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_borderTheocancel Culture — Discrimination by Neglect: The Chronic News and Opinion Media Bigotry Against Atheists

Theists Get All the Breaks – Really, They Do

Conservative LOVE to go on and on and on complaining about Cancel Culture, about how the secular lefties are suppressing the free speech rights of those of the right on campuses, denouncing right wing nonacceptance of LGTBQ rights as bigotry, demanding to dismantle Confederate monuments and place names, and so forth. That is rich in that conservatives LOVE to cancel of the culture of those who dare disagree with their righteous opinions, such as those who take a knee during the National Anthem (which was written by an advocate of slavery and trashes Black rights but that is another subject), evicting  views on alternative sexuality and Common Core and liberal social-emotional learning out of public schools and libraries, is going after corporations for standing up for nonconservative social values, and denounces Woke Culture, the 1619 Project, BLM and intersectionality in an effort to protect the delicate sensibilities of White theocons from the history of Ameroracism. That is Concancel Culture, in opposition to Libcancel Culture.    

But there is currently, in these United States, a form of casual and pernicious bigotry that continues to be directed against the fastest growing portion of the population. It is the big cancel culture that hardly any pay attention to, and to a great extent other minorities subject to their own levels of prejudice also ignore or even participate in. It is a cancel culture that the right is a major player of, but the center-left goes along with to a pernicious degree. It is the discrimination of paying as little mind as possible to the existence and especially the opinions of those who commit the culturally inconvenient social crime of lacking belief in the supernatural deities that the substantial but shrinking American majority persist in believing in. It is Theocancel Culture. 

What does continue to enjoy endless attention and media coverage is theism. That occurs in a number of ways. The mainstream media that tends to be centrist to liberal in sociopolitical sensibilities, and mainline or alternative theist to varying degrees, persistently promotes center-left versions of religion. Especially of the Christian and Jewish varieties, with a good deal of attention paid to alternate versions of spirituality, and to Islam on occasion. Much of this coverage is favorable or neutral, but considerable and sometimes hard criticism does occur when it seems that the circumstances require it. The Catholic Church is particularly interesting when it comes to the massive reporting it receives. Its sex scandals, after decades of significant but not sufficient exposure, finally became perpetually major news just after the turn of the century. On the other hand, the equally outrageous financial criminal actions of the Roman church in league with mob elements have never been exposed to the degree that is necessary, leaving most Americans ignorant on the subject (Europeans are more knowledgeable). At the same time major church events, most especially the enormous public relations spectacles of papal replacements, garner fawning 24/7 coverage. The relatively liberal Francis is generally treated favorably, including by very liberal theists such as Catholic Steven Colbert, as well as well-known atheist Bill Maher. Also getting extensive coverage is the large minority that is the religious right. Much of that attention is sharply critical. Except at FoxNews and its allies that lavish praise on Judeo-Christian theoconservatism while bashing the religious center-left as well as Muslims, and taking occasional potshots at the atheists that the mainstream press pretty much simply ignores.

MSNBC et al. 

To get a better appreciation of the absurd and unacceptable state of Theocancel Culture, let’s look at the evening lineup on that bastion of liberal reportage and opinion, MSNBC. It starts with Joy Reid, who taught Sunday school in her teens enthusiastically wears her joyous Godly Methodism on her broadcasting sleeve. Next is Chris Hayes who grew up Catholic but is now irreligious, I do not think has stated he is an atheist or not. In 2012 he dedicated his hour to an episode on atheism featuring Dawkins, Pinker and Jacoby that was seen as ground breaking. It was not, there has been barely a breath about nontheism on the channel since then. Rachel Maddow is a praying Catholic despite being lesbian — that explains something that had me scratching my head, last year when Francis made the first papal visit to Iraq she ran an oddly long segment on the unimportant story that was dull as it was egregiously credulous. (Maddow’s burned out at getting home in the late evening abandonment of the most influential liberal nightly show sharply reduces her impact while it leaves MSNBC in the ratings lurch without good alternatives.) More theoambiguous is the yet another MSNBC Catholic raised — which may be why he once bashed Mormonism as an invented religion — anchor Lawrence O’Donnell who wraps up the primetime lineup. Over on CNN they once, that’s once, ran an hour show on atheism in 2015. Such has not yet appeared on Fox. Matters are not better on public television or radio where there are also no known atheists, although one suspects there must be some but who keep quiet about it. Where is that epic program on American atheism? They did baseball and jazz – although I have noticed not slavery or the war on the natives. On NPR’s Saturday Edition Scott Simon is a well-known centrist-liberal Catholic. On the Templeton Foundation funded On Being (ex Speaking of Faith) host Krista Tibbett’s mission has been to present pablum opinions further softened by bland mood music that never in any way seriously challenges or upsets her middle of the road theist audience. Ever. Occasionally atheists are allowed on, but only those who can be relied upon to not be perturbingly uppity about it. (Tibbet’s dropping of the NPR connection in favor of a podcast is likely to dramatically reduce her outreach.) While most liberal theists tend to avoid directly dumping on atheists, socialist Presbyterian minister Chris Hedges has harshly denounced atheism, especially of the sort that so bold as to be assertive. When he hosted The Daily Show’s secular Jewish Jon Stewart was sometimes snarky about what he considered overly atheistic atheists, especially about the placement of a cross shaped piece of the World Trade Towers at the memorial site (that Stewart has been involved in the memorial project means his comment on atheist critics was of dubious ethics). Current TDS host Trevor Noah is a liberal Christian. John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, rejected the Anglican Church he grew up in and may be an atheist, but has not said so – he critiqued the money grubbing of evangelicals by legally setting up the Lady of Perpetual Exemption to expose how easy it is to dodge taxes with a religious exemption.

During the covid pandemic it has been one person of openly divine opinion after another who have again and again and again and again been asked to please offer divinely inspired advice, thoughts and comfort to a beleaguered world. Noting the irony inherent to doing so in view of the obvious truth that if a creator deity exists it has not done anything to put a stop to the deadly disaster, doing something so rational seems taboo. An especially egregious example has been on NPR’s weekend version of All Things Considered, with a repeat set of clerics explicitly asked to offer words of wisdom to listeners. Offering the usual theo clichés and platitudes, the existence of God and its goodness was not challenged as the NPR audience was allowed to hear only their biased worldview. Never asked for a more objective and cogent viewpoint on how mindless evolution is biting us, and how humanity can best deal with the dire situation, have been the godless.

The weekend edition of All Things Considered did cover the accession of Greg Epstein to head chaplain at Harvard, and the interview was entirely respectful and intelligent. That is a case of the very rare exception proving the rule of casual Theocancel Culture discrimination. Very likely show host Michel Martin has no idea of the unintended bias she is exhibiting in her subtly slanted programming, and she might be willing to change her ways if made aware of the issue. Coverage of and seeking the views of atheists should be the norm, not something done just when a once every few years head-turning breaking news story pops up.

Pundit panels are a news media norm. You know, the never ending lineups of experts and commentators and politicians who opine on this that and everything. How often do you see an open atheist on one of those? Including those discussing matters religious? A screamingly outrageous example of this particular atheists need not apply policy was in 2010 when Pew reported that it looked like nontheists knew more about the facts of theism than did theists. The seemingly startling result garnered lots of coverage, and so the programming staffs running on their automatic booking pilots rolled out panel after panel of ministers, rabbis and the like to pontificate about atheists whom they painfully knew nothing about, while nary a nonbeliever who actually knew the atheoscore was asked what was really going down. Perhaps even more discouraging is that when Pew got much the same results in 2019 the media paid it no mind to the theological acumen of atheists at all. News old and forgotten by then.

A Little “Balance”

Here’s another form of bigotry that is as subtle as it is invidious. Something I have noticed when doing on air interviews on nonatheist broadcasts. Very often, a theist of some sort is brought on the bring “balance” to the discourse. And who could be opposed to both views being presented? That would be more than fine if religious viewpoints were as often countered with those of atheists, but of course that never happens. They the supernaturalists get to pontificate endlessly without counter argument. The “balance” line is really saying atheist views are so automatically controversial and potentially defective and/or offensive, that they need to be countered with the supernaturalistic perspective lest the delicate ears of theist listeners be afflicted. Now, sometimes having a theist to play off of can be an advantage if one knows how to deal with and exploit them. On the other hand, that cuts down on the time the nontheist has to directly present the rationalist case. If an atheist interviewee does not want opposition on a program that does not saddle theists with such, then they are free to put the producers on the fairness spot by asking if they have a consistent policy of balance which they never do, and protest the presence of the theist. If they insist on the latter then you can decline the interview, or try to use the arrangement to your advantage — perhaps by mentioning the issue during the program;)

The More Atheists There Are the Less Respect We Get

Statistical tracking is not on hand, but I get the strong sense that mainstream media interest in the irreligious has declined over the last decade plus, after having peaked if that is the correct term for what was at best a small hill in the post 9/11 brief era of the “New Atheism” and it’s then attention getting novel opposition to the religious extremism that was a hot topic of the time (until the secular financial collapse pushed all else aside, rather like the Beatles did to pop music), bolstered by the fleeting appearance of atheist best-selling books that went away almost as soon as they appeared. The atheism versus theism story was intense enough that PAX TV in 2004/5 ran Faith Under Fire, hosted by once atheist converted to bombastic theocon Lee Strobel. It was one of those theist items that while claiming to be fair and balanced definitely had its slant, but for a short while it was a forum via which a prominent American nontheists could have their say and be taken seriously. If I recall correctly, as time wore on it became increasingly theocon themed which is the evolutionary norm for such ventures, and it was canceled. Nothing has replaced it, leaving atheists with no wide broadcast channel forum at all.

