06
Dec
12

It’s half-assed quiz time

In much the same way that a programmer is an organic reactor that turns caffeine into code, a blogger is an organic reactor that turns memes, or quizzes, or even better meme-quizzes into content.  So by way of LabRat we discover…

Actually it’s called “Doubting Atheism”, which strikes me as a much less interesting title.  I identify as a militantly apathetic agnostic — I don’t know, I don’t care, and you can’t make me — but that gets me lumped into “atheist” the same way that anarchocapitalist liberaltarian gets me lumped into “conservative” so fuck it, here’s some responses to a bit more than a dozen annoying “gotcha” questions that totally aren’t intended to make me look like a narrow-minded douche.

1. Why are atheists so obsessed with religion?

I grew up immersed in it.  This isn’t a dig at my parents, or anyone else for that matter — it’s just that anglospheric life is more or less planted in Christianity in the same way as Greco-Latin ideas about governance and philosophy, so it’s impossible to avoid uptaking some of it by osmosis.  I find faith — perhaps I should go back to the Platonists and call it Faith — impossible to grasp unless I’ve read Kierkegaard in the past week, but my reflexive expression of annoyance is usually some variant on oh Christ here we go again.

Oh Christ, here we go again:

Given atheism, nothing really matters since it’s not going to last. So, again I ask you, why bother with religion and its negative effects?

Complex question, let me show you it.  Militant atheism hasn’t been a “thing” for about five years, but glibly assuming that all atheists are militant sure makes me want to read some Christopher Hitchens.  Have you stopped hating gays yet?  (Annoying when someone does it to you, isn’t it?)

2. Why are atheists so obsessed with monotheistic religions? (You know the ones: Christianity, Judaism, Islam)

20 GOTO 10.  The three named religions (I’ll be gracious and assume that the author is much deeper into the religious studies literature than I am, and has scholarly consensus that only the three usual suspects are monotheistic) are all based on the same meta-tale, so since I grew up in a medium that naturally assumed the Abrahamic God as a given I kind of care a bit more about those than I do, say, Zoroastrianism.  Also, politics.

3. How do atheists explain the beginning of the universe?

I find Hawking’s A Brief History of Time to be rather compelling.  Oh, you haven’t read it?  Too bad; I guess you don’t care much about what “atheists” think.

But again, we’re begging the question.  Who says I have to have an explanation for everything?  I don’t, and I don’t pretend to.  I’m not fussed about certainty about Grand Questions like the beginning of the universe (which name makes a rather large assumption — see previous comment about Anglospherics being immersed in Greco-Latin philosophy).

Also, stop doing this:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Syllogisms — back to the unquestioned immersion in Greco-Latin philosophy — are only as good as their premises.  This one’s premises are justified by nothing more than sputtering and hand-waving.

4. How do atheists explain away objective moral values?

First I point at Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty and Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments.  Then I point at the Deirdre McCloskey books on my shelf as evidence that I don’t nearly have it all figured out yet.

Speaking of syllogisms resting on rather suspect foundations:

Objective moral values are ones that are independent of human thought.  If God doesn’t exist, they wouldn’t exist either.

The unspoken assumption that (a) “objective moral values” exist is doing a hell (heh heh) of a lot of work here; given the presence of theodicies I submit that it’s far from axiomatic.  But we’re four for four on Complex Question fallacies so far; I don’t know why I’m surprised.

5. How do materialists justify immaterial realities?

Hang on, what?

Logic, math, morality, and other things such as free will, human dignity, and time exist.

Oh for fuck’s sake, put down the joint and read Douglas Hofstadter for the next month.  And shut up about “time” until you’ve read Hawking’s A Brief History Of it.

Logic does not exist independent of its formulation by humans, as anyone who’s taken a look at a 400-level philosophy syllabus will be able to verify.  Math is remarkably similar, and if you look up elliptic and hyperbolic geometry on those handy Wikipedia links I just gave you you’ll get some inkling as to how self-consistent but not-really-physical mathematical systems can be constructed.  Morality we’ve discussed above.  Free will is still an open question when philosophers hang out in bars.  The existence of human dignity is rather strongly refuted by the historical record.

Seriously, quit begging the fucking question.

But since you must know:

But if God doesn’t exist, matter would be all there is, since there’d be nothing to be the foundation of immaterial things. Everything would come through by matter, and thus, be matter. How can atheists give an answer to this argument?

