Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Atheism on the march... and JW's were pissed. (Part 2)

It seems the Jehovah’s Witnesses are now affected by the "atheist scare" huh? In the latest Awake! (November 2010) they featured some stories about their issue against atheism.

These anti-atheist articles came out last September 2010.

The  first article is saying atheists are in a sort of "crusade". Crusade?

Ah OK...so atheists can't keep their view to themselves, say whom? Ah, those Jehovah's Witnesses who has this tradition of systematic, door-to-door sales pitch. They just love knocking to your gates in a peaceful Saturday morning to give you their magazines and try convincing you that the Jewish God name is "Jehovah."

These Jehovah's Witnesses who is knocking at your doors and doing the sales pitch not the atheists. In addition, what is the issue about atheist books? Why not write a JW best seller? Oh,  I get it, they seem to be having a hard time convincing people that it is a sin to salute to the American flag and to accept blood donations huh? Well...blame Red Cross not us atheists.

Moreover, when did we bully the agnostics? It seems the JW's doesn’t know that atheism and agnosticism can share a bed together. The issue here is, as Christopher Hitchin saw it, is how religion poison everything. This is beyond having a god belief or knowledge.

If a person believes that the gods are beyond human knowledge, then so be it. The only issue the New Atheists have with agnostics is that atheists now have factual evidences on the improbability of god. However, there is nothing wrong being an agnostic. Agnosticism will not make a person ram a jet plane into a building.

Whose Side Do You Think Time Will Vindicate?
The JW article poses two questions:
1.1. Is the belief in a Creator intrinsically harmful?
2.2. Would universal atheism makes for a better world?

Do these questions answer atheistic issues, or are the Jehovah Witnesses barking at the wrong tree? Let us explore them and, separate the fictions from the facts, and please...lets us have some ounces of honesty here.

Now, does believing in a Creator intrinsically harmful? It depends. If a person believes that a certain god ordered his people to refuse blood, thus letting her child die because of lack of blood, we have a problem.

In addition, what is this about “universal atheism?” Atheists are not interested with a so-called “universal atheism.” They just want to satisfy their skepticism towards religious claims. The issue here is not to proselytize atheism,  but free inquiry. When talking about something as “universal,” atheists are more interested on secularization: that church and state should be separated and that political decision should be based on reason rather than revelation.

I was wondering about this write-up on God’s view towards religious atrocities. Reading this gives me an impression; the people at Watch Tower are justifying God’s brutal action against the Canaanites.

In any case, the issue here is religious atrocities.

Besides, what is the difference between the Hebrews and the Canaanites when it comes to child sacrifices? The Hebrews were guilty of the same barbaric practice (See: Exodus 22:29-30 and Judges 11:39). According to Susan Niditch, “While there is considerable controversy about the matter, the consensus over the last decade concludes that child sacrifice was a part of ancient Israelite religion to large segments of Israelite communities of various periods.” (War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence p. 5)

So child sacrifice is only evil to Jehovah when it is done in the name of foreign gods huh?

Going back to the subject. So what are religious atrocities? I define it as violence and killing done in the name of God and the article seems to be skipping the subject altogether.

The next article (A WORLD WITHOUT RELIGION—AN IMPROVEMENT?) deals with the issue of a godless society. Again, the author seems to imply the connection of being morally good and believing in God. There are even pictures of something from Nazi death camps and Pol-Pot’s ‘Killing Fields’ in Cambodia.

Is there a connection?

It seems the article was implying that communism is synonymous with atheism. The JW article was quite misinformed on the issue. The crime committed by Pol-Pot has nothing to do with theological debates. The “Killing Fields” was about politics and ethnic cleansing, not atheistic.

So let us answer the question, is a society without religion an improvement? Oheh wait a minute there folks! This is a little bit of a tricky question. It seems the people at Watch Tower are ignorant to the fact that religion is not synonymous with god – belief. Maybe the better question is “if a society without a belief in a personal God an improvement?”