A decline in coverage of atheism would make some sense if the opinion was on the way down, but as is well known that the opposite is true as America undergoes a remarkably radical shift towards nonreligion. That has been growing at the expense of theism by a stunning 10% of the American population per decade, leaving those who lack religion somewhere in the area of 40-50% of the population, with the latter value at least applying to young adults. Gallup has tracked church membership that was 80% in the 1950s and still 70% circa 2000 having nosedived to 50% as Amerofaith sharply contracts as it has done in the rest of the west. But this brings us to a polling problem that may help explain the lack of media interest in Ameroatheism. When the major organizations directly ask respondents whether they are atheists or agnostics only a few percent do so, misleading the news media into thinking there are not enough disbelievers to cover and reach out to as more than a fringe group (even though those low numbers exceed those of Jews or of Mormons or of Muslims). This is a serious polling, and coverage thereof, mistake. Although the bigotry is not as bad as it was, many and probably most who dare not believe in the supernatural fear the social including familial downsides of openly admitting such. And many nonbelievers do not like the term atheist, considering it a hardcore term of absolute nonbelief that does not describe their own more ambiguous opinion, or casual disinterest, concerning the mysterious gods. I do not know how many times I have met folks who clearly meet the broad and etymologically correct definition of atheist as a person who is not a theist (which includes most agnostics), adamantly deny being an atheist, even at atheist meetups. Others are startled to learn they are an atheist. Polls that ask the less denial inducing question of whether respondents believe in the existence of a god get substantially higher percentages of deity skeptics, and some sociodemographic studies estimate that atheists may make up 15-25+% of the nation. (I cover these issues in depth at http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf.) By this point, having achieved a level of popular opinion even the most optimistic of us did not expect circa 2000 – remember when many thought the USA would always be a religious nation? – atheism which in total easily outsizes Judaism, Islam and Mormonism combined should be a major influencer in the national zeitgeist. All the more so as it is becoming increasingly apparent that faith-based religion does not appear to offer practical solutions to the troubles of the real world. As exemplified by the Russian Orthodox Church backing Putin’s vicious invasion of Ukraine and the other Eurochurches proving impotent to do anything about it. 

One cause of the problem is simply that organized religion has vast resources to deploy in its chronic search for PR, and it is just so easy for a zombie mass media on let’s keep doing what we always have autopilot to tap into that. Atheosecularism has nothing comparable and never will – although the situation can be improved as I note below. But it is the responsibility of the media to keep up with and change with the times, and there are plenty of atheist voices more than happy to express themselves, so the media is slacking off.

My Beef is a Small Part of the Big Beef

I have a personal concern in these issues that helps illuminate the problem. Realizing that researchers were not systematically investigating the truth behind the common claim that religion must be popular for societies being successful, I published the first test of that hypothesis in the Journal of Religion and Society in 2005. That was enough of a stunner that it got conservable press attention, including MSNBC labeling me the churches public enemy No. 1, and an appearance on FoxNews. I followed with a more thorough analysis in Evolutionary Psychology in 2009 that got some coverage, and I placed a couple of online op-eds with the Los Angeles Times andWall St. J. Those studies, along with efforts by others, have dented the automatic assumption that religion is good for societies, but not to the degree they should. In part because of a lack of more recent, more extensive work, due in part to a shocking lack of funding for atheistic scientific research via a secular think tank that gamers coverage and discussion. My 2009 paper in Philosophy and Theology that was the first to calculate the natural deaths of 50 billion children and how that disproves the existence of a moral creator got absolutely no attention despite my extensive efforts at PR.

What did get considerable attention is an op-ed I senior authored with Phil Zuckerman who runs the only secular studies department at a university (Pitzer) in 2011 in the Washington Post(http://www.gspauldino.com/WPoped.pdf

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-do-americans-still-dislike-atheists/2011/02/18/AFqgnwGF_story.html?). Condemning the chronic bigotry against atheists it was very pleasing to see it receive 1500 comments before those were timed out, and 85K likes. Now, for all the rise of social media in recent decades, the importance of opinion venues such as the Post, The New York Times, and major magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harpers, New Republic, etc., remains paramount. Covering a vast variety of subjects, they have broad readership, and can present issues that their nonatheist readers might otherwise not be aware of. And the elite publications are critical in reaching the media elites that drive a lot of the coverage that receives that broad attention. A reason Ameroatheism remains in the shadows is because the atheosecular genre publications print and digital, and all the many blogs and posts and podcasts online, are largely preaching to the limited dedicated irreligious choir that reads them, and to the fairly small number of theists curious about nontheism. The vast majority of Americans will always be unaware of them.

Despite their responsibility to regularly cover the entire national scene, the Washington Post is typical of major news venues in its chronic casual bigotry against atheism via neglect. I know that because I am a regularly reader of their print paper, and their coverage of nontheism is nearly zero. Since the piece a decade ago by myself and Zuckerman, they have carried just three other opinion piece concerning atheism in the last ten years, all since 2019, and all by paid columnists among which there seems to be a growing contingent of deity skeptics (Max Boot, Kate Cohn, Brian Boome). The essay editors have not accepted anything from the outside. Maybe because it is based in perhaps the most atheist city in the nation, the NYTimes has run a few more atheist op-eds, albeit not a lot.

It is not the fault of atheists not sending in op-eds. Again personal experience illustrates the trouble. A standard way to become a regular in being able to place items in influential venues is to simply do it once, which gives one some leverage to get editors attention and publish more pieces in a feedback loop. All the more so if the initial piece attracts lots of attention which the WP op-ed did. So I have been regularly sending off essays and articles, many, many dozens of them, the leading opinion outlets that allow submissions on aspects related to nontheism – always being certain to note my past works academic and popular, and the coverage of my research. I have sometimes had professionals edit the pieces. But I stopped doing that because it made no difference. Not a single bite. That has included pieces noting the lack of coverage of atheism and suppression of our voices in the mainstream national discourse. They don’t run them. Also futile have been efforts to get a major trade publisher (not a university press, or something like the no longer sechum Prometheus Press whose sales were too limited to have major cultural impact) to contract a book in which I discuss my extensive scholarly work.

An example of heavy coverage of another aspect of my work further exposes the problem. I have worked in dinosaur paleozoology since the early 1980s, have been part of the dinosaur revolution, designed the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park. In the 1980s the Washington Postcovered a paper I did on the size of giant dinosaurs. At the beginning of this March I published with some others a paper that shows that the ultra iconic Tyrannosaurusprobably contains three species, not just the belovedT. rex. I knew that would make big news around the nation and beyond and sure enough it did. Was on the front page of the NYTimes Tuesday Science Times, the premiere location for science news. And was the headline story on NPR’s Science Friday which is the most widely heard radio show on the subject in the country. All that was great. But fact is how many species of Tyrannosaurus is, is not the most critical issue on the planet. My research on the socioeconomic downsides of popular piety, and how the mass death of children disproves the existence of a good God, is infinitely more important, and should have far great impact on the culture. Yet is gets almost no media attention. Why is that? 

The Theocancel Culture.

A Big Anniversary 

Last year it occurred to me. The 10th anniversary of the piece Phil & I placed was coming up. Surely the WP people would be interested in running an update on the situation of Ameroatheism, both its demographic rise, and the continuing societal bigotry against it. No reason the think the new piece would not be as popular as the last one what with atheists being all the more numerous now. Right?

Nope, they paid neither the shorter daily or longer Sunday section suitable versions I sent any mind. My complaints are not just personal. No doubt others have been sending in proatheist articles to mainstream venues and with very rare exceptions not getting them published, even as theists have far less trouble getting their prosupernaturalism items into the public eye — and getting onto those pundit panels. And anchor positions, etc.

Current Affairs

The Theocancel Culture continues. When Russia invaded Ukraine I noticed what few at first did. That the Russian Orthodox Church lead by pro-Putin Kirell – the former had lavished monies and influence on the latter – was all behind the increasing ruthless land grab. I sent in an essay to the usual suspects and as usual they did not pick it up. To the credit of the news media it has been covering the scandal fairly well, but atheists need not apply to join in the discussion. 

Same in the wake of the leak of the majority opinion indicating SCOTUS will kill Roe v Wade. That when the forced birth movement is a project by the Christian right to use government power to recapture the culture they have lost to secular modernity. The prochoice side has long made a mistake of not arguing that abortion access is a religious right. Essays by myself have not gained traction. Over on MSNBC Joy Reid had a panel of three fellow center-right Christians do a fair job discussing how the hard right is taking the nation back to the sexual mores of the Old Testament, Middle Ages, and late 1800s, and that most American Christians are pro reproductive rights. She even noted that there is a fast growing secular contingent that should not come under the oppression of the religious right. Good for her. But no actual atheists to say what most of us anti forced birthers actually think. No need, the theists will cover that for us who do not believe.  

Why the Nonchalant Bigotry

Is this occurring because those on position to choose what goes onto the pages of major publications or programming are inexcusably ignorant about the problem and their own casual biases and would change their attitudes and actions if they knew better, are indifferent to atheism that they see as a fringe element of no import and would pay more attention if informed otherwise, are afraid of being denounced as anti-religion if they OK presentations of atheist thinking, are concerned they will be tagged as the village atheist if they are an atheist who dares regularly cover atheism the same way other minority personalities do concerning their world view all the time, or are outright hostile? All are involved.

Then there is the trope of the “angry atheist” who harshly critiques theism. That is a bigoted stereotype, there being no statistical evidence that atheists are more angry than theists, there being many on both sides who are in a bad mood. As for those rationalists who are angry what is the big problem? Minority advocacy often has a hard edged component to it.

Fooling the Folks at Religion News Service

An example of directly suppressing, with clear cut prejudice, coverage of atheist viewpoints is Religious News Service, whose mission statement goes to lengths to claim its neutral objectivity to the news outlets it is paid to provide services to. One can for a modest fee post press releases on the RNS website. Most are little more than promotional ditties for various theists. When I tried to place a PR concerning my recent academic analysis on the theological implications of mass juvenile mortality in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanism it was not accepted.

