Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dear Mr. Aslan:

I will not reproduce here the text to which I will be referring because the excerpt is available here. It is from a year old book titled Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by scholar Resa Aslan. It was or is a bestseller, and I can understand why. What theist would not want to grasp any straw to defend their faith?

So.....long story short: no one during Jesus' lifetime wrote about him. Not even the man who supposedly had him put to death. There exists one 'reliable' extrabiblical reference to Jesus-Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews (Kindle version here) .mentions something about James, the brother of Jesus, 'who they call messiah'. To be sure, there is much debate over how and why the text has been interpolated, but because it remains contentious and the text unclear at best, it can hardly be called evidence-at least not evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus. You can read more about that here.

The greatest thing of interest in the excerpt from the book is this little trio of snippets (note the ellipses)

 The problem with pinning down the historical Jesus is that, outside of the New Testament, there is almost no trace of the man who would so permanently alter the course of human history...In a brief throwaway passage in the Antiquities...Fleeting and dismissive as this allusion may be (the phrase “the one they call messiah” is clearly meant to express derision), it nevertheless contains enormous significance for those searching for any sign of the historical Jesus

Aslan, in this little bit, covers his academic gonads supremely well. I cannot fathom the level of cynicism that it must take to simultaneously acknowledge the overwhelming lack of any credible evidence to support your thesis, the importance of the character whose reality you champion but cannot even remotely demonstrate, and the mealy mouthed admission that the contemporaries of that character disbelieved his wild and clearly incoherent claims about himself, all the while fleecing your followers and convincing them to once again dole out money for their belief in a fictional character.

Now, the emphasis in the above is mine. I put it there because this is the entire lynchpin of Mr. Aslan's argument. The Sine Qua Non so to speak. The argument Aslan puts forward is this: because Josephus mentions Jesus once and only once, he must have been a real person-because why would a historian mention someone if they didn't exist? The rest of the argument is really much ado about nothing. it's a rehash of why Josephus is important to Aslan's argument, and apparently a call to fundamentally change the epistemology of historical studies, and really, of everything else human beings study. We should now, on Mr. Aslan's view, begin accepting things not on the basis of having more evidence, but less.

Let's take a look at the only two possible destinations using Mr. Aslan's roadmap:

If we want to agree with Mr. Aslan, that one credible historical mention is sufficient to establish the existence of something, we can then say that therefore anything with a 'credible' historical mention is or was real, or that the more something is credibly mentioned, the more likely it is to be real (this last one is what we actually do, that is, those of us in RealityLand™. On the first account, it would then follow that Red & White, Invisible Boogieboos exist. And they do. I just mentioned them, and you've no reason to doubt the veracity of what I just claimed, nor can you establish that I've some sort of mental illness, or other reason for creating a fictional character out of nothing. In fact, I'm  so credible on the Boogieboo question that to even question my credibility on the subject labels you a horrible bigot.  On the latter account, something like George Bush's "Axis of Evil" ™ or WMDs™actually exists-because there is little to no evidence that they do or did.

No, Mr. Aslan, you're going to have to do better. A professor indeed.

PS: support this blog by clicking on the text links, or the links below to get the source materials mentioned. You buy on Amazon, they pay me. Easy Peasy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Internet Hate Machine and the Existence of God

I don't know about you guys, but I've had just about enough of the petty squabbling that feminist atheists and "dictionary" atheists have been having for nearly three years--well, for me it's been about three years, and I'll be damned if it isn't one bullshit story after another: elevatorgate, shermergate, gamergate.  I don't see an end to it, and have to finally come to the conclusion that like the Tea Party, atheists online have their version of loud and crazy, and the online femitheists and 'dictionary' atheists are that version of atheist . (I'll skip the rather obvious portmanteau that suggests itself for that last one).

So, in light of the queasy feeling given me by David Futrelle, Paul Elam, and others in the gendersphere, I elect to provide this (because SOMEBODY has to be talking about atheism instead of throwing shit fits over the latest lover's spat):


In Atheists Fail to Understand Both God and Man by Graham Noble on October 21, 2014, Noble writes:

