Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Stupid! It Burns! (plethora of stupidity edition)

the stupid! it burns! Borrowing From Atheists - Part1 - Naturalism:
In fact, it was Richard Dawkins who said he would not be an atheist were it not for the theory of evolution.
Christians seem all too often not bothered by the whole "making up facts" thing. Although Dawkins said precisely the opposite (in the introduction to The God Delusion), evolution is pretty damn nifty.
Naturalism has invaded the planet like a disease and made men into wimps and women into sex objects without any real connection to their divine purpose and assignment.
And naturalism borrowed my car and didn't fill up the gas tank!
In a survey conducted for Mike Shoesmith's book "The Atheists are Wrong" one hundred percent of the atheists said they would eat another person to stay alive. This 1 - is not surprising and 2 - makes them cannibals by their own admission.
So... the whole point of Christianity is make sure that the Donner Party would have starved? Can't do without that.
By blindly believing the theory of evolution in spite of the plethora of researchers who have discovered mountains of evidence opposing it you have decided to borrow from the atheists.

Of course, whether the evidence actually does support evolution is (at least) a topic of controversy. Again, just assuming you've won a contentious (heh) debate is not really the acme of intellectual honesty.

More importantly, deciding propositions on the basis of evidence is naturalism. Simmons, in his inaccurate, dishonest, egregiously stupid way, is himself borrowing from naturalism. A True Christian™ would never stoop so low as to even bother considering evidence: scripture ought to be enough to settle the issue by itself, n'est ce pas?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Presently and absolutely undetectable gods

In Strong atheism, two of the classes of definitions of god were absolutely undetectable deities and presently undetectable deities. Commenter Ben Wallis argues that these two classes of definitions render strong atheism untenable because "we cannot speak to the probabilities of deities in general." Ben argues that the definition of essentially undetectable is not, strictly speaking, meaningless, because the existence of an absolutely undetectable deity matters to a deity itself. Wallis argues that in a similar sense to the Bertrand Paradox, we cannot rigorously and unambiguously define the probability of any presently undetectable deity existing. Since we cannot rigorously definite the probability of a presently undetectable deity existing, it is unwarranted to hold any kind of probabilistic belief; weak atheism or agnosticism is presumably the preferred position.

While I don't entirely agree with him, I don't think Wallis is really that far wrong. The undetectable deities are already in the grey area of philosophical hair-splitting; the distinction between strong and weak atheism with regard to undetectable deities is similarly a matter of very fine, hair-splitting distinctions. New Atheism is primarily a political and social movement, and the only definitions that have political and social implications are the detectable, paranormal definitions (which I would assert, contra Wallis, encompasses Yahweh, Jesus and Allah). No actual believer talks about a perfectly deistic god who passively observes the world, and no one actually believes in a scaredy-cat god who's hiding behind the couch. Since the real debate is just about detectable gods (and what, precisely, we mean by "detectable"), we're not giving up any important ground to simply declare weak atheism and agnosticism regarding undetectable gods while still maintaining strong atheism regarding detectable gods.

I do, however, enjoy splitting hairs as much as the next philosopher, so I want to address Wallis' arguments directly.

Wallis argues against strong atheism with regard to to presently undetectable gods by invoking the Bertrand Paradox, which argues that it is possible to have mutually exclusive definitions of "random" that definitely give different answers to questions of probability. But one outcome of a careful examination of the "paradox" is that we can add a qualifier to the definition of randomness — the "maximum ignorance" principle — that seems to categorically disambiguate competing definitions of random: we can consider only those definitions that satisfy the maximum ignorance principle to constitute "true" randomness. If we assume this qualifier, Wallis fails to rebut my original argument.

On another view, the Bertrand Paradox doesn't change our view. If there is some ambiguity in the determination of the probability of some hidden deity existing, the range is either large or small. if the range of probabilities is large, then the definition is too weak to actually name a concept about which anyone can have any sort of belief. If the range is relatively small (e.g. between 10-9 and 10-12) then the ambiguity is irrelevant: no matter what the actual probability is, all the probabilities are low enough to warrant disbelief. Just as science does not include absolute certainty in its definition of knowledge, neither does it include absolute precision.

One might form a definition of a deity for which there was sufficient precision to be coherent and encompass a range of probabilities sufficiently high to warrant at least agnosticism, but I have not yet seen such a definition. The best attempt I've seen so far is the Fine Tuning argument, which has been decisively rebutted in a number of ways.

Wallis' objection to the absolutely or essentially undetectable deity hinges on a particular metaphysical view of ontology and epistemology. The scientific metaphysical system is epistemically prior: scientific ontology is just the narrative of what the world must be like to account for our knowledge. All apparently differing narratives that account for the exact same body of knowledge are, by definition, exactly equivalent. For example, the ontological narrative of (parts of) General Relativity can be expressed in two seemingly different ways: on one view, objects themselves become distorted in a gravitational field; on another, objects retain all their properties, but space itself is distorted in a gravitational field. Although seemingly different, physicists have (I'm reliably informed) determined that these two narratives always have the exact same epistemic consequences, and are thus saying exactly the same thing.

When a pair of statements in conjunction equivalently describe our actual knowledge, it's notable that the alternatives are not inverses of each other. P and not-Q in General Relativity above is not the simple inverse of not-P and Q. (The inverse of P and not-Q is not-P or Q.) Holding them as mutually exclusive alternative formations does not entail any contradiction. We have a different situation, however, when a statement (even a compound statement) and its inverse are epistemically equivalent. In this case, admitting the meaning of the statement entails a contradiction: To say, for example, that God exists and God does not exist are epistemically equivalent statements is to say that P equals not-P. To avoid the contradiction, we have to deny meaning to P: it is a category error to call it truth-apt.

It is not the case that one must adopt an epistemically prior metaphysical system, but neither is it the case, I think, that one cannot reasonably adopt epistemic priority. If Wallis wants to adopt an ontologically prior metaphysical system, then he might find strong atheism untenable, but if he wants to argue that my adoption of strong atheism is unreasonable, then he must either argue that it is unreasonable under epistemically prior metaphysics or he must problematize epistemically prior metaphysics.

Strong atheism, while not necessarily a required position (although I think ontological priority is a much more problematic metaphysical concept than epistemic priority), is, I believe, a tenable position.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Measuring the Labor Theory of Value

For a while, I've been trying to put the abstract labor time on the price (Y) axis of the standard economic graphs, such as the Marshallian Cross (supply and demand graph). But I think this view is not correct. I think, rather, that we should put abstract labor time on the quantity (X) axis. The Y axis then represents the "hidden" utility. Our interpretation, then, changes from what is the marginal utility (price relative, c. p., to the prices of all other goods) of the q-th commodity (1,000,000th coat, 17th airliner, etc.) to the utility of the q-th labor hour devoted to the production of that commodity.

