bookmark_borderHow the Suffering and Death of Billions and Billions of Kids Completely Disproves the Existence of a Good and Loving God – Including Wrecking Free Will Theodicy in the Process

This essay is in association with the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival you can check out at https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/test-post-for-june-2022-biblical-studies-carnival

Just the Stat’s Ma’am

I first got a hint of the facts that — as screamingly obvious as they are have gone shockingly ignored — refute the premise presented in the Bible and other scriptures that there is a benign and moral creator deity when I many a decade ago was reading the opening sentences of the preface of my SciFi/futurist hero’s Arthur C. Clarke’s novel version of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Clarke casually noted that around 100 billion people have been born. That caught my attention because it seemed a high number. Where he got the value from I do not know, but it is correct. All serious calculations agree on the basic figure, plus or minus about 20%. ~10 billion were born in the 1900s alone, and with humans being around for a few hundred thousand years, 10,000 of them since agriculture allowed large populations, it adds up.

The big a/theist debate is usually over whether any gods exist or not. But that is not really the point. What most theists imagine is not only that at least one deity is in charge of the big show, but that it is also a very fine and good creator God. One that according to Christian opinion is for reasons not at all clear all powerful, all knowing, all wise and all good. The goodness is as important as the existence – if the proposed god were not very good or evil that few would be interested in its existence much less adhering to its dictates. 

The simple question of the existence of a deity cannot be scientifically entirely refuted. What can be tested and proven is whether or not a creator power is moral or not. It’s a matter of demographic statistics run through the mill of logic and basic decency.

To wit, eventually it began to occur to me that the birth of a hundred or so of billion people has a dark side to it. One that directly torpedoes and sinks the common conceit believed by billions that God not only exists – itself a big, antiscientific stretch for reasons we shall not go into here – but also happens to be so righteous and wise that is worthy of and requires worship in exchange for the boons that it offers. That is a double super stretch.

The critical issue is clear enough. It’s those demographics. Until the advent of the modern medical science that humans devised after 99+% of our existence of living short and brutal lives, and without the aid of supernatural forces that apparently do not care, the juvenile mortality rate was ~50%. That means that in the area of 50 billion children have died from natural causes. If you have not heard that figure before it is because we live in a society that has covered up the biggest disaster in human history, the Holocaust of the Children.

For reasons that have me scratching my head no one bothered to take the number of those born and divided it by the childhood death rate and published the terrible toll of the children, leaving the global population shockingly ignorant. It has been a demographic and ethical scandal that has been allowing the churches et al. to get away with promoting being religious as moral. So I did the easy math and published it for the first time in 2009 in the academic journal Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf), with more recent up dated follow ups in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism (in two parts https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf — these studies contain the majority of the references this little essay is based upon).

Christians and other theists like to go on about how humans cause evil, not God. But only a small percentage of children who have died have been dispatched by adults with bad intent. The greatest kid killer by far is the vast host of diseases that infest the planet and ruthlessly  torture children to death. Microbes and other afflictions that humans had nothing to do with creating and until of late had little ability to defeat. Even today some 15,000 children are lost to natural causes.

That is after birth. Before it is even worse in terms of numbers. The human reproductive complex is very inefficient so there is a lot of wastage, which is a reason why it is rather hard for women to get pregnant and stay that way. Three quarters or more of conceptions naturally fail to come to term, apparently because our genetics are so complicated that they are delicate and prone to malfunction (simpler mice do not have high rates of spontaneous miscarriage). Far from the womb being a safe refuge for the preborn, it is such a death trap that most do not make it out alive. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction). Doing the again why-had-they-not-been-done-it-before-they-being-easy-to-do calculations, I was the first to publish in the P&T piece that about a third of a trillion pregnancies have failed due to causes beyond human control: note that even modern medicine can do little to bring down the natural abortion rate. There is something of a saving grace to this in that most pregnancies fail before implantation, or shortly after, when the zygote has not the slightest awareness of its existence and no ability to suffer.

Ergo, if there is an all-powerful supernatural creator, then far from being the prolife, children loving beacon of sage morality that all must and should owe loyalty and fealty, it does not give a damn about the comfort, safety and lives of the innocent immature humans from conception on, and has not lifted a cosmic finger to save the lives of the hundreds of billions of youngsters, the great majority of conceptions having died, often under barbarically cruel circumstances, before their preteens due to Mother Nature.

The Great Theodist Evasion 1.0

The alleged font of divine wisdom, the Holy Bible, says nothing about this. Nada. Not once is the massive slaughter by nonhuman means of the young, preborn or born, directly addressed and explained. The Good Book does not even bother to detail what happens to the supposed souls of the little ones after they have died before growing up. Do they go the Hell because they have not accepted the glorious gift of the Grace of Christ? That would be as unfair as it is brazenly cruel. Do they get a free ticket to His Perfect Heaven where only those souls who during their earthly test of worthiness and willingness are allowed to ascend because the Perfect Lord of Paradise refuses to force any to worship Him for eternity without their enthusiastic concurrence? The reason what is purported to be the word of the flawless God avoids the death of children like the plagues that have wacked so many of them off is because it is not in any way possible to explain these massive irresolvable contradictions.

And as I detail in the P&T and EPH papers, the theological community — including the theodists whose insoluble business it is to try to explain how a brutally imperfect world is compatible with a perfect creator — has been dodging the problem of the death of billions of youth for millennia. Not once have the directly addressed much less successfully dealt with the incredible number who have died in the womb or their youth. And the reason is all too obvious, they too have no ability to devise a clever answer because none exists. So they simply sweep it under the rug.

Free Will Theodicy is a Great Big Lie

The primary go-to thesis that Christians intellectual and lay have long been employing is Free-Will and Best of All Possible Worlds theodicy. The not so smart idea is that because the Perfect God only wants willing worshippers in His Perfect Paradise, that the fair and wise creator plops us on this sometimes beautiful and other times horrid planet in order that we can make a free will choice regarding our eternal fate. The gaping problem that notion that has gone unaddressed is that in order to have free will – assuming for the sake of argument such exists at all – one has to survive long enough, say a decade or two, to have the necessary level of mental choice. Plus, adequate information about the all-important choice. Obviously, the proposed creator has allowed the planet to be so kid toxic that it is killing off most of them before they can make the bid decision. That many adults have not heard the word of Christ – half those born lived before 30 CE, and vast swathes of the continents did not hear up it until of late – and a good number are gravely mentally dysfunctional, means that when one runs the calculations that out of the few hundred billion conceived and 100 billion born only about 10 billion have heard the Word of Christ, and only maybe half that become Christians. Not a very successful Divine Utopia Project. Built as it is on the bodies of billions of youngsters denied their free will in order to satisfy the incoherent desires of an all too imperfect entity who craves attention.

To explain the mass natural abortion of the lives and free will of most conceptions requires one of the following. There is no supernatural creator. There is, but it is an amoral incompetent idiot. There is but it is evil to some serious degree. One way or another any creator is guilty of mass negligent or deliberate homicide and crimes against humanity. It is not possible for a powerful deity to be worthy of our loving adoration and obedience.

This is a brief summary of the situation. For the all too grim details and in-depth atheodistic analysis check out the P&T and EPH papers. The latter in particular include why the mode of divine creation, whether it be inept Biblical creationism, premeditated intelligent design theory, or callous Darwinian evolution, does not come close to solving the moral paradox.

The Great Evasion 2.0

After the P&T paper came out in 2009 I sent a PDF to all the major theodists alive at the time who had spent their careers avoiding dealing with death of the children problem – Haught, Hicks, Polkingorn, Plantinga, Swinburne and the like – for their consideration. Not a peep out of them, either one-on-one or in public. Not surprising since what are they going to say? Those who are still alive cynically continue to promote Free Will Theodicy even as they ignore its all too fatal flaws. That was not surprising. Also not paying attention was the news media that has long chronically under covered atheism (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/theocancel-culture-discrimination-by-neglect-the-chronic-news-and-opinion-media-bigotry-against-atheists). That was somewhat surprising because the first study to document the enormous numbers of deceased children was patently news worthy, as was how that overturns classic free will theodicy. And my work on how more atheism tends to correlate with superior national societal conditions had garnered a good deal of international coverage. The news media paid the P&T piece not the slightest mind. Funny thing though. They atheist community too has continued to be perturbingly slack on the issue that should be of great import to nontheism.

It’s the Animals Too

To try to address the continuing attention gap is one of the reasons I produced the EPH follow ups. Which go yet further on the problem of the suffering of the blameless. Immature H. sapiens are not the only innocents that have suffered vastly under the dominion of the perfectly idiotic creator. So have animals for the few hundred millions of years that they have had sufficient brain capacity to feel serious affliction. Notably, some of the same theodists who have avoided trying to excuse the mass slaughter of youthful humans have gone to lengths to try to deal with the enormous problem of animal suffering. In doing so they have expressed profound ignorance of biology via knowledge gaps that interestingly atheist evolutionists often succumb to as well, such as the “Balance of Nature” in which the harsh side of premature mortality is a necessary part of the system. Which it is not, there not being such a thing as the balance of nature that having been discredited way back in the last century. The arguments presented by the loving theodists have an air of self-indulgent casual cruelty that would justify beating your dog.

The Great Moral Challenge

The chronically under-appreciated Megadisasters of the Innocents are not just about disproving the reality of a beneficent creator of good intentions. It is about the problem of those who worship such an evil entity. The subject is covered in Part 2 of the EPH studies. Theists Christians especially love to go on and on with self-indulgent self-praise about how they are doing the selfless thing of worshipping a moral God. In the process they are prone to bash those who do not do so, either by not adoring the correct God i. e. the one they happen to follow, or by not following any deity. That is cynical projection of a high order. Many if not most atheists in turn merely claim that those who choose not to believe in matters supernatural can be as moral as those that do, and demand the respect that theists likewise mandate for themselves. That is not correct in that while atheism is morally neutral and atheists are free to be highly ethical, deity worship in search of boons is inherently morally corrupt. When theists are moral as they often are, it’s despite their religion, not because of it.

Even today 15,000 children die every 24 hours. By historical standards that is a remarkable, science and technology based achievement in mortality percentage terms that shows humanity cares vastly more than any creator who has shown stunning indifference to the fate of the preborn and children. On the other hand in absolute numbers it is a fairly typical per annum toll that has been seen for millennia. In principle humans can drive that number even lower by running a better world, but that will be very difficult to do, and it is not the fault of the children that so many still die like flies.

If there is God as a powerful as billions claim there is without any actual evidence to that effect, then it can put a stop to the death of the children in an instant. But Christians don’t care about that all that much. Seriously, they don’t. What is the priority of a devout Christian? Or Muslim? Is it to save the lives of children? No, that is the side show – would be very nice, but they have dreams much more important in their narcissistic eyes. Their true goal is to get to their god’s paradise. Which requires total obedience, and no criticism of their God lest they lose their ticket to heaven and perhaps get one to hell. So whatever God does is OK. Overseas a planet that causes immense suffering to trillions of animals for millions of years, and aborts billions of preborn and tortures to death billions more tykes? Not a problem, the ways of God being mysterious and all. Because Christians and the like are seeking gifts from God in exchange for looking the other way, they are hypocritical moral relativists and self-aggrandizer of a high order.

Atheists are not that. Not in that regard.

The EPH articles got about as much attention from the news media has had the P&T paper. None. And much the same response from the theologians. After a bluntly stated press release on part one was rejected by Religion News Service, and more cleverly written PR for the second half did the trick (https://religionnews.com/2021/11/22/new-academic-study-on-free-will-theology), not that it resulted in any coverage.

The lack of media coverage of the children’s holocaust in a world swamped with God is good chat is an outrage. As is how for thousands of years theism has flipped the truth by managing to make it out that the creator of a child killing planet is perfect in its morality when such is impossible, while making it seem that the humans who have saved billions of young lives with modern medicine are sinful entities. It is a pernicious scam being pulled off by the religion industry that has enjoyed tremendous success – but is faltering in a world increasingly skeptical of organized theism.

So what to do about it? That is discussed in Part 2 of the EPH work. That atheists have not gotten the news about the mass death of the premature out to the general population is a massive failure that goes way back, should have been done decades ago if not earlier. So time for us nontheists to get our rational and caring about the kids butts in gear and spread the bad news. Go on the moral offensive. Explain the that the vast scale of the Holocaust of the Children and the Brutalization of the Animals leaves no doubt that if there is a creator, it is a nasty piece of work. One unworthy of worship. And that doing so is gravely immoral. Seriously, why not do this? It is the truth, and it may be the moral straw that finally breaks the ethical back of religion that is already crashing in much of the world while a good chunk of what remains goes depraved reactionary.

