Do Atheists Determine What Makes a Good Argument for God?

I found the following on Capturing Christianity’s channel:

One of our Bereans (supporters of the ministry) said this recently and I’m having a hard time disagreeing:
 “The best arguments for Theism are the ones that online atheists hate the most.”

Reading this immediately brings to mind something I hear a lot from online Christians: “You don’t believe because you want to sin.” As if belief is a choice, and that somehow not believing changes reality. The implication of this is that atheist hate the “best” arguments because they somehow show that God is real, and atheists hate them arguments because they show us how wrong we are.

The problem is that the beliefs of atheists shouldn’t be considered a reliable indicator of truth. The appeal to [un]popularity is just as fallacious as the appeal to popularity. Even if every single atheist hates a particular argument for God, it doesn’t make the argument good, or even sound. Bad arguments, even popular ones, are still bad arguments, regardless of what a segment of the population believes.

Whenever I come across an argument for God I inevitably find that there are some significant problems, usually some kind of god of the gaps. I end up hating the arguments not because thee argument is bad, but because those who keep trot them out refuse to listen to the criticisms that have been brought forward. Having to explain that a bad argument has significant problems, and doesn’t do what they think it does, gets frustrating.

If I had to pick the argument I hate the most it would almost certainly be the Kalam. It’s probably one of the most popular arguments, and one I see too much. As an argument it doesn’t even have God in the conclusion (so it’s not actually an argument for God on its own), and I’m far from convinced that either of the premises are actually sound. This doesn’t stop theists from using this argument as their go-to when they want to try to convince me that their particular God exists.

Frankly, the best argument for theism (it would only take one) would be the one this is valid in structure, where the premises can all be demonstrated to be sound, and where “[particular] God exists” is the conclusion. Until that argument comes along, I’m going to say that theists have utterly failed to meet their burden of proof.

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A Quick Look at the 2020 Presidential Election

There are a lot of interesting things that can be looked at with regard to the 2020 Presidential election. The claims of election fraud start to look empty when you look at the following election map:

The image above represents the voter swing between 2016 and 2020. The darker the color the more the election swung to one side. What’s important to note here is that virtually every state saw Joe Biden increase his voter share compared to Clinton in 2016. This shouldn’t be surprising given how deeply unpopular Trump is, and how unpopular Clinton was.

If Biden increased the proportion of voters that voted Democrat in 2020 vs 2016, and Trump’s claim of election is true, then that would have to mean that there was actually significant voter fraud in just every single state. But then this data really raises a significant question about that alleged voter fraud. Why did Florida vote more strongly for Biden, and why did they not try to cheat in Florida? If Biden had won Florida there would have been no chance for Trump to come back. Why take the risk on a circuitous route by not going through Florida? This simply make no sense from a strategy point of view, and should be viewed as disconfirming evidence.

Just looking at the data that this map shows, it become incredibly difficult to believe that there was the kind of fraud that Trump and his followers express. It’s so much more likely that Trump was simply deeply unpopular with people, and because of this he lost a popularity contest. It’s a simple explanation given the data and requires the fewest assumptions.

Unfortunately, we’ve come to a point where data and reality don’t matter to Trump or his die-hard supporters, where everything is evidence of a conspiracy, no matter how absurd. I worry what Trump’s supporters, who don’t seem to care about empirical reality, are going to do to our society, and what effect these people are going to have going forward.

Jesus and Distilled Alcohol

I admit it. I have a taste for scotch whisky. I don’t drink too much anymore because it does no favors for my mental health. I do, however, still love the rich flavors and complex tastes that can arise from a seemingly simple liquid.

But what about Jesus? According to the story of The Wedding at Cana, Jesus somehow transforms water into wine. Impressive, sure, if it really happened and wasn’t just a folk talk, but did Jesus ever introduce people to distilled alcohol? The gospels never tell us, as there is no mention of this glorious liquid in the Bible, but it seems to me that if Jesus was actually God then surely Jesus would have introduced people whisky, or even something more incredible. But if he did, why is there no mention of this incredible thing?[1]

And what about a wedding gift for the stories couple? Giving people a couple of stone jugs of wine for their guests is nice and all, but I would have to think that an amount of some delicious foreign spirits could be the proverbial icing on the cake for the evening.

Alas, we’ll probably never know if the story is true, but it would seem that Jesus don’t hold aged liquor in the same high regard that I do. For that reason, I’ve become just a little bit more skeptical that Jesus was God.

[1] Yes, I realize this is an argument from silence, but if incredible wine is mentioned, why not incredible liquor?

