Sunday, October 10, 2010

God Needs a Quality Control Department

Outspoken skeptics are often criticized for mocking the beliefs of the religious, belittling that which is held sacred, blaspheming their supernatural being (or beings). What the religious never seem to realize is that their own apologists treat their beliefs, their sacred items and activities, and their god (or gods) with far more contempt than any irreligious person ever could. Consider all the religious people who, speaking publicly on behalf of their god, lie, dissemble, ignore the facts, present appallingly faulty and inconsistent reasoning in support of their arguments, and when shown to be flatly and utterly incorrect, abandon reason altogether and claim that the irreligious will never understand because we lack spiritual discernment, or because we have not felt the power of god in our hearts, or the most childish non-argument I've ever heard, because we just want to go on sinning.

Here I'll review a debate between a Jesusianismist and a Muhammadanismist concerning which of the two religions' mutually incompatible doctrines of salvation is true. On the side of Jesus is Doctor William Lane Craig, a prominent Jesusianismist apologist, who in spite of having multiple graduate degrees and at least two Ph. D.'s, is a fellow of both the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design. If that is not a clear sign that getting degrees in theology is a waste of time, I don't know what is. On the side of Muhammad is Shabir Ally, president of the Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International in Toronto, who also has a few useless religion-oriented degrees.

Throughout the debate, both speakers make various assertions of fact without providing any sort of support at all, apparently assuming that the entire audience simply agrees with them. As I will show, some of these statements are just too preposterous to be accepted without some sort of defense. Also, both speakers make numerous egregious mistakes of reasoning that go absolutely unchallenged by anyone. These unsupported assertions and flawed arguments cannot stand, and any claims based on them must be rejected pending better support.

Dr. Craig's Opening Statements

God must be the greatest conceivable being.

Where does this notion come from? Is it based on knowledge, observation, experiment? No. It’s an assertion, based on nothing. Some may say that it’s based on centuries of theological investigation. Exactly; just as I said, it’s based on nothing. How can theology be considered viable when its students do more diverging than converging? This is how we know that science is right: when everyone performs the experiment the same way, they all get the same answer. But consider two hypothetical religious people: first, a Jesusianismist who seeks god with all his heart, fasting, praying, humbling himself, sincerely and confidently believing that he has a rich, personal relationship with the Supreme Being of the universe, and concludes that Jesusianismistism is the way of salvation; second, a Mohammedanismist who seeks god with all his heart, fasting, praying, humbling himself, sincerely and confidently believing that he has a rich, personal relationship with the Supreme Being of the universe, and concludes that Muhammadanismistism is the way of salvation. The fact that there are millions of such Jesusianismists, and millions of such Muhammadanismists proves one of two things: either all religion is utter bullshit, demonstrated by the fact that sincere students of it do not generally converge on the most important concepts, or Yahweh is real and it intends to throw at least one of these sets of millions of people, who seek it with all their hearts, fasting, praying, humbling themselves, sincerely and confidently believing that they have a rich, personal relationship with it, into everlasting torment. My best guess is that Yahweh intends to throw all of us into hell, given that it has (deliberately, because Yahweh doesn’t make mistakes) made its message of salvation impossible to decipher, even for those who work desperately to understand it.

Because god is the greatest, then it must be all-loving, because it's obviously morally better to be loving rather than unloving.

I'll grant you, with no argument whatsoever, that its is morally better to be loving than to be unloving. I'll even grant your assertion that your claim obvious, with only a bit of a raised eyebrow. Not because I find it non-obvious, but because this is just sloppy debating. Support your claims. You spend an awful lot of time unnecessarily quoting the bible; you could have used that time explaining the philosophical and ethical foundation of your claim. Still, to avoid getting bogged down, I'll grant you this claim. What I can't grant is that it is equally obvious that it is morally better for hell to exist than for it not to exist. Or morally better for mostly decent people who reject this disgusting god to burn for eternity than for them not to burn for eternity. Or morally better to drown, immolate, starve, and put to the sword countless innocent babies, toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers, young men, young women, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, than not to do so. If we can rely on what's obviously morally better, then Dr Craig has handily proved either that his god doesn't exist, or that it is incalculably evil.