"A fair starting point in the argument over the existence of God – a Creator, a higher power, a supreme being or whatever label one chooses to apply – is the acknowledgement that the existence of such a being, or deity, has never been scientifically proven and, perhaps, never will be. Such a statement, however, demands the caveat that the non-existence of God has also never been proven, nor could it ever possibly be proven."
the underscore is the portion relevant to this post, though the rest provides some context. The central concept here is that you can't prove a negative. And as a matter of course, you can't. But the problem here isn't that atheists bear the burden of proving a negative. The problem here is the rather straightforward (so to speak) circular reasoning by the religionist (what a surprise). Let's take a look:

the idea creationists and other religionists put forward (and IS true) is that we can't know everything. Their argument then says, since we can't know everything, we can't prove that god isn't real, since he might be hiding in whatever corner of the universe you haven't yet checked. the problem is that before dismissing the notion of a deity, we're asked to accept the existence (or the possible existence) of a creature that KNOWS EVERYTHING. Which of course, is to posit the possibility of a god-like being.  Since it isn't possible for a being of any kind to know everything, to require a being who does before dismissing the possibility of its existence is to argue in a circle. You're asking me to assume the existence of a god, before I am allowed to dismiss the existence of a god, because after all, what is an all knowing creature but a god?

a second problem is also related to the standard of proof: we don't require absolute universal truth from science in any other realm, do we? we don't KNOW our seat belt will save us from a crash, nor do we KNOW that we won't slip in the shower and snap our necks. We operate under the presumption that these things won't happen because statistically, the odds are in our favor.

Let's not forget that almost every human activity requires the tacit acceptance of the validity of the scientific method. If you believe your computer will work today, it's because someone, somewhere, did their job, and made sure that a CPU operates thusly, a keyboard in such and such a manner, and your desk chair will hold your fat ass up (among countless other things, like light switches, car brakes, accelerators, and traffic lights). Without this tacit acceptance of the scientific method, we'd be left to close our eyes on the street corner, and pray to yahweh that we don't get hit by a drunk driver. BUT. WE. DON'T. short: as an atheist, I deny the possibility that we can know EVERYTHING, so the question of whether or not we can know definitively whether or not there is a deity is non-sensical. Moreover, if you're even asking the question, then you can't set the standard at ABSOLUTE knowledge, because you don't have that knowledge, nor does anyone else--nor could that ever be verified, nor do you expect that level of proof for anything else, so why is it the default standard for disproving god? No, the bottom line is that god doesn't exist, and under any reasonable interpretation of the terms 'god', and 'knowledge', and 'knowing', that proof has already been provided.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Get 'Em While They're Young!

I've noticed the disturbing trend of religious zealotry targeting ever younger (and in the case of college students, somewhat inexperienced) crowds. It's pretty clear the reason for this is that the more religion's drawbacks are exposed to the light of day, and the easier it becomes to shed light into its dark little corners, such as ethnic cleansings (like in Eastern Europe, for example), the theft of children from their birth parents for whatever imagined sins the single mother might have committed (like in Spain), and so on, the religious, being aware of the ease of indoctrinating children into their warped belief systems, are focusing their efforts at universities, both on and off campuses, public elementary schools, and re-education camps that exist offshore and in the "heartland", two of which are depicted in the documentaries Jesus Camp and Kidnapped for Christ .

They are making inroads into our children's brains, and destroying their ability to think critically at ever younger ages, and this is the plan: check out the so called "Wedge Document". A recent study even suggests that exposure to religion can make it more difficult for children to distinguish reality from fiction. This post then, is a call to atheists to relinquish the bullshit narrative, and ironically dogmatic view that they should allow their children to "choose for themselves" whether or not they are going to be religious or not. These atheists, and you might just be one of them, seem to think that if you teach a kid to like science, and to value the use of the scientific method (however formulated), that they'll just "choose" atheism or its weak sauce cousin, agnosticism, and that this is proof enough against the woo they will likely encounter on a daily basis. The facts on the ground, as they say, are very, very different.

Several years ago I read a book titled Ethnic Conflict and Indoctrination that got me to thinking about my own experiences with indoctrination, education, and phys ed. As it turns out, it's frighteningly easy to indoctrinate anyone, let alone a child. More to the point, religions have been doing it for millenia. The battleground is shifting, brothers and sisters: now it's not enough to hope that our kids don't fall victim to religious hocus-pocus. It's the time to teach our kids all the evil things religions do and all the good things they promise, but fail to deliver on. You aren't indoctrinating your kids by telling them the truth. By shielding them from the truth, and by whitewashing these things, i suppose, ostensibly to protect your kids from the violence that exists in the world (and believe me, with 5 kids i totally sympathize), what you are really doing is exposing them to possible infection by the mind virus that is religion.

Let's be clear: this isn't the party line within internet atheist circles, dominated as they are by ideologically driven players on both sides of the fictional political divide. This is the call that a pragmatic atheist, led by the evidence available, arrives at, whether we want to go there or not.