As per, throw the mass death of the preborn in the laps of the forced birth movements, which is almost entirely an effort by the evangelical and Catholic right to reimpose a conservative Christian culture on Americans in violation of the 1st Amendment (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/the-forced-birth-movement-hates-real-religious-liberty-how-to-use-that-against-them-by-making-abortion-a-religious-and-medical-right). Who are they to claim that induced abortion is sinful murder when the creator whose behind they kiss in their search for a nice afterlife is fine with his nature killing off the unborn at a rate ten times higher than what mothers do by artificial means? If there is a creator then it is the Great Murderer of the Unborn, we humans are just running a little sideshow on that – specifically, during the period of Roe v Wade over 60 million induced abortions occurred, which is dwarfed by the nearly billion natural miscarriages over the same period in the US. If the theoconservatives really think that abortions should be stopped, then they should first demand that their God save the lives of all the over 1 million that miscarry each and every day, about 30,000 of them in these United States. Which would show that there is a God that actually gives a damn about it. But they won’t do that. Why? because they dare not challenge the deity they hope will assign them to His Heaven. So they are as corrupt as they are hypocritical in wanting to make induced abortion a crime. And because deep down a lot of them know it is all a fantasy.

On the larger scale, to the thesits issue the Great Moral Challenge. Tell them to stop selfishly worshipping their gods that they want stuff from until it puts a stop to the deaths of the children. Of course they won’t do it. But it will expose the falsity of their divine morality to a degree not yet seen.

Getting the Information Out to a Secularizing World

Spare me the negative and not all that useful chat about what is the point of the above seeing as how religion just keeps chugging along despite believers being called out on the absurdity and immorality of their beliefs since the classical Greeks. For one thing, religion is in a demographic crisis of a scale it has never seen before in the face of modernity (http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf, also see Ronald Inglehart 2021 Religion’s Sudden Decline: What’s Causing Ir, and What Come’s Next). And the religious community has never been faced square on with the scale of the loss of immature humans, and how that wrecks Free Will Theodicy and any possibility of basic decency in a God or in worshipping such a brutal being. Could be a game changer. Or not. The only way to gauge what popularization of the Megadisaster of the Innocents would accomplish is to put it out there big time and see what it does or does not do. Let’s go on moral the offense.

That includes putting the prominent theologians who keep pushing the Good God thesis while ignoring the 50 billion dead kids to at long last directly address the question on the spot to either come up with a compelling answer that actually makes sense. And if and when they can’t do so admit they are wrong. Again not bloody likely to happen but they will have been shown up for the vacuity of their arguments. Again, let’s go on the ethical offense.

It is, after all, what the deceased too soon children deserve. No?

And check out the P&T and EPH papers, and tell your friends. The more the better.

bookmark_borderRalph Reed Tries to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes

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NOTE: This post was contributed by Gregory S. Paul, who is an occasional contributor to Free Inquiry, and who published an important article called “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies”.  Here is how Michael Shermer summarized that article:

Is religion a necessary component of social health? The data are conflicting. On the one hand, in a 2005 study published in the Journal of Religion & Society–“Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies”–independent scholar Gregory S. Paul found an inverse correlation between religiosity (measured by belief in God, biblical literalism, and frequency of prayer and service attendance) and societal health (measured by rates of homicide, childhood mortality, life expectancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen abortions and pregnancies) in 18 developed democracies. “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD [sexually transmitted disease] infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies,” Paul found. Indeed, the U.S. scores the highest in religiosity and the highest (by far) in homicides, STDs, abortions and teen pregnancies.

from “Bowling for God” by Michael Shermer
in Scientific American on December 1, 2006

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Ralph Reed Tries to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes About the Popularity of Prayer and Religion in America on Bill Maher’s Real Time

I was watching Bill Maher’s Real Time on 8/27 when I realized that prominent hard right-wing evangelical political operative Ralph (Christian Coalition) Reed, who Maher seems to like, was trying to profoundly mislead viewers about the level of religious practice in this country. I am not sure how prevalent his misuse of survey data is among theoconservatives – a web search did not find anything – but he managed to slip a bogus item of information out to the few million who see Real Time every week. So I am sending this out in an effort to try to nip this theocon anti-fact in the bud. Plus this scientist is annoyed by the slick pol’s brazen yet sly misuse of statistics.
 
Reed used the classic tactic of lying by telling the truth while leaving out the pile of contrary data that shows he is lying. First, he acknowledged that rates of nonreligion are indeed rapidly expanding in these United States as church membership and attendance decline with amazing speed – after a slow decline from the 1950s Gallup has recorded a membership decline of about 70% at the turn of the century to under 50% these days (https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx), in line with other surveys as well as reports of closing churches. The seemingly reasonable Reed then offered the logical explanation that the general societal detachment of people from social groups, driven in part by digital media, has something to do with that. Reed then began his verge off into misinformation land when he said all that did not matter all that much because rates of belief in and worship of God remain persistently high because people are becoming increasingly private about it.
 
Here is where being truthful can be a lie. Reed correctly claimed that in 1990 Gallup asked respondents if they pray often, sometimes, hardly ever, or only in times of crisis, or never.
 
Before proceeding, we need a digression about the statistical and other requirements of competent polling. Particularly regarding longitudinal surveys that track levels of and changes in opinions and practices over time. First, such polls must be sufficiently quantitative to give meaningful results that can be compared over the years. In the 1990 poll Gallup blew it – the only quantitatively reasonably useful possible answers were “hardly ever” or “never.” As for “often” and “sometimes” those values are pretty much useless. How often is often? How sometimes is sometimes? Each respondent would have a different notion on that, and will inevitably respond in inconsistent ways. Gallup should have known better and never posed such an ambiguous query. And to track changes the same questions need to be asked every one or a few years to generate an opinion level timeline. It’s basic stuff.
 
In 1990 half of respondents told Gallup they pray often. Which other than telling us what we already know that lots of Americans are religious has no scientific value. What they should have asked was something along the lines of do you pray multiple times a day, once a day, a few times a week, once a week, once a month or so — you get the statistical drift. I mean really, what were they thinking over at Gallup? Demographic dolts. Fortunately, Gallup then did not repeat the query, possibly and hopefully because they did a demographic dope slap and realized their error and good statistical riddance, since asking it again would risk giving misleading longitudinal results.
 
Alas, apparently inspired by the pandemic, in 2020 a Gallup that again should have known better did ask the same dam bogus query. And lo and behold now 55% say they pray often. Reed used this one pair of statistically valueless figures to try to sell Maher and his audience a demographic bill of goods that Amerotheism is not really in decline after all. Bill, and his other guest, understandably not being up on the minutia of recent Gallup results, were not able to perceive or counter Reed’s clever deception (I had to look it up and see what was really going down myself, even though this is an area of my research – for an extensive 2019 analysis of the subject discussed here and beyond see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf).
 
The degree to which Reed was being deliberately deceptive by selectively picking Gallup data, or did not realize or understand the critical caveats and contra stats, I do not know for certain but am very suspicious. In any case, he was grossly misinforming Real Timewatchers one way or another.
 
First, Gallup itself admits that their little trend line on prayer is not statistically meaningful (https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/309638/update-virtual-worship-during-covid.aspx), which Reed did not mention — saying that would have negated his claim right there on the air. Obviously.
 
And here is what Reed did not offer up because it directly disproves his propaganda line that American God belief and worship is not in decline. In a location where Gallup offers up the useless prayer result they also present a number of more properly posed and frequently repeated polls they have been executing and posting for decades. Ones that do a much better job telling us what is really happening in this country a/theism wise (https://news.gallup.com/poll/1690/religion.aspx). So how about let’s check those fascinating and very telling stats out —
 
Those who say that religion is very important in their life went from, well let’s see here, ~60 in the 1990s to under 50% these days in a nice, fairly steady downslope (as also is true of the rest of the results). Meanwhile, those who say theism is not very important rose greatly from 10-15% to a quarter (see below discussion on why levels of rationalism measured in polls are probably on the low side). Gosh, Ralph, you did not bring up that one on Real Time. Because you are too lazy and ill-informed to know it — which seems a stretch since it is right there on the web? Or because you knew it would blow your superficially clever lie out of the water?
 
How about this one. Back in the 1990s, almost two-thirds told the fine folks at Gallup that religion can answer all or most of today’s problems. Now it is heading toward and below half. The rationalists who think religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date? Rose like yeast dough from one-fifth to over a third of the respondents (check out season 1, episode 25 of I Love Lucy for a classic laugh on that bread baking item).
 
Here’s a good one that shows that the days in which the hardcore devout religious right that Reed is a leading fellow traveler of was doing pretty good, while it was the mealy mushy mainline faiths that were taking it on the demographic chin, are no longer operative. In the 2000s those saying they were born-again or evangelical were in the broad area of the lower 40s percentage-wise (which was a little above the values observed in the 1990s). Now is in the mid-30s, hello Ralph. Might you mention that next time you are on the telly?
 
Next up is an oldie but goodie. In the 70s one in four thought the Bible is literally true. Now it’s a quarter or so. So are those who are of the opinion that the Bible is supernaturalistic fantasy mixed with some history, which is impressive because those good people were a mere one in ten back when Jimmy and Ronnie were POTUS. And while support for the creation of humans by God has been slipping, support for evolutionary science is on the way up. Sorry Ken Ham, Philip Johnson, and Michael Behe.
Time for the BIGGIE. One Mr. Reed somehow again failed to chat about as he misled Bill on his own show. Convinced God exists? In 2005 80%. In 2017 64%. A decline of a sixth of the national population in a dozen years. How about God probably does not exist or convinced there is not one. Doubled from 7% in 2005 to 13% in 2017.  And if the fast-shifting trendlines have continued since then, probably still lower for the first and higher for the second here in 2021. But wait, there are more godly Gallup longitudinal deity queries. From 2001 to 2016 God belief sank from nine in ten to eight in ten, those who don’t opt for the supernatural rose to over one in ten. Gallup’s venerable simplistic yes or no on God belief question got virtually all to say yes in the 1950s and 60s, and after a yawning data gap has shown no results similar to the above surveys in the last decade. This is a good place to explain that it is well documented that persons are often reluctant to say they hold an unpopular opinion even when doing so privately by phone or online. A technical effort to use standard sociodemographic techniques to correct for this factor estimates that American atheists as broadly defined make up a quarter of the population (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170516143411.htm), matching or outnumbering a number of major religious sects. Likewise, other studies indicate actual church attendance is about half that claimed to Gallup (and other pollsters). It follows that all the Gallup (and other pollsters’) results for not praying, thinking religion is not societally important, attending church, are not Born-Again, thinking the Bible is not the word of God, understanding we are big-brained apes, are nonreligious, etc., are very probably markedly higher than Gallup, Pew, Harris, GSS, WVS, et al. results seem to indicate.
Gallup points out something interesting. One of their queries indicates that the number of Americans who think religion is having a major influence on America is currently on the high side. But they point out that is directly contrary to their own measures showing the opposite is true
(https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/310397/religion-paradox.aspx). So what gives? Although the query has its uses, it is not a direct measure of how much influence religion is actually having on America, which is not practical to measure, one would think, but what people think it is having. Which may well not be the same thing. That is why, unlike most longitudinal questions, over time the results for this query have fluctuated wildly. Apparently, the rise of the hard right under the aegis of secular hedonist Trump, which has had a strong evangelical component to it, has caused many to presume that religion has revived as a major influencer. Which it has not because even among Republicans theism is on the decline (https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace).
 
So. Only one very unreliable Gallup result that the organization itself does not take all that seriously seems to support political operator Ralph Reed’s patently absurd pretension that polls show that Americans are remaining privately as Godly as ever over time, despite fleeing institutionalized religion. That when all of the more scientifically constructed and frequently asked Gallup queries show that while organized Christianity is declining faster than personal theism, the latter is going down fast too. One can and probably should presume that a data cherry-picking Reed knew that. Such is common among theists – it’s called lying for the church (or mosque or whatever; a young Muslim initially pretending to be uncertain about his beliefs showed up at a local atheist meetup not long ago and proceeded to try to convince the women to convert by quoting inane Quran lines ad nauseam). And if per chance he did not he has not the slightest excuse for not knowing the real and easy to find facts. Ergo, Godly, Born-Again evangelical Reed profoundly lied either deliberately or out of gross negligence and ignorance to a national audience.
 
