Guest Blog by philomonty: Nihilism & Thomism Inferences (i.e. Catholicism)

Nihilism is to Thomism (thus, Catholicism) as Satan is to the court of angels in the Book of Job.

There is an inter-meshing between these contradictory points that rests on logical inference. We might say it as this: Certain nihilist propositions are correct as conditionals; however, being conditionals shows that the contrary conclusion to Nihilism is true.

For a common example through Job, God and Satan essentially wager on this: Satan posits that any man, if taken far enough, will break. A contemporary idiom would be “every man has their price.” Is the proposition true? Per Aquinas, it is (Summa, Q. 109). No man can resist sin for long, without grace; every man has a breaking point without God’s grace.

Now some of you may know that I was once a Nihilist. Even with my Nihilistic mindset, I found Thomism attractive and appealing. Not only could it solve the problems of Nihilism, Thomism did so from Nihilism’s own grounds (both belong to the Western Metaphysical Tradition, after all). Namely, as a Thomist and as a Nihilist, I found grounds on which both agreed: Where they differed was on whether the conditionals and inferences were true or not. Indeed, as a Nihilist, I found that Thomism provided far better clarity on Nihilism itself  than Nihilists did.

With that in mind, I am not here to make a case for Nihilism, but  to draw those who, like I once did, find Nihilism to be true away from it by showing the contrary logical inference; likewise, it would also be able to make a case against Atheism (a kind of Pascalian argument), since it has no safeguards against some of the following propositions (and at times, even embraces them), and that the logical conclusion of Atheism is Nihilism:

 

If there is no God, then there is no human nature (Sartre; ‘Existence precedes Essence’); however, there is human nature, therefore there is a God (Summa Q. 93).

Life possesses meaning insofar as Man’s actions aim toward an end which is the good (Summa).
Life has no meaning, for there is no real ‘good’ to be aimed at, and with which our end is death, which is opposed to any form of ‘the good’ (General Nihilism).

We are imprisoned in ‘nothingness’ (Heidegger).
We are imprisoned by ‘nothingness’ insofar as creatures are considered ‘dark’ insofar as they are from nothing [viz., ex nihilo] (Quaestiones disputatae de Veritas, Aquinas, reply to objection 5).

The proper movement of a being that stems from nothingness is to tend toward nothingness; however, [a being that has] nature has a tendency towards the good, which is the same as being, therefore the proper movement of a being is to existence (Quaestiones disputate de Potentia, Objection 16 and reply to objection 16).

There is no such thing as Love, i.e., Charity, for all actions as such derive from some ulterior motive (General Cynicism).
Only through God can Man come to possess Charity; for Charity is a virtue that surpasses Man’s natural limitations (Summa); likewise, certain actions such as almsdeeds only flow forth through Charity properly, wherein Charitable actions possess materially the virtue of Charity, but not formally, such that these actions proceed from a different source [‘ulterior motive’] of either natural light [‘reason’], fear, or gain (Summa, reply to objection 1).

There is no such thing as morality, for there is no such thing as good and evil, and there is no such thing as good and evil for there is no objective measurement of rule [viz., nature], and all things listed as such are subjective and belong only in reference to those respective references, viz., the measurement of good and evil is respective to each being only (General Nihilism).
The measurement of rule is established through one’s nature, by which when one acts in accordance with it, one acts good, and when one acts against it, one acts in an evil manner (Summa).

Alex Jones, #QAnon & other conspiracy theories, and today’s politics

Conspiracy theories are laughed at culturally–and yet, we know conspiracies are real and that conspiracies happen all the time in politics. In fact if you’ve ever been seriously involved in politics you’ve been in some sort of conspiracy yourself. Mainstream Media is now all but universally mistrusted and even condemned. This leaves us with a question: what sources of information do we trust, and why do we trust them? The MSM is controlled. Independent media is challenging because you don’t know who to trust there either. We’re all stuck with that. And social media’s only a little better, because social media can be used by people who lie, or are delusional… or by people desperately trying get out the truth. Rathergate, Gamergate, Obamagate, QAnon, conspiracy theories in general: how should we really approach information that goes against Mainstream Media and Education Narratives?

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Could the universe be anything besides comprehensible?

Could the universe be anything besides comprehensible?

To be comprehensible means to be understandable.
The mind grasps what is comprehended.
If the universe can’t be grasped by our mind, that means what we think we know about the universe isn’t how things are.
All our ideas of how the world work just ain’t so.

Without Providence, there is no reason to think that our beliefs reflect reality.
They could simply model risk properly such that we survive and reproduce.
If that’s the case, the universe isn’t comprehensible.

So it seems clear to me that the universe, in theory, could be incomprehensible.
Is Providence the only thing that can ground comprehensibility?

Meaning Comes From Mind

To be comprehensible is to have meaning that can be grasped by a mind.
As such, meaning has something that grounds its existence.
Let’s define this that grounds meaning as “mind”.
Then there are two options for any meaning in the universe: It comes from human minds, or it comes from other mind.
If it comes from human mind, then we’re not seeing meaning in the universe, but rather playing a game like exquisite corpses, imparting an interpretation of randomness and being fooled by it.

So, if there is meaning to be found in the universe, rather than imbued by our own over-active imaginations, that means that there is an Author, a Creator, which writes that meaning into the universe.

An Outline of Skepticism

Richard H. Popkin at https://www.britannica.com/topic/skepticism. defined Skepticism in western philosophy as “the attitude of doubting knowledge claims set forth in various areas.” Skeptics challenge the adequacy or reliability of these claims by questioning the claims existing knowledge is based upon. Skeptics question whether any such claims really are indubitable or necessarily true. They consistently challenge the purported rational grounds of accepted assumptions. In everyday life, practically everyone is skeptical about some knowledge claims. However philosophical skeptics doubt the possibility of any knowledge beyond that of the contents of directly felt experience.

The original Greek meaning of skeptikos was “an inquirer,” someone who was unsatisfied and still looking for truth. From ancient times till now, skeptics have developed arguments to undermine the contentions of dogmatic philosophers, scientists, and theologians. Those arguments, and their employment against various forms of dogma, have played important roles in shaping both the problems and the solutions offered by western philosophy. As philosophy and science developed, doubts arose about various basic, widely accepted beliefs about the world. In ancient times, skeptics challenged the claims of Plato, Aristotle and their followers, as well as those of the Stoics. During the Renaissance, similar challenges were raised against the claims of Scholasticism and Calvinism. Later skeptics attacked Cartesianism (the system established by René Descartes) and other theories that attempted to justify the scientific revolution initiated by Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. Later skeptical offensives were leveled against the theories of Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel their followers. Each challenge led to new attempts to resolve the skeptical difficulties. Skepticism, especially since the Enlightenment, has come to mean disbelief-primarily religious disbelief-resulting in the skeptic being likened to the village atheist.

Robert Maynard Hutchins, the dean of Yale Law School, the president of the University of Chicago, and one of the more influential philosophers of education in the 20th century gave a series of lectures in 1951. In those lectures, he identified four intellectual trends that had been absolutely disastrous for modern education. He called these trends “the four horsemen of the philosophical apocalypse.”

“If the object of education is the improvement of men, any system of education that is without values is a contradiction in terms. A system that seeks bad values is bad. A system that denies the existence of values denies the possibility of education. Relativism, scientism, skepticism, and anti-intellectualism, the four horsemen of the philosophical apocalypse, have produced that chaos in education which will end in the disintegration of the West.”

In a January 23, 2017 article Daniel Lattier offered brief descriptions of each of “the four horsemen” and their impact on education:
1) Relativism:
The idea that notions of true and false, right and wrong, are purely subjective. Generally speaking, you can see its impact on education today through the exaltation of “tolerance” as the highest virtue, in addition to the changing of the purpose of education from helping students to pursue truth to the pragmatic goal of making them “college- and career-ready.”
2) Scientism:
The idea that the only true or meaningful knowledge is that gained through science. This has contributed to the significant weakening of the humanities curriculum and the decline of basic reading and writing skills at the expense of STEM education.
3) Skepticism:
For Hutchins, skepticism (related to relativism) referred to the idea that our beliefs are nothing more than “our own moods and humors, or, at the utmost, the local prejudices of our own country.” Therefore, according to this way of thinking, schools in Western countries such as America should not attempt to convince students of the truth of Western principles, or even worse, argue that some of these principles are superior to those of other cultures. Rather, they should simply teach students to “appreciate” other cultures.
4) Anti-Intellectualism:
As Isaac Asimov noted, “The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” Hutchins saw anti-intellectualism in the increasing resort to sentimentality in Western culture. Today, one sees it particularly manifested in schools in which students are encouraged to have opinions on matters of which they have little to no knowledge, and that the teacher’s job is merely to “affirm” these opinions.

