Friday, December 30, 2011

Richard Dawkins: on discrimination against his atheist religion - YouTube

Richard Dawkins
Cover of Richard Dawkins
I just heard that Richard Dawkins feels like he was discriminated against on the basis of religion in Michigan because a Country Club where he was supposed to be doing a book signing,Magic of Reality, canceled the event because he is an atheist. Wait: Can an atheist can cry "religious intolerance" if atheism is not a religion? Uhhhhh....shelving that for a moment, take a look at a news report on the fiasco at the following link.

Michigan Country Club Reportedly Cancels Richard Dawkins Appearance Following Fox Interview
Here is the interview of Dawkins by Bill O'Reilly which Dawkins clearly blames for his being rejected by the Country Club.

Unfortunately, Bill O'Reilly attitude and rhetoric makes Dawkins seem sympathetic because O'Reilly is so undesirable and even wrong about a great deal of things. Although I think Dr Dawkins' worldview is wrong, it's just as wrong to cancel his book signing no matter how stupid some of his ideas are of he indeed have a contract. Watch Marinano Grinbank's video commentary on this:

Richard Dawkins: on discrimination against his atheist religion - YouTube Religion - US Michigan Country Club Reportedly Cancels Richard Dawkins Appearance Following Fox Interview
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Biblical Condemnation of Rape and other Acts of Misogyny Part 2

Mark, you provided detailed comments and I think that they deserve a well-reasoned response that does not adequately fit in a comment box. So I'm putting my response into a new post. My responses are in red.font with the same rules as the previous post. To all those who may be reading this, this is the a continuation of line of conversation. Feel free to read the links that come before this post.

Atheism and Rape - YouTube
Biblical Condemnation of Rape and other Acts of Misogyny
I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into your answer, even though I disagree with much. Like an Eskimo meeting a Zulu, it may be hard to appreciate each other’s position, but hey, a culture clash is always mutually educational.

I agree that such exchanges are very educational and helpful. I especially appreciate Mark's attitude. 
I  appreciate the conversation and the way Mark has conducted himself. No ad hominem to be found. I can appreciate that he does not  toss insults instead of why he disagrees. A lot of people could learn a lot from him, although I too disagree with much of what he has written.

I think that in order to say that FGM is objectively immoral (as opposed to subjectively immoral), you have to unambiguously show that God prohibits it. Other wise you’re just saying that if God is silent on an issue that I disapprove of, then he forbids it, and if he is silent on an issue that I approve of, then he approves it. In other words; subjective morality!. Like you say pointing out that God does not mention FGM does not equate with saying it is right - it just means that you have no objective basis for saying that is wrong.

I disagree that we don't have any way of knowing what God thinks of  female circumcision (aka FGM) because the Bible tells us that only males were supposed to circumcised. I'm dismayed that during the course of his follow-up comments, Mark did not explain why Genesis 18 and Romans 4 do not address the purpose of circumcision. I argued that it has no way of condoning female circumcision and excludes it as a way to honor God - no, more than that. It's against God's character making it immoral.

The background is this: Apologist William Lane Craig stated that atheists don’t have objective morals, which is quite a ballsy claim.

That's not what he argues. He argues that they can't consistently explain where those moral values come from. Please listen the following lecture so that you can hear what Dr Craig actually says:
Is God Necessary for Morality? by William Lane Craig - Apologetics 315

He reasons that “objective morals are morals that are valid and binding independent of human opinion” and “god’s moral nature is expressed in relation to us in form of divine commandments which constitute moral duties”. So in other words, there is no role at all for human interpretation of the bible, because then it is not “independent of human opinion”.

I disagree. If we don't understand what the Bible is saying then we don't know what the divine commandments are. For example, how do your children  follow the rules you set, if they do not understand those rules. We know what the Bible says. It's clear. It's when you want to apply your own opinions and not just obey what you know it says is when we have issues.  For example, how many ways can you interpret "Do not steal."? How does your opinion affect the meaning of that commandment? There is no reason why it should. We choose to obey God or we choose to sin. I don't think the Bible requires opinion to understand what God means. If you get stopped by a police officer for speeding, does your opinion matter as to whether or not you get the ticket?  Nope. Why should divine commandments be different.