The dire demographic reality is a big factor behind the push by many theoconservatives to rule this republic via minority votes at the presidential and Senate and state levels, and by packing the Supreme Court. What they should do is use persuasion via free speech to try to get the American majority to go along with their conservative supernaturalistic ways. But that effort has been failing big time for decades with no realistic hope for success. So they are trying to capture the government by electoral hook and crook and use sheer political power to remake America into the kind of right-wing Christian land this nation was back when the government was a bastion of traditionalist values. Remember Comstock Laws? They bemoan the onset of the unprecedented cultural and sexual revolutions of the 1900s that are helping drive the withering of theism. And that’s why the right continues to embrace a chronically dishonest and irreligious Trump who in turn depends on the religious right for the political success he has enjoyed. That makes twisted electoral sense since Trump lost the electoral college by just 45,000 votes in three states – interestingly, I have not found evidence that Reed has either supported or rejected the claim that Trump did not lose in 2020, seems he is trying to avoid entirely ruining his credibility with either side.
 
So how about it Ralph? Will you publicly and prominently retract your claims and acknowledge that Americans have become markedly less Godly over recent decades? And apologize to the host of the show you with your boyish grin tried to snooker?
 
Got to say, I am not holding my breath on that.
 
But you should.
 
Now, being a data-following scientist who really does my best to be objective — which is why I am not a theist – I note that the PRRI has released new results that while confirming the broader trends of recent decades, suggest that the deChristianization of the US may be plateauing out (https://www.prri.org/research/2020-census-of-american-religion). That is possible, but looking at their rather internally contradictory data I am not convinced. All the more so because the PRRI results do not look to be in line with those of other organizations. So we shall have to see over the coming years what the assorted surveys turn up and go from there.
 
And Bill. When you have Reed, and others of his ilk, on your program in the future and they make one of those that sounds kinda dubious claims, do one of your classic yeah like I (don’t) believe that one looks, and warn your audience to take what they just heard with a large load of salt. Really large.
 
You have to watch out for those theocons. They can be sneaky.

bookmark_borderEvaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #2 – Part 2: Does Sin Exist?

WHERE WE ARE
There are four basic questions that can be used to analyze a worldview. In this post, I will begin to evaluate the Christian answer to worldview question #2.
 
CHRISTIAN ANSWERS TO THE FIRST TWO WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS 
The following is a short version of what I take to be the Christian answers to the first two worldview questions:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)
Alienation or separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and in the next life: divine eternal punishment.

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)
Sin (disobedience to God) is the root cause problem of separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and ultimately results in eternal divine punishment.

 
FURTHER ANALYSIS OF THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER TO WORLDVIEW QUESTION #2
The Christian answer to worldview question #2 can be analyzed into four categories: spiritual, physical, mental, and social (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):  
 
WHAT DOES THE WORD “SIN” MEAN?
In Part 1 of this series of posts, I clarified the meaning of the word “sin” as being purposeful or intentional disobedience to the will of God.  Here is a formal definition of “sin”:

Person  P commits a sin S by doing action A IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) person P’s doing action A violates a law or command L,
(b)  L is a law or command of God to persons (or to some sub-set of persons of which P is a member),
(c) P KNOWS that (a) is the case when P does A,
AND
(d) P KNOWS that (b) is the case when P does A.  

Conditions (c) and (d) are needed to restrict the concept of “sin” to purposeful or intentional violations of the will of God.  One must be aware that God has issued a particular command or law in order for one’s violation of that command or law to be an intentional violation of the will of God.
In Part 1 of this series I also pointed out that the Bible indicates that there are two different ways a person can sin, or two different ways a person can be aware of the laws or commands of God.  First, one can know that a command or law comes from God, because the command or law was revealed by God through one of his prophets.  For example, according to the Bible, God revealed the Ten Commandments through the prophet Moses.
Second, one can know of a command or law of God because of one’s conscience, because God has “hardwired” some of his commands or laws into the minds of human beings, as a bit of innate knowledge, knowledge that we don’t have to learn from a parent or teacher or prophet or priest.
 
HAS ANY HUMAN BEING EVER SINNED?
If there is no such thing as SIN, then the occurrence of sins by human beings CANNOT be used as an explanation for anything.  If sin does not exist, then sin cannot be said to be the CAUSE of any human problem.
In my view, there is no such thing as SIN.  No human being has ever committed a SIN.  This is because there is no God.  If there is no God, then it follows that there are no laws or commands that come from God.  Any laws or commands that exist must come from humans or from other intelligent beings who are not God.  If there are no laws or commands that come from God, then it is NOT POSSIBLE for any person to ever violate a law or command of God, and thus the first two necessary conditions for the occurrence of a sin cannot be met by the actions of any person.  Therefore, if there is no God, then there never has been and never will be any human actions that violate a law or command of God.  Thus, if there is no God, then there never has been or ever will be any human actions that are SINs.
Of course, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are convinced that God does exist, so this argument won’t persuade them to believe that SIN does not exist, unless one can persuade such a believer that God does not exist, which is difficult to do.
There are, however, other reasons for believing that SIN does not exist.  Another necessary condition for the existence of SIN is human KNOWLEDGE that a particular law or command comes from God:

Person  P commits a sin S by doing action A IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) person P’s doing action A violates a law or command L,
(b)  L is a law or command of God to persons (or to some sub-set of persons of which P is a member),
(c) P KNOWS that (a) is the case when P does A,
AND
(d) P KNOWS that (b) is the case when P does A.  

In order for a person to KNOW that (b) is the case, that person must KNOW that God exists. Even if we assume that God exists, this leaves open the question of whether any human being KNOWS that God exists.  There are very good reasons for doubting that any human being KNOWS that God exists.
Most contemporary philosophers, for example, do NOT believe that the existence of God has ever been proven.  Many contemporary philosophers believe that some arguments provide evidence that supports the existence of God, but that this evidence is not sufficient to establish that anyone KNOWS that God exists.  One can believe in the existence of God while also admitting that this belief does NOT constitute KNOWING that God exists.  Since it is doubtful that anyone KNOWS that God exists, it is also doubtful that any human action has ever met the necessary condition (d) for the occurrence of a SIN.
In order for a person to KNOW that (b) is the case, that person must also KNOW that a particular law or command came from God.  It is not sufficient to KNOW that God exists or even to KNOW that God has at some time issued some sort of laws or commands.  One must KNOW that some particular law or particular command (having clear and specific content that is KNOWN to the person in question) came from God.
This is even more difficult to KNOW, and it is highly dubious that any human being has ever had such KNOWLEDGE.  To the extent that it is dubious that any humans have KNOWN that some law or command came from God, it is dubious that any actions by any humans have ever satisfied necessary condition (d) for the occurrence of a SIN.  If it is dubious that any humans have KNOWN that some law or command came from God, then it is dubious that any human actions have ever constituted a SIN.
One of the main ways of humans becoming aware of a law or command of God, according to the Bible, is for God to reveal a law or command through a prophet.  For example, the Bible teaches that God revealed the Ten Commandments to humans through the prophet Moses.  But how do we KNOW that Moses is a true prophet, and that God in fact communicated to humans through Moses?
One key reason given for believing that Moses was a true prophet is that Moses allegedly performed some amazing miracles.  But most scholars who study the Old Testament have serious doubts about whether Moses actually existed.  So, obviously, most scholars who study the Old Testament also doubt that Moses performed the various miracles that are found in Old Testament stories about Moses.  This way of establishing the divine authority of Moses as a true prophet will not work.
One could try to establish the divine authority of Moses as a true prophet of God, by appealing to the sayings and teachings of Jesus.  The existence of Jesus can reasonably be questioned, but most NT scholars believe that Jesus existed.  However, there are a couple of problems with this approach to establishing the divine authority of Moses.
First, most NT scholars do not view the Gospel accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus as being historically reliable.  Although most NT scholars believe Jesus existed, they are often very skeptical about specific historical claims about what Jesus said or did.  Thus, intelligent and educated readers of the NT cannot simply assume that because a Gospel claims that “Jesus said X” that the historical Jesus did in fact say X.  NT scholars generally believe that we can only infer probabilities about what Jesus said or did.  We cannot KNOW that “Jesus said X” and we cannot KNOW that “Jesus did Y”.  So, using the teachings of Jesus to confirm the divine authority of Moses cannot produce KNOWLEDGE that Moses was a true prophet.
Furthermore, even if we could somehow KNOW that “Jesus said X” and that this implies that Jesus believed that Moses was a true prophet of God, it doesn’t follow logically that Moses was in fact a true prophet of God.  Jesus could be mistaken.  Why should we accept what Jesus said about Moses as being the absolute truth?
Christians believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God, that Jesus is God incarnate.  But we are trying to evaluate the truth of the Christian worldview here, so it would beg the question to simply assume that this basic theological belief of Christianity was true.  In order to establish that Moses is a true prophet on the basis of the teachings of Jesus, one must FIRST prove that Jesus is the divine Son of God, or God incarnate.   This is NOT an easy thing for Christians to do.
How can we KNOW that Jesus is the divine Son of God or God incarnate?  One key reason given in support of this claim is that Jesus performed miracles and that Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God.  But many NT scholars doubt both of these claims.  Although NT scholars generally believe that Jesus existed, they are often skeptical about miracle stories in the Gospels, and they are often skeptical about claims in the Gospels that “Jesus said X”, especially when Jesus saying X implies that Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God or God incarnate.
Many, perhaps most, NT scholars believe that these theological views about Jesus evolved AFTER Jesus died on the cross, and AFTER the belief that Jesus rose from the dead became widespread among the followers of Jesus.  So, the two main assumptions supporting the view that Jesus is the divine Son of God are assumptions that many or most NT scholar doubt or do not accept.  This sort of dubious argument cannot produce KNOWLEDGE that Jesus was the divine Son of God.
There is a further problem with these lines of argument used to support the claim that Moses was a true prophet of God.  In order to identify an event as being a “miracle” one must first KNOW some of the plans and purposes of God.  We cannot see, touch, hear, smell, or taste God’s presence or activity.  God is, by definition, a bodiless person, so God does not interact with the world using a physical body.  Thus our normal ways of KNOWING that a particular person caused an event do NOT apply to God.
The only aspect of our normal ways of KNOWING that a particular person caused an event  that seems to apply to God is that of MOTIVATION.  Part of how a detective identifies a murder suspect is by figuring out who had a MOTIVE to kill the victim.  This method seems like one that can be applied to God, but only if we KNOW some of God’s plans and purposes. But we don’t even KNOW that God exists, so KNOWING God’s plans and purposes is pretty much out of the question.
Again, a Christian will be tempted to point to the Bible or “divine revelation” for information about the plans and purposes of God.  But the Bible in general, just like Moses and Jesus in particular, cannot simply be assumed to be absolutely true.  Why should we accept what the Bible has to say about God?  Why should we accept what Moses has to say about God in the first five books of the Bible?  Why should we accept what Jesus has to say about God in the Gospels?
The key reason generally given by Christians is to point to miracles as evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible.  But this means, for example, pointing to the alleged miracles of Moses to prove that Moses was a true prophet of God.  And this means, for example, pointing to the alleged miracles of Jesus to prove that Jesus was the divine Son of God.  We have already seen that such a line of reasoning cannot produce KNOWLEDGE about the alleged divine authority of Moses or Jesus.
Furthermore, none of the alleged miracles of Moses or Jesus can be proven to be miracles UNLESS someone FIRST proves some claims about the purposes and plans of God.  But the source of information that Christians point us to, to find out about the plans and purposes of God is the Bible, the teachings of Moses, and the teachings of Jesus.  So, they are now REASONING in a CIRCLE.
One cannot determine that a miracle has occurred unless and until one proves some specific claims about the plans and purposes of God, but this requires that one establish some person or some book as having divine authority, but in order to establish that some person or some book has divine authority, one must first prove that a miracle has occurred.  Thus, it is not possible to prove that a miracle has in fact occurred.  Therefore, no person or book can be proven to have divine authority.
 
