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Update!

Hey everyone. Just wanted to let you know that I have updated the About Mind Conscious section of the blog. I thought that my readers would appreciate learning a little bit about me so I just wrote down a quick little paragraph that is a little more personal about me rather than just what the point of this blog is. I hope you enjoy.

Coming Soon!

I am currently in the works on two blogs (I am not sure which will be posted first). The smaller of the two is under the working title Atheist in your Heart of Hearts and my big project (as I consider it) is going to be called Free Will.

The first is working on the idea that many people, although religious, show many signs of having no true belief in God. Free Will is going to discuss… well, free will. After a lot of pondering, and critically analyzing different ideas, I think I am finally ready to tackle this topic and expect it to be both controversial and very interesting.

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Recommended Books

I will continually update this list which contains some books that I have read, books that I am reading, and books that I am soon to read. I hope this guides you to some books that spark your interest. Enjoy ūüôā

The God Delusion

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Magic of Reality

Climbing Mount Improbable

The Moral Landscape: How Science can Determine Human Values

Free Will

Lying

The End of Faith

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing

The Grand Design

The Quantum Universe

The Dhammapada

Against the Grain

Almost two months ago, Russel and Brandi Bellew were sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to negligent homicide in the death of Brandi’s biological son, Austin Sprout. The family belongs to the General Assembly and Church of the First Born. Being members, they believe in “faith healing”, based on a passage in the book of James. With this faith healing belief, when their son was in need of medical attention, they¬†chose to pray rather than seek medical attention for their son.¬†Many atheists are not satisfied with the ruling given to the parents. Many atheists¬†seem to think that¬†this was too lenient and that these people deserved jail time by means of serving justice. Unlike many atheists, I¬†agree with the original punishment.

Many who read this, especially atheists, may¬†have dropped their jaw at the fact that¬†I don’t wish for a harsher punishment¬†on this family. One of the problems I see when in discussions with atheists is we have a tendency to seek vengeance on the religious, and when something like this shows up in the news, we will unleash our fury. I believe that the fury can sometimes be misdirected however, and it leads us to wish for things like parents being¬†sentenced to prison in situations like this.

One of the things that¬†keeps me from¬†agreeing with the atheists’ response to this¬†story¬†rests on my belief in free will, or should I say lack of belief. I don’t believe we have free will (and yes¬†I plan to write about this eventually). I believe that our actions are the result of prior causes¬†that influences the choices we¬†make. These choices, one would come to realize, are made before we are consciously aware of them (I will digress from the free will talk here and leave further¬†description in a later post). From these beliefs, I look at the intentions of an individual. This is where my mercy towards the Bellews arrives.

Something that must be realized is that Russel and Brandi Bellew did not intend to kill their child. They truly believed with all their heart that prayer would heal their child and that their faith would prevail. These people are not dangerous to society, in that they are not psychotic murderers. Aside from this belief they hold, which is dangerous in reality, they have no intentions to hurt anyone. This is why the punishment that they did receive suits their actions so well. In compliance with their probation, they are to notify a doctor whenever any of their remaining six children is sick for more than one day. The only people who were in danger, though remember that this danger is unintended, are now protected under this probation requirement. Something that I would like to add here is that I am unaware of the ages of the children and would hope that their youngest child is at least 13. I think they should be required to report to a doctor until their children are adults.

This is what I believe is to be the purpose of our justice system. Though I do not believe it is always about justice. It is about the safety and well-being of the people. This family does not intend to kill. Their beliefs however have made them a liability, and thankfully, their punishment alleviates the problem.

Beyond the family however, there are some glaring problems with which I am probably back in line with my fellow atheists. My anger lies with the church. As stated in the article that I link you to above, the church leaders and members have been taught that if you seek medical sources for healing, you are going against God. This pressure that is placed on the families, who sadly believe this garbage, put themselves, their children, and many others of which they have an influence, in danger. Again, nobody (I hope) intends to hurt anyone, but this church and those of the like have become a liability.

This shows some problems in the constitution with regards to separation of church and state. It is this that allows a church to demand of its followers to not seek medical treatment, but only to seek prayer to heal. This is where the problem really lies. This is where we need to direct our attention. I think this shows that if we can sometimes set aside our differences, look at what is, and find the real solutions to the real problems, we will take another step towards progress and a better society.

