Exercising my right of Free Speech and also your right to leave this site if you disagree.

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Interesting and Disappointing yet Unsurprising Experience

I went to a family reunion for the thanksgiving holiday. This is a biannual gathering of my fathers side of the family. I am aware of the religious and political views of most of that side of the family and I try to keep off of such subjects for the obvious reason of wanting to keep the peace.
I always do all the cooking for these gatherings and thus I am in the kitchen and out of the line of fire. However, relatives coming and talk to me a good bit so I can't avoid all potentially touchy subjects.
A little background, I come from a long line of Baptist missionaries and extreme right wingers. I do not fall into these categories. I am an atheist and tend toward very socially liberal. The one area that certain views cross paths is on the fiscal side of government. I short, I am fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I want the government out of my bedroom and my wallet.
OK, so I am cooking and my Aunt, my Dad's kid sister, now an elderly lady, comes in the kitchen and starts talking about some nebulous points of politics on the financial side. I agreed with her. I don't like current tax policy and I agreed with this one point. She took it as a wholesale buy-in on her politics and religion apparently. She made a sound like steam releasing pressure and says, "Whew, I am so glad you don't like Obama either." I hadn't said that. I don't like a lot of his policies but I don't hate the guy. She then goes on to say, and I am not kidding here, "I believe he is trying to destroy the country, but at least his presidency will hasten the return of Christ." She actually said that, 'hasten the return of Christ', Obama's presidency.
I knew the religious right despised the man but this was startling. Here was a woman in here 60s suggesting that he is the antichrist or some such boogieman. I had to bite my tongue not to laugh in her face.
People have for centuries been predicting that anything they disagree with was going to have this magical result, so the statement itself, aside from just pathetic, was unsurprising. What gets me is that they hate Obama this much yet look forward to what they think is the ultimate in positive events (how you can be so sick as to think that an event that involves genocide and mass destruction to an unprecedented scale (see Rev 14:20 for a lovely description)I'll never know)It seems that they should help him and try to pass every bill he endorses if they truly believe that they are 'hastening the return of Christ'. It makes no sense.

I always feel queasy after these conversations and wonder how in the hell I came from people who gleefully engage in us versus them, in-group morality systems.

Global Warming Scandal and the Reputation of Science

I am angry. I am angry at these scientists who have undermined the very foundations of the best weapon humanity has against unreason. By falsifying data and conspiring to destroy those who didn't buy into the program on a subject as big as climate change, they have delivered a damaging blow to the reputation of science. Science is of course innocent, being a system of pure observation and reporting; the problem is that many many people who form and sway public opinion want science to be tarnished to forward their religious views. As I read what was coming out on this subject I could almost here the evangelical preachers shouting 'see, see what science hath wrought!'.
Whether there is a real problem of anthropogenic global warming is not the subject of this article and could be cleared up simply by opening up all data for public inquiry (something that reportedly has not been done). My complaint is with the dishonesty and it's affect on the never-ending war against unreason. I heard Rush Limbaugh talking on the subject and he was correctly saying that if the scientific community does not combat this and quickly it is going to turn on science as a whole. He then said that his faith in God makes him think that we cannot, as humans, destroy the earth. This sort of unreasoned stance, based on no evidence is exactly what we need unmarred science to combat.
I can only come up with a few scenarios as to why this fraud would have been committed. One, the scientists involved believe, truly believe that the situation is dire to the point where they have to conflate the numbers to force a public response in advance of a crisis and don't trust the people to actually respond without lies and threats of death and destruction. Two, they have been bought off by 'green' industry and are hoping for huge returns by creating a culture of fear. Three, they have a political agenda and see an environmental crisis as one thing that crosses all borders and therefore can be used a wedge to force the hand of nations regardless of their affiliations, relationships or politics.
Instinct tells me that the first option is not the case. A true scientist will put their faith in the data and see it as self explanatory. If this option were correct (sans the deceit), there would be scientists giving impassioned pleas and explaining the data. They would be freely providing honest data if they truly believed because the data would support the belief. Nay, they would not have to believe in anything, the data would be enough. If the data supported the claims, no lies would be needed.
That leaves two and three as options. Both are a disgrace to scientific inquiry and need to be investigated, outed and safeguards be made that this never happens again.
We cannot risk free and honest inquiry to be blemished and science to be questioned for fraud when faith is ever at the door providing happy little answers to the simple. It is much easier to believe that we 'can't' destroy the world because God won't let us than it is to work to be good stewards.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recurring Issue

Once again, my boss has tried to get me into a religious conversation and convince me that Christianity is the wonderful root and source of all good and morality. I try to not be overly dogmatic in my refutations because he is my boss but I do grow tired of the same old arguments from the religious. There are a few things that get trotted out over and over and over.

First, it is asserted that without God there is no basis for morality and people will be free to do whatever they please. This is a load of non-sense. The fact that a single non-believer (not to mention the millions currently in existence)behaving morally and ethically destroys this argument. Furthermore, human ethics should not be based on aping the behavior of some worshiped entity or from fear of retribution from the same. Why is it not sufficient to base your ethics, as I do, on a desire to make the people around me happy and minimize their suffering? Why is it not sufficient to base your actions on love and respect and an expectation of the same in return? Why do religious people need to inject the threat of punishment?

Secondly, Pascal's wager. This irritating and shallow bit of non-reasoning (I like to think Pascal was being facetious) really gets under my skin. It assumes two things. One, that you can choose to believe and two, that God, if he exists, can't see through the positioning (an insult to deity on the face of it). If you aren't familiar with Pascal's wager, it goes something like this; if you believe in God and he doesn't exist you have lost nothing and gained everything, if you don't believe in God and he does exist, you have lost everything. So you should surely believe in God on the outside chance that if you are wrong he will get you.
To this I only have a rude gesture and the offer of two equally rude words juxtaposed one atop the other in quick succession. I will not live my life in fear and pander to that which has no basis in logic, reason or evidence. I cannot choose to believe in anything. If it is true and I can see that it is true then faith is unnecessary. As for the bet hedging, let us assume there is a God, fine; if he/she/it is worthy of anything called worship then he/she/it would appreciate honest unbelief to dishonest pandering. (Personally, I thing that any being worthy of the name God would despise worship and praise and avoid the faithful like the plague... maybe that is what happened and why we have no signs of god anywhere we look)

Finally, there is the whole immorality of the very premise that God is going to get you. There is no crime capable of being committed in the span of a human life that is worthy of eternal damnation. There is no justice worthy of the name that could write such a sentence. If a human being live for 100 years murdering and raping and burning churches and beating children until they held every record for villainy conceivable, they still would not deserve eternal torture. Even if it could objectively be determined that for each crime, 100 years of torture was just and right, there would be a terminus. Any god so perfect as to not be able to coexist with imperfect beings, firstly shouldn't have created imperfection, would be better served with simply annihilating the condemned. If this god is incapable then they are not the omnipotent being imagined and if capable but unwilling then they are simply sadistic to a level unimaginable to anyone with a shred of morality.

I am sick to death of having to go back over and restate these things only with kidd gloves...


About Me

I am a husband and a father of two. I work as a network administrator. I am interested in religion and philosophy, though mostly from an external perspective.