By HonestDiscussioner

Religion, Philosophy, Politics, and anything else I'd like to talk about


Sunday, July 29, 2012


I doubt I have to catch you up. Most people have heard by now. In case you missed a few details, however, allow me to relay some of the recent events involving Chick-Fil-A and the "gay agenda" as is sometimes substituted for the phrase "wanting equal rights".

Earlier this month, the President of Chick-Fil-A admitted to a number of things which included more than only being an advocate for heterosexual marriage, but that his company actively gave millions to anti-gay organizations multiple times. This wasn't a surprise to some, but enough people were caught unaware that it created somewhat of an internet firestorm, prompting Jim Henson Company (and their Muppets) to cut ties with Chick-Fil-A, and doing so rather publicly. In turn, some Chick-Fil-A restaurants displayed this message, claiming that a toy Jim Henson toys (ones that passed all safety inspections) was being voluntarily recalled due to kids getting their fingers stuck in them.

This is generally referred to as "lying for Jesus".

It's been public knowledge for quite some time that the southern-based fast food chain is largely Christian, or at least has strong ties to Christianity. They stay closed on Sundays for just that reason. This was an inconvenience to some, but certainly no moral or social issue. Companies can open and close at their own whim for whatever reason they'd like, it's not as though they were forcing other restaurants to close on Sundays. What wasn't known was that the business itself was pushing a social agenda (a very negative social agenda), and using their profits to do so.

As such many people, myself included, are calling for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A. This call has received mixed responses, some quite favorable, and others highly critical. I will be presenting some of the criticisms and responding to them in kind so that people understand, even Christians who may currently support Chick-Fil-A, that it is a good idea to not frequent their stores.

Criticism 1: Can't people have opinions anymore?

The idea behind this is a mix of claiming a boycott unfairly punishes free speech and that it is unfair to hold a company accountable for one person's beliefs.

The former part of the argument completely misunderstands free speech. People are of course free to speak their mind, and the government cannot put them in jail or fine them for it. This is why I don't support Boston mayor Thomas Menino in his attempt to ban Chick-Fil-A restaurants in his city. However the public is free to act according to their beliefs and boycott a company whose actions they disagree with. Free speech is free to all, but not free of consequences. I can dislike you for the things you say, and I can dislike the Chick-Fil-A President for his statements.

This leads us to the second part of the criticism, that it is wrong to punish the whole for the beliefs or actions of one. This I actually whole-heartedly agree with, but it doesn't apply to the boycott. Were it simply the President of the company funding groups, and holding positions I don't like, then I wouldn't be calling for a boycott. I'm not going to delve into the personal lives of every board member of every company whose products I buy. However, if the company decides to take actions, then I can base my buying decisions off of those actions, and such is the case with our chicken selling neighbors to the south. It isn't just the President, but the company itself that donates money to groups that are specifically against what I believe and actively lobby government to prevent people from doing things I personally believe they should be allowed to do. Every dollar I give them increases the chance that they will donate further money towards an agenda that I dislike, so why should I be compelled to ignore that fact?

Criticism #2: Chick-Fil-A doesn't discriminate against homosexuals, so they aren't anti-gay.

Not in their business practice, sure. They will take the money of gay people as easily as anyone else, but they'll use that money to further the cause against them. Is this supposed to be better?

Imagine if there was a restaurant that took a portion of their profits and put it into a group who actively lobbies the Government to ban all Christian prayer, public or private. Yes, such a ban would be a terrible idea and completely unconstitutional, but they are still pushing for it, even going as far as to lobby to amend the constitution to allow such a ban. Would you say that they aren't anti-religious because they will let Christians eat at their restaurants? What if they gave Christians a 10% discount, would that convince you that they aren't anti-Christian? I would hope not. Would you honestly frequent their establishment, especially if you thought that they had a chance at succeeding? I certainly wouldn't, and I'm an atheist who has no need for prayer.

Criticism #3: So you're going to boycott OPEC gas and every other company that is bad to homosexuals?

Well no, not entirely, but this is a clear case of comparing apples and oranges. Overall I do try to avoid gas from the Middle East, but it sometimes can't be avoided. Chick-Fil-A can be avoided, and quite easily. I've actually been avoiding them for quite some time, but for different reasons. A few years ago I saw they were putting Veggie Tales DVD's in their children's meals. Veggie Tales is a children's show that goes over various bible stories with anthropomorphic vegetables playing the characters from the Bible. To my knowledge, there was nothing to indicate to the parents buying the meal that it was religious material without a close examination of it, meaning parents may be unknowingly giving their children religious material.

