Friday, January 24, 2020
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The New Age of Atheism

This is the beginning of the New Age of Atheism, when humans are awakening from the religious daze they have been in for aeons, and beginning to realise that they have been fooled by preachers long enough–and what they previously believed not only has no basis in reality, but is actually very funny to thinking people.

Of course there have always been atheists, but In the New Age of Atheism, we find that atheists are leading the world in every area, from arts, science and medicine, to philosophy and psychology. There is a good reason for this–when you think the answer to everything is ‘God’, you have closed your mind, and are not likely to think of new ideas or to challenge established thought. When the leading thinkers of today, people like A.C. Grayling, the late Christopher Hitchins, Richard Dawkins, and Steven Hawking come to mind, all are atheists, and each with far more influence on current thought than the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury.

What you get from these modern thinkers is the originality and intelligent insights that people need to help them understand the world of today and our place in it. What religious thinkers cannot supply, especially when the absurdities of their most basic beliefs are apparent, atheist thinkers supply, and in abundance.

It is no longer legal in most places to kill atheists for pointing out the absurdities that people must accept to believe in any particular religion, and the world is beginning to be influenced by reason. Blind faith drops away as people realise that thinking is a better alternative. People have begun to realise that ‘being good’ does not involve their method, frequency, or intensity of worshipping their god, but instead, it involves their actions in this world.

Living the ‘good life’ for those who are not deists, is therefore quite different from the ‘good life’ of those of religious bent. For atheists there is no god to forgive sins—we live with what we do. There is no god to tell us what is right and wrong–we use our conscience and decide for ourselves. There is no god to tell us that we must believe any particular book—we judge each by its merits and the supporting evidence.

There is no god to prescribe what we eat; with whom we should have sex; what we should believe; to whom we should give praise—we use our own experience to judge what to do, and there is nothing—even our most cherished beliefs, that should not be questioned. Contemplative people realise that we learn new things all the way through our lives, and some new evidence may prove, and often does, that what we believed to be true yesterday was wrong.

The basis of atheism is scepticism and scientific enquiry, and few things in science are immutable. In fact, that is the one of the major reasons that science and religion will never be reconciled–the former acknowledges that it is always up for revision, and little by little we improve our knowledge. The latter has fixed ideas and a dogmatic approach that is never up for revision until society or science proves, bit by bit, that the dogma is wrong.

Admittedly, it is harder to think for ourselves than to just believe what we are told to believe, but the consolations of self-determination are more than enough compensation to make the effort worthwhile. To know that we are each the masters and mistresses of our own destiny is to take back our own power and with that power in our own hands we can look at what is happening around us with a critical eye and take steps to change what is wrong, contribute to what is good, and make the difference that blind followers of any particular religion can never hope to achieve.

The ethics of atheism are thus the ethics of common humanity, which all good people, religious or otherwise try to live by, with the greater good in mind, whilst respecting individual rights.

Compare this compassion of common humanity to the prescribed rights and wrongs given in the books of the monotheistic religions. The approval and disapproval of one thing or another so obviously originate from bigoted and fairly primitive human minds that any idea that an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful god could have been the originator of the ideas and opinions put forward in, say, The Bible, vanishes as one reads the absurdities, contradictions, and blatant errors about our origins and our place in the universe, and about the rituals and religious crimes and prescribed punishments.

Nevertheless there are many who have not awoken from their religious daze. Amongst them are those who take their moral stance from The Bible or The Koran. Suicide bombers are made of such stuff. The religious police in Iran and Saudi Arabia enforce the laws of the Islamic holy books. Apostasy still warrants the death penalty in these places, much as it did in Britain a few hundred years ago.

The thing is that as true believers in their god and in holy writings, those who commit torture and murder in the name of their god are simply carrying out what they believe to be their god’s will. We may be shocked by what they do, but they are adhering to The Bible and the Koran which are both held up by their preachers to be a good guide to morality.

This is the morality that is taught to them from an early age. The right and wrong are black and white, and fixed forever in our ancient history. There is little place in these books for compassion, and where there is wisdom, such as in Jesus’s reported statement, ‘ Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’, it is ignored. Jewish people may have stopped stoning or beheading apostates and adulteresses, but in Islamic states it is still common, and is very much approved of.

The current religions of our world do not deserve our unearned respect any more than we should afford respect to racist political parties, or to those secular people who incite hatred and war for material gain. Thus, the religious claims to morality and the official respect that our modern religions and their various types of preachers get as arbiters of what is right and wrong are Bad Things About Religion

Animal Treatment

One of the major issues that I see as a Bad Thing About Religion–at least within the three main Abrahamic traditions, is the speciesism that is integral to the belief systems. Whilst it is true that there are some ‘laws’ laid down for the treatment and slaughter of animals in these belief systems, they are in many cases treated with appalling cruelty, from Josua’s crippling of horses, to horrific ritual sacrifices designed to satisfy the whims of a god who enjoys the smell of burning flesh.

Humans are seen as the top species on the planet with the right to do whatever we like to lesser animals. This ethos has so embedded itself in our society that many people, even scientists, deny that other species have consciousness, feel emotion, or can love and feel pain in the same way that we do.

Thus, as a species, we use animals in any way we like. There are tortuous experiments worldwide designed to inflict pain to test animal resilience, and these experiments are widely reported in respectable journals which seem to have the attitude that anything done in the name of science, no matter how cruel, is for the general good. So rats are bred to have terrible genetic diseases that give the poor creatures a lifetime of suffering. Chemicals are dropped into the eyes of rabbits to test how much damage they do to the rabbits’ eyesight, and LD 50 experiments are still carried out dispassionately to test how much of a particular toxic chemical, pesticide, or drug it takes to poison half of a group of animals to death. (The other half are killed anyway, so as to make a fresh start for the next experiment). The suffering that the animals undergo is not even a consideration. No ethical committee considers the nausea, the stomach cramps, the fear, the hopelessness, the agony, blisters, abandonment, desire for freedom, terror of the unknown, headaches, joint pains, organ failure or whatever else is experienced by the animals that we use so unthinkingly.

So much for human superiority… It only takes a little observation to realise that all animals are as capable as we are of suffering, and although all animals do not have the same level of consciousness that we do, they are undoubtedly conscious. They may not be able to think in words, but they can and do anticipate, and they show empathy for each other. Their stress hormone levels rise, like ours, when they are subjected to stressful conditions. They will move away from something that inflicts pain on them. They mourn, sometimes to death, over the loss of a companion. They enjoy play, much as we do. They clearly care for their young. I have seen blackbird parents frantically searching night and day for their lost young, taken by a cat. Dolphins and whales will strand themselves to stay with a sick friend or relative. And most animals will fight to protect their young.