What would you think of a parent who said to his kids, “If you live up to my standards and do as I say, then I will love you”? You who have such parents know the emotional scars you bear as a result.

Dr. Craig is repeating the mistake he made in my last point: making a statement that when applied consistently, rules out any possibility of his god being good. What would you think of a parent who said to his kids, "If you don't buy my fire insurance, I'll torture you brutally while keeping you alive for continued torture for as long as possible"? We'd think that such a parent was evil incarnate, I would expect, or at the very least, psychotic, not fit to be a parent, and in need of treatment.

If god were to allow some sin to go unpunished, it could not be considered just and holy. Every sin must receive its just due, or god’s justice is compromised.

According to the Evangelists Matthew and Mark, Jesus himself said, "With God all things are possible." All things. Except, apparently, "blinking" at sin. Was Jesus merely speaking metaphorically here? If he was, then what other things are not possible, even with god? Dr. Craig seriously undermines the credibility of the bible as a life-instruction manual, if we can't even take Jesus' factual assertions as such. As though the bible needed any help in undermining its own credibility.

The Islamic doctrine of salvation makes salvation virtually unobtainable.

Dr Craig is implying that the impossibility of receiving salvation means that that particular doctrine of salvation must be invalid. Applying this principle consistently, I find that the Jesusianismist doctrine of salvation makes salvation by just being a decent person actually unobtainable. Therefore, by Dr. Craig's own argument, the Jesusianismist doctrine of salvation cannot be valid.

Shabir's Opening Statements

God's mercy will be given only to those who try to be good.

Good according to what standard? The Islamic standard, where it's ok to beat your wife, own slaves, amputate limbs as a punishment for crimes, kill people for abandoning the faith, lie for the purpose of advancing the faith, cut off the clitorises of little girls? Or maybe you mean those who treat their wives and children well, who are honest and open, who fight for the rights of the oppressed, who make YT videos spotlighting the extremely low quality of Jesusianismist and Muhammadanismist apologetics? No thanks, I'd rather not spend eternity with that god; it's contemptible.

“God does not love” doesn’t mean “God does not love.” It means that god is saying something harsh to sinners to get them to repent.

So the Qur'an can be interpreted metaphorically too? Does that perhaps mean that I can be saved by intoning, "There is no god but no god, and Muhammad was epileptic"?

Even human parents sometimes say, shape up or you’re not my son.

This is only slightly more horrible than Dr. Craig's statement about bad parenting. What makes it more horrible is that Shabir seems sincerely to believe that this is perfectly acceptable behavior.

All you have to do for salvation is “believe in god” (Q41:30)

Funny, out of seven translations on the QAC website, only one suggests that all we must do is "remain steadfast to their belief" in order to be eligible for this blessing. One of them cops out entirely and just leaves the Arabic word, "istaqamu". According to the other five translations, we must "remain on a right course," "afterward [be] upright," "stand straight and steadfast," "continue in the right way," "go straight." Shabir, are you suggesting that the Muhammad Sarwar translation of the Qur'an holds a special place among translations? Or are you suggesting that it's ok to use all the translations and for each verse just choose the translation we like best?

Dr. Craig's First Rebuttal

Any doctrine of salvation must be compatible with the essential attributes of god. If incompatible, then it can’t be true because that god can’t exist, because they’re logically incompatible.

Logically incompatible? You mean like the various logical contradictions enumerated by Victor Stenger in his book, "God: The Failed Hypothesis"? Consider:
  1. A Supreme Being by definition cannot be virtuous, as explained by Douglas Walton in his essay on cardinal virtues and divine attributes.
  2. No being can be a fitting object of worship, as explained by James Rachels in his essay, "God And Moral Autonomy".
  3. The problem of evil, as discussed by Martin and Monnier in The Impossibility of God.
  4. Three points explained by Theodore Drange in his essay on incompatible properties: a perfect creator cannot exist, a transcendent being cannot be omnipresent, and a personal being cannot be non-physical.
  5. The paradox of omnipotence, as explained by J. L. Cowen in his essay, "The Paradox of Omnipotence Revisited".
Any doctrine of salvation must be obtainable for a wide number of people; otherwise it’s not really a doctrine of salvation, but a doctrine of condemnation.