Last year the 2ndpart of the EPH study was published. So I took a second shot at a PR. This time I carefully crafted the item to make it seem that I was calling for those of religion to come up with a better solution to the problem of suffering of children, figuring they would not actually read the paper that shows such is not possible. Sure enough they went for it (https://religionnews.com/2021/11/22/new-academic-study-on-free-will-theology).

We Too

Whatever the causes, the way atheists are being treated has parallels to how blacks were once largely limited to publishing their views in the black press that few whites read. Nowadays LGTBQ have a far better ability to appear in the mainstream press and media and influence the culture and alter politics in their favor than do atheists. That is not a complaint against the LGTBQ more power to them, it is a complaint about the media at large. Consider how it is well known and widely discussed that much of racism is unrecognized by those who are not as nonracist as they think they are and want to be, the same is often true of all bigotries including those directed towards nonsupernaturalists. And just as under the radar racism must be overcome, so must casual anti-atheism. It is a probable irony that blacks in the media are incidentally discriminating against atheists more than whites for the simply because the former tend to be more religious than the latter. Until atheists have the same access to prominent venues as pretty much all other minorities we will remain very limited in our ability to be a the normal, frequent contributor to the national discourse that we rationalists should be. And we will continue to be the targets of bigotry.

The Maher Exception

Currently there is only one major, nationally known American who is an open atheist, and hosts a widely recognized and viewed social commentary program, Real Time‘s Bill Maher. Although not shy about being ungodly, and more than willing to have prominent atheists on RT, Maher’s program is not a dedicated atheist promotional venue, it covering a wide range of political and cultural topics. That makes sense, but the program could do more to address the atheist movement, with some emphasis on how it is being ignored, all the more so since no one else is doing so via such a widely viewed show. In particular, to date RT, and for that matter Maher’s Religulous, has failed to persistently present to the public the sociological science showing the societal advantages of atheism, and help make that a part of the public consciousness.

What to Do

The question is what to do about this unacceptable situation. I am not sure myself, here are some options.

The task is complex and multi-faceted. A lot of media people, mainly seculars of various flavors, as well as open minded theists, may become more open to presented atheist viewpoints if simply alerted to the sheer existence and scale of the problem. Others need more persuading, and in some cases shaming. At the same time, atheists need to do what we can to get our ideas out to the general public outside of our own preaching to the choir venues.

Concerning the situation at the WP, A set of leading atheosecular persons could collaborate to send a letter to the WP opinion editors (there are two sets, one for the daily paper in which op-eds are limited to 800 words, and another for the Sunday Outlook section which runs longer items) alerting them to and protesting the virtual exclusion of items from an explicitly atheist perspectives, and how and why this is discriminatory and adverse to their readers who are missing out on a major and fast growing perspective of American opinion. This can be done in the context of urging publication of my 10thanniversary piece (with editing as necessary), or of another related item.

Or, collaborate on a multi-author essay op-ed decrying the near exclusion of atheists from the American scene, signed by prominent nontheists, and submit that to the WP. If they fail to publish it then try the NYTimes, if they do not move on from there.

If either of the above are not successful – or even if they are — go public with a protest both concerning the attitude of the WP specifically, and the news media in general. That can include press releases to religion reporters, and wide distribution to media personalities in all news and opinion venues. Perhaps place an ad in the WP.

In conducting the above it is necessary to take the mainstream media to task for the errors of their ways. But being critical should not be the sole tactic. Alerting media personalities that they are discriminating against atheists while perhaps not even realizing it might be appreciated by a number of them, opening their eyes to new possibilities. That brings us to how it is important to present the positive side of regularly covering atheism, and including atheist opinions on a regular basis. Not doing so is a major and self-injurious mistake. Much of media coverage is formulaic and standardized, rendering it we-have-heard-and-seen-that-before dull. Yet another theists prattling on about this and that? Snore. How about an atheist commenting on that matter from the nontheist perspective. Now thatcan generate some what did that person just say attention and controversy that gets the viewers tuning in. Media personalities and programmers are often looking for novel and in some cases controversial ways to cover the news to boost those all-important ratings, so tapping the atheist perspective to do so can be a selling point when doing outreach to the news and opinion community.

Approaching Real Time to better cover the issue could be effective, as well as other liberal venues. Chris Hayes could be a likely person to approach and alert regarding the scope of the problem. There is John Oliver. Worthy of consideration is a joint effort by entertainment/opinion atheists that have popular mainstream followings to mount a professional Pay Due Attention to Nonbelievers Please PR campaign – names aside from those above I have come up with include Aziz Ansari, Jodie Foster, Ricky Gervais, Amber Heard, Penn Jillette, Hugh Laurie, Seth MacFarlene, Abby Martin, Sean Murphy, Brad Pitt, Ron Reagan, Keanu Reeves, Adam Savage, Dan Savage, Julia Sweeney.

Most ambitious would be to see if an explicitly atheist broadcast program can be produced, or one that gives truly balanced coverage to both nontheism and theism, hosted by a person from each side. Could be on telly and/or radio. Not sure how feasible that is, would probably require the efforts of at least one of the major atheosecular organizations, and perhaps a collaboration between two or more of them.

The Urgent Need for a Secular Think Tank and News Service

Whether or not any of the above works, that is just a start. To get persistent attention and coverage in the press requires a major change in the way atheosecular institutions reach out to the rest of society via the mainstream media. Doing that will probably require the establishment of an explicitly atheosecular think tank that constantly puts out the science based research and position papers that the atheosecular community should obviously be doing as a matter of course, and that the press can then pick up on. And/or a Secular News Service to compete with the highly successful Religion News Service by directly feeding nontheist news and opinion to the news media.

It’s a Wrap

Wish to aid the above effort or have any ideas on how to get them achieved?  All would be appreciated. If a collaborative effort can be mounted, then a more formal proposal and outline of possibilities and needs can be produced.

One way or another something needs to be done. The perpetual casual dismissal of atheists from the national discourse has got to end, and that is not likely to happen unless strong action is taken by the atheosecular community to break out of the media bubble we have been in for decades.

bookmark_borderThe Forced Birth Movement Hates Real Religious Liberty – How to Use That Against Them by Making Abortion a Religious Right; Part 2