PS: below are amazon links to the works I mentioned in this piece. If you care to purchase from Amazon through those links, Amazon shows me some love, and it doesn't cost you anything.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Crayons and Condescension

I have told many a believer that they'd probably have no problem reading the bible if it had been written in crayon (being that most believers can't believe me when I tell them what's actually in the bible). The insult in that is unmistakeable--children like crayons, and wanting to read the book you venerate as the Inspired Word of God (tm) is best encouraged by making it more palatable to children, which is to say that believers are very much like children.

It is no less an insult when it's couched in more politically correct terms: when Jen McCreight offers to make the online atheist community more receptive to minorities, she is doing the same thing. There is nothing that makes atheism more accessible than the fact that there are no deities. To suggest that minorities don't like atheism, or don't consider it a viable choice of non-belief system, because it is somehow inaccessible to them, is to say that minorities have a difficult time with the scientific method or basic logic. Perhaps it is true that all us coloreds are too dumb to understand science. Perhaps it is true that we are driven to religion by bright shiny objects of veneration and worship. Perhaps the largely white leadership of modern internet atheism can't attract minorities to the cause because we are too stupid to understand the pernicious effects of religion and religious communities. Or... maybe we are just as intellectually capable of understanding what it is that mccreight wants to sell us--and we don't want it.

The fact is that for many of us, growing up in working class and poor single parent homes, just making it through high school in the inner cities is a badge of honor. It isn't easy to make good use of ancient textbooks, and to get something out of teachers that don't care or are too inexperienced to be good educators. For us, the mewling about tshirts and 'fake jewelry' rings rather false. it smacks of white privilege, and yes, when kids are being mutilated every day by the jewish community, and countless others are marginalized, attacked, and have acid thrown in their faces, it DOES IN FACT MEAN THAT YOUR PROBLEMS ARE JACK SHIT AND SHOULD BE IGNORED UNTIL THESE OTHER PROBLEMS HAVE BEEN HANDLED. I'm sorry (/S) on this one, but I'm going to have to throw my lot in with Richard Dawkins- The Grand Old Man of the New Atheism, and say that his letter to Muslima was EXACTLY what white, neo-liberal internet femitheists like Rebecca Watson need to hear.

Maybe us colored folk could use a fresh infusion of blood into the ranks of the godless. Maybe it's time that internet feminists like McCreight stopped offering us a watered down version of atheism in lieu of actual atheism.

The fact is that outside of a few bloggers and vloggers, minority voices are silenced in the online atheist community. For my part, after the evidence-less accusations and counter accusations surrounding elevatorgate (3 years or so on), I was mistaken for an angry white man more than once, and by rather prominent ftb-ers and their allies. which goes to show how far atheism "plus" has devolved into a religion of its own--either you're 'with them', or you're a CHUD, as Richard Carrier has averred, and therefore an Angry White Man (tm)--even when your objections are legitimate, and your concerns valid. You'll note the binary thinking inherent in that, for the record.

I for one am not content to sit on the sidelines anymore. There needs to be a group of authentic atheist voices from minority communities, instead of rabid internet feminists masquerading as atheists and trying to infuse everything with the particular imprimatur of illogical thinking that is so characteristic of internet femitheism.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ikonografer 2.0

Ikonografer 2.0

It's been kind of a crazy 2.5 years or so. New wife. New son. New Country. Four new stepdaughters. First mother-in-law. An encounter with the police that didn't make me want to vomit and take a shower. A profoundly uninspiring dalliance with the dark side of gender politics. I've even had accusations of criminality and malfeasance leveled against me. All and sundry (take that N.) seem to have changed. Some touchstones have stayed the same, though not many. Different blogs, different platforms. Different formats. lot's of trial and error, only to find myself where I began, so to speak, though with a few new bells and whistles. A slew of changes that would make anyone's head swim, or drown.

I've been examining and re-examining just about everything, from why sentences are customarily capitalized (has to do with antique typesetting), to the roles of logic and epistemology in my own thinking. As per usual, I have landed roughly in the moderate area of most things, though not others. Here are some highlights, in roughly ascending order of importance:

1. I'm tired of pressing the shift key in obeisance to the arcane custom of capitalizing the first letter of every sentence, even though i know you guys seem to love this particularly small touchstone. (striking a blow against something, who cares what?). this apparently comes from the problems first encountered by Gutenberg and others with typesetting and bleeding ink and paper, but (a) i'm lazy, and (b) i'm saving keystrokes. so, i'll be dispensing with that forthwith, propriety be damned.

