Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Convert's Corner

I took a look at the section of RichardDawkins.Net entitled "Convert's Corner". I was amazed at how many fundamentalists he has gotten through to. Take a look:

I was raised a Southern Baptist fundamentalist and am now a proud atheist. Dr. Dawkins' works have encouraged and emboldened me to live a confident life and to stand for common sense.
Thank you so very much for enriching my life, Dr. Dawkins. I am quite grateful. When able, I will contribute to your work via this website.


I am currently no longer attending meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses, and have cut off all ties to the organization except, of course, my family. I have begun planting seeds of logic and rational thought to everyone that I know, and strive to water those seeds as much as possible. I'm currently only a few minutes away from completing The Blind Watchmaker, and I have a stack of other books by my bedside that I have waiting in queue, including The Selfish Gene, The End of Faith, The Ancestors Tale (I will finally read it!), The Making of the Fittest, and The God Delusion. I'm also currently enjoying the video from the Beyond Belief 2006 conference. There's some great points to be taken away from those discussions.


THE GOD DELUSION puts into words the 'revelation' I had at age eleven. Precocious? Not really.
From age three to age ten I spent most of my life in Roman Catholic institutions and boarding schools. I was nine years old when atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. The nuns rejoiced and we were given jelly and custard for lunch to celebrate. I was very worried about the rejoicing at a whole city, and by logical extension, its citizens, being burned in a conflagration like the fires of hell (as we were given to understand). When I voiced my worries I was told not to be 'bold' and that the Japanese weren't Catholics or even Christians. Many other issues of belief also concerned me, eg why did god make some children ugly like me; why did he make germs, or fleas or poisonous plants?.
By age eleven I was in a state school but attended compulsory RC 'scripture' class. The issue of destruction of human life vis a vis church teachings about 'love' and 'shepherding' still worried me. Again I asked why Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been bombed. I had read in a newspaper that Japan was on the brink of surrender before the atomic holocaust. I was punished for showing doubt. At this stage I still believed in god and Jesus.
One day I was walking home from school when suddenly I stopped in my tracks. Of course! There was only one answer! There was no god. People made him up because they were scared about not understanding things. In war they had to believe god was on their side because otherwise they'd know themselves as murderers. But if they just admitted they didn't understand instead of making up lies then they might get to understand one day.


Dear Mr. Dawkins and everyone at the RDF,
Hello, I am 15 years old, and I had been skeptic of my religion for almost a year by the time of my birthday. I took an interest in science, esspecially evolutionary biology and am still in the process of trying to at least vaguely in a sense; understand it.
I have become an Atheist in part because of your book, up until the time I read it I was agnostic. I really do have to thank you the best way that I can in the format I expressing it.
I was brought up as a fundamentalist in a sort, you could say before the time of early 2005 I was good material for the evangelical camps around the United States. But under the religion of my parents I suffered a terrible amount of childhood depression, I was dreadfully sad and hateful during my time as a fundamentalist Christian, but after reading your book I found that what I was taught not only didn't make sense, but also was destroying me from the inside. Also because of your book I have been able to express my dis-belief more easily and be proud of it as well instead of ashamed and scared of what the people around me may think. So for making me a stronger dis-believer I thank you again.
I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts in the years to come.
Thank you,
Justin Allen

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Indiana Jones, Islam, and the Da Vinci Code

Found here:

Islam watchers blogged all weekend about news that a secret archive of ancient Islamic texts had surfaced after 60 years of suppression. Andrew Higgins' Wall Street Journal report that the photographic record of Koranic manuscripts, supposedly destroyed during World War II but occulted by a scholar of alleged Nazi sympathies, reads like a conflation of the Da Vinci Code with Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail.......

The Encyclopaedia of Islam (1982) observes, "The closest analogue in Christian belief to the role of the Koran in Muslim belief is not the Bible, but Christ." The Koran alone is the revelatory event in Islam.What if scholars can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Koran was not dictated by the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammad during the 7th century, but rather was redacted by later writers drawing on a variety of extant Christian and Jewish sources? That would be the precise equivalent of proving that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels really was a composite of several individuals, some of whom lived a century or two apart.

....The Islamic world is forced to adopt an openly irrational stance, employing its power to intimidate scholars and frustrate the search for truth.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Addressing Alleged Problems with Metaphysical Naturalism

I want to address some problems that various people have brought up about philosophical naturalism:

1. If you believe that your brain is just chemicals, then you can't trust your thoughts.

Well, if our brains are more than chemicals, can a schizo trust his/her thoughts? On a serious note, our brains have evolved over millions of years to accomplish two primary purposes:
a) survive
b) reproduce

I enjoy both, so I'm gonna trust my thoughts. Besides, even though I make mistakes, the majority of my decisions are good ones. I can trust my brain.

2. How can you be moral without God?

Well, let's ask the theist: Why is God moral? I suspect that most would say he just is. Same for me. I simply am moral.

3. The Universe had a beginning, therefore the universe had a cause (God).

There are a number of problems with this argument that have been addressed by many different people. One thing that must said is that the universe could be a part of a large multiverse. Lee Smolin has constructed a hypothesis that the universe was born from the black hole of another, born from the black hole of another, and so on for eternity. The theist will then argue that actual infinites are impossible. Of course, this would disprove an infinite God, but I'll roll with it. The argument to disprove actual infinites goes something like this:
If you had an infinite number of marbles, and gave every odd numbered marble to a friend, you would have an infinite number and so would he. On the other hand, if you gave him every marble with a number divisible by sixteen, you would have an infinite number and so would he. These conclusions are simply irrational, therefore truly infinite things cannot exist.

This is true, but of course why should infinite numbers behave the same as finite ones?