CONCLUSION
For the above reasons, it is doubtful that one can KNOW that some particular law or command came from God, and therefore it is doubtful that a necessary condition of SIN, namely condition (d), has ever been satisfied by any action of any human being.  Therefore, it is doubtful that any human being has ever performed an action that is a SIN.
The reason that I have not concluded that it is clearly the case that no human has ever committed a SIN, is that I have not yet examined the second possible way that a human can allegedly KNOW that a particular law or command is from God (i.e. conscience or innate knowledge of laws or commands of God).

bookmark_borderPodcast #6: Evaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #1

I fell off the wagon, and have not produced a podcast since 2017.  I got back on the wagon this year, and have finally produced Podcast #6 in my series “Thinking Critically About: Is Christianity True?”
I have analyzed the Christian worldview in relation to four basic worldview questions:
Q1. What are the most important problems of human life?
Q2. What is the root cause(s) of the most important problems of human life?
Q3. What is the solution(s) to the root cause problem(s) of the most important problems of human life?
Q4. What is the best way to implement the solution(s) to the root cause problem(s) of the most important problems of human life?
In Podcast #6, I discuss the evaluation of the Christian worldview’s answer to basic worldview question 1.  You can also download the PowerPoint (in a PDF) upon which this podcast is based.
Here is a page from the PowerPoint for Podcast #6:

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 6: NOT a message from God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

In Part 2 of this series I explained my reason for skepticism in general (i.e. CYNICISM), and I explained my reasons for skepticism about supernatural claims.  In this Part 3 of this series I explained my reasons for skepticism about religion.
In Part 4  and Part 5 of this series I presented my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
Here is my second reason for doubting the idea that we should view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus:

2. Leviticus is NOT the inspired Word of God. (Leviticus is just another book written by ignorant and imperfect human beings).

Actually, most of my dozen reasons for doubt relate back to this one.  For example, my first reason was that God does not exist (or that we have good reasons to doubt that God exists).  If there is no God, then it follows logically that Leviticus is NOT the inspired Word of God.  If there is no God, then NOTHING is a message from God, because there is no God to send any message in the first place.
Since most of my dozen reasons provide support for this second reason,  I will not attempt to make a comprehensive case against the divine inspiration of the book of Leviticus in this current post.  My case against the inspiration of Leviticus will span several posts, as I continue to explain and defend reasons 3 through 8.  So, in this post I will briefly present a few reasons for doubting that the book of Leviticus was inspired by God.
LEVITICUS WAS NOT INSPIRED BY GOD IF MOSES WAS THE AUTHOR OF LEVITICUS
I don’t believe that Moses was the author of Leviticus, and neither do most Old Testament scholars.  However, conservative Catholics and conservative Evangelicals generally believe that Moses was the author of Leviticus.  So, this first argument is addressed to Christians who believe that Moses was the author of Leviticus:

1. Jehovah is NOT God.

2. Moses is a prophet of Jehovah.

3. Anyone who is a prophet of a someone other than God is a FALSE PROPHET.

THEREFORE:

4. Moses is a FALSE PROPHET.

5. Moses is the author of Leviticus.

6. No book authored by a FALSE PROPHET is the inspired Word of God.

THEREFORE:

7. Leviticus is NOT the inspired Word of God.

The only controversial premise here is premise (1), and I have already argued for this premise in Part 2 of this series:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/08/18/leviticus-and-homosexuality-part-2-no-messages-from-god/
In short: Jehovah commanded the Israelites to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every man, woman, teenager, child, and baby of the people who were already settled in the “promised land” (i.e. Palestine) in order to steal that land from those people.  Only a morally flawed person would give such an evil command, so Jehovah was a morally flawed person.  But God is a perfectly good person, so Jehovah cannot be God.  Premise (1) is clearly true.  So, if Moses was in fact the author of Leviticus, as stated in premise (5), then we must conclude that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
 
LEVITICUS WAS NOT INSPIRED BY GOD BASED ON THE CONTENT OF LEVITICUS
Here is a high-level outline of the book of Leviticus:

I. Laws on sacrifice (1:1–7:38)
II. Institution of the priesthood (8:1–10:20)
III. Uncleanliness and its treatment (11:1–15:33)
IV. Day of Atonement: purification of the tabernacle from the effects of uncleanliness and sin (ch. 16)
V. Prescriptions for practical holiness (the Holiness Code, chs. 17–26)
VI. Redemption of votive gifts (ch. 27)

(from the article “Book of Leviticus” in Wikipedia)
So, clearly four big ideas in Leviticus are:

  • Sacrifices
  • Priesthood
  • Uncleanliness
  • Holiness

SACRIFICES AND PRIESTHOOD (Leviticus Chapters 1-10)
If there is no good reason for animal sacrifices, then there is also no good reason for the priesthood that is established in the book of Leviticus, because the primary job of the priests was to sacrifice animals.  So, my main focus here will be to argue that there was no good reason for the practice of animal sacrifices.
However, I will say a couple of things about the idea of a priesthood.  I was a conservative Evangelical Christian in my younger years, and I was a big fan of the Protestant Reformation, particularly the key theological principles of sola gratia (salvation is by God’s grace alone), sola fide (justification/forgiveness is by faith alone), and sola scriptura (the only authority in matters of faith and religion is the Bible).  I was also a fan of the protestant belief in “the priesthood of all believers”.  So, the idea of priests and bishops is one that STINKS for me, or at least it did when I was an Evangelical Christian.

Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio, c. 1603

Animal sacrifices are part of nearly every ancient religion.  Abraham practiced animal sacrifice long before Moses was born.  Lots of people from various tribes and cultures practiced animal sacrifice long before Moses was born.  Abraham didn’t need any priests to perform his animal sacrifices.  So, there is no reason why the ancient Israelites needed priests to perform animal sacrifices for them.  They could have done this for themselves, if there was some good reason for making animal sacrifices.
Having a priesthood basically removes thousands of able-bodied men from doing practical work that would benefit their people, like growing and harvesting crops, or raising and butchering animals, or baking bread, or making beer, or making useful items, like metal implements or clay pots.  A priesthood is a waste of potential workers who could perform useful practical tasks and help to complete important practical projects for their people.
The practice of having a priesthood teaches BAD THEOLOGY, because this practice implies that humans need to have an intermediary between themselves and God.  But according to Jesus and Christian theology, God is a loving “Father” to all human beings, and thus we ought to pray “Our Father who is in heaven…”.  Having a priesthood teaches people that God is a distant and frightening being whom ordinary humans ought not try to approach.  This is exactly the OPPOSITE of what Jesus taught.  So, the idea of a priesthood is BAD THEOLOGY from a Christian point of view.
The French atheist Denis Diderot (1713–1784) is often mistakenly* quoted as saying this about priesthood: 

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

The basic idea is probably that religious institutions tend to provide support to powerful rulers and governments, whether those rulers or governments are good and just or are evil and unjust.
But there is also the suspicion that religions, especially religious institutions that include positions of religious authority, often abuse that authority, as for example, the world-wide sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests for the past century (and probably for most of the previous centuries) which was preserved by Catholic bishops who did everything they could to hide this fact from the public and to protect pedophile priests from being brought to justice, but who almost never lifted a finger to protect the children of Catholic believers from these pedophile priests.
Power corrupts, and hierarchies of power (like priests and bishops and popes) are clearly susceptible to unbelievable levels of corruption.  So, this is another reason for NOT establishing and maintaining a priesthood.  Give these men honest work on farms, and in manufacturing, and in business, and have them make actual practical contributions to their societies, instead of sucking off of hard-working fellow believers, or worse, assisting in the abuse and oppression of their fellow believers, as happened so often in the history of the Catholic Church, for example.
The priesthood established in Leviticus primarily performed tasks related to the practice of animal sacrifices.  So, if the practice of animal sacrifices was unnecessary or harmful, then there would be no good reason to establish a priesthood of the sort that Leviticus describes.
 
THE MORAL IMPERATIVE AGAINST ANIMAL SACRIFICES
The practice of animal sacrifices as described in Leviticus involves the deaths and killings of thousands of animals, and over many centuries, millions of animals.  Even if the lives of animals are not given the same value as the lives of humans, it is clearly wrong to kill an animal without having a good reason to do so, especially higher animals like birds and mammals.  The killing of thousands of animals every year is most definitely morally wrong if those animals are birds and mammals, and if there is no good reason for doing this killing.  This might not be equivalent to killing thousands of human beings, but the killing of such animals is still of moral significance and would be wrong apart from having a good reason for doing that much killing.
So, it is morally wrong to institute the practice of animal sacrifices if this will involve the killing of thousands of birds and mammals each year, UNLESS there is a good reason for having and maintaining the practice of animal sacrifices. If there is no good reason for the practice of animal sacrifices, then a perfectly good being would NOT issue commands to institute the practice of animal sacrifices when this would involve the killing of thousands of birds and mammals each year.  I will argue that there is no such good reason, and thus that a perfectly good being would NOT issue commands to institute the practice of animal sacrifice as described in Leviticus, and thus that the book of Leviticus is NOT a message from God.
 
ANIMAL SACRIFICES NOT NECESSARY FOR MAINTENANCE OF A RELIGION
1. The sacrifice of animals is NOT necessary for the maintenance of a religion.  Judaism began after animal sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem ended, and Judaism has persisted for 2,000 years without the need of animal sacrifices, and Christianity has also persisted for 2,000 years without the need of animal sacrifices.
 
THE PRACTICE OF ANIMAL SACRIFICES TEACHES BAD THEOLOGY
2. If Jesus died for the sins of all humankind, including the sins of the ancient Israelites, then the practice of sacrificing of animals teaches BAD THEOLOGY.  This practice implies that the deaths of animals were required in order for God to forgive the sins of the ancient Israelites, which is FALSE.  Only the death of Jesus was required for the forgiveness of sins, according to Christian theology. Also, since the sacrifice of animals was NOT necessary in order for God to forgive the sins of ancient Israelites, the forgiveness of sins is another invalid reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
3. If salvation is by the GRACE of God ALONE, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.   This practice implies that humans can by meritorious actions obtain God’s favor and forgiveness.  Giving a cherished or valuable animal to God and/or to God’s priests is clearly analogous to giving a present to a king or ruler to curry favor with that king or ruler.  But according to Christian theology, human beings are not capable of meriting God’s forgiveness and salvation.  So,  giving people a way to obtain God’s favor or forgiveness is another INVALID reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
4. If God is IMPASSIBLE, as Thomists insist, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.   This practice implies that humans can by their actions influence God’s feelings, attitude, or decisions.  But if human actions can influence God’s feelings, attitude, or decisions, then God is subject to the same sort of weaknesses and influences as humans who have feelings and desires. (I disagree with Thomists on this point, but the person who replied to my objections against Leviticus concerning homosexuality appears to be a Thomist).
5. If God is OMNIPOTENT, as nearly all Christians, Jews, and Muslims agree, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.  This practice implies that humans can by their actions influence Jehovah, which implies that humans have power over Jehovah.  If humans can influence Jehovah’s feelings, attitude, or decisions by performing ritual actions, such as the sacrifice of an animal, then Jehovah is subject to human power and influence and cannot be omnipotent, and thus Jehovah would NOT be God, and thus Leviticus would NOT be inspired by God.  Since the actions of humans cannot influence God’s feelings, attitude, or decisions, the desire to please and influence God is another invalid reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
6. If God is SELF-SUFFICIENT, as nearly all Christians believe, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.  This practice implies that humans can by their actions cause Jehovah to be happy or pleased, or deprive Jehovah of something that would cause Jehovah to be happy or pleased.   If we humans can make Jehovah happy or pleased by performing animal sacrifices, then this implies that Jehovah wants and desires that humans perform such actions, and that by failing to perform such actions we can deprive Jehovah of some potential satisfaction and happiness.  But in that case Jehovah would NOT be self-sufficient, and thus would NOT be God.  Thus, Leviticus would NOT be inspired by God.  Also, since animal sacrifices are not capable of causing God to be happy or pleased, this is another invalid reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
7. If God is PERFECTLY JUST, as nearly all Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe, then the practice of animal sacrifices teaches BAD THEOLOGY.   This practice implies that Jehovah is willing to inflict the punishment for human sins on an innocent animal who did not chose to sin or to disobey Jehovah.  It is manifestly unjust to kill an animal in order to prevent and eliminate the punishment that a human deserved for some sin or crime.  Thus, if Jehovah inspired the commands concerning the practice of animal sacrifice found in Leviticus, then Jehovah is clearly unjust and thus Jehovah is NOT God, and thus Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  Since animal sacrifices do not constitute a fair and just way for the ancient Israelites to obtain forgiveness for their sins or crimes, this is another invalid reason for instituting the practice of animal sacrifices.
The term “scapegoat” originates from the book of Leviticus  (click on image below for a clearer view of the definitions):

(These definitions of “scapegoat” are from Dictionary.com.)
Making a person or group bear the blame for others or suffer in their place is clearly UNFAIR and UNJUST.  Doing the same thing to an animal is also clearly morally wrong.  This is NOT something that a perfectly good deity would promote or encourage.
 