The varieties of math that gain traction among “do-stuff” people like physicists and engineers are the ones that are useful for actually describing the behaviour of matter.  There are a thundering herd of other systems of axiomata that could be called “math” but don’t tell you how stress distributes across a bridge or how covalent bonds behave, and they might get you published but they won’t get you as famous as Newton or Gauss.  That kind of pragmatic utility turns out to be a pretty good foundation for “immaterial things” that are actually relevant to the material.

6. How do atheists explain the existence of the universe?

This is actually the same question as 3., above, and has the same two-part answer:

a) Read Hawking

b) It’s occasionally nice to think that one has an explanation for the existence of the universe, but since at least one universe actually exists it’s not necessary.

7. How do you explain away circumstantial evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?

Dilligaf?

I’d snark about this, but I’m so pleased that someone used “circumstantial evidence” properly that I’ll give this one a pass.  The evidence actually proffered by the source page isn’t particularly circumstantial, but hey, I said I wouldn’t quibble.  Much.

8. If the gospels are just pieces of historical fiction, why are there embarrassing details in there?

For the same reason that Mary Sue fanfic isn’t as well-received as Shakespeare: Conflict makes for a more compelling story.  If the gospels are “just pieces of historical fiction”, rather than expressions of received truth from  their authors.

9. If we are just matter, and not souls, why would some atheists support life-sentences?

I thought this was going to be a brutally ethical “why not just kill every criminal, we’re all going to die anyway?” question.  But it’s actually a bit more interesting than that:

The matter in our body is totally changed out every seven years. If Cartesian dualism—a view I embrace—is false, and we are just matter, that means I am not the same person as I was seven years ago.  And this is also true for a criminal.The justice system is completely futile if atheism is true. If matter is who we are, why don’t we change as our matter changes?

Structure matters.  If atoms come and atoms go, but the arrangement of neurons in the brain stays the same, has anything really changed?  Not if it’s the structures making the decisions rather than the atoms.  Also, I can’t let this go without quoting Labrat’s rebuttal:

If the human body were completely renewed every seven years, tattoos would have an expiration date (I have one I’ve had for eleven years, I’m PRETTY SURE IT’S NOT TRUE), and people with paralysis and brain damage would only need to wait seven years to be all better again. Plus, uh, aging wouldn’t exist at all. And… I’m pretty sure having some new cells doesn’t make you a completely different person because I live in reality and that doesn’t happen.

10. Why do so many atheists deny historical facts?

The question.  You’re begging it.  Again.

11. Why do most atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Denette, equivocate evolution with atheism?

“I just cited the historical record; now I’m going to completely ignore it.”  Nice one.  You might also want to look up “equivocate”.

12. Why don’t atheists actually question everything?

By now you’re probably tired of “atheists aren’t just a straw-man you have in your head” as an answer, so let’s go with something different: Your premise is foxtrot uniform, but suppose it’s genuinely true.  Why don’t I actually question everything?  Because it’d be fucking exhausting to do so, and it seems like a better use of drunken contemplation to question the existence of an all-loving sky-god who loves me so much he’s going to condemn me to unimaginable torment for eternity than to question the existence of the colour pink.  On the other hand, I can do math, so the latter is pretty easy to resolve.

13. Where do rights come from?

Murray Rothbard, bitch; read the fucking book.

14. How can there be no objective evil, but religion causes it?

Follow this link.  See that border collie on the sidebar?  That’s the expression I’m giving you right now.

First you ask me two or three questions that assume I embrace the concept of objective evil, then you ask me a question that assumes I don’t.  That’s pretty classic mindfucking.  I’m not leaving you alone with my drink, because I can’t remember ever liking the taste of Rohypnol.

15. Why are there no good reasons to believe atheism is true?

Because positions on matters of faith aren’t amenable to “good reasons”.  Didn’t I cite Kierkegaard way back up there sixteen hundred words ago?

Seriously.  Words.  Read them.

(I apologize to all y’all religious folk reading this blog post.)


6 Responses to “It’s half-assed quiz time”


  1. 1 mac
    December 6, 2012 at 21:24

    Excellent identification of ‘begging the question.’ I need to use those examples when explaining the concept. Now if I could only convince the rest of the world that it isn’t synonymous with ‘raising the question.’

    Also, I didn’t realize there were memes that trolled you.

  2. December 8, 2012 at 06:34

    (I apologize to all y’all religious folk reading this blog post.)

    A fella would have to have a pretty thin skin to need an apology after reading this.

    I think your post is way more logical and well thought-out than what you’re replying to, fwiw.

    ~brian


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