We can do this, I think, because the quantity of a commodity produced is a relatively simple function of the actual hours used to produce it. It might not be strictly linear — there are declining returns to scale — but it's still going to be monotonically increasing for the most part: the more hours we spending producing something, the more of that something we'll produce. It avoids a whole division step (hours to produce one commodity divided by hours to produce another) in creating production possibility frontiers and calculating opportunity cost.

The opportunity cost calculation becomes a lot easier now. The supply curve now has a very natural, obvious reason for sloping upward: For low quantities of labor used to produce some commodity, we are "stealing" labor time from the least valuable alternative commodities; as the quantity of labor increases, we must steal labor time from increasingly valuable alternatives. The macroeconomic interpretation, usually interpreted with real GDP on the X axis, then becomes directly a measure of employment; a recession is underemployment; inflation is (more-or-less) over-employment*; and optimal GDP is optimal, "full" employment**.

*Not too many people employed, but rather people employed making too many things that are unwanted.

**Note that modern economists' observation of "full" employment being between 4-5% includes structural, politically-motivated and -enforced unemployment of minorities and other marginalized groups. I'm coming to believe that the true Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU) is below 1%. In other words, a "5%" NAIRU is basically 0.5-1% unemployment among privileged groups (mostly white men) plus much higher political unemployment in other marginalized groups.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fairness and value

In his essay, The Income Gap: Is the Distribution of Money Fair?, Mark Thoma finds that the present unfair distribution of income is in at least some sense "unfair", and attributes the cause to failures of perfect competition. Thoma believes that unlike Marx's labor theory of value, the more modern marginal utility theory of value provides a satisfactory account that everyone — capitalists, landlords, and entrepreneurs as well as laborers — gets their fair share of economic activity. However, we can be assured of a fair distribution only if the assumptions of perfect competition actually obtain in real life, and Thoma believes that the real world does not even come close to embodying these assumptions. The cure, presumably, is an expanded role of government to enforce perfect competition and thus ensure fairness of outcome.

Thoma begins his article by drawing a sharp contrast between Marx's labor theory of value and the marginal subjective utility theory of value. I do not believe the contrast can be drawn so sharply: rather than contradicting one another, the marginal utility theory complements and expands the labor theory of value: The marginal utility just makes more explicit Marx's notion of socially necessary labor time*. The marginal utility theory is a theory about demand; we still talk about the supply in terms of total embodied labor**, some discounted from a previous accounting period. Even marginal utility theory still concludes that there is some specific amount of socially necessary labor time necessary to produce a commodity at equilibrium, where rising marginal cost of supply (in actual labor time) equals falling marginal utility of demand. Since these numbers are, by definition, equal at equilibrium, we can represent the not-directly-measurable subjective demand in terms of the directly measurable labor time that constitutes the actual cost of supply.

In Capital, Marx is not, I think, interested in giving a rigorous account of exactly what the socially necessary labor time actually is. It's going to be something and it's going to be measured in actual labor costs. What Marx considers important is that all commodities, including and especially labor power, will trade at this cost.

abstract labor time, which accounts for varying disutility of specific kinds of work and work environments: an hour spent in a sewer is, ceteris pariubus worse than an hour spent in an air-conditioned office.

Thoma does not want to talk about fairness per se — economics is descriptive, n'est ce pas, not normative — but he asserts that perfect competition leads to at least one kind of fairness: under perfect competition, everyone gets out of the national economy what they put in. It's important to understand, however, that under the marginal utility theory of value, this conclusion is at best true by definition. A central assumption of marginal utility theories of value is that value cannot be measured directly; we can draw conclusions about value only from the behavior of the market. If apples trade for $2.99/lb., then that's the only measurement we can ever have about the value of an apple... or at least the marginal value of the last apple sold. Likewise, we can measure the value of what a person puts into the economy only by measuring how much money they receive for doing whatever it is that they do: laboring, owning capital or land, or being all entrepreneur-y. And of course what a person gets out of the economy is defined directly by how much money they have received. We cannot independently determine whether or not perfect competition is actually fair; perfect competition in a free market is essentially one definition of fairness.

But Thoma seems wants to have his cake and eat it too. If perfect competition in a free market is an accurate and complete description of economics, then it is true whether we like it or not. If it is inaccurate or incomplete, then deciding whether or not to implement it is a normative question, not a descriptive question. If perfect competition is really true, then the distribution of income is perfectly fair right now; indeed any distribution of income is fair by definition. If perfect competition is not true, then Thoma is making a purely normative argument: we ought to create an economic system that either actually is or acts like perfect competition. But that would beg the obvious meta-ethical question: why should we implement perfect competition as a definition of "fairness"?

There are, I think, a lot of parallels between the discourse on economics and the discourse on religion. One prominent theme in religion is the debate — a legitimate debate between rational people of good will — over religious "moderates". Both sides oppose religious "fundamentalists". On one side are those who say that because religious moderates are indeed moderate, we should except their religion from sharp criticism: if our goal is moderation, then it doesn't matter how anyone gets there. On the other side — the side I prefer — are those who say that because both religious moderates and religious fundamentalists both use religion to justify their positions, and there is no rational, empirical way to judge between their differing uses of religion, the moderates in a sense philosophically support the fundamentalists. (It gets worse: granting foundational authority to the literal meaning of scripture, the fundamentalists seem to have a better case than the moderates.)

Similarly, the debate between "moderate" capitalist economists such as Thoma and capitalist "fundamentalists" turns in no small part on the non-empirical exegesis of classical economics. There's a lot more going on in economics, of course, than an intellectually honest examination of the foundations of capitalism. But the parallel still holds: capitalism, like any other social endeavor, has underlying ethical norms. At some point, distorting these ethical norms to the reality of modern society becomes untenable, and we must fundamentally rebuild them.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Real and financial economics

It's not just laypeople who make this error: Paul Krugman chides St. Louis Fed president James Bullard mixing up real and financial economics.