Lattier stated, “These pernicious ideas have grown in strength since Hutchins wrote in 1951.” The four horsemen (harbingers of “the disintegration of the West”) of the “philosophical apocalypse” now permeate most public and private schools ranging from early childhood to even the most prestigious universities.

One need only observe the rise of (utopian) grievance groups such as modern activist feminists, Black Lives Matter and Antifa in recent years to see the effects of this permeation. The groups’ reigning narratives are strictly focused on the specific, personal perception of the aggrieved. These perceptions seem disconnected from the reality of cohesive logic and/or objective fact. This disconnect (and the groups’ members’ unwillingness to discuss or debate it) gives testimony to the power of methodical, systemic skepticism (as described by Hutchins), coupled with dogmatic devotion to the group’s particular ideology (see definition b of Idea, below.)

Another indication of the intellectual decay caused by the ‘four horsemen’ and their disciples is the deviation of ‘Skeptics’, particularly ‘internet skeptics’ from their intellectually philosophical forbearers. The true philosophical skeptics questioned everything to determine whether humanity could honestly know the truth about anything. This author refers the reader back to paragraph 2(two) for the meaning of ‘skepsis’ and skeptic.

The core concepts of ancient skepticism are belief, suspension of judgment, criterion of truth, appearances, and investigation. Important notions of modern skepticism such as knowledge, certainty, justified belief, and doubt play no or almost no role. Ancient debates addressed questions that today we associate with epistemology and philosophy of language, as well as with theory of action, rather than specifically with the contemporary topic of skepticism.

Modern skeptical views typically have either an epistemological form (focused on the epistemic status of certain beliefs) or focus instead on questions that are either local or radical. One common variety of modern skepticism concerns our beliefs about the past and argues that such beliefs lack positive epistemic status – that they are either not justified, not rational, or cannot constitute knowledge (perhaps two or even all three). Where skepticism does not have this epistemological focus, then it tends to be of an ontological form in that it is directed at beliefs about the existence of some supposedly problematic entity, such as the self or God. Here the target of the skepticism is not so much one’s putative knowledge of these entities (though it may be that as well), but rather the claim that they exist at all.

Local varieties of skepticism will only concern beliefs about a certain specific subject matter, such as beliefs in abstract objects or the conclusions of inductive arguments. Since ontological varieties of skepticism tend to be concerned with the existence of particular sorts of entities, they are usually (though not always) of this local form. In contrast, radical forms of skepticism afflict most of our beliefs and thus pose, at least potentially, the most pressing philosophical challenge.
The modern ‘skeptic’ community (both online and offline) grew out of Humanism and atheism, which established themselves as social movements in the mid-19th century. Some skeptics describe themselves as “joyfully debunking others’ outlandish truth-claims.” One universal is that skeptic can be, and often is, interchangeable with ‘atheist/antitheist’. Self-described as “…a remarkably successful informal learning movement, which has proved that people want to spend their leisure-time learning, discussing ideas and socializing.”

The growth of the ‘skeptic community’ has produced large and well-funded Skeptic organizations like the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the James Randi Educational Foundation. Calling themselves ‘freethinkers’ ‘rationalists’ or ‘scientistic’, they have morphed into political (see ‘The Geek Manifesto’) and social activists who seemingly have a single-minded drive to abolish religion as evidenced by poorly researched/plagaristic and dogmatic skeptic books by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Jon Ronson and Richard Wiseman topping the bestseller list.
Perhaps the most telling trait of the ‘Skeptic Communities’ is their pathologic adherence to atheist dogma (in direct contradiction to their self-anointed label of skeptic/freethinker). Paul Kurtz, the founder of the movement, resigned “under duress” from CSICOP (by then called the Centre for Scientific Inquiry) after protesting against the organization’s “mean-spirited ridicule and criticism” of religion, including its sponsorship of ‘Blasphemy Day’. Under both the Classical and Contemporary definitions of ‘Skepticism’, it is nearly impossible to solidly adhere to any idea beyond “I don’t know.”

The philosophical definitions of an Idea are:
a) A concept developed by the mind.
b) A conception of what is desirable or ought to be; an ideal.
c) Platonism; .Also called form. An archetype or pattern of which the individual objects in any natural class are imperfect
copies and from which they derive their being.
d) Kantianism; Idea of pure reason. (1. Any of the three undemonstrable entities (a personal soul, a cosmos, and a supreme
being) implicit in the fact of a subject and an object of knowledge, and in the need for some principle uniting them.

The dogmatic adherence by certain groups to one or more of Hutchins’ ‘four horsemen’ ideologies has produced chaos in all Western societies. The chaos may largely be due to the groups’ rejection of the basic principles and ideals that are responsible for building and maintaining Western Civilization. The activists reject the free, advanced societies that allow them the freedom to reject and protest. Such cognitive dissonance is possible only if the activists have rejected the notion of objective Truth (below) in favor of Relativism (see above), as well as the other ‘horsemen’.

The definitions of Truth {trooth z, troths}
1. The true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.
2. Conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.
3. A verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
4. The state or character of being true.
5. Actuality or actual existence.
6. An obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude.
7. Honesty; integrity; truthfulness.

For many, truth simply means that the ideas of the mind correspond with the reality outside of the person. This concept of truth can be traced back to Aristotle and Plato. It is more recently by St. Thomas Aquinas’ balanced formula “equation of thing and intellect.” His inclusion of the material was intended to leave room for the idea that “true” can be applied not only to thoughts and judgments but also to things or persons (e.g. a true friend). Since the Renaissance, philosophers have paid little attention to the correspondence theory. By that time, it was considered too obvious to merit much attention. However they did spell out a psycho-semantic connection between ideas and the parts of the physical world ‘connected’ to those same ideas.

Object-based correspondence became the norm through Plato’s pivotal engagement with the problem of falsehood. Only things that are show up in this account (eg, Robin flying): in the case of falsehood, (Robin sleeping) the ascribed state still is, but it is a state different from the one of reality. The account is extended from speech to thought and belief via Plato’s well known thesis that “thought is speech that occurs without voice, inside the soul in conversation with itself.

Fact-based correspondence theories became prominent only in the 20th century. These theories do not presuppose that the truth-bearing items have subject-predicate structure; indeed, they can be stated without any explicit reference to the structure of truth-bearing items. The theory offers an alternative response to the problem of falsehood, a response that may claim to extricate the theory of truth from the limitations imposed on it through the presupposition of subject-predicate structure.

Many correspondence theorists likely consider it inconceivable and/or foolishly brash to insist that something being “true” amounts to “corresponds with a fact”. Some simple forms of correspondence definitions of truth should be distinguished (“iff” means “if and only if”; the variable, “x”, ranges over whatever truthbearers are taken as primary; the notion of correspondence might be replaced by various related notions):
(1) x is true iff x corresponds to some fact;
x is false iff x does not correspond to any fact.
(2) x is true iff x corresponds to some state of affairs that obtains;
x is false iff x corresponds to some state of affairs that does not obtain.

Both forms invoke portions of reality-facts/states of affairs-that are typically denoted by clauses or by sentential gerundives, conditionally dependent upon variable facts/states of affairs. The difference between (2) and (1) is akin to the difference between Platonism about properties (embraces uninstantiated properties) and Aristotelianism about properties (rejects uninstantiated properties)

Definition of Certainty plural certainties
1: something that is certain
2: the quality or state of being certain especially on the basis of evidence

Definition of Perception
1 a: a result of perceiving : observation
b: a mental image : concept
2 obsolete : consciousness
3 a: awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation
• Color perception
b: physical sensation interpreted in the light of experience
4 a: quick, acute, and intuitive cognition : appreciation
b: a capacity for comprehension

Definition of Reality Plural realities
1: the quality or state of being real
2a (1): a real event, entity, or state of affairs
• his dream became a reality
(2) a: the totality of real things and events
• trying to escape from reality
b: something that is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily
3: television programming that features videos of actual occurrences (such as a police chase, stunt, or natural disaster) –
often used attributively
• reality TV
• in reality: in actual fact

Popular refrains from the online ‘skeptic community’ regarding theism and religion include ‘no scientific evidence’ ‘bronze-age superstitions’ and so on. This writer wonders how, given the definitions for skeptic, truth, idea, perception, certainty and reality established by highly respected sources, the skeptic community can claim to truly know, or be certain of anything? The finest minds of History; from Socrates and Plato to Descartes and on into modernity, have struggled to reason their way to a solid platform of knowing anything with certainty. Some spent their live in that pursuit.
Socrates and other Classical Skeptics (brilliant enough for their writings to survive 2,000+ years) were unable to answer that question. How, then can any of the self-important, self-satisfied internet skeptics know that they are not in a brain-in-a-vat, plugged into the matrix or a simulation program in an advanced AI? How much less are they qualified to declare that there is no Creator?

