Friday, January 24, 2020
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Interactive Map Of Religious Belief in Europe

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Continuing on with my love of Pew Research’s surveys on religious trends, they recently put out an interactive map that shows you the religiosity of 34 European countries according to 4 factors: (1) importance of religion; (2) religious service attendance; (3) frequency of prayer; and (4) belief in god.

Here are some highlights from the survey:

  • Romania is the most religious European country in their overall combined index, Estonia the lowest.
  • Armenia has the highest level of belief in god with “with absolute certainty” with 78%, and Germany is the lowest with 10%.
  • Greece has the highest percentage of people who say religion is very important in their lives, with 55%, and Estonia is the lowest with a mere 6%.
  • Moldova has the highest percentage of people who say they pray daily, at 48%, and the UK has the lowest at just 6%.
  • Poland has the highest percentage of people who say they attend religious services at least monthly, at 61%, and Finland has the lowest at 10%. 

It seems that the most religious countries in Europe are roughly on par with where the US is. But the US will be catching up with the rest of Western Europe in a generation or so, if the numbers continue at the rate they are now.



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GOP Lawmaker’s Bill Would Allow Christian Company to Sell Religious Dog Tags | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist

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Last July, an online Christian jewelry store stopped selling dog tags featuring emblems of the Marine Corps and Navy after the military branches demanded they end the unauthorized usage.

The company, Shields of Strength, didn’t seem to care that using the official logos of the military illegally suggested an endorsement of religion that the military wasn’t making. (The Department of Defense’s own rules prohibit the logos from appearing on any items that promote certain ideologies or religious beliefs.)

All of that happened because the Military Religious Freedom Foundation‘s founder Mikey Weinstein sent letters to all of the military branches urging them to put a stop to what the Christian company was doing. It worked. The U.S. Marine Corps Trademark Licensing Office was able to get the store to take down the Marine Corps and Navy dog tags. The Army followed suit later. (The Air Force dog tags are still available for purchase.)

Just to reiterate: The Christian jewelry store was selling merchandise that linked the owner’s faith with the U.S. military. That’s not allowed. That’s why the military told them to stop it. The company was perfectly within its rights to sell shirts saying “I love the Army” or “Proud mother of a soldier,” but they cannot use the official logos.

It’s not complicated. The rules apply to everyone.

Now a Republican lawmaker is trying to change the rules in order to benefit Christians.

Rep. Gregory Steube of Florida has introduced a bill, HB 5657, that would allow any trademarks owned by the Department of Defense to be “combined with religious insignia on commercial identification tags (commonly known as “dog tags”) and to be sold by lawful trademark licensees.”

In short, it’s a bill that would allow this company to keep suggesting — wrongly — that we have a Christian military.

If it passes, the bill would also be retroactive to September 13, 2013. That would, among other things, keep this particular Christian company in the clear.

MRFF’s Chris Rodda rightly points out that all of this is unnecessary:

To be clear: Nobody is stopping Shields of Strength from making dog tags with Bible verses on them, and nobody is stopping service members from wearing them — they just can’t have the official trademarked military emblems on them and be sold as officially licensed merchandise.

But this is what Republicans do. They carve out opportunities for Christians to get away with damn near anything no matter how much it hurts the country. Passing this bill would send a clear message that our military is okay being used as a pawn in a faith-based culture war. There’s a reason the government is supposed to be secular. It provides religious freedom for everyone. Allowing religious groups to co-opt the military in order to make some cash is a short-term gain that would create long-term damage.

It’s irresponsible. It’s also what we’ve come to expect of conservative Christians.

(Large portions of this article were published earlier)





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Should People Be More Ashamed by Online Begging?

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ashamed cat

When I was a kid, begging, panhandling, or whatever else one might prefer to call it was something most people were ashamed to do. I’m not claiming that it should have been a source of shame; I’m merely stating that I remember it as something of which people were generally ashamed. It was something one did only because one had to, and there was a widespread assumption that if you saw someone begging that it was because they had no other option.