So, like me, you may feel strongly that FGM should be immoral. However, by WLC’s reasoning, you need “a divine commandment” that is “independent of human opinion” to say that FGM is immoral, and the bible doesn’t give you that.

Yes it does. If you are not a male descendant of Abraham, you don't have to be circumcised. If you are forced to be circumcised and told that it's in service to God, then you have been lied to. Immoral! End of story.

By WLC’s definition, nothing that is not explicitly permitted or forbidden in the bible has an objective moral basis.

I would like to see Mark or anyone provide such a statement from Dr, William Lane Craig. 

So your reasoning that FGM is immoral becomes as subjective as an atheist’s, no matter how strongly you feel it. And it’s not just FGM that has no “biblical” objective basis, but also environmental protection, organ transplantation, IVF and age of sexual consent.

So Mark admits that an atheist has not objective basis for condemning female circumcision other than his own subjective opinion. Right? As for the Christian Theist, I managed to demonstrate that the Bible does condemn female circumcision. And as for environmental protection, who says it's immoral? As for what God thinks about it, read Genesis 1:28

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 

"Rule" includes to protecting and taking care of the earth. Who says organs transplantation is immoral? The Bible doesn't. And as for the age of sexual consent, the Bible tells us that a person should not be having sex until they are married. Our society has flipped that and has tried to change that and that is one reason why western ciivilization is in the state it is in. Imagine what would the world would be like if people stuck to their own spouse and married with the intent of raising any children that resulted? No need for abortions or divorce or any of the unpleasantness dragging our world.down straight to hell.

In my opinion, the value of a moral system is determined by its aim. The aim of biblical objective morality is to maximize obedience.

Who says that? Where in the Bible does it say that? I mean I agree that many churches are ran that way, but that's not what the Bible says. 

40 Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.- Deuteronomy 4:40

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.- Jeremiah 29:11

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.- John 10:10

And there are many other scriptures which can be brought to bear here.

However, the aim of secular humanism’s morality is to maximize community health and happiness. Now that’s a moral system that is useful!

I agree with Dr. William Lane Craig that without God, there is no way to maximize community health and happiness. Truth is the fact that society has wised up in some ways - more fairness to women for example - but that's not going against God but better aligning ourselves with God, but falling away in others.

Just to go through the examples of misogyny that I quoted, I think you are using special pleading to avoid their nasty implications. I feel like the guy in that Monty Python skit trying to return a dead parrot – what’s in plain view is not being recognized.

I disagree. Since Mark has been kind enough to defend his examples of misogyny - and not just assert it, let's jump in.

1) Calling a woman unclean for a normal bodily function is certainly misogynistic. Did the men have to be kept isolated if they cut themselves and bled? There’s a vicious double standard at work. Telling women that their periods make them impure and unclean, and ostracizing them for weeks would damage anyone’s self-esteem. Have a moment’s pity for the poor girls with menorrhagia, whose periods can last up to three weeks. They would have spent almost all their adult life alone

I wonder if Mark is aware of all laws regarding how men can become ceremonially unclean? Just read Leviticus. Ceremonial uncleanness is about the right to take part in religious ceremonies. The reason for putting menstruating women outside the camp (and not into the wilderness) was for sanitation. They didn't have the same level of cleanliness we do today. I also don't think that we can say that this applied to when they lived in cities but when they were wandering around for 40 years. I also would ask if Mark, or anyone, could show the rate of menorrhagia among Hebrew women during that time? I mean if God keep their shoes from wearing out, and miraculously feed them manna and quail, I think keeping the women from getting menorrhagia would be minor thing.

2) I’m sure that Isaiah 3:16 doesn’t refer to all women – just the ones whose spirit hasn’t been beaten down. A woman with self-confidence? Who, God forbid, dares to flirt? Or wear accessories? Burn her, I say!! (In this case God was merciful, and gave them scalp lesions. He must have been in a good mood that day).

Isaiah was not saying anything of the sort. The women were not being punished for flirting. Why couldn't they just flirt with their husbands? No where are women told not to love themselves but are told to put their confidence in God, just like men are supposed to do. Sorry, Mark, the passage just doesn't say what you said it does. 

3) You seem fond of defending bible verses by saying that economical realities of the time made what seemed cruel an act of mercy. Let’s overlook the fact that economic realities could have easily been changing laws by say, giving women the right to work and to own their own property. Let’s also overlook the fact that even if it was a mercy, women were never given a choice or a say in the matter. No, my issue is that your claim that these were economic realities of the time is false.