You may think that's perfectly acceptable, but let me ask you how you'd feel if it was a Muslim company giving children's videos about the Qur'an? Had that been the case, and all other factors were identical, there would have been a firestorm of outrage so large as to make the one about Chick-Fil-A seem like an impolite burp at a tea house, but I digress.

The point is that Chick-Fil-A is easily avoidable, and by advocating that people avoid them we have a chance for them to change their policies and not do harm to innocent people just trying to marry the person they love. It is an opportunity, and with all of the public attention on it, a very good opportunity. You are not required to boycott everything you disagree with on every level, but if you see the opportunity to make a difference, you shouldn't have to be stop because you don't feel you are up to making that difference at every conceivable level.

Could you imagine if we actually held ourselves to that standard? We'd never be able to do anything that wasn't entirely self-serving. Oh, you want to give your friend a ride? So you're going to give all of your friends rides to anywhere they want to go now, even if it's a much more difficult endeavor, right? Well if you're not, then you shouldn't give your friend a ride at all, you're not being very consistent otherwise.

Truth is, this is a live and active battleground. Some states are passing legislation to allow gay marriage while others are passing legislation to ban it. It is important for our social progress to ensure that gay marriage becomes something socially acceptable on a large scale and a legal scale.

Why, you might ask, should that be the case? Perhaps you don't believe that gay marriage should be allowed due to your religious beliefs or some other beliefs?

I challenge you to provide a secular reason why gay people should not be allowed to marry. Something not based in your religion. If all you have is a religious claim, then that claim should only apply to your particular religion. If religion is to be the deciding factor in who gets married, then you must also allow religions that are okay with gay marriage to marry them. Your individual religion doesn't get to dictate what the country does. So either the State can marry gays, or religions that are okay with gay marriage can. Either way, there is absolutely no reason to ban gay marriage overall, other than to control the lives of others in ways that has absolutely no affect on you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gun Violence Means We Need MORE Guns??

Normally I try to give a shout out or some sort of credit during a blog post. I enjoy giving back to those that clue me in on the latest on the internet. This time is different; anyone I shout-out here is going to be the target of the criticism of this post.

In the wake of the tragic shooting of dozens of people during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado, where at least thirteen of those victims lost their life, that last thing I expected to see were arguments for less gun control. Yet on Facebook, I saw a slew of people begin arguing just that, and seemingly blaming liberal anti-gun policies for these tragic deaths. One took a situation in which someone with a concealed carry was able to stop the perpetrator in an armed robbery with no loss of innocent life thanks to his trusty concealed weapon and compared it to the recent Colorado slaughter where no such individual was present.

Let's ignore the fact that these are anecdotes for a moment and ask ourselves . . . so what? Seriously, if we are to follow the logic to its intended conclusion, what actions should we take? Perhaps we should allow for concealed carry in Colorado? If you are reading this, and are a gun advocate, ask yourself if you believe that would improve the situation in Colorado.

I ask this because Colorado already has a concealed carry law. In fact, the only state in all of the U.S. that doesn't allow for concealed carry is Illinois. If anything is clear about this situation, allowing for concealed carry is not an effective prevention measure against gun violence, unless we are to follow only the most favorable anecdotes. If you're really not convinced, I'd be happy to provide my own anecdotes, like the citizen who had a concealed carry that almost shot the retired Army Colonel who had wrestled the Tuscon shooter to the ground. That's right, in case you didn't know, the guy responsible for finally taking down the Tuscon shooter almost got a bullet to the head by someone trying to be a good Samaritan.

Now my example is also an anecdote, so don't think I'm arguing we should base all of our conclusions on that one example. I will point out that, in my research, I couldn't find any examples of "the lone shooter" scenario where the guns were purchased illegally. By "the lone shooter" I mean situations where one or more people go into a crowd and start shooting indiscriminately. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tuscon, and the recent Batman shootings were all done using legally purchased weapons. Certainly, other criminal activity done by professional criminals will likely be performed with illegal weapons, but that's because such criminals have criminal connections, they know where to go. There is no 7-11 convenience store equivalent for illegal gun sales. The type of people plotting such crimes generally lack the social skills to get such connections, which is why I think they all acquired legally purchased weapons.

*Note, check the bottom of this post. If anyone knows of any shooters that purchased black market weapons, leave a comment I will include them at the bottom.

One facebook post, reiterated by my friend good friend Adam McConnell (I shouted someone out after all), pointed to Switzerland as a good example for how we should handle gun laws. In Switzerland, there is compulsory one-year military service for all males once they reach 18 years old, and most if not all own a state-issued rifled that they get mandatory regularly training on. They have a very low level of gun violence in the country. The facebook post I learned this from was mostly accurate, enough that any criticism of its accuracy wouldn't change its overall message.