Of course, this assumption was not always accurate. I recall going to Seattle during my first year in college with a few friends. One did not have enough money to buy something trivial he wanted, and he panhandled on the corner of a busy street to make up the difference. I was so disgusted with this that I tore into him about how wrong this was when there were people out there who genuinely needed help. His retort caught me off guard.

You know that guy we saw begging on that last block? Do you really think he’s doing that to pay his kid’s medical bills? He’s probably doing it for booze! And if people are going to be stupid enough to give him money for that, why shouldn’t I get in on it?

I wasn’t happy with the response, but he did have a point. It was likely that at least some of those begging on the streets were not using the money for things I’d be eager to support. And really, once I coughed up the money, it was theirs to do with as they pleased.

Today, I am not at all convinced that begging is something of which most are ashamed. There seems to be little shame associated with public begging, especially among younger people who do it online. I see this almost every day on Twitter alone, and it isn’t like I follow thousands of people there. I know I guy who paid for his elective surgery with online begging (mostly through Facebook). He’s not famous, and he doesn’t create content of any sort. He simply set up an account for himself on one of those fundraising services and watched the money roll in. I detected no shame on his part at all. He even joked about how it was “Millennial health insurance.”

Whatever shame might have once been associated with begging seems to have faded away, at least when it comes to online begging. The new sensibility seems to be that if I can persuade others to give me money, wouldn’t I have to be stupid not to do so? Again, I’m not here to decide whether this is a positive development, a negative development, or neither. I’m really not sure.

Online begging may be popular, but it is not without controversy. A few years ago, a popular atheist blogger raised money online for medical expenses. I don’t remember all the details, but her fundraising efforts were very successful. Many people who admired her work chipped in. For some reason, she decided to inform everyone that she had spent some of the money on a pair of expensive shoes. Some of her supporters defended this, pointing out that it was her money now and she could do whatever she wanted with it. Others were upset because they felt like they had been misled. The controversy centered on whether someone soliciting funds for a specific purpose was behaving ethically if they spent some of them on items many perceived as trivial, excessive, and unrelated to what donors had been told. The online begging itself was not controversial.

It seems that there is little shame associated with online begging today. It is so widespread that it seems normal. Something happens in your life that leaves you feeling financially stressed, and you use whatever online platform you might have to ask others for money. I saw an atheist blogger doing this a couple weeks ago when I wrote an early draft of this post, and I saw another atheist doing it on Twitter yesterday as I finished the post. I suppose there are far worse forms of begging that also seem much more common today than I recall. What do you think: Is shameless online begging a good thing, a bad thing, or just the new normal?



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Some Questions to Dr J Berger

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As some of you will know, I recently edited a book by Joseph J Berger called Science & Spirituality (Barnes & Noble), which is available now (please grab a copy, even though Amazon are being bastardly difficult with their distribution).

The book, as you will find out, is aimed predominantly at students as an introduction to scientific naturalism:

At whom is your book aimed and why did you feel a need to write it?

My intention in writing this book was to provide some of the current answers that science has developed for the questions that religion has traditionally addressed. As a college professor, I was thinking of my students when I wrote it. But throughout the process I was aware that it could also be helpful to any curious person, student or adult, especially if they may not have had the kind of science background that would have exposed them to this information.

Of course, I have thought about these questions all my life, and have discussed these ideas with students. But the idea for this project really began a few years ago in conversations with other faculty about how a person could find spiritual satisfaction, a sense of meaning in life, without religion. Some of the colleagues I spoke with were religious, some were secular. But the question of whether spirituality and a scientific worldview were compatible seemed to interest them all. People raised with religious beliefs really do frequently ask “Well if you don’t believe in God what do you believe in? Don’t you think there is anything greater than us?” And of course the answer is that science gives us a great deal to believe in and a very real sense of how small our place is. I know that this question has been addressed by other scientists, such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Neil Tyson and others, but I wanted to provide a sort of “starter kit” for the topic.