So the question comes to consciousness… And it’s something about which we don’t really have a good enough definition. But common sense can tell us a lot. If an animal can make a decision, it is necessarily conscious, because consciousness is required to make decisions. So a hedgehog that decides to go to sleep rather than forage for more food is conscious. A goldfish that makes a decision to chase another rather than come up for food is conscious. Creatures of all kinds, including ourselves, consciously choose a mate from what they see as the fittest of the contenders. A lot of instinct, and perhaps pheromones are involved, but there always comes a time to make a decision. Even a worm, a creature that we chop to bits with a garden spade, has a sensitive nervous system, and will move away from anything that is uncomfortable, and thus it clearly feels pain. And they choose mates.

Professor Jordan B. Peterson has made the point that lobsters, who have scarcely changed in the last 350 million years, with whom we have a common ancestor, have essentially the same nervous system as humans, and, for example, respond to the same drugs. If a lobster is depressed, hiding in its shelter and generally being anti-social, the lobster can be helped to çome out of its shell, pardon the pun, by giving it an antidepressant.

Man’s dominion over other animals is not therefore because we have a god-given right, or because we have consciousness and they do not. Rather it is because our evolution has given us a peculiar form of intelligence combined with a dexterity that allows us to dominate other species. It could so easily been different.

In this vast universe though, where there are as many galaxies as there are grains of sand on the earth, there must be intelligences that are as far above humans as we are above fruit flies.

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has made the point that the difference between humans and chimpanzees is only about 1.5% of our DNA. To us, chimps are extreme simpletons, who can’t solve the simplest equation. They are incredibly brutal, tribal, [same as us], non-technological, and it will probably take them millions of years to develop a human level of intelligence if we do not make them extinct before then. But imagine another race on another planet, (and every star we can examine closely enough has planets, so the likelihood is that all stars have planets), that is just 1.5 percent superior to humans, as we are to chimpanzees.

Where then the superiority of humans? We think of ourselves as conscious, but there could easily be conscious beings in this universe who restrict their views of consciousness, as we restrict our views in homocentric ways, to beings who can create matter at will, who have the mental power to be what we think of as gods. Only gods can thus be conscious. Ironically, such gods would likely be atheists.

The superiority of humans is therefore a very blinkered view, perpetuated by religions founded thousands of years ago, when we did not realise there were other worlds, and our imaginations were limited by daily survival as desert nomads. Thus our cruelty to non-human species is exposed.

That this blinkered viewpoint still limits the consciousness of people, causing endless suffering to species that we think are by right, under our dominion, to kill at will, to bleed to death and eat, to torture in the name of science, breed just to experiment on, hunt and kill for pleasure, steal their territory for profit, and poison their water and land with environmental toxins, is without doubt, whether the person considering it is religious or not, a disgrace to any conscious human, and a very Bad Thing About Religion.

American Atheists’ Statement on Freedom For All Act

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Washington, D.C.—Today, in response to the introduction of the Fairness for All Act, a LGBTQ rights bill that includes dangerous new religious exemptions, American Atheists’ Vice President for Legal and Policy Alison Gill released the following statement:  

“The Fairness for All Act is anything but fair for all and reads like a wish list for conservative religious groups. It codifies religious exemptions and loopholes that allow religiously motivated discrimination against LGBTQ Americans in areas of employment, adoptions and foster care, and education. It undermines existing protections prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex by broadening exemptions from the law.

“This bill also inexplicably includes a provision that requires the federal government to pay for the upkeep, preservation, and construction of churches.

“We should be building on the foundation laid by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a system that has served us well for more than 50 years, rather than riddling important public accommodations protections with religious exemptions. Unfortunately, this legislation sends the unmistakable signal to LGBTQ Americans that they are second-class citizens, less deserving of protection from discrimination.

“The bi-partisan Equality Act has already passed the House and has 47 co-sponsors in the Senate. Majority Leader McConnell should schedule a vote, and the Senate should finish the job.”



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Mainstream Media Denial | Reason Revolution

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Here’s what’s wrong with your anti mainstream media views.

First, the mainstream media is not one thing. It’s not a monolith that’s owned by one group or one dude. There are multiple companies all competing for your attention. They all have certain things in common and they all have flaws but they are not part of some liberal plot to make you ignore all the hidden plots or to make you miss what’s really happening.

They want your attention and they will do what they have to in order to keep you watching. That’s why more mainstream news doesn’t do as well as Fox. They do tend to have more journalistic standards, they don’t always tell people what they want to hear, they try (and sometimes fail) to present events and the facts surrounding them in the most verifiable and neutral way possible.

I’m not talking about editorials or opinion stories. I’m talking about the news, presented as it is, with verified facts, as neutrally as possible. This is another spot where the mainstream media fails to grab your attention the way that Fox grabs the attention of their viewers. They don’t editorialize in as blatant of a way. They are in the words of Donald Trump, the failing news, because young people and more left leaning people don’t get their news from television.

The news reflects the opinions of society in a lot of ways. They call black protestors thugs and they call white terrorists mentally ill lone gunmen, but they also have a set of journalistic standards that they follow and usually it ends up giving them the best set of facts available at the time that they report on something. If there’s a shooting then you can be pretty sure that CNN, MSNBC, or CBS will report what they know and they’ll wait until they know more before saying more. Fox, Rebel, and a whole host of online news sites spanning the field from left to right will often say much more and often they will find themselves wrong once the facts come out.

In one recent shooting among many, it was widely shared that members of Rebel Media made the claim that the assailant was a Muslim when in fact it turned out that it was another white guy. This isn’t by accident, they just don’t care the way that organizations that follow a standard of journalism do.

I’m not trying to say that they’re perfect. They make mistakes, they frame things badly, they’re very American centric and they are deeply rooted in the neoliberalism and capitalism that funds them, but they aren’t making shit up or engaging in coverups the way that some members of society seem to think.

I think that it’s actually a bit of a marketing ploy by news outlets and online personalities to make people doubt the quality of journalism that comes from some of these organizations. It makes some people seem more reliable if they can cast doubt on the media that makes them look like crazed conspiracy nuts. If Fox says there’s a caravan of immigrants invading America and CNN says that it’s a small caravan thousands of miles from the border, then Fox needs you to think that CNN is lying. They need you to be afraid and they need you tuning in. It feeds their ratings, it feeds their advertising, and it feeds the political ideology that they’re paid to push.

When someone online claims that the mainstream media isn’t telling people the whole truth, it’s because they’ve heard it from some other source that they trust more. They’re not thinking critically and though they imagine themselves to be the few who can tell the difference and who see what’s really going on they’re buying exactly what they’ve been told to buy.