CONCLUSION
If, as many conservative Catholics and conservative Evangelicals believe, Moses was the author of Leviticus, then we must conclude that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God, because Moses was a prophet of Jehovah, and Jehovah is clearly NOT God.
However, setting aside the question of the authorship of Leviticus, the CONTENT of Leviticus also gives us a good reason to believe that this book was NOT inspired by God.
I am not aware of any good reason for establishing the practice of animal sacrifices, especially if the practice clearly involved the killing of thousands of birds and mammals each year, potentially for many centuries.
However, there are plenty of good reasons AGAINST the practice of animal sacrifice, at least from a Christian point of view, and there are some good reasons AGAINST the practice of animal sacrifice from a Jewish and Muslim point of view as well.  The practice of animal sacrifices teaches many FALSE ideas about God, from a Christian point of view, and teaches some FALSE ideas about God from a Jewish or Muslim point of view.
Given the moral imperative that the practice of animal sacrifices as described in Leviticus are morally wrong UNLESS there is a good reason for establishing the practice of such animal sacrifices, and given that there appears to be no good reason for establishing this practice, and we have a number of good reason AGAINST the establishment of the practice of animal sacrifices as described in Leviticus, making it even more unlikely that there is good reason for establishing this practice,  it was morally wrong to issue the commands found in Leviticus concerning the practice of animal sacrifices, and thus Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
Given that there is no good reason to establish the practice of animal sacrifices, there was also no good reason to establish the priesthood as described in Leviticus.  Furthermore, there also appear to be some good reasons AGAINST the establishment of the sort of priesthood described in Leviticus, making it even more unlikely that there is sufficient reason for establishing the sort of priesthood that is described in Leviticus.  Thus, we have another good reason to believe that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
============================
*Meslier [the atheist‐​priest Jean Meslier] repudiated the doctrine of passive obedience unequivocally. Throughout the Testament he endorsed violent resistance against tyrannical rulers and their unjust actions. Indeed, in Chapter 2 we find the first formulation of a saying that has commonly been attributed to the French atheist Denis Diderot (1713–1784): “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” This is not how Meslier worded the sentiment, nor did he take credit for the idea. Rather, Meslier attributed the sentiment to a common Frenchman “who had no culture or education.”  (from: “Smith explains Meslier’s three major objections to Christian morality, as taught by Jesus.” by George H. Smith)
============================

UPDATE ON 9/9/2020

CLARIFICATION OF THE PHRASE “BAD THEOLOGY”:
One sort of BAD THEOLOGY is logically self-contradictory claims about God.
“God, if God exists, does not know how many hairs there are on my head.” This is BAD THEOLOGY, in that in the ordinary sense of the word “God”, someone is “God” only if that person is omniscient. So, there is a logical self-contradiction in that sentence. Similarly, the sentence “God, if God exists, has a master plan in which billions of human beings will end up being tormented in hell for all eternity” is BAD THEOLOGY, because in the ordinary sense of the word “God”, someone is “God” only if that person is perfectly morally good, but a person who plans for billions of human beings to be tormented in hell for all eternity is clearly NOT a perfectly morally good person.
Another sort of BAD THEOLOGY is claims about God that contradict one’s own basic theological beliefs. Here the “badness” is relative to a point of view (unlike the badness of a logical self-contradiction which is objectively and universally bad). Jesus clearly taught (according to the Gospels) that we should view God as our “heavenly Father”, as a person who loves and cares about the welfare of each and every human being. So to claim that “God is a terrible and wrathful person whom you must only approach through an intermediary, like a priest” is to contradict a basic teaching of Jesus. From a Christian point of view, claims about God that contradict a basic teaching of Jesus constitute BAD THEOLOGY and thus should be rejected.
Of course, what counts as BAD THEOLOGY from a Christian point of view does not necessarily count as BAD THEOLOGY from the point of view of another religion, like Islam or Buddhism. But the argument against homosexual sex based on the book of Leviticus is primarily a Christian argument (although it could also be a Jewish argument). So, when I argue that Leviticus teaches BAD THEOLOGY in relation to a Christian point of view, I am using the beliefs and assumptions of the people who are presenting the argument against homosexual sex based on Leviticus.
Some of my objections in this post present a DILEMMA to Christian believers. For example:
1. Either you accept the basic teachings of Jesus about God (as presented in the Gospels) or not.
2. If you accept the basic teachings of Jesus about God (as presented in the Gospels), then you must reject the practice of animal sacrifices as teaching BAD THEOLOGY.
3. If you reject the practice of animal sacrifices as teaching BAD THEOLOGY, then you must also (to be logically consistent) reject the view that the book of Leviticus was inspired by God.
4. If you do NOT accept the basic teachings of Jesus about God (as presented in the Gospels), then you must also (to be logically consistent) reject the basic Christian beliefs that Jesus was a true prophet and that Jesus was the divine Son of God and savior of mankind.
In short, the DILEMMA is this:
5. You can either remain a Christian believer and reject the inspiration of Leviticus OR you can reject the Christian religion as FALSE.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 9: Enhanced 2nd Argument for Changing Things

WHERE WE ARE
In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple (and obviously true) claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument in PoR for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument in PoR for (21) FAILS.
In Part 8 of this series, I analyzed Geisler’s second argument for claim (21), and then I began to evaluate the argument.  But I repeatedly ran into problems with the argument, problems that could be fixed by making an unstated assumption explicit, or by clarifying the meaning of a premise, or by modifying a premise in order to make an inference in the argument logically valid.  I ended up adding a number of premises, and modifying the statement of each of the original premises.
Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.
It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might turn out to be a solid proof, so I will go ahead and evaluate this enhanced 2nd argument in this post.
 
THE ENHANCED 2ND ARGUMENT FOR CHANGING THINGS
Here is the core of the enhanced 2nd argument in PoR:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

THEREFORE:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

Here is the argument in support of premise (A1):

C. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about myself is real, and myself still exists right now.

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E. Myself is a thing and the world is a thing.

F. It is NOT the case that the world and myself are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Premises (C) and (D) are supported by an explicit premise:

32b. Total illusion about myself is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

Based on the above analysis, we can show the structure of this argument:
PROBLEMS WITH PRONOUNS
Although I have made a sincere effort to clarify and enhance Geisler’s argument, to take his FAILED argument and try to turn it into a clear and logically valid argument, there are still some serious problems of unclarity,  because of the use of pronouns:  “I” and “myself”.  All by themselves, pronouns don’t have a specific meaning; they don’t specify a particular thing, a particular person, a particular group, or a particular collection of things.
Because pronouns, on their own, don’t have a specific meaning, each pronoun in an argument MUST be interpreted BEFORE one can evaluate the truth of a premise or claim that is stated using a pronoun.  So, no serious philosophical argument should contain any pronouns.  In order to formulate a clear and serious philosophical argument, one must eliminate all pronouns in the statement of the argument by substituting a proper name or a clear description of the thing, person, group, or collection to which the pronoun is referring.
Perhaps “I” refers to the author of the argument, Norman Geisler:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

D1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F1. It is NOT the case that the world and Norman Geisler’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

I just noticed that the argument supporting (C1) and (D1) is incomplete.  There are additional unstated premises that need to be made explicit:

G1. Norman Geisler seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Norman Geisler’s self.

H1. Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Norman Geisler’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

I believe that Geisler exists.  I believe that he has had various experiences over many years.  But I’m NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler is in fact Norman Geisler, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler has had various experiences over many years (because I cannot get inside of someone else’s mind).  So, although I am inclined to believe that (G1) is true, this claim is NOT self-evident, nor is it certain.  In any case,  premise (G1) is LESS CERTAIN than the ultimate conclusion of this argument:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

So, this argument FAILS.
There is a second problem that I see here with this sub-argument for (C1).  Suppose that one of Geisler’s early experiences of his “self” was accurate.  Perhaps he experienced in himself an antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.  Suppose this experience was accurate, and that he did in fact have a strong antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.   Suppose that at a later point in time, Geisler experiences what seems to be a change in himself, namely that he no longer has antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems, or at least has nowhere near the strong antipathy that he used to have.  Suppose further that this seeming experience of a change in his self is a delusion, and that he in fact has just as much antipathy towards solving word problems now as he ever had in the past.  In this case Geisler’s initial perception of himself was accurate and correct, but his later perception of a change in himself was false and incorrect.
============================

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_problem_(mathematics_education)
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In this case we can say that his experience of himself is NOT a “total illusion” because his initial perception of himself was accurate and correct.  However, his seeming experience of a CHANGE in himself was false and incorrect.  No such CHANGE took place.  But now, suppose that EVERY CHANGE that Geisler has experienced concerning himself was similarly false and incorrect.  In that case, his experiences of himself would NOT be a “total illusion” because his initial perceptions of himself would be accurate and correct, but EVERY CHANGE that he has seemed to experience to himself is false and incorrect, and in fact no change that he seems to have experienced actually took place.
What this shows is that the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is LOGICALLY INVALID, in spite of my efforts to enhance the argument, to make Geisler’s argument logically valid.  Even if “total illusion” is ruled out, there is still the possibility that NO CHANGE experienced by Geisler about himself was an actual event.
So, there are at least two problems with this sub-argument.  First, premise (G1) is neither self-evident nor certain, and is less certain than the ultimate conclusion it is supposed to be supporting.  Second, the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is logically invalid.  The same objections apply to the parallel sub-argument for premise (D1).  So, we now have four different significant problems with this argument.
Furthermore, premise (E1) is problematic as well:

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

Although I believe that Norman Geisler exists, I am NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, and I am even less certain that Norman Geisler’s “self” exists.  Furthermore, since I’m not sure what it means for Geisler’s “self” to exist, I am very uncertain that it is appropriate to categorize his “self” as  “a thing”.
Finally, this is an argument based on the thinking of Aquinas, and Aquinas had a very specific idea of what constitutes “a thing”, so it might well be the case that the phrase “a thing” here has a very particular meaning, which Geisler has failed to specify.   For these reasons, I am reluctant to agree with the first half of premise (E1), and I most definitely don’t KNOW (E1) to be true.
The phrase “the world” is not as vague and unclear as “self”, but it is not entirely clear what this means.  I also have the same concerns about the meaning of the phrase “a thing” in the second half of (E1) as with the first half of (E1).
So, without Geisler providing a good deal more in the way of clarifications or definitions, premise (E1) seems rather dubious.  These concerns also apply to premise (F1).
What if the pronouns “I” and “myself” in this argument do NOT refer to Norman Geisler?  Perhaps, they refer to whoever the reader happens to be, like ME:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

D2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E2. Bradley Bowen’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F2. It is NOT the case that the world and Bradley Bowen’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

This interpretation does help with the degree of certainty I have about a premise in a sub-argument for (C2):

G2. Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self.

H2. Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Bradley Bowen’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

I am more confident and certain about (G2) than I was about the analogous premise about Norman Geisler.  I am more certain that I exist, and that I have had experiences about myself.  But there is a problem with making the argument about me as opposed to about Geisler.
Geisler, so far as I am aware, does not know that I exist.  Even if he does have some small awareness about my existence, he surely is NOT certain that I exist.  So, this argument cannot be what Geisler had in mind, since he either doesn’t know that I exist, or has only a modest and uncertain belief that I exist.  Geisler is in no position to confidently assert premise (G2) to be true and certain.  So, this is NOT a plausible interpretation of Geisler’s argument.
Furthermore, although premise (G2) has the advantage of being more certain to ME than premise (G1), the argument still has all of the other serious problems that I have pointed out above.  Changing the focus from Norman Geisler to Bradley Bowen doesn’t help with any of the other objections that I have raised.
 
CONCLUSION
Geisler’s second argument for (21a) FAILS.
I have made a serious attempt to repair Geisler’s unclear and logically invalid argument, but although I made several significant improvements to his argument, it still has a number of unclear and dubious premises, and some invalid inferences in the sub-arguments for key premises.  Even the significantly enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist right now.” clearly FAILS.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 5: More Reasons for Skepticism about God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

In Part 4 of this series I presented some of my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
In this current post, I will present more of my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
 
MORE REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF GOD  
G. The serious problems with one of the best cases ever made for God (by Richard Swinburne) support skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from my posts on Swinburne’s case for God:]
But when we come to the third argument, TASO (Teleological Argument from Spatial Order), the factual claim is not at all obviously true:

(e3) There exists a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws, and in which the structure of the natural laws and of the initial conditions are such that they make the evolution of human bodies in that universe probable.