Yes... the president of the Federal Reserve regional bank of St. Louis doesn't understand the difference between actual physical things and the symbols that represent them. These are the people who end up making economic policy under capitalism.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Stupid! It Burns! (cranio-rectal inversion edition)

the stupid! it burns! Atheists – get your heads out of your asses.
I’m getting pretty damn peeved with the attitude that seems to be mainstream within the atheist groups etc as of late. They think themselves far superior to the poor, feeble minded little theists who’re blind and must depend on an imaginary friend to get them through life. Remind me, how exactly are they supposed to be any better? I never used to have any issues with atheists but they are now proving themselves to be just as bitter, closed minded, arrogant and downright condescending as those heavy, closed minded christians they despise!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Strong atheism

Strong atheism is the belief that no deity actually exists. To support this position, we have to consider several substantively different definitions, or classes of definitions, of "deity".

The first class, deity1, is the class of contradictory or meaningless definitions of "deity". We can safely affirm that no being exists with contradictory or meaningless properties. For example, the omnimax deity is either contradictory or meaningless because of the problem of evil. It is a contradiction that an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent deity would permit evil in the world. Alternatively, we don't know what evil is (we are mistaken in some mysterious way) or there is no such conceptual category as "evil"; in this case, "omnibenevolent" is meaningless. The omnimax deity is offered as an example; finding that some particular definition of deity is not in the class of deity1 does not rebut the idea that we can safely deny the existence of any deity1.

The second class, deity2, is the class of undetectable (i.e. "supernatural") deities. Again, we can safely deny the existence of any deity that is, by definition, completely undetectable. To affirm or deny the existence of such a deity is to say exactly the same thing about the world of experience. An undetectable deity entails its own subtle contradiction: it is exactly the same to say, "Deity2 exists," and to say "Deity2 does not exist."

The third class, deity3, is the class of presently undetected deities. These deities are only detectable under some special circumstances that do not (presently) obtain on Earth. These deities are detectable only after death, or are hiding behind the couch, or on Achernar III, or somewhere else presently inaccessible. The problem is that there are an infinite number of definitions in this class; the probability that any one definition is true, especially a definition that names a finite number of deities, is infinitesimal and warrants disbelief until evidence becomes accessible.

The fourth class, deity4, is, by definition, presently detectable, but strongly paranormal (contradicts our ideas about physics). The evidence presently available, by the definition of paranormality, argues against such a deity. Deities which are detectable only privately fit this definition, because private knowledge (about anything but the content of one's own mind) is itself paranormal. (Note too that having an unusual sensory modality is not private knowledge, since someone who has even a unique sensory modality can prove its existence to someone without it, rendering that modality public.) Of course, the evidence might be sufficient for us to revise our concept of normality, but so far all attempts have fallen flat. Given that human beings have been looking for such a deity for many thousands of years, the failure to find one is itself sufficient evidence to warrant belief that no such deity4 exists.

The fifth class, deity5, is, by definition, presently detectable and not strongly paranormal. This definition includes "God is everything that exists", or "God is the [human emotion of] love." In the atheists' view, a deity5 is no deity at all; the speaker is using metaphorical or figurative language, and we are not literary critics.

All classes of definitions have sufficient warrant for either disbelief, disinterest, or exclusion from consideration. We cannot, of course, be certain that none of these deities (except perhaps deity1), but the preponderance of direct and indirect evidence warrants strong atheism.

The definition of atheism

In "Defining Atheism: Examining the Atheists’ Case, " Albert McIlhenny gets at least one thing right: "Of course, the whole thing is quite silly." The issue is not what the definition of atheism "is", the issue is which of the different definitions to use in different circumstances.

The two most common definitions of atheism are: "a lack of belief in a deity" (sometimes qualified as "weak" atheism), as well as "belief there is no deity" ("strong" atheism). Both are applicable under different circumstances. If atheists were asking for social, political, or legal privilege, the second definition would be better: it would be inappropriate, for example, to insist on privilege if strong atheism were unjustifiable. If we want to explain the broadest definition that encompasses most people who self-identify as "atheist" (and no one is an atheist who does not intentionally and individually chose to apply the label to herself), weak atheism seems obviously preferable. One who believes there is no deity certainly lacks belief in a deity; all strong atheists are ipso facto weak atheists. So the weak atheism is preferable.

There are other circumstances, notably theists who want to position themselves as contra atheists. Such theists, I think, are better served by employing the weaker definition. The weaker definition is more general. If you can prove the stronger definition false or unjustifiable, you've said nothing about the weaker definition, and nothing about theism. If you can prove the weaker definition false or unjustifiable, however, not only does the stronger definition falls automatically, but the case for theism is definitely strengthened.

Strong atheism is also equivocal without further qualification. What does the strong atheist mean by "deity"? "Deity" is itself an ambiguous, equivocal term. There's no help for that — natural languages are fundamentally equivocal — but it does mean that anyone addressing the subject must carefully avoid straw man fallacies and fallacies of equivocation. Even the strongest atheist does not claim that God is definitely not hiding behind the couch. (A strong atheist such as myself argues that a being who can hide behind the couch, or on Achernar III, is by definition not a deity.) Weak atheism is also equivocal, but the equivocation is almost irrelevant. I certainly lack belief in particular concepts and constructions of "deity" about which I'm ignorant; unlike strong atheism, which requires a lot of unspoken qualifications, weak atheism can stand on its own. Arguing against weak atheism is not only more directly probative of theism, it avoids all sorts of argumentative pitfalls that can derail a discussion.

If you want to talk about strong atheism, do so by all means. But if you do, you're going to end up talking about epistemology, ontological commitment, the ethics of knowledge claims, etc. In other words, you'll be doing philosophy. Philosophy is not about the search for answers, it is the exploration of questions. Strong atheism is one interesting starting point for the exploration of questions; it's a bad place, however, for the search for any definite answers.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Stupid! It Burns! (MRA edition)

the stupid! it burns! Weird, eh? an MRA saying something stupid. Yet here it is:

Why are atheists so religious?
The problem I have with atheists is that they are too religious. Yes, I mean that literally. For when you wipe away all the bombastic bellowing about empiricism and the strident mocking of those who choose a life of faith, what you are left with is a population of people that surrender their reason and cognition as though they were at gunpoint; that hit their knees as fast as any worship at the altar of feminism. ...

In the rank and file of vocal atheists ... what I have found is a culture of indoctrinated clones, with no more discernment of fact and fiction than you would find at a Branch Davidian revival. Indeed, they are so ideologically rigid that the only things these people are missing are shaved heads, tambourines and two weeks without a shower.

At least the metaphor is good.