We say in our intro music that a lie can travel a thousand miles while the truth is still putting on its shoes and that doesn’t play out anywhere as well as it does in the battle between right wing punditry and the “mainstream media”.  For every hour that Fox and the supposed alternative media outlets are on the air they can infest the world with dozens and dozens of little lies that work to turn regular people into angry, hateful, frightened zealots.

As with most things I don’t have a solution but I do think it’s important to remember that while the mainstream media isn’t perfect they are one of the barriers between us and a descent into authoritarianism.





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Socialists Are The New Atheists (Sort Of)

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A recent poll from Gallup came out this month that showed socialists are now the least trusted group to be president, and atheists now are only the second least trusted group. The survey showed that 60% of Americans would vote for a well-qualified person for president who happened to be an atheist, compared to only 47% for a socialist on the same conditions.

Twenty years ago, another Gallup poll showed that only 49% of Americans would vote for an atheist, similar to where socialists are now. While there are obvious differences in what a socialist is and what an atheist is (socialism is a political and economic ideology, whereas atheism isn’t), both carry negative stigmas, however. Both are, for example, unfairly associated with the worst of the communist regimes of the 20th century.

Still, while the acceptance today for an atheist president in the US is only 60%, it used to be only 18% back in 1958. That’s a 42 percentage point increase in 61 years. At this rate, atheist presidents will be accepted by all Americans by 2070! But I’m sure that will never happen, as there will always be a contingent of Americans who will never trust an atheist in the White House. Though given the trend, which could speed up in the coming years as Boomers begin to die off and the more secular Gen Xers and Millennials become the most important voting blocks, we should see a viable openly atheist presidential candidate at some point likely in the next 20 years.



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It’s Christmas. Get Thee A-Shopping!

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Yet again, let me remind you that you’re all absolutely awesome in your support of this blog, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here with me. If you fancy being extra generous this festive period, you could always grab one of my publications. It would warm my winter cockles.

I have written a number of books over the last few years. Here they are listed with links to Amazon; below you will find more detail:

I’ll start with one of my most recent publications: Not Seeing God: Atheism in the 21st CenturyThis is an anthology of writers from here at Patheos Nonreligious. It’s something I’m really proud of editing and putting together. As the description reads:

Atheism is an evolving worldview – not the single proposition that God does not exist, but everything else that might or might not go with it. With only a single sentence about the existence of single entity, there is huge scope – necessity, even – for having to reasonably work everything else out. It’s a lot more difficult to figure out the world when it’s not handed to you in an old, outdated book. The world is sometimes a complicated place. With this in mind, Not Seeing God looks at the challenges of leaving religion, arguing for atheism, the role and position of atheism in society and where we go from here. This anthology of chapters from the writers of Patheos Nonreligious is a cornucopia of skeptical delights and is a necessary addition to any nonbeliever’s bookshelf, as well as that of the questioning believer. From philosophy to psychology, politics to cinema, the military to folklore, it’s all here in glorious variety, at the crossroad of atheism and society.

..”.this collection has something for everyone to enjoy and ponder… [and] should be considered required reading for the well-informed non-theist.” – Caleb Lack, author and Director of the Seular Therapy Project

“Anyone who has even a passing interest in religion or atheism has much–interesting things, important things, fun things–to learn from the writers included in this book.” – Ed Buckner, Former President of American Atheists

My first book is called Free Will? An investigation into whether we have free will or whether I was always going to write this book. As the annotation reads:perf6.000x9.000.indd

This book is a fine introduction into the age-old philosophical debate as to whether we have free will, or whether we live determined lives. Pearce approaches the subject in a lively manner, explaining terms clearly and using anecdotes to break down some of the heavier philosophy so that it is available to the popular philosophy reader. Now that we are understanding our genetic heritage and our neurology better, can we account for all our characteristics and decisions? The author also looks at how theories of free will and determinism integrate with religion, particularly Christianity. If we live under the illusion of free will, do religions need reassessing? How does free will work when God knows what we are doing in advance? Does God have free will? How does prophecy interfere with free will? How is our justice system affected if we know exactly why people commit crimes? These and other crucial questions are investigated with a deft touch, and the author uses recent and important scientific findings to support the text supplying a valuable overview to the subject.

It has received good reviews, such as this one:

Great, thought-provoking read

by Frances “book lover”

 I recommend this entertaining and well-argued, mind-blowing book in which the author examines a notion we all seem to take for granted in the West, i.e., our dearly beloved notion of free will. In this book we learn that in spite of the overwhelming dominance of this cherished notion deeply embedded in our cultural, legal and religious belief systems, it is clearly scientifically and demonstratively false and does not exist. First, the author gives us the basic definitions of terms, then examples, philosophical and historical arguments, important religious positions and rebuttals. One of the author’s early hypothetical examples is about a couple going out to dinner and trying to decide what to eat. To “choose” to have pizza, the couple has to rely on many reasons determined by a variety of known and unknown facts concerning their biology, psychology, economic status, childhood and the environment causing their preferences and showing their overriding susceptibility to these kinds of influences that leave no room for a free choice on their part. After the author brought up this couple for the third time, I had to put my Kindle down and go to the kitchen and heat up a pizza! I was falling under the discussion’s suggestion that pizza would taste pretty good right now and I realized I was demonstrating the author’s point about human susceptibility to suggestion and lack of free will by my own spontaneous behavior!

The author convincingly shows that determinism is borne out in countless recent scientific discoveries in neuroscience, psychology, biochemistry, physics and genetics which new findings are important and have wide application in all aspects of our lives. There is a new dawn of knowledge exploding around us and our lives depend upon our absorbing many new scientific discoveries in many complex fields. We cannot blame a god or a devil for our circumstances; the author deftly dispatches them from the new matrix. We have to get with the new paradigm and look at how we can improve our critical thinking, how we can make better economic decisions, how we can use our new scientific knowledge to create new art, how we can see one another in a more compassionate light and how we may reform education and the criminal justice system. I recommend this book because we need to make a lot of informed decisions every day and we need all the rational help we can get to understand our common humanity and to develop the full power and beauty of our finite being.

Check it out using the link above or click on the book cover.

LittleBookofUnHolyquestionsMy second book remained within the philosophical realm, but this time concentrating on philosophy of religion, namely the characteristics of God. The Little Book of Unholy Questions is described as follows on the cover:

Jonathan M.S. Pearce’s second book (after Free Will?) continues along the same philosophical and theological vein, aiming to provide a cumulative case against the existence of God, and more specifically, God’s triple characteristics of omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence. Split into useful categories with an introduction to each category, these are questions that demand to be answered adequately and plausibly in order for the believer to retain a rationally-based faith. Pearce’s easy writing style and explanation of philosophy, theology and science on the popular level make this book as enjoyable to read as it is thought-provoking. Does God change his mind when prayed to, and why has he never produced a miracle since biblical times that couldn’t have occurred naturally anyway, like re-growing an amputee’s leg? God only knows.