The problem with this actually resides in one of Adam's defense of low gun restrictions. ". . . given the established gun culture in this country and the extreme lack of broad education on the use of firearms; (mandatory) education on the use (not regulation of legal sale) of firearms should be the rallying cry."

The fact is, we already have a gun culture. Switzerland has had a healthy respect for guns institutionalized with very little tolerance for deviation from the laws respecting them. While most in Switzerland own guns at home, those not currently in service don't get to carry their guns around in public. Only those with a permit can do that, and only those in occupations that require weapons (such as security) can get a hold of that permit. You can go to the shooting range, but only directly, and you can only transport your gun and ammunition separately (i.e. no loaded guns while traveling). In a way, despite the massive amount of gun owners, Switzerland actually has more strict gun ownership laws than the U.S.

Frankly, if we were to institute a policy like the Swiss, I wouldn't be entirely against it. However given our gun culture, even with a significant push for education, it would be slow going to get to a point where the benefits actually outweighed the harms. We're talking decades.

All of this, is really getting away from the point, which is that concealed carry permits are not the answer and lowering the deadliness of the weapons allowed to be legally sold will certain do some good. Such suggestions have traditionally been dismissed out of hand by strawman arguments that equivocates any attempt to control guns as removing them entirely. To that end, I would like to ask gun advocates to consider the following provisions, and to frame the discussion as to whether they should be implemented wholesale, and not whether other more strict laws should be considered. This is what I propose:

• If you own a gun, keep it. That includes any guns that may later be illegal to purchase.
• If you want to carry your gun, open or concealed, get a permit and go right ahead.
• If you want ten guns, go ahead.
• If you want a hunting rifle, go ahead.
• If you want a nuclear weapon, no.
• Now here is the big one: Future legal sale of automatic weapons and extended magazine clips to citizens will no longer be allowed on the Federal level. Perhaps a "shots per minute" rate could be established, where a gun cannot fire more than 120 shots per minute (discounting loading times) in order to be legal.

Now tell me, what is the harm in this? Why can't we do this? What is the harm? I'm not expecting a land invasion of a foreign power anytime soon. And no, it's not because we have so many guns, it's because America is freakin' huge and would be next to impossible for even China to occupy even if our military suddenly vanished. Just look at the problems we have in Afghanistan.

*So far, no one has cited any instances of illegally purchased guns used in a shooting-spree scenario.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Sad State of Christian Apologetics

If you are a believer, let me tell you what I won't be doing here today. I will NOT be arguing that God does not exist. I will not be asking you to abandon your religion. Nothing I say here will is intended by me to lead you to the conclusion that God or gods or the supernatural cannot or does not exist. What I will be doing, is trying to show you the sorry state of affairs in apologetics, specifically Christian apologetics; that while your belief in Jesus or God may be perfectly reasonable given what you personally know and understand, that much of the faith placed in the apologetics community seems ill-placed.

On my friend Shaun's blog polyskeptic that he shares with a number of his partners, he went over some of the mishandling that members of the Christian community were guilty of in regards to the implications of the Higgs-Boson discovery (or incredibly 99.9%+ certainty of said discovery). Since the Higgs-Boson was labeled "The God Particle", many a believer have assumed that the particle is evidence for a god, or even the Christian "God". I agree with Shaun when he rhetorically asks "How can theists claim that a discovery that demystifies a major, previously unanswered, question about the physical world is bad for atheism?"

Despite how off-base such conclusions as the pro-theism God Particle claims are, that's not what I want to talk about. Moreso, it is about the implications of the arguments made in this blog Shaun cited as making that claim.

I can forgive a certain amount of ignorance. I think we all should be aware that many people have reached false beliefs based off of faulty information, and that I am certainly included in that category, and it is likely you are as well. Bad conclusions based off of information (good or bad) however, is a far worse crime, and we find the author guilty of this as well.

Consider the following statements made on the blog in question:

"If you're a Christian, then you're enjoying the Higgs boson news because it only confirms what you've already personally experienced: There is a God and you can have a relationship with Him by believing in Jesus Christ."

Let us assume, for the moment, that the Higgs-Boson particle does indeed point to some sort of supernatural entity. Even if we take that clearly inaccurate statement as fact, why in the world would we assume that it is confirmation of not only Jesus's existence and place as the one and only God, but that belief in him will certainly create and encourage a relationship with him?  While the author prefaces his statement with bible verses that claim Jesus is that which holds the universe together, the discovery of just such a thing in no way implies that it is Jesus that is behind it. Again, even if we assume it is a supernatural force, nothing about the force would imply that it had anything to do with Christianity.  There would have to be SOMETHING that causes things to work the way they do, so what the author does here is set it up so that ANY discovery no matter what it is would confirm Christianity in his eyes.

