Special Sub-Topic: Let's Ask Some Uncomfortable Questions
|French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal proposed the Pascal Wager, which went something like this:
A person should believe in god because if he does exist then the believer gets an eternal reward. If he doesn't exist then nothing is lost. If a person doesn't believe in god and he does exist then the non-believer gets eternal damnation. If he doesn't exist then nothing is gained and nothing is lost.
Therefore the only positive outcome comes from belief in god.
Where does the fallacy lie in Pascal's argument?|
All of these are fallacies in Pascal's argument (Pascal assumes there is only one god, Pascal assumes gods cannot see through false piety, Pascal states there is no cost to belief). This question was submitted by LillianRock, who describes himself as a faded old hippy living in an earthly paradise in Northern New South Wales.
Blaise Pascal was undoubtedly brilliant with contributions to probability, fluid science, social science and a number of other areas. He was also a man of his time and was under the thrall of the Christian Church. Belief was an ingrained part of everyone's life and, in the unlikely event that someone departed from the conditioning, they would probably suffer for it (often quite horribly).
In "The God Delusion" Dawkins proposes the Anti-Pascal Wager, "Suppose we grant that there is indeed some small chance that God exists. Nevertheless, it could be said that you will lead a better, fuller life if you bet on his not existing, than if you bet on his existing and therefore squander your precious time on worshipping him, sacrificing to him, fighting and dying for him, etc."
Pascal's gambit assumes there is only one god (in his case the Christian God). What about the people who believe in other gods? Belief in the wrong god would bring eternal damnation. Uh oh!
The gambit also assumes an individual can choose to believe. If I really don't believe (in my heart of hearts) but act, speak and behave as if I do, then an omniscient god will see through me in a nanosecond and it's off to an unpleasant place for me.
Pascal's gambit also assumes that there is no cost to belief. At the very least, belief will cost you all that time praying, and very likely other types of sacrifices. At the worst, you could get martyred for your beliefs or burnt at the stake for not believing in the correct way.
|Which famous author said, "All thinking men are atheists"?|
Ernest Hemingway. This came from Parrotman2006 of Racine, Wisconsin. Parrotman is one of the strongest quizzers, not just in Atheist Quizzers but on FT as a whole.
Hemingway (1899-1961) grew disillusioned with religion after his experiences with death and destruction during the First World War. Much of his fiction dealt with cynical characters, often embittered. His most famous works are "A Farewell to Arms" (1929), "The Sun Also Rises" (1926) and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (1940). Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
Hemingway, on his experiences during World War I, said, "I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice... I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except bury it."
Vonnegut and Orwell were atheists as well, and both displayed a cynical attitude towards both religion and government in their works.
Graham Greene described himself as a "Catholic atheist".
|Which one of these actions was *not* banned by the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan?
Beating women with sticks. Another one from Parrotman.
The Taliban, a group of fanatical Islamic fundamentalists, seized control of Afghanistan in a military takeover in 1996. They ruled until they were forced out by US and British military in late 2001. The Taliban severely restricted the rights of Afghan women, turning most of them into virtual prisoners inside their homes. Girls were not allowed to attend school, and most women were prohibited from working. "Taliban" means student.
Many leaders of the Taliban were part of the Mujahadeen, a paramilitary organization created by the CIA to fight against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The Taliban may be the best example in recent memory of the danger of allowing religion to overtake reason. One of their major crimes against humanity was the destruction of the Buddha statues at Bamiyan, which had stood since the sixth century and were a World Heritage Site.
|What is the name of the zoologist who has become the poster boy for the atheist set through his book "The God Delusion"? |
Richard Dawkins. LillianRock suggested this one. He tells us that he would undoubtedly hate Dawkins if he met him face to face but can't argue with his opinions.
Although he has been criticised for being a bit strident about his atheism (or more accurately his anti-theism), Dawkins has supplied a cogent argument for the non-existence of god. The number of personal attacks directed his way is sometimes taken as a measure of the strength of his argument; if you can't beat the argument, attack the man.
Stephen Hawking, an English cosmologist, wrote "A Brief History of Time." He suffers from neuro-muscular dystrophy, which left him paralyzed. As Homer Simpson said as he fell into the wormhole, "I should have listened to that wheelchair guy."
Joseph Ratzinger became the head of the Roman Catholic Church, which is one of the major sects of Christianity, in April 2005.
Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (born Lhamo Döndrub) is the 14th Dalai Lama, leader of Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. (Don't mention his name in China. I did but I think I got away with it.)
|Here is a paradox often invoked when thinking about religion: If Jehovah loves everyone (is benevolent) and knows everything (is omniscient) and can do everything (is omnipotent), why would he have created evil in the first place?
Jehovah would have known, BEFORE he created humanity and Lucifer, that they would turn their backs on him. Because he is benevolent, he would not have created evil people.
What is the commonly accepted name of this paradox?|
The Paradox of Evil. Another one from LillianRock. You just can't keep a good Aussie down.
This paradox is commonly countered by the argument of free will which argues that "If Jehovah created a race of completely obedient beings then we would be mere robots." While this is a good argument in its own right, it completely misses the point of this paradox. Jehovah is held up as being benevolent. How does that align with his creation of evil?