2. i won't be capitalizing the letter 'i', either. in this day and age, no one is that fucking important. well known doesn't equal importance, and being the tiny little speck of stardust that i am, i won't be pretending otherwise.

3. there is a decidedly biased bent online in favor of two horrid little things: giving credence to poseurs because they have sycophants, such as the  MRA vlogger 'integral math', who for some reason or other has a quibble against how i pronounce the word 'integral' (i accent the 'e' rather than the 'i', because of a stutter that despite my best efforts doesn't want to relinquish its hold on me), and who famously demonstrated his mathematical prowess by fucking up some arithmetic (which i pronounce in the customary fashion), and to the usual bullshit move of claiming expertise in areas where none is to be seen, proven, nor had, like feMRA vlogger, and right wing libertarian Karen Straughan, aka girlwriteswhat?  or for that matter, people like rebecca watson, of skepchick fame. becky, for whatever reason, has decided not to substantiate her allegations in the elevatorgate pseudo-scandal, with anything remotely resembling what i like to call 'evidence'.

i'd like to take this opportunity to send a big fuck you with a kiss to the Modern Language Association's stylesheet (and to The Chicago Manual of Style, amongst others), requiring a 'works cited' page. i'll be returning to the old school bibliography, thank you very much, which you'll find on this blog, as soon as i get around to it-which should be in fairly short order. i'm tired of having to go over and over the same ground. either you're a reader and a thinker, or you aren't. i'm more than happy to pander a little to the readers, and give them a heads up on what i've read, which is where my conclusions come from, in exchange for expecting you to do your homework. if you're going to join the discussion, read the relevant materials. or don't. either way, the next move belongs to you, dear reader. the bibliography will grow (as i recall the titles of long ago read texts and suchlike), and be as complete as possible, so you know where i'm coming from, which has the happily intended side effect of allowing me to read some really great stuff from when i was still a wet behind the ears undergraduate student, something i've been meaning to do for a very, very long time. i'll also be including links to when available and so on, so yay(!) for all of us.

4. one thing i learned from the dark side of the internet: labels mean next to nothing. no matter what you call yourself, or what others call you, you're either someone with whom a discussion can be had, or you aren't. if you aren't, there's no point in directing anything toward you, save the occasional insult. nor is there a point to wasting my time, or yours. for that reason, "discussion" with true believers of any kind is otiose. you will either be swayed by evidence, or you won't be. in either event, you either arrive at reason through your own efforts, or you don't arrive at all, and again, the next move is yours.

5. lurkers lurk and trolls troll. if you just do the reading, and habitually abstain from commentary (with an occasional lapse, as it were), welcome aboard. if you wish to comment regularly, again, welcome aboard. if you're not interested in honest discussion of the issues, there's the door. i'm more than happy to give you the bum's rush. if you're a bum.

6. i won't allow pseudo-arguments, no matter how much traction they've gained in pop-culture, except when i need to make a point. for example: bitch all you like, but (a) i'm not a misogynist for using the word 'bitch', and (b) i'm not 'silencing' you by banning or editing your comments, or by deleting them if i choose to do so. the internets is a very, very big place, and if you want your voice heard, and you think you haven't been afforded that opportunity on my blog, start your own freaking blog. you're free to do so wherever you like. i won't be cajoled into allowing comments that begin something like this: "let's see if you're really about freeze peach...". in point of fact, since i publish this blog, and run it, it's my own little fiefdom. if you'd care to join the hunt, feel free to gear up. Just keep in mind that your comments are subject to my approval or disapproval, as the case may be. the same goes for banning people and suchlike.

7. unlike the artwork that i do, i'm not 2D. that is to say, on this blog, i will write about a great many different topics, since a great many different topics interest me. i'm an "online atheist", but i'm also a slew of other things. i run my own art studio, i cook, i'm a journeyman carpenter, i practice what you youngin's now call "MMA", (though i've been doing it since Bruce Lee was making movies). other than that, i'm not much of a sports fan, i love to cook, i'm both a stepfather and a father now in my own right, and so on. so i'll be writing about those things as well as offering opinion and commentary on atheist issues. don't expect a one topic, party line type blog. moreover, since i'm all these other things, don't be surprised if there are days when i don't write a post. i've got shit to do, just like you do, though i will strive to write as often as possible, since it seems i'm now a writer as well- which is just as well, since that's what i went to college and graduate school for.