People are not born with modern scientific knowledge about plants, animals, chemistry, genetics, geology, etc.  We have to be educated over a period of many years, and even then, many (most?) people in the USA don’t learn enough scientific information and concepts to be in a position to know that human bodies evolved.  Certainly, many educated Christians in the USA have doubts about the claim that human bodies evolved in this universe.
Second, assuming it to be a fact that human bodies evolved in this universe, this still does NOT imply that the structure of the universe (the initial conditions at the time of the Big Bang plus the specific laws of nature in this universe) made this outcome PROBABLE.  For all we know, the evolution of human bodies might have been an extremely improbable event.  Many events that have occurred are improbable events.  The fact that event X actually occurred does NOT show that the universe was so structured that it was probable that X would occur.
[…]
Clearly, (e3) is NOT something that is “known by those who dispute about” the existence of God.  I doubt that anyone knows (e3) to be true, but even if there are a few such people, they are a tiny portion of the large population of those who “dispute about” the existence of God.   Therefore, premise (2) is FALSE.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/27/problems-taso-part-1/

Richard Swinburne

So, in order to KNOW that (e3) is true, one must be aware of a great deal of information, and that information includes facts that support some of the most powerful objections to belief in God: the many and pervasive problems of evil.  But then when one evaluates the probability of the hypothesis that God exists in relation to (e3), one cannot rationally and reasonably set aside and ignore the many and pervasive problems of evil.  So, in order to rationally evaluate the probability of the claim “God exists” in relation to (e3), one must take into consideration not just the meaning and implications of (e3), but also the large collection of facts and data that allow one to KNOW that (e3) is in fact true.
If one takes into account most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil in evaluating the strength of TASO, then it is unclear and very doubtful that all of this additional information increases the probability that God exists.  Given most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil, that information might very well outweigh whatever positive support the hypothesis of theism gets from the fact that the universe is structured in a way that makes the evolution of human bodies probable.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/02/05/problems-taso-part-2-favorite-objection/
H. Evolution provides a good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.
Evolution has at least two connections to the problems of evil.  First, in order to know that animal species evolved and that humans evolved from primates, one needs to learn a good deal of information about geology, paleontology, biology, chemistry, and anthropology.  This body of concepts, facts, and theories contains information about evils that have occurred and that continue to occur.  Thus, knowledge of evolution includes knowledge about evils.  That creates a serious problem for Swinburne’s Teleological Argument from Spatial Order (as I have pointed out above).
Second, evolution itself constitutes a significant problem of evil.  There is more than one example of evil in this world, and different evils have different characteristics making it difficult for there to be a one-size-fits-all-solution or response to all of the various kinds of evils that occur.
For example, there is a traditional distinction made between moral evil and natural evil.  Moral evil is evil that is constituted by or caused by the choices of human beings.  The traditional “solution” to moral evil is to point to free will, and assert that God allows moral evil to exist in order to give human beings the great good of having free will.  But natural evil cannot be explained this way (not plausibly), because natural evil is NOT the result of the choices of human beings.
Natural evil, such as death and suffering from a flood or earthquake, could be explained as the result of the free will of demons or of the devil, but such explanations are no longer plausible, given the advance of science, which allows us to understand the physical causes of earthquakes and floods and other natural examples of natural evil, and which also gives us good reason to disbelieve in the existence of demons, ghosts, angels, and the devil.
There are different kinds of evil, so different examples of evil can constitute different problems of evil, problems that have their own unique characteristics, and which may not be explainable by a single idea about how and why God fails to prevent or eliminate evil.
It is VERY UNLIKELY that God would structure the universe in such a way that human bodies would probably evolve (naturally, apart from any divine intervention).
God is, on Swinburne’s own definition, an eternally omnipotent person, and an eternally omniscient person (with omniscience being limited in relation to knowledge of the future, because God’s free will and human free will make it logically impossible to know every detail of the future).  Since God is omnipotent and omniscient, God would be able to create all existing plants, animals, and human beings in the blink of an eye, along the lines of the Genesis creation myth.
It is very implausible to suppose that God would use the long, random, and uncertain process of evolution to produce plants, animals, and human bodies when God could have instantly created billions of earth-like planets all filled to the brim with thousands of kinds of plants, and animals, and creatures with human-like bodies.
Furthermore, God is also supposed to be a perfectly morally good person, and all of the pain, disease, suffering, and death involved in a billion years of the evolutionary struggle for survival could have been avoided by God creating all of the desired plants, animals, and human-like creatures in an instant.  God, if God exists, had a very powerful moral reason to prefer instantaneous creation of living creatures over the slow, random, uncertain, and suffering-filled natural process of evolution.
There seems to be no strong reason for God to prefer the natural process of evolution over instantaneous creation of all living creatures, including the creation of human bodies, and there is an obvious powerful moral reason for God to prefer instantaneous creation over the natural process of evolution.
Since it is very unlikely that God would choose to create human beings by means of the process of evolution, and since human beings came into existence by means of the process of evolution,  this gives us a good reason to believe that there is no God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/27/problems-taso-part-1/
I. Skepticism about the two initial phases of Classical Apologetics (because of our ignorance of the plans and purposes of God) supports skepticism about the existence of God.
Some of my criticisms of Richard Swinburne’s case for God can be applied more broadly to any case for God (or to most cases for God).  In Classical Apologetics, there are three main phases:
(1) prove that God exists,
(2) use miracles to prove that Jesus or the Bible (or some religious authority like the Catholic Church) is inspired and authorized to provide messages from God,
(3) use the teachings of Jesus (or the Bible or the Catholic church) to support the truth of the rest of the Christian worldview.
In Part 3 of this series (see the section: “H. Skepticism about Miracles and Revelation casts doubt on Western theistic religions”) I argued that the second phase of Classical Apologetics is doomed to failure, because we don’t know any details about the plans and purposes of God.
However, most arguments for God involve assumptions about the plans and purposes of God.  That is explicitly the case with Swinburne’s case for God, but I have examined the arguments for God in Kreeft’s case for God, and discovered that they too are based on assumptions about the plans and purposes of God.
To the extent that we are ignorant about the plans and purposes of God, most arguments for the existence of God are doomed to failure.  This gives us a good reason to be skeptical about the existence of God.
Richard Swinburne recognized this important aspect of arguments for God, but he failed to show that we have sufficient knowledge of the plans and purposes of God to make his case work.  Other Christian apologists, like Peter Kreeft and Norman Geisler are oblivious to the fact that their arguments depend on such assumptions, so they have not even  attempted to argue for these assumptions required to make their cases for God work.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/01/the-logic-of-miracles/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/16/the-logic-of-miracles-part-2-showing-that-god-exists/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/19/the-logic-of-miracles-part-3-kreefts-first-ten-arguments/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/20/the-logic-of-miracles-part-4-kreefts-last-ten-arguments/
J. The problems of evil support skepticism about the existence of God.
I have previously mentioned some of the natural evils associated with evolution: injuries, diseases, mutations, famines, hunger, starvation, predation, pain, suffering, and death.  Just in learning enough scientific information to know that animals and human beings are the products of the process of evolution requires learning about the occurrence of such natural evils.
Furthermore, as I argue above, evolution is itself one example of a major natural evil, and all by itself constitutes a good reason to believe that there is no God.
Setting aside the fact that animals and humans came into existence as the result of evolution, there are natural evils that are powerful evidence against the existence of God whether evolution is true or not:  injuries, diseases, mutations, famines, hunger, starvation, predation, pain, suffering, and death.  These natural evils clearly exist and can be observed today.
The primary explanation that Christians have traditionally provided for such natural evils is that they are the results of the “Fall”, they were caused by human beings sinning, by human disobedience to God.  Everything was “Good” and wonderful, then Adam and Eve (the first human beings) sinned against God, and this corrupted all of nature.
This explanation, however, is clearly and obviously FALSE.  Predation existed long before human beings came into existence.  Injuries, diseases, famines and starvation existed long before human beings came into existence.  Pain, suffering, and death existed long before human beings came into existence.  Sentient animals existed on Earth long before human beings arrived on this planet.
Even if human beings were not the product of the process of evolution, even if human beings came about because a creator god instantly produced human beings out of nothing, or out of a lump of clay, it would still be a fact that humans have only existed on Earth for about a million years, and that sentient animals have existed on the Earth for hundreds of millions of years, and that sentient animals have been experiencing injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death for hundreds of millions of years.
In other words, injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death appear to be built into nature.  If the natural world of planet Earth was designed and brought into existence by a creator god, then that creator either designed the natural world to include injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death, or else these are unintended errors and flaws in the work of this creator god.  In either case, the creator god cannot be the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, such a creator god cannot be an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good person.
Thus, the existence of natural evils provide us with good reason to believe that God does not exist.  If there is a creator god, that god is a finite and imperfect person.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/02/05/problems-taso-part-2-favorite-objection/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/08/16/a-simple-and-obvious-explanation/
There are other problems of evil that should also be considered:

  • The suffering of innocent children.
  • Great suffering or evil that is not required in order to produce or make possible a greater good.
  • The large number of instances of evil and suffering that don’t appear to be required in order to produce or make possible a greater good (making it probable that some evil and suffering are NOT required to produce or make possible a greater good).
  • The evil of the eternal suffering of those people who are condemned to hell.
  • The evil of the sorrow of those in heaven about the eternal suffering of loved ones in hell (or the alternative evil of the rejoicing of those in heaven about the eternal suffering of loved ones in hell).

K. Contradictions between the divine attributes support skepticism about the existence of God.
God is immutable AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is immutable, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is immutable, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is outside of time AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is outside of time, then God is immutable.

If God is immutable, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is outside of time, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is impassible AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is impassible, then God does not love human beings.

If God does not love human beings, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is impassible, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is bodiless AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is bodiless, then God cannot be identified as a person.

If God cannot be identified as a person, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is bodiless, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is omniscient AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is omniscient, then God knows every choice that God will ever make.

If God knows every choice that God will ever make, then God does not have free will.

If God does not have free will, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is omniscient, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

I realize that ALL of the above arguments are controversial.  I don’t expect to PROVE that the concept of God is incoherent by just presenting these brief summary arguments.  I am merely indicating the sorts of arguments that I would be likely to use in an attempt to show that the concept of God is incoherent.
Actually, my preference is to toss out the “divine attributes” that seem to most clearly contradict the divine attribute of being a “perfectly morally good person”.  I would toss out “immutable”, “outside of time”, and “impassible” without a second thought.  Those seem to me to be inessential, less important, less central than other traditional divine attributes, like “omniscience” and “omnipotence” and being “bodiless”.  Obviously,  I think that the attribute of “perfectly morally good person” is central to the traditional concept of God.
One important objection to all of the above arguments is the Thomist view that “God is not a person.”  However, I find the Thomist concept of God to be absurd, so this objection doesn’t carry much weight for me.
I think the bottom line for me is that I could never bring myself to view being that was NOT a person as something that was worthy of worship and adoration.  Those are things that only make sense relative to a being who is a person.  Also, a being that is not a person could NOT be “perfectly morally good”, and again I could never bring myself to view a being that was NOT “perfectly morally good” as something that was worthy of worship and adoration.
It is possible that this is just my own peculiar personal bias, but if it is a bias, I strongly suspect it is one that I share with hundreds of millions of Christian believers.  I don’t think believers in the pews would have much interest in the “God” of the Thomists.  This point, by the way, is a perfect segue into my final reason for skepticism about God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/11/cases-for-god/

David Hume by Allan Ramsay, 1766 and Sigmund Freud by Max Halberstadt, c. 1921
David Hume and Sigmund Freud