Atheism and "faith"

Sigh... It's really depressing. Yet again, someone raises an argument that's been raised and rebutted at least twelve years ago (when I started discussing religion on the Internet) and probably much earlier. And it's such a stupid argument, one that is easily dismissed. In his essay, "Atheists and the F-Word," David Lose redefines "faith" as something unobjectionable, outside the realm of what atheists criticize, and uses this redefinition to criticize atheists. Lose wants us to take a "broader view of faith." Our values, according to Lose, are not empirical facts, nor can they be scientifically proven from the facts; therefore we hold our values by faith: "Any construction of a system of values demands at least a modicum of faith, the assertion of and belief in some grounding principles that cannot be objectively and rationally established." As a philosopher, I would dispute Lose's construction — objectivity is gratuitous; we can rationally establish subjective truths, truths about our own minds — but as a New Atheist, I say that even if Lose were entirely correct, he is talking about a topic that has nothing to do with the New Atheist critique of religion and faith.

The title of the essay, referring to "faith" as "the F-Word", gives us a clue as to where Lose goes wrong. Atheists are not against words, we are against specific ideas. Like most people who use natural language, we use words to denote ideas; like most people who use natural language, we understand that words are equivocal: they can denote many different ideas. The argument where different senses of a word are used in different places to construct an invalid argument is so common it has its own name: the fallacy of four terms. Lose's essay does nothing more than expand this fallacy to an entire essay.

Indeed, the sort of faith New Atheist writers argue against is opposite to Lose's construction. We do not argue against values that cannot be "objectively and rationally established." We argue against the idea that values can be objectively and rationally established by grounding them in a supernatural deity, either directly or indirectly through scripture. Some atheists argue that values, even fundamental values, can indeed be objectively and rationally established without a supernatural deity; some atheists, such as myself, argue that values are subjective facts, facts about minds, that are directly perceptible through introspection, and that social ethical systems are the result of negotiation, compromise, and persuasion among individuals who have values. We are united, however, in believing that it is illegitimate and irrational to ground or substantiate any values, good or bad, in the properties, character, or opinions of supernatural deities.

Critics of atheism and the New Atheists seem unable or unwilling to engage the fundamental New Atheist argument, an argument made so often, in so many different ways, that the failure is simply astonishing. Our argument is simple: there is no God, so trying to attach anything to this delusional fantasy is a Bad Idea. We do not argue against everything that has been attached to the delusional fantasy; if Lose wants to attach good humanistic values to his idea of God, we're not going to object to the values. We will, however, say not only that you don't need to attach these ideas to God, but also that attaching them to God undermines the critique of people who attach bad ideas to God. We argue against the attachment itself, not what is attached.

Lose's essay is one reason atheists tend to employ mockery and derision. Lose's fallacy is obvious, hoary, oft-repeated and oft-refuted. Indeed, every critique of atheism and the New Atheists I read is just as intellectually bankrupt, at best based on common, obvious fallacies and at worst packed full of lies and bullshit. Religious apologists and excuse-makers seem to be willing to say anything, however obviously fallacious; their goal seems to be simply to throw everything at the wall, over and over, and hope something sticks. What they cannot achieve by rationality they hope to attain through sheer bloody-minded persistence. The religious appear to be impervious to reason, so I despair that an intellectual, elevated, refined, or dispassionate conversation can even begin to address the problem of religion, one of the most pervasive root causes of evil in the world.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Motes and beams

The thesis of Frank Furedi's article is right in the title: "How atheism became a religion in all but name." He starts with a provocative tag: "It was only a matter of time before someone proposed an ‘atheist temple’, given the religious-like zealotry and dogma of the New Atheists," followed by some examples of historical oppression an marginalization of atheists. Furedi reports that, today, however, atheism has become respectable, and has thus "paradoxically" become transformed. Atheism is, according to Furedi, no longer an "insignificant" component of its adherents' overall identity and personal philosophy; atheism per se has become a central intellectual idea. Atheists have consequently adopted the worst features of the religious, the very characteristics of religion that we criticize. Like the religious, Furedi claims that atheists have adopted a "dogmatic, polemical style," a "black-and-white" moral outlook, and make claims that "often verge on the irrational and hysterical." Atheism has, according to Furedi, simpoly transformed the religious narrative into a medical narrative, which he believes explains the purported atheist double-standard towards nonreligious woo. Atheism become not only "a secular religion" but also "an intensely intolerant and dogmatic secular religion." Indeed, Furedi believes that the "moral disorientation of Western secular culture," to which modern atheists are presumably substantively contributing, is a greater threat to humanism than is religion. Furedi, however, gets almost every point completely wrong.

First, I'm mystified by Furedi's treatment of Alain de Botton’s ridiculous idea* of an "atheist temple." Since he mentions it in the tagline, as a reader I expect that Furedi will use this idea as an important piece of evidence to support his idea. Yet Furedi himself notes the "strong criticism" this idea has received from the New Atheists. Furedi also notes that de Botton is at least something of an outsider to the New Atheists, someone who is, in contrast to the New Atheist "canon", such as it is, not aggressive towards religion. It is incomprehensible that the idea of an "atheist temple", an idea that has been substantially rejected by New Atheists, an idea proposed by someone who does not self-identify as a New Atheism and who is not accepted as such by self-identified New Atheists, would prove that it was "inevitable that sooner or later the New Atheist crusade would mutate into a quasi-religion." Indeed, Furedi acknowledges the New Atheist response to Furedi's idea as a real counterexample: "But for all that..." Call me old-fashioned, but I've always thought that a writer must actually rebut a counterexample, not just, as Furedi does, mention and dismiss it.

*Rumor has it that de Botton has sensibly backed off from this idea.

Furedi erroneously accuses the New Atheists of a hypocritical selectivity. But the New Atheists are just selective in focus, not in opinion. No one can write about everything, and to a large extent, the New Atheists is just a label adopted by people who, in part, focus on criticizing religion. No one can address every problem; furthermore an individual's focus is determined not just by her subjective evaluation of the importance of a problem, but by other considerations such as personal importance as well as considerations of talent, personal interest, and expertise. Of course, New Atheists do criticize Eastern Mysticism. Deepak Chopra, for example, is a frequent target of criticism by self-identified New Atheists. New Atheists talk about a lot of subjects other than the three Abrahamic religions. I write about economics and politics. And many New Atheists criticize and condemn "alternative medicine", which seems to directly contradict Furedi's claim that the New Atheists support any old thing that employs "therapeutic" rhetoric. It's not sufficient to show that New Atheists rarely address some subject; to show a double standard you have to at claim that we actually support or make excuses for patently unscientific subjects.

