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With Just A Door, Windows and Some Concrete, This New Humanist Classroom Will Be Ready – Atheist Alliance International

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Over the past month, we’ve been raising money for the Kasese Humanist School in Uganda. All in all, we’ve raised just over $2000 so far. For the students at Kasese, this is enough money to make a massive difference in their lives. Your selflessness has paid for the tuition for many of these eager learners. You’ve bought them textbooks and science equipment and ensured they get access to the medical care at the school’s clinic. Thanks to you, the future is looking more and more promising for all the students at KHS.

To wrap up this month of fundraising for KHS, though, we want to tell you about their latest project. When we launched this campaign at the beginning of January, we learned that Robert Bwambale, who founded and currently runs this evidence-based, humanist school, was building a new classroom.

The new classroom will be in use come February, and Robert has named it the Nelson Mandela classroom. Yes, we are all aware that Mandela was a believer, but he stood for human rights, just as Atheist Alliance International stands for human rights and just as Robert Bwambale stands for human rights. The education that students will get inside the completed Nelson Mandela classroom will still be secular, evidence-based and instill humanist values in the hearts and minds of the KHS students.

Nelson Mandela classroom

The Nelson Mandela classroom under construction at Kasese Humanist School.

Robert is building the Nelson Mandela classroom for grade 6 at the Kahendero campus. Initial fundraising gave the school enough to start the project, but they are short the money to build a door and shutters. They also need to purchase four windows. A coat of paint is required as well as a concrete floor. Robert suggested just $500 would enable him to finish this classroom. I told him that ought to be an easy goal to reach if your previous generosity towards this school is any indication.

We’ve set the goal at $500. You can donate here:


Nelson Mandela classroom

The Nelson Mandela classroom with an unfinished floor.

There is so much more than a secular humanist education that makes this school worthy of our support. Robert, who seems to live by the school’s motto, “with science, we can progress,” has implemented programs that I wish I could find at my own kids’ schools here in Canada. There is a vocational skills workshop, where high school students work in an auto shop on campus to learn to fix vehicles.

A student at KHS works on a vehicle in the auto shop.

A student at KHS works on a vehicle in the auto shop.

From used tires, instructors teach the students to build eco stoves that are more durable, portable and use less charcoal than other stoves commonly used in the area. These items are then sold at the market to supplement the school’s income.

Eco Stoves

Robert Bwambale poses with the eco stoves his students built.

In several locations, the Kasese Humanist School has gardens where they grow cassava, bananas, tomatoes, coffee, mangos, corn, peanuts, cotton, avocados, jack fruits, and acacia trees. The idea is eventual self-sufficiency, and so far, they’ve made a lot of use of the vegetables, livening up and enriching the meals for the students.

Robert harvesting corn in one of the gardens at KHS.

One recent Sunday, while many Ugandans were in church, Robert and his team planted 1000 eucalyptus trees at one of the campuses of KHS. Robert said,

“The trees planted are for poles, timber, and as they grow, they are helping in modifying climate, providing oxygen to animals, shelter to some birds, soil catchment, windbreakers and adding beautiful scenery to Kasese Humanist School.”

Baby eucalyptus trees, ready to plant.

I think we can all agree that Robert, his staff, and this school are remarkable and deserve all the support they can get. Please consider donating to help Robert finish his Nelson Mandela classroom.



We would also like to highlight some of the students at Kasese Humanist School who did not get as many donations as the others. If you could find it in your heart to give to these studious kiddos, donate here:

Francis Maweje

Francis Maweje

Francis Maweje only has $5 in donations. Click here to donate to his education fund.

Kirabo Susa

Kirabo Susa

Kirabo Susan only has $10 in donations. Click here to donate to her education fund.

Birungi Joan

Birungi Joan

Birungi Joan only has $5 in donations. Click here to donate to her education fund.

Tusemererwa Mercy

Tusemererwa Mercy

Tusemererwa Mercy only has $11 in donations. Click here to donate to her education fund.

Karamagi Wilson

Karamagi Wilson

Karamagi Wilson only has $5 in donations. Click here to donate to his education fund.

As January comes to an end, so will our feature of the Kasese Humanist School. That doesn’t mean you can’t follow what new things they’re doing. We will share updates regularly on our Facebook page. You can also follow the school’s Facebook page here.

We want to thank you for making the fundraisers for KHS such a booming success, and we can’t wait to post new photos of the children enjoying the textbooks and equipment you bought them. Thank you, atheists, for being generous for the sake of generosity, no promise of paradise required.