(Be sure to read Part 1 before starting this half)
The Rape Nonexception Factor
This is a good place to further explore the callous indifference of the hard right to rape that has a yet again naïve center-left wondering what is going on. In their twisted logic a woman who is truly Godly and virtuous cannot be raped to pregnancy because she will not dress or be provocative or intoxicated in a manner that entices a man to sexually assault her, and if one does he will not be able to achieve penetration because of her not being sexually aroused. In that theory only a woman who is sufficiently loose and in some way desiring the assault can be impregnated – remember if you will how during the 2012 election cycle some GOP pols made statements to this effect. The slander of women as the foolish temptresses is not at all novel, it goes back over millennia as per the story of sinful and seductive Eve and the apple. As vile as this deep patriarchal attitude appears to today’s ethical westerners, the traditional misogynist opinion was the norm in many societies until the modern feminist movement, and used to be used by defendants in rape cases. In some current societies a woman who was and claims to have been raped risks harsh penalties for her wantonness. At the theocon Liberty University female students who file a sexual assault complaint with school authorities are likely to find themselves charged with violating strict school rules banning sexual and related activity. It is the intent of many forced birthers to revive the legal concept that rape that can and does lead to impregnation is always a false claim. It follows that it is never justified to allow an abortion that resulted from a “rape” – incest included – that never truly occurred because she really wanted it.
Liberty for Godly Theocons, Ascendency over Secular Liberals
So do not be fooled, coming even close to actually stopping abortions is not the end goal of the forced birth agenda, making it legally and physically hard to do being part of a more important greater scheme. In concert with weaponizing abortion as an act worthy of criminalization, they use the sacred theme of All-American Religious Liberty to facilitate discrimination against those the religious right does not approve off, especially all those who are not life time monogamous heterosexuals, and allow theocon medical providers to deny reproductive services they do not approve of – do note that conservative calls for liberties religious and otherwise are carefully crafted to most favortheir liberties, for others not so much. Specific to the issue herein, SCOTUS has ruled in favor of red states that force abortion providers in violation of their free speech and religious rights and medical autonomy to inform clients of often false antiabortion information, while overturning blue state regulations that compel under handed forced birth clinics to openly inform their clients that they are expressly anti-abortion in nature because that breaches their free speech and religious rights. Got that one? And make divorce more difficult and less frequent. And don’t you pay any mind to how evangelicals denouncing masking and vaccines to protect schoolkids from covid yet further reveals how “prolife” Protestants do not truly care about young lives. And how the right demanding the liberty to not protect themselves, their children and others from covid as a prochoice position is directly contrary to their no choice about pregnancies.
Do observe that bringing deadly viruses to heel does nothing to bring back that old time culture. Banning abortions just might in theocon minds.
Not wanting to spill the beans when it comes to their true aims, birth enforcer theists I chat with are prone to start out saying they just want to save all the innocent preborn. When I ask why, they often claim it is murder. When I ask why they think that, they proclaim it a sin against God. After I point out the reasons that cannot be so – including how a million or so unborn naturally die off every day on the planet — they then resort to vaguely complaining about the decay of society and the need to bring the majority back to the good solid and sound traditional morals that are good for them. Exactly.
Up at the levels of the theocon power elites the protestations by Thomas, Alito and Barrett that the conservative wing of the court does not have a larger sociopolitical agenda in mind are very likely to be prove to be PR window dressing designed to mislead with comforting false assurances while they proceed to do what they need to do.
This giant sociopolitical power play centered on making abortion illegal started in the later 70s as the first born-again Baptist POTUS Jimmy Carter proved much too liberal for increasingly fearful and enraged evangelicals. To their growing horror they realized that the second rock and drug driven sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s they so loath, plus the similarly odious new wave feminism, were settling into being the national norm and their permanent sociosexual nightmare. Roe v Wade being a big part of the problem. The evangelicals and hardline Catholics had to suppress their age old acidic theological enmities to better face the growing cultural and political secular threat, and turned to their great grandfatherly hero and divorcee Reagan who rarely attended church. And liberalized abortion regulations when governor of California. Then the mediocre preppy Bushes. And now their manly man Trump who as their misogynist, racist, hard talking and chronic lying King Cyrus does their God’s will never mind his boorishly indecent, adulterous persona.
To sum up what theocons are up to, being a minority the largely white religious right is trying to force convert the nation into a theocratic Christian Dominionist republic in which the once traditional and dismally normal, and now radical and drearily oppressive, hard right mores are imposed on the majority for their own good. It is a classic and anti-democratic Tyranny of the Minority that cares not one wit about the opinions and desires and well-being of those they desire to bring to societal heel. Nor do they truly care about the legitimacy of SCOTUS among the American majority that theocons believe should all become theocons, and those who do not need to be under their wise thumb – what they do fear to some extent is a backlash of the majority that may for instance expand SCOTUS to negate a hardcore bench, but they have to sink or at least cripple RvW so they must run that risk. They cannot care because if they give any ground their project of national domination is moot. All the sincere stories by women who have had to obtain abortions often at great effort, or not been able to obtain one sometimes with terrible consequences, mean little to ardent abortion opponents no matter how trying the circumstances up to rape and incest because what happens to nonconservative women has no import to them and threatens their success (such stories are important for swaying fence sitters and rallying the troops as the help normalize the procedure). The women’s marches? They mean nothing to them. There is therefore no compromising. And to be fair the prochoice side cannot give any ground from their side when it comes to early term abortion — either women are full class citizens, or they are reproductive wards of the state once sperm merges with egg inside their no longer sovereign bodies.
The incredible, reckless extremes to which the theocons will cheerfully go have been laid bare by the Texas stratagem that employs citizens as cash collecting birth enforcers, forming a snitch society characteristic of the authoritarian regimes theocons pretend to despise as they work to set such up.
How Theocons Did It
A big reason a disciplined minority movement has gotten so far is because they are doing one thing very right — voting at high per capita rates — while a major portion of a perpetually electorally slack center-left has treated voting as a maybe will do it or maybe not option, rather than the urgent civic duty it is. Young adults are particularly likely to not vote. As a result theocons outvote the rest of us by about 10% per head, enough to reinforce the right leaning bias of the Senate and electoral college, which in turn allows the GOP to better control the election system – this is why the demographic predictions of permanent and solid Emerging Democratic Majority predicted a couple of decades ago has yet to come to pass. Thus a White House the theocons hold about half the time while winning the popular vote only once, a closely divided Congress that flips back and forth, a 6/3 SCOTUS, and most states run by increasingly fanatical Republicans. The one thing theoconservatives do dread is the center-left finally getting their electoral act together and making the Democratic Party the dominant party of the nation and most states, and if necessary reformulate the Supreme Court to bring it more in line with majority opinion.
How We Blew It
In contrast to the theocon’s methodical and effective, offense-based operation to deny sexual and reproductive rights as part of a relentless, mammoth cultural war, the center-left has treated abortion as an important but not really extremely urgent issue that has been largely left to a weakening SCOTUS minority to take care of thank you, using the same justification utilized in RvW half a century ago without producing additional logical legal arguments. That being such a bother what when ancient Ginsberg who refused to preserve the legacy of her seat by resigning in 2013 and her liberal court comrades would take care of matters. Right? The amazing failure of a less organized and too defensive women’s right movement to push religious rights as a key need for protecting the gender from forced birth has been as illogical as it is remiss to the point of being disastrous. A basic strategy of a movement is to go on the offensive by turning a core argument and the language of the opposition into a weakness that now hurts them more than it helps. But, like most factions, liberals like to live in a comforting cultural bubble within which such internally reinforcing progressive clique code terms as personal autonomy and sexual freedom are deployed to defend reproductive rights. Such speaking to the choir dialectics have obviously not done enough to undercut the theocon argument, a new direction is badly needed. Yet in the only major opinion journal article looking at using religious freedom to defend abortion rights I know of, a brief news commentary in The Atlanticin 2016. the reluctance of the pro-choice side to utilize the Establishment Clause of the 1stAmendment due to cultural discomfort was covered, and the ensuing improbability of such ever being done observed. Liberals just don’t like all that chat about religion and liberty, that’s right wing stuff. That would be fine if abortion rights were secure. But they are not. Just repeating the same old same old to the masses and to the courts is hardly likely to recover the situation. Time to adjust tactics and talk 1stAmendment. Take the right’s terminology such as their favorite word liberty, particularly religious liberty, and throw it right back at them. As per how gays used the conservative themes of family values and marriage to seize the legal and public relations high ground. And things are changing on an informal basis – I have been noticing of late that prochoice advocates are starting to ad-hoc state that having the intimacy of their reproduction coming under the control of the religious right as a gross denial of their religious rights, something I had not heard often before if ever. It was that combined with the deteriorating national situation, the rapidly approaching SCOTUS cases, and my work on the natural mass losses of the unborn, that caused me to produce this piece.
That abortion as a 1stAmendment religious right was not inserted into Roe v Wade from the get go is as understandable as it was a long term mistake. A half century ago the illegality of abortion was seen as a relic of old fashioned Victorianism mixed with male MDs having wanted to knock midwives out of business. Most mid 20thcentury doctors were in contrast horrified by the constant stream of women into the health care system suffering from botched abortions, with some 200 dying each year. And among religious sects only the Roman Church was consistently forced birth, Protestants being all over the map even among the evangelicals. So there was little or no thought given to addressing the religious issues back in the day. Since then forced birth has moved to front and center to the CathoProtestant theoconservative struggle to reorder the national society, and it is nearly entirely their thing. And the reliance on one section of the Constitution, the 14thAmendment, has proven dangerously narrow. So hitting back by going on the attack when it comes to the religious and health aspects of the confrontation has become obvious and imperative.
How to Win
I am not a lawyer, but one does not have to be one to know that a basic legal strategy is too present a case that is broad-based and multi-faceted as possible. For one thing, that maximizes the possibility that at least some or one the arguments seals the legal deal and wins the day. Even better, multiple lines of argument can reinforce one another, making the entire package more difficult to dismiss. Consider the following. A possible fear of citing religious freedom as a defense of abortion rights is that theocons could then use that precedent to promote religious freedom as justifying discrimination against the LGTBQ, and those seeking reproductive services. But that premise is weak because of the lack of harm to the bigot. When someone does not want to provide service to a person who is not a monogamous heterosexual, they are not actually physically harmed if they are compelled by law to do so. For example, if — as once was very common — a person holds a sincere belief that blacks or Jews are in some manner defective in the eyes of God, and that justifies their refusal to treat the latter equal to whites, then having to do so because of the Civil Rights Act does not result in real damage being done to the bigot. So the CRA is constitutional. If a pregnant woman is forced to go through her entire pregnancy, then she may die or be badly injured – hundreds die from pregnancy in a given year, compared to about a dozen from early term abortions. Medical exemptions that allow those threatened with injury or death to terminate pregnancies is far from sufficient because such often is not apparent until late in the pregnancy, when an abortion is itself risky to the mother. And her risk of serious mental distress from a long term pregnancy is many times higher. The medical risks of pregnancy alone are sufficient to ban forced birth. But the combined religious, privacy, and medical rights of persons to not be pregnant (however they became so) are most powerful when they are used to support one another.
If theists proclaim it is their religious right to not aid reproductive practices they think a God rejects, then by that criteria a pregnant woman can proudly declare that as far as she can see any overseer of a planet that has with no apparent concern of that entity terminated countless billions of preborn is fine with her doing the same. Or there is no creator in the first place. Religious liberty is not just about the freedom to be religious as one wishes the way one wishes, it is the freedom from theism. It follows that the state and/or snitches preventing her from controlling what is happening inside her is moral and legal madness and barbarity that violate her Constitutional rights in enormous spades. One advantage of advancing abortion as a religious right will be to force theocon judges to reveal the extremity of their quasi legal inconsistency if they so tilt the scales of justice in favor one set of theorights over the other, exposing their rulings as bad law. That sets up the legal brief for constitutionally overturning forced birth laws.
Late is better than never, and time is a wasting. So what needs to be done to recover the situation in court and voting booths? Along with the standards of full citizenship via autonomous reproductive privacy rights for women, begin to focus on the religious and medical liberties of handling one’s own pregnancy without interference from hardline theoconservative based government edicts or religious right empowered vigilantes as a key Constitutional right under the First Amendment. Do that by building the following case. The Founders who wrote the document did not consider the issue, and had an abortion ban been raised by Catholics it would have rejected as an obvious contravention of the 1stAmendment. Nowadays forced birth laws are an unacknowledged insidious conspiracy from one religious world view designed by right wing Protestants and Catholics to above all else to try to massively reformulate the national culture to fit their traditional faith-based image. Although they won’t openly admit that, there is abundant public theocon discourse to present as evidential exhibits. The religious nature of antiabortionism is directly exposed when they say that their – i. e. theocon – values concerning preborn life are behind the laws they advocate. As for the narrow religious view of birth enforcement a few scholars such Barbara Pfeffer Billauer (https://scholarship.law.wm.edu/wmjowl/vol23/iss2/6) are documenting how forced birthism is limited to a narrow set of religious doctrines, while many others have disagreed, going all the way back in history, rendering forced birth laws a violation of Constitutional religious right (in contrast to murder which is condemned by all mainstream cultures). It is time for the women’s right cause to get off its liberal sensibilities duff and pay close attention to such meticulous academic work.
So, when and where theocon birth forcers win their case, then only one religious opinion on the matter becomes legally operative on all fertile women to the exclusion of all others regardless of their a/theist opinion on their pregnancies. That when imposing that extreme hardline view on women of differing a/theologies denies them control and maximal safety of their bodies for extended periods. Such theologically idiosyncratic laws lack practical secular justification on the following grounds. The status of a zygote or an early term fetus as a human being is very dubious and held nearly entirely by theocons, and aborting them does not have significant adverse impact outside the body of the woman. Emphasize the sheer impracticality of enforcing a feticide ban, and actually suppress abortion rates to low levels even via draconian decrees. That means that birth enforcement is a waste of law enforcement resources that will make millions of women miserable and/or criminals while maximizing their medical danger from either pregnancies gone bad or the numerous illicit abortions that will inevitably ensue, all the while massively interfering with the deepest privacy of persons. Far more so than the mask and vaccine mandates most theocons are out of the blue rejecting as outrageous violations of personal liberty. This when there is a major effort to relieve an already overburdened law enforcement and court complex.
The deeply disingenuous and misogynist nature of government paternalism on such a colossal scale is all the more true because the persistent claims by anti-abortionists that their reproductive regulations are intended to serve the interests and safety of pregnant women regardless of her opinion on the matter, are the opposite of actual medical truth, and violate their religious and medical sovereignty when their religious views are compatible with ending pregnancies. Making this yet all the more true is that forced birth for “alleged” victims of rape/incest is part of a depraved project to decriminalize rape by legally rendering it something that cannot happen to a proper and chaste woman who does not want to have her virtue sullied, much less be impregnated. Racism is also involved in the forced birth movement because minorities are more opposed to and afflicted by abortion restrictions than whites. So is eugenics in that preventing white women from failing to reproduce is a goal of some forced birthers. Then there is the sexism of targeting the commonly discriminated against female gender with such draconian restrictions that no man has to put up with and many men which to impose. Because abortion banning laws are evidentially imbedded in a large scale religious sociopolitical agenda they blatantly violate the Bill of Rights on multiple fronts. Core rights that cannot be trumped by the religious right via government authority to force those who are prochoice nontheists or theists to give birth, just as the state cannot force women to abort their pregnancies.
As explained by Aaron Tang (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/26/middle-ground-abortion-that-originalists-should-embrace) the original Constitution, and the 14thAmendment in association with how most state laws at the time did not ban abortion before quickening, support the right to early term abortion.
The profoundly theistic nature of the criminalize abortion movement is not being entirely ignored. Some atheosecular organizations have filed amicus briefs explicitly to that effect in relation to the Mississippi case this December (https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2021-09/AU%20Amicus%20Brief%2C%20SCOTUS%2C%20Dobbs%20v.%20Jackson%209.20.21.pdf; https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/19/19-1392/192717/20210917120823669_Dobbs%20Final%20Brief.pdf). These petitions do a good job of detailing some of the clear cut religious statements and court briefs by forced birth theists. They not detail how anti-abortionism is part of a greater open conspiracy to remake the nation. In any case the religion factor must not be a legal issue raised just by nontheists, it must be mainstreamed. (A large number of center-left entities have submitted briefs to the top court, whether any cite religious freedom and how I do not know.) Pertinent to that need, one of the briefs very notably cites a 1989 opinion by Justice Stevens that has gone little noticed noting that government bans of abortion violate the Establishment Clause, that is an important mainline legal precedent by a SCOTUS jurist without an a/theistic bias to build upon.
In tandem, cite the mass death of youngsters to disprove the theocon pretense that they are merely doing the urgent bidding of a life loving creator. Same for the absence of forced birthism in scripture. Their real aims are much more theosocietal. And further seize control of the rhetoric war by saddling the prolife cause with the stark term forced birth. That is exactly what they are trying to do.
Also remiss has been the mainstream news media that has been slack in investigating and exposing the deep, extremist motives driving the opposition to legal abortion, and from that informing the nation of what they are up to. Do not, for example, merely ask an anti-abortion activist or politician if they do not want an exception for rape and why, and when they issue the standard line that they think the fetus is precious take that as a complete answer and move on to the next query. That is exactly what they want. At long last pin them down by asking if they think rape and abortion laws need to be revamped as part of a greater scheme to remake society along traditional lines. That will put the forced birth advocate in a bind — if they say yes then they will reveal their real plans and provoke harder opposition, if they say they no they may turn off their base, and if they dodge the question they risk doing both. The media needs to get on the coverage ball and do their jobs.
Is going on the offensive by bringing true religious liberty to the forefront of the pro-choice argument, going to abort the forced birth campaign in the next few years? That by compelling abortion stoppers to realize that they – seeing as how they claim to put such high priority on religious liberty and therefore should respect those who claim to be expressing such when they have an abortion — are manifestly and erroneously violating the theoliberty of theoliberals and nontheists? Considering their boldly self-sided view of liberties to date best not to hold one’s breath. But do not wave away the medium and longer term potential to seriously damage and perhaps someday sink anti-abortionism in legal venues and public opinion. Consider how marriage rights for all couples worked for gays over years, not long decades. Most critical is for the solid majority who favor women being full citizens to vote at least at the per capita rate as do those who want to use reproduction to remake American women into unsullied subservient theocons. That can render forcing birth into a fundamental violation of a pregnant woman’s religious liberty and medical needs.
 