(There is a conflict of sorts between the New Atheists and the larger skeptical community. That conflict, however, hinges on skeptics not wanting to discuss religion; it does not hinge on New Atheists wanting skeptics in general to focus exclusively on religion.)

In addition to mishandling the counterexample, Furedi makes several claims unsupported by any evidence. Where are the "irrational and hysterical" New Atheist claims? Where is its "doctrinaire language?" And without an example, I'm unable to determine what Furedi even means by the "dogmatic, polemical* style" of New Atheist writing. Without evidentiary support, Furedi seems to simply be poisoning the well before he attempts his only supported argument.

*"Polemic" formally means an argument against a position, in contrast to "apologia", an argument for a position. It's uncontroversially accepted that New Atheists tend to argue against religion. There are, of course, other, pejorative senses of "polemic", but without explanation or example, Furedi's specific meaning is impossible to determine.

Furedi's only supported argument for New Atheism becoming religious is the medicalized treatment of theistic religion. New Atheists "use the idiom of therapy to pathologize religion, using terms "such as 'toxic faith' and 'religious virus.'" Furedi notes that New Atheists refer to religion as an "addiction". All right; so what? Medicine is a terrific narrative framework for talking about social problems. It is perhaps the field of study that most obviously and powerfully expresses the intersections of scientific, evidence-based reasoning and direct human well-being. Furedi is not arguing against bad medicalization; he cites only medical rhetoric, not any faulty science. Even if Furedi were arguing directly against medicalization per se, the connection between a medical narrative and the specifically religious character of New Atheism is entirely absent: I'm aware of no religion — and Furedi does not inform us of any — that uses a medical narrative as an essential or important component. And unless Furedi wants to indict the medical profession itself as just as dogmatic, zealous and irrational as any theistic religion (in which Furedi would be talking about physicians, not atheists), noting the medical narrative of the New Atheists does not support but undermines his thesis.

Not only does medicine exemplify the same kind of scientific, empirical methods and humanistic goals as New Atheism, the medical narrative also encourages us to look — and look rationally — for treatments. Furedi claims the New Atheist medical narrative casts humans as "powerless, vulnerable and victims of their circumstances." But in general, medicine does not render people powerless; medicine empowers people. Cancer, for example, is not the punishment of a vengeful God, over which one has no control; it is a physical problem one can take power over using chemotherapy, radiation, etc. The medical narrative also helps people take power over addiction. Alcoholism is not the result of a moral failing or some vague weakness of will; it is caused by something in the brain, and it can be treated by learning to think in more-or-less well-defined ways. Again, if Furedi does not want to indict medicine itself for rendering people powerless and vulnerable, simply claiming that New Atheists use a medical narrative does not establish that we want to render people powerless.

As a self-identified New Atheist, I feel entitled to speak directly and with some authority about what New Atheism actually is and, more importantly, what it is not.

The New Atheist critique of religion is not and has never been about the fact that religious people have strong moral beliefs and advocate them vigorously. Every accusation of "zealotry", "fundamentalism", and "dogmatism" that I've seen has been directed towards the uncontroversial fact that New Atheists have strong moral beliefs, and we advocate them vigorously. Yes, we do indeed have something in common with religious people: we think we know what is good, and we actively promote it. New Atheists do not criticize the religion for thinking they know what is good; we criticize specific religious doctrines and people for being wrong about what is good, and we criticize most religious people for having a "bad" methodology for determining and justifying what is good. The same is true for physical facts. We don't criticize anyone just because they believe they know the truth; we criticize people, especially the religious, for believe that things to be true that are not not actually true (i.e. false or unprovable), and for having a "bad" methodology for determining and justifying what is actually true. And I'm not criticizing Furedi here because he believes the New Atheists are dangerous, I'm criticizing him because he's wrong, and especially because his arguments are so ridiculously poor.

It is neither dogmatic nor "fundamentalist", in our view, to advocate what one believes is the truth. We do not accuse the religious for being dogmatic just because they advocate what they believe to be true. What we do consider dogmatic is to believe or say that something is true "because I say so," because the Pope says so, because it was written in a collection of myths of an early Iron-age middle-eastern culture, because it is the (supposed) opinion of a 7th century warlord (however successful he might have been), because it is the claim of a charlatan with missing golden plates, or simply because the believer wants it to be true and wants everyone to agree. It is not fanaticism, in our view, to criticize a belief or say that it is false, however harsh or direct the language. We do not criticize the religious just because they criticize atheism. What we do consider fanaticism is to silence criticism, to place a topic — any topic — beyond the bounds of civilized discourse by using intimidation, threats, and actual violence.

The New Atheists, contrary to Furedi's assertion, do not simplistically equate religion with fundamentalism and fanaticism. Our critique, available to anyone with Google, is more subtle: the bad methodology of theistic religion makes it more difficult to argue against what we consider to be dogmatism and fanaticism. If it is legitimate to claim — without evidence — that God wants everyone to be happy, how is it illegitimate to claim — without evidence — that God wants gays, infidels, apostates, or especially women to suffer? Why is your private, revelatory knowledge better than his private, revelatory knowledge? The New Atheists simply say that because we have to rely on public knowledge — evidence about what actually does make promote happiness and alleviate suffering — to decide between competing claims of private knowledge, we can simply dispense entirely with the concept of private knowledge.

We may be many things, but we are not the sort of hypocrites and fools that Furedi calls us. Indeed, it is Furedi himself who is revealed as a hypocrite and a fool. Furedi believes he knows the truth (good for him), yet he condemns the New Atheists for nothing more than believing we know the truth. Furedi vigorously advocates strong moral beliefs (good for him), yet he condemns the New Atheists for nothing more than vigorously advocating strong moral beliefs. And his evaluation of the New Atheists' simplistic and inaccurate interpretation of religion as simplistic is itself unacceptably simplistic and inaccurate. I do not, of course, believe that the authors and compilers of the Bible were inspired by a mythical God, but neither do I believe they were fools; many were astute observers of human nature. So I do not feel the slightest bit of hypocrisy in quoting the Bible, Matt. 7:3: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Stupid! It Burns! (plausible scenario edition)

the stupid! it burns! I usually don't feature comments here, but this one is too good:
Plausible scenario: Ignorant person or small group converts to New Atheism and misinterprets the mockery and ridicule of Christians and Muslims as endorsement for actions of greater magnitude than mockery and ridicule targeting Christians and Muslims. Ignorant person then bombs a church in an attempt to impress New Atheists or to demonstrate his zealousness for the cause.