I can't figure out for the life of me where Dr. Craig comes up with this one, especially considering that the vast, vast majority of all humans who ever existed will indeed be condemned. This fact is made obvious not only by the fact that Yahweh's followers have split into literally thousands of sects with flatly contradictory doctrines (Dr. Craig's religion vs Shabir's religion, as an obvious example), but also by the words of Jesus himself in various places, such as Matthew 22:14, "...many are invited, but few are chosen." The so-called "good news" of the entire New Testament is indeed, by Dr. Craig's measure, a doctrine of condemnation, not salvation.

Christianity says that it is impossible to make oneself deserving of infinite love.

Ok, so how is it that anyone can make oneself deserving of infinite torture? In fact, according to most Jesusianismists, it seems that we haven't made ourselves deserving, but rather Adam's one transgression in the garden made every one of us deserving of infinite torture. How can that be? Or is Dr. Craig suggesting that we don't actually deserve infinite torture, but it comes to us through Adam just as salvation comes through Christ? So we'll be tortured forever although we don't deserve it. Nice god you have there, Dr. Craig.

Shabir, in his opening statements, had tried a common Muhammadanismist tactic, saying in effect, "Our god is no worse than yours!" Referring to Dr. Craig's point that the Qur'an drills it into our heads that god does not love sinners, Shabir points out Psalm 5:5, which he quotes as saying that god hates evildoers. Dr. Craig's response is that the referenced passage is in the poetic books, and everybody knows you can’t base doctrine on poetic expressions.

This is probably the most egregious error in Dr. Craig's entire presentation--no, let's admit it: the man has multiple degrees in theology and therefore knows better; he is simply lying. Consider the statement that Craig is labeling "doctrine": "god hates evildoers". Now consider these doctrinal points from the New Testament book known as Hebrews:
  1. Jesus is far superior to angels (though why we should care is anyone's guess), 1:1-14
  2. Everything is subject to Jesus, 2:8
  3. Jesus calls his followers "brothers", 2:11
  4. Unbelievers will never enter god's rest, 3:7-19
  5. There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of god, 4:9
  6. Jesus is designated by god to be the high priest for the saved, 5:10
  7. Because of god's oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant, 7:22
  8. God has set aside the old covenant and replaced it with the new one, 10:9-10
"Everybody knows," you say? Obviously, the author of Hebrews didn't know it. Every one of these points of doctrine, some of them clearly foundational to the entire structure of Jesusianismist doctrine, is based on verses from the Psalms, and Dr. Craig knows it. Shame on you for lying, Dr. Craig.

In Dr. Craig's opinion, the fact that god's love must be earned is "morally reprehensible."

Wow, so we get to interpret the bible based on our own morality? Human morality is qualified to pass judgment on religious texts? Well, I have quite a few moral objections to the bible, too many to mention here. Check out all my bible series on my YouTube channel if you're interested. An easy summary of all my videos would go like this: Yahweh itself is morally reprehensible.

Shabir, in his opening statements, had mentioned that the original followers of Jesus were Jews, and their doctrines were far closer to Islam than is Jesusianismistism as it's known today, because early Gentile Jesusianismists, having adopted the heretical Pauline views of Jesus, overpowered and silenced the Jewish sects. Dr. Craig responds by bringing up the book of Hebrews (for which we've already seen Dr. Craig has zero respect, in spite of it being the infallible word of his god), pointing out that it was written not by Paul, but by an unknown, but Jewish, author.

