You're mistaken

The following are excerpts from a post made on a forum in response to an atheist. Most of the ideas espoused in the reply contains common misunderstandings and logical fallacies. I will be explaining them here - not on the forum itself, for I've long given up of spending hours explaining these ideas over and over again.

The forum and author is not named and unnecessary. The post in question was not made directly to me either.

Here we go,

Moving on, I see that you're a materialist in that you believe that only things proven by science should be held as unequivocally true, and none else.

Granted, the person in question may hold that position but in general, most atheists don't think that. Things that are "proven" by science are not held as unequivocally true - not even scientists hold that position. Anyone who understands the Scientific Method would know that science do not prove anything with absolute certainty - all theories are thought to be tentatively true when sufficiently demonstrated by the evidence.

For me at least, "materialism" itself is also a tentative position.

However, that worldview only has one problem: there is absolutely no reason to think that to be true. Furthermore, that belief itself cannot be proven by the scientific method; i.e. it's self-defeating.

Absolutely no reason?

Again, "materialism" and "naturalism" are tentative positions. They are conclusions. And as far as evidence goes, they are "proven"

Okay, and before I continue, I think I should explain why I put materialism and naturalism is " " quotes. Those are allegations - they are positions I do not hold, at least not in the form I'm being accused of. For example, I am a materialist insofar that nothing non-matter/non-energy has been demonstrated to exist - and not because I think that non-material stuff cannot exist.

The word "proven" is useless unless it has been agreed beforehand whether or not it is being used colloquially. Because in conversations with theists/laymen, it is always used with regards to science and in science, we don't prove theories - that only happens in mathematics.

So, back to the charge of materialism. I think the belief is "proven" by scientific method in the sense that it works. Without the addition of supernatural/immaterial entities, science explains accurately the workings of the universe. Technology demonstrates that science knows what it is talking about. I'm not sure if I have to say more than that.

As for the notion that the Big Bang created everything and that there's no need to invoke the supernatural, you've quite frankly just put your foot in your mouth. Going by your line of reasoning, before the Big Bang there was just pure, utter nothingness (I'm aware that time did not exist before the bang, but let's just focus on the logic here). And if we're to be rational, I guess it's unanimously held to be true that from nothing, nothing comes, without exception.

Wrong on the Big Bang Theory. Utterly wrong.

I've explained this line of reasoning in a previous post (the video is critical, so watch that as well): Something from Nothing?

The short answer is, we don't believe that the universe came from nothing - that's a false accusation.

If the Big Bang was the absolute beginning, it literally is supernatural! The universe, being material, has to have an immaterial, intangible cause, I'm by no means intending to make a case here that that cause therefore is God. I'm just pointing out the absurdity of the said position, namely scientific naturalism. Consider this:

1. Anything that begins to exist has a cause. (God being the creator of time if he exists, did not begin to exist and therefore needs no cause i.e. you can't begin to exist when there's no time)
2. The universe has clearly been proven to begin to exist.
3. The universe has a cause.
4. If we postulate a material cause, you have just set into motion infinite regression as the material cause itself has to have a cause.
5. The universe's cause is immaterial.

If you disagree with the above, you inevitably have to believe that nothing created something. If that be so, all logic and argumentation breaks down and we have no need to continue any discourse. If you agree, scientific naturalism no longer is viable.

Premise 1 is just wrong in so many ways.
I'd suggest reading this essay by Dan Barker: Cosmological Kalamity instead of rewriting all the points myself on my poor blog.

However, I'm more fascinated by the fourth and fifth point. How does concluding with an immaterial cause solve anything? How does immaterial entities escape causality? Consider souls - are they uncreated as well? If they are not eternal, they demonstrate that having an immaterial nature does not grant escape from causality within that worldview. If that's the case, what is the logical link between the fourth and fifth point?

In any case, the argument is unsound.

But how does the argument relate to "scientific naturalism" being not viable? Science relies on Methodological Naturalism - it presumes naturalism but it does not preclude it. If there is a supernatural entity, science does not assert that it must not exist - it merely ignores it so as long it does not interfere with the natural world.

On other hand, skepticism demands that we reject the existence of such an entity until we have evidence to demonstrate its existence. Everything else is moot.

I don't think that it's sensible to write off God without examining thoroughly the case for it for it's far too important a matter to just dismiss out of probably either a fear of being accountable to your maker, or some vague notion of wanting to be your own 'god' and live life your way, or perhaps cursory cognizance of some trifling objections to his existence from existence of evil, even gratuitous forms of it, in the world, of which satisfactory explanations in the context of God exist in abundance.

This one is just condescending.

How about this for a reason: NO EVIDENCE.

That's all.

God cannot be proven scientifically simply because he's immaterial and science only deals with the physical world, though it can be shown that a theistic position is more rational than an atheistic one.

Wrong. It depends on the god in question.

The deistic god cannot be demonstrated to exist by science since he does not interfere with the universe.

BUT the theistic god does. And as long the god interferes with the world in some testable manner, science can in fact demonstrate his existence. Prayer is one way. If god answers the prayers in a statistically significant way, that would be some evidence in his favor. So far, this is not shown to be the case.

You can't see the wind, but you can tell it's there when the leaves rustle. God is not perceivable by the senses being a spirit being, but his fingerprints are all over creation, not the least of which resides in the cell in the form of DNA.

The analogy fails.

