There are worse ways…

… to spend an evening than drinking the “Naturally Australian” cab-shiraz blend. It’s cheap, but really good as a table wine. And while I’m normally loyal to my Italian merlots, proseccos and lambruscos, it was a rather nice break from the alchohol routine.

And there’s nothing like a proper, well-steamed cappucino with a healthy shot of Bailey’s added to top off dessert.

Unless, of course, it’s figuring out a new way to set up the projector with the XBox 360. You haven’t played Call of Duty until you’re comfortably ensconced ten inches off the floor (on the Super Lowrider Maxi-Comfort exercise bike) in front of what is effectively a 90-inch screen. Now I just have to dig up an old Thrustmaster, figure out how to get Wing Commander running in DOSbox, and I’ll be Living The Dream.

And they wonder why I never leave the house….

Mailvox: three questions

Thimscool poses a triad:

1) Atheism has not been a significant political force for very long, so it’s hard to say what the empirical evidence will be two thousand years from now.

Agreed, but its track record thus far is astoundingly appalling. Given that the first formally atheistic government produced The Terror, the second one produced the Leninist and Stalinist slaughters, the third launched a vicious persecution that sparked the Cristero rebellion and gave birth to the fascistic PRI that ruled Mexico until very recently.

One would be irresponsible to leave out the massive atrocities under the officially atheist governments of China, Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge as well. Indeed, it is hard to think of an atheist government – as opposed to a merely secular one – which doesn’t occasionally slaughter a significant percentage of its people.

I note that the Scandinavian countries which are famously populated with atheists have never had atheist governments, for example, the Lutheran Church of Sweden was the state church as recently as 2000.

2) Atheism, by itself, offers very little support upon which to build a cohesive society, much less a civilization. Atheism was a tenant of communism, but atheism does not imply communism, or nihilism. It simply doesn’t have much to say. The point of secular humanism is to construct a ‘religion’ or a way for society to organize, based in part on atheism.

Agreed, for the most part. However, atheism certainly does imply nihilism, it’s worth recalling that Nietzsche derived his philosophy of nihilism from the postulate that God was dead. Given the millenia of philosophical recognition that civilization requires a basic belief in some form of deity in order to thrive – recognition which includes Christian, pagan, agnostic and atheist philosophers alike – the burden is on the atheist to demonstrate that this is not the case.

I have yet to see anyone even begin to build a reasonable case for it. Given that the most famous atheist philosophers, Nietzsche and Sartre, argue to the contrary, I think this would be a difficult task. Certainly I was unable to do so during my years as an agnostic.

3) I am still curious what you think about Kant’s system, and its consistency (or lack thereof).

Not much. I’ve read two of his works and if I recall correctly, I found them to be consistent but largely beside the point. Given that I believe there is a surfeit of empirical evidence demonstrating that Man is not a rational animal, I consider the concept that reason can be relied upon to provide a universal basis with which to dictate behavior to be fallacious. Kant came up in a discussion a while back; the White Buffalo performed a pretty amusing demolition of the Categorical Imperative that some regulars here will remember.

I don’t remember much about how it went, except for the funniest moment when an atheist Champion of Reason finally lost it and posted something that can be summarized as: “If you don’t stop pointing out how my morality is reducible to might makes right, I’m going to break your teeth with a rock!”

Anyhow, the WB’s brother-in-law is writing his PhD thesis on Kant, perhaps he can take a break and enlighten us with his thoughts on the matter one of these days.

The cricket, she chirps

Bobert expresses the ontological argument for a universally applicable atheist morality, sparking the obvious response:

Get a grip… even athiests and us agnostics can have a real solid understanding on what is right and what is wrong.

Okay, that’s fine, but do explain how. First give me a single example of what is right, then one of what is wrong.

Second, explain why the first thing is right, then why the second thing is wrong.