“Pearce demands from God a rational explanation to all of the problems that seem illogical or incoherent. These are … damningly challenging inconsistencies in the Christian narrative that necessarily antagonize any rational reader. If you are still or used to be Christian, “The Little Book of Unholy Questions” is an overview of the critical questions you need to be asking yourself.” – Derek Murphy, Jesus Potter Harry Christ

 And a review selected from the great reviews on amazon:

Easy reading with a profound content

by S.P. Sider

I met Jonathan in a couple of forums over the internet. When the subject is religion and philosophy you surely expect passion and hot debates. But Jonathan stood apart for his calmness and patience, probably due to his teaching background.

When I learned he wrote this book, I decided to give it a try.

And it was worth it! Don’t be fooled by his philosophy background. Thankfully you will not see any logic equation that would be pretty boring. It’s all in plain English. The format is very interesting: Questions and comments well mixed. You may find some questions very funny, but very often the funnier are the most profound.

It’s a book for the believer and non-believer. And that’s very difficult to achieve, a definitive “plus”. Jonathan’s intention is thought provoking and it’s a must for believers who dare to ask questions, and I am sure I made dozens of them when I was a believer. And non-believers will find a bunch of questions they never thought about.

My suggestion: read it slowly, taste every question for a couple of minutes. You won’t regret it.

TheNativityMy third book moved towards a different discipline: historical analysis and biblical exegesis, being a synthesis of the work analysing the historicity of the nativity accounts of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. The Nativity: A Critical Examination is described as follows:

The nativity of Jesus is an event that carries much cultural recognition. However, is it a narrative which commands much support in the academic world? Is it a story which holds much historical truth? Or were the two biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus an opportunity for the authors to impart a theological truth or otherwise? These are the sort of questions that are often asked of the nativity accounts and questions which are answered in this concise and yet well-researched and informative book. Some twenty arguments are looked at and presented in a clear and detailed manner, building a cumulative case for the objection to the historical nature of the Gospel accounts. The author also questions what purpose these stories do serve if indeed they do carry little or no historical truth. With reference to a wide array of contemporary and iconic works on the subject, Pearce has created a compendium of critical arguments against the historicity of a story which still remains a vital piece of our collective cultural and religious tapestry.

“For anyone beginning to doubt the reliability of the gospels as eyewitness accounts, Pearce’s “The Nativity” will teach you everything you need to know to move past the limitations of biblical infallibility and explore the complicated process that went into the gospel narratives of Jesus Christ.” – Derek Murphy, author of Jesus Potter Harry Christ

And a review from amazon:

Did you think you knew the nativity story

By ungodly

When was Jesus born? What was his birth date? Where was he born and why was he born there? Who knew of his birth? How is Jesus related to biblical characters past? Who thought that baby Jesus was the messiah and why? What important historical events do you expect we should have records of if the bible accounts were accurate?

If you think you know the answers to these questions, think again.

Jonathan Pearce points out how, despite the heartwarming Christmas pageants we are all familiar with, there is no real cohesive narrative regarding the birth of Jesus. It appears that when they originally calculated the year of the nativity in the 6th century, they were averaging two different years as estimated by the two very different accounts of Jesus’ birth given in the bible– both of which seem purposefully manufactured to make Jesus’ birth match the description of the messiah foretold in Jewish prophesy.

Step by step, Pearce shows us how it is impossible for both biblical accounts (Luke and Matthew) to be true, and, as we delve into the finer details of each account, it become increasingly obvious that neither account comports with historical facts.(How can a star guide the “three wise men” towards the birth site when a star would move across the sky as the earth rotates and disappears during the day? Why do people think there were “three” wise men anyway when that is not mentioned in the bible?)

If the Christian would not accept specious reasoning to suffice as an explanation for another religion’s miraculous claims, this book should give a clear understanding as to why an outsider rejects the bible’s miraculous claims. The Jesus story doesn’t make sense from the get go.

This little book is a must-read for Christians brave enough to consider whether their beliefs could be as mythological as conflicting faiths. It’s also a gem for those outside the Christian faith who want to know whether Christianity is built upon a coherent narrative. This, however, is most definitely is not a book for those afraid that their god will damn them to hell unless they believe in the inerrancy of the bible. Before you read this book, ask yourself, “If the nativity story is a myth, would I want to know?”

Next is Beyond an Absence of Faith: Stories About the Loss of Faith and the Discovery of Self.

Leaving one’s religion behind, walking away from faith, is never an easy journey. With family, friends, jobs, and every aspect of one’s life to consider, the decision is not to be taken lightly. This anthology is made up of sixteen fascinating, and at times moving, accounts of such decisions, and the consequences they entail. Whether it be Christianity, Islam or any other life-impacting worldview, leaving it can be a difficult ordeal. This collection details the trials and tribulations, the joy and liberation involved, by people from various walks of life and corners of the globe.cover image official

Heartfelt, it offers hope to those equally questioning, and understanding to those who themselves question the motivations of these often brave people.

Here is a review:

Pearce and Vick have brought together a diverse group of voices with one thing in common – they have moved beyond being “former believers” into being active participants in humanity. Each of the stories shared is unique, but former believers will find something they can identify with in every one. From the pain of separation from friends and family, to the joy of being liberated from a sexist mindset, to the harsh reality of having to find a new career in the middle of your life because you have embraced reason, these personal stories help to reinforce for the non-believer that you are not alone in your journey. Instead, you are walking a path many have gone down before, and you can take solace in knowing that these authors have been there as well.

For 13 Reasons to Doubt, I took on an editing role as well as contributing a chapter on free will. This is a great book because it offers a great variety to the skeptical reader.

Extraordinary claims and extraordinary evidence.

The mainstream and social media feed our minds a diet of fringe science and outright pseudoscience. They relentlessly stream paranormal, supernatural, and otherwise extraordinary claims. Where do all these come from? They’re spread by shysters and charlatans, by corporate propagandists with cynical eyes on the bottom line, by priests and preachers of all kinds, by axe-grinding cranks and ideologues, and frequently by well-meaning dupes.

This may be a scientific age, but all too often, science, well-grounded scholarship, evidence, and logic are ignored—or even denied.

Scientific skepticism offers a corrective: skeptics defend science and reason, while demanding the evidence for extraordinary claims.

In this volume, we offer you thirteen ways to scientific skepticism: thirteen reasons to doubt extraordinary claims. The authors discuss groupthink and cognitive biases, science denialism, weird archeology, claims about religion and free will, and many other topics. Within these pages, there is something for anyone who wants to avoid biases and fallacies, cut through the masses of misinformation, and push back against fakers and propagandists.