That they declare it with absolute certainty as proof of their own superiority of intelligence, whether in their channel names, their words or their behavior speaks of vast ignorance. The first thing a true skeptic must absolutely question is their own assumptions biases and the reliability of their sources. The so-called ‘skeptics/freethinkers’ failure to do so, coupled with their obvious egotism, hostility to any who break ranks (such as Paul Kurtz), and hatred of traditional Western Values, especially religion, loudly states that the movement is an absolutist ideological cult. To quiet the autistic screeches about rejecting religion, I ask whether Charles Manson was a religious leader. No, he was not. Nor was Karl Marx, Stalin, Lenin or any of thousands of other personalities who have led millions of people to destruction via dogmatic credos throughout history.

Sources:
https://www.britannica.com/topic/skepticism
http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/4-horsemen-philosophical-apocalypse
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/idea
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/truth?s=t
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-correspondence/
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism-ancient/

The Skeptic movement


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/certainty
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perception
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reality

Max & Rabbi Oliver: Satan, Satanism, and Evil in Jewish Tradition

Rabbi Oliver discusses Satan & Evil in Talmudic Judaism.

A new generation of L.A. Satanists finds community in blashemous times: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/…

Hell freezes over: how the Church of Satan got cool: https://www.theguardian.com/world/sho…

Chelsea Clinton’s Church of Satan friends: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DTxsX7fUM…

Rabbi Oliver’s Weldanschauung Kampf: https://weltanschaaungkampf.com/

Rebuttal of Freethinker Propaganda, Part 5

When this author left off last week, I had just finished examined each of the approximately 12 people Dan Barker had listed as prominent atheists who had made great contributions to the world.  Of those twelve, no more than four met the actual criterion set by Dan Barker/Richard Dawkins for atheists.

As a partial counterpoint, atheists figure prominently in the annals of the greatest mass killings and atrocities of the twentieth century.  Communist Russia, Communist China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba all are (or were) Communist Regimes that commit(ed) massive atrocities on their own citizens.  An atheist is not necessarily a Communist.  Communists must be atheistic because the state must supplant God as the supreme entity.

Religious Affiliation % in List
Catholic 31%
Anglican/Episcopalian 13%
Jewish 7%
Atheist 6%
Greco-Roman paganism 6%
Chinese traditional religion/Confucianism 5%
Lutheran 5%
Russian Orthodox 4%

The web page http://www.adherents.com/adh_influ.html.  Lists the names, religions and achievements of the top 100 most influential people in world history and given by Michael H. Hart’s book ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History.’  The top eight religious (non)affiliations are seen in the box to the right.  The atheists in that Top 100 list were: Karl Marx Simon Bolivar Joseph Stalin Sigmund Freud Vladimir Illych Lenin and Mao Zedong.  Considering the legacy of these people, it seems that there is something common in their ideology that leads to slaughter.

Dan states that “Most religions have consistently resisted progress–including the abolition of slavery; women’s right to vote and choose contraception and abortion; medical developments such as the use of anesthesia; scientific understanding of the heliocentric solar system and evolution, and the American principle of state/church separation.”

In the words of Ronald Reagan, “There you go again…”  Dan paints ALL RELIGIONS EVERYWHERE AT ALL TIMES with the same brush.  Is he judging the society of the Pharos, Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar by today’s standards?  Does he judge the regimes of Lenin, Mao, Stalin, Ho Chi Min, Kim Jung Il and Pol Pot by those same standards?

The practice of slavery is as old as time, likely dating back to the Stone Age (as the Stone Age civilizations found in the Americas did).  The practice of slavery was global as every society (at one time or another) practiced slavery

The ‘enlightened’ (and often atheistic) ‘elite progressives’ such as Margaret Sanger and Woodrow Wilson (resurrected the dying KKK) of the first half of the twentieth century, judged themselves as the torchbearers and arbiters of human progress.  They alone had the intellect and wisdom necessary to guide and make all the ‘tough calls’ for the ignorant masses they would rule over.  They were the source of the eugenics movement which was used in turn to support many of the Jim Crow and segregation laws as well as the ‘Cleansing’ of undesirables in/by the Third Reich. Today, the eugenics movement is almost universally condemned now as evil, unfounded and pseudoscience.  Do we hold the progressives to today’s standards?

The standards for morals, public or private behavior, just as everything else changes as time goes by.  Christ did not explicitly condemn slavery, but the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” makes it rather clear what He wanted people to do.  Hebrew law ordered Jews to treat slaves as family and the Jew who killed a slave was to die, just as they would for killing a fellow Jew.  The Muslim Religion not only allows, but prescribes enslavement of non-believers.  Christianity and Judaism both demand humane treatment of others.  Christianity demands it regardless of race, class, sex, etc.  The abolitionist movements in Europe in America came from Christianity.  Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i faith, officially condemned slavery in 1874.  In Hinduism, the vedas of about 600+ BC taught that slavery was contrary to their goals.  Over time, the teachings of the leaders in the religion went back and forth.  Buddhism has a long history of generally condemning slavery, though debt slavery could still occur.  Finally, Buddhist Emperor Ashoka banned slavery and renounced war.  This list does not contain any pagan religions, Confucianism, Shinto or innumerable others that have existed throughout time.  Do these marked difference in beliefs not illustrate that lumping religions all together is like lumping all political parties, all Germans, Japanese (or any other nationality) or atheists into a single unit?  Five of the six most influential atheists were dictators of the most tyrannical, bloody regimes of history.  The sixth was their political inspiration.  Can we therefore judge all atheists to be just like them?

All humans from any time and any place are hypocrites to one extent or another.  A person can behave devoutly in church and public places and become a veritable demon in their home or in a neighborhood where they are not known.  Yes some rulers in the past have used religion to justify war, subjugation, enslavement and many other evils.  Many atheists have done the same or worse with no excuses or cover whatsoever beyond ‘The Dialectic Demands It’.  The atheist has no standard for behavior.  By rejecting all religions and their teachings, the only available guide will be expediency.  Most religions seek to elevate the self to a higher level of purity or holiness.  Any theist who takes their faith seriously finds themselves held to a supposedly unchanging standard of ‘Good.’  A theistic person (if they are entirely honest) is aware of how far they fall below the goal of their faith and must therefore strive to improve themselves to become closer to the Creator, and finally reach Enlightenment/Nirvana/Heaven/Paradise.

To judge all religious people by a single incident or period of a single sect is patently ridiculous.  For every Salem Witch Trial there are civilians who hide friends, neighbors and strangers in their home because their faith tells them to.  Pope Pious XII sheltered 3000-4000 Jews in the papal summer palace outside Rome.  Allied airmen and Jews were sheltered inside the Vatican or other church and private properties.  If the Germans had chosen to search those locations, the SS would have likely looted the entire Vatican complex within Rome, all properties or accounts owned by the Holy See and the private homes then kill or imprison everyone within.

Women’s suffrage is yet another case of judging the past by today’s standards.  The pursuit of equality with men in political and other arenas amounted to the overthrow of 1,400 or more years of both tradition and laws based on those same traditions.  To claim that religions opposed women’s suffrage is equivalent to saying politics opposed women’s suffrage.  Religion is an ideology.  People are born into or choose to join one religion or another.  Western culture (particularly American) has chosen to divide the political and religious portions of our lives.  It is their choice whether they follow the dogma and traditions of the faith.  No one can or will force them.  If a preacher gives a sermon about a political issue, they are not serving a deity.  They are substituting politics for faith.  That being said, how can Dan, sitting in the nosebleed section of the bleachers, be in a position to criticize those who are actually trying to finish the race?

Next, we shall address the charges that Dan brings about religion slowing medical research, scientific advancement, hindering acceptance of evolution or interfering with the separation of church and state.

To the charges of interfering with medicine and science:  This author shakes his head slowly and repeats the Ronald Reagan quote from earlier.  The Catholic Church was the cradle of modern western science.  James Hannam refutes these accusations in his article found at: http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2011/05/18/science-owes-much-to-both-christianity-and-the-middle-ages.  Dr. Hannam points out where in history the charge of suppressing science originated and who exactly created the charges.   Even Stefan Molyneux, an atheist Canadian YouTube vlogger and host on Freedomain Radio has created episodes acknowledged that the Catholic Curch built western civilization.

