural” (outside of nature) claims for God simply fail. God becomes a subset of “natural.” We may honor that, respect that, but why would we worship it?

Now some might argue that God understands how to make universes but no one else can (presumably because we are either not smart enough or lack some ability). But this fails logically.

Everything that is understandable can be taught to someone of sufficient intelligence and ability. Some point to perceptual or physical limitations, saying things like: “You can’t teach the colorblind to see color, though they may understand the principle”; or “You can’t teach a person without arms to play the guitar.” These are silly objections because they are based on essentially technological limitations.

Even we humans are not that far away from using stem cells to restore cone receptors in the eyes of the color blind. Limb regeneration is not an impossibility, as we already know there are creatures on Earth who can regrow severed limbs; we just need to develop the understanding.

Surely, the Creator (who understands how He does what He does) could hypothetically also create a being capable of perceiving and understanding the process of creation. Surely, He would have enough scientific knowledge to be able to pass it down to a sufficiently advanced being. If we can extend our knowledge and abilities, why can’t He?

The conclusion is almost inevitable: Any being sufficiently advanced to create a universe should be able to teach the ability to another sufficiently advanced being. Further, the Creator should understand enough biology (or computational theory) to find a way to make capable beings that are currently incapable of understanding creation. We may not know how to do this yet, but it would be the height of hubris to suggest God can’t do it. Being God, “godhood” –if that has any meaning—must be a science that we could potentially understand.

Conclusion

So, we’ve explored the limitations to any putative “God’s” abilities. We’ve concluded that the God of the Abrahamic faiths is not all-loving, all-knowing, nor all-powerful. Those conclusions are an inevitable result of Scripture, experience, and logic. We’ve also narrowed our definition of God to His primary defining characteristic or claim: God is the Creator of the universe. But then we’ve gone on to show how creating a universe is really something that is scientifically achievable, at least in principle. If it’s something that has a scientific basis, we humans should eventually be able to figure it out on our own.

Why should we use the possibility that there is some other being who understands more about how the universe works as a justification for our reckless, insane behaviors, for going to war with someone whose views are only moderately different? Especially when we can’t really distinguish between this imperfect being we call “God” from some scientifically, technologically very advanced alien being. This seems much more akin to “picking a favorite team” than any rational basis for how we approach the universe.

Proof of GodIs “God” just a “favorite team?” How do people in Boston decide they like the Celtics, the Bruins, or the Red Sox more than they like Toronto’s Raptors, Maple Leafs, or Blue Jays? Well, favorite sports teams are chosen by where we were born, where we grew up, where we live, who our friends are, and so on. All social factors. It turns out that being born and growing up in a country that primarily practices the Muslim faith is a great predictor that you are more likely to become Muslim than Christian or Jewish. It turns out most of us pick religions much the same way we pick sports teams or political parties.

If God is like a favorite sports team, why would rational people choose that method to determine how they live, who they associate with, who they listen to as authorities? They wouldn’t. Religion is a lot like that; it’s not rational. More dangerously, it’s not a rational way to develop public policy. As I said at the beginning, I don’t really care what you believe in the privacy of your own mind, but when your beliefs affect the public policy that you propose or support, then I care greatly.

I want public policy to be rational, based on the best available evidence and logical analysis. I want public policy to be flexible, to adjust in the face of new data rather than defend its dogmatic and indefensible ideology. That’s the only reason I care about your beliefs, the only reason I challenge those beliefs. When anyone uses their unsubstantiated beliefs to formulate policy in the public domain, I think it’s incumbent on evidence-based, rational people to challenge the basis of those beliefs.




Proof of God

What “Proof of God” justifies your position? (part three)

This is part three of a four-part series.

Is God all-knowing?

Proof of GodWell, this is absurd on so many levels. If God was all-knowing then why were Adam and Eve punished (kicked out of the Garden of Eden) for eating of the forbidden fruit? Didn’t God see that one coming? Is it fair to punish someone for doing something that was practically built-in to their design by their supposedly perfect, inerrant designer?

And what of free-will? How can we freely choose between options AND have God know what our choice will be before we make it?

From an information-theory point of view, there is a LOT of information in the universe. Does God know where each single subatomic particle in the universe is and where it’s going? How does He know this? More importantly, how does He bypass the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (which states “it’s not possible to know both the position of a particle and the velocity of that particle with perfect precision, not even in theory)?”

 

 

Proof of GodInformation can be represented as bits, 1s and  0s. Think of it as “information removes uncertainty.” Before you flip a coin, you don’t know if it’ll land on heads or tails. Your uncertainty is equal to the probability that either choice could come up, one-in-two or one-half (we use a mathematical formula to convert this to bits of information:). Once you flip it, the coin lands on one side or the other. At that point, your uncertainty drops to zero from one-half. We say the information from that test is one bit.

So, how many bits of information are there in the universe? This is impossible to know, but the number is enormous. A single atom of iron may require 1080 bits to fully describe it. Derek Abbott of the University of Adelaide says,

“We know the entropy of a black hole is related to its surface area divided by the Planck length. So what we can do is pretend the whole [known, ed.] universe is a black hole and use the radius of the known universe to get its surface area. And as entropy is related to information, we can calculate the maximum number of bits. Then depending on the details, you’ll get a number between 10122 and 10124 bits for the whole universe.”

Your modern desktop computer, has something like 1011 bits in its hardware. You’d need 10113 such computers to store all the information in the known universe, alone. The whole universe only contains around 1082 atoms, so it’s hard to see how you could ever have enough computers for the task. Especially given that each computer contains around a mole (1023) atoms of material.

“So, what?” a believer might ask. Well, here’s the thing. God (if such a being exists) would need to be much bigger than the universe just to contain all the information that is in that universe. “No problem,” the believer says. “God is infinite.” (another scientific claim, by the way) Now, let’s add to God’s burden. God is all-knowing so, in addition to knowing everything about our universe, He must know everything about himself.

In addition to encoding all the bits about our universe, an all-knowing God needs to encode all the bits that represent Himself. That includes His representation of our universe. You can see this is going to become a problem very quickly. The omniscient God must contain enough bits to encode all the information PLUS all the information about the bits that encode that information PLUS all the information about those bits that encode that information PLUS…it never ends.

The only reasonable conclusion is that God can’t logically be omniscient.

Is God all-powerful?

The Stone Paradox is most commonly used to represents logical limitations to an omnipotent being. Simply, it asks: Could an omnipotent being create a stone too heavy for it to lift? Other variations of this include: Could an omnipotent being make a square triangle?

Proof of GodThe basis for the Stone Paradox is simple. If the answer is “Yes” (God can make a stone too heavy for Him to lift) then there is something He can’t do, namely lift a stone He created. If the answer is “No” then, again, there is something He can’t do, namely make such a stone.

More recently Pastor Peter LaRuffa has (in)famously stated,

“If somewhere within the Bible, I were to find a passage that said 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.”

This is the same stance taken by French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descarte. The view that an omnipotent being could do absolutely anything, even the logically absurd, is known as ”voluntarism.”

Most theologians and philosophers don’t accept voluntarism but instead resort to “act theory“ interpretations. These take on the form: A being S is omnipotent if-and-only-if S can perform any action A such that A is possible. So, because a square circle, for example, is not possible, it is absurd to believe an omnipotent God can make one.

Act theory doesn’t claim the absolute omnipotence of God, but rather that God is the maximally powerful being. That God can do anything that can be done. A logically contradictory state of affairs is not a thing at all, but NOTHING. An all-powerful God can do or make anything, but it’s meaningless to say that He can do or make a ”nothing.”

The point is, ‘a rock too heavy for God to lift’ really means ‘a rock too heavy for a being who can lift anything’, so it is a self-contradiction. A ‘square circle’ and ‘2+2=5’ are likewise contradictory states of affairs. Therefore these are all nothings.

This immediately leads to the objection, “What sets the constraint about what can be done? Is God forced to obey laws of nature or laws of logic that He has not created? If so, God is not the maximally powerful being imaginable. Why do logical paradoxes lead to NOTHINGS for an all-powerful God?”

Some philosophers have tried to overcome these problems by resorting to the “result theories“ of Leibniz and Ross, where a being is omnipotent if-and-only-if any possible state of affairs, or any possible world. A possible state of affairs is defined as “a way the world could be.” For instance, the sky’s being blue is a possible state of affairs, and John’s being a married bachelor is an impossible state of affairs.

Result theory would say, there being a stone an omnipotent being cannot lift is clearly not a possible state of affairs. An omnipotent being could therefore not bring it about. On the other hand, there being a stone its creator cannot lift is a possible state of affairs, and could be brought about by an omnipotent being, under the Leibniz-Ross theory, for an omnipotent being could bring it about that some other being created a stone which that being could not lift. Therefore, the Stone Paradox is claimed to not be a problem for the Leibniz-Ross theory.

I have a hard time distinguishing this from act theory; it may be too subtle for me. I would claim that this hasn’t got around the Stone Paradox at all. The result theory argument is that there’s a possible world where omnipotent being A creates some other being (or version of itself) B that makes the stone that A cannot subsequently lift, at the same time that a different being or version of itself is lifting it. That would seem to imply that A can make a possible world where being B  can do something A can’t. Why would we call A omnipotent in that case?

Here’s a video that demonstrates an interesting attempt to get around the Stone Paradox by making God able to split into two different versions of himself. Version A can’t life the rock, but at the same time version B can lift both A and the rock. That’s pretty neat. But, the original claim implied a single being we could call God. In this video, God splits into two beings with different capabilities. Is it fair to call either of them omnipotent? Are either of them still God?