This review sums it up nicely:13 Reasons to Doubt - Edward K Clint, Jonathan MS Pearce, Beth Ann Erickson

Informed skepticism is one of the most important ways of looking at the world, and Thirteen Reasons to Doubt does a wonderful job of illustrating the need and the challenge of this intellectual virtue.

The essays contained in this short, accessible, charming read challenge some of our dearest notions–for examples, free will, the prevailing attitudes of the groups with which we identify, the trustworthiness of our own abilities to work out problems, and more–and ask us to look at them without simply taking them at face value. As philosopher and skeptic Russell Blackford articulates in his essay, which is written with his usual eloquence and care, we have a heavy burden of intellectual honesty in our current age, one in which propaganda runs rampant in favor of ideologies and faith still stands strong. It is to save ourselves from ourselves when it comes to this peril that informed skepticism proves its worth, and the collaborators on this enjoyable book illustrate clearly what it means, how to cultivate and guard it, what it implies, and how to use it even upon ourselves for self-correction when our biases start to lead us astray.

Each of the contributors, not only Blackford, does a superb job writing with clarity and passion in their areas of expertise, presenting a thought-provoking contribution to several important conversations at once. Thirteen Reasons to Doubt is ambitious and unpretentious, a friendly and welcoming guide of sorts to spotting bull, doubting yourself, and becoming the better thinker for it.

I found Thirteen Reasons to Doubt to be a pleasurable, accessible, quick, and edifying read on the position of informed skepticism, and I heartily recommend it to any who wish to push the clarity of their thinking and their intellectual integrity.

Although there are some books to be released early this year, I have also released a reasonably priced ebook: 

This book sets out a cumulative case that puts classical theism, the belief in an all-powerful, -knowing and -loving God, under the spotlight. God is left wanting as Pearce brings together previous blog writing, adapted pieces and original writing to hammer home the point: classical theism is incoherent. This ebook is perfect for armchair philosophers, Christian apologists, and interested atheists and theists everywhere, as well as packing a solid philosophical punch suitable for the more philosophically inclined reader. Something for everyone. Spotlight

“The Problem with “God” intends to “put classical theism under the spotlight” and on the rack, and that is a goal that it achieves in one concise essay after another. It constitutes a welcome addition to any library of philosophical challenges to the classical, philosophical conception of God, and for that purpose and all need remaining to it, it is pleasantly recommended.” – James A. Lindsay, author of Dot, Dot, Dot: Infinity Plus God Equals Folly.

A review reads:

Think of this as Jonathan Pearce’s greatest hits all compiled together. He is one of the most interesting and convincing philosophers of modern times. Some of my favorite posts are here, which I have at my fingertips when I need its resource.

It was somewhat difficult to read this on my phone, I don’t usually read kindle books, I prefer old school books, but I managed to just finish it.

These blogs are fascinating, deep and well written and persuasively convincing of why theism fails on several accounts. The choice of topics are amazing, and no one can deliver this as good as Pearce can.

If you are a Christian, you won’t find this book rude or obnoxious, it is fair, well balanced and I encourage you to give it a chance. Challenge yourself, for no one will challenge you better than Johnny can.

Excellent selection and content, and Johnny hits another home run

in 2016, I released Did God Create the Universe from Nothing? Countering William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is a critical look at the Kalam Cosmological Argument and how it supposedly concludes that the universe had a cause (i.e. God).

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is a simple argument:

Everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence;
The universe began to exist;
Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Apologists love to use these three short lines to argue that God is the cause of our universe. Jonathan MS Pearce takes the argument to task and finds it seriously lacking, despite its common appeal. Sounding the death knell for the Kalam, this is a must-have counter to the well-worn religious argument advocated by famous Christian thinkers such as William Lane Craig.

DidGodCreatetheUniverse“This is a beautifully crisp and clear introduction to, and discussion of, the Cosmological Argument. Suitable for beginners but also those who want a more insightful and detailed discussion. This is an ideal book for students, and indeed anyone who is interested in what remains one of the most popular arguments for the existence of God.” – Stephen Law, Reader in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London and head of Centre for Inquiry UK.

“Pearce has again delivered, treating the important topic, the notorious (and bad) Kalam Cosmological Argument, in a concise and erudite way.” – James A. Lindsay, Ph.D., author of Dot, Dot Dot: Infinity Plus God Equals Folly and Everybody Is Wrong About God

“If you’ve read enough about Kalam to be intrigued and want the thorough takedown, this book is for you.” – Bob Seidensticker, author of Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey and the Cross Examined blog at Patheos.com

..”.remarkable. He has written an accessible, yet philosophically sophisticated, critique of the Kalam Cosmological Argument…. he makes some novel contributions to this literature in the course of his analysis. If you have teethed yourself on popular discussions of atheism and religion, and now want to feast on something a little bit meatier, this is the book for you.” – John Danaher, PhD, Lecturer in Law, NUI Galway (Ireland), and author of the blog Philosophical Disquisitions.

“With his latest book Did God Create the Universe from Nothing?, Jonathan Pearce has collected a vast array of the most powerful academic and popular-level responses to one of the most well-known cosmological arguments for the existence of God. Theists will be surely challenged by this wide-ranging book which seeks to put an end to this theistic argument about the beginning of the universe.” – Justin Schieber, public debater on the philosophy of religion, creator of the channel Real Atheology

“The Kalam argument enjoys much respect that it doesn’t deserve, and Did God Create the Universe from Nothing? gives the unsparing rebuttal that it does deserve. Pearce is a capable and confident Virgil, guiding us through the philosophical and scientific fine points of the response. If you’ve read enough about Kalam to be intrigued and want the thorough takedown, this book is for you.” – Bob Seidensticker, author of Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey and the “Cross Examined” blog at Patheos.com

And almost finally, for now, is my first foray into fiction: Survival of the Fittest: Metamorphosis. The description is as follows:Metamorphosis

No one seems to know where it started. Or exactly when. And certainly not how. But it is here, and everything that everyone holds dear falls prey to the ravages of the virus. Some are unaffected, and they must quickly come to terms with their new world – a dystopian Britain in the early convulsions of collapse.

Follow a disparate collection of people as they fight for their lives in this first installment of the “Survival of the Fittest” series.

Where the journey will take them is anyone’s guess.