I can't imagine what point he is trying to make here. Paul was a Jewish author too. Is he trying to say that the facts that this author was Jewish and was not Paul suggest that the author was more likely a member of one of the non-Pauline sects? I can't figure out why Dr. Craig, the expert debater, would even bring this up, except, as an expert debater, to draw attention away from the fact that his entire argument is bullshit, that he doesn't even believe in any god, but makes all these public appearances for the money.

Shabir's First Rebuttal

Shabir, with no comment whatsoever, completely abandons his earlier claim that all of the Qur'anic verses saying that god hates sinners were figurative. He switches over to the idea that god is loving in general, and is therefore all-loving, in spite of the fact that it does not love sinners.

Wait a second, what kind of debate is this? You present points that you're willing to concede with no comment at all? Doesn't that suggest that you knew in the first place that the point was worthless, and you were just hoping that Dr. Craig (or at least your audience) would let it slide? This is a terrible way to debate, and it really dishonors the god that you claim to be glorifying.

Shabir tries to explain that god's love is manifested in the way it treats each object of its love. It loves everyone, but it loves the righteous in a "more special way." He points out that even Jesusianismists believe that god will condemn many to hell, that this terrible punishment shows that god cannot possibly love the condemned as much as it loves the saved.

This is perhaps the only good point made by either speaker in the entire debate. This is something that has bothered me about Jesusianismistism for a long time: god "loves" everyone, but treats some unspeakably badly. How can that be called love? There is a serious cognitive dissonance associated with this god. At least Muhammadanismistism is honest: god hates certain people and will punish those whom it hates.

Shabir points out that if Dr. Craig is allowed to say that the Psalms are poetic and therefore open to unbridled interpretation, then Muhammadanismists are surely allowed free reign with the Qur'an, given that the entire thing is written as abstruse Arabic poetry.

Shabir is freely admitting here that all of his points are worthless. He disowns all of them and pulls out this appalling suggestion that the Qur'an can be interpreted however one likes, given that it's all one big poem.

Dr. Craig's Second Rebuttal and Closing Comments

Dr. Craig takes aim at Shabir's earlier statement that "God is loving and merciful." He tears into it by asking a very legitimate question: "What does this mean?" He answers that the meaning is that god's grace is selective and conditional.

Ok, I can agree with Dr. Craig here. But I want to apply this technique to the claim that God loves us all. What does this mean, given that a very tiny percentage of us will escape eternal torment? This is a strange kind of love, at at least the same level of strangeness Dr. Craig is imputing to the love of Shabir's god.

Dr. Craig challenges Shabir to find any verse in the Qur'an that supports Shabir's earlier claim that salvation is easy.

I challenge Dr. Craig to find any verse in the bible that says, "Jesus is god."

Dr. Craig closes with an account of his conversion experience, attempting to use the fact that it was very moving for him as an indication of the validity of his interpretation of it.

It makes no sense at all to attempt to connect the profundity of an experience with the validity of one's interpretation of the experience. Sure, it was profound; that's great. But how can that possibly prove that you're right when you say that it was god causing you to have that experience? It can't. All you can say is that you had a profound experience.

So let me tell you about a profound experience I had once. I met this woman years ago. I fell madly in love with her. When she told me that she loved me, I started to love myself for the first time in my life. I started to feel like I was more than just some contemptible piece of shit in the gutter. My life took on meaning, purpose, direction, because of her love. That experience lasted for about 18 months, longer than the ecstasy I've ever seen in any Jesusianismist, until she left me for reasons I still don't understand (that is, she is quite mysterious, just like your god). Shall I say that she is god? Shall I claim that the depth of that experience is proof of the validity of any baseless claim I choose to make?

God, if you're out there, I strongly recommend that you institute a quality assurance department, because these bozos are really making you look bad.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Allah The Unit And Muhammad The Tool III: Deity Dementia Is Not Pretty

Continuing my exploration of the Qur'an, the life of Muhammad, and the invention of Muhammadanismistism.