Wind is moving air. We have demonstrated with evidence that air freaking exist. God, we have not.

"Creation" here is merely an assertion - an argument from incredulity/ignorance. I'm not sure how is DNA supposed to fit into this but if it's something like "OMG, it's so complex. Therefore, god" (which seems to be what it usually boils down to), I'm not impressed.

And that's to the end of that post.

Religious harmony, really?

Recently, in the newspapers, there have been a couple of praise or mention of religious harmony in Singapore. One letter in the forum section of the Straits Times even commented that "The Prime News photograph yesterday (above) of Rabbi Mordechai Abergel, Buddhist monk the Venerable Fa Rong and Mufti Syed Isa Mohamed Semait nearly moved me to tears." (The Straits Times - ST Forum - Picture perfect harmony)

It's good so far
Before I continue, I need to say that I do like the fact that Singapore enjoys religious harmony. Religions do not make much issue here unlike some of our neighbours (such as Christianity vs Islam in Indonesia).

To be clear, I am all for religious harmony.

Now here comes the big "but",
But, I don't think that that is a solution in the long run.

Exclusivity of religious truth
Religions make truth claims. Unless the religion advocates the kind of universalism where it teaches that all religions are different paths to god(s), religions are mutually exclusive. No two religion can be simultaneously correct.

Look at Old Testament (Christianity) or Tanakh (Judaism) on the issue of other gods

From the Book of Deuteronomy (Tanakh/Bible)

Deuteronomy 17:2-7 (New International Version, NIV)
If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the LORD gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant, and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars in the sky, and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.

What about the Koran's (Islam's) view of Christianity,

From the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam

Qur'an 5:72-78 (Yusufali translation)
They do blaspheme who say: "Allah is Christ the son of Mary." But said Christ: "O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord." Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.

Why turn they not to Allah, and seek His forgiveness? For Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!

Say: "Will ye worship, besides Allah, something which hath no power either to harm or benefit you? But Allah,- He it is that heareth and knoweth all things." Say: "O people of the Book! exceed not in your religion the bounds (of what is proper), trespassing beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went wrong in times gone by,- who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even way.
Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses.

I think I need not say more about the exclusivity of the truth claims of the fore mentioned religions.

Even without these intolerant ideas in their holy books, religions feeds off human tribalism. It fosters divisiveness explicitly or implicitly, creating a Us versus Them situation whenever it is deemed fit.

The inherent danger of reversion
Yes, I understand believers have various reasons to ignore or not act on behalf of their holy books. But the fact remains that those verses are in their holy books. A simple reversion to fundamentalism or literalism will unleash yet more evils of religion upon the society.

Religious fervor transcend educational and economic boundaries (and indeed, national ones). This is notably true in present day events. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were educated Muslims from middle income families from different countries. There was the assassinations of abortion-providing doctors in the United States of America. Religion is clearly capable of inspiring insane atrocities.

Really harmony?
Is this harmony (in Singapore) we see truly what it seems?
Can it survive the religious fanaticism emanating from the rest of the globe?

Are the religions in Singapore really holding hands and skipping across the beautiful meadows of peace?

Or is it just begrudging tolerance - with religions sitting around a table with weapons behind them waiting for someone to say or do the wrong thing?

I am simply saying that we need to recognize this issue and actually address it. This fluffed up image of harmony fails to address this inherent danger of religions.

Peace does not come about by ignoring clear and present danger.

Being late has its advantages - The Qur'an

One of the perks for being a young religion is that you get to demonize/denounce other religions and put it right in your holy book. Ain't that nice?

Christianity had its turn with the ancient gods of the region which it pejoratively generalized as the "pagan" gods. So being sister religion, Islam had a go too against her big sister.

This post is mainly for referencing purposes. So here are the relevant excerpts from the holy book of Islam, the Qur'an (Koran).

Qur'an 4:88-93 (Yusufali translation)
They say: "(Allah) Most Gracious has begotten a son!" Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin, that they should invoke a son for (Allah) Most Gracious. For it is not consonant with the majesty of (Allah) Most Gracious that He should beget a son. Not one of the beings in the heavens and the earth but must come to (Allah) Most Gracious as a servant.

Qur'an 4:171 (Yusufali translation)
O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not "Trinity" : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.

Qur'an 5:72-78 (Yusufali translation)
They do blaspheme who say: "Allah is Christ the son of Mary." But said Christ: "O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord." Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.

Why turn they not to Allah, and seek His forgiveness? For Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!

Say: "Will ye worship, besides Allah, something which hath no power either to harm or benefit you? But Allah,- He it is that heareth and knoweth all things." Say: "O people of the Book! exceed not in your religion the bounds (of what is proper), trespassing beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went wrong in times gone by,- who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even way.
Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses.

Science as a disbelief system

The following is an interesting take from a discussion page at

It's titled "Science as a disbelief system" and written by the user, "Schrodinger's cat".

I recently had a friend make a comment along the lines of "You believe in science....I believe in religion...they are both belief systems," as if to imply some sort of equitable relationship between the two. I'm sure many of us have had similar experiences.

The friend seemed quite startled when I responded, "Actually no, science is a disbelief system." I pointed out that what makes science different from any other thought system is that while the congregation in religion is shouting 'Hallelujah!', in science they are shouting 'Prove it!' And to cap it all, the scientific high priests are required to provide a means of disproving that anything they say is true! Can you imagine the Pope doing that?

