If Constantine had not endorsed Christianity, you would probably not even be believing it.
This statement was made to me in a comment thread here. It’s a fairly straightforward argument: the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine was an essential element in the spread of Christianity as we know it today; therefore, it’s stupid to believe in Christianity.
This is Constantine. Ugly sumbitch, ain’t he? Must have been a bad hair day.
The premise is hard to deny. If it hadn’t been for Constantine’s tolerance and later adoption of Christianity, it certainly wouldn’t be what we know it as today. It may have even been stamped out entirely. But the truth of the premise doesn’t necessarily mean the conclusion follows. Read more of this post
In my last post, I addressed a common excuse atheists use to avoid dealing with testimony of God’s interactions with history: misuse of prior probability. Just because a particular event does not have precedent doesn’t mean it can be handwaved; a prior probability that is undefined cannot be treated as a prior probability of zero. Before July 16, 1945, there had never been such thing as a nuclear bomb, but that didn’t stop Trinity from going off.
As an example, I suggested a botched alien landing, evidenced for archeologists in the testimonies of a prehistoric people and a handful of complex mathematical engravings. Now, whether that is sufficient evidence doesn’t matter; the point is that we’d theoretically be willing to evaluate this evidence despite having no prior experience with alien landings and no reasonable way to estimate the prior probability of an alien landing.
However, several commenters responded by arguing that the analogy of an alien landing was improper, that these hypothetical aliens would necessarily be part of nature. An alien landing, while unprecedented, wouldn’t break any of the laws of physics, and so it’s not on the same level with a miracle. Read more of this post
When it becomes apparent that Christians like myself are depending primarily on history for empirical evidence of God’s involvement in history (imagine that!), atheists quite often appeal to probabilities….specifically, Bayesian probability.
Now, Bayesian probability is a complicated subject, but the relevant point here is that the probability of a particular event (or of a particular explanation being true) depends on its prior probability: the base rate of that particular event within the general population of events. Simply put, if a particular event is already known to be extremely rare, this “rareness” needs to be included in evaluating evidence for that event.
Bayes’ Theorem (image by mattbuck)
This becomes particularly important when we’re comparing competing explanations. Even if the evidence seems to point more toward one explanation, that explanation might not be the most probable if it was already very unlikely. For example, hearing a loud thunderous roar outside is good evidence that there’s a thunderstorm….unless, of course, you live in the desert outside Baghdad, where thunderstorms are vanishingly rare and roadside bombs are much more frequent. Read more of this post
I consider it a Great American Pastime to leisurely scroll through the delightful nuggets of wisdom that are Chick Tracts. With titles like A Demon’s Nightmare, Holy Joe, Back From The Dead?, and Camel’s In The Tent, it’s hard to find a more startlingly brilliant collection of superstition, misinformation, racial prejudice, illogicality, misanthropy, and outright fiction….unless, of course, you go digging through Kent Hovind’s stuff.
So yes, I’ll confess it: I love reading Chick Tracts. It’s incredibly entertaining to see just how ridiculous fundamentalism can get. Granted, Chick largely represents Independent Fundamental Baptists, which are a fringe group at best (though admittedly more common than snake handlers). “And such were some of you….”
One of the more famous titles is Big Daddy, a thrilling exposé on the problems with biology, geology, chemistry, cosmology, and the scientific method in general. “A professor thought we came from monkeys, until a student proved evolution was a lie. Humorous, yet powerful! Students love it.” Read more of this post
Seen on Facebook:
“Women are not T-shirts to be tried on for a few weeks and discarded when they become uncomfortable or unsightly. They are diamonds to be treasured, protected, and perfected with hard labor and intention.”
Right. We shouldn’t treat women like property. Because they’re not just ordinary property. They’re valuable property. You know, like diamonds are more valuable than T-shirts. Read more of this post
At the repeated urging of John from The Superstitious Naked Ape, I took the time to sit down and watch Dr. Richard Carrier’s lecture for the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics on why he believes Jesus never existed. You can watch it yourself here. Or you can just read my comments below as I go through the video.
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“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
We see this and similar quotes thrown around quite often, usually in attempts to vilify religious belief. As such, it’s rather laughable; pretending that Christians secretly disbelieve in God is as ridiculous as pretending that atheists secretly know God exists. It’s not an argument or assertion that has any place in rational discourse.
But blind faith does exist; we see it all the time. When confronted with difficult evidence, certain small-minded people like to handwave it by declaring “Well, I have faith!” This sort of idiocy deserves all the ridicule it can get.
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It was a darkened dorm room at my college in the deep south in the mid-2000s. The rest of my life had just been decided for me in the space of around 25 seconds.
I wasn’t a virgin anymore.
Historically, the big ugly hangup about virginity was specifically limited to women. After all, women were the only ones with any sort of physical sign indicating whether they’d ever had sex (although this was a tenuous distinction to begin with). A woman’s value was directly determined by her sexual history.
Then came the fundamentalist purity culture of the late 20th century. Clearly, the whole virginity thing was wrong; women shouldn’t be vilified for their sexual history. Instead, they decided, let’s vilify EVERYONE for their sexual history! Equal-opportunity discrimination….that’s feminist, right?
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“I realized that fundamentalism…is unnecessary.” YES.
Religion is predictable.
From a series of conversations over on Violet’s blog….
We see worship of the sun, stars, rivers, or other natural elements, morphing into a pantheon of deities. These pantheons expanded as time went on and religious observance became more and more ostentatious and refined. New gods were added on a regular basis. The members of the divine pantheon had very human attributes, lives, and adventures.
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