L. Hume’s and Freud’s objections to theism provide good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.
Sigmund Freud had a few different ideas about the psychological basis of religion, especially Western theistic religion.  One idea is that humans commonly fear the awesome dangerous forces of nature, and that this fear is an important part of our thinking and our feelings.  Another idea is that when we are babies we look up to our parents as our source of food, life, comfort, and safety.  Our parents are like our gods when we are infants.
When we become children, we learn that our parents are imperfect and vulnerable, and that all humans are subject to the awesome dangerous forces of nature.  Thus, about the time we learn that our parents are not actually gods, we learn that we are in great need of protection, in need of a god-like parent in the sky who can protect us from the dangerous forces of nature.  Belief in a very powerful, very wise, and caring parent-in-the-sky becomes appealing to human beings at an early age.  So, belief in God, can be viewed as a result of WISHFUL THINKING.  We DESIRE to have a powerful, wise, and caring parent-in-the-sky, and so we make ourselves BELIEVE that there is such a being or person.
Freud’s view of the psychological basis for belief in God provides some reason for skepticism about the existence of God, because it suggests that this belief is based in WISHFUL THINKING.  However, Freud’s view also can be related to, and work together with, a skeptical view about belief in God promoted by David Hume.
David Hume was skeptical about the existence of God in part because he saw that there was a logical tension in the very idea of God.  On the one hand, Christians, and other religious believers in God, want God to be transcendent.  God must be more than a human being, and even more than just a “superman”.  God must be the absolute best and highest being that we can imagine.  Anselm talks about God as “the being than which none greater can be conceived”.  Theology that takes this idea of Anselm’s seriously, is called “Perfect Being” theology.
On the other hand, Christians, and other religious believers in God, want God to be immanent.  God cannot be so different from us that we cannot relate to God.  I think probably the most powerful motivation for viewing Jesus as being the “divine Son of God” and “God Incarnate” is that Jesus was a human being with a physical body, a human being who walked and talked and ate food, and drank, and swam in the sea of Galilee.  Christians, and other religious believers in God, want a God with whom they can talk, a God that they can view as being a friend or a parent.
But as Hume repeatedly points out, we cannot have our cake and eat it too.  If God is an absolutely infinite and absolutely perfect being, and God has infinite power and infinite knowledge, then God cannot also be just an ordinary human being who we can view as a friend or parent.  We cannot have a meaningful conversation with an absolutely infinite and absolutely perfect being.
So, the bottom line for me is this.  Freud and Hume together give us good reason to view the idea of God as the product of human desires, and this not only raises the suspicion that God is the product of WISHFUL THINKING, but also that because we desire logically contradictory things,  it is impossible for God to actually exist.
What we desire in God are a combination of attributes that it is not possible for one being to possess.  We cannot have our cake and eat it too, no matter how much we DESIRE this outcome.  We cannot have a God who is both transcendent and immanent, no matter how strongly we desire that such a being exist.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 4: Skepticism about God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

My doubts about the existence of God are related to skepticism in general, and to three specific areas of skepticism:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Claims
  • Skepticism about Religion
  • Skepticism about the Existence of God

In Part 2 of this series I explained my reason for skepticism in general (i.e. CYNICISM), and I explained my reasons for skepticism about supernatural claims.
In this Part 3 of this series I explained my reasons for skepticism about religion.
In this post I will cover my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God, the first two being based directly on my skepticism about supernatural claims and skepticism about religion.
SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
A. Skepticism about supernatural powers and supernatural beings supports skepticism about the existence of God.
Over many centuries billions of people have mistakenly believed that there are ghosts and demons, invisible bodiless supernatural beings.  Over many centuries billions of people have mistakenly believed that there are people with amazing supernatural powers, what we now call psychics.   But there are no people who can actually move or bend physical objects with just their minds.  There are no people who can actually “see” future events.  There are no people who can actually “read” the thoughts of other people.  There are no people who can actually instantly heal physical injuries or organic diseases with just their minds.  There are no actual psychics.
Suppose someone claims that there is a person who has ALL of these supernatural psychic abilities.  Such a claim would be ridiculous on its face.  I remember as a young boy listening to Pastor Jim Jones of the “People’s Temple” on the radio in San Francisco, claiming that he had ALL of “the gifts of the spirit”, which include speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing,  miracles, and supernatural knowledge.  He, of course, turned out to be a mentally ill drug addict, who was followed by many naive, clueless, gullible, superstitious fools, many of whom followed him to Jonestown, a commune built in the jungle in Guyana, and then later ended their own lives by drinking poisoned cool-aid at the direction of Pastor Jim Jones.

Mass suicide at Jonestown (History.com article)

Now suppose that the “person” who allegedly has ALL of these amazing supernatural powers is not an ordinary person with a physical body, but is (allegedly) a ghost or spirit who is invisible and has no physical body.  Now we are getting into crazyville territory.  But belief in the existence of God is very similar to belief in the existence of a ghost who has many amazing psychic powers.
God, if God exists, is an invisible and immaterial supernatural being who has no physical body, like ghosts and demons.  God also has many supernatural powers.  God, if God exists, can “see” the future, just like a psychic.  God can make physical objects move (or bend) just by willing them to move (or bend), just like a psychic.  God can “read” minds, just like a psychic.  God can instantly heal people of injuries or diseases, just like a psychic.  So, belief in the existence of God is a lot like believing in the existence of a ghost who has many different psychic powers.
Although billions of people have for many centuries believed in supernatural beings (like ghosts or demons) and in supernatural powers (like those allegedly possessed by psychics), there is no good reason to believe that ghosts actually exist, or that psychics actually exist.  In fact, we have good reason to disbelieve in supernatural beings (like ghosts and demons) and to disbelieve in supernatural powers (like those allegedly possessed by psychics), because such alleged phenomena have been carefully and scientifically investigated for about 150 years, but no solid empirical evidence has ever been discovered that shows any such supernatural beliefs to be true.
So, we have good reason to be skeptical about God, and good reason to doubt that God exists, unless and until powerful empirical evidence confirming the existence of God becomes available.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for that evidence!
B. Skepticism about religions supports skepticism about the existence of God.
In Part 3 of this series  I presented a number of reasons for being skeptical about religions. Given those reasons for skepticism about religions, it might well be the case that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all FALSE.
That is, the worldviews promoted by these religions might well be FALSE, meaning that a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute each of these worldviews are FALSE.  Since a worldview contains several beliefs and assumptions, it is not necessary that EVERY belief and assumption in a worldview be FALSE in order for the worldview as a whole to be FALSE.  So long as a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions of a worldview are FALSE, that would provide sufficient grounds for evaluating the worldview as being FALSE.
But if all three major Western religions are FALSE, then that means that a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute the worldviews associated with these religions are FALSE.  One of the beliefs that is part of the worldviews of all three of these religions is the belief that God exists.  But if a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute these worldviews are FALSE, then it might well be the case that belief in the existence of God was one of those FALSE worldview beliefs.
In any case, if the worldviews of all three major Western religions were FALSE, then these three religions would have no significant credibility.  We could not, in that case, reasonably view any of these religions as a reliable source of knowledge or information about theology, metaphysics, or ethics.   Thus, doubt about the existence of God would be justified, unless there were good reasons independent of these religions to believe in the existence of God.
Reasons for skepticism about religion don’t prove that all religions are FALSE, but they do make it somewhat likely that all three major Western theistic religions are FALSE, and if all three major Western theistic religions were in fact FALSE, then we would have good reason to doubt that God exists.
C. The silence of God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
In Part 2 of this series, I presented this argument for disbelief in the existence of God:

21. IF God exists, THEN it is very likely that God communicated truth or wisdom to human beings through prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years.

22. There have been no prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided truth or wisdom from God.

THEREFORE:

23. It is probably NOT the case that God exists.

It is clear and certain that the “holy books” of the main three western theistic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) were NOT inspired by God; they do not constitute messages from God.
Jehovah, the god of the Old Testament is clearly a morally flawed person, so that means that Jehovah was NOT God.  But if Jehovah was NOT God, then Moses was a false prophet, and the Torah was NOT inspired by God.  If Jehovah was a false god and Moses was a false prophet, then the other holy books of Judaism (which constitute the Old Testament in the Christian Bible) were also NOT inspired by God, since they assume Jehovah to be God and Moses to be a true prophet.
Jesus believed and taught that Moses was a true prophet, and Jesus practiced and promoted worship and obedience to Jehovah.  Since Moses was in fact a false prophet, and since Jehovah is in fact a false god, it follows logically that Jesus was also NOT a true prophet and NOT the divine Son of God.  If Jesus was NOT a true prophet and NOT the divine Son of God, then the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament were also NOT inspired by God. Thus both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Christian Bible were NOT inspired by God.
According to the Quran, both Moses and Jesus were true prophets of God, so since Moses was in fact a false prophet, and Jesus also was in fact a false prophet, we can logically conclude that the Quran was NOT inspired by God, and that Muhammad himself was a false prophet, just like Moses and Jesus.  Therefore: NONE of the holy books of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam were inspired by God.
Furthermore, other supposedly “holy books” teach or assume that Jesus was a true prophet, or that Moses was a true prophet, or that Muhammad was a true prophet, so those “holy books” are also clearly NOT inspired by God, because Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were in fact false prophets.  For example, The Book of Mormon, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures both teach or assume that the Bible was inspired by God and that Jesus was a true prophet.  So, it is clear and certain that those two “holy books” are NOT inspired by God.
This means that either there have been NO prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided messages of truth and wisdom from God, or else that God attempted to communicate with mankind through a prophet and/or holy book in the past four thousand years, but God’s attempt was a failure, because that prophet and/or holy book are now unknown or known only to a small number of human beings.
But God, if God exists, is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good.  How could such a being fail so miserably at an attempt to communicate truth and wisdom to the human race?  The hypothesis that God made such an attempt but failed miserably is very improbable.  So, the most likely scenario is that it is NOT the case that there have been any prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that provide messages of truth and wisdom from God.
Premise (22) is very likely true, and premise (21) is believed by most Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and it seems very plausible to me too.  Therefore, the silence of God gives us a good reason to believe that there is no God.
D. The utter failure of Peter Kreeft’s case for God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from some of my posts on Kreeft’s case for God:]
Given that 100% of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL to provide any good reason to believe that God exists, it might seem unlikely that there will be any strong and solid arguments for God among the remaining ten arguments.  However, it seems to me that Kreeft was trying to put his best foot forward by presenting his strongest and best arguments up front, at the beginning of his case, and thus saved the weakest and worst arguments for the second half of his case.
Argument #3 and Argument #5 FAIL for the same reasons that Argument #1 and Argument #2 FAILED:  Kreeft does not bother to SUPPORT the most important premise in each of these arguments, namely the premise that links his stated conclusion to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists.”
The middle inference or sub-argument [in Argument #4] FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion, just like the initial inference or sub-argument FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion.  Thus, we may reasonably conclude that Argument #4 is a complete FAILURE.  This argument has multiple serious problems, and so it provides us no good reason to believe that God exists.
Argument #4 fails, and thus ALL FIVE of the arguments that Kreeft apparently believes to be the best and strongest arguments for the existence of God FAIL, just like ALL TEN of the last arguments of his case FAIL.  At this point, we have determined that at least 75% of the arguments (15 out of 20) in Kreeft’s case for God FAIL.  Given the perfect consistency of FAILURE in Kreeft’s case so far, it is unlikely that any of the remaining five arguments will turn out to be a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/04/26/peter-kreefts-case-for-god-2/
E. The utter failure of Norman Geisler’s case for God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from one of my posts on Geisler’s case for God:]
PHASE 1: GEISLER’s FIVE WAYS
PROBLEM 1:  Geisler FAILS to provide a clear definition of the word “God”, thus making his whole argument unclear and confusing.
PROBLEM 2:  Geisler has only ONE argument for the existence of God, but he mistakenly believes he has FIVE different and independent arguments for the existence of God.
PROBLEM 3: Geisler makes a confused and mistaken distinction between proving the existence of God and proving the existence of a being with various divine attributes.
PROBLEM 4: The conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments are UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS, leading to multiple fallacies of EQUIVOCATION by Geisler.
PROBLEM 5:  Because Geisler consistently FAILS to show that there is EXACTLY ONE being of such-and-such kind, he cannot prove that  “the cause of the beginning of the universe” is the same being as “the cause of the current existence of the universe” or as “the designer of the universe” or as “the moral lawgiver”.  
PHASE 2: THE CREATOR’S PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES
PROBLEM 6:  Geisler simply ASSUMES without providing any reason or argument that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that designed the universe, and that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that produced moral laws.
PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
PROBLEM 7:  Geisler illogically shifts from the claim that a perfect being must be a necessary being to the assumption that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist must be a necessary being.  This is an INVALID inference.
PHASE 4: THE IMPLICATIONS OF “A NECESSARY BEING”
PROBLEM 8: In his reasoning about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”, Geisler confuses different senses of the verb “to be” leading to INVALID inferences about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”.
PHASE 5: ONLY ONE INFINITE BEING
PROBLEM 9: Geisler’s assumption that two unlimited beings would be indistinguishable from each other is FALSE and it also contradicts a basic Christian dogma.
PHASE 6: GOD EXISTS
PROBLEM 10: Geisler has adopted a Thomistic concept of God, but this Thomistic concept of God is INCOHERENT, making it a necessary truth that “It is NOT the case that God exists.”
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/04/26/geislers-case-for-the-existence-of-god/
F. The fact that arguments for God often provide reasons against the existence of God supports skepticism about the existence of God. 
There is a theme in Jeff Lowder’s case for Naturalism:  the thinking of religious believers is often distorted by confirmation bias.  They look for evidence that supports their belief in God, but ignore, or forget, or fail to notice, evidence that goes against their belief in God.
When believers offer some reason or evidence for the existence of God, it is often the case that if you look a little closer at that evidence, or take a step back and look at the general sort of evidence or phenomena that an argument for God relies upon, you find powerful evidence AGAINST the existence of God, evidence that was missed or ignored by religious believers.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/03/03/arguments-for-god-that-are-arguments-against-god/
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 3: No Messages from God (continued)