Not only is science not on equitable terms with religion, it is effectively the complete opposite. If science were a religion, then it's the only one where the holy scriptures demand not unquestioning belief but questioning disbelief.

It's high time we got rid of this 'just another belief system' mentality in society. We could start by banning 'faith' schools and their ridiculous notion that teaching science and religion is somehow 'complementary'.

I have never done a repost but this one was interesting enough for me to have done it.

One of core principle in science is the requirement that its theories be falsifiable - and indeed be falsified if evidence ever turns up to falsify the theory however old, popular or elegant. Science is self-correcting and demands that correction be made if one is to remain honest about the state of our knowledge.

That is the beauty of science.

A Sadomasochistic God

In recent months, I have subscribed to a number of channels on Youtube and one of them is DiscoveringReligion. This channel is host to an original series by the same name and it is of excellent quality.

Just hours ago, this video titled "A Sadomasochistic God" was uploaded. This video expounds on the concept of a omniscient god behind the purported sacrifice of his son/self supposedly for his love for his creation, humanity.

I love it. It's almost like the video version of my previous posts (Denouncing Christianity, A morally inferior god, Immoral Acceptance) on the topic.

His series, Discovering Religion, is extremely well made. Here I shall post the latest episode (3 parts) which managed to unsettle me.

Thank goodness

Well, this is old news. But I'm posting this anyways for posterity's sake.

This is Daniel Danett's open letter that he wrote during recuperation after his heart surgery. It's a meaningful piece with bits worth repeating here.

Yes, I did have an epiphany. I saw with greater clarity than ever before in my life that when I say "Thank goodness!" this is not merely a euphemism for "Thank God!" (We atheists don't believe that there is any God to thank.) I really do mean thank goodness! There is a lot of goodness in this world, and more goodness every day, and this fantastic human-made fabric of excellence is genuinely responsible for the fact that I am alive today.

Do I worship modern medicine? Is science my religion? Not at all; there is no aspect of modern medicine or science that I would exempt from the most rigorous scrutiny, and I can readily identify a host of serious problems that still need to be fixed. That's easy to do, of course, because the worlds of medicine and science are already engaged in the most obsessive, intensive, and humble self-assessments yet known to human institutions, and they regularly make public the results of their self-examinations.

One of the gentler, more supportive themes to be found in every religion (so far as I know) is the idea that what really matters is what is in your heart: if you have good intentions, and are trying to do what (God says) is right, that is all anyone can ask. Not so in medicine! If you are wrong—especially if you should have known better—your good intentions count for almost nothing. And whereas taking a leap of faith and acting without further scrutiny of one's options is often celebrated by religions, it is considered a grave sin in medicine...... Good intentions and inspiration are simply not enough.

What, though, do I say to those of my religious friends (and yes, I have quite a few religious friends) who have had the courage and honesty to tell me that they have been praying for me? I have gladly forgiven them, for there are few circumstances more frustrating than not being able to help a loved one in any more direct way...... But I am not joking when I say that I have had to forgive my friends who said that they were praying for me. I have resisted the temptation to respond "Thanks, I appreciate it, but did you also sacrifice a goat?" I feel about this the same way I would feel if one of them said "I just paid a voodoo doctor to cast a spell for your health."...... Don't expect me to be grateful, or even indifferent. I do appreciate the affection and generosity of spirit that motivated you, but wish you had found a more reasonable way of expressing it.

Nicely put.

He can't just forgive

Yet another excellent video by darkmatter2525.

Yahweh cannot forgive without making an ultimatum. Not very godly, methinks.

If god was a car

Another excellent video by Darkmatter2525.

Logical arguments without evidence proves nothing. Existence claims cannot be demonstrated by logic alone, we need evidence. Otherwise, we're just arguing entities into existence.

Something from Nothing?

This tired old canard of "Something from Nothing" is leveled at atheists by theists who don't know any better. This lie gives away the theist's ignorance of the science behind Big Bang theory (which rationalists in general accepts as true).

I think that the problem is worst than that. But first, I'll have to explain the phrase first.

"Something from nothing" is sometimes used by physicists while explaining the Big Bang theory. However, "nothing" is not the "nothing" that most people would imagine. Well, if there was just empty space and something just 'poofed' into existence - that would seem pretty absurd. But that is NOT what physicists mean. By nothing, they mean nothing that we know of exist. That is, matter, energy, space and time, as we know it, has not come into existence. Here, I'll let the physicists themselves do the talking:

But here's the crucial part - why I think the argument is just stupid right from the get go: NOBODY believes that. Even physicists would postulate something - say, a quantum fluctuation - that led up to the Big Bang.

Ultimately, there is still a fabric of reality. "Something" is still there. For the theists, it's their god(s) (which explains nothing). For us, non-believers, we generally accept what the scientific method has discovered about reality.

So the canard "something from nothing" is just bloody useless to begin with.

There's something deeper though. Why do people suppose that there would ever be "absolute nothingness"?

I'm not sure where I'm going with this train of thought. Perhaps you thought about it and might share some insights in the comments.

I think that existence is an intrinsic part of reality. If there is absolute nothingness, then there is no reality to speak of.

If there was nothing at all, no action, no entities, no na-da, nothing would ever happen. So something could never come from nothing.

Since we do in fact exist, that would also imply that there was always something around - not a moment in reality was there ever absolute nothingness.

Is that right?