When it comes to evolution, Dan may have a solid case.  Yes, some religions reject the theory because they read the bible in a literalist manner.  Others reject the theory because it seems to be a tool to eliminate God.  Many religious people embraced it enthusiastically and still do.  This writer believes it may simply be that God used evolution as a mechanism of creation.  Whenever belief systems are seen to collide, it will create tension and disagreement whether the two are actually contradicting each other or not.

The separation of church and state was never under the control of religion.  The truth is that in the Western Hemisphere, the church was never in control of the state.  The church often served as advisor or attempted to rein in rulers with threats of excommunication.  The union of church and state was done through political leaders declaring a religion the ‘official’ religion of the nation, then imprisoning, executing or exiling all who refused to follow the new official religion.  The American Experiment with the separation of church and state was never hindered by religion or religious leaders because no one wanted to wind up on the receiving end of state power used to suppress them.

The atheist initiative to drive religion out of any and every public or government space is in direct conflict with the portion of the First Amendment that states: “Congress Shall Make No Law Regarding Religion or the Free Exercise Thereof.”  Dan seems to be simultaneously claiming suppression by religion while attempting suppression of religion.

Dan Barker claims that freethought is a philosophical, not a political, position, that embraces adherents of virtually all political persuasions, including capitalists, libertarians, socialists, communists, Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives.  There a great deal of literature to negate his claim that there is no philosophical connection between atheism and communism.  The atheism in Communist regimes has been and continues to be a form of militant atheism which led to various acts of repression, including the razing of thousands of religious buildings and the killing, imprisoning, and oppression of religious leaders and believers.

The persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union was the result of the violently atheist Soviet government. In the first five years after the October Revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were murdered, many on the orders of Leon Trotsky. When Joseph Stalin came to power in 1927, he ordered his secret police, under Genrikh Yagoda to intensify persecution of Christians. In the next few years, 50,000 clergy were murdered, many were tortured, including crucifixion. “Russia turned red with the blood of martyrs”, said Father Gleb Yakunin of the Russian Orthodox Church.  According to Orthodox Church sources, as many as fifty million Orthodox believers may have died in the twentieth century, mainly from persecution by Communists.

Dan claims that Adam Smith and Ayn Rand were freethinkers and staunch capitalists though he provides no proof to indicate that they had heard of, never mind joined, the ‘Freethinker’ movement.  Ayn Rand claimed to be an objectivist, though, not a freethinker.  If he is claiming those two simply because they are atheists, then he must also accept Timothy McVeigh, Jeffery Dahmer and every other atheistic criminal in modern history.  Though the early Christian Church did have a somewhat communistic organization (see Acts of the Apostles) the experiment was quite short-lived because communism is a system that kills the human spirit and is actually contrary to Jesus’ teaching.

Dan says that North American freethinkers agree in their support of state/church separation.  This is quite an extraordinary claim.  It is almost unheard of for an organization to have 100% agreement on anything.

To answer the following question:  Is atheism/humanism a religion?  Dan Barton states, “No. Atheism is not a belief. It is the “lack of belief” in god(s). Lack of faith requires no faith. Atheism is indeed based on a commitment to rationality, but that hardly qualifies it as a religion.  Freethinkers apply the term religion to belief systems which include a supernatural realm, deity, faith in “holy” writings and conformity to an absolute creed.”

Claiming the definition of atheism to be merely ‘lack of belief’ is obfuscation as the definition has traditionally been belief that no God or gods exist/active denial of God’s existence  To hang onto a new redefinition in one dictionary out of all the brands available, is begging the question.  Further, to state lack of faith requires no faith is patently false. To even make this statement requires faith.  There is no research or empirical data to support that allegation.  Dan Barker has to have faith in his logic or reasoning to even make that statement.

https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanism-today/non-religious-beliefs/ The Humanists UK website features the following definitions for Atheist, Freethinker and Humanist

Atheist” includes those who reject a belief in the existence of God or gods and those who simply choose to live without God or gods. Along with this often, but not always, go disbelief in the soul, an afterlife, and other beliefs arising from god-based religions.

“Freethinker” is an old-fashioned term, popular in the nineteenth century, used of those who reject authority in matters of belief, especially political and religious beliefs. It was a very popular term in the 19th century and is still used in different languages in some European countries by non-religious organisations to describe themselves.

“Humanist” is used today to mean those who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. A humanist may embrace all or most of the other approaches introduced here, and in addition humanists believe that moral values follow on from human nature and experience in some way. Humanists base their moral principles on reason (which leads them to reject the idea of any supernatural agency), on shared human values and respect for others. They believe that people should work together to improve the quality of life for all and make it more equitable. Humanism is a full philosophy, “life stance” or worldview, rather than being about one aspect of religion, knowledge, or politics

Secular humanism has no god, bible or savior. It is based on natural rational principles. It is flexible and relativistic–it is not a religion.

The claim that ‘Freethinkers/Humanists/Atheists are not religions because they do not rely on “ a supernatural realm, deity, faith in “holy” writings and conformity to an absolute creed”  is completely false.  As Dan Barker describes ‘free thought’ it does in fact have a god (atheistic reason), bible (the writings of Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, Denning, et al), saviors (the atheistic apostles who wrote their bibles) the natural, rational principles, that freethinkers claim to base their philosophy on deliberately and consistently ignores all logical/physical/rational/medical evidence for a creator, the soul and anything else related to religion.

The flexibility and relativism Dan Barker claims for the freethinkers exists only for those who adhere completely to the doctrines he prescribes.  In the first installment of this series, I examined the cognitive dissonance that is involved with that description of ‘freethinking’ and how it demands absolute adherence to a set doctrine.

Mr. Barker finished his essay with the question, “Why should I be happy to be a freethinker?

He answers his question by stating the following, “Freethought is reasonable. Freethought allows you to do your own thinking. A plurality of individuals thinking, free from restraints of orthodoxy, allows ideas to be tested, discarded or adopted.  Freethinkers see no pride in the blind maintenance of ancient superstitions or self-effacing prostration before divine tyrants known only through primitive “revelations.” Freethought is respectable. Freethought is truly free.”

I ask again, Mr. Barker, “How can you state that any of those statements be true when you have laid out absolute demands for private beliefs to adhere to.  Nothing can be said to have freedom when there are boundaries placed on inquiry or pre-set answers to those possible questions.  I refer again to the first essay I wrote on this topic.

Stating a false claim repeated times Mr. Barker, does not make you any more correct.  You claim again and again that religions are ancient superstitions that blind people and prevent ideas from being tried and tested when the very science and scientific methods you espouse were developed in Medieval Monasteries. You decry blind adherence to ancient superstitions when there are growing proofs for the existence of a Creator in every field of scientific inquiry.  I respectfully suggest, Mr Barker,that you take a long, hard look in the proverbial mirror and honestly analyze the question of who is adhering blindly to a bankrupt ideology.

 

 

Rebuttal of Freethinker Propaganda, Part 5

When this author left off last week, I had just finished examined each of the approximately 12 people Dan Barker had listed as prominent atheists who had made great contributions to the world.  Of those twelve, no more than four met the actual criterion set by Dan Barker/Richard Dawkins for atheists.

As a partial counterpoint, atheists figure prominently in the annals of the greatest mass killings and atrocities of the twentieth century.  Communist Russia, Communist China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba all are (or were) Communist Regimes that commit(ed) massive atrocities on their own citizens.  An atheist is not necessarily a Communist.  Communists must be atheistic because the state must supplant God as the supreme entity.

Religious Affiliation % in List
Catholic 31%
Anglican/Episcopalian 13%
Jewish 7%
Atheist 6%
Greco-Roman paganism 6%
Chinese traditional religion/Confucianism 5%
Lutheran 5%
Russian Orthodox 4%

The web page http://www.adherents.com/adh_influ.html.  Lists the names, religions and achievements of the top 100 most influential people in world history and given by Michael H. Hart’s book ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History.’  The top eight religious (non)affiliations are seen in the box to the right.  The atheists in that Top 100 list were: Karl Marx Simon Bolivar Joseph Stalin Sigmund Freud Vladimir Illych Lenin and Mao Zedong.  Considering the legacy of these people, it seems that there is something common in their ideology that leads to slaughter.

Dan states that “Most religions have consistently resisted progress–including the abolition of slavery; women’s right to vote and choose contraception and abortion; medical developments such as the use of anesthesia; scientific understanding of the heliocentric solar system and evolution, and the American principle of state/church separation.”