Here's another scenario, just as plausible as Grim's. Schizophrenic reads a coded message into this picture. He wishes to impress the shape-shifting lizard people who are secretly ruling the world, so he decides to dump 1,000 tons of fertilizer into the lobby of WKRP in Cincinnati. Clearly, lolcats is acting terribly irresponsibly in posting these sorts of pictures. Who knows what might happen!?

Good grief.

Don't Panic!

I have a new post on my other blog, The Accidental Tutor: Don't Panic!

The sky is falling

Aw... po' widdle Grimmy got his precious snowflake feelings hurt. A few words of advice, readers: I really am a giant asshole on the blog most of the time. I can do it, but it's a real struggle for me to address egregious stupidity calmly and logically. When I get just a reiteration of the original argument without substantively addressing any of the points I made in my criticism, I'm not going to continue the struggle.

Here's the deal. Grizwald Grim worries that somewhere, somehow, some self-described New Atheist might not make the distinction between mockery and violence. But that's a stupid worry. We live in a big world with a lot of people in it. We can't ensure that every person everywhere always acts sensibly and humanely. The same criticism applies to Grim, perhaps moreso: what if someone were to take Grim's words wrong and do something stupid? What if some nutjob were to take criticism of The Phantom Menace wrong and try to do something dumb to George Lucas? At least with atheist criticism, we can draw objective distinctions (no advocating violence, no criticism for ineluctable characteristics, distinguishing between the individual and the general/typical); I don't see any way to distinguish between "dangerous" and "benign" ideas according to Grim. The point is not that we must advocate violence; the point is that every activity might be dangerous.

The lack of priests, bishops, etc. also cuts both ways. Grim is correct: we can't authoritatively decide who is an atheist, or who is a New Atheist. We can't say, "Sorry, mate. You have two felony convictions. You can't get into the club." But neither can we set any authoritative standards as to what New Atheists say. There is no New Atheist authority that Grim can persuade to set standards of discourse. This lack of authority, though, is a net benefit. No, there is no authority to enforce "good" behavior, but neither is there an authority to organize "bad" behavior. I think the danger of the second is greater than the danger of the first. The New Atheists do what we can to mitigate the potential for violence: we don't advocate or justify violence, and we criticize people who do advocate violence. We support (to a point) the ordinary civilized institutions that mitigate violence: democratic laws, police, judges, prisons, etc. But just like everyone else, we cannot prevent every far-fetched hypothetical.

It's always chancy to speculate about motives, especially unconscious or covert motives. Still, the evidence is at least suggestive. Grim has never objectively defined "mockery". Grim has never presented any plausible scenario where our undefined (and probably undefinable) "mockery" would lead to any violence, much less violence that would not be routinely managed by ordinary civilized institutions. Grim actually disagrees with the substance of the New Atheist position, even though he has made no argument that our position is actually untrue. I can see no remedy for Grim's complaints other than that the New Atheists just shut up, that we just not say something that he disagrees with. And he making the same argument made by people who really do want to use violence to shut up critics of their misogynistic, anti-science, narrow-minded, and authoritarian religious institutions. Why is he protecting these institutions? It can't be the prevention of harm: he is protecting people who are doing real, actual harm right now on the basis that some unspecified type of criticism might do some potential, hypothetical harm in the indeterminate future. That argument is nonsensical on its face. I don't think Grim actually supports these institutions, though. Maybe Grim is just a garden-variety asshole who wants to shut up anyone who disagrees with him.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The first step

In his response to my post targeting and bullying, Grizwald Grim has new arguments against the New Atheists. According to Grim, the stupid behavior of religious people is just a consequence of there being a lot of religious people, and Grim claims that "promoting and defending mockery based on group membership is the first step [emphasis omitted]" towards death threats and violence against a group. Grim also believes that mockery implies that the group is inferior and less human. Finally Grim thinks that mockery is ineffective for the goal (which he seems to share) of reducing or eliminating the social privilege of religion. Given the context (I'd want to see more supporting detail in a college paper), Grim makes a decent argument, but he's mistaken on all counts.

The idea that the stupid behavior of religious people is an artifact of the size of the group seems insupportable in the face of the evidence. We have ample evidence showing a direct causal mechanism between religious belief and stupid behavior. Both The God Delusion and god is not great provide considerable documentation. Almost all opponents of GLBTetc. marriage and queer rights in general are religious, they make directly religious arguments for their positions, and explicitly state that not allowing them to discriminate is specifically religious discrimination. Almost all opponents of abortion and women's rights are religious with specifically religious justifications. (It's notable that while sexism and racism are rife in the atheist community, the response is usually to deny that it exists rather than attempt to justify it.) More importantly, we know independently that a lot of religious beliefs actually held by religious people are flat-out delusional. to a person who strongly values the truth, delusional beliefs can have nothing but deleterious effects. That religious stupidity is an artifact is a legitimate null hypothesis, but just as it's delusional to reject the null hypothesis without evidence, it's delusional to accept the null hypothesis in the face of persuasive evidence to the contrary.

The "first step" argument is nothing more than the slippery slope fallacy. To make a valid slippery slope argument, you must show that there is no good objective way to distinguish between deprecated and acceptable actions. But New Atheists make three important objective distinctions. First, we do not criticize people for ineluctable traits: we criticize people for holding beliefs, and beliefs are not ineluctable. Second, there's an obvious and very sharp line between mockery and criticism on the one hand and violence on the other: violence, threats of violence, and violent imagery.

The third distinction is a little more subtle. Grim is somewhat vague when he talks about "targeting". There are (at least) two legitimate interpretations of this term. In one sense, it just means choosing to criticize this person rather than that person just because the critic prefers to criticize one group rather than another. There's nothing wrong with this sort of "targeting": black people tend to target racism; women tend to target sexism; gay people tend to target homophobia. No one can criticize everything, so we generally tend to pick and choose based on our specific interests.

Second, it might mean mocking someone or drawing a conclusion about someone just because he adopts a label: "You call yourself a Christian, therefore you are stupid." Targeting in sense is not necessarily bad: I doubt anyone would object to mocking someone who calls himself a neo-Nazi, or drawing the conclusion that he's not at all fond of blacks or Jews, just because he adopts that label. However, given the broad application of most religious labels, this kind of behavior is inappropriate. But the New Atheists don't actually do that. There's a difference between making a negative generalization (supported by evidence and with a discernible mechanism) about a group and actually mocking people just because they belong to that group.