A Moral Atheist

Throughout the history of man. Religion has held the most important questions in life hostage.¬†One of the most important topics that has not been able to escape the grip of todays’ religions is¬†morality. This is not always religions¬†fault however. Society today¬†will shy away from the important questions in life, as most people seem to feel inadequate or¬†not in touch spiritually enough in order to answer these¬†complex rooted questions.¬†It is reasons like this that our¬†world will leave it to the religious leaders to tell us how we should behave, what is morally right, and what is morally wrong. It is here in this post that I take a stand against religion.¬†I will show that religion not only lacks the answers, but no longer has the right to be given the responsibility. We are no longer in need of the aid of stone age¬†books and the delusional leaders force feeding us the answers. Because they are wrong.

Outgrowing Religion

What people may lack when faced with the deeper questions of life is the confidence to pursue enlightenment. True enlightenment. The answers that we are all looking for do not lie in old books written by sheep herders, but in the findings of science, the understanding of what is, the forward discussions of honest and compassionate intellectual thought, and the lessons that we can gather from these practices.

We are an intelligent society. Technology has allowed us to literally find the remnants of the big bang. We understand physics at a particle level and beyond. With each branch of science, one can find an ocean of knowledge, an ocean filled by the progressive minds that devoted their life to a passion of learning and understanding. We are a people who could correct every flaw in a book that today far too many still rely on to live joyously. It is when people understand this fact that progress will come.

Defining Morality

Somewhat cliché, but it must be done here. Morality (Moral is essentially defined the same) is defined in the dictionary as conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct. After reading this, I am sure that like me, you thought that this is far too vague a definition. However, people have seemed to relish in the vagueness of this definition of morality. The idea that it applies to each person differently, morality is subjective rather than objective is what many find appealing. While this may be true in certain specific (and typically unimportant) scenarios, this idea is false as it will typically be built on a selfish foundation that holds no tangible meaning.

As someone who holds much of my passion in the world of science, I think we would be better served, as a whole, with a more concrete definition that doesn’t allow vagueness to harbor immoral activities as moral. Perhaps my favorite philosopher, who also wears the hat of a neuroscientist, Sam¬†Harris, attacks this subject as well as anyone could in his book¬†The Moral Landscape.¬†If you choose to read it, you will come to find that I agree with his view on morality just about 100 percent. In this book, he does what I believe was the biggest necessity in taking morality out of the firm grip of religion by defining it in a way that actually cuts to the core of what we all have known to be true morality.

With the readings of Sam Harris, I firmly pass on this definition of morality. Morality is based on the well-being of conscious creatures.¬†As a sunrise brightens a dark room, many questions of morality become more clear. Now it¬†is worth being said that morality is still a very difficult subject. There are many moral scenario’s one can present that take minutes, hours, days, weeks, and so on to solve, and even from here some are not solvable with the limited knowledge we have. Nonetheless, with a clear definition, there is a ground to walk on, and I think that many will realize, it is the ground they were walking on all along.

A Moral Atheist and an Immoral Theist

I now find myself surprised¬†that Christianity (at least for the majority of the population) claims to hold the answers to morality. They also present morality as a cornerstone to their religion, almost as though the religion is based around their moral beliefs. This is¬†clearly untrue.¬†Through reason, atheists establish morality, whereas reason is not a factor in the morality of the religious. It is what God says that is moral. This is why the religious can justify the slaughter of the hundreds¬†of thousands, they can justify¬†racism, sexism, and, on the forefront in today’s society, the suppression of the homosexuals. This is the eyesore¬†in society. Religion is not concerned with the well-being of conscious creatures. They are only concerned with what¬†their God demands.

Take, yet again, an even closer look into the religions that have effected all of our lives and something becomes clear. Morality is but a minor byproduct of the religion itself. Regardless of the fact that their morality is poor, the importance of their morality is virtually nonexistent. Morality is not what is important in religion, what is important is worship. The subservience to an all-powerful being. Bowing to him and giving your life to him is all that matters. Deeds pay but a minor tip in the rewards that God would offer in the after life. Take this example for instance. An atheist could give to charities, doing all they can to help the sick, the hungry, and even helping animals and so on and so forth. This atheist could be all that one defines to be good, but if he does not believe in God, does not bow to God, does not worship God, this man is doomed to hell. What kind of message does this send? Your good deeds truly play almost no role in the reward of everlasting life. The byproduct that it is can be seen when presented with a psychopath that believes in God, an immoral theist one could say. Many of the faithful may claim that he is doomed for hell. This may be a true statement, but all this psychopath must do is accept Jesus, or ask for forgiveness, and his immoral life is rewarded. Why? Because he worships God, and that is all that really matters.