bookmark_borderEvidence that Doesn’t Demand a Verdict

I am a left-wing atheist who hates Donald Trump and who is disgusted with every White Evangelical Christian SHITHEAD who supports Trump and his evil racist, sexist, anti-immigrant basket-of-deplorables.
I spend much of my time critically examining the arguments of Evangelical Christian apologists like Norman Geisler, Peter Kreeft, and Josh McDowell.  I have come to the conclusion that the intellectual efforts of these apologists amount to stinking piles of dog shit.  They present mountains of unclear, illogical, ignorant, dubious, and false BULLSHIT as if they were presenting intelligent arguments, thus polluting the minds of millions of Christians by presenting paradigm examples of IDIOCY and STUPIDITY as if they were presenting examples of intelligent reasoning.  I have little respect for these Evangelical Christian apologists and significant contempt for them.
NEVERTHELESS, the recent criticisms of Josh McDowell as being a “racist” strike me as UNFAIR and UNFOUNDED.  So, although I have significant contempt for McDowell and for White Evangelical Christians in general, I am going to BRIEFLY DEFEND McDowell against what seems to me to be UNFAIR and UNFOUNDED criticism.  Even IDIOTS like McDowell can be good-hearted people who are decent and morally upright in character.  In any case, the EVIDENCE presented fails to justify the strong moral condemnation of McDowell.
Part of my strong reaction to recent criticisms of McDowell concerns the sloppy use of the word “racist” and “racism”.  These terms are at least ambiguous and so when used to criticize and to morally condemn a person should be CLARIFIED, at the very least.  Furthermore, since one of the meanings of these terms is particularly odious, to fling these words around in a sloppy and careless way is offensive and is counter-productive in the battle against racism and racial prejudice.

In my view, nobody should be morally condemned as being a “racist” simply on the grounds that he/she has said or done something that indicates racial prejudice.   Racial prejudice is wrong and should be called out whenever it occurs, but the reality is that virtually ALL white people have some degree of racial prejudice which on occasion influences the words and actions of a white person.
Furthermore, racial prejudice is generally NOT as evil and as harmful as the conscious belief that one race is superior to other races or that one race is inferior to other races or that some races are inferior to other races.  One of the meanings of the word “racism” is the belief that some particular races are inferior to other particular races (e.g. the belief that black people are morally and intellectually inferior to white people by nature, because of their race).
When people say that Josh McDowell is a “racist” this is a very strong moral condemnation of him because ONE meaning of “racist” implies a person who holds the belief that some particular races are inferior to other particular races.  But there is NO EVIDENCE that McDowell holds such a belief or advocates such a belief.  So, the use of the word “racist” about Josh McDowell is SLANDEROUS because it suggests a claim about McDowell that IF TRUE would justify strong moral condemnation, but this is a claim for which there is NO EVIDENCE.
 
THE OFFENDING WORDS OF MCDOWELL
Here is a tweet that provided a quote from McDowell that led to the moral criticism and condemnation:

Another person who was present provides a bit more extensive quote of McDowell:

 
MY VIEW OF MCDOWELL’S OFFENDING STATEMENT
First of all, it is patently OBVIOUS to anyone who has two brain cells to rub together that McDowell’s comment is about NURTURE rather than NATURE.  This is clearly NOT a comment about the genes or inherited traits or the natural character of black people.  This is CLEARLY a comment about how black children are generally RAISED or SOCIALIZED.  So, it is clear and obvious that this quote has NOTHING to do with “racism”; that is to say, there is NO EVIDENCE here that McDowell believes that black people all belong to a race that is intellectually or morally inferior to white people who belong to a superior race of humans.
To use this quote as the basis for condemning McDowell as being a “racist” is SLANDEROUS because ONE clear meaning of this term is that the person in question consciously believes that some races are inferior to other races, and in this context, that means holding the belief that black people all belong to a race that is morally and intellectually inferior to the race to which white people allegedly belong.
Second, it is NOT clear that McDowell’s statement is FALSE.  IF McDowell’s statement is in fact TRUE, then we ought to be cautious about morally condemning McDowell for making this statement.   Do we really want to go around morally condemning people for making TRUE statements?  Before people get too bent out of shape, they need to study the relevant FACTS and DATA about how black children are raised in the USA and about how white children are raised in the USA.  Perhaps McDowell’s statement is TRUE, or perhaps it is partially TRUE and partially FALSE, or perhaps it is totally FALSE.  Until one studies the relevant sociological FACTS and DATA, one should not presume to know what those FACTS and DATA show to be the current social reality in the USA.
Third, McDowell probably does deserve some degree of chastisement and criticism, because he probably made this statement on the basis of PREJUDICE and STEREOTYPE, rather than on the basis of sociological FACTS and DATA.  If McDowell had studied the sociology of black families and of the rearing of black children (in the USA), and also studied the sociology of white families and of the rearing of white children (in the USA), then he might have had FACTS and DATA that supported his statement.
However, McDowell has quickly apologized for making this statement, and I think it is very unlikely that he would apologize for making this statement if he made the statement on the basis of FACTS and DATA that he learned from studying the sociology of black families and child-rearing vs. white families and child-rearing.  So, it seems very likely that his statement was NOT based on FACTS and DATA, and thus it was likely made on the basis of PREJUDICE and STEREOTYPE.  In short, it does seem to me that McDowell should be chastised and criticized, but that he is guilty of racial prejudice in his thinking and speaking, and NOT guilty of RACISM.  There is NO EVIDENCE here that McDowell is a racist.
Fourth: “There but for the grace of God go I”.   I am a left-wing atheist, and I HATE racism and racists.  I hate NAZIs.  I hate the KKK.  I hate the alt-right.   I hate skinheads.  I hate yahoos who wave the Confederate flag (particularly the SHITHEAD who waved the Confederate flag in the Capitol Building during the Trump-inspired insurrection). But I am a white guy, and I am aware that us white guys (and white gals) all have some degree of racial prejudice.  Our culture in the USA is saturated with racial prejudice.
So, I might one day say (or write) something STUPID that comes from a PREJUDICE or STEREOTYPE about black people (or about some other people of color).  I don’t want a FREE PASS if that happens.  I hope that I would be called out and criticized for speaking or writing something that arises from racial prejudice in my thinking.  But I would OBJECT to being called a “racist” and to being accused of “racism” and to being morally condemned for the sin of “racism” on the basis that I manifested some racial prejudice in my thinking.  I would view such a strong moral condemnation as being UNFAIR and UNFOUNDED and SLANDEROUS because I do NOT believe that some races are inferior to other races, and I am firmly opposed to such a belief or ideology.
This is the standard that I would insist upon for how other people treat me, so this is the standard I will insist upon for how people treat Josh McDowell.  Yes, he made ONE statement that reflects PREJUDICE or STEREOTYPE about black people, and this does reflect racial prejudice in his thinking.  But that is NOT equivalent to being a “racist”.  This is NOT EVIDENCE that McDowell believes that black people belong to an inferior race of humans, nor that white people belong to a superior race of humans.  Making a statement that reflects racial prejudice in one’s thinking is NOT as bad and as evil as holding (or promoting) the evil belief that some people belong to an inferior race of humans.
 
MCDOWELL’S APOLOGY FOR HIS STATEMENT
Here is McDowell’s apology for his offending statement:

I see nothing wrong with this apology.  It is a clear and straightforward apology.  If I had made a stupid statement like McDowell did, based on racial prejudice or stereotypes, then I would apologize in a similar manner.
McDowell could have gone a bit further by admitting that he made a statement that “does not reflect reality” BECAUSE of his own racial prejudice, because of prejudice and stereotypes in his own thinking about black people.  But he did identify the specific problematic statement as being WRONG, and he affirms his opposition to racism.
I think in this context McDowell is using “racism” in the weaker sense of “racial prejudice”, which makes it harder for him to admit that his statement arose from racial prejudice in his own thinking (because that would be admitting that he was involved in and was promoting “racism”).    Racism is indeed one reason why equality for blacks has not yet been achieved, but another important factor is racial prejudice, such as we see in the thinking and words of Josh McDowell.
This apology would have been a bit better and a bit clearer if McDowell had drawn the distinction between the evil of RACISM and the evil of RACIAL PREJUDICE, and confessed to having made a statement that came NOT out of RACISM but out of RACIAL PREJUDICE in his own thinking.
NOTE: Given the general sloppiness and unclarity of McDowell’s thinking, it is not a surprise to me that he failed to notice this important distinction, and failed to make use of it in his apology.

bookmark_borderFeser’s Perverted Faculty Argument – Part 2: Clarifying the Conclusion of the Core Argument

WHERE WE ARE
Edward Feser has put forward a version of the Perverted Faculty Argument (hereafter: PFA) against homosexual sex, so I will now examine that argument in the hopes that it is an actual argument consisting of actual claims.  Based on his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Feser understands the need to define and clarify the meanings of keywords and phrases in philosophical arguments.  I am hoping that in his presentation of PFA,  Feser will define and/or clarify the meanings of keywords and phrases in his version of PFA so that it constitutes an actual argument that is composed of actual claims.  If I find his effort to constitute an actual argument, then I will attempt to rationally evaluate that argument.
In Part 1 of this series of posts, I attempted to clarify the core argument in Feser’s PFA, based on his summary of that argument in his book Neo-Scholastic Essays (hereafter: NSE) on pages 403 and 404.
 
THE REVISED CORE ARGUMENT OF FESER’S PFA

3a. A situation where a human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings AND where that activity is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

4a. In any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts, that human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings.

THEREFORE:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

This revised core argument is significantly more CLEAR than the statement by Feser.  However, all three sentences here still make use of UNCLEAR words and phrases, so I’m not yet willing to admit that these three sentences make actual claims, nor that this is an actual argument.  It depends on whether Feser defines or clarifies the various UNCLEAR  words and phrases in these three sentences.
In this post I will address this crucial question:

Does Feser provide useful definitions or clarifications of the meanings of the keywords and phrases in these sentences that are, apart from such efforts, too UNCLEAR to make it so the sentences may reasonably be treated as actual claims?

 
WHAT DOES THE CONCLUSION MEAN?
Because the conclusion of an argument is the main point of the argument, it is generally best to start an examination of an argument by focusing on the conclusion.  Because CLARIFICATION is often needed to understand the meaning of a statement and thus be in a position to rationally evaluate the statement, it is generally best to start an examination of a statement by working to clarify the meaning of that statement.  I have already made one attempt to clarify the conclusion of the core argument in Feser’s PFA, but it is still UNCLEAR.  So, I will continue to work at achieving a better understanding of this statement:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

There are at least three UNCLEAR phrases in this statement:

  • human being H engages in homosexual acts
  • activity A is good for human being H
  • situation S is a metaphysically impossible situation

Because NONE of these three phrases has a clear meaning, (5a) is UNCLEAR and cannot be rationally evaluated as it stands.  These are three main parts or components of the statement (5a), and each part must be CLARIFIED.  Apart from a definition or clarification of each one of these phrases, it will not be possible to have a clear understanding of the meaning of (5a), and apart from such a clear understanding, it will not be possible to rationally evaluate this statement, nor to rationally evaluate an argument given in support of this statement.
Breaking down (5a) into its main parts or components, into these three phrases, is part of the process of ANALYSIS.  The point is to take a big task or problem, like CLARIFYING (5a), and turn it into smaller, easier to manage problems.  So, instead of having one big problem, we now have three smaller problems to manage.
 
WHAT DOES THE PHRASE “ENGAGES IN HOMOSEXUAL ACTS” MEAN?
In my previous examination of a PFA presented by Tim Hsiao one of the reasons that I rejected that argument as a worthless piece of intellectual garbage is that Hsiao made NO EFFORT to clarify the meanings of the key phrases “homosexual activity” and “sexual activity”.  So, we are walking down the same path with Feser’s version of a PFA.  The main question now is whether Feser made any effort to clarify the meaning of the UNCLEAR phrase “engages in homosexual acts”.  If Feser attempted to clarify the meaning of this phrase, then his version of PFA might be able to go beyond the FAILED attempt by Hsiao to present a version of PFA.
According to Feser, his article “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument” in Neo-Scholastic Essays is his most detailed and systematic treatment of sexual morality (as of June in 2015):

 
The phrase “homosexual acts” occurs not only in the conclusion of the core argument in his PFA but also in the ultimate conclusion of PFA:

Feser uses the phrase “homosexual acts” thirteen times in his article defending PFA.  However, he NEVER DEFINES what this phrase means, and he NEVER attempts to CLARIFY the meaning of this phrase.  Because the phrase “homosexual acts” is an UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS phrase, we don’t know what the hell the conclusion of the core argument in PFA means, and thus it is not possible to rationally evaluate the core argument of Feser’s PFA.
 
THE GENERAL UNCLARITY OF FESER’S PFA
This lack of clarity is not confined to just the key phrase “homosexual acts”.  There are other key phrases in Feser’s PFA that he also FAILS to DEFINE or to CLARIFY:

The phrases in bold red font appear in Feser’s summary of the PFA, and the other terms and phrases in blue font are closely related terms that appear in the article.  There are a total of 73 instances of these terms and phrases in the article, and as you can see from the chart above there are ZERO DEFINITIONS of these terms, and ZERO attempts to provide CLARIFICATIONS of these terms by Feser.
Although the phrase “sexual faculties” does not appear in the conclusion of Feser’s PFA, nor in the conclusion of the core argument in PFA, it does appear in three out of the six premises of his PFA, and is clearly a key concept in the argument:

 
I don’t know what Feser means by the key phrase “homosexual acts”, nor do I know what Feser means by the other key terms and phrases in his PFA.  So, it is NOT possible for me to rationally evaluate this argument.   CLARITY is a gateway standard of Critical Thinking.  If a statement is UNCLEAR, then one literally does not know what that statement MEANS, and one cannot rationally evaluate a statement when one does not know what that statement means.