This is a cute trick but it seems more like saying, “God’s right hand can make a stone too heavy for God’s left hand to lift.” It’s not at all clear this is the same test as the Stone Paradox proposes. Instead of proposing two different versions of God, we could simply say, “God at time x can create a stone that only God at time y can lift.” That is, we can split God temporally instead of spatially. I would claim these are not logically equivalent to our initial proposal.

The Leibniz-Ross result theory, leads to other odd or absurd metaphysical consequences, including the implication that an omnipotent being exists necessarily. According to Leibniz’s formulation, an omnipotent being would be able to actualize any possible world, but it is absurd to suppose that an omnipotent being should actualize a world in which it never existed. It follows that no such world is possible. Of course, this assumes that an omnipotent being existed in any possible world.

If there is no world (not any) in which an omnipotent being could possibly exist, then it wouldn’t exist in all possible worlds. Either God exists in all possible worlds or in none.

There are easily enough paradoxes in the idea of an omnipotent being that can’t be logically dismissed that we should be very wary of the whole concept.

In the next post, I’ll examine the “Creator claim” made of the Abrahamic God and draw my final conclusions.




God's superpowers

What “Proof of God” justifies your position? (part two)

This is part two of a four-part series.

What is the nature of the Abrahamic God? Besides creating the universe and life, what does He do? What are His superpowers? There have been many secondary claims made about the Abrahamic God: He is variously claimed to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent (all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving). These claims are easily disputed through scripture, experience, and reason. Let’s examine them.

God's superpowers

Is God all-loving?

The Greek philosopher, Epicurus (341-270 BC) famously asked:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

In Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro, Socrates asks, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” In other words, is any act of God morally good because God did it (or commanded it), or is God constrained to only perform or command morally good acts? If we are able to independently judge God’s acts as “good” or “bad” then is there a basis for that judgment that is independent of God?

What can we learn of God’s morality from the Bible?

Let’s look at how the Bible views slavery, for example, something that very few believe is morally good in this day and age. Here are a few excerpts from a lengthy article on the subject:

God's superpowersExodus Chapter 21, verse 1:

When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl [presumably to make way for an earing, ed.]; and he shall serve him for life.

In his book, “Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God”, Lee Strobel argues against our common interpretation of slavery in ancient Jewish culture:

Servitude in Israel was radically different than slavery in the antebellum South. Although people on both sides argued that the Bible does—or does not—endorse slavery, I argue that we have good reason to think that the “biblical case” for Southern slavery doesn’t hold up.

For one thing, the term “slave” or “slavery” in the Old Testament is often a mistranslation. The Mosaic Law typically refers to “servitude” as indentured service—much like arrangements in colonial America: those who couldn’t pay for their voyage to the New World would work for seven years to pay off their debt, and then they were free to operate in society as ordinary citizens.

What’s interesting about contracted servitude in Israel was that it was, first of all, voluntary: a person would “sell himself” or parcel out family members to work, and they would in return receive clothing, a roof over their heads, and food on the table. Servitude was also limited to seven years unless the servant voluntarily chose lifelong servitude, which brought both stability and security in difficult economic times.

But read the following passages and ask yourself if that sounds like “indentured service” or “contracted servitude.” I don’t think so.

Leviticus Chapter 25, verse 44:

Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

Exodus Chapter 21, verse 20:

If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

So the Bible recognizes it is okay to trade in people (but not fellow Israelites), though perhaps this is just the buying and selling of indentured servitude. It recognizes slavery as being ruthless and that is the primary justification for not taking other Israelites as slaves. But it also recognizes that beating slaves is acceptable as long as that slave does not die (one can only presume maiming is acceptable).

The question is, then, does the God of the Old Testament act in a way that the cultures of the time saw as being morally correct, but which we no longer approve? Or is God’s “morality” constant and outside of the morality of the cultures of the time, the way most Abrahamic religions portray it? If so, how do we reject slavery in modern times?

Are we wrong, or is God?

Some Christian apologists say, “Those verses are from the Old Testament and no longer apply because of Jesus.” But, this ignores the fact that Jesus specifically states that the laws of the Old Testament still stand in the New Testament. In Matthew 5:18 Jesus says:

“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

What can we learn of God’s morality from experience?

English comedian and activist, Richard Fry, when asked what he would say to God if he were confronted by Him at the Pearly Gates, answered:

“I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain? That’s what I would say.”

British naturalist David Attenborough, when asked why he didn’t credit God for the wonders of nature in his documentaries, replied:

“They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. Why would an all-loving God, Creator of Life on this planet, have planned such a hideous punishment for an innocent child?”

God's superpowers

One of the most famous quotes about God’s morality is attributed to a carving on the wall of a Nazi concentration camp by an anonymous Jewish prisoner. It reads, “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.“ Clearly, the world is, and always has been, full of suffering. It is difficult (impossible, really) to reconcile an all-loving God with current, historical, and even biblical human experiences.

“But God works in mysterious ways,” many apologists answer. Yet, it doesn’t seem so much mysterious as contradictory. We have to ask ourselves, if we can look at things (like slavery, prison camps, bone cancer, and parasitic worms) that appear acceptable to God, and see that they are obviously wrong, why should we trust that He really was working for the eventual betterment of the human condition?

In the next post, I’ll discuss “God’s superpowers.” Is God all-knowing and all-powerful?




God

What “Proof of God” justifies your position? (part one)

What “Proof of God” justifies your position?

I begin a four-part series today.

Philosophers, theologians, and scientists have been grappling with the issue of God’s existence for millennia. Much of the discussion in past centuries may have been motivated simply by curiosity or by a protest against theological dogma. For many of us in the modern world, the notion of God is a very private one. God may show up in our prayers but frequently doesn’t have much effect in our daily decisions. Why might it still be important to ask whether or not God exists, today?

Why does God still matter?

Related imageLet me state up front that I don’t really care what you truly, deeply believe in the privacy of your own mind. You could believe you are the King of Narnia. You could believe Harry Potter or Peter Pan are real, for all I care. I know many people who believe things at least as improbable as this.

You may not believe it, but I don’t like debating people’s faith, no matter what arguments they use to justify or rationalize why they believe. I don’t think rejecting religious beliefs is the best road to atheism. In many ways, atheism is not really a belief system at all and is certainly not a replacement for religion. That’s why I’m an “empirical physicalist“; it seems more like a philosophical position than simply not believing the “God claims” of others.

But people’s beliefs, particularly the heartfelt ones, have a habit of making their way into public policy. If you say, “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,” you are now using your beliefs (without much, if any, objective evidence) to justify, recommend, or set public policy. And that public policy could lead to a proliferation of global nuclear war, ending the time of “God’s children” on this planet.

Is Trump’s authority from God?

proof of godThat’s where I have trouble.

Religious beliefs are among the most blatant and pernicious belief systems when it comes to influencing public policy. Religious beliefs gave us prohibition and help governments and other public groups justify their ongoing wars against drugs, abortion, homosexuality, the sexual revolution, feminism, evolution theory, Big Bang theory, science, and – most notably – against other religions.

In the United States, despite being in the vast religious majority, Christians feel they increasingly suffer from religious persecution. And they have begun to take steps to reverse what they see as their exclusion from public policy formation. Many atheists rush to point out that there is no persecution of Christianity, only a desired leveling of the moral playing field, a removal of the privileges commonly granted religious organizations such as freedom from taxation and the “right” to deny public service on the basis of Faith.

For this reason, it is important for those who hold religious beliefs to examine the reasons they use to justify their public policy positions.

For many people, a belief in God comes along with the religious beliefs they grew up with. There is no doubt that the emotional and social support many receive through the beliefs they share with their family and community provides great comfort. When asked why they believe, people will point to nature or the universe and ask how one could otherwise explain the existence of such beauty. They may claim they “feel” God or have a “God-shaped-hole” in their hearts that yearns for a connection to something greater than themselves.

These are emotional justifications; they simply assume that God must exist because that is the only way the believer can imagine their feelings having a source. I usually try to be more rational about something as potentially important as a belief in how the universe works. I certainly hope none of our politicians make their important decisions on the basis of their “feelings.” Psychological studies into paranoia and schizophrenia suggest that feelings or subjective experiences are not always the best basis for making good decisions.

Many people have fuzzy notions of God. God could be a “force,” a “presence,” or a “Guardian/Protector,” for example. For many, their idea of God has some basis in their holy texts.

Perhaps unique to the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is a belief in a single God. Other religions like Hinduism and Buddhism either have a proliferation of gods or no god in particular. The central claim of the Abrahamic religions is that God is the Creator of all: the universe, the Earth, all life, and the human soul.

In the next post, I’ll discuss the nature or character of the God of the Bible and we can start examining the claims made of His existence in greater detail.




Life and Death

Life, purpose and dealing with death

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor life death

If you are reading this, you might be alive. You might be a computer program, simulating my life to me. We never know. To me, cogito ergo sum, to you, not so much. I think, therefore I am. But I don’t know that you think, so you might not be. This applies to our entire environment. And should it be true that our entire environment, the way we perceive others and the universe, be simulated, do we even classify as ‘alive’?

Because we are the rational human, homo sapiens, or at least because we can contemplate abstract principles, we can contemplate our lives. It is a blessing. It has made us able to build bridges and estimate their maximum carry weight beforehand, make increasingly complex buildings and objects and increasingly useful, safe and complex products. Our abstract mind is a great thing, which has enabled us to adapt like no other species before us; to the point of cultivating and maintaining our own ecosystem, the cityscape. But like many great things, it has its downsides. Because it enables us to contemplate our lives and objects around us, we can have fears. Fears of objects and/or concepts, people or death.