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God is a Consequentialist. The Theist’s Defence: God is Not Moral (I)

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I have written an essay that can be found variously on this site called “God Is a Consequentialist” in which I set out that God is a moral consequentialist. Some of which I will now set out or paraphrase before looking at the defence William Lane Craig and others use to get around this. This first piece will set out some of the ways that God is a consequentialist.

Firstly, let us look at the global flood involving Noah. In this passage (Genesis 6-9), God is revolted by all the sin committed by humanity and sends down a flood to kill all of humanity bar eight and all animals bar two of each kind (Genesis 6:7):

So YHWH said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

The classical interpretation of the characteristics of God is that he is at the same time omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. His all-loving characteristic is one with which we find most interest in this context. He destroys all the world’s population bar eight and all the world’s animals bar two of each kind. Is this a benevolent act? Surely not. Surely such destruction of people apparently endowed with moral dignity and of animals with no moral value per se must not have intrinsic moral goodness. So how can such an act be seen as being morally good, if not in the intrinsic value of the act?

The context is everything here. There are two ways of looking at this. The first is retribution. Humans could have been so sinful as to deserve almost entire eradication. Aside from this being an incredibly unlikely scenario (let us assume that this might be the case), this retributive punishment is incoherent with the death of a myriad of morally unaccountable, yet sentient, animals. Furthermore, retribution actually offers little in the way of constructive usefulness past a sort of deterrence which could be achieved in other ways without so much death, I wager. It could be argued that retribution has some moral value itself, but only insofar as it pertains to gaining pleasure for the agent. It would be easier to argue that catching the thief and putting him through successful rehabilitation would be a morally greater course of action than a retributive one.

The second way of looking at this is that God was trying to achieve a greater good in this seeming ‘evil’. Perhaps God needed to do this potentially harsh act in order to achieve a particular (all-loving) end. If this is the case, then God (whose acts can only be seen as morally perfect) is using this event and the lives of all those who perished to achieve an end. This is clearly a form of consequentialism. The moral value of the event was not in the event itself, but derived from the consequences, even though we might not know what these were. As is often cited as an answer for difficult moral dilemmas involving God, who knows the mind of God? God moves in mysterious ways!

A more recent event, the tsunami of 2004, has some poignant parallels with the global flood event. The world was shaken by the sheer force and fallout of such a massive natural phenomenon. Some 280,000 people died, as well as entire ecosystems and potentially billions of organisms perishing. God, with his classic characteristics, would have known this was going to happen and would have had the power to stop it. Being all-loving, all we can possibly conclude from his permissive will is that the tsunami must have served some greater good in order for it to be permitted by an omnibenevolent Creator deity.

It is difficult to second guess such reasons for allowing destruction of this magnitude. It could be a combination of reasons, seen by theologians as theodicies, or theories which seek to answer the Problem of Evil[1], such that it might seek to be character-building or soul-building (the Irenaean Theodicy) for the survivors (or even those who perished). The generally accepted maxim by Christian philosophers is that we cannot know the mind of God and he has his reasons (that perhaps we do not have the capabilities to understand) but that there must be a reason or a greater good to come from such suffering. In a debate with Jeffrey Jay Lowder, Phil Fernandes (a philosopher of religion and theologian) stated[2]:

“A theist … would have to argue that this is the greatest possible way to achieve the greatest possible world… God often uses evil and human suffering to draw people to himself. Now God’s ways and thoughts are far above our understanding and even the Scriptures state that. At best atheistic arguments show that limited minds can’t fully understand why God allows so much evil…”

This sort of rationalisation is commonplace, and William Craig has also reached similar conclusions when talking of the Problem of Evil in debates and also in his writing[3]:

Again, such an assumption is not necessarily true [that an omnibenevolent God would prefer a world without evil].  The fact is that in many cases we allow pain and suffering to occur in a person’s life in order to bring about some greater good or because we have some sufficient reason for allowing it.  Every parent knows this fact.  There comes a point at which a parent can no longer protect his child from every mishap; and there are other times when discipline must be inflicted on the child in order to teach him to become a mature, responsible, adult.  Similarly, God may permit suffering in our lives in order to build us or to test us, or to build and test others, or to achieve some other overriding end.  Thus, even though God is omnibenevolent, He might well have morally sufficient reasons for permitting pain and suffering in the world.

This is a clear exposition of the notion that the moral value of God’s decisions is being evaluated by an analysis of the consequences. Craig here seems to implicitly accept moral consequentialism as the system to justify God’s actions whilst simultaneously claiming God is not moral. William Lane Craig’s approach is to establish our morality in a reflection of God’s commands (such as “Love thy neighbour”), but to deny God the same moral obligation.

It is this response that I will concentrate on in the next post, now that I have set the scene.