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

My doubts about the existence of God are related to skepticism in general, and to three specific areas of skepticism:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Claims
  • Skepticism about Religion
  • Skepticism about the Existence of God

In Part 2 of this series I explained my reason for skepticism in general (i.e. CYNICISM), and I explained my reasons for skepticism about supernatural claims.
My skepticism about supernatural claims also reinforces my skepticism in general, because billions of people over many centuries have believed many false supernatural claims about various alleged supernatural powers and forces, and about various alleged supernatural beings, confirming my CYNICISM, the view that human beings are naturally and commonly irrational, illogical, ignorant, superstitious, gullible, prejudiced, dishonest, and self-deceived.
In this post I will cover my reasons for skepticism about religion, and in a future post I will cover my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
 
SKEPTICISM ABOUT RELIGION
A. Almost all religions are false or contain significant errors.
The major world religions contradict each other, and not just on minor points.  They disagree about some of the most basic and important issues that religions address.  At best only ONE of the major world religions can be true, only ONE can be consistently correct about it’s basic teachings, and the rest are false or are fundamentally mistaken about some of their most basic teachings:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/11/14/skepticism-about-religion-part-5-disagreement-between-religions/
B. Christianity and most other religions involve a conjunction of several questionable beliefs. 
Because there is a significant number of independent beliefs and a significant degree of independence even with those Christian beliefs that have some logical or causal relationship,  probabilities must generally be multiplied here.  Although Christians often assert these beliefs dogmatically and with great confidence, it seems clear to me that an objective evaluation of these beliefs can at most arrive at the conclusion that the belief is probable or in a few cases, very probable.  But with a dozen beliefs at issue, it is highly probable that at least one of the dozen or so of these beliefs is false.  The same objection applies to all major world religions (and to at least some secular worldviews):
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/09/21/skepticism-and-conjunctions/
C. Religious belief is distributed geographically, and is based primarily on socialization and indoctrination.
Why is the religion of a person so closely related to the location where he or she was born and raised?  The answer is obvious: religious beliefs are typically based on cultural bias and social conditioning.  People who are born and raised in Turkey or Saudi Arabia are raised to be Muslims.  People who are born and raised in Venezuela or Bolivia are raised to be Christians.  People who are born and raised in Cambodia or Thailand are raised to be Buddhists.  The society or culture of the country where one is born and raised has a great deal of influence over which religion one will believe and practice:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/11/15/skepticism-about-religion-part-6-cultural-bias-and-social-conditioning/
John Loftus rightly emphasizes this point:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/12/27/unapologetic-review-part-8-religion-irrationality/
https://religions.wiki/index.php/Outsider_test
D. The natural biases of egocentrism and sociocentrism motivate uncritical religious belief.
It is very obvious to most Christians that the Quran was NOT inspired by God. But the very same reasons why Christians reject the inspiration of the Quran apply to the Bible, especially to the Old Testament. This belief in the inspiration of the Bible is partly based on socialization and indoctination, but it is also based on egocentrism and sociocentrism. Christians firmly believe that their ingroup is right about the Bible being inspired and the Quran NOT being inspired, not based on an objective analysis of the relevant facts, but because they identify with Christians: “WE believe what is true and wise, but THEY (Muslims) believe what is false and foolish.” People in every century and every country commonly believe that their people are the best and wisest people in the world and that people of other cultures are bad and foolish, or at least not as good and wise as the people of their own culture.
Dr. Richard Paul, a leading theorist and advocate of Critical Thinking, emphasized the problem of motivated bias in thinking, especially the biases of egocentrism and sociocentrism:

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.   [emphasis added]
http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/our-conception-of-critical-thinking/411

Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.   People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically.    They are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked.   They strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies.   They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking.   They work diligently to develop the intellectual virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice and confidence in reason. [emphasis added]
http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766

E. Historical examples of wishful thinking (such as belief in panaceas) support skepticism about most religions and worldviews.
For historical examples see the section called “HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF WISHFUL THINKING” in  Part 2 of this series.
The Christian worldview is dubious because it presents a panacea (Slides 22 and 23 from the PowerPoint that I created for a podcast: Thinking Critically about Christianity – Podcast 5).  For a clearer view, click on the images below:

The same objection can be raised against MOST religions (as well as at least some secular worldviews), so MOST religions should be viewed with significant skepticism.
F. Happiness and virtue do NOT correlate with religion. 
…if religion is not the key to happiness, then that is a GOOD REASON to be skeptical about religion and religious belief, because (a) this shows that a widely-held belief about religion that is often asserted by religious leaders is mistaken, and (b) it seems likely that if a religion was completely true (or mostly true), it would be the key to happiness.  Although it is possible for a religion to be completely true (or mostly true) but fail to be the key to happiness, it seems more likely that a true (or mostly true) religion would be the key to happiness.  So, to the extent that a religion is NOT the key to happiness, we should at least be SKEPTICAL about the idea that the religion is completely or mostly true.  If religion in general is disconnected from happiness, that doesn’t prove that religion is foolish or a delusion, but it does give one a reason to doubt the truth and wisdom of religion:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/09/11/a-case-for-atheism-skepticism-about-religion-part-1/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/09/15/skepticism-about-religion-part-2-caveats-and-qualifications/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/09/20/skepticism-about-religion-part-3-more-caveats-and-qualifications/
…if religion is not the key to virtue, then that is a GOOD REASON to be skeptical about religion and religious belief, because (a) this shows that a widely-held belief about religion that is often asserted by religious leaders is mistaken, and (b) it seems likely that if a religion was completely true (or mostly true), it would be the key to virtue.  Although it is possible for a religion to be completely true (or mostly true) but fail to be the key to virtue, it seems more likely that a true (or mostly true) religion would be the key to virtue.  So, to the extent that a religion is NOT the key to virtue, we should at least be SKEPTICAL about the idea that the religion is completely or mostly true.  If religion in general is disconnected from virtue, that doesn’t prove that religion is foolish or a delusion, but it does give one a reason to doubt the truth and wisdom of religion.
If religion was the key to virtue, then we would expect that the most religious states in the USA would have the least amount of crime, the lowest crime rates.  But in fact, the most religious states tend to have the highest crime rates. … If religion was the key to virtue, then we would expect that the least religious states in the USA to have the most crime, the highest crime rates.  But in fact, the least religious states tend to have the lowest crime rates:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/10/24/skepticism-about-religion-part-4-religion-and-virtue/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/05/27/god-guns-and-school-shootings/
G. As science explains more and more of reality, religion explains less and less.
The Bible used to explain the origin of the universe, the origin of species, the origin of human beings, and the origin of languages.  But in the 21st century, science explains the origin and development of the universe, science explains the origin of species, and science explains the origin of human beings, and science and history explain the origin of languages.
Earthquakes, floods, lightning, pandemics, and famines used to be explained as acts of God by Christians and by other religious people.  But now science explains how and why these kinds of events happen.  Diseases and mental illnesses used to be explained in terms of the actions of God or the activity of demons.  But science now provides us with explanations of diseases and mental illnesses, as well as providing us with cures and therapies for treating diseases and mental illnesses.  So, with the continuing advance of science, there is less and less for religion to explain by appeals to supernatural causes (like the actions of God, or demons, or angels).
It now appears that about the only thing left for religion to explain is human nature, especially human minds, thinking, and consciousness.  But science is beginning to make significant advances in helping us to understand human minds, thinking, and consciousness, so it is reasonable to think that religion will soon lose this final bit of territory to further advances of science.  Given that there is very little left for religions to explain, and given that the explanations that religion provided in the past have nearly always turned out to be false and unsupported by facts and data, we now have very good reason to be skeptical about religion as a source of truth and wisdom.
H. Skepticism about Miracles and Revelation casts doubt on Western theistic religions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).
First, there are no modern-day miracles.  This is just as clear as that there are no modern-day psychics (who actually move objects with their minds or who actually “see” events in the future), no modern-day wizards or witches (who actually perform feats of magic), no modern-day mediums (who actually communicate with dead people), no modern-day philosopher’s stone, no modern-day elixir of life, no modern-day panacea.  Many people still believe in such bullshit, but there is no significant scientific evidence for such alleged supernatural phenomena.
Thus, it is reasonable to be suspicious of miracle stories from ancient times, especially in view of the fact that modern science has only been around since Galileo (around 1600), and the masses have never been particularly fond of science (e.g. the current president is proud of his anti-scientific beliefs, and he has millions of idiotic fans who adore him precisely because of his antagonism to science and scholarship).
Why would God perform miracles in the ancient past, when people were hopelessly ignorant, superstitious, and credulous, but then stop performing miracles when science, careful empirical observation, and education became common?  The most obvious explanation is NOT that God changed policies on interfering in human lives, but that miracle claims were always FALSE, and that it has simply become more difficult to get people to believe FALSE miracle claims in the age of science, careful empirical observation, and widespread public education.
Miracles play an important role in Western theistic religious traditions.  They provide “evidence” for divine revelation.  Jesus, for example, allegedly performed nature miracles (walking on water, turning water into wine,  stopping a storm with a single command, and bringing a dead person back to life).  These miracles are supposed to provide “evidence” that Jesus was a true prophet, and that his claims to be the Messiah and the divine Son of God were true, and thus miracles provide “evidence” to show that the teachings of Jesus are teachings from God, revelations from God.  Moses allegedly performed many amazing miracles, which is supposed to provide “evidence” that Moses was a true prophet, and thus that the laws of Moses were, as Moses claimed, from God himself, revelations from God.
Miracles, in short, are the main “evidence” that certain teachings or messages or sacred writings were inspired by God, messages from God.  But there is a fundamental problem with this way of supporting claims of divine revelation:  In order to be able to identify an event as being a MIRACLE, we must first figure out the plans and purposes of God.   Apart from such knowledge, we cannot identify a particular event as being something that God intentionally brought about.
We cannot see God.  We cannot observe God by means of any of our senses.  God has no body, according to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  So, we cannot physically observe God doing something, in the way that we can observe people and animals (who have physical bodies) do something.  Because God has no physical body,  God does not leave any physical traces.  No finger prints, no foot prints,  no hairs, no saliva, no sperm, no blood, no urine, no skin cells.
The only way to try to identify God as the being who intentionally brought about event X, is to know what the plans and purposes of God are, and to determine whether bringing about event X fits well with God’s plans and purposes.  The problem is that we don’t know anything specific about God’s plans and purposes.
We can infer from the definition of God that God will only do things that an all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly good person would do.  But that doesn’t really tell us much.  Afterall, God, if God exists, appears to have created a world with a great deal of evil and suffering in it, which doesn’t seem like what we would expect an all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly good person to do.  God, if God exists, created a world where everything dies, and where billions of sentient creatures suffer from physical injuries, mutations, poisons, diseases, parasites, cancer, predators, fires, floods, earthquakes, famines, etc.
If there is a God, God does not behave in the way that we would expect a perfect being to behave.  So, either there is no God, or we are not very good at figuring out the plans and purposes God.  Of course religious people often claim to know God’s plans and purposes, but their claims are based either on scriptural revelation (e.g. the Bible, the Quran, Book of Mormon) or on alleged personal communication with God.  But if the Bible and Jesus require miracles to support their claims to divine inspiration, then so do individuals who claim to talk with God today.  There is no reason to accept such claims about personal communication with God apart from strong evidence, namely the occurrence of a miracle associated directly with that person.
But now we are reasoning in a BIG CIRCLE.  In order to show that Jesus or the Bible (or the Quran or the Book of Mormon) are truly communicating messages from God, we must first determine whether some alleged events actually occurred and were actually miracles (e.g. Jesus really did walk on water AND this happened because God intentionally caused it to happen, and Jesus really did turn water into wine AND this happened because God intentionally caused it to happen).  But in order to determine whether some alleged event really was a miracle, we must first know details about the plans and purposes of God, which we can only know on the basis of revelation (i.e. messages from God).
So, it appears to me that it is NOT possible to identify an event as being a miracle, because we don’t know any details about God’s plans and purposes (if God exists), and because we need to first identify a miracle before we can get specific information about God’s plans and purposes:
The above is slide 13 from my PowerPoint called “Belief in Miracles“.
In the next post in this series, I will give my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.