Especially this last one, the fear of death, is one that wreaks havoc, to this day, on human freedom. This is why I am writing this article; to clear up misconceptions around the concepts of life and death. To do this, we will start by handling the presumed current affairs; life. We will look at how close we can come to getting to a purpose for being alive. After that, we will look at the question ‘what to do with life in the face of death?’, at the hand of a few examples, such as Abortion, Euthanasia and Suicide and the Death Penalty.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor life

Life

Regardless the fact that most of us know intuitively how to separate life from non-life or death fairly flawlessly, there is quite some contention on what ‘life’ means. There are various definitions in contention. In the light of being inclusive, I will use the present biological definition: ‘an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction’. It is important to note, that this definition is under contention, because some forms of plants, and animals -including humans with certain diseases-, though alive, show no reaction to stimuli. The same goes for reproduction; a dog that is neutered is nonetheless alive. Even while the dog is temporarily unconscious after getting neutered, he is not dead. So we have established that our definition is lacking. Therefore, I would ask the honored reader to attach this baggage to my starting definition, so that we may adequately and completely discuss the concept of life.

Valuing life

Many people say the value life, implying -purposefully or not- that they value life intrinsically. They have a good point in this. After all, it is a spectacular occurrence. The way each animal and human have their own goals, go on their own ways to survive is very impressive, as are the high trees. But, so too are the high, inanimate mountains and deep seas.

That being said, we don’t treat other lifeforms like we care about life itself, do we? If we set aside the fact that literally all of our food was once alive are killed for the express purpose of feeding us- we have no choice but to. But we cut up our house plants, squash bugs and hunt. These don’t really seem indicative of valuing life itself, do they? Moreover; when our home is infested with life, we call in an exterminator. So, at the most we can say that we “value life as long it conforms to the desires we have for it.” That is to say, that while we value life, we don’t necessarily consider life life when we want to make alterations to, or use of it. In cutting the plant, we don’t stop to think we are mutilating it. Yet, we are. In squashing the bug, we don’t stop to think we are ending a life. Yet, we are.

It is for this reason that I am convinced that, instead of life itself, we actually value awareness, or at least the potential of awareness. What do I mean with awareness, exactly? Awareness, as I mean to define it, is: “the state of being able to perceive, react upon and sensually experience one’s surroundings and to remember these experiences”. For a formal layout of the idea of awareness I am getting at, I will refer you to my earlier article; Cognicism; a secular moral system, I will here layout only the rudimentary case as it pertains to this article.

For any stimulus to have an effect on an organism, a certain processing of these stimuli should be present. If it isn’t, the stimulus wouldn’t have an effect, simply because the organism isn’t aware of the fact that a stimulus has occurred.

For any stimulus to an organism to have an effect on the moral status of the stimulus, there must be a certain processing of the stimulus so that the organism can take notice. This means that the organism shouldn’t only be able to process the stimulus, but it must be able to notice the results. If, for instance you hurt an animal, but it has no capacity for memory, it will have forgotten the pain right after the incident, leaving there be no pain.

In short, awareness is what we value about our own lives and the lives of others, because it is what we empathize with and what we base ourselves, our own actions and personality, on.

Purpose of life

Now that we established what it is that we value about life and about living creatures, it is time to start exploring what the purpose of life is. By ‘purpose of life’, I mean something similar to, yet completely different from the classic-theistic approach. The difference here, is mainly one of cause. In the classic-theistic sense, we typically start out (re-)affirming that we were made by god. (Re-)affirming of faith is significant, in this instance, as you can make the argument that purpose follows the intent of the creator, leading us to the conclusion that the purpose of life, is simply to live according to god’s plan, whatever that may be.

Let us stop for a minute, to acknowledge that; “to live according to god’s plan, whatever that may be.” It seems interesting, but is actually entirely vacuous. God is often silent, apart from the manual he left centuries, if not millennia ago. To make matters worse; most gods are omniscient and omnipotent, so you can’t not live according to god’s plan.

There’s not such an easy way out for us, here. If we want to get a satisfying answer, we’re going to have to look around. We do this by finding other things or beings in our environment that do have an established purpose. The first thing that comes to mind, are objects designed for use. They are designed for a certain use and they fulfill this use as a purpose. Knives and scissors, for instance, have the purpose of inflicting controlled damage on an object/individual, cars are meant to transport human beings and their belongings with a relatively high speed at a very specific location.

We can notice here, that purpose is a result of design. So, what does our design, or form, tell us about ourselves? A bit too much, I am afraid. We have a form that enables us to do almost everything. And it has enabled us to do everything we have done so far. But, does this mean that simply ‘being human’ is the purpose of human life? This does brush on what many non-religious people will give as an answer to the question. They will say: “to be” or “to live”. This is essentially a good answer. It takes into account all that we feel when trying to answer this question; the fact that there is no discernible god, the fact that no purpose is given beforehand and that we experience both good and bad things. But this fails to take into account that ‘being’ or ‘living’ itself has no purpose without an environment, so our purpose must have something to do with our environment. Not to mention that ‘living to live’ seems unsatisfying and circular, so we must keep on looking. If we take the car, mentioned above, we see a similar problem. A car, too, has many different functions and abilities. It typically has air conditioning, radio, mirrors etc. Yet, we do not consider the purpose of the car to be providing air conditioning, radio and reflections to be the purpose of the car. This is because we separate the primary functions from the secondary and tertiary functions; we only use these features when we are in the car, using it already. This, of course begs the question; how do we separate the different grades of functions.

I am convinced that we can find the answer to this question in the use of fuels. When we look at a car, we see that it has many functions, as laid out above.  But, we might also notice that uses the majority of the energy its fuel supplies in motion. When we consider humans, then, science tells us that 20-30% of our fuel is used to provide our brains with sufficient energy. Of this energy, most goes to recognizing, simulating and traversing our environment and surroundings. Thus, we have established our link to our surroundings. The rest of the energy that goes to our brains, that is not used for staying alive or knowing our surroundings, are used for contemplation of life or questions in life.

In conclusion, we can now show a hierarchy in purposes for life, which we can apply not only to human life, but to all forms of life:

  • To sustain life through procreation and nourishment
  • To experience life and the world
  • To contemplate life and the world

These all follow from our reasoning about awareness and function, in addition to having the neat attribute of connecting what we value about life with a sense of objective purpose.

This purpose to life is of course very universal and this probably makes it not very helpful in your day to day life. Alas, No one can be expected to craft you a personal purpose for life. But, the upside is that we are entirely free to shape our own personal purpose and legacy in this world. For me, I just try to spread compassion and understanding so that we might stop arguing. But you are free to do whatever you think best suits you.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor death

Death

All of this; life, our reasoning… our purpose… leads to the question of what we should do with life, considering death. The value of life and the inevitability of death combined, lead to a plethora of interesting dilemma’s. In this article, to avoid endlessly considering different kinds of medical dilemma’s, we will limit ourselves to the best known examples of these dilemma’s, known to be Abortion VS the right to life, Suicide VS Right/will to live, The death penalty VS the right to life and Euthanasia VS the sanctity of life.

Before we do this, however, let’s discuss the concept of death.

Death is, as we all know, the loss of life and/or the status of no longer being alive. Death is often considered an unpleasant or even scary subject to talk about, because we are confronted head-on that at a certain time, a certain day in the future, we too will die. This makes people anxious, because life is all we know. In this respect, death is the ‘great unknown’.

This also explains that many people, apart from being anxious about death, have an inexplicable fascination with it. Things that are unknown but (at the time) harmless, are very interesting. They challenge us to think outside the box, confront our fears and challenge our minds. It has done this to the point that we have significantly raised the age expectancy over just a few decades. But, alas, death remains inevitable.

Why exactly death is inevitable, or if it will in the far future remain to be, is unclear. But for the time being, it seems that we will all die. So why, if it is a fate we all share, are we so afraid of it?

One of the reasons, I have already mentioned, albeit briefly. “Death is the great unknown.” All we know, all we love, is in this life. Our stuff, our friends and family, but even the sun and the greater universe. These things make sense to us, give us a reason to get up in the morning. Parting with it, gives us a sense of alienation and insecurity. We are going into the unknown, and we never know what horrors or joys we might encounter.

A second reason is the process of dying. The fact that we will all die, doesn’t mean that the way we die is universal. Rather, there are quite different ways to die. We might die in our sleep, but we can also catch a piece of space junk on our head, and everything in between is a more or less viable way to die. So, too do the degrees of lain in this all vary. We might assume that we feel next to nothing when we die in our sleep, while when we die from a disease that slowly eats away at our body is likely near unbearable. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel; death in the sense of being dead and no longer feeling the pain of disease and existence. So, how do we handle this mixture of suffering and angst? Let’s examine this.

Abortion

Abortion is the first kind of death we might encounter in our lives. Namely, when we reside safely in our mother’s womb. Or well, in case of abortion, perhaps not so safely. Many atheists fight what they consider the good fight to legalize abortion, and are quite easily done with the topic after that. This I find regrettable, since many haven’t gotten their perceptions about life and death clearly in order and abortion is -in my opinion- one of the cornerstone-tools in finding clarity about life and death. Abortion is a good tool in this respect, because it contains elements not only of life and death, but personal bodily integrity, different facets of consciousness, legislation and autonomy. We find ourselves considering whether autonomy trumps the right to life or not. This is in and of itself a fascinating question, in which both sides have valid and good arguments.

For instance, the argument of deprival of choice for the fetus resonates with most people and initially rings true. A human baby and indeed a fetus, might not yet have the awareness to make this decision, but as I argued above, it is not so much ‘life’ or ‘awareness’ that we value, but the ‘potential for awareness’ and certainly a fetus has this potential.