Well… we can study the statistics of a secular nation like Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. Now these nations do have religion, yet they seem to be too secular to bring God in their everyday issues. Happy, successful and almost crime-free even if these countries do not care what Jehovah has to say.

Zuckerman, Phil. "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns", chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism , ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK (2005).

Religion is not the only reason why people kill other people… I agree, but it is “the reason” why a religious fanatic will blow himself together with innocent civilians as ordered by his “Holy Scripture.” As what Baise Pascal has already said, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction” and as Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg observed, “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.”

Religion can impose a certain action in which believers think of it as a duty the pious has to perform in order to please their gods. That is why good Christians blow-up abortion clinics, good Muslims can destroy and vandalized national heritage sites (like what the Taliban did to the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan) and good God believing families can attack and kill AFT agents (like what happened in Waco, Texas).

Morality Requires God

Does atheism mean relative morality as what Law Professor Philip Johnson (who is he?) says? Well, according to this certain Mr. Johnson, “No God means no accountability to a divine authority, as well as no objective values which we are obligated to respect, morality thus becomes relative, with each person determining his own standards-if he chooses to have any.”

Now, it seems this Johnson fellow thinks that the standard of morality can only come from divine authority. That is not true. Before humans have invented religion, we already have a standard source of ethicsif not our ancestors may have already killed each other. Such a standard is significant in the formation of a working society.

Not every atheist on this planet believed in a relative morality. Good examples are Paul Kurtz, Michael Martin and Wielenberg. Others say that the structure of moral theory is objective, yet its practice requires an input of subjective values (Steele 2008).

Yet by looking at it, the view that “morality” is objective seems to suggest that what is right or wrong can be ascertained by purely factual investigation, and if that is true, that would imply that a divine authority is no help in determining what’s right and what’s wrong.

Now the problem with Philip Johnson’s accountability to a divine authority is that he knew that God is all-good by a standard of God’s own decree thus making mortality arbitrary.

To convince their readers that belief in a god is somewhat scientific,  they have to place a certain celebrity – a guy who converted from being an atheist then converting to something else. Therefore, what is the best person to use? Why THEN, it is ex-atheist Anthony Flew (applause! applause!)

According to the article, Flew was convinced that there is a God because of science. What? Well… he was convinced that the universe, the law of nature, and life itself could not have arisen merely by chance. That is according to the JW article, but not from Flew himself.

The obvious reason why Flew headed in that direction is that he was a philosopher and not a scientist. Because of his ignorance with chemistry, physics, and biology, Flew was convinced by the so-called irreducible complexity. This has nothing to do with science. (See: Flew’s Flawed Science – Victor J. Stenger February/March 2005 Free Inquiry Vol. 25 No. 2)

The JW article is implying that an intelligent first cause was the start of everything. Intelligent… that means it is a person perhaps. According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses booklet entitled “Is The Bible really the word of God?” (Watch Tower Bible 1969) on page 17, “Interestingly, there seems to be one point on which most modern scientists agree following Einstein’s equation, the hold that just as matter can be converted into energy, so energy can be converted into matter. If this is so, it would mean that an Intelligent Source of tremendous energy would have no problem in producing a material universe… the Bible speaks of that One as Jehovah God.”

OK, so all the energy in the universe came from an outside source, which is a god-person, called Jehovah, right? Yet the JW article did not explain to us what the proofs that this Jehovah was the source. It can be many things. In addition, the Law of the conversation of mass-energy simply state that mass and energy cannot be created nor destroyed and the total energy in the universe is constant. That means energy can become mass (matter) and vice versa yet the total energy in the universe remains the dame. It is fixed.

If there is a so-called “source” outside the Universe, then that means, there will be an increase of the amount of energy every time the “source” released it, but that will contradict the laws of physics and… oh wait, the Intelligent First Cause can break any physical constraints in nature by making a miracle. Yeah, right… good science indeed!

