bookmark_borderAn Astonishingly Bad Argument against Gay Marriage

Over at The Christian Post, General Jerry Ralph Curry gives an astonishingly bad argument against gay marriage.

Should SCOTUS actually declare homosexuality a civil right, it logically follows that polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality would one day also be declared a civil right by the Court. In spite of society’s thirst for more modernism, inclusiveness and diversity, who would want to live in the midst of such moral depravity? . . . (emphasis mine)

Umm, in a word, “No.
With all due respect to General Curry, he needs to take (or retake) an introductory course in logic. If homosexuality is a civil right, it does NOT logically follow that “polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality would one day also be declared a civil right by the Court.” This can be clearly seen by expressing the logical structure of the argument and observing that the premises do not entail the conclusion.
In fact, as it stands, he hasn’t even given an inductively strong argument, i.e., an argument in which the premises make the conclusion highly probable. At least part of the basis for legalizing homosexuality is the freedom of consenting adults to engage in sexual activity with other adults in the privacy of their own bedrooms. General Curry seems oblivious to the fact that this basis is incompatible with declaring that pedophilia is a civil right. In the General’s defense, this philosophical basis does seem to support the legalization of polygamy between consenting adults. But to try to saddle the proponent of same sex marriage with an acceptance of pedophilia is completely unjustified.
(HT: Jerry Coyne)

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 5

In his book Did Jesus Exist? Bart Ehrman argues for something like the following Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH):
======================
There was a flesh-and-blood person who was…
1. named ‘Jesus’, and
2. a Jewish man, and
3. living in Palestine as an adult in the 20s C.E., and
4. known to be a preacher and a teacher, and
5. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E., and
6. crucified when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.

========================
1. named ‘Jesus’
As previously pointed out, the actual name would have been Joshua (in Aramaic):
1A. named Yeshu’a
2. a Jewish man
From my American Heritage Dictionary:
Jew n. 1. An adherent of Judaism. 2. A descendant of the Hebrew people.
Condition (2) is thus ambiguous. But presumably, both senses of the word are intended. This condition describes both the general religious viewpoint of Jesus and his ethnicity. Jesus was not a Hindu, nor a Zoroastrian, nor a worshipper of Greek or Roman deities. Jesus was not Chinese, nor African, nor East Indian:
2A. an adherent of Judaism, and a male descendant of the Hebrew people
3. living in Palestine as an adult in the 20s C.E.
This condition seems fairly straightforward. The phrase ‘as an adult’ is a bit vague. That could mean anywhere from 16 years old to 110 years old. Since Jesus is generally believed to have been about 33 years old when he was crucified, we could narrow the age range a bit by assuming that Jesus was between 30 and 36 years old in 30 CE (i.e. 33 years old plus-or-minus three years). So, we can say that Jesus was betweem 20 and 26 in 20 CE., and that Jesus would have been in his twenties or thirties in the 20s CE:
3A. living in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s C.E.
4. known to be a preacher and a teacher
This condition is also a bit vauge. A man who taught mathematics or who taught Greek philosophy or who taught others how to build boats would not fit our concept of Jesus. The word ‘preacher’ does imply speech with religious content, and thus is a bit less vague. But I think Ehrman has in mind the widely held assumption that Jesus was a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values:
4A. known to be a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values
5. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E.
This condition is straightforward and clear. The phrase ‘around 30 C.E.’ is a bit vague, so I would make a slight clarification/specification here:
5A. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E. (between 26 and 36 C.E.)
This puts the crucifixion of Jesus in the timeframe when Pilate was governor of Judea (26-36 C.E.)
6. crucified when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea
Given the above clarification of the date range for the crucixion of Jesus, condition (6) is largely redundant, since (6) is logically implied by (5) in conjuction with the generally accepted assumption that Pilate was governor of Judea from 26-36 C.E.
So, here is my clarified version of MJH:
=======================
There was a flesh-and-blood person who was…
1A. named Yeshu’a, and
2A. an adherent of Judaism, and a male descendant of the Hebrew people, and
3A. living in Palestine as an adult (in his twenties and/or thirties) in the 20s C.E., and
4A. known to be a preacher and teacher of religious beliefs and moral values, and
5A. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E. (between 26 and 36 C.E.).
========================

bookmark_borderKahane on Cosmic Insignificance

This paper is an absolute must-read.

Abstract: The universe that surrounds us is vast, and we are so very small. When we reflect on the vastness of the universe, our humdrum cosmic location, and the inevitable future demise of humanity, our lives can seem utterly insignificant. Many philosophers assume that such worries about our significance reflect a banal metaethical confusion. They dismiss the very idea of cosmic significance. This, I argue, is a mistake. Worries about cosmic insignificance do not express metaethical worries about objectivity or nihilism, and we can make good sense of the idea of cosmic significance and its absence. It is also possible to explain why the vastness of the universe can make us feel insignificant. This impression does turn out to be mistaken, but not for the reasons typically assumed. In fact, we might be of immense cosmic significance—though we cannot, at this point, tell whether this is the case.