NOTES:

[1] The Problem of Evil:

1. God exists.

2. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.

3. A perfectly good being would want to prevent all evils.

4. An omniscient being knows every way in which evils can come into existence.

5. An omnipotent being, who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, has the power to prevent that evil from coming into existence.

6. A being who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, who is able to prevent that evil from coming into existence, and who wants to do so, would prevent the existence of that evil.

7. If there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then no evil exists.

8. Evil exists (logical contradiction).

(The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The Evidential Problem of Evil”, Nick Trakakis)

[2] This is oversimplifying matters, necessarily, as I could also introduce ideas of moral and/or reasons internalism and externalism here. For further reading, I would advise seeing Williams (1981) p. 101-13.
[3] Craig (2008) p. 172

 

Craig, William Lane (2008; 3rd Ed), A Reasonable Faith, Crossway Books: Wheaton, IL

Williams, Bernard (1981) “Internal and External Reasons”, in Williams’s Moral Luck, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press



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Eternity, Free Will, and the World” Refuted — Part 4

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A few months ago over at the Catholic apologist’s site Strange Notions, where I sometimes debate theists (but am now banned from), a post was written by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette that was almost entirely addressed at some criticisms I’ve made on the site in the past year.

This is part 4 of that criticism. For parts 1, 2, and 3, click herehere and here.

Objections Answered

In this section of the post, Bonnette tries to answer the objections to god’s necessity and free will he’s written thus far, but on analysis he’s failed to fully articulate and understand the dilemma. He starts writing,


First, some think that God being the Necessary Being is inconsistent with the contingency of his free will choosing to create this world, which did not have to exist at all. Although God is the Necessary Being, this necessity refers primarily to his act of existence, since his essence is identical to his existence – thus, making it impossible for him not to exist.

Of course, all these claims merely attempts to define god into existence. It’s the word salad at the heart of Thomism’s case for god. Since I’ve already addressed this problem in past episodes of this series, I will move on to the heart of the matter:


The term, “necessary,” with reference to the divine nature cannot be capriciously defined to suit some contrived anti-theistic argument. Its meaning originates in the context of St. Thomas’ Third Way, which refers solely to a being whose necessity for existence comes from itself and not from another.4 Such a being must be that being whose essence is its very act of existence.

When I criticize the Thomist’s claim that god is necessary, I’m simply using the general, uncontrived, definition of something that is logically necessary, meaning, logic necessitates it’s outcome or truth. If what the theist means by “necessity” is really just suppositional necessity, then they are making a much weaker claim under the guise of a much stronger claim. I’ve argued this is deceptive, and is the lie at the heart of Thomism. He continues,


Hence, God’s necessity means primarily the necessity of his existence. As shown by St. Thomas above, that necessity also pertains to God’s willing his own goodness, since it is equivalent to his own being — but it is not necessary for God to will things other than himself.5

But again, you can’t define something into existence. Now I understand Bonnette is not making the case for god here and is instead responding to objections, and so he’s starting from certain statements he thinks are already proven elsewhere. I just see monstrous flaws in those statements to the extent that they are in no way proven. If it is not necessary for god to will things other than himself, that means everything god does will that is not necessary must have a contingent explanation. The Thomist’s own principle of sufficient reason demands it. Hence the dilemma in part 3.


Thus, when God chooses freely to create this world as opposed to any other, this choice does not make him to somehow become a “contingent” being. He is still the one and only Necessary Being, but he makes a free choice that in no way contradicts his existential necessity.

Nothing about the above is concluded from what came before it. God never “freely” chooses anything. And if we assume god does for the sake of argument, the reason why god chooses to create this world as opposed to any other must be due to contingent reasons. Since god’s essence is his will, and his will to create specific lesser goods is contingent, god’s essence is contingent. Hence, god is a contingent being that cannot be fully explained in principle by necessity. He continues,


Second, some object that God cannot have free will, since that would necessarily entail a change in him, which his immutability and eternity forbid. But this is to make the gross error of thrusting God into time – as though he was first not making a choice and then later making one, which would be a change in him. 

Unless one misconceives God in a material, temporal fashion, the metaphysical insight required is to grasp that God’s very substance is an eternal act of will in which some objects are willed necessarily and others are willed non-necessarily. This is not an act having temporal duration in which choice begins at some point. God is simply his own act of choosing – a choice eternally identical with his very substance through divine simplicity.