Conclusion

The religious have fooled the world. They have maybe even fooled themselves. The religious powers claim they hold the key to morality. The truth does not exist in that claim. Morality is something that requires reason. Answers to moral dilemmas cannot be found in ancient texts that promote slavery, slaughter, and many more atrocities. Morality¬†is an illusion in religion,¬†which is made all the more clear by my¬†“moral atheist” analogy. At the end of the day, it is not one’s works that send him or her to heaven, it is the worship and subservience to God.¬†There is one thing that many will agree religion does not hold the key to, and that is the key to reason. That key is held¬†by us, the atheists. We embrace reason because it is perhaps our most precious treasure. With reason, we can truly establish a morality that is unlike, and far greater, than any morality¬†told to us before it. We hold the key to morality. Not the religious.

Theism vs. Deism

Because the majority of my posts will be an effort in persuading the believers of some God. I thought this may be a good time to make a distinction between my thoughts on deism and theism.

My arguments are geared primarily¬†towards theists. The reason for this is deism is almost too vague to really argue. One can hear the theory of a deist and the only reply we can probably muster is; “Maybe, I guess.” Typically, the arguments of a deist, even if they were to be right in the end, are unsatisfying to think about with the information we have today.

This does not mean that I think theists have a stronger argument. Theists’ arguments are just intricate enough for skeptics like me to be critical. The standard argument from a deist would be something like; “I believe that there was an ultimate creator who set the constants to the necessary values in order for life to develop. This creator has no abilities to watch us, nor does he care to, and he isn’t all-knowing, or all-powerful.” Other arguments will assert that this god is essentially a scientist, and the universe is a science experiment, or aliens came to earth and laid down the¬†essential elements for life to prosper. Again, all that one can say is, maybe, and ultimately leaving their hypothesis with no weight when you retort; “What evidence do you have that would suggest this?”

Like I said, this does not mean that theists have a stronger argument. I personally think that it is more likely that we are a science experiment, rather than pawns in God’s “perfect” plan. The argument of deists is simply unsatisfying and rather shallow with what we know right now, so the conversation isn’t really worth having (yet?) in my opinion.

So when I am being critical, my points of attack are geared towards theists. Those who believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful being. While I believe that even this debate has an obvious answer, there are enough people who disagree with me, and have rather entertaining arguments, that keep me excited and willing to post my thoughts on the matter. I will probably always enjoy this debate.

– MC

A Word of Wisdom

Since I usually take my time between posts, I thought I would make my site worth coming to more often by trying to post some quick thoughts between posts. I don’t know how often I will do this, but I hope to maybe have one or two small posts between my larger concepts that I wish to discuss. So for my first of hopefully many short posts to come, I would like to talk about an article that my wife showed me that played the catalyst in my thoughts on the effects of Christianity.

Some of you already know that I was raised around many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as was my wife. In fact she was engulfed in the church. With this history I have had a special bone to pick with Mormons¬†ever since I was a young lad. For those of you unaware with the church’s teachings, there is something within the church known as The Word of Wisdom.¬†In the word of wisdom, I believe verses seven and nine in the link, their interpretation is that caffeine is to be consumed sparingly. They make it a little more intricate than that however. They virtually forbid coffee, tea, soda, and other drinks of the sort. I honestly have not met a single Mormon (and I have met hundreds, upon¬†knowledge of thousands)¬†that drinks coffee or tea, and tea is actually the central topic of this post.

My wife directed me to this article here which talks about the well-known scientific understanding of the benefits of green tea. The focus of the study in the article is on EGCG, a main ingredient in green tea. Studies show that this ingredient aids in the making of neural progenitor cells, which are like stem cells, and the most direct effects were in spacial memory. Further testing showed that EGCG plays a direct role in the development of these cells.

How I tie this into the failure of the word of wisdom is that these findings would have been impossible in a world ruled by the Mormon faith. They didn’t turn to science, they turn to voices that the powerful hear in their heads. The stubbornness will grow even more obvious as I am almost certain that this article would do nothing in¬†changing the minds of the Mormon¬†faithful.

There is also blatant evidence here that they are not truly inspired by God. For if they were, they would already have known of the benefits of tea, and therefore would have never discouraged the use. I know this is small with regards to the entire religion, but when one claims to be inspired of God, you have absolutely no room for error.