On the Oxford Islamic Studies Online website, there is a Numerical and Chronological List of the Chapters of the Qur'an, which shows the probable chronological order of the Quranic Surahs according to two different authorities: the Cairo Edition of the Qur'an, first printed in 1924, and the German scholar Theodor Nöldeke, whose history of the Qur'an earned the 1859 prize of the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, that is, the Academy of Stuff That's Written Pretty Well. Using this chart, I conclude that it makes the most sense to consider Sura 74, "Al-mudathir," or in English, "The Cloaked One," to be the second communique from Allah to Muhammad.

Al's presence always makes Mo nervous, so early on Mo adopts the practice of hiding under a blanket or a cloak, or the like. Al has X-ray vision, of course, borrowed from Superman for the day. Seeing Mo, it calls out, "You there, under the blankets! Get your ass up and start preaching! Because I'm so great and wonderful, I'm going to give you something great and wonderful to preach to your fellows, who are starving for spiritual guidance. Ready? Tell them this:" There's an awkward silence; Al realizes that it has forgotten to bring the talking points that the Archrodent Gerbil wrote down the day before. Al, against Gerbil's earlier advice, decides to extemporize. "Spend a lot of your time telling me how great I am. Wash your clothes, cos you stink like a camel's butt. Run away from all sin and defilement..."

At this point, Mo interrupts, "Excuse me, O Great One, what kind of sin and defilement do you have in mind? Should we stop having sex with little girls, who, now that I think of it, seem really to hate it, or should we stop having same-sex fun with consenting and willing adults?"

"Quiet, you!" says the Almighty. "No interruptions allowed. Keep writing this down." Mo starts to object that he wasn't writing anything in the first place, but then he remembers the treatment he got the last time he tried to point out his illiteracy, and decides to keep his peace. Fortunately, Al's X-ray vision is intermittent, so it does not seem to have noticed that Mo isn't writing anything. Al continues, "Stop this contemptible practice of feigning generosity out of a desire to gain materially for yourself. It really pisses me off when you slimy little bastards do that. In fact, almost nothing pisses me off more..."

Mo takes another chance: "But Lord, do you not detest far more the institution of slavery? Shall I not first preach abolition?"

"Don't make me come over there! No more interruptions! You made me lose my train of thought." Allah begins mumbling to itself, "What was I about to say, something about slavery? Damn, now I'll never get it back. Might as well say something that sounds meaningful; what was it I read on that Hallmark card yesterday? Oh yeah, be patient, because being patient is good and it makes me happy. Wow, that sounded way more lame than I expected when I said it out loud. I'd better try to save face, or this human will think I'm an idiot. How about this, I have nineteen angels at my command! Remember that, cos there's gonna be a test later! Hmm, did I forget my medication today?"

Embarrassed, hoping to draw attention away from these ridiculous mutterings, Allah bitches for a while about how people are ungrateful, asking for Mercedes Benzes and such, even after it made their lives easy by providing almost enough food some of the time. It meditates grotesquely for quite some time on the pleasure of torturing people who haven't kissed its ass thoroughly enough. Like  But fear not, there are a couple of bright spots before the end:
  • Ayahs 31 and 56: A reminder that Allah is none other than the Yahweh of the Old Testament: it's not up to us whether we're good or bad. We can't be good unless Allah-weh lets us be good. Note that it enabled Mo to be good by having angels remove his heart and wash it free of sin. Lucky guy. I say we sinners will get the last laugh; putting up with Allah-weh for eternity seems to me more hellish than the actual hell.
  • Ayahs 41 - 44: All those atheismists in the world who ran around thinking that it was good to give to charity, boy were you ever fooled. If you didn't pray to Allah, if you denied the day of judgment, then forget it. Your charity was a waste of time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Allah The Unit And Muhammad The Tool II: A-abrogation, B-boa, C-chronology

Continuing my exploration of the Qur'an, the life of Muhammad, and the invention of Muhammadanismistism.

Given the heightened visibility of Muhammadanismistism lately, you probably know more about it than you ever have, and don't need me to remind you of the basics. But the point I will make here is important; it has significant application to everything I'll discuss in this series, so bear with me for just a minute.

