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Friday, November 7, 2008

JT: 1, Hemant Mehta: 4,913

While browsing Facebook to try to find some horribly offensive anti-Christian group title* (as payback for the barrage of Christian Right status updates Tuesday night), I came across a rather interesting one:

I wonder if that's anything like swallowing Jesus at communion only to throw him up fifteen minutes later.

* I had no such luck. The only "offensive" anti-Christian group titles were about 1-2 dozen groups all titled "Delete the 'Fuck Christianity' group."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Atheist Debate on Abortion

I'm not sure when my schedule will first allow for this, but I wanted to throw it out there.

I frequently hear atheists -- and I want to stress frequently -- claim that you can't be a thinking atheist and also against abortion. The rationale is analogous to homophobia. You can't be both a thinking atheist and against homosexuality because homophobia is solely a consequence of religion. The same claim is made about abortion: the arguments against abortion are religious in nature. To put it more precisely, there is no secular, rational basis for opposition to abortion.

As an atheist who was opposed to abortion up until this year, I must reject this when I hear it. Even when I do, though, I'm told I'm wrong and that it's still something kept from religion.

I have had several readers ask me for a further account of my transition from anti-abortion to pro-abortion (both legally and morally). Rather than giving dry details about the arguments which I was once persuaded by and later arguments which dissuaded me from my former conclusion, I thought I'd try something more interesting.

Is there any atheist who would be interested in doing a debate via blog on abortion? I'm not sure if there is something already out there of this nature, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to show that there are secular arguments against abortion. Even though I no longer hold these views (and it has been a while since I have pondered the philosophy around it), I will take the side of an anti-abortionist in this debate.

So, if there's anyone interested, let me know. The only qualification is you must be an atheist. You can be either pro-abortion or anti-abortion (either legally or morally), but you must take the pro-abortion side.

My Exceptionally Poor Sex (Education)

I was reading AiG's article today on posters and their messages. It concluded with the author discussing how most professors are anti-Christian and textbooks having a heavy anti-Christian bias. It made me think: what were some of my educational experiences? I thought of Columbus myths I learned, lies about the effects of drugs, and many other things. Nothing, though, is more stark than what I learned about sex: nothing.

(To note, I grew up in Oklahoma.)

Abstinence-only? If only.
The amount of sex education I received in school is roughly equal to the number of legitimate scientific criticisms Ray has regarding evolution: none. There were no health courses, no material handed out to students, no discussion of it at all. I had questions about various things relating to sex in middle school. Were they questions about the mechanics of sex? No. Were they questions about relationships surrounding sex? No. They were health-related questions.

Why weren't my questions regarding mechanics or relationships? I think by middle school most kids understand these fairly well. I actually had the awkward experience of being sat down for the mechanics talk by my father in middle school -- roughly three years after a guy had brought a Penthouse magazine to elementary school one day. As far as relationships, that's stressed ad nauseam by parents and television.

Questions a 13-year-old can't answer
What was lacking, though, was education about sex.
  • What's the probability of getting pregnant the first time you have sex without contraception use?
  • Can either party contract an STD if there is only oral sex?
  • If the other person is a virgin, is there any chance of getting an STD?
  • How reliable is contraception for preventing both STDs and pregnancy?
  • Where can you get condoms and is there an age restriction?
Would answers to these questions have encouraged sexual activity? I can't say, as none of us had any sex education in school. What I can say, though, is that not having the answers to these questions didn't discourage sexual activity. Without any sexual education at all, most of the people in knew in middle school were becoming sexually active by no later than the eighth grade. Most of it, from what I remember, was either manual or oral sex -- acts generally considered not sex by middle school students and assumed to be safe.

Sampling educational material
I wonder if condoms had been available at school if that would have encouraged sexual activity? Again, I can't say, but I imagine, if anything, it would have encouraged responsible sexual activity. I knew a couple of guys who stole condoms from the store, but I wonder about those who didn't? Would the several pregnancies which occurred in eighth grade have occurred had condoms been available along with proper sex education? Again... I can't say.

My observations are limited to middle school as I had the privilege of going to an academically-accelerated school for high school (one to where you must apply). Visiting with my friends who went to the public high school was surreal. All they seemed to talk about was sex and recounting all the girls I knew in middle school who were now pregnant. While I imagine the details of most STD-positive individuals is kept private (for good reason), they could recite a list of diseased individuals.

Abstinence-only driver's education
I think ignorance is an invalid form of education. I reflect back on my driver's education. Most of it was about the mechanics of driving, but they set apart a third of the course for responsible driving. Did they make sure to avoid a discussion of drinking so as not to encourage it? No. Did they, in their discussion, urge us only to abstain from drinking? No. They educated us about it.
  • What are the laws surrounding drinking, and drinking and driving?
  • What are the physical and mental effects of intoxication?
  • How does intoxication influence your driving?
  • How much more likely are you to get in an accident if you're intoxicated?
  • Is marijuana intoxication okay to drive with?
The science of their answers were pretty good. They gave us the facts, they gave us statistics, and they took questions. They knew kids would drink; it's inevitable these days. I imagine they figured it's better they know the facts about drinking so it could better shape their policies.

A foundation of ignorance
What if my driver's education had omitted the education on drinking? I could only imagine people thinking it's safe as long as you aren't traveling a long distance or at high speeds. I imagine their only education would be comprised of what they hear from others, such as drink coffee before you drive drunk to make you alert.