LINK (HT: ex-apologist)

bookmark_borderNew Puzzles about Divine Attributes

Abstract: According to traditional Western theism,God is maximally great (or perfect). More explicitly, God is said to have the following divine attributes: omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. In this paper, I present three puzzles about this conception of a maximally great (or perfect) being. The first puzzle about omniscience shows that this divine attribute is incoherent. The second puzzle about omnibenevolence and omnipotence shows that these divine attributes are logically incompatible. The third puzzle about perfect rationality and omnipotence shows that these divine attributes are logically incompatible.
LINK (HT: ex-apologist)

bookmark_borderIf Theistic Belief Caused Gay Sex, Would There Be More Atheists?

I’ve been reading the reactions to the pair of SCOTUS rulings on gay marriage by religious conservatives. If you agree with these authors, the SCOTUS rulings mean “the end of marriage” and a number of other doomsday predictions for this modern jurisprudence apocalypse.
This got me wondering. In light of how gay marriage (and homosexuality in general) horrifies religious conservatives, what would happen if theistic belief caused gay sex? Would there be more atheists?

bookmark_borderTraditional Marriage According to the Bible

In a comment a couple of weeks ago I wondered aloud what “traditional marriage” actually was according to the Bible. This clears things up. Be sure to turn on your pop-up blocker before going to this site.
http://www.upworthy.com/the-top-8-ways-to-be-traditionally-married-according-to-the-bible?g=2&c=la2
I once heard that an atheist speaker was asked what readings he would recommend that would support atheism. He recommended the Bible. The Bible, honestly read, really is the best support nonbelief could have. In fact, I am surprised that there are not more atheological arguments with a form something like this:
1) If the God of theism exists, his intelligent creatures will now possess a definitive revelation that clearly reveals God’s will vis-a-vis those creatures.
(Justification: The God of the omni-predicates, including omni-benevolence, will love his creatures and will not allow them to stumble in darkness without a message revealing his love for them and guiding them towards truth and goodness.)
2) If there is presently such a definitive revelation, it must be rationally recognizable as such, i.e.some extant purported scripture must bear marks that unmistakably indicate its divine provenance.
(Justification: The revelation must bear marks of superior wisdom, goodness, truth, and beauty that clearly distinguish it from merely human wisdom, goodness, truth, and beauty. Should these marks be absent, there will be no reason to think that a putative revelation was not a merely human invention).
3) Yet all extant purported scriptures lack those definitive marks of superior wisdom, goodness, truth, and beauty.
(Justification: All purported scripture, such as the books of the OT, those of the NT, the Qur’an, The Book of Mormon, etc. Contain some wisdom, goodness, truth, and beauty, but nothing obviously superior to that found in human philosophical and literary works. Further, those purported scriptures also contain copious elements of absurdity, ignorance, error, violence, intolerance, sexism, cruelty, and fanaticism. Therefore, extant purported scriptures lack definitive marks of divine provenance).
4) Therefore, there is no presently existing definitive revelation.
(Justification: From 2 and 3 by modus tollens).
5) Therefore, the God of theism does not exist.
(Justification: from 1 and 4 by modus tollens).

bookmark_borderJesus Wants You to Starve the Poor

From Good Christian Michelle Bachmann:
http://www.addictinginfo.org/2011/11/08/michele-bachmann-says-if-you-are-unemployed-you-should-starve/
And Jesus spake unto them saying, “Blessed are the rich, for they shall dine sumptuously. Verily, tiramisu and foie gras are their just rewards, for wealth is ever the product of godly diligence. But woe unto the poor! Bitterness shall be their meat and sorrow their drink, for, yea, the poor are but slothful and indolent, even though they be but two years old.
Verily, it is easier for the rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven for he hath given St. Peter a big tip.
Tax ye not the rich for their riches do trickle upon all. Yea, their enjoyment of yachts and polo ponies shalt thou not infringe.
Thou hast heard that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin. Not so, I say unto you, but poverty shall not be forgiven in this world or the next. The poor shall be cast into the outer darkness where they will gnash their teeth, being so goddamn hungry.”
Excerpt from The Sermon from the Country Club; The Gospel According to Bachmann, Chapter V; The Republican Bible

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exit? – Part 4

When Bart Ehrman asserts that “Jesus existed”, he is asserting something like the following Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (MJH):
======================
There was a flesh-and-blood person who was…
1. named ‘Jesus’, and
2. a Jewish man, and
3. living in Palestine as an adult in the 20s C.E., and
4. known to be a preacher and a teacher, and
5. crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans around 30 C.E., and
6. crucified when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.