According to Bonnette, god is an eternal, unchanging will, that could not have been different than what it is, and it’s will includes non-necessary things. That would mean it cannot be explained by necessity in principle, which can only mean god’s will must be explained by something contingent. This can only lead to an infinite regress of contingent explanations, which means god could not have freely willed it because every explanation to why god wills the unnecessary things must refer to something else, and the infinite regress itself will need an explanation, according to the Thomist. Hence god is logically trapped out of free will, since free will requires (among other things) not being forced by outside elements. A theist here is forced to claim god is not forced by outside elements, but there is no ultimate explanation why god wills the unnecessary things. By definition there can’t be.


Third, it was objected that God’s choices are not really free, because his choice is identical to his nature, and therefore, is determined by his nature. It is true that God’s nature determines what he is able to do and that his actual choice is identical to that nature. But, this will prove to be unproblematic

While God might have made other logically possible choices (and there might be other logically possible Gods), such hypothesized alternatives are not metaphysically possible – given that the one and only actual God, who is immutable, has made the choice he has actually made. These hypothesized alternatives may be metaphysically possible in an absolute sense, but they are not so de facto – given that only one God actually exists and has made the actual choice he has eternally made.

And here is where the Achilles heel of the Thomistic case for god cripples them. Once you admit there are other logically possible gods, you cannot say your god is necessary. For if the theist claims our universe isn’t necessary because there are other logically possible universes, the same would apply to god. The theist can say the universe doesn’t have existence as its essence, but technically neither does god. The theist just defines god as having existence as its essence, but obviously I can define the universe the same way. The theist can come back and say such a claim is impossible because the universe came into being and undergoes change, but obviously that presupposes presentism is true (which no one can ever prove). The theist has to prove presentism or possibilism at the very least to make his case even have wings, let alone get off the ground. Dr Bonnette has tried to prove true presentist-sense motion happens on Strange Notions before but he does not know what he’s talking about. Motion doesn’t disprove eternalism. Motion simply means something different on eternalism. Motion simply means that in spacetime, worldtubes are not all parallel. They are angled relative to each other, which means that at different times they are different distances. That’s what motion is. This is why I love eternalism: it destroys the Thomist’s metaphysic.

The fact of the matter is is that if god can be “necessary” while there are “other logically possible” Gods,” so too is the case with the block universe: we have this universe, and given that it eternally exists, hypothetical alternatives are not metaphysically possible – given that the one and only actual universe exists (assuming there’s no multiverse for the time being). Hence, the Thomist has nothing on the atheist has far as explanatory power. He just pretends he does, disguised in fancy, philosophical dressing. That’s how he’s able to pull his charade. Dr Bonnette continues on,


What is de facto metaphysically impossible renders the alternative “logical possibilities” not logically possible at all, except as contrary-to-reality mental imaginings. That is, they are not actually real possibilities at all.

Ok, but then the same is true with an eternal block universe: it eternally exists, and although it is not logically necessary, no other alternatives are possibilities at all. In fact, this is a perfect time to have a side-by-side comparison of god and the block universe.

Looking at a side-by-side comparison of god vs the block universe, it is clear that they share many of the same attributes. This means that just about any argument made for god can be made for the block universe. But the theist will remind us that the main difference between them is that god is non-physical, and the block universe is physical. Because of this, they argue, it is possible that another physical universe could exist, which would mean the universe cannot be necessary, unlike god. But the slight of hand the theist makes here is that when he says “possible” he means logically possible, as in, it’s logically possible that another physical universe could exist. But of course, Dr Bonnette admits the same thing about god! It’s logically possible that another god exists, he acknowledges (or admits, depending on how charitable I want to me), but it is metaphysically impossible that another god exists because “only one God actually exists and has made the actual choice he has eternally made” as he says in the postBut the same exact thing would be true of the block universe. Given that the block universe as a whole is eternal, unmoving and unchanging, it is metaphysically impossible that it didn’t exist. Thus the theist here has nothing above the atheist. But—since we do know the universe exists, and have extremely good reasons why eternalism is true, that means the atheists has an advantage over the theist. Dr Bonnette goes on,


God is actually able to do only what he actually freely wills to do, since on the supposition that he wills a certain choice from all eternity, that will cannot be changed — because of the divine immutability. Thus, there is, in fact, no distinction between what God is able to do and what he does do – but what he does do, he does freely with respect to goods that are less than his own goodness.

Dr Bonnette of course has no justification in saying god freely wills anything. He simply calls god’s unnecessary will “free” since the other will is necessary. The fundamental explanatory problem of why this unnecessary will vs a different unnecessary will is still there. Since a necessary explanation is off the table as an option, the will can only be explained by an infinite regress of contingent explanations.


Given the divine nature, God is determined to will his own existence and goodness necessarily. But, he is also determined to will lesser goods than his own existence non-necessarily, which means that he is determined by his own nature to act freely. That is to say, with respect to the willing and creation of lesser goods than his own goodness, God is determined to be not-determined. His nature determines that the divine will’s act with respect to certain specified objects, such as the creation of this particular world, is not necessary, and therefore, is perfectly free.