I don't think we would accept that for education on driving. Sadly, this type of education is what we accept for sex. Too many kids think oral sex is not sex and that there are no risks for disease contraction with it. Too many don't know whether there's an age restriction on buying condoms (which only compounds the fear of embarrassment at the checkout lane). Too many just don't have basic education -- neither from schools or parents.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Answers Ray Can't Not Contradict Himself In

To make up for the absence over the past two weeks, I have been preparing a series of posts entitled Common Christian Contradictions. Although I haven't been able to post recently, I have been following Ray's blog. His post today, though, was too good not to pass up, especially since it ties into the series I'm preparing.

In this post, Ray tries to show why atheists can't answer these questions. I'll start with #1:

#1: What was in the beginning?
Ray states:
If they say that there were gases (or something) in the beginning, then it’s not the "beginning," because the gases or the “something” already existed. Who or what made them?
Okay, ignoring the issue of time, Ray, what was in the beginning? If you say God was in the beginning, then it's not the "beginning" because God already existed. Who or what made him?

#2: Humans' intrinsic value
The above may not be all that interesting, but it's #2 that caught my attention and probably caught others' attention who have been following Ray's blog for a while:
If your pet dog and your neighbor are drowning, and you can only save one of them, who would you save?
That particular dilemma sounded very familiar to me. And there's a good reason why, as Captain Howdy posed it to Ray in regard to life beginning at conception:
If you were in a fertility clinic and a fire broke out, and you could rescue either a trapped, screaming, terrified 2-year-old girl or a tray with 1000 2-week-old embryos in it--but not both--which would you choose? One of the two will burn; you can only rescue one.
To Ray, a two-week-old embryo has the same intrinsic value as a two-year-old girl, but the reply he posted seemed to endorse the decision of saving the two-year-old girl. So even if I consider that both a dog and a human have the same intrinsic value, obviously there are other considerations which are made in facing this sort of dilemma.

#3: What happens after death?
Not a contradiction, but worth examining nonetheless:
The only way any of us can speak with any authority about the subject of death, is to have reliable information from someone who has been there.
Good point, Ray. I guess I better be sure to die in combat, then, as the god Odin (who has been on the side of death) says that I must die in combat to travel to Valhalla, led by valkyries.

#4: The purpose of life?
Ray writes:
Without reference to a Creator who made us with the purpose of eternal fellowship, life has no real rhyme or reason.
God must live a really depressing life, then. We just float around in purposeless space for 80 years whereas God floats around without purpose for, well, eternity.

#5: Order in creation?
Ray writes:
Why do summer, fall, winter and spring come around each year, at different times of the year, in different parts of the world--always in the same order?
It's called science, Ray.
#6: Why's there morality?
Ray writes:
The only reasonable explanation is the one given by the Bible--that "the work of the Law is written in their hearts" (Romans 2:15)
Really? That's the only reasonable explanation? Really?

I think God must be doing too much as he seems to have his hands full (probably monitoring the thoughts of every person to make sure they don't think naughty things) as he managed to miss penciling in his notes on a few hearts on the production line.

#7: Why does every civilization believe in a creator?
Ray writes:
mankind has never found any civilization (no matter how primitive) that didn’t worship some sort of Creator, whether it be the sun, or an idol
I'm not sure if Ray really wrote that or someone hacked his blog. He points to people worshiping the sun as evidence for his position. I imagine some 9/11 Truther pointing to the prevalence of conspiracy theories and noting that "some even believe the moon's made of cheese."

#8: Why does everyone have a conscience?
It doesn't matter what Ray writes.

#9: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Again, it doesn't matter what Ray writes as it's a false dilemma. The midget came first.

#10: How did nothing create everything?
Ray writes:
Something had to create it, and the Creator of all things was and is the non-material Spirit of the eternal God, who dwells outside the dimension of time (see Titus 1:2), and is infinitely beyond the comprehension of human understanding. (emphasis added)
He should have added an asterisk at the end with: "* Except beyond the comprehension of Ray Comfort and every other Christian's understanding."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Frank Turek Speaks

So, I promised this week I would make up for my lack of posting last week. I lied! Most of you probably believed me, and most of you are atheists. And quoth the Bible: "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Fools.

My marathon of atheist events continued tonight by attending "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist," presented by the co-author of the book by the same title, Frank Turek. First, I must praise him for slapping Christians' hands for rejecting the Big Bang (and maybe evolution) since the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of it. That being said, all the rest was quite bad. He tried to use the Big Bang as proof there was a creator because it was the beginning of the universe. He then tied it to the argument "everything which beings to exist had a cause." Cause=God. QED.

The teleological arguments he gave were exceptionally poor, I felt. And morality arguments? He begins by saying there is absolute morality and those who say there isn't can make any moral arguments because it would just be their opinions. He then proceeds to give arguments for morals. And this was the man who begun his evening by arguing against self-defeating statements.

While I didn't like Frank Turek, the great stuff came afterward. I had an hour long discussion with a Christian over certain statements in the Bible and also biblical integrity. Some of the things we discussed were the NT statements of slavery, the integrity of the Bible, reliability of the Evangelists, and interpretations of the Bible.

I loved this guy. He was the most interesting Christian I have ever met in my life. He was very astute in his points and didn't have logic riddled with logical fallacies. He did have certain inconsistencies and fallacies. For example, claiming the onus is on disproving it and that devising plausible scenarios reconciles conflicts. Other than that, he was fantastic.

I found out why, too. He's majoring in philosophy of religion. I study religion in some of my free time. He studies religion in the majority of his time. He gave me his contact information as we had to cut our conversation off before we got into why we should believe Christianity over Islam. At this point I invited him to speak at our club. I discovered after this pointed that he has debated Zach Moore on the problem of evil.

I'm rather excited about talking more with him. It's such a nice break to have such an intellectual discussion with someone from the inanity of Ray's blog. It's refreshed my interest in studying Christianity.