Trump Lost. Deal With It

Dear Trump supporters, I hope this find you well, but I doubt that it does. You’re probably still upset that your man lost the Presidential election. You’ve believed Trump’s lies about election fraud because you believe everything he says, even though nobody has actually found and presented any credible evidence of such. You are, to put it lightly, in a state of denial.

I know that some of you think that Trump is the last hope for America, and that if he isn’t President come January 21st that America will fall and never be able to recover. Perhaps you even feel that the United States will descend into Communism, which is an idea so absurd I don’t even think it’s worth addressing. The reality is that Trump has not made America great. The only thing he’s done is enrich himself, along with his already rich friends, and made your country the laughing stock of other Western nations. Save America? I doubt he’ll be able to save himself from the Southern District of New York.

Trump has had his chances in court. Over 50 cases have been decided, and some have even had the Supreme Court weigh-in. Trump has lost all but one of these cases, and that “win” was a very minor victory over a ballot curing deadline. Every time Trump’s lawyers have gone to court they try to argue minor points, but never make arguments for the supposed election fraud that happened. Why? Because there really never was any mass election fraud. The whole fraud story was just sometime he made up, just like the many thousands of other lies that Trump has said over the last nearly five years. His attempts to use the courts to support his coup attempt have failed, just like everything else he has tried to do.

It’s time. It’s time that give up on this hopeless quest to keep Trump as President of the United States. At this point there is no legal path to victory. He lost, and all the crying in the world won’t change that fact. The electoral college meets this week and will elect Joe Biden as the next lawful President. Facing reality now, and accepting that Trump is done, will be better for you in the long run. Accepting that Trump’s trumped up claims of fraud are nothing but a self-serving lie meant to rile you up so that you donate to his “election defense fund”, and to soften the blow to his already fragile ego. It’s time for you to take the wool off from your eyes and see what Trump has done to try and subvert the constitution and the will of the American people.

Trump isn’t Jesus, and he most certainly isn’t going to save you from anything. Much like the many Christian prosperity preachers, Trump is exploiting you for his own benefit. He has never cared about you because he cares about himself and how he can make more money. Everything else is a cheap facade on a moldy old building. Some might call it lipstick on a pig, but I think that’s an insult to pigs.

Mike Winger, Christopher Hitchens, and a Challenge

Many years ago Christopher Hitchens issued a challenge to theists: “Name a morally act, or a moral statement, that could not have been made by an atheist?” Christian apologist Mike Winger seems to think that he has an answer to that challenge: The theist can love God.

Right off the bat I have an objection to this answer, because Winger assumes that loving God is an actual moral good. I do not grant this and it is not because I do not accept that God exists. I could grant that God exists and I don’t think it follows that loving God would be a moral act. If God is as described in the Bible I would go so far as to say that loving, and submitting to, God may actually be immoral in much the same way that loving mass murdering dictators would be immoral.

I do have to wonder if part of the problem comes down to what is understood about something being morally good. When I speak of an act being morally good I am saying that such an action provides some benefit(s) to some other sentient being(s). But now we have a problem: Even if God exists, me loving a perfect being cannot provide God benefit since God is already perfect. Perfect beings cannot be made more perfect by my actions, nor can they be harmed by my inaction. So what exactly is good that comes from loving God? How is loving God a moral good?

If Winger believes that loving God has some benefit to other humans then we’re kinda back to the reason for the wager in the first place. Belief in God does not seem to be necessary to do good, and nobody has ever been able to show that loving God helps other humans, or is a necessary precursor to being able to do a morally good action.

Long story short, I don’t see that Winger has offered anything credible as an answer to Hitchens wager. Sure, a theist can love God, but they still have yet to show that this is actually good in any meaningful sense. I can believe that doing a snow dance for Santa Claus is good, but that doesn’t actually make it good. I still hold a burden of proof to establish that it actually is good and that I’m not just asserting it as such.

The Madness of Trump and His Republican Enablers

It is very clear to me that Trump is not interested in democracy, the rule of law, or any of the traditions that our political institutions have held for ages. Now that Trump has lost, that it’s abundantly clear that he lost, and that he has no credible evidence to support the claims of fraud that he so frequently continues to prattle on about, it becomes clear that Trump wants to do as much damage as he can while he can. He is, simply put, a sore loser and the Republican party is at least partly to blame for this state of affairs.

It is terribly frustrating that the Republican senate, and even senior Republicans, appear to be taking these allegations of fraud seriously when no credible evidence has been presented, or are not willing to stand up and state the obviousness of the absurdity of the claims. Trump cries foul every time he loses – that’s what he does, and this isn’t some new behavior for him. We saw him cry foul during the primaries when Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucus. We saw the same behavior in 2016 general election when he actually won the election but lost the popular vote. If he doesn’t get his way he throws a tantrum, cries foul, and senior Republicans do nothing to stop him.