“A frightening and credible zombie apocalypse. This is the way the world would end―not with a bang or a whimper, but with a snarl and the gnashing of teeth…” Rebecca Bradley, author of Cadon, Hunter and From Hades With Love

“Pearce’s rollicking suburban adventure begs to be consumed and it won’t let go until life is sucked from the final pages.” Glenn Andrew Barr, author of Skin of Them

“Johnny Pearce has written a shockingly good zombie story with a literary quality unfamiliar to the genre. Don’t let the slow build fool you―the growing tension plays a vital role in allowing everything to snap with a most satisfying sort of frayed devastation. Once all hell breaks loose it’s a no holds barred gore fest!” Tristan Vick, author of BITTEN: Resurrection and BITTEN 2: Land of the Rising Dead

Lastly, for now, my recent release for children of about 9-14, but for anyone really, as it’s a damned good read. In fact, I know a school who is using it as a stimulus text. I even went in to give a reading, give a Q&A and whatnot, and I have never seen children more enthused by a book. They knew more about my characters than I did! Really high praise.

The Curse of the Maya (A Truth-Seeker’s Story) (UK) is a book I am particularly proud of. Grab a relative a copy, or one for yourself!

An early review:

I’m a Year 6 teacher and took this book on holiday for a pre-read with the intention of sharing it with my class if I enjoyed it. I couldn’t put it down! It was such a page turner, just when you think the drama has finished something else happens. I’m looking forward to reading it to my new class this year. It’s very informative and also has lots of opportunities for teaching grammar at year 6 level. I would highly recommend.

Keep looking for more titles to be released soon!


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Hell and God’s Goodness : Strange Notions

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Although this article will address the content of certain theological doctrines, it is written from a purely philosophical perspective. This is the same method used consistently in my book, Origin of the Human Species, in which I examine how evolutionary theory comports with divine revelation and philosophy. What characterizes philosophical analysis of theological doctrine is that reason alone is the method employed. Thus, while the philosopher as such cannot say whether the Trinity is factual, he can still examine whether it appears rationally possible.

The Scandalous Problem

Here I will examine the theological doctrine of hell to see
whether it is compatible with the God of classical theism, who is claimed to be
all good, all loving, and all merciful.

Many skeptics seem to think it is obvious that an all good
and loving God could not possibly consign a fallible human being to the unimaginable,
interminable, excruciating pain of physical fire and other torments in the form
of punishment known as hell – a sanction for sin from which there is no appeal
and no hope of future release. Surely, no good God and no compassionate human
being could possibly even contemplate such unmerciful treatment of a human
soul, merely because she made errors of choice during a single short lifetime.

One Aspect of the Solution

I do not intend to address every possible solution to this specific variation of the well-known problem of evil – a topic I have dealt with in more general terms elsewhere. Among possible solutions, it is argued that God permits evils, including physical suffering, for some greater good, which the human mind cannot grasp. Since metaphysics proves that God is all good, it necessarily follows that any evil found in the world cannot be his fault. Perhaps, the misuse of free will by certain creatures (angelic or human) has led to the introduction of evils unintended by God. Perhaps, man’s misuse of free will calls forth from divine retributive justice a punishment which seems severe, but which must be measured in terms of the infinite goodness which grievous sins offend – thus requiring the eternal pains of hell as a just punishment.

Pointedly,
since God is the transcendent Law Giver, he is not bound by the natural laws
that apply to creatures. Rather, it belongs exclusively to him to administer
retributive justice to those who violate his laws – natural and divine. This
means that it is good that God punish the wicked as part of his overall plan of
creating and governing a good and just world.

But Why the Pains of Hell?

Still, I focus here on the specific question posed by some
skeptics as to why an all good God would submit departed souls to eternal
physical pain and suffering, even in its most agonizing form of physical fire?

Certainly, it appears at first glance that such suffering is nothing but an act of pure vengeance on the part of God. Indeed, does not Scripture declare, “Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord”? But, how can revenge be reconciled with the concept of a loving God?

Yet, while revenge is not an act permitted to mere mortals,
it does have a legitimate meaning properly reserved to God as the ultimate
administrator of retributive justice. Retributive justice is not just “getting
back” at someone, but the restoration of the proper order of things – an order
in which each person gets exactly what he deserves, including proper punishment
for his evil deeds. Moreover, it must be understood that this right belongs in
its highest instance to God alone as creator and supreme lawgiver.

Should such retributive justice include the fire of hell?
And, if so, how can this be reconciled with the belief that God is all good and
loving and merciful?

The Specific Solution

Most skeptics’ accusations against the punishments of hell
are made on the supposition that even the Christian understanding of creation
does not justify such eternal sufferings.

I will show that this divine retribution is consistent with
the general order of creation presented in Christian sources as well as with
the infinite goodness, justice, and mercy of the God of classical theism.

Among the central doctrines of Christianity is that man’s
last end – the ultimate purpose of his very being – is to be united with God
for all eternity in a face to face encounter with the divine being, what
Catholics call the Beatific Vision.

But, in this present life, we do not enjoy the Beatific
Vision. Does that mean that we are already in hell? Well, yes and no. Yes, in
the sense that we are presently lacking the ultimate end of God’s intention in
creating our nature. But, more importantly, we are not now in hell, in the
sense that this is neither a punishment nor necessarily an eternal condition.

The essential meaning of hell is (1) that we finally
understand fully that the Beatific Vision is the sole reason for our creation
as human beings and the sole thing fully worth accomplishing in our existence, (2)
to know that this end will for all eternity be denied to us, and (3) to know
that this ultimate failure of our existential purpose is totally and completely
our own fault and no one else’s.

All this being the case, why does not God simply punish bad
lives by letting us merely fail to accomplish our intended final bliss in
exactly the manner just described? Why is the threat of extreme physical
punishment seemingly arbitrarily and capriciously attached to this natural spiritual
sanction for a wicked life?

Man is a Rational Animal

Man’s uniqueness is that his spiritual, rational soul is
embodied in an animal nature. Being an animal means that our nature is that of
a sentient organism. We have senses. Our sensitive appetites help us achieve
the good of the individual and of the species by making us seek sensible goods and
avoid sensible evils. The natural good that accompanies attaining the sensible
good is pleasure. The natural evil that accompanies experiencing sensible evil
is pain. Thus, we are strongly motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

It is not merely man’s spiritual soul that is aimed at his
last end, but rather it is his whole human nature – spirit and matter, soul and body – that either attains his last end or fails to attain it
through his own fault.

For this reason, we should not be surprised to discover an
important role is played by bodily sense knowledge with respect to how and
whether man reaches his last end, the Vision of God.

If we believed that missing our last end meant merely never
seeing God in his very essence – never having the Beatific Vision, that might not
be a sufficient reason for many people to lead virtuous lives. Such a “purely
spiritual” motivation might not move us the way that we, like other animals,
can be intensely motivated by desire for pleasure and, even more so, fear of
agonizing pain!

Many would say that they do not presently miss God’s
presence all that much in this life anyway, so why worry about missing him
permanently in the next? In truth, we are not
moved decisively in this present life toward God in all our choices — despite
many of us knowing, in theory at least, that he is the highest good.