Thus is resolved the problem of God’s nature “determining” his choice.

Being determined to will lesser goods does not entail those lesser goods are done freely. It is logically possible to be determined to will something that isn’t necessary. Furthermore, the claim of being “perfectly free” if granted for the sake of argument, does not get god out of the underlying dilemma that since it is the will in question isn’t necessary, any explanation to why it is X rather than Y must have a contingent explanation, given the aforementioned Thomist’s own PSR, thus the dilemma.

This dilemma is not refuted anywhere in Bonnette’s post, and given that according to the principle of sufficient reason:

(a) all explanatory chains must eventually terminate in a necessary explanation or go on infinitely
(b) the explanation for god’s lesser goods is unnecessary,
(c) therefore, the explanation for god’s lesser goods can only be an infinite regress of contingent explanations.

I technically do not need to include the two options in (a). I could just say all explanatory chains must eventually terminate in a necessary explanation and still justify my point. God’s “free will” cannot be used as an explanation, because even something freely willed must have an explanation. It’s the type of explanation that implodes the theist’s case.

And that wraps up part 4. Some of this is indeed a bit redundant, but it’s necessary for me to stress the point.

When closely examined, you can see that for all the sophistication on Strange Notions, the arguments there implode under scrutiny. Dr Bonnette simply has no case for god’s free will, and the linchpin of his case for god, and for that of Thomism, is exposed as nothing more than a clever word play, implying a logical necessity for his god’s existence, yet it is really just an after-the-fact claim for his god’s suppositional necessity—a claim the atheist could make about an eternal block universe. I will follow up with the refutation for part 5 shortly.



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Mat Staver: Everything Obama Did Was Impeachable, but Trump’s Crimes Don’t Apply | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist

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Here’s some interesting proof of hypocrisy, courtesy of Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch, and it concerns Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, a guy who thinks the “Q” in LGBTQ represents pedophilia.

Years ago, when Barack Obama was president, Staver had no problem coming up with a list of why Obama should have been impeached: Enacting the Affordable Care Act, promoting liberal politics, running the country while some state attorneys general refused to defend legislation banning marriage equality, etc.

Everything was on the table, Staver said, because Congress got to decide what’s worthy of impeachment.

But now that Donald Trump is in office, Staver will do anything he can to defend his crimes and insist that nothing Trump does is impeachable. How does he do that? By saying impeachment only applies in the narrowest of circumstances.

“The partisan impeachment started by the House Democrats is dangerous and undermines the Constitution,” Staver said. “The Constitution provides for a very limited area of impeachment and it involves if a president commits treason — it didn’t happen in this case — bribery — that’s not happening here where the president is getting a bribe, it’s not even alleged — or it says ‘and high crimes and misdemeanors.’”

“What is high crimes and misdemeanors?” Staver asked. “It’s violation of criminal law. There is no allegation. So when we look at the precedents, this is outrageous … There is no crime, there’s really no violation at all, certainly not a high crime or a misdemeanor alleged in any of the two articles that the House sent over to the United States Senate.”

So Trump withholding aid to a foreign country unless they spread lies about one of his political opponents is totally fine… but Obama wanting poor people to access health care is a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY.

I don’t expect logical consistency from someone who claimed Kim Davis did nothing wrong, but apparently even Staver can’t stand to listen to himself.





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What You Can Do to Oppose Christian Extremism

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moutain climbing

In the United States, the forces of Christian extremism are highly organized, well-funded, wield sufficient political influence that they regularly manage to elect those who sympathize with them to local, state, and federal office, and still fly under the radar much of the time. As far as ideological opponents go, they are quite formidable. This raises an important question for any atheist who believes that the Christian extremist agenda (sometimes referred to as “Christian nationalism,” “Christian dominionism,” or “Christian theocracy”) runs counter to his or her interests: What can I do? What can you do to effectively oppose these things?

I thought it made sense to take a look at this question and see how we might answer it. Our challenge is that not every option is going to be realistic or desirable for every person. If you are currently 14 years-old, it would be nonsensical for us to tell you that you should immediately register to vote or apply to be a State Director for American Atheists. There are other things you can do, but those aren’t going to be among them…yet. But even beyond the obvious age-related limitations, we have to acknowledge that public secular activism is not going to be something that everyone can do for all sorts of good reasons. This means we should try to identify as many viable options as possible and encourage like-minded atheists to pick and choose those that work for them. Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing. Even if you can only help in small ways, you are still helping.