The Paradox of Omnipotence poses the question, "If Jehovah can do anything (i.e. is omnipotent) then can he do something that he can't do? For example, can Jehovah make a stone that he can't lift? If he can't make the stone, then he is not omnipotent. If he can make the stone, then he can't lift it, and is therefore not omnipotent."
The Paradox of Omniscience often involves the question of free will for humans. For instance, Adam and Eve supposedly possessed free will in choosing to eat from the tree of knowledge. An omniscient Jehovah would have known beforehand that they would choose to eat. How can it then be said that they had free will? Extrapolate this thought to the general population and it implies that humans have no free will under an omniscient Jehovah.
|The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible lists the sixth commandment as "Thou shalt not kill." Which of these arguments is often used as a justification for killings performed by Christians?|
"Kill" is a mistranslation. It reads "murder" or "kill unjustly.". This question is from LillianRock again.
Modern linguists suggest that a more accurate translation from the original Hebrew is "Thou shalt not murder" and that murder is taken to mean "to kill unjustly." This puts a whole new complexion on things and, depending on how you define "unjustly", implies that one can get away with burning people at the stake, religious crusades, killing pro-choice doctors, pogroms and all sorts of mayhem so long as it is in the name of Jehovah or justified in some other way.
This one was a real collaborative effort. Everyone had something to add.
We must also remember that the ten commandments are not a Christian monopoly. It is recorded in the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) that they were supposedly handed down to Moses. Jews are therefore bound by the commandments. Jehovah is reported to have killed all of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah either because of their sexual immorality (Genesis, Isaiah, Jude) or their lack of concern for the poor (Ezekiel 16). Apologists sometimes justify this by saying that EVERY single inhabitant of the cities was evil. One might well ask: every one of them, including the children?
Moses is also a prophet of Islam and is known as Musa. Islam holds that the Torah has been corrupted over time and that the truth lies in the Qur'an (Koran). Certain verses in the Qur'an, however, mirror the Ten Commandments.
Qur'an 5:32 translates as "Anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people." How this squares with other passages in the Qur'an, calling for the killing of infidels, is difficult to understand.
|In the United States, religious conservatives have promoted the concept of "Intelligent Design": the idea that man and nature are so complex and wonderful that a hit-and-miss process like evolution could not have produced them. Instead they must be the work of Jehovah. (This is generally a Christian argument.)
However, the dysteleological argument proposes that man and nature contain elements of design so poor that any being with Jehovah's capabilities could have had nothing to do with them.
What is a prime example of this "poor design"?|
The size of the pelvic opening in human females. Here's another one from the rainforest (channelled via LillianRock).
When a human baby is being born, it must pass through an opening in the mother's pelvis. To do this, it must deform, but in some cases the size differential is too great to allow passage of the baby's head. Prior to the development of modern surgical techniques this would have resulted in the death of the mother, the baby or both. Surely an "intelligent designer" would not have made such a blunder.
Humans are not the only animals to use tools. Chimpanzees have been observed using sticks to get at things, birds have been seen to drop hard shelled animals on to rocks to get at the juicy bits, and bottlenose dolphins have been seen sticking sponges on their beaks to protect them while rooting around the ocean floor for food.
Male dogs cock their legs when urinating so they don't get wet. Failure to cock means a dog always has a stomach covered in urine and would therefore be more susceptible to disease than a dry one. Dry dogs father more litters, thus dry dogs dominate and non-cocking dogs die off. As Darwinism in action, this is beautiful in its simplicity.
|In secular terms, what is the difference between an "atheist" and an "antitheist"?|
Atheists do not believe in any god. Anti-theists actively oppose theism.. The whole team batted this one around. One thing about atheists is they find it hard to agree. I guess is something to do with not having a single holy book to refer to and also a complete absence of faith.
Atheism is the absence of belief in any god.
The term "anti-theist" has been documented since the early 19th century. In secular terms it refers to someone who is actively against "theism" in all its forms. An anti-theist will write books, appear on television, write letters to newspapers and even create quizzes.
Christopher Hitchens said, "I'm not even an atheist so much as I am an anti-theist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful."
A person who is unsure whether god exists is an agnostic or sometimes an apatheist.
|Here is the start of a story from Numbers:
A man was discovered picking up sticks on the Sabbath. The people took him to Moses, who said to hold him until he (Moses) could consult with Jehovah.
What did Jehovah tell Moses and his tribe to do?|
Jehovah said, "kill him by bashing him to death with rocks". LillianRock tells us he got this one from his Granny.
According to Numbers 15:35, the "Lord said to Moses, 'The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.'"
This is another example of a "justified" killing that hence does not breach the Ten Commandments. The man's "crime" was not the act of picking up sticks but failing to observe the Sabbath. Well, they certainly cured him of that!
|The Old Testament tells us that Methuselah lived for 969 years. What was his secret?|
Either Jehovah willed it, or it's not meant to be read literally.. This is from BIG_Flicker, an atheist of the Scottish persuasion.
Isn't it strange that the miraculous and supernatural events described in all of the holy books no longer seem to happen? People don't live to be 969 years old, bushes don't burn, god doesn't talk to crowds of people, the dead are not brought back to life, and there is no evidence of angels visiting (with or without golden tablets).
Similar thoughts exist about magic. Many people will tell you that magic abounded until recent times. They will tell you that magic died off as a result in the rise of science. It seems that magic can't survive in a rational environment.
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