El, Elohim and Yahweh

There is a clear overlap between the ancient Ugaritic religion and Judaism (and by implication, Christianity and Islam as well). However it seems that such information is hardly known to the average adherents of those religions implicated.

It should be made clear that the information presented is not some minority view or "heretical"/"atheist" propaganda. The data here can be found in archeology books pertaining to ancient middle east religions or, more specifically, the canaanite religion. In fact, some of the sources I'll be citing or quoting from are religious sources.

I first stumbled across this topic when watching the Atheist Experience TV show podcast. Tracie Harris co-hosted 3 episodes (Episodes #464, #466, #483) where the topic was discussed. And here is the relevant blog post on the Atheist Experience blog: Ugarit and the Bible.

If you do a Google search on "Ugarit and the Bible", this webpage by the Quartz Hill School of Theology comes up on top: Ugarit and the Bible. This also one of the sources cited by Tracie Harris at the AETV blog. As far as I can tell, the information on the page is accurate and is comparable to those found in the books at libraries. So this shouldn't strike anyone as being non-mainstream.

I'll let them speak for themselves why Ugaritic text pertains to the bible:

Why should people interested in the Old Testament want to know about this city [Ugarit] and its inhabitants? Simply because when we listen to their voices we hear echoes of the Old Testament itself. Several of the Psalms were simply adapted from Ugaritic sources; the story of the flood has a near mirror image in Ugaritic literature; and the language of the Bible is greatly illuminated by the language of Ugarit.

Let's begin with the word "El". Correction, the name "El". While "El" is translated as a generic word for "god" in the hebrew bible, this was not the case before. According to the ugarit religion, El is a proper name for the supreme deity of the ugaritic pantheon. He is identified as the creator of "the heavens and the earth", the father of 70 gods as well as the father of man.

Elohim is plural. Not singular as advocated by translators of the bible. Elohim refers to El's pantheon of gods, his council.

And Yahweh? He was one of the 70 sons of El. Here's the relevant quote from Wikipedia regarding the development in ancient Israel:

In the earliest stage Yahweh was one of the seventy children of El, each of whom was the patron deity of one of the seventy nations. This is illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint texts of Deuteronomy 32:8-9, in which El, as the head of the divine assembly, gives each member of the divine family a nation of his own, "according to the number of the divine sons": Israel is the portion of Yahweh. The later Masoretic text, evidently uncomfortable with the polytheism expressed by the phrase, altered it to "according to the number of the children of Israel"

I know I am quoting Wikipedia, which is not exactly scholarly material, but I'm only doing so because the content agrees with the books I read in the libraries as well as other online sources.

Notice the parallels between El and Yahweh and it becomes obvious the worshipers of Yahweh assimilated the characteristics of El into Yahweh at some point in history. And it seems that theologians know this:

Other deities worshipped at Ugarit were El Shaddai, El Elyon, and El Berith. All of these names are applied to Yahweh by the writers of the Old Testament. What this means is that the Hebrew theologians adopted the titles of the Canaanite gods and attributed them to Yahweh in an effort to eliminate them. If Yahweh is all of these there is no need for the Canaanite gods to exist! This process is known as assimilation.

This assimilation seems to be demonstrated by the association of El's consort
(ie, a goddess), Asherah, with Yahweh.

Athirat, or as she is referred to sometimes, Ilat (i.e., goddess of the god El), is the most prominent goddess in the Ugaritic pantheon, though her origin appears to go back well before Ugarit (1200-1400 B.C.E.) to the time of the Ebla tablets. In the Ugaritic pantheon she is the consort of El. She is referred to as the "mother of the gods" or "procreatress of the gods." She thus shares in El's creative work. She is also referred to as "Lady Athirat of the sea" and by the Semitic word qd (i.e., holy). She figures prominently in the Ugaritic texts in which Baal and Anat are requesting from El a palace for Baal to live in (CTA 4), texts concerning Shahar and Shalim (CTA 23) and in another wherein she is said to receive a sheep offered in sacrifice. The name Asherah is the designation often given this goddess in the Old Testament.

From Wikipedia
Between the eighth to the sixth centuries El became identified with Yahweh, Yahweh-El became the husband of the goddess Asherah, and the other gods and the divine messengers gradually became mere expressions of Yahweh's power.

From the Quartz Hill School of Theology
One of the most interesting of these lesser deities, Asherah, plays a very important role in the Old Testament. There she is called the wife of Baal; but she is also known as the consort of Yahweh! That is, among some Yahwists, Ahserah is Yahweh’s female counterpart!

Apparently it seems that there is also evidence for the assimilation of Baal Hadad into Yahweh. Baal Hadad is a storm god and the only one in the Ugaritic pantheon that is identified by the title "rider of the clouds". This title is later attributed to Yahweh in the bible. For those who wouldn't mind reading longer articles, check out this article on Baalism in Canaanite Religion and Its Relation to Selected Old Testament Texts [Google Cache version].

For those want to read more, check out Wikipedia on these topic as well. See "Canaanite religion" and "Early history of Yahweh worship".

The relationship between Yahweh of the Abrahamic religions and the gods of the Ugaritic pantheon (in particular, El) is obvious.

Why isn't this information more widely known?

More unusually, why don't such knowledge pose a problem to adherents of those faiths? I would think this would make it more than obvious that religions are made up (ie, fiction).

What's your excuse?

