Bernie on Global Issues

Posted October 21, 2015 in Politics

(Image by Gage Skidmore)

On War and Peace

American history has too many examples of unjust war. Our conflicts in Vietnam, Korea, and Iraq (as well as various surreptitious engagements) wrought great damage and loss of life without justification. In the case of Iraq, our action caused a great deal of the current instability in the Middle East. One might say it was impossible to foresee the consequences, but one Congressman gave a strong warning on the cost of war in Iraq: Continue reading Bernie on Global Issues

Bernie Versus the Others

Posted October 19, 2015 in Politics

I believe Bernie Sanders should be president. But what about the other candidates? I reject most of them outright, could live with a few of them, but think Bernie is the best of the bunch. The Republican party is a mess this election cycle. There are a couple of candidates I think I could live with, but none that excite me. Most would be disastrous as president. To touch on a few:

Continue reading Bernie Versus the Others

Bernie for President

Posted October 19, 2015 in Politics

Bernie for President! This sentiment likely comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen my tweets and shares the last several weeks, but while I have been impressed with Bernie as a person, I had not settled on him as president. Good people do not necessarily make good presidents, but I believe Bernie is that combination so rare in Washington: a good person who would be a good president. Over the next few posts, I will outline some reasons why. In these posts I will mostly be noting why I like Bernie so much, though I will also point out a few cautions and disagreements. The posts will be:

  • Other options (why I reject outright most of the other candidates)
  • Bernie’s Global Positions (on war, peace, and climate change)
  • Bernie’s National Positions (on race and gun control)
  • Bernie’s Economic Positions (on income inequality and social services)
  • Bernie’s Social Positions (on marriage and abortion)
  • Bernie

The Psychology of Belief: How We Maintain Delusions

Posted October 12, 2015 in Philosophy

The following content was recently presented at Seekerfest STL in St. Charles, MO. 

I have a confession to make: I want to believe in the EmDrive. The claim is that we have built an engine that can provide forward thrust without the need to expel a propellant. If it works, it would enable us to travel through space on inter-generational trips without the need to bring along heavy fuel, and makes the Star Trek nerd in me giddy with excitement to think about. Also, if it works, it appears to violate the law of conservation of momentum, in a similar way that virtual particles appear to violate the law of conservation of energy.

It sounds like crazy talk, and it probably is. But I can’t help but want to believe it’s true. And that, my friends, is how delusions get their start. Continue reading The Psychology of Belief: How We Maintain Delusions

Free Will Does Not Solve Unnecessary Suffering

Posted September 15, 2015 in Philosophy

For some time now, we have been trying to determine whether or not God exists. In our most recent discussions, we have focused on the problem of unnecessary suffering and whether or not it can coexist with an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god. In order to do so, we have assumed the Christian premise: that God created this world. We have been working to show that there are implications of this assumption that make it untenable for us. So far, the argument could be summarized in this syllogism: Continue reading Free Will Does Not Solve Unnecessary Suffering

The Atheist Takes On Sin: Genesis 3

Posted September 11, 2015 in Bible Study

Genesis 3 is a pivotal text for much of Christian theology. The notion of a sinful fallen human nature, may not factor in much throughout the Old Testament but it is foundational to many of the beliefs developed in the New Testament. But as often happens when it comes to the Bible, what we hear from the preacher and what we read in the New Testament is a cleaned up version of the somewhat convoluted story we find in Genesis 3. Instead of moving through this text in a linear fashion, we will set the stage, take a look at its characters, and then do a wrap-up. Let’s dive in.

Continue reading The Atheist Takes On Sin: Genesis 3

Kim Davis and the Need for Blind Justice

Posted September 08, 2015 in Religious Separation

Justice is blind, or it isn’t justice. The discussion about Kim Davis has many components, but strip away the outer layers and we find justice at the heart of the matter.

Kim Davis was elected to serve as clerk in her Kentucky county. A county clerk manages the legal paperwork of an area’s population, many of the documents carrying the name certificate: birth, death, marriage, divorce, among others. Local government and state legislatures establish policies and procedures for these events, and a county clerk facilitates the necessary paperwork among the citizens.

With the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, if a state law or ruling ever conflicts with a federal law or ruling, the federal statute takes precedent. When the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to prevent same-sex couples from obtaining marriage certificates, all state marriage laws with specific gender requirements were immediately invalid. Per the Supreme Court decision, the state law of Kentucky now mandates that couples cannot be denied a marriage license on the basis of gender, regardless of what may be found in the older legal code. Whether or not unconstitutional state marriage statutes are ever removed from the code is irrelevant – the Supreme Court ruling is the law of the land.