8. the internet is a very, very big place. you know how to read, even if thinking through a position is fairly new to you. it's not my job to convince you of anything. the moment that Matt Dillahunty made the claim that the truth doesn't matter (regarding elevatorgate), i decided that there is no point in arguing with anyone about anything-not that i'm giving up on having discussions, mind you, it's just that there is no reason to think that any amount of arguing will make a difference to the individual who is hell bent on remaining ignorant. again, i'm firmly of the belief that one either learns on one's own, or one doesn't learn at all. it is the rare person who can learn from someone else's mistakes rather than committing the same mistake one sees others commit. it isn't my place to teach you the skill set that allows you to do that, and honestly, i don't think it's possible to teach it, even if i could identify its constituent parts in my own thought process. therefore, i'm not going to argue with you. END OF STORY.

9. really, truly, AFAIC, this is a clean slate, so to speak--though of course, haters are always gonna hate, but that's OK. i'll be migrating all the old articles that i think are worth keeping to this blog, irrespective of their topics, and deleting the rest of my blog posts. it's the internets, and anyone wishing to remind me of what i said during some long ago discussion, and prove it, should have already gotten their shit together and screencapped the relevant quotes, and if you haven't, meh. we are all the sum total of what our experiences are, and that's all there is to it. i refuse to play 'gotcha'  with rabble anymore--and there's a lot more rabble than reasonable out there. that's the reason for jumping on my wayback machine and reminiscing over incidents long past in this post, a final heads up to the haters, and a recognition of whatever mistakes, missteps, and sundry (take that, N.) imperfections and so on that belong to me, and to which i somehow belong. the past two or so years have been a HUGE learning experience for me, and there you have it. ikonografer 2.0.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Discussing the biggest threat to mens rights (a WBB mirror)

a serious, mostly foul language free (well, foul language free for me) discussion with the WBB about the state of the MRM, blocking, doxxing, cowardice, and all and sundry regarding the most recent AVfM witch hunt.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Responding to little jenny's rationalizations

 little jenny mcreight has decided to write about what she calls '...some of the common misconceptions about "atheism+" that have been thrown at me." the fact is, it's a roll call of rationalizations, fallacious argument, and stuff that can only be charitably called crap. these are the questions she's been 'thrown', the relevant part of her answers (on my view, that is) and some of my clearly misogynist observations relating to each.

1. Atheism+ is just secular humanism! Just call it what it is! 

"...I just don’t understand why some of them are so cranky that we…what, are saying we agree with their ideals and values? Let’s not let progress get derailed by discussions about labels."
indeed, jenny. if we are going to discuss the relative lack of importance of labels, could you please be a bit clearer on why 'atheism' isn't a good enough label? or 'secular humanist'?

2. Why does everyone have to agree with your particular dogma?

No one has to agree with me, and I don’t want dogma. I want to be able to discuss social justice issues from the context of atheism and skepticism. Discuss, not dictate. Right now we can’t even do that without being threatened, trolled, and derailed. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the views of people who support A+
actually, you can, and are dictating. forget about calling people who disagree with you 'evil', given the fact that you claim you "...don’t necessarily agree with all of the views of people who support A+", and given that surly amy roth has taken it upon herself to coerce atheist leaders to lend support to your maniacal cause, i would call on you to repudiate richard carrier's hate filled rhetoric:

There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need, to cut free the dead weight so we can kick the C.H.U.D.’s back into the sewers and finally disown them, once and for all. I was already mulling a way to do this back in June when discussion in the comments on my post On Sexual Harassment generated an idea to start a blog series building a system of shared values that separates the light side of the force from the dark side within the atheism movement, so we could start marginalizing the evil in our midst, and grooming the next generation more consistently and clearly into a system of more enlightened humanist values. Then I just got overwhelmed with work and kept putting it off on my calendar for when I had a good half a day or so to get started on that project.

3. Person X supports A+ and said this really shitty thing, therefore A+ is evil!
 There I can establish a mission for what A+ is truly about.
lemme be clear: richard carrier has set out rules that he expects all adherents of atheism+ to follow, and he has been quite clear on the need to kick anyone out of the movement that doesn't adhere to them, while a priori vilifying them. you yourself have said you are 'establish[ing] a mission for what a+ is truly about. i reiterate my challenge to you: repudiate, publicly, the acidic, hateful speech that carrier has spewed forth, and then, please, explain how the 'mission' of a+ is not a dogma.

there were more questions...but like any disease, stupid is infectious. i'll let someone else finish the list, before enough of my brain cells commit suicide that i'd become a zombie aplustard.