I hope you won’t equivocate or go silent, as this should be trivial for any atheist or agnostic with a real solid understanding of right and wrong. Any Christian, even a barely literate one, is easily capable of doing this.

And, as one has come to expect, there is still no response to this point. Unfortunate, but hardly surprising. Garlic Powder, on the other hand, at least tries to answer the question:

Because I would not want to be raped, so it would be wrong for me to rape someone else. Most laws can be traced back to the golden rule. For the religious, please don’t cite any more examples of God’s laws that are really nothing more than the golden rule.

Of course, this fails the universal applicability requirement twice over, because it is dependent upon A) what Garlic Powder happens to want, which is likely different from what individuals X, Y and Z want, and, B) assumes that morality hinges upon the Golden Rule. (GP also confuses legality with morality, but that’s a common mistake and irrelevant here.)

God’s Law is not the Golden Rule. The latter is only a subset of the former, the annotated version. The fundamental flaw in the Golden Rule is obvious, as it provides one free rein so long as his actions are in line with his reciprocal desires. So long as I wouldn’t mind a swimsuit model crawling into my bed unannounced, it is completely moral under the Golden Rule for me to crawl into hers without warning.

However, GP is partially right. God’s Law can certainly be seen as arbitrary, given that it hinges completely upon His Will. It is, however, universally applicable and rather less arbitrary than a moral “system” which varies completely from one individual to the next.

I’d buy that for a 3rd rounder

From Sports Illustrated:

There’s talk the Raiders are willing to trade Randy Moss back to the Vikings, who are desperate for wide receivers and probably could get him for just a third-round pick.
— St. Paul Pioneer Press

That could be very interesting. We badly need a WR, Randy hangs onto the ball even when he’s only half-interested and Tarvaris Jackson has the big arm. I actually thought Jackson played pretty well against Green Bay considering that it was his first start. If Williamson doesn’t drop that open bomb, the Vikes very well may have won.

VPFL Champions: East Mesa

VPFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:

62 – East Mesa White Trash
57 – Mile High Club

THIRD PLACE:

94 – Mounds View Meerkats
43 – Greenfield Grizzlies

Congratulations to the White Trash, who won the inaugural VPFL and as winners, will be back to defend their title next year. Thanks to all coaches, who made it a surprisingly competitive league. I’ll be soliciting coaches next year, if there aren’t enough new volunteers then this year’s participants will be given the chance to take part based on the order of their finish in the regular season.

Of course, the White Buffalo and I will also be returning to demonstrate our superior NFL skills. I’m a little bitter, as once more the fantasy football gods have mocked me with a regular season title followed by a high-scoring first round defeat and a third-place game blowout. Each team can keep three of its current players on the roster and must keep at least two, the keeper decision will be made by the new owner.

Dawkins confesses impotence

I have often been criticized for my repeated assertion that atheists lack an objective morality, that they have no basis with which to criticize the behavior of another individual except a basic appeal to utilitarianism. This criticism has largely faded away to nothing over time, however, as atheist after atheist has failed to make a coherent case that does not rest wholly on the parasitic hijacking of a moral tradition from a religious source.

This inability to construct an independent morality does not speak poorly of them, though, as it is a profoundly difficult intellectual exercise. The relatively few moralities we possess after thousands of years of recorded history are testament enough to this. And if it is amusing that so many atheists are satisfied with an ontological faith that such a morality could, theoretically, be somehow constructed, it should also be recalled that this is an argument which Christians have also relied upon in the past.

But what cannot be excused is the intellectually dishonest denial by most atheists of the fact that they currently posses no claim to even participate in any ongoing moral debates. In truth, such individuals have no logical grounds to even express an opinion with regards to questions of “should” or of “right and wrong”. Even Richard Dawkins seems to implicitly admit to the inherent hypocrisy in his dabblings in these fields in an October interview with Salon:

What about the old adage that science deals with the “how” questions and religion deals with the “why” questions?