Continue reading Kim Davis and the Need for Blind Justice

God Experiences: Summary and What It All Means

Posted September 04, 2015 in Christian Beliefs

For the past couple of weeks, I have shared a number of experiences that I used to point to as evidences for the existence of the Christian god. I have also explained why all of these experiences eventually failed to stand up to critical thinking and reasoning as my understanding of statistics, psychology, and science grew over the years. I could have easily written another dozen blogs or so covering topics like supernatural intervention in job interviews and career choices, family situations such as having a special-needs child with successful a successful response to intensive therapy, just-in-time financial rescues, times where I legitimately believed I had used supernatural abilities, and so forth, but the basic themes would all have been the same. In the end, none of my experiences have had any defining characteristic that force a supernatural explanation. Sure, some of them seem to defy the odds, but in all cases the improbable turns out to be possible, and completely natural explanations exist. Attributing anything that happens to God is a matter of pure choice and will, ignoring the fact that similar outcomes occur for others regardless of religious background, and with selection bias leaning towards crediting the supernatural with good things and excusing or ignoring bad things. This perfectly describes the phenomenon of confirmation bias, which I have written about many times in the past. This means that by any objective standard, all of your personal experiences – and I mean every single one of them – is invalid in terms of proof of the existence of anything in the supernatural sphere. If you are in possession of any kind of evidence to the contrary, I would love to see it. And I’m not kidding or being facetious – I really, really would. But I suspect no one will step forward to provide it. Based on nearly three decades of searching and investigation, it’s just not out there.

So what? Continue reading God Experiences: Summary and What It All Means

God Experiences: A Personal Relationship

Posted September 02, 2015 in Christian Beliefs

Setting the Stage

Like most kids, I had an imaginary friend as a child. His name was Friend Jason. He was identical to me in every way, except for the fact that he was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Growing up in an unstable home, Friend Jason was my confidant, someone who I talked to on a daily basis. When I went to Kindergarten, I took him with me. I was scared and needed someone to talk to, and he seriously – no joke – helped me just by being there in case I needed him. As Kindergarten wore on, however, and I started to make friends, I realized that I was needing Friend Jason less and less. I also vaguely remember comments made about big kids not having imaginary friends any more – possibly made by adults in my life (the memory is pretty foggy). As my need for him grew less and less, and the subtle pressure to “grow up” and stop having an imaginary friend became clear, I made the decision midway through Kindergarten that it was time for me to let him go. I remember it well: I brought him out one last time, my heart heavy and tears in my eyes, and I told him that I couldn’t play with him any more. I remember him being sad, but understanding as always. I gave him one last hug, and with that, said goodbye to the person who had been my best friend for as long as I could remember at that point. I knew he wasn’t real, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. Whether or not he actually existed, I was losing a friend who had meant a lot to me, and the pain I felt as a six-year-old boy was very real. In fact, in recounting this story, I can still feel it today.

I was a kid that wanted to believe. Continue reading God Experiences: A Personal Relationship

God Has a Duty to Prevent Suffering

Posted September 01, 2015 in Philosophy

Over the past several posts, we’ve been making an argument for why suffering proves that God did not create this world. One crucial premise of the argument is that God should prevent suffering that does not serve a higher purpose. Some readers have questioned the veracity of that statement, so we will look at why it is that we can justifiably hold that position.

The premise is essentially based off the fact that we define God as both omnipotent and omnibenevolent–he can do anything, and he only wants to do good things. By definition, unnecessary suffering is suffering that is not needed in order to achieve some higher good. It serves no benevolent purpose. Thus, unnecessary suffering is “bad” in that it is not good. It would be preferable if that suffering did not occur.

So it should be obvious to us that an omnibenevolent being cannot cause unnecessary suffering to others, because to do so would be to do a bad action. But I believe that the qualm arises in God’s case when we attempt to extrapolate from that fact the position that such a being cannot allow others to cause unnecessary suffering. In other words, the issue is not whether God can inflict the suffering himself, but if he can stand by while others inflict it upon someone. Do we believe that a being can be considered all-good if they allow others to suffer unnecessarily? Continue reading God Has a Duty to Prevent Suffering