Update (2 Dec 2011): Evid3nc3 has an excellent video about evolution of monotheism from polytheism based on Karen Armstrong book, A History of God. It includes how Yahweh became the "One God".

The Non Prophets are back

Here's a little "shout out" for the Non Prophets Radio podcast. The Non Prophets are back after a REALLY long hiatus.

Matt Dillahunty has uploaded 3 new podcast. One with the last of the guerrilla podcast (9.8), one being a compilation of interviews Matt did during the Texas Freethought Convention (9.TFC) and the latest one being a usual NPR podcast (9.10).

So here is the link to the Non Prophets Radio archive page.

Back with Videos

It's been 3 weeks and during that time, lots of videos has been churned out on Youtube. Here's three that I particularly liked.

Most recently, richarddawkinsdotnet has (finally) posted new videos. Here's a conversation between Richard Dawkins and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Interesting stuff.

QualiaSoup also uploaded another video. This time he addresses atheism directly. Beautifully made video as usual.

I thoroughly enjoyed this video by AronRa. Continuing his "Falsifying Phylogeny" series, this video is about the dog family.


This blog is going on an official three week hiatus (as if I had been consistent in my blog postings... er, nevermind that). I'll be off to Australia for slightly more than 3 weeks due to conscript obligations. So, byes!

Arrest the Pope

Is there nothing that we can prosecute the pope for? I would think that the two atrocities that the Roman Catholic Church has committed should at the least warrant some international legal action.

First off, the Church's cover up of the pedophile priests is just plain criminal. And we're not talking about one or two isolated cases, we're talking about scores of child rape and molest allegations across the world. Evidence suggest that the pope cannot possibly have been ignorant of the rampant child rapes occurring in the parishes.

Instead of handing the priests to the authorities so that justice may actually be served, the Church has decided to cover up the scandal. And when that failed, they're issuing monetary compensation left and right while moving the offending priests to other parishes (where they likely would offend again).

That alone, I would think, warrant some real justice to be served. But hell no, the pope is still in his golden throne preaching around the ills of materialism and immorality of "secular" people from his multi-billion dollar palace.

The second atrocity, in my opinion, should be considered a crime against humanity. The pope, that infallible pope, has, in his infinite wisdom, freaking LIED to the African people. He essentially told them that condoms do not protect people against HIV but increases their chances of contracting the virus.

WHAT A PREPOSTEROUS LIE. That lying prick deserves prison. The death penalty even, if it applies. How is that any different from committing genocide against the African people himself? And he doesn't even need to stray from his own fucking religion to know lying is wrong.


Here's a video of Richard Dawkins at the recent "Protest the Pope" march where he gives the Pope a much deserved tongue lashing (and that's already too nice, I think):

Exploiting credulity

Yea, religions give plenty of false hopes.

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.
George Bernard Shaw

Youtube Atheism

I have been neglecting my blog lately (close to two freaking months actually). I am just too lazy to pen down what I thought of lately. I'm sure that will change when my conscription ends.

So, nope, no new mini essays from me. Instead I will post some of the videos that I enjoyed.

Here's a little something on Evolution, specifically Systematic Phylogenetics, by AronRa. Unfortunately, embedding is disabled for the video - so here's the direct link.

Then we have this video. I found it particularly refreshing (perhaps a tiny bit disturbing for the rioting scenes) - a reminder that we are definitely still animals whatever else we may wish we are.

Here's a satire by DarkMatter2525, "If Atheists Acted Religious". Actually, to be specific, it's more like "If Atheists Acted Like Religious Bigoted Americans"

TheThinkingAtheist has been churning out a couple of nice videos for our entertainment. My favorite is this one.

And this one is about Christianity.

Teaching Science

"You are doing it WRONG" is my conclusion when I look at Singapore's science education.

The science curriculum is evidently designed for application purposes only. Facts after facts, equations after equations is what science is depicted as to the children.

That's is why I have issues with it. Science is NOT JUST ANY body of knowledge. Science is the body of knowledge acquired by the scientific method. Yet the method itself never gets a mention when it deserves more.

Here's my thing: Teaching the future pillars of our nation that haemoglobin is a protein whose amino acid sequence is encoded in DNA which itself is a molecule housed in the nucleus of almost all of your body's cells is NOT as important as teaching them the Scientific Method, the method that scientists used to discover the fore mentioned fact.

Proper understanding of the scientific method is crucial for responsible citizenry in the age of science and technology. As far as I can tell, it is the ignorance and fear of science that causes the visceral hostile reactions to science and new technology where the general public is concerned.

Aside from a more complete understanding of the scientific method, perhaps the stories behind the central theories of the major branches of science could be presented as well. The basic idea is to expose students to the evidence that convinced the scientific community that those theories are valid.

I think such a class should be made to complement the current curriculum for all students.

For a better future.

Teaching Philosophy

Sometimes I wonder why we don't have philosophy taught earlier in schools. In Singapore, presumably because it would be seen as being practically useless. The kind of uselessness only matched by our Civics & Morals Education classes.

Now that I mentioned CME classes, I think it should be integrated with the philosophy class I wish to advocate. After all, ethics is discussed under philosophy.

Let's talk about the ethics aspect first since we're at it. CME classes comes across as a complete waste of time by being the superficial drivel that it is. Such classes usually briefly discusses morals without ever talking about the reasons for morality in the first place. Calling it superficial is already too nice.