One of the things that surprised me, by the way, is just how provisional some of the factual answers are. We all like to remind our students that science tries to provide the best answers we currently have, and is always revising those answers. I sometimes had to lay the project aside to concentrate on my day job, and when I got back to it I often had to revise the facts because of newer understanding.

Have you had any negative reaction to writing a book concerning humanism and naturalism?

Not yet. But now that the book has been published, I expect I may see some pushback. The Twitter mob just hasn’t found me yet.

What was your own journey to naturalism or have you always been so inclined?

My parents were both atheist/agnostic, but always emphasized that I would have to decide for myself what to believe. I don’t remember ever believing in magical explanations, though. An all-powerful God always seemed to me to be in the same category as Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. In other words, a pleasant fairy tale that made people feel better.

What do you think the limits to science are or do you think science has ultimate jurisdiction?

Science is a tool. It is without a doubt the best tool for what it is designed to do, which is to figure out how the natural world works. Nothing else, no other way of knowing, works as well as science for that purpose. And the proof is the predictive value of science. If you are trying to solve a problem, such as to prevent or cure illness, build a bridge, get to the moon, put most of the knowledge of human beings in your pocket, or to save the planet from environmental disaster, nothing works as well as science. But not every question is about how the world works. For example, I am in constant awe of art. I find a visit to an art museum to be genuinely moving, and I believe art is a human accomplishment as important as science. It just serves a different purpose.

What do you think the strongest argument for atheism is?

I would phrase it somewhat differently. Rather than make an argument for atheism, I would make an argument for critical thinking. I think once you rely on reason and critical thinking to understand the natural world, you would inevitably conclude that there is no evidence for the existence of gods. As has been said before, a world without gods would look exactly like the world we have.

What do you think the strongest argument for theism is?

I really can’t make an argument for theism, any more than I could make an argument for the existence of Santa Claus. I do think that religion has a powerful ability to unite people, sometimes for good, and to ease the angst we experience over our own mortality. But I think we can be good to others and form a community without religion, and I can’t really endorse making people feel better about death and suffering by telling a lie.

What are you most worried about and most confident or happy with in the world right now?

What worries me is that the success of science has also caused the greatest problems we face. The human population has soared in the last 150 years thanks to science and technology, especially the Germ Theory of Disease. But we haven’t yet figured out a solution to the problems caused by that increase in population, and it threatens our existence. We need food, clean water, space to live, education, medical care, sustainable energy for the 9 billion or more people arriving soon, and we need to do it while avoiding war, disease and ecological collapse. I am confident that science can solve these problems, or a least has the best chance of doing so, if we can put aside greed and ignorance and learn to cooperate. After all the talk about rationality, at this point I have to say that my belief that we can achieve this is really a matter of faith.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

I am a serious cook, and have always done the cooking and food shopping in our family. I like to tell the story that when they were little, one of my daughters came home from visiting a friend and said, “Dad, you know I found out that in some families the mom does the cooking!”

Thanks to Joseph J Berger for taking the time to answer these questions. You can check out a guest post of his here: The Discovery of Death.


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Life as an Emergent Property, and Rocks

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Abiogenesis and wondering how life started for the very first time here on Earth, is endlessly fascinating. Believers prefer to plug the hole of ignorance with the ever-useful GodPutty™. GodPutty™ plugs any holes in a way that leaves you never wanting for answers again. It’s the perfect antidote for scientific curiosity and inquiry.

Believers sit somewhere on the spectrum that goes from literal and historical Adam and Eve all the way to naturalistic explanations for abiogenesis such as life starting at hydrothermal vents or similar, except believers finish their spectrum at the point “God designed a mechanism for ‘naturalistic’ abiogenesis”, because God still needs to be the ultimate designer and creator, right?

The naturalistic end of the spectrum has a whole host of interesting options from aliens did it (AlienPutty™) to hydrothermal vents, from primordial soups to Late Heavy Bombardments and suchlike.