However, it is only a potential for awareness (this will be further explained in the next section of this article). Up until a certain point, a developing baby isn’t conscious. This means that, though it is alive, it doesn’t know it’s alive. Because it isn’t aware that it’s alive, and abortion is a tough-to-grasp concept, it isn’t aware that there is a choice to be made, until long after the choice has been made, if it will ever be aware of the choice. Of course, this lack of awareness also impacts the moral status of the fetus; because it has little to no awareness, it has little to no ability to notice its environment, much less to interpret and remember any suffering inflicted upon it.

It may be noted that this argument does little to allow the removal of the fetus. The fact that committing an act leads to little to no damage, doesn’t mean you should commit it. If swatting a fly doesn’t do much damage, that doesn’t mean you should go out and kill every fly you encounter. In fact, depending on its location, this might be quite a dangerous undertaking. This is in effect the same when it comes to abortion, if you change ‘location’ to ‘state of development’ and ‘dangerous’ to ‘immoral’. At the stage of development (I say state of development instead of naming it, because this might shift) where we have significant reason to assume that the developing baby does have the ability to feel and remember joy or suffering, its moral status, and thus the moral status of abortion, change entirely. It is at that point, as we have clarified above, it becomes a creature that we have to morally account for beyond its potential for awareness.

The argument about the sanctity of life is also one that resonates. After all, we are here because life exists and removing the special ‘sacred’ status, might expose it to danger by ruthless treatment. The facts that our planet has life is barely short of miraculous and that we, as diverse life, sustain each other significantly on most every level, make life one of the most praiseworthy things. However, this only means that the preservation of life as a whole should be morally accounted for. This doesn’t mean every individual is worthy of such consideration. We can value the machine without valuing every part. And we seem to know this intuitively, as most of us eat animals.

But, at the end of things, abortion will always be a weighing of the values attached to the potential for awareness of the fetus versus the bodily autonomy of the woman in question. It will come as no surprise, that I find the ready awareness of the woman to be of higher moral status than the not-yet-existent awareness of the developing child. And as the woman’s awareness and experience of life are inseparably connected to her bodily autonomy, we must conclude that she is entitled to make such a decision in her best judgments

Suicide and Euthanasia

Sooner or later, most of us will confront ourselves with a great question, that might have even greater consequences. “Should I just end it all?” The brunt of people who entertain this thought don’t seriously intend to do so and a greater number refrains from both suicide and euthanasia. But some people do commit suicide, and it’s understandable. We have never chosen to live and should we have had the choice before conception or birth, many of us might well have refused the offer. Living hurts. We might get hurt ourselves or be hurt by others, there’s wars, famine, slavery and disease. Not to even talk about the troubles money and love may cause. And because we have the power of contemplation, we might estimate the impact of these troubles in our life. They can seem insurmountable and sometimes, they are.

When troubles are severe and insurmountable, by which I mean that they cause great suffering that shows no reasonable sign of halting, suicide or euthanasia might be a viable option. However, aside from abstractly thinking, we are also an emotional species. This leads us to often make our problems seem bigger than they are. This is why, before one goes through with suicide or euthanasia, they ought to be sure they have sufficient reason to. After all, it is a hefty trade. We leave behind all we know and all we love. Everything that we can be sure of, and trade it for something we can’t be sure of. We can’t be sure about how it is to lose awareness permanently. In this sense, suicide and euthanasia are like making an all-in wager at an international casino; you cash in your chips, but you don’t know in which currency they’ll pay you back.

We should thus conclude that both suicide and euthanasia should be acts that are only committed after lengthy and intense reflection as well as seeking psychological or otherwise professional help. And when and if we reach the conclusion that they are the best course of action, our thoughts ought to immediately go out to those we have during our lives surrounded ourselves with; friends, family and other loved ones. The ways people get to know about a death can be of great influence on their life. To minimize their suffering, arrangements ought to be made to keep trauma at a minimum. In the case of euthanasia, this is often the case. People who apply for euthanasia often share their plans with their loved ones. Their deaths will be professionally assisted and the body equally professionally taken care of. In suicide, this is often not the case. It are often loved ones who find the body, in all kinds of compromising positions and conditions. This is why euthanasia ought to be available to everyone who has been deemed to have sufficient reason to want to give up life. These reasons can vary from being terminally ill and severely suffering, to just not wanting to live.

The Death Penalty

Of the many forms of death we humans can succumb to, the death penalty might well be the hardest to reach a definitive conclusion on. This is in part because we hear a lot about the death penalty in our daily lives. We hear about a murderer who killed one person getting the death sentence, while those who have killed entire families may get life in prison and the other way around. My opinion about the death penalty is an unpopular one, simply because I don’t explicitly side with one side or the other.

Let’s start by setting up a framework for this discussion.

The death penalty should be considered in a reasonable context. That is to say that subjects who undergo the death penalty ought to be rightfully convicted in a fair trial with sufficient evidence, of a crime that is proportional to the penalty. The desired amount of evidence ought to be left to be derived from what is scientifically acceptable to reach consensus, as science has proven to be the most trustworthy way to determine reality, and that proportionality ought to be established in all moral reasonableness. This in turn means that we use good reasoning to determine when someone is eligible for the death penalty. Certainly, we don’t want to hang people for throwing their cigarette on the ground.

If we consider the death penalty this way, we see that it is a very viable option. It becomes a viable option, if -rather than punishment- we see it as a means of increasing utility (utility, in philosophy, is the amount of ‘usefulness’ in a resulting situation, varying from the amount of options that result to the amount of happiness and/or contentment), as long as you do it humanely.

The first reason for this, I regret having to mention it, money. People who pose a danger to society and can’t be rehabilitated, will otherwise spend their lives in jail. Jails, which are either publicly owned, or publicly funded in most cases. This means tax dollars would be spent on a ‘hopeless matter’.

A second reason, is the criminal himself. Many who pose a danger to society, and can’t be reasonably rehabilitated, will otherwise spend their lives in jail, where they will have little meaning in their life and constant threat of violence. As long as they are executed humanely, it seems that at least a choice must be given to these people.

However, the above is almost never the case. Juries and judges get the assignment to establish ‘beyond the shadow of a doubt’ that the defendant did it, but estimations (since courts don’t usually entertain the possibility of innocence after the fact) range between 20-30% of people who were executed being innocent. So clearly, there was a shadow of doubt looming over the conviction. We see, in many countries, that dissidents are silenced using the death penalty and/or undue sentencing. In short, we “get the wrong guys” too often.

The implications are severe. When we kill the wrong person, we are slaying an innocent person. In doing this, our system itself commits murder. Now, depending on the legislation for when exactly someone becomes eligible for the death penalty, this may quickly mean that the system that enacts the death penalty must itself be charged with murder and sentenced accordingly. But this is not all. If we consider the murderer a danger to society, how do we treat the executioner, who by all means has killed at least one, but may very well have killed multiple people. Do we consider him a threat to society? at the very least, he has killed innocents, which means he directly participated in murder. At the very least he ought to be considered an accessory to murder. So do we sentence him? And what about the judges and/or juries? surely, they gave the order for the execution. Do we charge them with a criminal conspiracy?

Of course, this would be both ridiculous and untenable. So though the value of life is not to be too highly estimated, we must also consider our state’s and nation’s practical moral implications. These show us that the death penalty isn’t the best course of action, though it has some very strong arguments in favor of it. These arguments, however, are insufficient when compared with the chance for committing a moral evil inadvertently. We must err on the side of life, rather than the side of death.

Natural Death

What then, do we do with natural death? Medical science has evolved rapidly over the course of the past 150 or so years. We have managed to -in large numbers- abandon the relative quackery of herbs and spices and get to pills, supplements, scans and vaccinations. this has allowed us to increase our lifespan significantly. However, the same can’t be said for our bodily health, which is collectively dropping. We eat a lot of strange, sweet and fatty foods, which makes our bodies ever fatter, our immune systems lacking.

It is truly a beautiful thing, what we have accomplished. I consider it a moral blessing that we have been able to elongate our most precious asset; awareness. This allows us to fulfill more of both our objective and our subjective, personal purposes. However, we must also acknowledge the fact that the age at which our body starts seriously deteriorating has largely remained that same, between the ages of 55 and 65. This is when many chronic disabilities and illnesses start to set in. Alzheimer’s becomes a real concern, but so do several forms of cancer, arthritis and sight-, hearing- and motion problems. These problems, though precautionary and preventative measures are in place and exceedingly prominent, persevere.

So what do we make of this? Firstly, we must understand that these problems, though life threatening, may be experienced as a threat to life. For many old people (especially those who have Alzheimer’s) any problem with the functions they used to have function as a premonition of their inevitable death. On the other hand, there are also older people who fare fairly well in these kinds of circumstances. Some, on the other hand, don’t very much mind, but would choose a younger body should they have the possibility. At any rate, getting older can be a serious burden, but it can also *just* be a burden. What we are effectively doing by elongating human life, is stretching this period of suffering and decline. This seems fairly damning at first hand, but we must also realize that, in saying this, it is the last of such periods a person will experience. In fact, from beginning to end, it might be their last experiences.

This makes the situation profoundly complicated, as on one hand, you would want to end the suffering, but doing that entails ending the awareness of the person suffering. The only reasonable option I see in this is to simply allow euthanasia for these people and keep on working on enhancing the medication we have available for these people, in whichever way that may come. In this way, we make it possible of those who are not ready to leave life to exit it with dignity, surrounded by the people they love or in any other way they see fit. On the other hand, we allow those who are not yet ready to leave life to continue going on, all the while reducing their suffering by introducing new ways to avoid, adapt to or numbing it.

Conclusion

What I have tried to argue in this text, is that though life is valuable in and of itself, we mustn’t apply that to every organism. The value of life is often made to out be sacred, while we all know -as I have shown- that life itself isn’t the quality from which we gather that position, but that it is rather awareness as seen in animals and humans. Taking this, I have shown you that an objective purpose can be found in life by investigating its forms and circumstances.