Indeed, it is precisely because it seems extremely difficult for a member of a group to separate generalizations about that group and personal mockery that Grim himself is on a legitimate slippery slope. It's easy, I think, for a Muslim to hear the criticism that Islam (as a religion) is generally sexist as the accusation that he personally is a sexist. It's easy to see mockery of some egregiously sexist action of an Islamic authority (impeccably supported by quotations from the Koran and Hadith) as mockery of the individual just because he self-identifies as a Muslim. "What!?" he exclaims, "I'm not a sexist!" Fine. If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. Just because I might believe, for example, that 80% of Muslims are sexist doesn't mean that I believe that 100% of them are in that 80%. (I might note that if they are not sexist, it's odd that they self-identify with a religion that seems to have sexism as such an integral part of the foundational documents, and where a majority of the adherents agree with that sexism, but that's a discussion for another day.)

I do the same thing: I take offense all the time when atheism is criticized. The difference, of course, is that I inquire as to whether the criticism is true. If it is, I get over myself, accept the criticism, and work to correct it. The question is not whether the criticism is pejorative, the question is whether it's true. And when I do express offense, it's not because the generalization is pejorative, but because it's untrue.

If Grim wants to argue the falsity of New Atheist generalizations about religion, let him make that argument. It's tough: you have to do actual research, but it's not impossible. But if Grim wants to argue that we simply should not give offense — defined only by the reaction of the listener — regardless of the truth, then he has certainly offended me, and he should — by his own lights — just STFU and GBTW. Pull down those mocking, offensive, disrespectful posts, Grim, which have deeply offended me and hurt my precious little snowflake feelings! Stop throwing stones at the New Atheist castle! If you don't, I'll come over and rearrange your furniture!

The Stupid! It Burns! (Thursday hat trick edition)

the stupid! it burns! A trio of stupid today!

What’s Going on with the Atheists?
If there was ever any doubt that Atheism is a belief system (rather than a factual system based on empirical proof), the Atheists, themselves, are removing any doubt. If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. Two unrelated stories were reported this week which clearly make the case.

First, a group of Atheists in England have proposed a 151 foot tower in London to celebrate “new atheism.” This tower is being proposed as a “Temple to Atheism.” Now why would Atheists need a temple?

The second story is the account of an upcoming Atheist rock festival at the Ft. Bragg military base called “Rock Beyond Belief.”

Atheistic Materialism’s Failure to Account for Enduring Personal Identity: Part II
One problem for strict atheistic materialism is its failure to account for enduring personal identity over time; since the body undergoes constant intrinsic material change.
It's so cute when idiots try to mimic the conventions of philosophy.

Top 10 Questions for Atheists
Here are some questions I have for the lowest of the low, the worst people, the most disgusting form of life, the most hateful of all human beings, the lowest possible form of existence – the atheist.

#10 – Do you take pleasure in telling lies or are you just so gullible that you believe any anti-religious lie you hear?
It just goes downhill from there.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The social value of religion

But from where I stand these days, the only thing I see religion doing in the public sector is gay bashing and telling women, mostly poor and desperate and in deplorable financial and personal situations, what to do with their bodies. I see busybodies deciding what drugs they can dispense to which customers, or deciding that they don’t have to issue a marriage license because of some petty deity that I don’t believe in told them to hate their fellow citizens and ignore the law. In a country in dire financial straits but still spending billions and billions of dollars on education, I see religious folks actively and openly working to make our schoolkids dumber. I see them shooting people who provided a medical procedure, and I see others rummaging through people’s personal lives to find out who hasn’t lived up the word of God. I see glassy-eyed fools running for President claiming that vaccines that save lives actually cause cancer, or that if you get raped and are pregnant, you should just lie back and think of Jeebus and make the best of a bad situation. In fact, everywhere you look these days, if Christianity or religion is getting a mention, it means something ugly is happening and someone somewhere is being victimized, marginalized, or otherwise abused. Go read some of the arguments against integration and you’ll see the same bible verses used today against homosexuals. Fifty years from now, they’ll be recycling them again to trash someone else they don’t like or who isn’t good enough for them.

John Cole

Read, as they say, the rest.

(via PZ Myers)

The Stupid! It Burns! (deluded polytheist edition)

the stupid! it burns! Stand Up to Militant Atheists in Public Society
Here is an irony about atheism: Atheists are self-deluded polytheists. ... In denying the existence of God, the atheist is saying wittingly or unwittingly that he is his own god. Since the atheist is his own god only those that have authority over him have nominal control of their life. ... Science is a deity because science is the knowledge fount for human understanding. ... [Thus] dogmatic/militant atheism has a stringent belief system that can easily be quantified as a set of religious values that denies the existence of a supernatural existence which for Christians would be God Almighty that is all and in all.