It is quite amusing for a Cambridge professor to appeal to his ignorance on the subject of evolution. Anyway, the JW article seems to fail to mention what are those “many ways” in which life can fail to evolve in a complex and hostile environment. Since this Awake! article didn’t mention them, we may look at what the Jehovah’s Witnesses believed in.

The Jehovah Witnesses believe that the 6 days in Genesis mean a thousand years per “day” (based on Psalms 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8) They are even that specific to say that each “day” was 7,000 years in length. This is known as the Concordist Interpretation and its first proponent was Hugh Miller (1869).

The real reason for this is to reconcile science with their doctrine. How is that possible? Since geology has been proving the fallacy of a 6000-year-old Earth, the Jehovah’s Witnesses took this interpretation so that it can settle Genesis with recent scientific discoveries.

Yet even with this interpretation of the scriptures, they must explain to their readers the following problems:
1. Did planet Earth come first before the stars, the moon, and the Sun? Reading Genesis 1, we see that the Earth came first and other heavenly bodies followed on the fourth (or should I say, after 28,000 years) day.
2. Vegetations came first before the Sun, so did the green plants survive even without sunlight for 7,000 years? According to one of their booklets, plant life survived on planet Earth through “lightless photosynthesis” – for 7000 years?

Who’s Blind?
What does “blind chance” have to do with atheism?
If Jehovah does not exist, does it follow that everything existed because of chance?

Contrary to the Jehovah Witnesses suggestion, there are many options.

Bear in mind that the questions of existence are answered by “the best guesses” we can come up. We can assume that a supernatural, intelligent being named Jehovah created the material universe or we can assume that a natural event formed it. However, a natural explanation of cosmology is not blind chance as renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.” He also added, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”

Is the First Cause Intelligent?
In the Awake! article, the First Cause is brought up on the issue of the origin of the universe and the evolution of life on Earth. Now, is First Cause a good argument to prove that Jehovah exists? Is it good science?

Ok, according to this argument:
1. Everything that exists has a cause
2. There is no infinite regression of causes; therefore there is an uncaused cause (a First Cause).
3. This First Cause is Jehovah.

Notice that the First Cause argument does not really answer the question. Why is the “First Cause” Jehovah? What is the explanation for that? That is not scientific. In fact, it only reflects the ignorance on scientific methodology.

True science requires explanations. As philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) has pointed out that what we assume to be the first cause may just as well be due to the ignorance of the cause and explanation of an event. It is a flaw of utilizing a principle beyond its valid range of application. The same issue was deeply expounded by Bertrand Russell in a debate with Father Copleston. According to Russell, the contingency argument rest in the misconception of what an explanation is and does and what makes it intelligible.

It is not surprising for the Jehovah Witnesses to use quotations from the Australian molecular biologist Michael Denton to discredit evolution. Dr. Denton was an influential proponent of Intelligent Design and was a former Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, the hub of the Intelligent Design movement. So that is self-serving huh?

They also forgot to say that Dr. Denton is known on recanting his own words. In his second book “Nature’s Destiny ”, Denton took back his earlier anti-evolutionary stand. He now believes that the Fine Tuning argument does not only imply cosmological evolution, but it also implies biological evolution (I wonder why the Watch Tower did not quote from Dr. Denton’s new book?).

The issue here is not faith but about natural or supernatural origin. Did the natural universe start to exist via natural method or with a help from a supernatural being named Jehovah? Maybe the Awake! article has a lot more to explain.

New scientific discoveries by prominent physicists and cosmologists are pointing to a direction that a natural origin of the universe is plausible. (For more discussion of the subject (see: Atkatz, David and Pagels, Heinz. "Origin of the Universe as a Quantum Tunneling Event," in Physical Review D, 25 (1982), pp.2065-2073. ... "Birth of Inflationary Universes," in Physical Review D, 27(1983), pp. 2848-2855).

So after reading the whole magazine...well...where's the beef? Where is the refutation against atheism? Oh I know...it is invisible to human eyes...

I thought so.

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