Get Politically Active

In order to help effectively, we need to be informed. Taking the time to inform ourselves about how our elected officials vote on matters of relevance to the secular community allows us to participate in the political process more effectively. For those who are of age, voting is one obvious way to help. Voter turnout among the religiously unaffiliated continues to lag behind evangelical fundamentalist Christians, and we need to change this. Perhaps working to improve registration and turnout would be helpful ways for people who cannot yet vote to contribute. In addition to voting and working to improve the voter turnout, we can interact with our elected officials and political candidates running for office. This does not have to be any more involved than a few emails or tweets. Helping in small ways is still helping.

Support Secular Organizations

Supporting secular organizations is one thing most atheists can probably do. Annual memberships in most of the national organizations cost between $30 and $40. This money helps to fund the efforts these groups make on our behalf to defend the separation of church and state. For those who cannot afford these fees, consider using whatever social media platforms you have to amplify the voice of these groups. This is an effective and often overlooked way to help. Follow these groups and share their content. None of these groups will be perfect, but don’t let that get in your way.

Depending on where you live, you may have access to local or state-level secular organizations. If you do, connecting with one of them is another way you can help. If you don’t have a group like this in your area, you might consider starting one. I realize this is more time and effort than many want to take on, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning it as an option. This is not only a good way to help oppose Christian extremism, but it is often helpful to have local allies. You might even make some great friends.

Create Your Own Content

If you feel strongly that Christian extremism poses a threat and want to do something about it, you might consider starting your own blog, YouTube channel, podcast, website, etc. Doing so would give you a different sort of platform to express your views and inspire others. I realize these things are all a lot of work for little reward. They are not going to be for everyone, but there are ways to make an impact without devoting your life to your chosen platform. If you have a unique voice that does not seem to be reflected in the content currently available, you just might be able to fill an important need.

Online Activism

I already mentioned using your social media platforms to amplify the messages of secular organizations, but online secular activism can be much broader than that. One easy thing every one of us can do is to share others’ content to boost their message. Think of yourself as an amplifier of good ideas. Whenever you run into something you find yourself agreeing strongly with something you’ve encountered and wishing more people would see it, share it.

You might also participate in secular hashtag activism. It is true that I have been somewhat skeptical about what this can accomplish, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still give it a try. Two of the campaigns I’d really like to see revived are #AtheistVoter and #atheistsENGAGE. When we interact with elected officials or candidates running for office on social media and use these tags, we make it more likely that other secular activists will see what we are doing and join in. In essence, we are telling others, “Hey, this is an important conversation that those worried about Christian extremism may find relevant.”

Connect with Secular Activists

Most of us need inspiration from time-to-time and one great place to find it is those who are already doing effective secular activism. Connect with these people, learn from them, and borrow the aspects of what they are doing you find most appealing. I realize that identifying them is not always easy, but one decent place to start might be American Atheists’ list of State Directors. Other groups are organized in different ways and do not always support local groups, but you should still be able to find at least a few options on their websites.

At this point, I’d like to give a special shout-out to one of American Atheists’ State Directors in particular: Justin Scott (Iowa). While I’ve never even been to Iowa, he’s active on Twitter (@iowaatheist247) and is a great example of the sort of secular activist I’ve found inspiring. If someone were to ask me what effective secular activism looks like on Twitter, he’d be the first name I thought of.

Skip the Drama

I know it can be entertaining, but we probably aren’t doing secular activism any favors when we allow ourselves to get sucked into the latest drama taking place among atheists. I believe it can be helpful to learn how to take note of it and then step aside. We have far more important things to do. There is reason to believe that atheist infighting undermines our efforts to oppose Christian extremism and drives some great secular activists away from the cause. When we are already facing an uphill climb, this is the last thing we need.

It took me far too long to arrive at my current approach, but I have been happy with it now for some time. In brief, I do my best to be reasonable online and quickly unfollow those who engage in recurrent name-calling. I believe that is counterproductive, and I am not interested in supporting it. I’d rather focus my limited time and energy on atheists who are working to bring about positive change.





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70% Of Americans Support #MedicareForAll

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I had no idea that that 70% of Americans supported Medicare For All, but a recent survey from Reuters says just that. I’m sure the number is up dramatically in recent years, given the abundant failures with our existing system, and the newfound momentum on the Left for universal healthcare. Most Democrats in the US are openly supporting a Medicare For All system, and it seems inevitable that we’ll eventually get it.

Personally I support a Medicare For All system, even though I’m not firm on how an exact implementation would work, as there are many ways it could be implemented. I’m also openly looking for people who disagree and are willing to debate this with me. Nothing makes you learn a topic better than debating it.