Lastly, I would like to stress what a great example this is of the hinderance religion is to society. In a world¬†controlled by religion, we could still find ourselves close to the dark ages in many respects, especially medicine. Science, learning, and¬†honest discussion¬†is how we progress. Reading the same books written by ignorant minds of the past for hundreds of years leaves you, well… In the past.

-MC

The Probability of God

What is more likely: That the laws of nature have been suspended in your favor, and in a way that you approve, or that you’ve made a mistake?

Christopher Hitchens

I chose this quote by Hitchens, utilizing a portion of David Hume’s quote when discussing the probability of miracles, because I think it does a really good job of expelling the idea that miracles, or God, is more likely in¬†any occasion. This¬†belief in¬†actual miracles is sadly¬†a very popular one. People seem to have this notion that if things are really difficult to explain, then the most logical conclusion is to put it into the hands of God. What I plan to do here is show that this in fact makes matters worse for those who do not like the idea of things being “too complex.”

Before looking at some of the most “convincing” arguments that theists believe they have when attempting to¬†prove that God is the more logical answer to the more difficult questions of life (primarily, our existence). I would like to turn to the widely known, Pascal’s Wager.

Pascal’s Wager

For many theists,¬†Pascal’s wager can be one’s¬†strongest argument. At a glance, the argument¬†appears logical, looking at the different avenues one can take, weighing the pro’s and cons, and¬†finally coming¬†to the conclusion that God is clearly the best decision to make.¬†I believe that the logical¬†mirage attracts many theists because if it makes logical sense to them, then they¬†think that it will appeal to skeptics, or at least leave us speechless. Both assumptions are incorrect.

Let’s look at the wager now before moving on;

Pascal’s Wager:

1. God is, or He is not.

2. You must wager, it is not optional.

3. Let us weigh the gain and the loss of wagering that God is. If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing.

4. Wager then, without hesitation, that He is. There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and loss, and the infinite to gain.

As I hope people can quickly see, there are some obvious missteps in logic here, and off the cusp, I do not direct my critical thoughts towards Blaise Pascal, as I can see how in his time, one could be limited to a world view that would make this argument logically air tight. I am critical of those today that choose this argument. I hope in my proving this wager illogical, and therefore irrelevant, that it will inspire those who believe they have other strong arguments to be truly critical of their arguments because in the end, we will all be better off.

Let me begin the “disproof” here. God is, or He is not. This statement is true, but not completely. I will return to it soon.

You must wager. This statement is also true. In fact, it is probably the only 100% true statement.

The wager goes on to say: Let us weigh the gain and the loss of wagering that God is. If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. This is where everything needs to be stopped as everything crashes down on this wager. What¬†is the gain if God is? Well, assuming you not only wagered that God is, but you wagered that the correct¬†God is. We cannot forget that there have been thousands of God’s in history. One could even eliminate the majority leaving us with the God of the Muslims, Jews, and Christians. But wait a minute, all of these God’s¬†are kind of¬†the same one as they all branch off from Abraham in the old testament. And now it is all the more complex. You may wager on the correct God, but even then, you must be on the same¬†page as this God (i.e. being Christian doesn’t help if God is a Muslim,¬†and vice versa). And then we can look at the different sects of Christianity (and be aware that this is just Christianity). Some of these sects claim that if you aren’t part of their version of Christianity, you might as well be an atheist – in that you’re going to hell. This is why the first statement of the wager is not completely true. One does not simply have a 50-50 shot but in some cases, the odds of selecting the correct God is as likely as winning the lottery. In a quick search I made, it can be argued that your odds are at best somewhere in the ballpark of 1 in 102,000,000,000.¬†Now,¬†imagine that you have¬†chosen the correct God. With the points I have made above, one can¬†relate this to¬†choosing the correct lottery numbers and going to collect your winnings, only to find out that the numbers are not in the correct font. That is the kind of situation that we are setting when wagering for or against God.

So if one wishes to take those odds on, what is the loss if you are wrong? To say nothing is absurdly incorrect. One will most certainly lose the opportunity to experience reality to the fullest. They will lose the opportunity to live this life as though it is the only one they will ever have in the infinity of everything. And I must add that of the infinity, our existence is but a spec of a spec of a spec. I believe that without this belief, one cannot fully experience love, beauty, happiness, passion, or a life anywhere near its full potential; Thereby rendering the fourth statement irrelevant. For if you choose that there is a God, and there is not, you have lost the only life you will ever have in the infinity of everything.