========================
There was a flesh-and-blood person
Ehrman does not specify that Jesus was a “flesh-and-blood person”, but I think that is what he has in mind when he asserts that “Jesus existed.” For one thing, a literal crucifixion of Jesus does not fit well with the idea of Jesus being a spirit.
Many Christians believe in the existence of angels and demons. Most Christians believe in the existence of souls. Virtually all Christians believe that God exists, and that God is a ‘spirit’, meaning that God is a person who does NOT have a body. Since Christians believe in the existence of persons who do not have bodies, it is theoretically possible, given such a metaphysical viewpoint, that “Jesus existed” but that “Jesus did NOT have a body” and thus that “Jesus was NOT a flesh-and-blood person”.
Given Christian metaphysics, it is theoretically possible that Jesus was an angel or a spirit who existed but had no physical body. Therefore, when a defender of the historicity of Jesus claims that “Jesus existed” this is a somewhat ambiguous claim. I think that most defenders of the historicity of Jesus have in mind the claim that there was a flesh-and-blood Jesus; they don’t have in mind the claim that there was an angel or spirit named ‘Jesus’ who appeared in Palestine in the past. So, if what is intended by Ehrman is the claim that there was a Jesus with a physical body, then that belief needs to be made clear and explicit.
This point is also important to me, because I’m intested in the logical relationship between the claim that “Jesus existed” and the claim “Jesus rose from the dead”. If “Jesus existed” (or “Jesus was an historical person”) implies that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person, then this claim is directly relevant to the the claim “Jesus rose from the dead”, at least if the resurrection claim is taken to be asserting a literal, physical resurrection.
In order for Jesus to literally rise from the dead, he must first literally die. And literal death requires that Jesus have a physical body, that Jesus be a flesh-and-blood person. So, because I’m interested in the resurrection claim, understood as asserting a literal, physical resurrection, I’m interested in the claim “Jesus existed” because this claim, understood as implying that Jesus was a ‘flesh-and-blood person’, is a necessary condition for the claim “Jesus rose from the dead”.
If, on the other hand, one interprets “Jesus existed” as including the possibility that Jesus was merely an angel or a spirit who never occupied a physical body, then the claim “Jesus existed” would NOT entail that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person who could die on a cross. If Jesus was merely a spirit and he never had a physical body, then “Jesus rose from the dead” would be a false claim, assuming that this claim is understood to refer to a literal, physical resurrection.
My interest in the resurrection issue influences my preferences here. So, I’m in favor of adding the qualification “flesh-and-blood person” not only because this is what I think Ehrman and other defenders of the historicity of Jesus have in mind, but also because this makes the claim “Jesus existed” of greater significance in relation to the claim “Jesus rose from the dead.”
1. named ‘Jesus’
Strictly speaking, Jesus was not named “Jesus” by his parents, nor was he called “Jesus” by his disciples. “Jesus” is an English word, and since the English language did not exist 2,000 years ago (Prehistoric Old English dates back to the 5th century C.E.), it is highly unlikely that Jesus’ parents used an English word as the name of their son!
The word “Jesus” derives from the Latin name Iesus. Latin is an older language than English, but Jesus probably did not speak Latin, nor his parents, nor his disciples. So, Jesus was not called Iesus by his parents or disciples.
The Latin name Iesus derives from the Greek name Iēsous (in Greek letters: Ἰησοῦς), the name used of Jesus in the Greek New Testament. Although it is possible that Jesus’ parents and some of his disciples could speak some Greek, they probably talked to each other in Aramaic not Greek, and thus whatever name Jesus was given, was presumably a name in Aramaic, not Greek.
The Greek name Iēsous (in Greek letters: Ἰησοῦς) is usually translated as “Jesus” in the Gospels, but the same Greek name is translated elsewhere in the NT as “Joshua” (Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8), and is translated “Joshua” in Luke 3:29.
Furthermore, the Greek translation of the OT (called the Septuagint) uses the Greek name Iēsous ( Ἰησοῦς) to translate the Hebrew name Yĕhôshúa‘ (in Hebrew: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ). In English versions of the OT the Hebrew name Yĕhôshúa‘ (יְהוֹשֻׁעַ) is translated as “Joshua”. Thus, the Greek name Iēsous is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Yĕhôshúa‘ (יְהוֹשֻׁעַ).
But Jesus and his parents and his disciples probably did not speak Hebrew either. They probably only or primarily spoke Aramaic.
The Aramaic version of this Hebrew name is: Yeshu’a (יֵשׁוּעַ). Presumably, if Jesus was an actual historical person, the actual name that Mary and Joseph gave to their son was: Yeshu’a (יֵשׁוּעַ).
To be continued…