For too long, students are taught to be good without ever being taught why we should be good. Morality comes across as an absolute concept not far removed from the religious concept of morality (ie, obedience). The class could introduce secular humanism and possibly other ethical philosophies for comparison with religious morality. Stuff like the Golden Rule and the Euthyphro's dilemma would be part of the discussion in such a class.

Moving away from ethics, I think philosophy should be taught because it is important in life. Students should be exposed to the stuff of philosophy like metaphysics & epistemology and the different philosophies floating around. And in the process, also learn about logical arguments.

What is objective and subjective? What is naturalism? What is the different between metaphysical and methodological? What are the logical fallacies? What are the problems of so-and-so philosophy?

Students should be taught why such things are relevant to their lives. And since this is my blog, I'm going to be unapologetic about this - people need to know why even metaphysical naturalism is more tenable than any religious crap.

Yes, one of my motives for advocating teaching philosophy is that it can be corrosive to religions. I believe that the reason why so many people still believe in bullshit is because they never thought about their own personal philosophy (or religion for the matter) at a deeper level. If nothing else, it is a logic 101 class that any human being desperately needs.

Wait, no, being corrosive to religion is not my sole motive. I think that what is more important is that the class would have the effect of purging non-evidence-based beliefs. Religion just happens to be included.

Perhaps, I have made the class sound biased. That is not what the class would be but what I hope it would achieve if we managed to engage the students.

Layman Public

This was originally written as a response to letter published in the New Paper (24 March). However, I never got around to write it down proper.

Instead of doing that, I decided to just pick out a few bits and post them in this blog entry. (And yes, I do realized that's like 2 months ago - things happened).

The church has said that the claims of faith healing were based on actual testimonies by those who have had such first hand experiences. These claims should be demonstrably verifiable.

Yes, indeed, such reports should be demonstrably verifiable.

However, take note, the real issue is with demonstrating what the claims in the testimonies. And that must be done via clinical trials (since we are talking about "medicine"). The testimonies themselves are not worth much at all - for the make one of the lousier forms of evidence.

Anecdotes about subjective experience is necessarily second hand information to any objective observer. They are known to be wrought with psychological and perceptual errors such as confirmation biases, false memories and other illusions. Given such knowledge, scientists tend to treat anecdotes as starting points for further research - the anecdote itself is close to being worthless without other supporting objective data.

...... if there are people who can testify that they were healed through such prayers and prove their case with medical research?

As mentioned previously, personal testimonies are not worth much as evidence - such data is clouded by a myriad of human errors.

In medical cases, a layman may (and many times will) interpret the well-known placebo effect as the efficacy of the alternative medicine he is observing. That is just one reason - other phenomenons prevent uncritical individuals from knowing fact from fiction thus rendering such testimonies useless.

In any case, if we're talking about healing through prayer, I dare bet that the medical records will show that is as effective as chance (or at best, the placebo effect). On a side note, I want to add that taking aspirin while praying your headache away is not a demonstration of the efficacy of prayer.

I would like to add in the matters of faith, science is not reliable measure. Science cannot make pronouncements one way or the other on God,


Science is, in principle, capable of examining the question of god(s)' existence. The existence of any entity that we can meaningfully say to exist should be detectable and measurable - God or gods is no exception.

* Why "meaningfully say to exist"?, check out On Existence.

If your god, or any gods, exist in actual physical reality, he would be detectable. Similarly, if your god, or any gods, is capable of manifesting and interacting with the natural world, he would be detectable even if he is "supernatural".

... metaphysics,

False too.

Metaphysics, ie the study of the nature of reality, should at least partially informed by science. As long we're still talking about our observable reality, I seriously doubt metaphysics belongs to the list.

... ethics...

Why is ethics even on the list? Why do some religious still think in such a manner?

Science is a method of acquiring knowledge, NOT a system of ethics. Science comes closest with ethics as an informant but the method itself is amoral.

Scientists being ethical and unethical is a separate issue and has no bearing on the methodology itself.

... and so on and it certainly cannot declare them meaningless.

Who did that anyways? (If you followed the letters yourself, you might ask the same question)

Science does not make such value judgments. But if your belief involve actual physical reality, then science most definitely can inform your of its validity.

...... The claims could "mislead the public" because they "do not operate under scientific boundaries".

I disagree with the usage of the phrase "do not operate under scientific boundaries" in the context.

Nature does not operate under scientific laws. Rather scientific laws are our attempts to describe how nature operates. Unlike our legal laws, scientific laws are descriptive not prescriptive. We follow legal laws; Scientific laws describe the workings of nature. There's a difference - understand the logic.

The relevant, more appropriate, phrase may be "have not been sufficiently verified" or "yet to be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt". When phrased this way, it exposes the emptiness of the tired arguments against the idea that things "operate under scientific boundaries".

Faith healing cannot be quantified by science.

Utterly wrong.

If faith healing actually works (ie, cures illnesses), its effects would be quantifiable. This would show up as statistical significance on clinical trials. This is true regardless whether its mechanisms is known or unknown ("supernatural" or not).

... (science) which itself changes over time with each new scientific discovery.

Hmmm, why is this always phrased with the implicit idea that it's a bad thing?

It's the beauty of science that it is self-correcting in nature.

Which is worst? Changing and inching towards a more accurate picture of reality or stay wrong forever and not know it as with religious dogma.

I'll take science over religion (or any dogma) any and everyday.


Enough said.