 
CONCLUSION
Feser’s PFA is just as UNCLEAR as the PFA presented by Timothy Hsiao.  In both cases we are dealing with a PSEUDO argument, something that looks and sounds like an argument, but that is composed of UNCLEAR statements which cannot be rationally evaluated, and thus neither “argument” is an actual argument, because an argument consists of CLAIMS, statements that are clear enough to be understood and to be rationally evaluated.
According to Feser his article in Neo-Scholastic Essays defending his version of the Perverted Faculty Argument is the “most detailed and systematic treatment of sexual morality” he has ever written, but that article is a pathetic piece of intellectual garbage that presents us with a PSEUDO argument that only pretends to be an actual argument.

bookmark_borderThe Object of Moral Concern Problem for Divine Command Theory

Suppose that I steal your laptop on Friday afternoon. As the weekend sets in, I begin to be plagued by guilt. Initially, taking your laptop seemed like a great idea. I need a new computer, and yours is much nicer than mine. It is newer, has a faster processor, more memory, a bigger screen, etc. I had imagined with great anticipation how much better life would be with a nice, new, up-to-date laptop. But now–now that I must live with having committed the theft–every time I open the computer, every time I so much as look at it, I am overcome by intense feelings of remorse. After a few days of this agony, on Monday morning I decide that I cannot live with myself unless I admit my wrongdoing and try to make amends. What should I do?
Presumably one of the things that I ought to do is apologize. For the purposes of this thought experiment, let’s grant that an apology is a verbal expression of sorrow that consists of three elements: (1) an acknowledgement that I (the apologizer) have done wrong; (2) an attempt (by me) to make amends (i.e., an offer to compensate or make up for, if possible, the wrong that I have done); (3) my promising to avoid engaging in such wrongdoing in the future. [Perhaps you disagree with this account of apology. Perhaps you have your own preferred account, which you believe is superior in some way. No matter. The point I am making depends not at all on my getting the concept of apology correct. All that matters, with respect to the point I want to make, is that there are instances in which a person might decide to do (1), (2), and (3) and that in some such instances, doing (1), (2), and (3) is morally appropriate.]
So, to whom do I apologize? For what do I apologize? And, how should I offer to make amends?
I contend that divine command theory (DCT)  gets the answer to these questions wrong. The answers surely depend upon the answers to two other questions: First, whom did I wrong? And second, what makes it the case that what I did was wrong? That is, since I ought to apologize to the person that I wronged, the question of to whom I should apologize depends on whom I wronged. Further, since I ought to apologize for that which I did in virtue of which what I did was wrong, what I should apologize for depends on what makes it the case that what I did was wrong. And, since my offer to make amends ought to consist of an offer to compensate for the wrongdoing that I have done, how I ought to offer amends depends, again, on what makes it the case that what I did was wrong.
On divine command theory, what makes it the case that any instance of wrong-doing is wrong is the fact that it is a violation of divine command. So, on DCT, the answer to the second question (for what do I apologize?) is: I should apologize for doing something that violates a divine command. And the answer to the first question seems to be: God. I should apologize to God because it is his command that I violated and it is in violating his command that my wrongdoing consists. How we should answer the third question is less clear. It is not clear how I can compensate God for the wrongdoing that consists of my violating his commands. However, it is clear what I ought to do to find out what, if anything, I can do to make amends: I should ask God. I should say, “God, I have violated your command and for that I am truly sorry. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make it up to you.” Further, since God is the wronged party, if I offer a sincere promise to refrain from so-acting in the future, the person to whom that promise is directed ought to be God.
Let’s say that the person to whom we should offer apology when we have engaged in wrongdoing is the object of our moral concern. On DCT, it seems clear that the object of my moral concern, with respect to the wrongdoing consisting of my stealing your laptop, is God.
That is the wrong answer. When I have stolen your laptop, the proper object of my moral concern is you. You are the person I have wronged and it is to you that I owe an apology. What I should apologize for is taking something that belongs to you without your consent. Furthermore, the person to whom I should offer amends is you. I ought to return your laptop to you and ask if there is anything else I can do to make it up to you. And it is to you that I should offer my promise to never again engage in such wrongdoing. Therefore, DCT misidentifies the object of moral concern.
A defender of DCT may respond to the above argument thusly: It is true that, on DCT, God is an object of moral concern. On DCT, every time that a person engages in wrongdoing, that person owes an apology to God. But this does not imply that God is the only object of moral concern on DCT. Nothing prevents the divine command theorist from saying that, in addition to God, the person from whom you stole the laptop has also being wronged, and is therefore, an additional object of moral concern.

This response is devastating for DCT. Once we acknowledge that, in some instance of wrongdoing, there is someone other than God that has been wronged, it becomes untenable to claim that what makes any instance of wrongdoing wrong is the fact that it violates divine command. Presumably, if what makes you a proper object of my moral concern is the fact that I have wronged you, then it is possible for me to have wronged you even if I have not also wronged God by violating his command(s). But if it is possible to wrong a person without wronging God by violating his command(s), then it cannot be that what makes each and every action wrong is the fact that it violates God’s command(s).
Think again about the above questions: to whom do I apologize? for what do I apologize? how should I offer to make amends? If I have wronged you, then I ought to apologize to you. But for what should I apologize? The answer to this question depends on what makes it the case that what I did was wrong. Again, on DCT, what makes it wrong is that it violated God’s command. But does violating God’s command wrong you? And is that what I should apologize to you for? Should I say,
“I sincerely apologize for taking your laptop. I know that in doing so I violated God’s command and for that I am truly sorry.”
No. This gets the nature of the wrong wrong. I might have, in some sense, wronged you by violating God’s command. But that is not the proper locus of my doing wrong to you. Rather, what I have done to you is taken a piece of your property without your consent. That is what makes my taking your laptop wrong; the failure to respect your autonomy by seeking your consent before I took your laptop. The wrong-making feature here is something that I have done to you, not something that I have done to God. If this is the correct analysis of the nature of the wrong that I have committed, then it is clear that it is possible to commit wrongdoings even in the absence of divine commands. This is because there are wrong-making features that have nothing to do with violations of divine command. It cannot be, then, that, for all wrongdoings, what makes the action wrong is that it is contrary to the commands of God.
Furthermore, my offer to make amends is misplaced if it is an offer to God to make up for violating his commands. To make amends for the wrong I have done (the wrong consisting of the taking of your property without your consent), I must make an offer to you. The obvious offer to make is to return the laptop (and/or purchase a new one to replace it) and to compensate you for the time, effort, and worry that you experienced during your stressful efforts to deal with the theft of your laptop. Offering to compensate God cannot compensate you; my offer of compensation must be to the wronged party.
Notice that, to make sense of the idea that you are an object of my moral concern and to properly identify both that which I need to apologize for and how I ought to go about attempting to make amends, we need to allow that what makes my action wrong has to do with harms that I have inflicted on you. What makes my theft wrong has everything to do with violating your autonomy and has nothing to do with violating God’s commands. Even if I had not violated any divine command (because, e.g., there are no divine commands), I still would have done something wrong because I still would have done something that has a wrong-making feature (namely, the feature of being an action that violates your autonomy).  Let me be as clear as possible: I am not denying that, in stealing your laptop, I have wronged God. What I am saying is that this cannot be the only wrong that I have committed. I have also wronged you. And this wrong (the wrong to you) has nothing to do with having violated God’s commands. Therefore, if the divine command theorist acknowledges that you are a proper object of my moral concern, this is a tacit admission that there are wrong-making features other than the feature of being contrary to the commands of God. Accordingly, DCT is false.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 13: False Claims and Assumptions in Leviticus

WHERE WE ARE
One important reason for rejecting the view that Leviticus was inspired by God is that this book contains several FALSE claims and assumptions.  I have already argued that Leviticus contains FALSE historical claims and assumptions and that it also contains logical contradictions, so I have already shown that Leviticus contains FALSE claims and assumptions:

  • In Part 8 of this series, I presented some general points in support of my fourth reason for doubting the inspiration and authority of the book of Leviticus:

4. Leviticus is NOT an historically reliable account of actual events.

  • In Part 9 of this series, I presented a number of examples of contradictions between Leviticus and other books in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) to provide additional evidence in support of this fourth reason.  There are dozens of contradictions between Leviticus and the other books in the Torah.  Nearly all of these contradictions cast doubt on the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus and also cast doubt on the historicity of the books of the Torah in general.  If the book of Leviticus is historically UNRELIABLE or if it contains a number of false or dubious historical claims and assumptions, then we can draw two conclusions: (1) we cannot rely on Leviticus to present accurate information about what Jehovah communicated to Moses (even if Jehovah actually existed and if Moses was an actual person), and (2) Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  Both conclusions are good reasons to reject using the content of Leviticus as a basis for the moral condemnation of homosexual sex.
  • In Part 10 of this series, I gave examples of internal contradictions in the book of Leviticus, which shows that half of those claims or assumptions are FALSE.

 
SCIENTIFIC ERRORS IN GENESIS AND LEVITICUS
The book of Genesis contains several scientific errors.  It is a book that discusses the origins of the universe, the sun and the moon, the planet Earth, plant and animal life on Earth, human life, and the origin of human languages, the origin of death, and the origin of rainbows.  This is all bullshit invented by ignorant pre-scientific goat herders a few thousand years ago.  But Leviticus does not discuss the origins of anything (except the origin of the nation of Israel, and what it says about that are FALSE historical claims).
Leviticus is primarily a book of laws, rules, commands, and instructions for the performance of various religious rituals.  So, there is not much in the way of scientific claims or assumptions in the book of Leviticus. Nevertheless, in addition to making FALSE historical claims and assumptions, and in addition to asserting some logical contradictions, the book of Leviticus does contain a few scientific errors in Chapter 11, and these scientific errors provide further evidence that Leviticus was NOT inspired by an all-knowing and perfectly truthful deity:
1. Rock Badgers Chew The Cud (FALSE).

5 The rock badger, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:5, NRSV)

2. Hares Chew The Cud (FALSE).

6 The hare, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:6, NRSV)

“chews the cud” means that the animal regurgitates food from its stomach back into its mouth and then chews on that food some more before swallowing it again. See this post: “On Rabbits and Rumination – A Response to Christian Interpretations of Leviticus 11:5-6“. Rock badgers and hares do NOT regurgitate food from their stomachs and then chew on that food some more before swallowing it again.