In the words of Ronald Reagan, “There you go again…”  Dan paints ALL RELIGIONS EVERYWHERE AT ALL TIMES with the same brush.  Is he judging the society of the Pharos, Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar by today’s standards?  Does he judge the regimes of Lenin, Mao, Stalin, Ho Chi Min, Kim Jung Il and Pol Pot by those same standards?

The practice of slavery is as old as time, likely dating back to the Stone Age (as the Stone Age civilizations found in the Americas did).  The practice of slavery was global as every society (at one time or another) practiced slavery

The ‘enlightened’ (and often atheistic) ‘elite progressives’ such as Margaret Sanger and Woodrow Wilson (resurrected the dying KKK) of the first half of the twentieth century, judged themselves as the torchbearers and arbiters of human progress.  They alone had the intellect and wisdom necessary to guide and make all the ‘tough calls’ for the ignorant masses they would rule over.  They were the source of the eugenics movement which was used in turn to support many of the Jim Crow and segregation laws as well as the ‘Cleansing’ of undesirables in/by the Third Reich. Today, the eugenics movement is almost universally condemned now as evil, unfounded and pseudoscience.  Do we hold the progressives to today’s standards?

The standards for morals, public or private behavior, just as everything else changes as time goes by.  Christ did not explicitly condemn slavery, but the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” makes it rather clear what He wanted people to do.  Hebrew law ordered Jews to treat slaves as family and the Jew who killed a slave was to die, just as they would for killing a fellow Jew.  The Muslim Religion not only allows, but prescribes enslavement of non-believers.  Christianity and Judaism both demand humane treatment of others.  Christianity demands it regardless of race, class, sex, etc.  The abolitionist movements in Europe in America came from Christianity.  Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i faith, officially condemned slavery in 1874.  In Hinduism, the vedas of about 600+ BC taught that slavery was contrary to their goals.  Over time, the teachings of the leaders in the religion went back and forth.  Buddhism has a long history of generally condemning slavery, though debt slavery could still occur.  Finally, Buddhist Emperor Ashoka banned slavery and renounced war.  This list does not contain any pagan religions, Confucianism, Shinto or innumerable others that have existed throughout time.  Do these marked difference in beliefs not illustrate that lumping religions all together is like lumping all political parties, all Germans, Japanese (or any other nationality) or atheists into a single unit?  Five of the six most influential atheists were dictators of the most tyrannical, bloody regimes of history.  The sixth was their political inspiration.  Can we therefore judge all atheists to be just like them?

All humans from any time and any place are hypocrites to one extent or another.  A person can behave devoutly in church and public places and become a veritable demon in their home or in a neighborhood where they are not known.  Yes some rulers in the past have used religion to justify war, subjugation, enslavement and many other evils.  Many atheists have done the same or worse with no excuses or cover whatsoever beyond ‘The Dialectic Demands It’.  The atheist has no standard for behavior.  By rejecting all religions and their teachings, the only available guide will be expediency.  Most religions seek to elevate the self to a higher level of purity or holiness.  Any theist who takes their faith seriously finds themselves held to a supposedly unchanging standard of ‘Good.’  A theistic person (if they are entirely honest) is aware of how far they fall below the goal of their faith and must therefore strive to improve themselves to become closer to the Creator, and finally reach Enlightenment/Nirvana/Heaven/Paradise.

To judge all religious people by a single incident or period of a single sect is patently ridiculous.  For every Salem Witch Trial there are civilians who hide friends, neighbors and strangers in their home because their faith tells them to.  Pope Pious XII sheltered 3000-4000 Jews in the papal summer palace outside Rome.  Allied airmen and Jews were sheltered inside the Vatican or other church and private properties.  If the Germans had chosen to search those locations, the SS would have likely looted the entire Vatican complex within Rome, all properties or accounts owned by the Holy See and the private homes then kill or imprison everyone within.

Women’s suffrage is yet another case of judging the past by today’s standards.  The pursuit of equality with men in political and other arenas amounted to the overthrow of 1,400 or more years of both tradition and laws based on those same traditions.  To claim that religions opposed women’s suffrage is equivalent to saying politics opposed women’s suffrage.  Religion is an ideology.  People are born into or choose to join one religion or another.  Western culture (particularly American) has chosen to divide the political and religious portions of our lives.  It is their choice whether they follow the dogma and traditions of the faith.  No one can or will force them.  If a preacher gives a sermon about a political issue, they are not serving a deity.  They are substituting politics for faith.  That being said, how can Dan, sitting in the nosebleed section of the bleachers, be in a position to criticize those who are actually trying to finish the race?

Next, we shall address the charges that Dan brings about religion slowing medical research, scientific advancement, hindering acceptance of evolution or interfering with the separation of church and state.

To the charges of interfering with medicine and science:  This author shakes his head slowly and repeats the Ronald Reagan quote from earlier.  The Catholic Church was the cradle of modern western science.  James Hannam refutes these accusations in his article found at: http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2011/05/18/science-owes-much-to-both-christianity-and-the-middle-ages.  Dr. Hannam points out where in history the charge of suppressing science originated and who exactly created the charges.   Even Stefan Molyneux, an atheist Canadian YouTube vlogger and host on Freedomain Radio has created episodes acknowledged that the Catholic Curch built western civilization.

When it comes to evolution, Dan may have a solid case.  Yes, some religions reject the theory because they read the bible in a literalist manner.  Others reject the theory because it seems to be a tool to eliminate God.  Many religious people embraced it enthusiastically and still do.  This writer believes it may simply be that God used evolution as a mechanism of creation.  Whenever belief systems are seen to collide, it will create tension and disagreement whether the two are actually contradicting each other or not.

The separation of church and state was never under the control of religion.  The truth is that in the Western Hemisphere, the church was never in control of the state.  The church often served as advisor or attempted to rein in rulers with threats of excommunication.  The union of church and state was done through political leaders declaring a religion the ‘official’ religion of the nation, then imprisoning, executing or exiling all who refused to follow the new official religion.  The American Experiment with the separation of church and state was never hindered by religion or religious leaders because no one wanted to wind up on the receiving end of state power used to suppress them.

The atheist initiative to drive religion out of any and every public or government space is in direct conflict with the portion of the First Amendment that states: “Congress Shall Make No Law Regarding Religion or the Free Exercise Thereof.”  Dan seems to be simultaneously claiming suppression by religion while attempting suppression of religion.

Dan Barker claims that freethought is a philosophical, not a political, position, that embraces adherents of virtually all political persuasions, including capitalists, libertarians, socialists, communists, Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives.  There a great deal of literature to negate his claim that there is no philosophical connection between atheism and communism.  The atheism in Communist regimes has been and continues to be a form of militant atheism which led to various acts of repression, including the razing of thousands of religious buildings and the killing, imprisoning, and oppression of religious leaders and believers.

The persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union was the result of the violently atheist Soviet government. In the first five years after the October Revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were murdered, many on the orders of Leon Trotsky. When Joseph Stalin came to power in 1927, he ordered his secret police, under Genrikh Yagoda to intensify persecution of Christians. In the next few years, 50,000 clergy were murdered, many were tortured, including crucifixion. “Russia turned red with the blood of martyrs”, said Father Gleb Yakunin of the Russian Orthodox Church.  According to Orthodox Church sources, as many as fifty million Orthodox believers may have died in the twentieth century, mainly from persecution by Communists.

Dan claims that Adam Smith and Ayn Rand were freethinkers and staunch capitalists though he provides no proof to indicate that they had heard of, never mind joined, the ‘Freethinker’ movement.  Ayn Rand claimed to be an objectivist, though, not a freethinker.  If he is claiming those two simply because they are atheists, then he must also accept Timothy McVeigh, Jeffery Dahmer and every other atheistic criminal in modern history.  Though the early Christian Church did have a somewhat communistic organization (see Acts of the Apostles) the experiment was quite short-lived because communism is a system that kills the human spirit and is actually contrary to Jesus’ teaching.

Dan says that North American freethinkers agree in their support of state/church separation.  This is quite an extraordinary claim.  It is almost unheard of for an organization to have 100% agreement on anything.

To answer the following question:  Is atheism/humanism a religion?  Dan Barton states, “No. Atheism is not a belief. It is the “lack of belief” in god(s). Lack of faith requires no faith. Atheism is indeed based on a commitment to rationality, but that hardly qualifies it as a religion.  Freethinkers apply the term religion to belief systems which include a supernatural realm, deity, faith in “holy” writings and conformity to an absolute creed.”