Most of the ideas revolve around the principle of emergence (the Wikipedia “Abiogenesis” article includes 33 uses of the word emerge and its derivatives).  Essentially, things get into networks and particular arrangements that are sufficient for life to begin. This comment (I sadly can’t remember who it was from, but was written on one of my threads over the last year or so – let me know if it was you!) nicely sums it all up for me:

When a system possesses properties that are more complex than just the sum of its parts, we call that an “emergent property.” Life is, therefore, an emergent property of matter and energy that are organized in a particular way. The atoms that constitute a living organism are no different from the atoms of non-living matter. It is their organization, under the direction of DNA, and the use of energy to keep them organized that distinguishes living from non-living matter.

This is key. Believers look at life and think it is so “out there”, so marvellous, such a category difference from non-life that they invoke God out of a mixture of the Argument from Incredulity and the Divine Fallacy. But the reality is that life emerges out of particular natural components in the same way a murmuration of starlings has patterns and changes in directional behaviour emerging out of the chaos of the natural components of starlings. Indeed, there are dozens of incredible photos of the murmurations making distinct shapes:

As I wrote in “Starlings, Televisions and Consciousness; The Emergent Sum Is Greater than Its Parts“:

I was watching the stunningly good Planet Earth II tonight and again saw the amazing flocks of starlings and their murmurations. Here is an idea of what they do (I couldn’t get the Planet Earth footage):

This got me thinking about emergent properties, when things are created that are greater than the sum of their parts. As wiki states:

In philosophysystems theoryscience, and artemergence is a phenomenon whereby larger entities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities such that the larger entities exhibit properties the smaller/simpler entities do not exhibit.

Emergence is central in theories of integrative levels and of complex systems. For instance, the phenomenon of life as studied in biology is an emergent property of chemistry and psychological phenomena emerge from the neurobiological phenomena of living things.

In philosophy, theories that emphasize emergent properties have been called emergentism. Almost all accounts of emergentism include a form of epistemic or ontological irreducibility to the lower levels.

Indeed, watching those images on the TV is another great example of emergentism. Those little parts collected together, in their individual states, are merely randomly collected pieces of metal and plastic and so on. But arranged in a particular fashion, they produce something quite remarkable. Those moving images of the patterns created by those thousands of starlings, creating their mesmerising shapes, are themselves startling.

My brain is made up of a collection of neurons, of pieces of grey matter – physical human cells. Laid out in a row, they are merely a collection of cells. But arranged in a particular, complex fashion, they produce something greater. They produce something that can visualise and interpret those moving images of those mesmerising starling patterns.

And thus we have a three-step chain of emergence.

Whilst we may not fully comprehend the finer details of consciousness, like we do not quite understand the machinations of those birds, I think we can be pretty confident in not needing to invoke the supernatural, the unknown, in order to explain our first unknown. Emergence happens in nature, in human manufacture, and in the manufacture, by nature, of humans.

The point of this is that in the same way a lump of granite is made out of a particular arrangement of natural components, so too is a human or a rabbit. Okay, so these components might have greater variety, but the principle is the same. There is no real category difference (other than assigning life to one particular arrangement type like we might “pattern” etc.), or at least the category difference is somewhat less profound than many believers will have you think.


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Paul Krugman On High Tax Rates For The Rich

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Happy New Year! As we embrace a new year amidst the ongoing government shutdown (which isn’t affecting me at all), newly sworn in congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with 60 minutes that top tax rates on the super rich for income above $10 million should be 70%! The conservative blogosphere predicatbly blew up.

This all got me thinking about tax rates again. Back in May of 2017 I proposed a tax plan with a rate of 45% for income above $10 million, far lower than Cortez’s 70%. Many have claimed that her rate is far too high. Too “radical” as Anderson Cooper described it. It definitely seems radical, even when you consider that the highest marginal tax rates in the 1940s and 50s were as high as 94%.

Enter Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman. In a recent New York Times OpEd, he writes on how many other economists (even some Nobel prize winning ones) calculate the optimal top tax rate to be over 70%:


Peter Diamond, Nobel laureate in economics and arguably the world’s leading expert on public finance. (Although Republicans blocked him from an appointment to the Federal Reserve Board with claims that he was unqualified. Really.) And it’s a policy nobody has ever implemented, aside from … the United States, for 35 years after World War II — including the most successful period of economic growth in our history.