Here's the most recent video (on the day of posting) with the AETV hosts, Tracie Harris and Martin Wagner.

Here's another one with Matt Dillahunty (President of the ACA) and guest, AronRa.

Here's some older posts on the Atheist Experience.

Comforting. Really?

When challenged to defend religion or just the belief in god(s), a common defense deployed is it provides comfort. hope and etc. This also a common argument from sympathetic non-believers when confronted with anti-theistic or anti-religious sentiments.

This defense is fallacious and, in my opinion, superficial. And in the context of particular religions, it is an utterly warped idea.

The Fallacy
That which is comforting is not necessarily true. It is a fallacy easily understood but frequently overlooked when it is committed (as is the case of this defense).

The truth value of a claim does not depend on the amount of comfort it offers. The truth can be painful; A lie can be comforting. An example of a comforting lie is the security blanket. The blanket itself does not provide any security apart from tactile comfort. But the belief that it does provides the same effect.

I don't think I need to push this point further - This should be easily understood.

Preferring Lies
When such a defense is made when the truth of a religion is in question, it carries with it implicitly that a comforting lie is more preferable over actual facts. I personally don't agree with this but if someone wants to believe comforting falsehoods, that's his/her prerogative. It becomes objectionable though if he/she takes steps to make others believe in his nonsense.

Granted that someone may actually value comfort over truth, I am unable to accept that something is still comforting if you actually knew it was false. If I was in those shoes, I'd be hard pressed to find any shred of comfort at all after realizing that it's a falsehood.

From this point of view, it is not surprising that this argument is made by sympathetic non-believers. If they were believers, I'd think that they would find such an argument pretty condescending - "Oh they don't care about truth, they just want to feel good."

In any case, such comforts afforded by a belief is superficial if the belief itself is false of unsubstantiated.

Comforting? Seriously?
I find this defense ironic in the case of the Abrahamic faiths, especially Christianity.

Just think about it, which part of believing that:
A sky-daddy overseeing this universe under his totalitarian rule and he shall judge who shall qualify entry into heaven (though he already knew beforehand whom shall and shall not enter heaven or hell before he even created anything at all). This same sky-daddy allegedly loves you and answers your prayers occasionally only if it is part of his divine plan by miraculously messing with the laws of nature if need be.

However, you're a miserable wretch because your ancestors committed the original sin which the sky-daddy should have seen coming. Somehow you and all descendants alike, who had nothing to do with that, has to take the blame according to his game rules. On top of that, the only way he could forgive humanity was via the blood sacrifice of his only son (who, apparently, is also himself). His son, or himself, went to suffer in hell for 3 days before he un-dies to return to heaven to be with his father, or himself.

Where on Earth is the comfort?!

Thou shalt not silence me

I think it's time Psalm 14:1 gets a proper reply,

The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God; The honest says it out loud.

The plight of unbelievers everywhere is the result of decades of silence. With "respect", the majority of the non-religious kept their noses out of religious idiocy and zealotry. Some may have held the belief that as humanity matures, religiosity will fade into the abyss along with other superstitions.

They were wrong. At some point, I was wrong.

As with any debate or discussion, sitting in the corner and letting your opponent unleash an all out assault isn't going to win you points. Keeping quiet for so long, the religious majority climbed over our heads and took the liberty of cleaning their feet with our hair.

Moderates and liberals aren't extremists like their fundamentalist counterparts but that doesn't absolve them from this issue. Even liberals make patronizing (if not condescending) statements like "they just haven't found god" or "they know in their hearts that there is a god".

This isn't a declaration of a holy war. While vocal atheists are frequently stamped with the "militant" label, there is literally nothing militant about us. The only "violence" we do is with words.

Respect is mutual. If the religious can and indeed do make statements like "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God" (on a huge banner outside their church), then too can play that game.

I think religions are wrong.

I think the religious concept of morality is immature and weak.

I think god, as described by certain religions, is unjust if not evil.

I think the evidence points the other way.

I think the good done by religions does not even come close to justifying the bad.

I think you're better than your god.

I shan't just think, I shall speak my mind.

Thou shalt silence me no more.


Quoting Johann Hari,

I respect you too much to respect your ridiculous ideas.

How is this quote relevant to this entry? Here's the context:

One of the notions that society as a whole seems to have accepted is the idea that beliefs should be respected - in particular, religious beliefs. It is generally regarded as somewhat a taboo to criticise, challenge or even just to discuss about religious ideas. When somebody does any of the above, it is regarded as distasteful, insensitive or just plain rude

In summary, it seems that, in the minds of the religious majority, mere criticism or discussion of religious beliefs is deemed "disrespectful". This is unusual. To paraphrase Douglas Adams (listen to the quote at the 9 minute mark in this video), it seems perfectly normal to argue about preferences of computer operating systems, about the virtues of one economic system over another, about particular political ideologies but somehow it's "disrespectful" when the same amount of respect is afforded to religious ideas.

One of the most common justification I come up against is this: in order to respect someone, we avoid criticising his/her beliefs because we respect the person who holds them.

I beg differ. I think that's an invalid justification. There's a few points that could be made (I can think of two others) but I wish to push this point forward - the one could be summarised with the quote mentioned at the beginning of this entry. And I think it's not made explicitly often enough.

I "disrespect" your beliefs precisely because I respect you as a person.