The Beauty of the World

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

Douglas Adams

One of the primary reasons that people believe in God is that when they look out at everything around them, they see so much beauty that they believe that there must be a God behind the beauty. This extends out into the night sky. When one looks at the stars, the beauty can take one’s breath away. This almost becomes an illusion of a painting, as though they begin to believe that God painted the night sky, or everything beautiful around them, for they themselves. This is merely a sign of ignorance.

People tend not to enjoy studying the findings of science, especially the religious, and what this leads to is a narrow view of everything around them. From here, when in search of answers to what they observe, their conclusions are, perhaps as should be expected, simple, but above all, incorrect. This leads me to the next argument that any theist may use when discussing the likelihood of God, which is that everything on this earth and out into the universe is so beautiful and orderly, and therefore complex, that there must have been some intelligence behind it. Again, this is an argument that was not completely thought out.

It appears to me when I look at this argument, that theists once again show a poor habit of coming up with an idea, and if this idea fits into the reality in which they wish to live, they make the mistake of assuming it correct, and from there, critical analysis of the idea lies dormant. What the theist does not realize that they are saying is, “This universe is so complex, that it could not have come from nothing. God must have created the universe and everything within it.” This confuses me. Too complex? Okay then, if this is too complex then one certainly cannot believe in God.

If you believe that the universe is too complex to come from nothing, then how can you believe that an all-knowing, all-powerful being can come from nothing? You have made things even harder on yourself. If the retort is that God is outside of space and time, that is simply a cop-out statement because you obviously don’t understand what space and time is if you are going to say that.

Lastly, the scientific explanation actually follows your wish of being less complex. We see the universe go from complete anarchy, to being somewhat more stable. This all occurs simply through the laws of physics. Some hobby-level studying of the beginnings of the universe is not hard to come by. And if you are someone who has used this argument before, there is obviously enough interest there to research a little bit more. And thanks to the brilliant theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, one can read a very well written book on how in fact a universe can come from nothing.

Anthropic Principle

The anthropic principle is probably the strongest argument I’ve ever heard when in discussions with theists concerning the probability of God. This argument tends to involve the most numbers, which gives the illusion of being scientific, and at first glance can appear to discredit any ideas of a universe without the help of God.

The idea of the anthropic principle argument is that the fundamental constants of the universe appear to be perfectly fine tuned for life. The proposal then is, either nature happened to fall into this narrow range of constants, or an intelligent creator set these constants in order for life to flourish. In order to boast the side of God, numbers are given of the incredibly low probability of these constants being what they are by chance. From here, this fine tuning is implied to be evidence for God. This argument is strong in the sense that there are only a couple of things wrong with it. These incorrect points however, are critical to the argument being worth its weight.

Perhaps the biggest problem is the conclusion. What makes this problem worse is that from there, the argument can be deconstructed to nothing.

The claim that the fine tuning is evidence for God is completely incorrect. In a discussion I had with my brother, who has his degree in physics, we discussed what constitutes as evidence. Evidence, as we all should know, must be falsifiable. The constants are not falsifiable, and not testable, therefore not evidence. I can be more¬†critical about this. When we¬†observe something in nature, we make a¬†hypothesis about what we¬†observe and then test¬†predictions that are¬†made by the hypothesis. When one claims that the fine tuning is evidence for God, they are wrong in this claim, because the fine tuning is not a specific prediction of the¬†hypothesis that a creator is responsible for our existence. The reason why this is not a specific prediction is because the fact that we are all here means that there must be a “fine tuning”.¬†God does not determine the fine tuning, our existence¬†implies the fine tuning, and because we exist, this fine tuning could never be falsified.¬†And the fact that the¬†fine tuning¬†cannot be evidence for God pulls away the foundation for the entire argument,¬†rendering it worthless when trying to prove God’s existence.

Conclusion

I hope that I have shown that when discussing the probability of God, there is no longer a debate. God is an ancient idea that has been recreated over and over again by an ignorant past that lacked the resources that technological advancement, and brilliant minds have granted us. We need not be shackled by the words of the ignorant. There is a beautiful, awe-inspiring reality waiting to be discovered by each and every one of us. Looking at the probability, there probably is no God, and that is a great thing.