Young Hare, a watercolour, 1502, by Albrecht Dürer

3. Bats are Birds (FALSE).

13 These you shall regard as detestable among the birds. They shall not be eaten; they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey,  14 the buzzard, the kite of any kind;  15 every raven of any kind;  16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind;  17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl,  18 the water hen, the desert owl, the carrion vulture,  19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:13-19, NRSV)

An all-knowing deity would know that bats are mammals and that birds are NOT mammals, and thus would know that bats are NOT birds.
4. Some Insects have four legs and four feet (FALSE).

20 All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you.  23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you. (Leviticus 11:20 & 23, NRSV)

5. Locusts, Crickets, and Grasshoppers have four legs and four feet (FALSE).

21 But among the winged insects that walk on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to leap on the ground. 22 Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind.  23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.  (Leviticus 11:21-23, NRSV)

Insects, including locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers have three pairs of legs.

 
CONCLUSION
My Reason #7 for rejecting the view that Leviticus was inspired by God is this:

7. Leviticus contains false information.

I have shown that Leviticus makes FALSE historical claims or assumptions and that it contains some logical contradictions (implying that half of those claims are FALSE), and that it also contains a few scientific errors or FALSE scientific claims or assumptions.  Therefore, we have good reason to believe that Reason #7 is TRUE and that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.

bookmark_borderBack to God and Leviticus

When Easter rolled around this year, I dove back into the questions “Did God raise Jesus from the dead?”  and “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”  These are issues that I have enjoyed thinking about for the past four decades, and will continue to think and write about for the rest of my life.
 
DEFENDING THE HALLUCINATION THEORY
I wrote a series of posts defending the Hallucination Theory, specifically examining seven objections raised against this theory by Josh McDowell in his book The Resurrection Factor.  I discovered that the main problem with McDowell’s discussion about this skeptical theory is that he DOES NOT HAVE A CLUE about (a) what the word “hallucination” means, (b) what psychologists have learned about hallucinations and dreams, and (c) how to present a clear and intelligent argument for an historical claim about Jesus.  So, McDowell had no chance of producing a solid and strong refutation of the Hallucination Theory.  
His more recent defense of the resurrection in a book co-authored with his son, Evidence for the Resurrection mostly re-hashes the same pathetic objections against the Hallucination Theory, and COMPLETELY FAILS to refute that skeptical theory just like he COMPLETELY FAILED to refute it in The Resurrection Factor.  I noticed that in the most recent version of Evidence that Demands a Verdict McDowell abandoned his pathetic case against the Hallucination Theory and instead points to Peter Kreeft’s pathetic attempt to refute it (although Kreeft’s attempt appears to lean heavily on McDowell’s case).
 
DEFENDING OTHER SKEPTICAL THEORIES ABOUT THE RESURRECTION
If you are interested in the questions “Did God raise Jesus from the dead?”  and “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” you might want to also see my series of posts defending the Conspiracy Theory against objections raised by Peter Kreeft in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli), and my series of posts defending the Apparent Death Theory (or “Swoon Theory”) against objections raised by Peter Kreeft.

Portion of the Temple Scroll, labeled 11Q19, one of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls

 
BACK TO GOD, LEVITICUS, AND THE PERVERTED FACULTY ARGUMENT
Having exposed McDowell’s sham of a case against the Hallucination Theory, I will now return to my previous topics:

  • Leviticus and Homosexuality

Part 12: More Bad Guidelines is where I left off on Leviticus.

  • Feser’s Perverted Faculty Argument

Part 1: The Core Argument is where I left off on the Perverted Faculty Argument.

  • The Thomist Cosmological Argument

I’m critiquing Norman Geisler’s pathetic attempt to present a Thomist cosmological argument, as a warmup exercise before I attempt to critique Feser’s better and clearer presentation of this argument for the existence of God.

 

bookmark_borderFeser’s Perverted Faculty Argument – Part 1: The Core Argument

HSIAO’S PERVERTED FACULTY ARGUMENT
I have REJECTED Timothy Hsiao’s Perverted Faculty “Argument” against homosexual sex NOT because it was a bad argument, but because it was a FAUX argument, and not an actual argument.  The core “argument” by Hsiao consists of three declarative sentences that were so UNCLEAR that they cannot be rationally evaluated, and thus those sentences do NOT assert actual claims, and thus those sentences do NOT constitute an actual argument.
For my analysis and criticism of Hsiao’s “argument” see the following posts:

Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 1: A Thomist Argument
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 2: Argument Structure
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 3: Unclear Argument
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 4: The Logic of Applied Ethics
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 5: From Fake to Real
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 6: Sexual Activity
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 7: Definitions of “Sexual Activity”
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 8: Legal Definitions

 
FESER’S PERVERTED FACULTY ARGUMENT
Edward Feser has also put forward a version of the Perverted Faculty Argument (hereafter: PFA), so I will now examine that argument in the hopes that it is an actual argument consisting of actual claims.  Based on his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Feser understands the need to define and clarify the meanings of key words and phrases in philosophical arguments.  I am hoping that in his presentation of PFA,  Feser will define and/or clarify the meanings of key words and phrases in his version of PFA so that it constitutes an actual argument that is composed of actual claims.  If I find his effort to constitute an actual argument, then I will attempt to rationally evaluate that argument.
Here is how Feser summarizes PFA in his book Neo-Scholastic Essays (hereafter: NSE):

(NSE, p. 403-404)
The logical structure of this argument is simple and straightforward, consisting of a series of three inferences:

THE CORE ARGUMENT IN FESER’S PFA
Typically, the core of such a three-tiered argument occurs in the middle of the argument, and that seems to be the case here.  I have indicated what I take to be the core argument by the purple line drawn around the middle argument.
Here is what I take to be the core argument in Feser’s PFA:

(NSE, p. 404)
As with Hsiao’s PFA, this core argument is filled with UNCLEAR words and phrases.  However, for right now, I’m going to assume that Feser defines or clarifies the meanings of these UNCLEAR words and phrases (or most of them) somewhere in the chapter that he devotes to PFA, so that these sentences will turn out to be actual claims.
Before I try to nail down the meanings of the various UNCLEAR terms, I am going to work at eliminating UNCLEAR REFERENCES in these sentences, by applying a basic rule of argument analysis:

*** 86 THE MOTHERFUCKING PRONOUNS! ***

I don’t use the expression “motherfucking” here to indicate a criticism of Feser.  We ALL use pronouns, and even the best philosophers use pronouns when laying out philosophical arguments.  So, in using pronouns to summarize PFA, Feser is not doing anything contrary to normal practice, even among the best philosophers.
Nevertheless, it is good to develop some antipathy towards pronouns, if you want to properly analyze and evaluate philosophical arguments, or even if you just want to be a competent critical thinker.  Pronouns often create AMBIGUITY and UNCLARITY, and these things are anathema to philosophy and to critical thinking.
Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.  We need to understand the meaning of a claim first, before we can rationally evaluate that claim.  We need to understand an argument first, before we can rationally evaluate that argument.  So, CLARITY is a basic requirement for claims and arguments used in philosophical thinking and for thinking critically about any claim or argument.
 
EVIL PRONOUNS IN THE CORE ARGUMENT
I put the evil pronouns in bold red font.
Premise 3:
it is metaphysically impossible”
“for it to be good for us
“to use those faculties”
“in a manner that is contrary to their procreative and unitive ends”
Premise 4:
“homosexual acts” [ Note: I’m going to ignore the other “bad” sexual activities: “contraceptive acts”, “masturbatory acts”, and “acts of bestiality”.]
“involve the use of our sexual faculties”
“in a manner that is contrary to their procreative and/or unitive ends”
Premise 5:
it is metaphysically impossible”
“for it to be good for us
“to engage in homosexual acts” [ Note: I’m going to ignore the other “bad” sexual activities: “contraceptive acts”, “masturbatory acts”, and “acts of bestiality”.]
 
NOW WE 86 THE PRONOUNS
I replaced the pronouns in bold red font with words or phrases in bold blue font.
Premise 3:
it is metaphysically impossible”   ==>   “a situation is metaphysically impossible”
“for it to be good for us”   ==>   “for the activity to be good for a human being
“to use those faculties”   ==>   “to use the sexual faculties belonging to that human being
“in a manner that is contrary to their procreative and unitive ends”   ==>   “in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings
Revision of Premise 3:

3a. A situation where a human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings AND where that activity is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

Premise 4:
“homosexual acts” [there are important elements missing from this phrase]   ==>  “in any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts”
“involve the use of our sexual faculties”   ==>   “that human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being
“in a manner that is contrary to their procreative and/or unitive ends”   ==>   “in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings
Revision of Premise 4:

4a. In any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts, that human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings.

Premise 5:
it is metaphysically impossible” ==> “a situation is metaphysically impossible”
“for it to be good for us” ==> “for the activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) to be good for a human being
“to engage in homosexual acts” ==> “in any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts”
Revision of Premise 5:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

 
THE REVISED CORE ARGUMENT OF FESER’S PFA

3a. A situation where a human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings AND where that activity is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

4a. In any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts, that human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings.

THEREFORE:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

This revised core argument is significantly more CLEAR than the statement of it by Feser.  However, all three sentences here still make use of UNCLEAR words and phrases, and so I’m not yet willing to admit that these three sentences make actual claims, nor that this is an actual argument.  It depends on whether Feser defines or clarifies the various UNCLEAR  words and phrases in these three sentences.
So, in the next post of this series I will begin to address this question:

Does Feser provide useful definitions or clarifications of the meanings of the key words and phrases in these sentences that are, apart from such efforts, too UNCLEAR to make it so the sentences may reasonably be treated as actual claims?

 
To Be Continued…