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
Guest post over on Defeating the Dragons about the meaning of “wisdom”.
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
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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I’ve been meaning to write about the Purity Culture for some time now, and while I intend to do a more complete treatment of it soon, something came up recently that I simply couldn’t overlook.
Last week, forgedimagination wrote a post over on Defeating the Dragons that really ticked me off. Not because of what she wrote, but because of the response she received. Earlier, she had written about victim-blaming and rape repentance as outgrowths of the Purity Culture, and they were featured on No Longer Quivering. Then things got messy.
But before I can say anything about this particular example, I need to explain a little about the Purity Culture itself.
Purity or Bust
For those of you who didn’t grow up in it, the fundamentalist Purity Culture is a clever scheme to keep Christian teens from doing the deed until they’re safely on their honeymoon. Preferably and presumably, it also keeps them from oral sex, making out, kissing, holding hands, or appreciating each other’s sexuality in any way. Because, you know….LUST. If you enjoy looking at someone, you’re lusting in your heart, which means you’re committing adultery with them in your heart, which apparently makes both of you Guilty Of Fornication. Cover those bra straps, ladies! Bounce those eyes, guys!
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“I realized that fundamentalism…is unnecessary.” YES.
Definitions can be tricky things. Words have wildly divergent meanings depending on who is using them and why. So nailing down concrete definitions is a good thing to do any time you get the chance.
I’m sure I’m appropriating this from somewhere, but oh well.
Atheist: a person who finds it improbable that an agent cause brought about our reality.
Theist: a person who finds it probable that an agent cause brought about our reality.
Agnostic: anybody else.
This is the bottom line. All other definitions are just rhetorical posturing.
One of the principal reasons I moved away from fundamentalism was the overwhelming presence of fallacies. As a good Fundamentalist Homeschooler, I was taught to hunt down and identify fallacies as efficiently and ruthlessly as the heat-seeking missile shown below.
The AIM-9 Sidewinder missile uses an infrared heat-seeking module and a warhead that expands into a jagged spinning ring of metal death on impact. Image courtesy USAF.
Unfortunately, fundamentalism is home to some pretty egregious fallacies in its own right, ones that became rapidly apparent as I turned my abilities back on my own indoctrinated beliefs. Wait, why do we believe such-and-such? No good reason at all? Interesting.
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I’m going to try my best not to make this post a rant about what horrible parents I had and how I’m going to do so much better. My parents weren’t horrible. Not only would that be trite and presumptuous, but it wouldn’t be fair either. All parents make mistakes, and while mine certainly weren’t perfect, I know they did the best they could with what they believed was right.
This photo, snapped by the Cassini spacecraft in 2011, shows the moon Dione orbiting its parent planet, Saturn. The gas giants have moons orbiting much closer than Earth’s moon. Image courtesy NASA.
But as I look down at my three-month-old son sleeping peacefully in my arm (yes, I’m typing this with one hand), I can’t help wanting certain things to be different for him. I don’t want him to grow up believing it’s impossible to do something that’s genuinely good without any hidden motivations or agendas. I don’t want him to feel like his mother and I have a set of expectations he can’t ever deviate from. I don’t want him to see the world through a single, unyielding lens of good and evil that casts every person as either saint or villain. Most of all, I don’t want him to feel like he isn’t allowed to disagree with us or explain why he feels a certain way. Read more of this post