Ay, there's the rub. When any and ever possible state of affairs will lead you to one single conclusion, when there is absolutely nothing that could happen which would disconfirm your belief, then every justification you have must be called into question. If I argued that a specific sports team was the best, and cited both great victories and crushing defeats as evidence for this belief, would you not be skeptical of my ability to reason? If I said "Wow, did you see how they tied in every single statistic? They really showed they are far superior to their competition!", would you not question whether I knew what I was talking about? I'd say so, and towards that end, I think a similar question should be levied against such apologists of whom see everything as a confirmation of their God, such as the author of this blog.

You may think I am being too harsh, after all I am only citing a single instance. I understand that sentiment, and in a way you are correct. Not every person who argues for the existence of God is like that. Each individual should be measured by their own actions, there is no question in that. This author is, however, far from the only example we can find of such single-minded reasoning. Over and over again, when I read Christian blogs that discuss some new type of evidence, the only thing they can see is how it so obviously confirms their beliefs on the most detailed level, and frankly I find this is indicative of the sad state of affairs in Christian apologetics. The once proud institution that produced the vast majority of western philosophy throughout the middle ages now more closely resembles the political spin we see on the 24 hour networks, where even the greatest defeat or embarrassment is pretended to mean nothing short of total victory for your team.

If there truly is a good amount of reason and evidence for your belief system, you do not need to use such tactics, you can afford to say something doesn't entirely help your case. Nobody sees a tree fall down in a storm and cite that as showing how bad deforestation is.

I submit this to you as a cautionary tale against putting blind faith in people merely because they profess similar beliefs to yours and actively defend them.  Maybe there is a God, and maybe that God is named Jesus Christ, but even if that is true, it doesn't mean that every argument in favor of Jesus is a good one, and promoting bad ones hurts the entire cause, and causes those opposed to the idea to introduce their head to the wall several times over.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How the Native Americans Disprove Christianity

Since this is my first post, it seems right that the subject matter have something to do with a beginning of sorts. Luckily for me, I had just such a topic in mind.

It was almost four years ago that I uploaded my first Youtube video, a three part series (yes, three parts. Remember when Youtube had that pesky 10 minute time limit?) made from my initial writings on religion that I had dubbed "Philosophical Proofs: Paradox of Religion". I covered many topics, but there was one point that I made that I felt was pretty much irrefutable, a bit of our human history that all should look at and say "this makes no sense under Christianity". According to the Bible, God and/or Jesus wants people to know Christianity, wants people to be aware of the supposed truth that the religion preaches.  Reality would seem to contradict this sentiment.

Consider the fact that for well over an entire millennium, Christianity (along with many other religions) was only found in the eastern hemisphere of our planet. For hundreds of generations, those that lived in North and South America had zero contact with Christianity. They had never heard of Jesus, Abraham, or Moses. Never read Genesis, Psalms, or the Gospels. They had relationships with "spirits", but mostly no actual deity like the classical monotheistic or pagan traditions. Basically they were as far away from Christianity as one could expect.

How can anyone reconcile this fact with 1 Timothy 2:3-4: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

If the Christian god exists, it should not be the case that half the world would remain ignorant of his word for so long. He supposedly downloaded the gospels into Paul's brain, and not only did he avoid doing that in the Western hemisphere, but if the Christian god exists he let his loyal followers remain ignorant of the millions of people living on the other side of the world, let them believe that there was an edge they would fall off from if they tried to cross it. Humans had the nautical technology to cross the Atlantic long before Columbus, a mere whisper in someone's ear could have brought the gospels centuries earlier.

I bring this to you now because it was one of the first public points I made against religion, and it is the one that I have received the least amount of response from in these past four years. The best anyone has been able to do is to appeal to a sort of Universalism or in some way argue "God is fair, they aren't going to hell since they didn't know any better". This may help their case, but it misses the main point. It isn't just about who does and does not go to hell, even if there is no such thing as hell, it is about whether we see any evidence of God informing people outside of the reach of Christian missionaries of his one true religion. To my knowledge, we have no instances of this happening.

To further illustrate my point, an analogy: A man with infinite resources and connections writes a book and declares "I want every person in the world to read this book!" but he only prints it in South Sudan and then only in Latin. Would you believe that individual is intelligent, rational, and sincere about his declaration? Unless you can answer "yes" to that question, then you cannot believe that God wants all humans to know his word.