So if anyone opposed to Medicare For All and who supports a free market style system wants to debate in the comments below, feel free.



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Christian Website: The Bible Says an Asteroid Will Crash Into Earth in 2029 | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist

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In case you need something else to worry about, Christian writer Thomas Horn would like you to know that an asteroid is going to crash into the Earth in 2029, and the Bible proves it. He found an outlet for his bananas theory on — where else? — Charisma.

Revelation 8 and the first four trumpet judgments appear to describe the different stages of a singular event — a large asteroid impact on planet earth, which I predict is coming in 2029 in the form of the asteroid Apophis.

I now believe, in fact, if you were to ask a scientist (as I did) to explain what these verses seem to depict, they would tell you that the details of Revelation 8 very much match the sequence of either a binary asteroid (two asteroids orbiting a common barycenter — the area of mass around which two or more bodies orbit) accompanied by smaller fragments — or the breakup of a larger asteroid into two main portions accompanied by tons of smaller debris as it enters Earth’s atmosphere, followed by impacts.

He sounds like the sort of person that reads one paragraph in a science textbook and assumes he’s now an expert. We’re not told who this mystery scientist is. We’re given no mathematical justification for what that asteroid will be doing. The entire “proof” consists of copy-pasting Bible verses then saying SEE?!

But when your audience consists of people who think evolution is a conspiracy, it shouldn’t be that hard to convince them that the Bible knows exactly what the cosmos will be up to in 2029.

I guess they need something to look forward to since all those Rapture predictions didn’t work out.

(via Joe. My. God. Image via Shutterstock)





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Atheism and the Meaning of Life

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meaning of life

In 2010, I came across a post by Stefan at EXchristian.net in which he shared his existential pain over what he experienced as the meaninglessness of life after discarding his Christian faith. This got me thinking about how many ex-Christians have faced a similar struggle, and I applauded his willingness to share what had to be a difficult post to write. I realized that this was a subject I had been neglecting and one which deserves more attention. I suspect many of us who are ex-Christians have experienced this but in very different ways.

Many Christians report that their faith provides them with a powerful sense of meaning and purpose. Some go so far as to suggest that they would be completely lost without it. Although I am sometimes content to take them at their word, I usually suspect that they are being overly pessimistic and self-critical here. Plenty of ex-Christians manage to navigate life successfully, and some even report being fulfilled as they do so.

De-Conversion as a Loss of Meaning

Unlike Stefan, I was never a “religious fanatic” and recall no desire to evangelize. Evangelism was never expected of us by our clergy, and my immediate family would have been horrified if I had gone down that road. While I do remember a sense of comfort in my prior faith, I never experienced anything like the all-consuming purpose from it that Stefan described. For me, religion was more of a context (i.e., a stable and reassuring presence) and not the only avenue through which I found meaning. Perhaps this difference made my de-conversion process easier than his, although I can relate to most of what he describes. There was a sense of loss as I realized I no longer believed in gods.

For the most part, this sense of loss had to do with realizing that much of what I had previously thought I knew was wrong and would need to be replaced. I was not sure what I’d replace it with, and I was used to being told what to believe rather than figuring it out for myself. My initial efforts failed because I was stuck in the mindset that meaning was “out there” somewhere and I needed to find it. I’d eventually realize that it was going to be up to me to make my own meaning, and that put me back on track.

When Stefan refers to “the utter pointlessness of it all,” I know exactly what he means. In many respects, life is thoroughly void of meaning and can indeed be described as pointless. But this is true only if we limit ourselves to external sources of meaning over which we have little control. I am convinced, now more than ever, that the search for meaning must come from within the individual and that it is up to each of us to make our own meaning. Those who offer to provide us with meaning and purpose are false prophets at best. I find this realization liberating, exciting even. But it is also more than a little intimidating because it means that I have nobody but myself to blame for my failings.

The Meaninglessness of Atheism

One of religious believers’ favorite questions for atheists has to do with our thoughts on the meaning of life. They typically assume that we must have a meaningless existence because we do not believe in their preferred gods. Not only is this the height of arrogance, but it reflects a lack of understanding about the nature of meaning, atheism, and all sorts of other things.

When we point out that there are no external sources of meaning, this does not mean that life is meaningless. It means that meaning is not something “out there” that we must find; it is something we have to create for ourselves. We accept responsibility for making our own meaning. This can be scary at times, but it is also liberating in many ways

Atheism itself is meaningless. Atheism refers only to a lack of belief in gods. As such, it does not aim to provide any meaning. An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in gods, and that tells us nothing about what he or she believes, values, or where he or she might derive meaning. In that limited sense, atheism is meaningless. But since atheism is not a worldview, ideology, philosophy, or anything else along those lines, I am not sure why we would expect any different.