In a word, to many people in this life, if all they thought
the end of life entailed was attainment of the Vision of God, they might well
be inclined to forgo that final destiny, since they would easily not value it
as much as the earthly pleasures they know would never lead them to such
alleged heavenly bliss!

But God made man to fear physical pain – and properly so,
since it moves us to avoid dangers to our well-being both as individuals and
for the sake of our species’ survival.

Therefore, it makes eminent sense that God would use man’s
intense fear of great pain to motivate him to reach his last end. Once in the
next life, man will clearly know the value of the spiritual reward of the
Beatific Vision. Those who fail to attain that true last end through their own
fault will then have the appalling realization of failing to attain the very
purpose of their existence. But, in this life, the intensity of most human
beings’ motivation is focused on sensible rewards and punishments, on pleasure
and pain.

Thus, the realistic possibility of knowing that we may fall
through grave sin into an eternal pit of most intense physical pain would be,
for most mortal men, the strongest possible motivation to live an essentially
good life – a life best ordered to avoiding the physical suffering of eternal
damnation.

God’s Love

Is letting sinners go to hell then truly an act of simple
retributive justice on the part of God? Is God seeking merely to punish their
moral evil by allowing them to fall into the pits of hell?

On the contrary, it
is the greatest act of love on God’s part to make certain that men are
motivated as strongly as possible to seek and attain what is, in truth and in
fact, the greatest possible happiness — the eternal Beatific Vision.

In other words, we humans do not properly value what will
make us happiest in the long run, and thus, through our own craven ignorance of
proper goods, fail to attain the perfect bliss God wills for all men in his act
of creating them. Hence, God makes certain that we are properly motivated to
seek our true and most perfect end, by graphically placing before us the
sensible horror that confronts those who willfully fail to attain their proper
last end.

But Most People Don’t Even Believe in Hell!

That is quite true. And, even among those who should do so
– based on their religion’s public doctrines, a large number do not believe in
hell’s physical reality. Of the roughly 7.6 billion people on Earth as of 2018,
about 55% belong to Judaism, Christianity, or Islam – all of which religions
have some real notion of hell. That makes for some four billion people. If even
half of this total take the torments of hell seriously, as probably do, that
makes a total of about two billion people – or roughly a quarter of the world’s
population – that believes in the real pains of hell.

Therefore, a good portion of humanity is motivated by the
physical pains of hell to seek salvation seriously. Fear of hell can well be the beginning motivation that leads one to
those religious practices, which, in turn, may lead to a more mature and deeper
appreciation that one’s highest motivation should be, not fear of hell, but
love of God because of his infinite goodness and perfection.

St. Thomas makes much the same point: “From becoming accustomed to avoid evil and fulfill what is good, on account of the fear of punishment, one is sometimes led on to do so likewise, with delight and of one’s own accord. Accordingly, the law, even through punishing, leads men to being good.” (Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 92, a. 2, ad 4.)

Thus, the fear of hell may set one on a
path leading to virtuous living for its own sake. This,
in turn, can lead tothe true
understanding that union with God is the essence of heaven and our proper last
end.

While eternal life for the inhabitants of paradise in Islam is usually associated with sensual pleasures, Islamic teaching also affirms that “the most acceptable of them with God shall look upon His face night and morning.” (Al-Qiyama 75:22,23)

In other words, for at least a quarter of mankind, belief
in a literal physical hell serves the purpose of leading men in the direction
of virtuous living. The net effect of this motivation toward salvation would
naturally also lead many to understand the true value of our last end as being
the Vision of God. From this would naturally also result an increasing number
of souls seeking to please God by living more and more holy lives, that is, to
achieve genuine sanctity.

Thus, if one wonders why God would make the torments of
hell central to the beliefs of what is, de
facto
, only, perhaps, a quarter of mankind today, the answer might just be
that God is actually concerned with the spiritual quality of human perfection. That is, God may be concerned not merely with the quantity of the saved, but
also with the qualitative perfection to be found among those who are saved.

Oddly enough, while beliefs about the eternal torments of
hell are used by skeptics as reason to disbelieve in God’s goodness, those same
beliefs may motivate far greater numbers of souls to follow an upward journey
of religious understanding that leads them eventually to the most holy
religious insights and practice, that is, to sanctity itself.

In a word, the doctrine of hell creates a world designed to
produce the greatest of saints – a
qualitatively more perfect end than might otherwise be possible without hell
.
It is perfectly within the prerogative of God to design his creation so as to
produce the most spiritually perfect creatures. Since the fear of hell, a hell which is licit in itself as a form of
divine retributive justice
, can serve as a licit means to that more perfect
end, it is fully justified.

The Doctrine of Hell and Free Will

The Catholic Church dogmatically defines that those who die in a personal grievous sin descend immediately into hell and that the punishment of hell lasts for all eternity. Nonetheless, while the majority of traditional theologians do believe hell to entail a physical fire, it also remains true that the Church has never condemned the speculation that hell’s “fire” is constituted of purely spiritual pain, such as exclusion from the Beatific Vision and the pangs of conscience.

Moreover, the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares that this “exclusion” from the Beatific Vision is essentially a form of “self-exclusion.” Such self-exclusion is expressed by Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost, when he proclaims, “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.” It is a measure of final obstinacy and pride that refuses to abandon serious sin and accept divine forgiveness.

It is true that the rational appetite, or will, must always
choose the good. But does that mean that no free person in full possession of his
faculties could refuse the highest good, God himself, so as to “self-exclude”
himself from heaven and go to hell as a result?

This question reveals a basic misunderstanding of the nature of the rational appetite or free will. The good is defined as being as desirable. So, the rational appetite naturally desires every possible good. That is to say, the will is necessitated to seek the universal good or happiness. But the human will does not desire any particular good – no concrete good or action – necessarily in this life, since particular goods are good under one aspect, but not under another.

Finite goods can always be refused, since there are
elements of imperfection about them which may be possessed by some other goods.
Hence, we choose between various goods, like chocolates in a box, where each
has qualities lacked by others and vice versa – thereby, forcing us to choose
between them.

But with regard to direct knowledge of God in his essence, St. Thomas Aquinas concludes that “the will of him who sees God in his essence of necessity adheres to God, just as now we desire of necessity to be happy.” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 82, a. 2, c.)

God is known in his essence solely in the Beatific Vision. Yet,
it is self-evident that the final refusal or acceptance of God must take place before God is embraced fully or rejected
completely. Hence, God is not known in
his very essence before the soul reaches heaven
. What the soul knows before
that time must then be some finite good, such as knowing the truth that God is
the highest good. But, any finite good
can be refused
.