To be more specific, Diamond, in work with Emmanuel Saez — one of our leading experts on inequality — estimated the optimal top tax rate to be 73 percent. Some put it higher: Christina Romer, top macroeconomist and former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimates it at more than 80 percent.

Krugman continues on how the top tax rates is based on two primary factors: Diminishing marginal utility and competitive markets, [emphasis mine]


Diminishing marginal utility is the common-sense notion that an extra dollar is worth a lot less in satisfaction to people with very high incomes than to those with low incomes. Give a family with an annual income of $20,000 an extra $1,000 and it will make a big difference to their lives. Give a guy who makes $1 million an extra thousand and he’ll barely notice it. 

What this implies for economic policy is that we shouldn’t care what a policy does to the incomes of the very rich. A policy that makes the rich a bit poorer will affect only a handful of people, and will barely affect their life satisfaction, since they will still be able to buy whatever they want. 

So why not tax them at 100 percent? The answer is that this would eliminate any incentive to do whatever it is they do to earn that much money, which would hurt the economy. In other words, tax policy toward the rich should have nothing to do with the interests of the rich, per se, but should only be concerned with how incentive effects change the behavior of the rich, and how this affects the rest of the population. 

Seems reasonable. Tax the rich too high, Krugman argues, like at 100%, and you’ll stifle all incentive to work any harder resulting in diminishing returns. But what’s “too high” is a threshold beyond an optimal top tax rate that would drive the largest tax revenue, that experts argue is much higher than the top tax rates that currently exist. He continues, [emphasis mine]

But here’s where competitive markets come in. In a perfectly competitive economy, with no monopoly power or other distortions — which is the kind of economy conservatives want us to believe we have — everyone gets paid his or her marginal product. That is, if you get paid $1000 an hour, it’s because each extra hour you work adds $1000 worth to the economy’s output. 

In that case, however, why do we care how hard the rich work? If a rich man works an extra hour, adding $1000 to the economy, but gets paid $1000 for his efforts, the combined income of everyone else doesn’t change, does it? Ah, but it does — because he pays taxes on that extra $1000. So the social benefit from getting high-income individuals to work a bit harder is the tax revenue generated by that extra effort — and conversely the cost of their working less is the reduction in the taxes they pay.

Or to put it a bit more succinctly, when taxing the rich, all we should care about is how much revenue we raise. The optimal tax rate on people with very high incomes is the rate that raises the maximum possible revenue.

And that’s something we can estimate, given evidence on how responsive the pre-tax income of the wealthy actually is to tax rates. As I said, Diamond and Saez put the optimal rate at 73 percent, Romer at over 80 percent — which is consistent with what AOC said.

So a 70% top marginal tax rate may not be that radical and ruin all incentive. I’ve been debating with several conservatives on Twitter recently and it seems that they all make the common conservative argument that any raise to the tax rates will discourage anyone, especially those already wealthy, from working harder. Krugman cites a chart showing the top tax rate and growth rate, which does not show a correlation between lower top tax rates and growth, contrary to what conservative-leaning economists always argue.

In light of all this I’m reconsidering my view on what the top tax rates should be, and my 45% top tax rate proposal now seems awfully low now.

From my blog post:

Federal tax rates for individuals:

Income amount Tax rate
0 – 2,500  0.00%
2,500 – 10,000 10.00%
10,000 – 40,000 15.00%
40,000 – 90,000 25.00%
90,000 – 150,000 28.00%
150,000 – 250,000 33.00%
250,000 – 500,000 35.00%
500,000 – 1,000,000 40.00%
1,000,000 – 10,000,000 43.00%
10,000,000 – above 45.00%



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Dennis Prager: A Private Conversation Isn’t “an Accurate Indicator” of Character | Beth Stoneburner | Friendly Atheist

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We know that truth is irrelevant to the Trump administration and the people who continue to support them. We may think we’ve seen all the fact-denying, word-twisting logic they have to offer… but leave it to right-wing commentator Dennis Prager, founder of a fake online “university” that perpetuates conservative mythology, to pop in and say, “Hold my beer.”