I "disrespect" your beliefs (ie, to criticise, challenge or discuss about them) because I
  • respect your intellectual abilities that you can understand the arguments I'm putting forth to you.
  • respect your integrity that you would want to be honest with others and with yourself.
  • respect your independence and personhood that you are reasonable to be reasoned with.
  • respect your right to knowledge and welfare that you should benefit from what I know.
That's assuming that I'm correct. If I am wrong, I
  • respect your abilities to defend your perspectives (why else would a discussion be worth having anyways).
  • respect that you care enough for your fellow human to explain why your position is more correct.
I place respect for the person over and above respect for his/her beliefs. The very idea that I bother to engage in the discussion/debate demonstrates this. If I do not think that you are smart enough, reasonable enough, mature enough, I wouldn't be bothered to be engaged in the discussion in the first place.

If you weren't the independent thinking human being that I think you are, I wouldn't bother even to begin "disrespecting" your beliefs.

In fact, I don't see the need to talk of respecting or disrespecting beliefs. It is the free market of ideas that enabled progress in our modern society. We place every belief/idea under scrutiny - and they stand or fall based on their own merits.

From this perspective, it is even more unusual to talk of "respect" for beliefs. If a belief has its own merits, it would stand without any need for special respect. So where's the point? Unless one already realizes that the belief is indefensible, why the demand for special respect? And if the belief is indefensible, isn't it a matter of vocabulary to use the adjective ridiculous? To take it even further, why bother having such indefensible beliefs?

Respect? Yes, you're getting some - just not the "special ones".

If atheists went to heaven

Here's Darkmatter2525 interesting video on the entry to heaven.

For those who can't see the point to this comedy, here's darkmatter2525's answer:

This video was about how if the tables were turned, we wouldn't want to see you burned.

That is, the heaven and hell system as described by Christianity is fundamentally unjust.

I made a difference

I often wonder if the things I argue about on the (STOMP) forum would ever make at least some impact to somebody's life. I don't mean literally life altering but at the very least provoke them into thinking about the issues being discussed.

And then, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the following:

Posted by Lucifer78
In fact, I like this type of exchanges in the forum. We can learn a lot on each other stand and strength our own "faith" in our individual stand. I learn more on the bibles from Veekee75 and more on science from Atheozoa (sorta of "converted" into atheist by him =p). It's quite healthy exchanges here as long as we dun flame each other ^^.

Before this particular post, I've already noted his apparent change in the style and content of his recent responses in this thread. But never did I realize that it was partially due to my influence.

I helped. And that matters.

Why immaterial?

I have been thinking. It seems that there is something fundamentally odd (perhaps, just plain wrong) with postulating an immaterial (and supernatural) entity as the creator of the universe.

I'm not exactly sure but the reason for adding such a property goes something like this: The universe (in its current state) is an effect whose cause is traced back to the Big Bang. No matter how science may attempt to explain using natural/material causes, it will eventually run into the problem that the cause must itself have been an effect. Thus it would only just add one more step to the regress.

The solution (in their opinion) is to postulate an immaterial (and/or supernatural, I don't think the distinction matters too much) agent (ie, god) to end the regress. Thus, it is also called the uncaused cause. Other properties that comes along include eternal and intelligent.

But I think it is just odd.

How does postulating an immaterial entity supposed to solve anything?

In fact, couldn't an immaterial cause be itself an immaterial effect and thus be no solution at all?

If the solution lies in the property of being eternal, why can't the cause be material?

Perhaps I'm just missing something and this post is just brain diarrhea.

Logic alone

It has always struck me as a little odd that theists use logical arguments for the existence of their god at all. Although it is notable that those arguments have always been found to be based on faulty logic, that I shan't pursue here. Even if it were granted that those arguments were logically sound, I'd still argue that it is insufficient grounds for belief in the existence of anything at all, let alone god.

Reasoning alone is insufficient - Evidence is another critical criteria that should be fulfilled before belief is reasonably warranted.

A logical argument, if correct, only shows that the entity in question may exist. Emphasis on "may" - It has merely demonstrates that the entity should theoretically be in existence. But it does not demonstrate that existence of the entity itself.

If the logical argument alone, without any evidence in favour of it being presented, is sufficient to warrant belief in the existence of the entity being argued for, how is any different from arguing something into existence (ie, irrational).

Furthermore, in case for the existence of a deity, it does not even inform what sort of properties such an entity has (other than the ones within the argument itself). So this makes even odder when theists jump straight for the conclusion that that god is their god.

Take the cosmological argument for the existence of god for example:
1. Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
2. Nothing finite and contingent can cause itself.
3. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
4. Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.

If you accept the argument to be true (which I don't), it has demonstrates nothing about the existence of any gods.

So, there is a First Cause. So what?
The identity of that First Cause is unknown.
The current state of existence of it is also unknown.
The properties of that agent is also unknown if it is still in existence.
Any attempts to link the First Cause to any specific deity known to humanity is tenuous at best.

The same goes for all the alleged logical arguments for the existence of god.

No evidence.

Stars died for you

We are all literally made of stardust. Isn't that a beautiful thought (fact, rather)? This is because all higher elements are synthesized in stars. When stars explode later in their life, they release all those elements - carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, iron etc. And it is those higher elements that we're eventually made of.

That's Professor Lawrence Krauss in the video by the way.

Stars, the Furnaces of Life. Forget Jesus, the stars died for us.

Science, learning about the true wonders of the universe. Forget petty religions, think science and reason.