Using this, I have tried to show you how we can use the notion of life being less than sacred to actually reach conclusions that are very much in line with the intuitions many of us have when it comes to life and dealing with death, at the hand of Abortion, Suicide and euthanasia, the Death Penalty and Natural Death.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor the end




Dismantling the watchmaker

Broken watchWe all know it, “If you walk across the beach of an uninhabited island, having never met another human being and find a watch, you would know it was made by a fellow human being. This is apparent too when we look at nature” – The Watchmaker Argument. We come across this argument, or attempt to argue this point all too frequently, and quite frankly, it’s annoying to say the least. Annoying and wrong, and here is why….

The premise of this argument is that there is a significant difference between man-made objects and objects designed by god or “an intelligent designer”. The experienced debaters among you, might already have raised their red flags and sounded the fallacy alarm, because this is a self-defeating premise. The problem is that if we accept this argument, the premise becomes void, because the one thing we understand to not have been designed, would be designed. This would mean that in fact, we haven’t the ability to discern between designed and not designed features, as the premise would have us believe. If, on the other hand, we do not accept this argument, the premise would remain in tact.

Reasoning behind the watchmaker argumentThe thinker

The reasoning behind this argument is that because there is a difference in aesthetics and function we can discern the difference between designed and not designed objects, systems etc. just by looking at them. There is, however,  no reason why we would recognize the work of a fellow human being as being the work of a fellow human being, without having an additional reason to. If, for instance, we stumble upon a cave while trekking through the mountains, we have no reason to assume it was man-made, nor that it formed naturally as a result of plate tectonics and rocky structure. Similarly, if we do not know what a watch is or what the watch is for (which is the case when we look toward nature, our planet and/or our existence) we have no reason to say it was man-made.

Evidence for this, is obtained from a documentary that aired first somewhere in the ’90s on BBC, I believe it was called Meet The Natives, but I haven’t been able to track it down, unfortunately (if anyone knows exactly which documentary it is, please notify me so I can insert a link and watch it again) in which a tribesman was taken into a modern city. afterwards, he was asked what he saw. The man replied: “nothing, except for a weird beast that could carry very much bananas.” The man, of course, didn’t see nothing, he just lacked the frame of reference to describe what he saw. But the fact that he referred to a truck carrying bananas as a “weird beast”, is the significant part of this documentary. The man had mistaken a man-made, mechanical device for a product of nature. Of course, the absence of a frame of reference, makes this argumentation rather doubtful. The fact remains, though, that the man had no frame of reference. Seeing as we have no better frame of reference for the situation this argument puts us in, we are forced to conclude the obvious; that this reasoning is baseless and/or an assumption.

There is another well-known analogy to explain the phenomenon behind this argument; that of the puddle. This analogy is centered around a puddle of rainwater. The puddle thinks to itself “this indentation in the ground was made for me especially, or I would not fit in so ideally.” However, the puddle formed the way it did because the indentation in the ground was there, the puddle formed in the indentation, the indentation dictating its form. The same is true for human beings in nature. when we look at forests, grass plains, shrubbery etc. We might get the distinct feeling that these things were made for us, placed there for our benefits, its fruits made to feed us. It has its logic, to be honest, as it helps sustain our lives and provide countless benefits. The same reasoning, however, forgoes the countless more inedible plants, deadly animals, poisons and gasses that naturally occur. The perception of intelligence behind this supposed creation, originates from the fact that nature is highly sustainable. Because us humans have thus far failed to create anything truly sustainable. To create something truly sustainable, would be an amazing feat of engineering. This is why it seems s appealing to ascribe that feat of engineering to a superior mind, a creator. a god. However, there is no objective reason for this, as the theory of evolution tells us. It is perhaps the most elegant part of evolution, that sustainability arises from lack of sustainability. That those life forms that are unsustainable fade away or evolve, to keep the sustainability of nature itself at a fairly consequent level.

To conclude the part of the watchmaker, I would like to state briefly that the argument is cheating. A watch contains at least a number of metal parts, as it must contain cogs and springs. Metal is not encountered in its refined form in nature. The argument therefore misleads its recipient, as the mental image encountered while treating this argument, is often that of a metal watch, which would indeed help us to assume a fellow human made the watch.

A more honest example to use in this argument, would be that of a refined walking stick; it has it’s ties to nature by being made of wood, yet it has been refined to show the touch of a human being. Odds are that this argument would be received with less enthusiasm, and bring about a number of different conclusions.

Oxygen Volume 14Authority from creation

Another argument we often encounter, that is closely related to the watchmaker argument, is often not considered to be a separate argument, or at least it isn’t treated as one, yet it mostly follows the establishment of a creator. The argument elevates the watchmaker to the level of an artist and it goes a little like this: “If God created the universe, our planet and us, he can destroy it all and still be morally perfect; the artist can destroy his own art, without being a bad person.”

It should be immediately apparent that this is not a valid comparison. Artwork is inanimate, non living matter, arranged in an aesthetically more or less pleasing way, while the creation this god is supposed to have engineered is a universe, containing at least one planet with sentient life. In the case of god as an artist and humanity as his artwork, we forgo on the negative consequences the destruction of the artwork will have for the artwork itself. It thus has to have moral ramifications as long as the artwork is, has or contains consciousness (see also; cogniscism, a secular moral system).

The second way this argument falls flat on its face, is simple ethics. That you can create something does not absolve you from the responsibility to treat it ethically, in accordance to its level of consciousness. This is the reason we have laws on the minimal requirements of good treatment for both infants and pets. A being that possesses at least a modicum of awareness, will be able to register the way it is being treated, or to register the negative effects of such treatment. This means the moral scale is affected, as both beings are affected in their well being. A moral consideration then follows, which we can use to form a moral verdict of sorts.

Another interesting factor is the fact that god and humanity would be interdependent. God receives validity by its creation, the creation is dependent on god’s good will to allow them to live. How does god receive validity through its creation, you might ask. Well, that’s fairly simple; A god is called a god because it has given rise to at least one universe, world or species. Were a god exist that did not give rise to any such subjects, we are basically talking about a powerful ghost. To have god destroy the world, would be to end god’s divinity.

So, as we see, not only is god in its essence limited, it has to be bound to a form of human morality, leading us right back to the problem of evil.




Lady Justice

Cognicism; a secular moral system

Cognicism; a secular moral system

Lady Justice    As an atheist, we are often asked, “how can you be good without god?”. I have tried to explain this time and time again, each time resulting in a slightly different description. I understand the wish for people who might not be familiar with secular moral systems, to take look inside the moral reasoning of an atheist. Hence, I am writing this piece as much for myself as for those who inquire about secular morality to offer a consistent grounds upon which I –and if I am lucky, some others with me- may be criticized or in other ways confronted in moral discussion. So without further ado, I present to you; Cognicism, A secular moral system.

Application

To properly set up and utilize a moral system, we must first determine upon whom we want it to apply. While most moral systems and reasoning tend to only apply to human beings, I choose to differ here. I differ in the sense that I think more than just human beings might profit from a well-reasoned moral system, and I can’t refuse to include them in my reasoning. Of course, I am not talking about vegetation, nor am I talking about beetles, ants or bugs. Though I am talking about some natural life aside from that of a human being.

In order to experience some kind of benefit from a moral system, an organism needs to have a number of things. It needs at first to have a form of awareness. This is often characterized by organisms interacting with their environments in varying ways, depending on the situation. In other words, the organism must at the very least be –in some way- aware of its surroundings and cognizant of its own existence. The awareness of the environment is essential in this case, because an effect of a moral decision is often exacted by circumstance or the immediate environment of the organism in question. If the organism is unaware of its environment, there is no reason to assume that it does experience the negative effect of a moral action.

The second ability an organism must have, is the ability to feel pain and/or pleasure. This seems to be a rather obvious point, as organisms unable to pain and/or pleasure, will not be able to experience any negative or positive outcome of a moral action exacted on them. Therefore, no suffering or joy is inflicted and morality stops being applicable, as utility is effectively absent. The critical and morally experienced eye will notice that utility has no bearing on intent. This is true, but as we are discussing a moral system rather than a calculation of arbitrary moral values, we are forced to disregard intent for the time being as this discussion serves as a framework for formulating moral intent.

The third and last ability an organism must have in order to have this moral system applied on them, is the ability of memory. To some this seems obvious, while to others it seems rather enigmatic. Because of this, I will try to explain it in as much detail as possible. The point to having a memory, is to remember what has happened. This is a means to elongate suffering or joy beyond the initial infliction. If an organism forgets what has happened to it immediately after it has happened, or even while it is happening, there is no actual suffering or joy to spoken of. This might seem somewhat weird, as the organism –perhaps both able to feel pain and/or joy and aware of its own existence, can feel pain or joy long after it has been inflicted. The problem is, though, that if an organism has no memory, but is cognizant of its own existence and can feel –for instance- pain, to that organism it would be as if it had been suffering pain for all its existence. This means the organism doesn’t really acknowledge the pain as being of an outside source, perhaps not even experiencing it as pain, negating any moral effects. Disregarding again moral intent.

Purpose

So what is the exact purpose of this proposed system? Well, contrary to religious moral systems, the purpose of this system is to improve the experience of awareness for all sentient beings involved in a moral decision or action. This is contrary to most religious moral systems because, well, most religious forms of morality do not enhance the experience of awareness in any way, they rather force people to keep to arbitrary rules which have little to no bearing on “earthly” life. We are for instance reminded of the systemic treatment of women as less valid than men, vague rules like “treat others like you wish to be treated” and so forth.