I sincerely hope that when all of this is over, and Trump is removed from office on January 20th, that history does not look kindly on the Republican party that has allowed their madman to sit in the Oval Office. Rather than ever doing what is right, or following the evidence, the Republican party has turned into the party of sycophantic complacency. The real harm being done by Trump’s tirades over election fraud , even now, will be felt for years as people lose trust in democratic institutions. The people that could help put a stop this are quite happy to stand back and let the orange man burn it all down.

I have little respect for sore losers, but I have even less respect for those who would coddle a grown man who peddles in conspiracy theories while crying into the security blanket of his Twitter account about how the system is rigged, and everyone is out to get him. His persecution complex rivals that of many evangelical Christians. The wounds that have been opened over the past four years will not close easily, and will likely continue to bleed for years to come.

I knew Trump would be dangerous during this period, but I didn’t expect so much complacency from other Republicans. Why are they complacent? I strongly suspect the Georgia senate run-offs are the reason, and they know that this will keep their base energized. They are desperate to retain control of the senate, as it’s the only way they can keep the country still. If the Republicans win either of those seats I expect at least 2 years of obstructionism to be the norm.

This really does seem to be a sad time for democracy and politics. At least we can be thankful that Trump only has just over 60 days left in his term. Hopefully then we can start undoing the damage. It’s easy to wreck and destroy, but takes a lot of hard work to build and maintain. It’s sad that so many people aren’t making more noise.

Apologetic Expertise!?

Reading a couple apologetics books doesn’t make you an expert in philosophy, cosmology, ethics, or history. Don’t fall into the temptation of overconfidence.

Capturing Christianity

Isn’t it amazing that apologetics seems to require an extensive background in so many areas just to get it right? Isn’t this supposed to be the God that wants to have a relationship with each and every one of us? That the arguments for God, and Christianity specifically, require such knowledge doesn’t bode well for what these people are trying to argue for.

If Christianity were really true, and God really does exist, shouldn’t these things be utterly obvious to every single person to the point where denying them would be like denying the most obvious facts about your life? Yet here we are, with convoluted arguments for God and an old book trying to convince us that some Jewish peasant from twenty centuries ago is God. If these things were actually true shouldn’t we have something better to show for it than the tripe apologists provide?

No, I Don’t Want to Watch Another PragerU Video

There are, on occasion, people who try to convince me of something by pointing me to some PragerU video. Thanks, but no thanks.

PragerU, for those who are unaware, is a right wing political organization, founded by right wing radio host Dennis Prager, that pumps out political propaganda. They’ve been heavily funded by the the fracking industry in order to help convince people that climate change is not a threat to human civilization. Their videos are often produced in such a way so as to brainwash those who watch the content. They rarely (if ever) cite any sources for their claims, yet seem to be looked at by conservatives as if the claims should be accepted, no questions asked..

I am, quite frankly, tired of watching their obvious political propaganda. I have no more interest in watching these videos than I do of watching old clips of Soviet propaganda. I simply have better things to do with my time than watch deceptive videos that are full of misinformation.

If you want to change my mind about something then please find a much more reliable source that isn’t trying to spoon feed me political propaganda.

My suggestion to anybody who watches PragerU videos: Know that you’re almost certainly being lied to by people who have only their own political interests in mind. These people generally aren’t interested in truth. Stop watching PragerU and treat it as entertainment only. Take any claims they make skeptically, as there are much better sources for information on the internet than some rich conservative that wants to blow smoke up your ass.

A Look at the US Election Results

I continue to look at the election results with great sadness. As of writing there are over 71 million people cast their ballots for a lying immoral populist conman who has preyed on fears that have been stoked for decades. I’m deeply saddened that so many people gave Trump a vote of confidence.

This isn’t to say that I entirely blame the American public for voting for Trump. Many simply vote for Republicans because that’s what they’ve done for decades. Much like their religious beliefs, they cannot be bothered to examine what they’re actually voting vote. They start with untested assumptions and follow them where they lead.

I also think that there are a good number of people who have been convinced by their churches, and the media (Fox News being the most trusted news source among those who are Republican or lean Republican), that the Republicans always somehow represent the moral choice, and that Democrats are the party of communism and evil. We know that Cuban Americans overwhelmingly supported Trump, either because the scare tactics of “Socialist!” stuck (even though Biden is not a Socialist by any stretch of the imagination), or there is a deep resentment for Democrats going back to Kennedy.