Watch this bizarro video in which he claims that what people say or do in private is not at all a reflection of their character. He’s referring to what Donald Trump once said on an Access Hollywood bus about how, since he’s a celebrity, he’s allowed to grab women “by the pussy.”

While some people might say that comment gives us far more insight into who he is than some scripted speech, Prager, as usual, goes in the other direction for all the wrong reasons.

I don’t care what people say privately. Nor should you. That is not an accurate indicator of a person’s character. Is that clear?

Private talk is not an indicator of a person’s character. There is no one — no one alive — who, if everything they said privately had been recorded and then allowed to the world, could not be made to look like a terrible person. That person does not exist.

For racists and sexists and other bigots who are aware that their private thoughts would inspire backlash, it’s precisely those “private” conversations that show us who they are. It’s why the secretly recorded video of Mitt Romney dismissing 47% of the country as freeloaders was so devastating for him in the 2012 elections. It’s why hidden camera footage often goes viral: They give us a glimpse at how people actually think.

If you can’t judge people’s character by how they act in private — away from cameras and the public eye, with no pressure to perform or exhibit a certain persona — then how the hell can you?

Prager wouldn’t know this, but the Bible is also rife with verses about the importance of doing the right thing even when you don’t have to — including prayer.

But Prager’s comments are easy for him to make. He shares all of his ignorant thoughts online. No one’s trying to figure out what he really thinks because there’s no reason to believe there’s any more depth to him. It’s everyone else — the hypocrites who say one thing but do another — that we need to watch out for.





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Yes, We Do Need More Atheist Blogs!

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typewriter

I recently saw a tweet from someone indicating that he was starting a new atheist blog and had just written his first post. Not surprisingly, we (I retweeted his tweet, and so the question was posed to both of us) were quickly asked whether we really need more atheist blogs. What else is there to say about atheism that hasn’t been said countless times? I think this is a fair question but also one with an easy answer: Yes! Yes, we need more atheist blogs…and books, and podcasts, and videos, etc.

While it is true that atheist blogging has likely peaked, that does not make it any less necessary. Atheism continues to be socially unacceptable in the United States, and I believe that ignorance and misinformation are still contributing to this. People need to learn more about atheism and recognize that much of what they have been told about it is wrong. Anti-atheist bigotry is widespread, at least in the regions of the country most afflicted by evangelical fundamentalist Christianity. As a result, many atheists end up feeling isolated or even alienated from those around them. We face a variety of social pressures aimed at silencing us. But atheists are not alone, and it is often helpful be reminded of this.

Most atheist blogs do not last long because most blogs do not last long. Writing a blog is hard work for little reward, and it certainly is not for everyone. And yet, I think there is plenty of room for more atheist voices. It doesn’t matter if you are addressing a topic that has already been addressed countless times; what matters is that you are contributing to an important discussion. And even if the topic is familiar, your take on it might not be. After all, we all bring different perspectives to the table as a function of our different experiences.

I know it may be selfish, but I have to admit that part of why I think we need more atheist blogs is that I would enjoy reading more atheist blogs. Finding good ones has gotten much harder than it used to be. When atheist blogging was at its peak, my RSS reader was filled with more good ones than I possibly had time to read. Nowadays, I sometimes have to go looking for interesting content in strange places because the blogs I was reading have shut down or the bloggers who write them have tired of posting regularly. There are all sorts of good reasons not to start an atheist blog, but I continue to be pleased when someone does so anyway.

As for the potential audience for new atheist blogs, I think there still is one but that it is probably not as large as it once was. I think this has far more to do with blogs than it does with atheism. Many people seem to prefer social media or even YouTube to blogs. Still, I’d guess that there will continue to be an audience who enjoys reading blog posts for a few more years.