I don't know why God didn't just give women the right to vote and own property.  It's not what he chose to do. I think you may forgetting that at the time this law was given, Israel was living in a nomadic existence. No one owned land or property. 

Let’s look at Egypt in the biblical times. Only several hundred kilometers away from Israel, but centuries ahead in terms of treatment of women. Things weren’t perfect, but women could own property, borrow and lend money, attend markets, ask for divorce and make wills. Some women became craftswomen, and received pay equal to men (the Western world still hasn’t caught up to this). They even created female teachers and philosophers (if you want to know what the early Christians thought of female Egyptian philosophers, Google Hypatia of Alexandria).

Hypatia was not even contemporaneous to the laws we are discussing here. I'm not sure why Mark brings her up. As for the status of women in Alexandria, did slave women have the same rights? Nope only  women who were royalty had that kind of privilege. Only less than the "1%". While the laws God gave Israel were applicable to everyone! Don't romanticize the ancient Egyptians so much.

So the fact that women could have their vows annulled by men had nothing to do with economic realities and everything to do with the fact that the bible was written by Galilean hillbillies. Even by the standards of their own time, they were rednecks.

Um, at the time Israel had gotten this Numbers, Israel had not reached the land of Israel, not even Galilee. And if you are one of those who think that most of the Torah was written in Babylon during the Exile, saying that numbers was written by Galileans is still wrong (anachronistic at best). I think the reason for the law also goes back to the roles men and women are supposed to have...such that men are the head of household - and that makes them responsible and accountable. Economic realities is part of it, but not the whole story.

4) On 1 Timothy 2:12, I’ll just point out that the Quiverfull movement today uses this verse to deny women education and the right to control their own destiny.

I wonder if Mark read the link to the previous post I wrote explaining exactly what this passage means. I know some morons use this verse to deny education to women, but that is not what the Bible says. And how does Quiverfull movement's delusion rebutt anything I said about 1 Timothy 2:12? It doesn't.

5) I’m sure that the Bible approves of monogamous, heterosexual sex in a marriage, but that is only a small slice of the phenomenon that is human sexuality. Everyone’s sexuality is unique, and we all have differing sexual needs. If someone approved of vanilla ice cream, but banned all of the other 300 flavors, wouldn’t it be reasonable to say he was anti-ice-cream?

Since God created sex and gave sex to humanity as a gift, don't you think God would know the best way to enjoy that gift? And no, I would not think that banning 300 flavor of ice cream but one mean that one has to hate ice cream - especially if other 299 flavors were poisonous and ultimately harmful  no matter how good they taste. God is looking out for us and wants what is best for us.

I agree that Oholah is an allegory for Samaria, but it’s still a sexist allegory. There certainly were women who were like Oholah in biblical times. They achieved financial dependence without giving themselves in marriage, and controlled their own destinies. They had a healthy sexual appetite, and were liberated enough to follow it. They dared to enjoy material possessions. All without harming anyone else. They were the first feminists of biblical times. If Oholah really existed, I would have liked to [have met] her. I’m sure she would have been an amazing woman.

Why does having "healthy sexual appetite" mean having sex with anyone would  have sex with you instead of enjoying sex with your spouse only? Ezekiel 23 does not describe women who are just liberated and happily determining their own destinies, it's telling us about women who are destroying themselves.

And like what all patriarchal men would like to do to feminists, she was abandoned, humiliated, mutilated, raped and murdered. I imagine the crowds of men were cheering when they heard the end of that story. After all, if Ezekiel didn’t think he could rely on misogyny to make his point, why tell the story?

If men who hear this story cheer it is because they missed the point. Mark conceded that Oholah is an allegory for Samaria. Oholibah stood for Jerusalem. People who heard this story understood that they were like prostitutes with reference to how they  belonged to God and they were lusting after other gods. In effect they were giving God - the one who had brought them out of Egypt, loved, and protected them as His special people - the finger (you know which one). They should have been inspired to repent if they understood the story - not to hate women. You do realized that even today women who live like she did end up abandoned, humiliated, mutilated, raped and murdered, right?