Claiming the definition of atheism to be merely ‘lack of belief’ is obfuscation as the definition has traditionally been belief that no God or gods exist/active denial of God’s existence  To hang onto a new redefinition in one dictionary out of all the brands available, is begging the question.  Further, to state lack of faith requires no faith is patently false. To even make this statement requires faith.  There is no research or empirical data to support that allegation.  Dan Barker has to have faith in his logic or reasoning to even make that statement.

https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanism-today/non-religious-beliefs/ The Humanists UK website features the following definitions for Atheist, Freethinker and Humanist

Atheist” includes those who reject a belief in the existence of God or gods and those who simply choose to live without God or gods. Along with this often, but not always, go disbelief in the soul, an afterlife, and other beliefs arising from god-based religions.

“Freethinker” is an old-fashioned term, popular in the nineteenth century, used of those who reject authority in matters of belief, especially political and religious beliefs. It was a very popular term in the 19th century and is still used in different languages in some European countries by non-religious organisations to describe themselves.

“Humanist” is used today to mean those who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. A humanist may embrace all or most of the other approaches introduced here, and in addition humanists believe that moral values follow on from human nature and experience in some way. Humanists base their moral principles on reason (which leads them to reject the idea of any supernatural agency), on shared human values and respect for others. They believe that people should work together to improve the quality of life for all and make it more equitable. Humanism is a full philosophy, “life stance” or worldview, rather than being about one aspect of religion, knowledge, or politics

Secular humanism has no god, bible or savior. It is based on natural rational principles. It is flexible and relativistic–it is not a religion.

The claim that ‘Freethinkers/Humanists/Atheists are not religions because they do not rely on “ a supernatural realm, deity, faith in “holy” writings and conformity to an absolute creed”  is completely false.  As Dan Barker describes ‘free thought’ it does in fact have a god (atheistic reason), bible (the writings of Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, Denning, et al), saviors (the atheistic apostles who wrote their bibles) the natural, rational principles, that freethinkers claim to base their philosophy on deliberately and consistently ignores all logical/physical/rational/medical evidence for a creator, the soul and anything else related to religion.

The flexibility and relativism Dan Barker claims for the freethinkers exists only for those who adhere completely to the doctrines he prescribes.  In the first installment of this series, I examined the cognitive dissonance that is involved with that description of ‘freethinking’ and how it demands absolute adherence to a set doctrine.

Mr. Barker finished his essay with the question, “Why should I be happy to be a freethinker?

He answers his question by stating the following, “Freethought is reasonable. Freethought allows you to do your own thinking. A plurality of individuals thinking, free from restraints of orthodoxy, allows ideas to be tested, discarded or adopted.  Freethinkers see no pride in the blind maintenance of ancient superstitions or self-effacing prostration before divine tyrants known only through primitive “revelations.” Freethought is respectable. Freethought is truly free.”

I ask again, Mr. Barker, “How can you state that any of those statements be true when you have laid out absolute demands for private beliefs to adhere to.  Nothing can be said to have freedom when there are boundaries placed on inquiry or pre-set answers to those possible questions.  I refer again to the first essay I wrote on this topic.

Stating a false claim repeated times Mr. Barker, does not make you any more correct.  You claim again and again that religions are ancient superstitions that blind people and prevent ideas from being tried and tested when the very science and scientific methods you espouse were developed in Medieval Monasteries. You decry blind adherence to ancient superstitions when there are growing proofs for the existence of a Creator in every field of scientific inquiry.  I respectfully suggest, Mr Barker,that you take a long, hard look in the proverbial mirror and honestly analyze the question of who is adhering blindly to a bankrupt ideology.

 

 

Response to ‘Freethinker’ Propaganda Part 4

Dan Barker states that “Freethinkers recognize that there is much chaos, ugliness and pain in the universe for which any explanation of origins must also account.”  Why does Dan believe that the perceived negatives he lists would not exist if God had created the universe? Does he expect God to provide us with flowers and perpetual orderliness whilst we enjoy our perfect physiques and march together in grinning lockstep? Does he believe that our Creator to give day with no night or otherwise self-contradict?  Does Dan Barker expect God to make a single-sided coin or a round square? The creator of the universe, and the laws that govern all matter and energy, will not create a system that ignores those laws, even to give us a world free of death, pain and other ‘negative’ things. In this universe all physical things begin and also end.  God WILL NOT go against his nature by violating logic or His own Nature.

Dan then goes on to add; “Freethinkers are convinced that religious claims have not withstood the tests of reason. Not only is there nothing to be gained by believing an untruth, but there is everything to lose when we sacrifice the indispensable tool of reason on the altar of superstition. Most freethinkers consider religion to be not only untrue, but harmful. It has been used to justify war, slavery, sexism, racism, homophobia, mutilations, intolerance, and oppression of minorities. The totalitarianism of religious absolutes chokes progress.”

Dan apparently does not miss a single trope in the atheist playbook. He brings out the old stereotype that science and religion are at odds with each other. This conflict exists only in the minds of those who want to tar theists as ‘anti-science’ or ‘oppressive’.  In the June 14, 2009 issue of The Guardian (hardly a bastion of religiosity) James Hannam’s story entitled, ‘Science and Religion: A History of Conflict?’ makes the case that “…some atheists, like Jerry Coyne, have been insisting that there is really a battle between religion and science.” Coyne resists any accommodation between religious and non-religious scientists to defend Darwinism from attacks by fundamentalist Creationist advocates. Hannam suggests that, He (Coyn) doesn’t want to see the scientists joining forces against the creationist common enemy in case that legitimises religion.  Whether such an alliance would ‘legitimize’ religion in the eyes of modern science is debatable. What is not quite so debatable is that there is a ‘stigma’ about how western religions and science have interacted.

For some of this stigma (that has now covered them as well) the Protestant churches have only themselves to blame. The article ‘HISTORY AND MYTH: THE INQUISITION’ by Robert P. Lockwood (8/2000) examines how early Protestanism created “…an invented history meant to portray Catholicism as the enemy of free thought…a perverse form of medieval superstition that survives on the ignorance of believers and the Church’s own violent will to power.” These myths served a purpose in the war of propaganda between Catholicism and the dissenting churches of the 16th Century Reformation and were perpetuated through the 18th century Enlightenment and the 19th century world of progress and scientism.

Now, however, all Christians find themselves targeted by some variation of the early Protestant propaganda. The old accusations, slightly changed to apply to all theists (usually Christians), are now employed by assorted atheist groups and individuals. These stories are now such a part of Western Society that they constitute basic historical assumptions used (without the necessity of analyzing or addressing those positions) as useful rhetorical tools, particularly in the public arena, because they are universally understood and accepted.

One of the old anti-Catholic attacks (now come back to attack all theists) is the accusation that the Catholic Church forbade science and scientific research. Hannam notes that even though the popular perception of a historical conflict remains strong, it hasn’t stopped all serious historians from queuing up to condemn it. John Hedley Brooke and Peter Harrison at Oxford; David Lindberg and Ron Numbers at Wisconsin-Madison; and Simon Shapin in California have all tried to put the record straight. But as Numbers ruefully admits, “Despite a developing consensus among scholars that science and Christianity have not been at war, the notion of conflict has refused to die.”

In point of fact, the greater portion of ‘evidence’ for conflict myth is bogus. It is believed only because most people are ignorant of real history. The populace are taught or told the ‘religion vs science’ myths (either through ignorance or malice) and absorb the ‘information’ creating, a dissonance in which what they think they know about this topic is actually untrue. Hannam has edited a new collection of essays, published by Harvard University Press, called ‘Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion’ in which he chips away some more from the edifice of popular opinion.

Dan Barker rhetorically asks. “Hasn’t religion done tremendous good in the world?” to set up his response of “Many religionists are good people–but they would be good anyway.”
How, in the name of his overweaning egotism, can he have even the slightest confidence in that assertion? How can he claim to know that Augustine, Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, Sarah Barton, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington or any of countless others would have been ‘good’ or ‘nice’ without a society built upon the ethics taught by Christianity?

“Religion does not have a monopoly on good deeds” he proclaims, adding that “Most modern social and moral progress has been made by people free from religion–including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Charles Darwin, Margaret Sanger, Albert Einstein, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, H. L. Mencken, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, Luther Burbank and many others who have enriched humanity.”

In response to these claims, this writer must inquire, When did any theist publicly advance a claim that no atheists can be moral? Show me that person, living or dead, and I shall advocate against them.
Your entire screed up to this point, Mr. Barton, has essentially stated that ‘Freethinkers’ are in all ways superior to theists. The belief that atheists have higher IQs than theists is like the religion vs. science trope. A lot of noise and braggadocio, essentially zero facts. Now you seem to play the victim card and say that theists claim a monopoly on morality?  Usually, theists are quite aware of their sinful nature and work to become a person pleasing for their deity.