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An Argument Demonstrating Why Arcane Knowledge Is Wrong About Special Relativity And Eternalism

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There’s a website called Arcane Knowledge written by a Catholic named Daniel J. Castellano that includes several articles on Special Relativity that try to argue that the theory doesn’t entail eternalism (the view that all moments of time have equal existence). Now if you’ve read my blog at any length, you know I’m a big proponent of the view that Special Relativity does necessitate eternalism. So naturally, I disagree with much of what is written on the site.

Many of the theists I’ve debating eternalism with have cited this website and its arguments against the reality of a 4 dimensional spacetime block universe. (Not surprisingly, they’ve all been Catholics subscribing to Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics).

Through a year long debate with a Catholic who frequently cited Arcane Knowledge in an attempt to deny Special Relativity entails eternalism, I’ve constructed an argument below showing how the arguments used on Arcane Knowledge to deny eternalism forces one into a dilemma: either (a) affirm you are the only thing that exists at any given present moment for you (literally deny the existence of everything else), or (b) be forced to agree events in the past and future exist (effectively affirming eternalism).

Over on the site, Daniel argues that from any event considered present, no events in the absolute future or past will have any objective ontological status, but any events in “elsewhere” could physically exist. In Special Relativity, “elsewhere” is a term given to all the places not in an event’s absolute future or past (which are its future and past light cones, respectively). In other words, elsewhere is the totality of spacelike separated events. According to Daniel, one cannot say whether any events in elsewhere exist when one is at the present moment, seen below in the spacetime diagram as a green dot (the coordinates of this dot at (0,0) on the X and Y axis). It is physically possible, according to this view, that any set of events can possibly exist in elsewhere.

This interpretation of Special Relativity is problematic in several ways, and I will show how. If an event’s absolute future and past objectively doesn’t exist, this would have to apply to all other events that exist, since there’s nothing special about any given event we make the center of a spacetime diagram. Given this rule, no other events can exist in elsewhere that are in the absolute futures or pasts of any other events in elsewhere. For example, in the diagram below, it is possible events A and B can exist, since they’re not in each other’s absolute future or past.

But in this diagram below, it cannot be the case that both events A and B exist, since event A is in the absolute past of event B, and event B is in the absolute future of event A.

A quick side note of what is meant by the absolute future and past: The absolute future and past of an event are all the areas relative to that event’s location where all inertial frames would agree are objectively in the future or in the past if they were all in that event’s location, even if they’re moving relative to each other. They are the future and past light cones.

Given this background knowledge, I will demonstrate the above stated dilemma. The argument starts with some very obvious and non-controversial starting points that virtually all theists — and just about everyone — can affirm, such as a denial of metaphysical solipsism.

P1: You are not the only thing that exists at any moment you consider present (i.e., other things exist).
P2: It is possible for any 1 or more event events in “elsewhere” to be what else exists apart from you at the moment you consider present at (0,0) so long as none of the events are in each other’s absolute futures or pasts (i.e., all such events must be spacelike separated).
P3: Events A and B below are two such possibilities of other events/things that could exist apart from you when you are at present moment (0,0) (from P1 and P2 above).

P4: Both events A and B and you are in the same reference frame (not moving relative to each other) and will agree on simultaneity as per the rules of Special Relativity.
P5: You will all agree on what is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, etc, as per the rules of Special Relativity.
P6: Event A happens Monday. It’s clock and calendar all read Monday and all other reference frames will agree that when event A happens, it is Monday in event A’s frame. Any frame not moving relative to it, such as the frame you and event B are in will agree as per the rules of Special Relativity.
P7: Event B happens Friday. It’s clock and calendar all read Friday and all other reference frames will agree that when event B happens, it is Friday in event B’s frame. Any frame not moving relative to it, such as the frame you and event A are in will agree as per the rules of Special Relativity.
P8: It is Wednesday at your present at (0,0):

P9: Given 1-8 above, the view that says it is physically possible that any events in “elsewhere” can exist, entails that at your present moment on Wednesday at (0,0), it is physically possible events on Monday and Friday exist (i.e., events technically in the past and future have equal ontological status with you at 0,0). 