You say Oholah deserved punishment for prostitution. But nowhere does Ezekiel suggest that money was her motivation. However, in several lines he says that she was motivated by lust “for mounted horsemen, all handsome young men….whose genitals were like donkeys and emissions were like horses(!)”. Fair enough, sounds like a confident girl with a healthy libido. I interpret Oholah to be a mistress of multiple men rather than a street-prostitute.

How is being the mistress of multiple men better than being a street-prostitute? Which one would you want your daughter to choose to be? Personally, I don't want my daughter to be neither.

Anyone, the reasons Ezekiel uses to demonize Oholah is that she dared to be lusty. Oh the horror! Solomon can have 1000 wives, but god forbid a woman enjoy sex with more than one man.

Men are also forbidden from enjoying sex with more than one women. There is no problem with that.Solomon was condemned for doing that. It was the start of his down fall.

1) You’re right; the Bible doesn’t suggest that the Benjamites were righteous men. But the plan to carry off the dancers of Shiloh wasn’t hatched by the Benjamites, but by the elders of all the tribes of Israel. I think the bible usually implies they were God’s favored.

The elders of Israel were not congratulated on their action. The Bible merely records it.

And when the fathers of the kidnapped girls came to the Israel tribal elders, the elders told them “Do us a kindness by helping the Benjamites out, so that all that pussy can be put to good use” (I may be paraphrasing that last line a bit).

Again the Bible does not tell us: This pleased God, go and do likewise.

Of course, the Benjamites were never punished for taking the dancers of Shiloh, and all the men lived happily ever after.

How do you know that the men involved were never punished? Just because the Bible does not record what happened to these men - the Benjamites nor the other elders of the tribes - does not mean that they did not pay for their sins. I see a lot of people take this line of reasoning. Jesus said something we should remember:

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” -  John 21:22


2) I think that by the time the Midianite virgins were rationed out like cattle, the war was already over.

Are cattle allowed to mourn for their dead relatives? No? The Midianite captives were. I think that Mark is reading a lot of  his own presuppositions into the accounts as to how these women thought and felt.

3) Perhaps your ‘re right, and David’s wives were given to his son rather than his neighbor. I’m sure that makes all the difference. It must have been all a big hoot for the lucky girls.

The part that’s missing from that verse is where the women were asked their opinion or permission. Evidently the biblical authors didn’t think they should have a say in whom they slept with.

They were wives of the King. In that day a woman expected to sleep with her husband. The point of the story was that David was getting payback for what he did to Bathsheba and her husband. When we do evil there are always consequences. Sometimes God takes those away when we get forgiven and sometimes we still have to live with them.

To finally wrap up:

Immoral behavior needs to be taught as much as moral behavior. If you don't think children need to be taught how to steal, just read Oliver Twist. Children develop their own personalities, with personal proclivities towards moral and immoral behavior varying from child to child.

In Oliver Twist, he had to learn to steal without being caught - not how to steal. Besides that is a fictional story. I would love for someone to point to a child who has never had to be corrected for  lying or stealing. Every person has immoral proclivities. And unless someone tells you, you have no idea what is right and wrong in many respects.

Once again, this variation provides a survival advantage for our species. A book called "Nothing To Envy" described life during the famine in North Korea. One haunting statement by a defector was:
"the kind and generous, the ones that shared, the ones that wouldn't steal.......they were the first to die".
Evolution has bequeathed impulses that we describe has right and wrong, but both give survival advantages in different situations. In times of plenty, like what we live in, stealing is considered wrong, and not needed for survival. In times of famine, only the thieves survived.

Crediting evolution for the impulses to know right and wrong is a tricky thing. What do you do with people who don't see right and wrong the way you do? Is something wrong with them? Why can't they see it? Are they less evolved than the rest of us? Is someone who would steal cable less evolved than someone who would not?  Why should those who don't see anything wrong with lying to certain people, murder certain people, or steal from certain people be allowed to live and procreate to pass on their messed up genes? Why? Why not?

What had happen' was.....: Biblical Condemnation of Rape and other Acts of Misogyny
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Faster Than Light Neutrinos? Maybe! [Video]

It's been big news in science. I'm still not sure that neutrinos move faster than light, but it's interesting to watch how it is all playing out!

Faster Than Light Neutrinos? Maybe! [Video]