Still, at this point I would like to extend an olive branch of sorts to my religious brothers and sisters, in that the ultimate goal is to achieve and/or maintain a sort of saintly morality. Though of course the saints of many religions would disagree with this moral system, I too disagree with their habits of respectively introducing a place of eternal torture to frighten people into believing or robbing and pillaging caravans. The idea behind this system is rather to have people behave in the way the religious speak of their prophets or saints; to really be the understanding, forgiving, loving individual they have failed to be.

Applicable moral rules

Before we are able to start morally judging decisions or actions it would be useful to describe a number of relevant rules.

  • Morally desirable actions/decisions are those actions/decisions that are taken free of compulsion and (are intended to) lead to an increase of enjoyment of a sentient organism’s awareness.
  • Morally undesirable action/decisions are actions/decisions that are (possibly) taken under compulsion and (are intended to) lead to a decrease in enjoyment of a sentient organism’s awareness.

The compulsion becomes relevant, because when someone isn’t free to choose to do otherwise, the factor of intent becomes inaccessible to the realm of morality as no moral judgment need be made before taking said action/decision.

  • Every viable organism has the right to sustain its own life and awareness.

There are a number of important parts to this rule that need an explanation; Many religious forms of morality would simply state that every living thing has a right to life, included but not limited to unborn life. I disagree with this on the simple basis that animals –humans included- eat other animals. To say every living organism has the right to life would therefore ultimately be in conflict with itself, as providing the right to life for the prey, would violate the right to life for the predator and vice versa.

  • Every viable sentient organism has the right to physical integrity.

This rule is the basis of this moral system; the fact that sentient beings are aware of their surroundings, means they feel harm or joy being applied to them from an outside source. They should therefore have the right to decide what happens to them and to not have their bodies arbitrarily attacked; their integrity must be preserved.

  • Every organism has the right to take their own life.

Living is hard. That is ultimately the reason for (moral) philosophy, psychology and a myriad of other disciplines we see in the world today. It is then not only useful but in fact of great importance that we keep in mind that we did not ask or decide to live. It is also important to remind ourselves that every organism is responsible for their own actions. It is in this light that I feel compelled to conclude that there must be a right to take one’s own life.

Morality and the Context of rights

There is a certain way in which we must regard rights, that is being missed by society far more often than is beneficial. The cause of this, seems to be directly proportionate to a number of controversial subjects that our societies have had to decide about in recent years, such as abortion, euthanasia etc. The context we miss is the actual legislative nature of a right. Too often when politicians and thereby civilians alike, discuss rights, the rights are seen as an order leading to a direct result. When discussing euthanasia, for instance, the opponent will often say something like; “so you think we should end human life?”. This is not the context of a right. A right is merely a legislative option. It is the possibility of a choice, not the choice itself. This difference might at first glance seem insignificant, but it really does constitute a large discrepancy in the way we think about rights. If we look at rights as options, as possible choices, we are forced to leave the responsibility of a choice with the person who made the choice, as opposed to the person who gave the chooser his rights.

Personally, I think that if this context would be better illustrated by politicians, teachers and other public educators, we would have less people opposing rights and consecutively have more rights, which would lead to a freer society.

At this point, I would like to introduce two final principles; that of the blind choice (also known as Rawls’ veil of ignorance) and the perpetual blindfold.

  • Blind choice (veil of ignorance): The idea that John Rawls put forward, was that in order to truly assess the morality of a decision or action, was to do a thought experiment. His idea was that to estimate the value of a moral decision or action, one ought not be involved in the process beforehand. The veil of ignorance serves this purpose; Using the veil of ignorance, the subjects of a moral act or decision are forced to take some distance from the situation at hand and examine the oversee able consequence of the decision or action at hand. They distance themselves in that they are forced to examine the action from all perspectives involved. If we for instance take the fairly black and white issue on whether or not to legalize torture, the legislator and the constituency as well as the prisoner or future prisoner must examine the consequences as if they were all mentioned parties. Specifically, this means that the legislator consider the pros and cons of being the torturer as well as the pros and cons of being the tortured.

The reason for using this thought experiment is most likely obvious; to take into account more than the own needs and respect the suffering or potential suffering of other parties.

  • Perpetual blindfold: The perpetual blindfold is a principle that is taken from the economic “ceteris paribus-clause”. This roughly translates as “all other things the same” and has to do with the unexpected consequences of moral decisions or actions. It states: “The decision or action taker is responsible -in the field of intent- only for those consequences that are in any way to him foreseeable.” This blindfold is perpetual, because there is no way, nor has there ever been, to oversee the full extent of the effect of a decision or action. One decision or action might for instance move others to make a new decision or action and so forth. Because of this influence a single deed or decision must be treated to the extent that the consequence of said decision or action is knowable.

Summary

Once we acknowledge that consciousness is the driving force between experience and thus the effects of moral decision/action, it becomes possible to erect a close to objective (because we can’t yet be sure about the degree of consciousness an organism might have) morality, without the need for a god. This moral system can then also be stretched to apply to a broader range of organisms then merely ourselves.

Using the veil of ignorance and the perpetual blindfold, the intent of the decider or action taker can be tempered and led to the right destination. Maintaining the three rules above, serves to guarantee a humane treatment of all involved, as well as give an extra impulse to the unification of human beings with their natural surroundings.

I hope this helps those who have questions on morality without god at least see a part of my perspective. And that my fellow atheists and free or critical thinkers might find this piece at least thought-provoking




Arguments

Which Atheist Arguments Should We Stop Using?

Introduction.

Previously I have written an article that lists and explains some Common Theistic Fallacies that are often brought up in arguments. As an atheist who is active in several online debate and discussion groups, they are things that I see with exceptional regularity.

However, it is unfair to think that it is only the Theists that present faulty, or fallacious, arguments. Although atheism, being the Null Hypothesis/Neutral Position is the more logical position than belief, belief being an illogical conclusion, that does not mean that all of the arguments presented by atheists are logical, reasonable, or fair.

In this article I will list the arguments presented by atheists that we should stop using, and explain why.

Also, as a special feature I will be featuring the answer given to this question by Aron Ra, that I was lucky enough to be able to ask him, in person, when members of our team saw him give a talk.

The Arguments.

  • Christianity was invented by Constantine in the fourth century.

This is an argument that seems to be mostly invented by Joseph Atwill. Atwill claims to have found evidence that Jesus was a character who was entirely invented by the Romans. There are many problems with his theory, included, but not limited to these. Firstly, there is zero actual evidence. While he claims to have found confessions, what he has actually done is draw comparisons between the work of Josephus, and the New Testament. Secondly, no matter what justification one might try to use, the rise of Christianity was demonstrably not a good thing for the Roman Empire.

  • The use of photos depicting starving children to make the point that God is not a loving or merciful one.

This tactic is nothing more than an Appeal To Emotion Fallacy. The use of pictures with the intent to make people feel guilty, or disturbed, adds nothing to the point that is trying to be argued. While the existence of these children is absolutely an argument against an Omnibenevolent God, the use of the pictures to support this argument is a cheap move, and reflects badly on an argument that is otherwise valid.

  • You must (believe/condone/support) X, because it’s in the (Bible/Quran/other).

This is a remarkably common argument online. “Well, the Bible condones slavery, so you must agree with it.” or “The Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination, so all Christians must hate gays.” This line of argument basically falls foul of the No True Scotsman Fallacy. A person can believe in and agree with the fundamental beliefs, without having to agree with every single ruling stated within. This will also be addressed later on in the Cherry Picking section.

  • Pointing out the “impossibility” of events described in the bible.

If you enter into a conversation about an omnipotent being, “impossible” loses all meaning. Pointing out that Mary could have only given birth to a girl if the conception was immaculate. Or pointing out problems like where all the water went to, or came from, in the Ark story. We are debating with people who believe in an Omnipotent being. A being who can create the Universe on a whim. The idea of expecting to convince them by raising an example of something that is physically impossible is a fruitless endeavour. If you’ve never experienced the feeling of ‘I may as well be banging my head against a wall’ in a debate, this is a sure fire way to get there.

  • Why are Adam and Eve depicted with bellybuttons if they were created?

It actually depresses me somewhat when I see intelligent people bringing up this argument. And it happens. A lot. Artists largely paint what they know, and when painting human figures they will quite often use a model. Even if they don’t use a model, you can almost guarantee that they learned how to paint people from using models in the past, or copying from existing pictures that used models. These models had bellybuttons, so the artist painted them. Humans have bellybuttons, Adam and Eve are humans (at least if you accept that they existed, of course) so they were painted as having them. It’s such an obvious thing, really.

  • The Problem Of Evil.

This isn’t to say that The Problem Of Evil is not a genuine concern when trying to justify, or refute, the existence of an Omnibenevolent and Omnipotent God. The problem is that it is an argument that any Christian who spends time debating already has a list of rebuttals to. Whether this is the normal Mysterious Ways cop out answer, or whether it is a more in depth approach like “Well we’re looking at things from a human understanding of what is good, and from the limited time frame of what humans can understand. Perhaps the amount of evil and bad that exists now is the minimum amount that is necessary to achieve the greatest good on a larger time scale.”

  • Nonsense Questions  “If God can do anything, can he create a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it?”

I can’t stand Nonsense Questions. They achieve nothing other than to make the person raising them seem immature. Most theists with even a modicum of smarts won’t even bother addressing them. The problem with the quoted question in particular in that it is a logically absurd question. It is dealt with by the Logical Absolute Law Of Non Contradiction. The Rock is defined as being too heavy to lift, if it can be lifted, it is not that Rock, it is then something else. I understand what people are trying to achieve with this question, they are trying to show a hole in omnipotence. But you may as well ask ‘Can God make a square circle?’ or ‘Can God make a bent straight line?’

  • You can’t prove a negative.