Conclusion: This view entails the existence of past and future events.

Remember: all things in this scenario (you, events A and B) are not moving relative to one another, so talk about different frames or disagreements on what speeds their clocks measure is futile. The only way to deny the conclusion is to deny it is physically possible for events A and B to exist when it is Wednesday at (0,0) for you.

Possible responses:

  • I cannot say events A or B exist because they are in elsewhere. I must remain completely agnostic to their existence.

If it is even physically possible events A and B could exist, denying eternalism while maintaining this view is in contradiction.

Hence you cannot be agnostic on the existence of an event like A and B, you must positively affirm it is physically impossible that they exist while you are at (0,0).


No agnosticism is allowed, lest you want to affirm literally nothing else exists besides you at any given time, which means this response:

  • I deny the first premise that other things could possibly exist in elsewhere.
This leads you directly to a form of metaphysical solipsism: that you are the only thing that exists. Once you start denying “things could possibly exist in elsewhere,” you’re literally saying you’re the only thing that exists! As such, affirming solipsism is the price one has to pay in order to deny eternalism. So by affirming such a claim, you’ve solved a problem by taking on all the problems with solipsism.

Hence the original dilemma stands. Either:

(a) affirm you are the only thing that exists at any given present moment for you (literally deny the existence of everything else); or

(b) be forced to agree events in the past and future can exist (effectively affirming eternalism).

Maintaining the view that any events/things can possibly exist in elsewhere while affirming eternalism is false, cannot be done coherently.

Furthermore, it is helpful to note that by saying “events/things can possibly exist in elsewhere” you’re not saying you have knowledge of specific things existing when you are at (0,0), like knowledge of a specific event or person. All you’re saying is that something else in addition to you exists whatever it is, which is tantamount to saying, you are not the only thing that exists at any moment you consider present (i.e., other things exist). What those somethings specifically are you can be completely agnostic about, but there is something else that exists besides you, lest you assert some kind of metaphysical solipsism.

Lastly, what’s true for you at (0,0) would necessarily have to be true for all other events at any given time, and when you add up all the possible events that can exist in everyone else’s elsewhere, you get a block universe, which is eternalism. (Daniel has also denied presentism is true on his site as well).


And that’s why Arcane Knowledge has not in any way refuted eternalism! Now this is not to say Daniel is completely ignorant. His articles contain factual information about the topics he writes about, which is why I can understand how so many are fooled into agreeing with his conclusions. But this is due to the reader’s own ignorance. If you understand the subject matter fully enough, you can easily spot his errors.



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Oprah Winfrey Network Will Not Renew Show Featuring Celebrity Pastor John Gray | Beth Stoneburner | Friendly Atheist

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Prosperity preacher John Gray, who was recently evicted from his church property due to business practices, has now had his TV show cancelled.

After three seasons of “The Book of John Gray” on the Oprah Winfrey Network, the show will not be renewed for another season.

The website of the show at Oprah.com describes “The Book of John Gray” as a “dramedy docu-follow hybrid about the life of John Gray and his uniquely humorous way of helping people.”

Officials at the network did not respond to follow-up questions about why the show was discontinued.

Gray and his wife, Aventer, meanwhile, are considering other TV and film opportunities, according to Holly Baird, their spokesperson.

It’s an understandable decision, from a business standpoint, to cancel a program when the subject can’t seem to stay out of trouble. In addition to the eviction, Gray has become something of a joke outside his Christian bubble for his ostentatious displays of wealth, including buying his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini and living in a $1.8 million home funded by his Relentless Church. He’s also facing a lawsuit from a former employee who says Gray didn’t pay him $75,000 that he was owed.

People who have worked with Gray have called him “shady” for not using his large funds (many of which are donations) responsibly.

Let’s hope he doesn’t ask his congregation for increased tithes to solve his recent job loss. If he needs cash, he can always sell off that car.





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