I really wish there were easy answers about what to do about those who still see Trump as some kind of beacon of hope in spite of the fact that Trump brings the US ever closer to fascism. They are others who are convinced that their hopes and dreams have been stolen by the “deep state” and “rampant election fraud” even though there’s really no evidence to support either of these claims. The conspiracy mindset that seems so prevalent among those on the right, along with their persistent views of persecution, seems to make it that much easier to pull the wool over their eyes.

If a President who locks kids in cages, after tearing them out of the arms of their parents because they crossed some arbitrary line in the sand incorrectly, or the gassing of peaceful protestors because El Presidente wanted a shameless photo op in front of a church holding a Bible, appeals to you then I’m not sure what I can possibly say to you to change your mind about Trump. If the very idea of allowing women the freedom to decide if they want to give birth is enough to override the rest of your moral compass then I doubt there’s actually anything that would turn you off of voting for Trump, and I suspect you will always find some way to rationalize whatever heinous crime is committed against the American people.

As disheartening as all of this is, I don’t think that we’ve lost entirely. Trump is now defeated, and will be a lame duck for another 10 weeks. While there is still an appetite for Trumpism we do have opportunities to try to tackle it, but it will take serious work. We who are not afraid of the dark must be willing to stand up and be leaders that are needed. We must send a clear message of hope for those who are afraid so that we can try to win these people back. We’ve won a single battle by getting rid of the orange wannabe dictator (at least I assume he’ll be removed, as the legal challenges don’t seem to be going anywhere), but until we deal with the toxic social groundwork that got us Trump in the first place it won’t be long before the next demagogue comes along.

What does concerns me about tomorrow is that Trump wasn’t a particularly politically astute fellow. He was brash, and vain, and only cared about himself. Somebody who is well spoken, knows how to hide his intentions, and gives the appearance of being for the people, may well do a much better job of exploiting those who are vulnerable to populists. I’m not sure the United States could survive such a person.

As they say, the future stands ahead of us. Which way it goes depends on what we do to help shape it in the way that we want it to go.

The Catholic Church and Same-Sex Marriage

I’ve lived in a country where same-sex marriage (SSM) has been legal for over 15 years thanks to our Supreme Court, and an act of parliament. At the time our Prime Minister, a Catholic, saw no problem with making sure that same-sex couples have the legal right to marry. While the idea was contentious at the time this issue has largely fallen by the wayside to other more pressing concerns, although only about 2/3 of Canadians support SSM. In general it’s only the most socially conservative Canadians that think that the Civil Marriage Act should be changed back. It simply isn’t an important issue in my country.

Fast forward to the near present who Jorge Bergoglio (better known as Pope Francis) made a statement about civil unions for same-sex couples, and lamented that they cannot be left out. It’s hardly surprising that there was backlash against his statements by those within the Catholic Church, because it apparently endorses an “immoral lifestyle”, which is a position I can’t really understand. I really do not see any reason to believe that being in a same-sex relationship is immoral, or that it has any negative effects on society, or even others.

It is, quite frankly, about time that the Pope has made some statement in this regard. I understand that the Catholic Church is very socially conservative but that doesn’t make their position defensible. It is largely by inertia that socially conservative ideas stick around and remain popular, but that doesn’t mean that the ideas are good, or even that they are worth preserving. There is real harm that comes with denying people legitimacy in their sexual orientation.

I seriously doubt that there are many people who would actually want to be gay, given the homophobia, rhetoric, and hatred, that is often hurled at them. Yet there are people who continue to believe that being gay is a choice, and that they are choosing to “sin.” As a social species we need the loving companionship of others. Being celibate, and ignoring all of your sexual desires, is not normal, no matter who that love is directed at. Loving and consenting relationships between adults is not something that anybody should stand between, and especially not because of what some old book, or tradition, has to say on the matter.

Regarding Pope Francis, I do hope that this statement means that he will encourage Catholic majority countries (particularly in South America) to enact legislation that allows same-sex couples to marry, and that the Catholic Church will no longer stand in the way of SSM legislation. I hope that this change in position influences other Christians to take notice. While I think the Catholic Church has done tremendous evil and harm in the past, starting to take ownership of that harm is still the right thing to do. I have no love for the Catholic Church, and I would send it to dust bin if I could, but I also have to accept that it does influence a large part of the world’s Christian population.

You’ve managed to get something correct Mr Bergoglio. Here’s hoping that you get lots more things correct. I’d love to be proven wrong in my distaste for the Catholic Church, and that it can be an institution that shows love and compassion to others. Your God knows there’s lots of things it could change for the better.