This is just a cop out, and it shows an amount of laziness that we really shouldn’t be allowing ourselves to slip in to. Can you prove a negative? In the context that this is being used in, no, you can’t (You can mathematically, but that’s a different thing entirely.) But we don’t need to prove a negative, we only need to prove the absence of a positive. “There’s an apple in that box” “I don’t believe you.” *Looks in box* “There is no apple in that box!” “Well you can’t prove that apples don’t exist!” “I don’t have to, I proved that it doesn’t exist where you said it does.”

  • We’re all atheists when we’re born (Implicit versus Explicit atheism).

Yes, we are. But what point are we really trying to make here? Surely the point that we need to be arguing is that atheism is the rational conclusion when examining the claims of a god? Saying that a baby is an atheist does nothing more for the argument than saying that a washing machine is an atheist! If someone or something is incapable of examining the proposition of a god, then it doesn’t matter whether they believe or not.

  • You’re almost as much of an atheist as me, I’ve just gone 1 god further.

Although this can be a very fun point to raise, especially if you like numbers, and are interested enough to work out the specific ratios and percentages that this means, it doesn’t do anything to address whether their specific god claim holds any validity. This ties in with another argument that I’ve heard a lot “They can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong.” But that doesn’t actually address whether they are wrong. Because it could be wrong, or because other people have been wrong in the past, has no bearing on whether they are actually wrong now.

  • You just Cherry Pick the parts you like.

This is one of “Well duh…” moments. Of course they do. They have NO choice. They are following a book that is riddled with contradictions, it is not physically or mentally possible to believe every single part of it. So what does that leave people with as an option? They will then pick out the parts that gel with who they are as a person. “Reading the bible does not dictate who one is as a person. Who one is as a person dictates how one reads the Bible.”

 

 

Aron Ra’s Answer.Aron Ra talk

As stated at the beginning of the article, I was lucky enough to get to ask Aron Ra this question in person. This is his answer.

Me “I just wanted to know, which atheist argument do you wish people would stop using? Either because it’s completely wrong, or entirely irrelevant to the argument itself”

Aron Ra “Wow, that’s such a long list.”

Me “Your top pick?”

Aron Ra “Well the one that I usually jump in on is when people say”Nobody says we came from monkeys, we have a common ancestor with monkeys.” And I have to jump in and say “No no no, we ARE monkeys.” Now this is not a popular opinion, but I’ve got it backed by science and I did a video on it. The title of the video is It Turns Out We Did Come From Monkeys and it goes into an in-depth explanation. Now this is one of those arguments where I was started out on the other side, and I had this argument with a systematist. It went on for three months. It was heated, it was angry, he was such a prick. I don’t know that I’d have conceded any faster if he’d been more polite, but it would have been a lot easier. I didn’t have to say “You know what, you asshole, you were right.” So I had to take the opposite position. Then I got into more heated conversations with people, and now I’m on the other side. And it’s every bit just as heated, but eventually I did prove the point so that nobody contested any more. Humans ARE monkeys. It’s not just that we are apes, we are also monkeys. Now if you want to prove that, if you describe what a monkey is, by all of the traits that are diagnostic of every kind of monkey there is, you will describe humans. And if you do a subcategory so that you’re only talking about Old World Monkeys, again you will describe humans. And if you do the subcategory of that, which is Apes, and subcategory Great Apes, again, you always describe people. So this was a great argument to have with a Creationist, you know “Define what a monkey is……Look at that, you defined people again!””

 

Any Logical Fallacies that are mentioned in this article are explained further here.




all knowing omniescient omniescience

Is God Omniscient (All Knowing)?

The Abrahamic God is described as omniscient (all knowing) in both Christianity and Islam but there are many verses that seem to contradict this “fact”.

First let’s examine the claims of omniscience in the Old and New Testament as well as the Qur’an

The claims of God’s Omniscience

There are a number of claims of God’s Omniscience. Some of these are quite direct, whilst others are more metaphorical. Some state that God knows more than any human can teach whilst others outright state that he knows everything.

Omniscience in the Old Testament

“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

“Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14).

“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD” (Psalm 139:4).

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:15-16).

“Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (Job 21:22).

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:4-5). [this one also references his omnipotence but we shall save that for another day]

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

“Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:16).

“From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (Psalm 33:13-15).

Omniscience in the New Testament

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

“Whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30).

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).

Omniscience in the Qu’ran

“Whether you divulge a thing or keep it hidden, surely Allah is Ever All-Knowing of all things” (Surat Al-‘Aĥzāb 33/54)

“Say: Do you instruct Allah about your religion? But Allah knows all that is in the heavens and on the earth; Allah is Knowing of all things” Holy Qur’an (49:16)

“Read! In the name of your Lord Who created. Created man of a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Bountiful, who taught man what he knew not…” Holy Qur’an (96:1-5)

And Allah would not let a people stray after He has guided them until He makes clear to them what they should avoid. Indeed, Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 9:115)

Unquestionably, to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and earth. Already He knows that upon which you stand and knows the Day when they will be returned to Him and He will inform them of what they have done. And Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 24:64)

[…] Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing. (Qur’an 4:32)

[…] And Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 4:176)

[…] Indeed, Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 8:75)

[…] And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 23:35)

Allah extends provision for whom He wills of His servants and restricts for him. Indeed Allah is, of all things, Knowing. (Qur’an 29:62)

Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And ever is Allah, of all things, Knowing. (Qur’an 33:40)

And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth, and ever is Allah Knowing and Wise. (Qur’an 48:4)

No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 64:11)

Whether you reveal a thing or conceal it, indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing. (Qur’an 33:51)

[…] And Allah knows what is in your hearts. And ever is Allah Knowing and Forbearing. (Qur’an 33:51)

And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you might turn, there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (Qur’an 2:115)

He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. (Qur’an 59:22)

He is Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, the Grand, the Exalted. (Qur’an 13:9)

So know, O Muhammad, that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place. (Qur’an 47:19)

And it is He who takes your souls by night and knows what you have committed by day. Then He revives you therein that a specified term may be fulfilled. Then to Him will be your return; then He will inform you about what you used to do. (Qur’an 6:60)

And do not trust except those who follow your religion.” Say, “Indeed, the true guidance is the guidance of Allah. Do you fear lest someone be given knowledge like you were given or that they would thereby argue with you before your Lord?” Say, “Indeed, all bounty is in the hand of Allah – He grants it to whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Wise.” (Qur’an 3:73)

An Explanation of the scriptures used in this article

The examples below are going to be largely based on the bible scriptures. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. The stories are similar between the two books
  2. The Qur’an stories are clearly based on the Bible stories
  3. The Qur’an seems to skim past some of the stories and there are a few quotes that seem to reference the “truth of gods word in the bible”

“I believe in the Book (of the People of the Book) which Allah has sent down…” (Qur’an, 42:15)

“And in their footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary confirming the Law that had come before him. We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law.” (Qur’an, 5:46)

“Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein” (Qur’an, 5:47)

“To thee (Muhammad) We sent the scripture (Qur’an) in truth confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety.” (Qur’an, 5:48)

Adam, Eve and Original Sin

In the story of the fall (Genesis 3) Adam and Eve eat the apple from the tree of knowledge. Before this they have no real concept of what is good or evil and no idea what consequences truly await them for disobeying.

God also created Lucifer, the angel that fell and plays the serpent that convinces Eve to eat the apple thus committing original sin.

So lets look at this:

  • God creates Lucifer who rebels against god
  • God creates Adam and Eve with no concept of good and evil and no understanding of consequences
  • God knows exactly what Lucifer, Adam and Eve are going to do but creates them that way anyway

Further to this when Adam realises he is naked after eating the apple of knowledge he hides from God in the garden and he asks this:

Genisis 3: 11 NIV

11And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

  • Did god really not know that they had eaten?
  • Did god not know that the serpent was talking to eve?
  • Why did god not stop this from happening?

God then curses both man and woman (Gen 3: 14-20)

Now the strange thing here is that in both the bible and Qur’an there are verses saying that we do not suffer the sins of our fathers/sons:

“…No person earns any (sin) except against himself (only), and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another…” (Qur’an 6:164)

“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16)

Deuteronomy is clearly rejecting the original sin story however seeing as the Qur’an is essentially an adaptation and addition to the bible, someone noticed this flaw and added in verses about how Adam repented for his sins. Some Christians assume he did, because it doesn’t say he didn’t. This is about as sensible as assuming Luke Skywalker is God, because it doesn’t say he isn’t.

To summarise original sin we have to consider either; god did not know Lucifer, Adam and Eve would disobey him, which is why he “had” to punish them or “original sin” was actually part of Gods plan all along and he wanted Adam and Eve to be cursed to live life as mortal, and wanted all the evil to be released on the world.

If we are to accept gods omniscience then we have to accept that God wanted original sin and evil in the world, and it therefore doesn’t make sense he would regret any of this.

Regret: how can God regret his actions when he knows everything that will happen?

Genesis 6: 5-7 NIV

5The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

If god is all knowing and can see all of our paths before we even choose to set foot on them, then regardless of “free will” God knew that this would happen.

Either god didn’t know what we are going to do, which is why he regretted making humans, and is therefore not omniscient or he did know what we were going to do, and made us any way, making his regret false. Further to this you could argue that if he knew one day the “evil” deed humans were going to do was going to make him commit genocide, but he still made us the way he did anyway, he may have actually wanted to commit genocide.

In this instance either God is not omniscient or he created us the way we are just so he could commit genocide and the verse is flawed about his regret.

Within the Qur’an; the story and many other adaptations of the Jewish stories, is skimmed over. The stories have been reworked to make Allah seem less fallible than they do within the bible. In this, the flood story, Allah seems quite smug having wiped out man. This leans more towards the approach that Allah is a psychopath.