I think that’s remarkably stupid, if I may say so. What on earth is a “why” question? There are “why” questions that mean something in a Darwinian world. We say, why do birds have wings? To fly with. And that’s a Darwinian translation of the evolutionary process whereby the birds that had wings survived better than the birds without. They don’t mean that, though. They mean “why” in a deliberate, purposeful sense. So when you say religion deals with “why” questions, that begs the entire question that we’re arguing about. Those of us who don’t believe in religion — supernatural religion — would say there is no such thing as a “why” question in that sense. Now, the mere fact that you can frame an English sentence beginning with the word “why” does not mean that English sentence should receive an answer. I could say, why are unicorns hollow? That appears to mean something, but it doesn’t deserve an answer.

But it seems to me the big “why” questions are, why are we here? And what is our purpose in life?

It’s not a question that deserves an answer.

Well, I think most people would say those questions are central to the way we think about our lives. Those are the big existential questions, but they are also questions that go beyond science.

If you mean, what is the purpose of the existence of the universe, then I’m saying that is quite simply begging the question. If you happen to be religious, you think that’s a meaningful question. But the mere fact that you can phrase it as an English sentence doesn’t mean it deserves an answer. Those of us who don’t believe in a god will say that is as illegitimate as the question, why are unicorns hollow? It just shouldn’t be put. It’s not a proper question to put. It doesn’t deserve an answer.

This highlights is the inherently destructive aspect of atheist philosophy. Dawkins understands that he can no more answer the question “why should I not kill Jews?” than “why are unicorns hollow?” even if most of those who consider him a great advocate of atheism do not.

When one responds to a question of “why am I here” with “that’s not a question that deserves an answer”, then one has no right to take exception to the behavior of the individual who concludes “I am here to conquer, kill, steal and rape on the basis of my desire and my ability to carry out my will.”

Mailvox: the joy of Christmas

NL wonders about today’s celebrations:

You seem to be an erudite person. But why is it the most educated can never understand the Bible? First of all, Christ could no have been born on December 25th. Shepherds were out in the field, it’s too cold for that in December. Surely, your logical mind could figure this out!

Second, there is no commandment to remember his birth. You did know that didn’t you? So why do you celebrate his birthday?

And if you did, did you give any presents to Jesus? You give it to the person whose birthday it is. Why does everybody say “happy birthday Jesus” then proceed to give each other presents? Silly!

What does celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth on December 25th have to do with his actual birthday? It’s true, the chances that his birth actually took place in the winter are nil, but to focus on the actual date is to miss the point of the holiday entirely. Christmas is a celebration of the expression of God’s love for Man, a love which took the form of the gift of His Son.

In the same way, we give gifts to each other to express our love for one another. The reason that the militant secularists hate Christmas is because it is such a powerfully effective metaphor, especially for children. We may talk about “good” children receiving gifts and “bad” ones receiving coal, but most children know perfectly well that the stack of presents from Santa under the tree are largely unmerited.

And, as always, it is a mistake to look too hard for the logic behind any metaphor.

It’s true, there is no commandment to do many worthwhile things. This does not make them silly, illegitimate or sinful. As for “Happy Birthday Jesus,” I don’t know anyone who does this, nor would one expect to give Jesus presents when he is, quite obviously, not there. (Otherwise, Christians could not anticipate his eventual return.)

It is easy to forget that God is not only a God of righteousness and judgment, but also of Joy. I find it very difficult to imagine that the pure joy one sees on a child’s face on Christmas morning, the sheer awe and delight, can be something that God, in whose image we are made, does not regard with joy Himself.

I have no problem with those who choose not to celebrate Christmas, whether they are Christians refraining from doing so in the Puritan tradition or atheists who quite reasonably consider the idea of an incarnate God made flesh to be a profoundly ridiculous concept. But I do feel a sense of pity for anyone who would rob himself of even a modicum of the joy that so many of us know at Christmastime.