Tips for Tim Tebow


By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Tim Tebow, quarterback for the Denver Broncos in the National Football League, is being widely, and seemingly endlessly, promoted—as an icon not only in the realm of sports but much more broadly. I have followed sports, including football, for many decades now, and I cannot recall ever witnessing anything like this. In a highly orchestrated and concentrated campaign, Tebow is being held up as a “worker of miracles” on the football field but, more than that, as a “role model” and moral standard-bearer.
This hype around Tebow is completely and strikingly out of proportion to any demonstrated ability or actual accomplishments on Tebow’s part, in terms of performance as a professional football quarterback. If you have been paying attention not only to the arena of sports but to things more broadly in this society and the world, you should be able to quickly guess why this is: Tim Tebow is a religious fanatic—of the Christian fundamentalist variety—who aggressively promotes his medieval views and values in a way that is obviously considered useful by significant sections of the powers-that-be in the U.S. Among other things, during the Super Bowl (the American professional football championship) a couple of years ago, Tebow was the centerpiece of an ad whose purpose was to oppose the right of women to reproductive freedom, in particular abortion. The ad was sponsored by a right-wing Christian organization which aggressively opposes the right of women to abortion (it is also a fact, and highly revealing, that as a general rule the reactionary Christian fundamentalist forces that oppose a woman’s right to abortion also want to ban birth control).
This promotion of what is in reality a fascist outlook and program, in the form of fundamentalist Christianity, is aided by the notion—aggressively championed by some, and far too often unchallenged by others—that there is a direct connection between how religious someone is and how “moral” he or she is. Which avoids the critical question: What is the content of this morality? More specifically: What, in fact, is being promoted through the propagation of religious fundamentalism, including the kind of “Biblical literalism”—insisting that the Bible is the word of God which must be accepted as absolutely true, and as the standard for behavior, in every respect—with which Tim Tebow is associated? In reality, it is irrational, anti-rational ignorance and superstition—which denies well-established scientific fact, such as evolution, and is opposed to the scientific method and approach in general—as well as the insistence upon all kinds of reactionary, extremely oppressive and literally murderous values, social relations, and actions. And this is not something that should somehow be overlooked, excused, or minimized because Tebow works hard at being a quarterback (has a “good work ethic”) and supports religious charities (something reactionary religious fundamentalists often do).
Since one of the main ways in which Tim Tebow in particular propagandizes and proselytizes for his religious fundamentalism is through continual and prominent citation of verses from the Bible, I am offering the following tips for Tim Tebow, in terms of passages from the Bible he should cite and call attention to, in order to bring to light what is the actual content—the fundamental worldview, relations, values and morals—which are promoted, and indeed insisted upon, in the Bible.
  • Deuteronomy, Chapter 7; Exodus, Chapter 32; Numbers 31 (especially v. 13-18 and 31-35). These are just some of the passages in the Bible in which the God of this Bible insists that people who practice another religion, or who oppose or stand in the way of this God’s will, must be slaughtered and utterly destroyed—or, in the case of virgin women, raped and enslaved—without mercy.
  • Exodus 20:1-17 (this contains the Ten Commandments, with Commandment 10 of particular relevance); 1 Timothy 6:1-6; Ephesians 6:5-6; Colossians 3:22-24. Again, these are just some passages—among many which could be cited—from the New Testament as well as the Old Testament of the Bible, where slavery is upheld and treated as legitimate.
  • Deuteronomy 22:13-21 (in particular v. 20 and 21). Here is it said that women who are not virgins when they marry must be put to death.
  • Exodus 22:18 Women who are accused of being witches (sorcerers) must be put to death as well.
  • Leviticus 21:9 A priest’s daughter who becomes a prostitute, and thereby profanes her father, must be put to death.
  • Exodus 20:1-17, the Ten Commandments Commandment 10 (Exodus 20:17) treats wives (as well as slaves) as part of the property of a man (“thy neighbor”) which must not be coveted.
  • Ephesians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Here Paul insists that women must be subordinate to their husbands, and in fact must be silent and subordinate in the churches. In 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Paul says that the subordination of women is because of the role of woman (Eve) in original sin, and that child-bearing and the pain associated with it is a punishment women must endure because of the sin of Eve in succumbing to Satan in the garden of Eden and seducing Adam into eating the apple (see also Genesis chapter 3, in particular v. 16). In these passages, as well as many others throughout the Bible, suffocating and brutal oppression of women is insisted upon and sanctified. And, as we see in Numbers chapter 31, as well as many other places in the Bible (such as Isaiah, chapters 10-14, and Psalm 137), the mass raping of women, and the murder of babies and little children, is not only justified but said to be righteous, if it is carried out on behalf of the supposed one true God.
  • Leviticus 20:13 Here it is said not only that homosexuality is an abomination but that homosexuals must be killed.
  • Proverbs 23:13-14; Exodus 21:17; Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Romans 1:30 In these passages—again, from the New Testament as well as the Old Testament—we are not only told that children must be beaten in order to keep them on the right path (“spare the rod and spoil the child”) but that children who are rebellious against their parents must be put to death.
  • Leviticus 24:11-16; Deuteronomy 13:5 Anyone who curses the God of the Bible—or who “blasphemes the name of the Lord”—is to be executed, as is any prophet who calls on people to rebel against God.
  • The book of Numbers—once again, particularly Numbers 31:13-18 and 31-35 In Numbers, perhaps even more than other books of the Bible, the maniacal and merciless bloodthirstiness of the one true God of the Bible is graphically shown, in his insistence on slaughter, plunder, rapine and rape. In Numbers 31, especially verses 13-18, Moses, the messenger and enforcer for this God, becomes furious with his followers because, in attacking the Midianites, they only killed the adult men and stole some of their property: go back again, commands Moses, speaking in God’s name, and massacre all the males, children as well as grown men, and kill also all the females who are not virgins—but as for the females who are virgins, carry them off as sex slaves (concubines) for yourselves.
  • Matthew 17:14-20 (also Luke 8:26-39) Here we see that Jesus is ignorant about epilepsy and seizures—he treats this as a matter of demon possession, as opposed to the true, scientifically established understanding that epilepsy has to do with chemical and electrical processes in the nervous system and the brain—and in voicing and acting on this ignorance, Jesus afflicts people with the cruel notion that their sickness is their own fault, a result of their own sinful conduct.
  • John 14:6 and John 15:6 Here we are told, by Jesus himself, that he is the only way to salvation. Those who don’t follow him will be condemned to eternal damnation, that is, endless torture: burning in hell, excruciating physical as well as mental pain, torment and anguish. (See also Luke 19:1-27, especially v. 27.)
The above are only some passages from the Bible—and many, many more could be cited—which clearly illustrate the truth that (as I put it in the book, Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World) the Bible, taken literally, is a horror. (I would be happy to provide Tim Tebow with a copy of this book.)
If Tim Tebow wants to truly inform people about what the Bible represents, let him cite the above verses of the Bible and acknowledge what they actually advocate. If he wants to claim that he does not insist on taking the Bible as the literal and absolute word of the one true God, then let him say that openly and without equivocation—and admit that the Bible is not a divine work, but rather the work of human beings, which is full of ignorance and superstition as well as the advocacy of all kinds of truly horrendous values, relations, and actions. If he wants to say that he does not uphold what is put forward in what has been cited here, then let him disavow not only these particular Biblical passages but indeed the Bible as a whole, for the words spoken in these passages are not presented in the Bible as deviations from the righteous path, advocated by enemies of the one true God. No, these are said to be the words of the Biblical God himself, or of those identified, in the Bible itself, as the most worthy messengers, prophets, and apostles of this God—such as Moses, Isaiah, and Paul—as well as the supposed son of this God, Jesus.
Meanwhile, enough with the incessant campaign to not only portray Tim Tebow as a far greater football player than he actually is, but also to portray him as a nearly god-like icon, serving as a moral example and compass. Enough of the morality, and all that is bound up with the morality, that Tim Tebow stands for and aggressively shoves in everyone’s face. 
[This article originally appeared in Revolution #258, 5 Feb 2012, Tips for Tim Tebow. Reprinted with permission.]