Doesn’t it seem odd to you that an all knowing God had to keep changing the stories though?

Sub-Summary

If God is omniscient he knew Lucifer was going to betray him and that Adam and Eve would eat the apple bringing original Sin in to the world. If this is true, and he did it any way, it is safe to assume he wanted this to happen.

Due to original sin, and the curse god put on man, man committed evil acts and then god wiped us out. Knowing this would happen, but doing it any way must mean that god wanted to commit genocide.

  • If God IS omniscient then doing what is described is not the acts of someone who is all loving. This means god is not omnibenevolent and fails in one of the qualities of the Abrahamic God.
  • The alternative is that god is not omniscient and therefore fails in one of the qualities of the Abrahamic God

Either way it looks like at least one of the criteria for the Abrahamic God has failed.

Contradictions and errors in the bible and Qur’an

If God is all knowing why would his holy books be so filled with flaws?

Not only are there contradictions in the bible, but there are historical and scientific inaccuracies in the bible and Qur’an. There is no evidence for a lot of the claims and even Qur’an apologists have started to admit that the “scientific miracles” in the Qur’an have become a bit of an embarrassment: The Hamza Tzortzis handbrake u-turn on scientific miracles in quran.

I am not going to go in to detail with these in this section as we have other articles that detail them, but feel free to read them and come back.

Interpretations of the Bible and Qur’an

Why would an all knowing God leave so much open for interpretation? With so many vague and metaphorical passages there is not only separation between religions, but within each religion there are tonnes of denominations. The image below pictures some of the major splits, but there are many more than this.

what kind of jew are youSo wouldn’t an all knowing god ensure that his word was clear and direct so that everyone would agree with what it said? Wouldn’t an omniscient god do away with ambiguity completely?

Recessive traits

human tail vs gorilla tailhuman tailIf God designed us, then why do we have tail bones, male nipples, goosebumps, and wisdom teeth still? If man was made first, why do we start as female in the womb? Why would an all knowing god put so many questions up for his existence?

If God loves us, and wants us to believe in him, then surely he would know that anyone who can think for themselves would see these as evidence for evolution over creation?

 

Fundamentalists

Why did god make all his “true believer” fundamentalists so seemingly stupid? If you are a logical and intelligent person you will gravitate to those who are also logical and intelligent. If you are sensible you will make sure you verify everything people say with evidence and you won’t search for confirmation bias.

creationist method

When you see those fundies rejecting evidenced science for their “beliefs” and they have nothing to back it up, as well as trouble stringing sentences together, it only goes to push the critical thinker further away.

Summary of God’s Omniscience

This article has displayed a number of quotes from the Bible and Qur’an which claim God to be all knowing, or omniscient.

It has also displayed passages which showed God either to be not omniscient or not all loving, thus showing that god cannot be as described in the Bible/Qur’an.

It also went on to display other issues such as contradictions and errors in the holy texts, the divisive nature of religion, issues with biology in the form of recessive traits, and a mild poke at the “true believers” or fundamentalists lack of logic.

Simply put

  • An all knowing God would know the evidence I need to be convinced of His existence. (Inclusive of accurate holy books)
  • An all powerful God would have the ability to provide me that evidence. (But hasn’t)
  • And all loving God would want to provide me with sad evidence. (and as he hasn’t he fails on at least one of the criteria)

As none of the three criteria are complete, I can only conclude that God fails on at least one of the three main characteristics he is said to have.

all knowing omniescient omniescience




Psychopath

Is God A Psychopath?

Is God a Psychopath?

Firstly we have to define what it is that we are talking about.

The God being addressed in this article is the Abrahamic God of the Bible, and as such, Biblical scripture and commonly held Christian beliefs will be used as evidence to support the case being presented.

The term Psychopath is rarely used in modern professional psychiatry, and it is often used as being interchangeable with the term Sociopath, and both of these conditions fall under the umbrella diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. It is becoming more common of late for a distinction to be made between Psychopathy and Sociopathy, and the most commonly agreed upon distinction is that Psychopathy is caused by physical differences in the sufferers neurology, whereas Sociopathy is a learned behaviour. Or to put it simply, Psychopaths are born, Sociopaths are made.

Due to this distinction, we will use the term Psychopath with regards to God, as this God is claimed to be ‘unchanging’ and therefore cannot develop a condition or disorder.

 

What Is A Psychopath?

It is important here to note that the media portrayal of a Psychopath is not necessarily accurate. The word conjures up images of Ted Bundy, Hannibal Lecter, John Doe, and many other real and fictional characters that fit this mould. The truth of the matter is very different, and although it would include these people/characters, it is by no means limited to them.

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The NHS describes Antisocial Personality Disorder as follows.

“Antisocial personality disorder is a particularly challenging type of personality disorder, characterised by impulsive, irresponsible and often criminal behaviour.

Someone with antisocial personality disorder will typically be manipulative, deceitful and reckless, and won’t care for other people’s feelings.

Like other types of personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder is on a spectrum, which means it can range in severity from occasional bad behaviour to repeatedly breaking the law and committing serious crimes. Psychopaths are considered to have a severe form of antisocial personality disorder.”

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The diagnostic tool that is usually used for the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder is called the PCL-R, which stands for the Psychopathy Check List – Revised. This test was devised by a Canadian Psychologist called Robert Hare, and consists of a 20 point checklist. Each of the items on the checklist can be scored as 0, 1, or 2, being not applicable, somewhat applicable, or completely accurate. The necessary score for a diagnosis of ASPD varies to an extent from country to country. In the US, a score of 30 is necessary, but in the UK then a score of 25 is considered to be diagnosable. However a score of 25 is often used as a cut off point for research in both countries. It is very rare for someone to score a full 40 points, and most people that you would meet in your day to day life will score somewhere around 5 to 10. This means that, for a diagnosis, one must score at least 62.5% on the checklist.

The twenty traits assessed by the PCL-R score are:

  • Glib and superficial charm
  • Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
  • Need for stimulation
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning and manipulativeness
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • Callousness and lack of empathy
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioral controls
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Early behavior problems
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Criminal versatility

Is God A Psychopath?

In order to judge whether the Abrahamic/Christian God is a psychopath, we need to go through each of the items of the checklist, and score them accordingly. Obviously there are certain items on the list which cannot be applicable to a deity, so in order to score it fairly, we will remove those items, and score the total according to percentage.

Glib and superficial charm –

This is the ability to ‘turn on the charm’. Being able to come across as charming, smooth, and likeable, but not actually having any depth to those things. There is no evidence that I have found to properly justify this.

Score – 0

Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self –

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” Genesis 1:27

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:2

Score – 2

Need for stimulation –

The definition for this is to rouse to action or effort, as by encouragement or pressure; spur on; incite:. This being evidenced by prayer.

Score – 2

Pathological lying –

“For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” 2 Thessalonians 2:11

“And if a prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet.” Ezekiel 14:9

“Now, therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.” 1 Kings 22:23

Score – 2

Cunning and manipulativeness –

“Saying, If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God and will do what is right in His sight, and will listen to and obey His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord Who heals you.” Exodus 15: 26

Score – 2

Lack of remorse or guilt –

I am yet to find any scripture that shows God feeling any kind of guilt or remorse for his own actions, other than creating humanity “Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Not only is this not remorse in the same sense of the word, as it is self centred, but it also further supports his Callousness and Lack Of Behavioural Control.

Score – 2

Shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness) –

God is claimed to be omnibenevolent, and claimed to be pure Love. However this is contradicted by the existence of evil, eternal punishment, and not answering prayer. This demonstrates that his Love is superficial.

Score – 2

Callousness and lack of empathy –

The multiple cases in the bible that speak of God’s Wrath, of God’s Vengence, and of the lists of who should be punished with death show an extreme lack of empathy.

Score – 2

Parasitic lifestyle –

There are multiple mentions of people sacrificing things for God. But it is not made apparent whether God requires these sacrifices or not. However, he does nothing to stop them.

Score – 1

Poor behavioral controls –

“And in the greatness of Thine excellency Thou hast overthrown them that rose up against Thee; Thou sentest forth Thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.” Exodus 15:7

“and My wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.” Exodus 22:24

Score – 2

Sexual promiscuity –

Mary appears to be the only case in which one can attribute a sexual act of some kind.

Score – 0

Early behavior problems –

See the entire Old Testament.

Score – 2

Lack of realistic long-term goals –

God created man so that we could worship him and bring him glory, but also gave us Free Will, therefore sabotaging his own goal for our creation.

Score – 1

Impulsivity –

N/A

Impulsive – Acting or done without forethought. This is then not possible for an omniscient being.

Irresponsibility –

“Irresponsible 1:  not answerable to higher authority <an irresponsible dictatorship>

:  said or done with no sense of responsibility <irresponsible accusations>

:  lacking a sense of responsibility:  unable especially mentally or financially to bear responsibility”

God fits at least one of these definitions.

Score – 1

Failure to accept responsibility for own actions –

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5

This is the justification given for the flood. If we are to accept that God is omniscient, and all goes according to his plan, then it is his own actions that allowed for this to happen.

Score – 1

Many short-term marital relationships –

N/A

Juvenile delinquency –

See the entire Old Testament.

Score – 2

Revocation of conditional release –

N/A

Criminal versatility –

Individual Murder, Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Rape…..

Score – 2

Total 26.

Conclusion.

Out of the list of 20 questions, there were 3 that were not applicable to God, making a possible total score of 34. With a total score of 26, God would be diagnosed as a Psychopath in the UK, and would be classed as a Psychopath for research purposes in both the UK and the US. However, when we look at this as a percentage score, it works out as 76.47%, which is a diagnosable score in any country.

God is a Psychopath.