Meaning Comes From Within

I am convinced that every person, religious believer and atheist alike, must create his or her own meaning. There are no external sources of meaning because we all filter the world through our minds. Religious people may claim to find meaning through gods, but they are merely imbuing religious concepts of their choosing with meaning. That is, they are making these particular concepts meaningful to themselves.

The difference between the religious and the non-religious is not that one group has meaning and the other lacks it. The difference is also not that one group derives meaning from gods and the other does not. In this context, the difference is that atheists do not find the use of god concepts necessary or even relevant when it comes to meaning. From what I have observed, we have much the same sense of meaning and purpose as do the religious, but we get there without the religious baggage.

For both the theist and the atheist, meaning comes from within. The difference is that the atheist recognizes and accepts this reality while the theist does not. In a sense, the theist prefers to externalize and personify the process of meaning-making by creating gods.

But Then What Is the Purpose of Life?

There isn’t a purpose of life; there are many different ones crafted by many different people. What is the purpose of my life? That is up to me. It is my responsibility to figure that out for myself. What do I live for? That too is up to me. What provides meaning for me? Nothing but me and my awareness that my time here is limited.

Personally, I’d like to leave the world a somewhat better place than it was before I came into it. I’d like to use the few talents and skills I possess to help others grow and develop. I work toward these ends in my professional life as well as my hobbies, free time, and personal life. I consider it a fundamental part of who I am, and I think it would be fair to say that it is how I have given my life meaning.

When I first left Christianity behind and gradually accepted that I was an atheist, I lost some things. I certainly lost some people and some sources of support. There is no denying that. But one thing I never lost is my sense of meaning or purpose. Perhaps that means that it never had anything to do with religion even though I once thought it did.

This post initially appeared on Atheist Revolution as two separate posts written in 2010 and 2011. They were merged into a single post, revised, and expanded in 2020.



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Max Tegmark On Time As The Fourth Dimension

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Some people, I think, for reasons not fully known to me, will just never understand the concept of 4 dimensional spacetime. I’ve been engaged in a year long debate with a contributor to the Strange Notions site on my blog over Special Relativity’s entailment of a 4 dimensional spacetime block, and despite dozens of images and a book’s worth of explaining, he just doesn’t get it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that to the lay person who has not bothered to learn Special Relativity, it is very hard if not impossible to explain this without the help of a realtime conversation and the ability to illustrate arguments. What really bugs me is when people make claims about Special Relativity or spacetime, or any of its implications, who have clearly not bothered to learn or understand the basics of the theory. But such is the case. Willful ignorance comes natural to us, so I can’t say I’m surprised when I experience it.

I stumbled across a paper by Argentinian physicist Gustavo Romero, who’s written several papers on the 4 dimensional block view. In his paper he quotes MIT physicist Max Tegmark on time as the fourth dimension and its illusory nature. It’s interesting to hear the dominant view among physicists, which so profusely contradicts our everyday experience of reality in the manifest image.

Time is the fourth dimension. The passage of time is an illusion. We have this illusion of a changing, three-dimensional world, even though nothing changes in the four dimensional union of space and time of Einstein’s relativity theory. If life were a movie, physical reality would be the entire DVD: Future and past frames exist just as much as the present one.



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Podcast Ep. 306: The Church That Doesn’t Want Old People | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist

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In our latest podcast, Jessica and I discussed the past week in politics and atheism.

We talked about:

Donald Trump appeared at the misnamed “March for Life.” (0:25)

— Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has an important question about God. (5:29)

— Was a church wrong for telling old members to get out? (11:03)

— The Church of England reiterates that only straight married people can have sex. (14:52)

— A survey shows that atheists know more about the Holocaust than Christians. (19:10)

— This controversy over invocations in Berea, Kentucky will inevitably lead to a lawsuit. (28:13)

— Conservative Dennis Prager says private conversations aren’t an accurate reflection of someone’s character. (35:14)

— Utah (!) has finally banned gay conversion torture. (43:20)

— An Indiana legislator wants to make his anti-abortion bill immune to lawsuits. (45:25)

— The Supreme Court heard a case that could upend church/state separation. (50:05)

Mike Pence spoke at a church where a pastor delivered a rabidly anti-gay sermon. Because of course he did. (55:00)

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the podcast. If you have any suggestions for people we should chat with, please leave them in the comments, too.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play, stream all the episodes on SoundCloud or Stitcher, or just listen to the whole thing below. Our RSS feed is here. And if you like what you’re hearing, please consider supporting this site on Patreon and leaving us a positive rating!

(Image via Shutterstock)





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