As for your Atheistist Luminaries list, let us examine them.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abolitionist Suffragette and Temperance Activist. Was traumatized as a young woman by a revivalist preacher. His sermons, combined with her Calvinist Presbyterianism, caused her to believe in her own damnation. Calvin and his followers believed in ‘Predestination’ (that your soul at birth is destined for either Heaven or Hell and nothing you can do in your life will change that destination). She did not return to organized Christianity, but that does not mean she was an atheist.

Susan B. Anthony, Abolitionist, Suffragette and Temperance Activist. Was raised a ‘liberal Quaker’ less bound by the strict guidelines William Penn established. Later joined the Unitarians and tried to establish a doctrineless ‘Free Church’. Was horrified by the poverty and need she saw in Ireland in the 1880s and blamed God. Died an Agnostic because she could not reconcile the images of Loving God and Pain and misery on earth.

• Charles Darwin. Proposed the Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection. Charles was raised in the Anglican Church and later attended a Unitarian. The web address I place below gives ample evidence of Darwin’s religiosity as a young man and middle age. In Darwin’s own words, I shall address this question by inserting a passage from the site. “In what is perhaps his most revealing response, a letter in 1879 to John Fordyce, an author of works on scepticism, Darwin writes: [My] judgment often fluctuates…. Whether a man deserves to be called a theist depends on the definition of the term … In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. — I think that generally (and more and more so as I grow older), but not always, — that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/commentary/religion/what-did-darwin-believe

• Margaret Sanger: Birth Control and Abortion Advocate. Here is one that can honestly be called an atheist. It is relatively apparent that her atheism, radical politics and earnest desire to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies stem largely from her childhood. Her mother died from tuberculosis, possibly because her body had been weakened by 18 pregnancies which produced 11 children. Her father was atheistic and a radical activist who exerted tremendous force in Margaret’s formational years.
While it is indisputable that Margaret Sanger exercised tremendous impact on modern society, there is the question of whether those effects were positive or negative. Her advocating for the principles of eugenics, including sterilization of the ‘unfit’ brings her character and beliefs into question. Her firm support of birth control and abortion had the desired effects insofar as Planned Parenthood becoming a tremendous business. However, the availability of abortion and birth control has produced possibly unforeseen and undesired long term consequences on society at large.

• Albert Einstein: Highly Gifted Mathematical Theoretician. To answer this charge this writer turned to one who appeared the most researched and a source even ‘Freethinkers’ might listen to (https://www.bethinking.org/god/did-einstein-believe-in-god). I have paraphrased or lifted sections of John Marsh’s article addressing the question; Did Einstein Believe in God?

According to Richard Dawkins in ‘The God Delusion’, the definition of atheism is the belief that there is “nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe.” In that book, Dawkins presents Einstein as a prime example, and describes Einstein’s religion as pantheism, which he calls “sexed-up atheism.” According to Dawkins, “The one thing his theistic critics got right, was that Einstein was not one of them. He was repeatedly indignant at the suggestion he was a theist.” John Marsh begins his rebuttal of Dawkins with, “because Dawkins tells us that in his opinion “to deliberately confuse the two understandings of God is an act of intellectual high treason.”

In the Oxford English Dictionary we find the following definitions: theism is the belief in a deity, or deities, as opposed to atheism; and the belief in one God, as opposed to polytheism or pantheism. It is important to note that, firstly, the definition of theism does not necessarily include the notion that God is personal. Secondly, atheism is defined as a disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God. Thirdly, pantheism is a belief or philosophical theory that God is not only immanent (indwelling and sustaining the universe) but also identical with the universe.

Dawkins explains that in dealing with Einstein’s religious views he relied on Max Jammer’s book Einstein and Religion. Dawkins wrote: “The extracts that follow are taken from Max Jammer’s book (which is also my main source of quotations from Einstein himself on religious matters). However a very different picture emerges when we study what Einstein actually said, again as recorded in Jammer’s book. It seems Dawkins needs to be reminded of the ‘Ten New Commandments’ he lists in his own book. The seventh reads. “Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.” The following quotations from Einstein are all in Jammer’s book:
• “Behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force is my religion. To that extent, I am in point of fact, religious.”
• “Every scientist becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men.”
• “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man.”
• “The divine reveals itself in the physical world.”
• “My God created laws… His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking but by immutable laws.”
• “I want to know how God created this world. I want to know his thoughts.”
• “What I am really interested in knowing is whether God could have created the world in a different way.”
• “This firm belief in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”
• “My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit; That superior reasoning power forms my idea of God.”

I am reasonably confident that Jammer, a friend and colleague of Einstein has a much greater credibility regarding Einstein’s beliefs than Dawkins. According to Jammer, “Einstein always protested against being regarded as an atheist.” This writer joins Mr. Marsh when he asks “What evidence does Dawkins have that Einstein was indignant at being called a theist?” Dawkins needs to explain this very peculiar discrepancy. Lastly Dawkins argues that science and religion are incompatible. Again Einstein takes the opposite point of view: “A legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

• Andrew Carnegie. Industrialist and Philanthropist. Andrew Carnegie witnessed intense sectarianism and strife in 19th century Scotland regarding religion and philosophy. Stemming from the reasonable desire to avoid violence in his life, young Carnegie kept his distance from organized religion and theism. Carnegie instead preferred to see things through naturalistic and scientific terms stating, “Not only had I got rid of the theology and the supernatural, but I had found the truth of evolution.” At this point one might be able to argue at least for ‘Lapsed Christian’, though there are no known documents from his life avowing to atheism.

Later in life, Carnegie’s firm opposition to religion softened. For many years he was a member o of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, pastored from 1905 to 1926 by Social Gospel exponent Henry Sloane Coffin, while his wife and daughter belonged to the Brick Presbyterian Church. He also prepared (but did not deliver) an address in which he professed a belief in “an Infinite and Eternal Energy from which all things proceed”. Records exist of a short period of correspondence around 1912–1913 between Carnegie and `Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith. In these letters, one of which was published in the New York Times in full text, Carnegie is extolled as a “lover of the world of humanity and one of the founders of Universal Peace”.

Thomas Edison. Inventor, Entrepreneur. Historian Paul Israel has characterized Edison as a “freethinker”, just not in the way Dan Barker defines the term.  Edison was heavily influenced by Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason. Edison defended Paine’s “scientific deism” by saying, “He has been called an atheist, but atheist he was not. Paine believed in a supreme intelligence, as representing the idea which other men often express by the name of deity.” In an October 2, 1910, interview in the New York Times Magazine, Edison stated: “Nature is what we know. We do not know the gods of religions. And nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving. If God made me the fabled God of the three qualities of which I spoke: mercy, kindness, love. He also made the fish I catch and eat. And where do His mercy, kindness, and love for that fish come in? No; nature made us-nature did it all-not the gods of the religions.”

Edison was accused of being an atheist for those remarks, and although he did not allow himself to be drawn into the controversy publicly, he clarified himself in a private letter, saying, “You have misunderstood the whole article, because you jumped to the conclusion that it denies the existence of God. There is no such denial, what you call God I call Nature, the Supreme intelligence that rules matter. All the article states is that it is doubtful in my opinion if our intelligence or soul or whatever one may call it lives hereafter as an entity or disperses back again from whence it came, scattered amongst the cells of which we are made.”

He also stated, “I do not believe in the God of the theologians; but that there is a Supreme Intelligence I do not doubt.”

Therefore, Edison is NOT a Freethinker by Dan’s own standards because he believed absolutely in a Supreme Being; an immaterial and unmeasurable Supreme Intelligence.

• Marie Curie. Researcher, Scientist. Maria’s mother Bronisława died of tuberculosis on May 1878, when Maria was ten years old. Less than three years earlier, Maria’s oldest sibling, Zofia, had died of typhus contracted from a boarder. Maria’s father was an atheist, her mother a devout Catholic. The deaths of Maria’s mother and sister caused her to give up Catholicism and become agnostic. To be an agnostic is to not believe in God’s existence or believe in the absence of God. As Dan has stated earlier, to be a ‘Freethinker’ is to believe in the absence of God.

• H. L. Mencken. Journalist, Editor. Humorist and Critic. It is difficult to know whether this man was an agnostic, mystic of some type or truly an atheist. The articles or websites I found were primarily devoted to his quotes. His words were cutting, acerbic and usually funny (if his ire was not directed at you). Few argue that his skill with the American language was unmatched in his day.