The Qur'an, as most people, believers and infidels alike, know it, is presented in a rather strange order. Although it purports to be the very words of the Supreme Being as revealed to Muhammad over a period of a couple of decades, most versions appear not in chronological order, but sorted, roughly, from longest to shortest. One might think that if these were the eternal, unchanging words of a transcendent being that wishes peace and salvation for us all, the order might be irrelevant. Your mother might say to you, "Wash your hands before you eat," and later, "Wear a coat when it's cold outside." You could reverse the order and still be assured that Mom cares for you deeply. Not so with the Qur'an, which, by its own admission, flatly contradicts itself in places. What are we to make of these contradictions? Are we to conclude that this message cannot possibly be from the Supreme Being of the universe? No. Surah 2, Ayah 106 says,
Such of [My] revelations as [I] abrogate or cause to be forgotten, [I] bring one better or the like thereof.
In other words, if the Qur'an contradicts itself, we are to ignore the earlier revelation and heed the later one. This concept alone is enough to make me see that Muhammadanismistism is a complete crock of shit--I'm not keen on a creature that claims to be omniscient changing its mind. At the very least, it could have said something like, "Do it this way for now, due to these mitigating circumstances, but here also is a more general rule." Just like Jesusianismistism, Muhammadanismistism disqualifies itself fundamentally from the very beginning. But I'll continue this series, because there are a billion people out there who somehow have no problem with an omniscient being changing the rules periodically. And billions of people can't be wrong, can they? I mean, those billions of people who believed that the entire universe rotates around the earth, they were right, right?

Another point to be made here is that there is some disagreement over the exact order in which Allah supposedly revealed these timeless truths to Muhammad. It's not clear to me yet whether this causes doctrinal problems, but I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for that sort of thing. As I said in my previous post, the very first revelation to Muhammad now resides in Surah 96, Ayahs 1 - 5. I've still not had any luck in determining exactly when Muhammad received the last 14 Ayahs. I'm hoping to get the attention of some Muhammadanismist with this series, one who'll tell me what a dumbass I am for not knowing these things, one who'll call me on any bullshit I happen to proclaim. I'm tempted to make a couple of deliberately false claims, just to see if any Muhammadanismists are out there watching and paying attention, but I'm sure that even without making such an effort I'll goof here and there, giving ample opportunity for any alert detractors to accuse me of lying, or at least being stupid.

There are some who say that Surah 68, "The Pen," was the next revelation after the initial visit from Python the Archreptile. There are others who say that it was not "The Pen," but rather Surah 74, "The Cloaked One." Some say that immediately after the anaconda attack on Mount Hira, Muhammad ran home in a panic and covered himself with a cloak or a blanket and received "The Cloaked One." Others say that there was an interval of six months between the constrictor party and the revelation of "The Cloaked One." We must hope that there aren't any doctrinal issues tangled up in all this disagreement.

In closing, some thoughts concerning the treatment of women under Muhammadanismistism. I note that Khadijah, Mo's first wife, was a highly respected business owner, prosperous and independent. It was not uncommon for men to come to her, asking for work. They recognized her right to hire and fire. Also, Khadijah proposed to Mo, not the other way around, and Mo accepted her proposal. Author Emerick says that before Mo, women were property, generally mistreated. Author Glubb says that pre-Mo women were free and unveiled, that young widows could live alone and receive suitors at will, that there were powerful women in the community, including prophets, as well as poets who pitted their skills against the men in poetry competitions that were held during the annual fairs in the vicinity of Mecca. In spite of this disagreement, there seems to be consensus on Khadijah's standing in the community. I would love it if someone could show me that there are many modern-day Khadijahs in the Mohammedanismist world. In fact, here's a silly game for you: I'm getting some ideas for a new tune; the first person who can convince me that it's not uncommon for Muhammadanismist women to be independent business owners who are allowed to propose marriage, I'll let you name the tune. Whatever name you want. Alternatively, if you can't find a way to convince me of that, inflate my narcissism by telling me how my recent wicked witch joke made you laugh until you cried.