The problem is that we often choose lesser and improper
goods even when we know that they are opposed to God’s law or to God himself –
or even to our own true good! In
fact, the very basis of our experience of free will is the fact that we can
choose between various finite goods and even choose sinful goods that we know
are opposed to the true good, or even the goodness of God himself!

Unfortunately, this is precisely why a hardened sinner, who
still has essential possession of his rational faculties, can freely exclude
himself from heaven by stubbornly rejecting the law of God or even some finite
representation of divine majesty and love — even on his deathbed.

How Many Are Lost?

But how many people actually go to hell? On that question, the closest the official Magisterium comes to offering an answer is found in the encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, in which he suggests that, while a few souls go directly to heaven and a few go directly to hell, the “great majority of people” go to a place of temporary purification before entering the Vision of God, the place Catholics call “purgatory.”

Curiously, even Islamic writings seem to have some notion of limited duration of punishment in hell, a concept similar to the Catholic conception of purgatory. Indeed, one optimistic text proclaims that almost all people will be removed from this state of suffering:  “From every one thousand, take out nine-hundred-and ninety-nine.” (Bukhari 4:567)

Since there is no way to be certain just how many, if any,
souls actually go to hell, it is also possible that those who – through no fault of their own – are
ignorant of its existence, may find themselves more likely to end up in some
form of purgatory, rather than hell itself.

Conclusion

On careful reflection, the notion of hell as a place of
eternal punishment for the souls of the wicked after death turns out to be (1)
a just application of retributive justice by a Divine Lawgiver who stands
ontologically above the natural law of his creation, (2) a natural sanction
that is actually self-imposed by a will stubbornly opposed to the righteous
laws of Infinite Goodness, and (3) a powerful tool designed to use the natural
avoidance of pain – both spiritual and physical – as a motive to follow God’s
laws and prepare souls for a spiritual ascendancy leading to the direct vision
of God himself, which is man’s perfect happiness.

Hell, then, is not something evil in itself, but a natural byproduct of the order of being, one which aids in bringing many human beings to the highest state of natural – or even supernatural – perfection through holiness of life. God’s divine providence aims to produce the happiest creatures possible.

Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

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What If Someone Else Told Your Child the Truth About Santa?

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Christmas Santa

Assuming that you are one of the secular parents who has been promoting the Santa story to your children, how would you feel if another adult told your child the truth? Obviously, you know your child is going to find out sooner or later; however, my guess is that you’d prefer it was later. Imagine that you are out and about it some public area accompanied by your child. A random adult approaches, wishes you both “merry Christmas” because it has not been illegal to do so since 2017, and then casually says to your child, “You know Santa isn’t real, right? Those presents are coming from your family.” How upset would you be?

It is possible that your answer reveals something about your motives for lying to your child, but I think there might be something even more interesting to consider here. Do you think you’d be more or less upset in the situation I described than a Christian parent who had the same thing happen? I’d guess there might not be much difference. Some atheists would probably be very upset, and some Christians probably wouldn’t find it a big deal. The reverse would be true as well. I’m not sure that the presence or absence of god-belief would matter all that much, though I suppose that Christians might be somewhat more upset on average than atheists just because they might be a bit more likely to celebrate Christmas.

Now let’s contrast this with a scenario in which a Christian parent is out with their child and a random adult says, “You know Jesus isn’t real, right?” I would think that most Christians would find this more upsetting than the Santa thing, but I’m not sure. The reason I think it probably would be more upsetting is that most Christian adults seem to have more invested in Jesus than they do in Santa. The reason I’m not completely sure is that I think that all Christian adults recognize that Santa isn’t real and know their children will find out eventually but this might make them even more protective about the timeline around when their children find out. They know that once that balloon is popped, it will never re-inflate. I bet they don’t feel that way about Jesus.

Now lets come full circle and post one final question to the atheist parents. Instead of a random stranger telling your child that Santa isn’t real, suppose a random stranger told your child that Jesus was real. That is, a random stranger approaches and proselytizes to your child. Would this be better or worse than the Santa thing? Why?



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Anti-Gay Christian Judge Sues Texas State Commission for Reprimanding Her | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist

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Earlier this month, after refusing to do her job and marry gay couples who visit her courthouse, Texas Justice of The Peace Dianne Hensley was given a public warning by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. It really was a slap on the wrist. Instead of removing her from the job she refuses to do, the Commission merely said she was “casting doubt on her capacity to act impartially” and said she could be punished in the future.

Now Hensley is suing the district. Because how dare anyone point out her Christian bigotry.

In its lawsuit, First Liberty argues, “The Commission violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act by investigating and punishing Judge Hensley for recusing herself from officiating at same-sex weddings, in accordance with the commands of her Christian faith.” Adding, “By investigating and punishing her for acting in accordance with the commands of her Christian faith, the State of Texas has substantially burdened the free exercise of her religion, with no compelling justification.”

The compelling justification is that people must be treated equally under the law. A judge who would perform a wedding ceremony for straight couples but not gay ones has no business being a judge. She should go work in an evangelical church where bigotry is celebrated.

Being a Christian isn’t some immunity label that allows certain government officials to avoid the law.

She’s asking for $10,000 in damages, additional relief, attorneys’ fees, and a declaration that everyone in her position can be a Christian bigot.

(via Religion Clause‘. Screenshot via YouTube)





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Department of Education Proposes to Subsidize Religious Proselytizing

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Washington, D.C.—Today, American Atheists denounced the Trump Administration’s proposal to subsidize religious organizations using Department of Education student aid programs. Under the new rule, the federal government would unconstitutionally support the efforts of religious organizations not just to provide services but also to worship and proselytize.

“The federal government should not be in the business of providing resources to encourage religious education, worship, or proselytizing by religious organizations,” said Alison Gill, American Atheists’ Vice President for Legal and Policy.

In July of this year, American Atheists submitted comments opposing proposed religious exemptions for higher education, noting that they would allow colleges and universities to implement discriminatory policies and practices.

The Department of Education relied on the 2017 Supreme Court Case Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, which determined that a church was entitled to state funding to pave its playground, as the basis for this new rule.

“This Administration has bent over backwards to distort a wrongly-decided Supreme Court case, to justify more handouts, exemptions, and giveaways to their backers on the Religious Right,” Gill added.

“This isn’t complicated: public dollars must be used in ways that are constitutional, not to support inherently religious activities,” said Nick Fish, American Atheists’ president. “This is exactly the sort of harm our Founders created the Establishment Clause to protect against — taxpayers being forced to pay for the religious education of those of differing beliefs. Thomas Jefferson correctly called this “tyranny,” and now this Administration seeks to roll back 200 years of constitutional protections.”

Image by Picturepocket via Wikimedia under CC BY-SA 3.0



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