One of his most marked characteristics was that he attacked everyone and everything in he deemed undesirable in the American Culture. What I read of his quotes indicates that Menken had no love, or even respect, for organized religion of any type and that he had only the most superficial knowledge of Christianity typical of his generation. He condemned religion for coming between ‘a man and his god,’ whilst praising mysticism as a direct link. He once remarked, that if he found out that he had been wrong in his agnosticism, he would walk up to god in a manly way and say, “Sir, I made an honest mistake.”

• Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis Pioneer. Freud was very open and honest about his atheism and considered religion a ‘mental disorder similar to an Oedipal Complex. In ‘Moses and Monotheism’ (1939) he stated, “Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities.”
This is the second self-declared atheist and therefore the second ‘Freethinker’ Dan Barker placed on his list.

• Bertrand Russell. Philosopher and Mathematician.  Bertrand Russel thought that religious questions did not really belong to the discipline of philosophy. This view of philosophy predisposed him to scepticism about subjects that involve ambiguity, interpretation, and perhaps a personal, experiential kind of insight. Ethics is one such subject and religion even more so. Like earlier rationalist thinkers such as Descartes and Spinoza, Russell had an exacting standard for what qualified as “knowledge”, and argued that if philosophy is the search for truth then it should concern itself only with the kind of certainty associated with basic mathematical functions.

Nietzsche once argued that although science makes claims to knowledge, these claims are as deluded as those of religious dogmatists. Russell accepted that what we customarily call “knowledge” occupies a broad spectrum of degrees of uncertainty, and that very little – if anything – is absolutely certain.
This creates a dichotomy between Nietzsche’s pointing at the intellectual “piety” underlying modern science and Russell’s almost utopian vision of scientific progress. His writings state that, ‘In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science and help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations.’ Russel’s writings also show the origins of modern atheist tropes (imaginary supports, allies in the sky and so on).

Nevertheless, Russel’s autobiography relates a mystical experience in which “The ground seemed to give way beneath me and I found myself in quite another region,” he wrote. “Within five minutes I went through such reflections as the following: the loneliness of the human soul is unendurable; nothing can penetrate it except the highest intensity of the sort of love that religious teachers have preached; whatever does not spring from this motive is harmful, or at best useless; it follows that war is wrong, that a public school education is abominable, that the use of force is to be deprecated, and that in human relations one should penetrate to the core of loneliness in each person and speak to that.”

Despite this powerful experience, Bertrand Russel boxed the experience away from his philosophical position on religion. Russell tended to treat “religion” as either a body of doctrines to be intellectually analyzed, or as a phenomenon to be observed objectively from the outside. In the first case, Russell found flawed arguments; in the second, flawed institutions perpetrating violence and oppression.  A biographer noted that Russel tended to see only the best of science and only the worst of religion.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2013/nov/25/bertrand-russell-science-religion

Luther Burbank. Botanist. Luther is another person who the ‘Freethinker/Skeptic’ community claim to be solidly in the atheistic camp though the truth is not on their side.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation website portrays Luther Burbank as a clearly atheistic person. It attributes quotes such as “There is no use now talking evolution to these people. Their ears are stuffed with Genesis.” to display his sentiments towards Christians following the Scopes ‘Monkey Trial.’ Then they offer; “In 1926, an interview about Luther Burbank’s freethought views appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin, which headlined it: “I’m an Infidel, Declares Burbank, Casting Doubt on Soul Immortality Theory.” The article was reprinted around the world, creating shockwaves. Burbank was inundated with mostly critical letters, which he felt he had to reply to personally. Friend and later biographer, Wilbur Hale, attributed Burbank’s hastened death to the exertion of his replies: “He died, not a martyr to truth, but a victim of the fatuity of blasting dogged falsehood.” A crowd estimated at 100,000 came to Luther’s memorial, and heard the openly atheistic and ringing tribute by Judge Lindsay of Denver, Colorado. California still celebrates Luther Burbank’s birthday as Arbor Day, planting trees in his memory.”

That account of the funeral is directly contradicted by the funeral description available at website https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/12/04/cemetery-of-the-week-117-luther-burbanks-gravesite/view , “Judge Ben B. Lindsey of Denver gave a funeral oration at Burbank’s funeral to a crowd that was estimated at 10,000. He expanded on Burbank’s Unitarian rejection of a god of fire and brimstone. He said, “Luther Burbank lives forever in the myriad fields of strengthened grain, in the new forms of fruits and flowers and plants and vines and trees and above all the newly watered gardens of the human mind from whence shall spring human freedom from those earthly fields that shall drive out gods, false and brutal.”

The assertation that Luther Burbank was atheistic is greatly contradicted by Bertrand’s own opinions.  In LUTHER.BURBANK, “OUR BELOVED”, by Frederick W. Clampett (1926) the following quotes are directly attributed to Burbank:
• “I belong to the great church that holds the world within its starlit aisles; that claims the great and the good of every race and clime; that finds with joy the grain of gold in every creed, and floods with light and love the germs of good in every soul.”
• Over the entrance of such a church, Burbank said, and it will appeal to vast millions, may be written the name of the God of science.
• An atheist denies the existence of God. But an infidel is simply a disbeliever in the established religion.
The (In)famous 1926 article featured by the FFRF (above) ended in the following passage: Religion cannot be founded on a principle; it needs the power of an Eternal Energy, almighty and omnipresent. Burbank had already made that point clear when he said : “I prefer and claim the right to worship the infinite, everlasting, almighty God of this vast universe as revealed to us gradually, step by step, by the demonstrable truths of our savior, science.”

Luther did receive thousands of letters attacking his ‘atheism’. However, Clampett offers the following in response: “It is true he was an atheist in his utter denial of the God of the theologians, but that denial makes his faith all the stronger in the God of science.”  The cause of Burbank’s death was a heart attack followed by gastrointestinal complications.  There is a possibility that a latent condition was aggravated by the stress of reading (and replying to selected individuals) the thousands of letters he received.  The FFRF account is the only one citing the flood of mail as the cause of Luther’s death.

One Eternal Energy! One Infinite Spirit! There will you find the foundation of his faith, the one Supreme Source of the philosophy of his life. And this Infinite Energy is the very life of the world, the inspiration of all things created. It is the idea of God, as revealed to us from the “Kingdom within.” God is immanent, Burbank believed. “In Him we live, and have our being.” This Infinite Spirit was to him not a personality living in a distant realm, enthroned like a king, dispensing His authority. He is a part of everything created.

Luther was sure that, “…humanity, as time goes on, will picture in his soul God, the spirit whose moral attributes transcend to infinity his own highest ideals of goodness. He will image the Spirit of Light and Love and Truth an all-loving Being so close to the poorest of his creatures that no go-between is needed.” And as the “Kingdom within” develops those moral attributes, it will reveal glimpses into new depths of the eternal qualities of love, of mercy, of kindness, of peace, of harmony and health.. Under Jewish teaching, where racial religion was supreme, there was a “Holy of Holies.” But in the words of Jesus: “Neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father. . . . God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

It appears that Luther was indeed a theist, possibly a pantheist (in the Hindu sense), but his idea of drawing closer to God through scientific research was quite different than the prevailing notion of the Judeo-Christian God in America at that time. However, they appear to be very much in line with Gregor Mendel and other Catholic monks, priests and nuns for the past 1,600-2000 years of Christianity. To know God, study Creation. He left hints and clues throughout; from the smallest quantum particle to the incredible vastness of the cosmos.

As this post has proven to be far longer than originally planned, this author shall carry on from this point next week.

Epistemic Hygiene

I’ve noticed that atheists on twitter have been confusing and conflating the burden of proof, a convention for debates, with a more general principle of epistemic hygiene. By epistemic hygiene, I mean taking care to believe true things and disbelieve in false things.

The argument goes something like this: If you don’t follow the burden of proof, you’ll be obligated to believe EVERYTHING, even absurd things without evidence. Now, this is two distinct ideas that have been conflated and tangled. One is whether someone is obligated in general to prove their claims (he is not). The other is what claims should you believe?

Following the right policies and judgments with what you believe is proper epistemic hygiene. Now this is where it gets interesting. Many important things are believed not on the basis of someone explaining the evidence for their existence, but by a direct ‘grasping’ or ‘seeing’ of them with the intellect. However, this ability can be broken, either in general or in certain circumstances. So the question is then, what can we grasp with certainty?

We can grasp things with certainty if we can ‘see’ the truth of them with the mind and have a web of beliefs that support that grasping. This web of beliefs can indeed be inspected by discourse, and the broad discourse of the wise is the standard of which it should be tested.

We cannot affirm all of our beliefs as individuals, but must look at the total work of all of humanity through time to come to reasonable certainty on anything.