August 22, 2017

Atheists Fail to Consider the Historical Context of the Bible

Holy bible with warning stickerPerhaps Christians' complaint of atheists using bible verses out of context is not terribly persuasive, but there is a different sort of "out of context" argument that seems to have some merit. Some Christians respond to an atheist pointing to objectionable passages in their "holy" book by claiming that we are failing to consider the historical context in which the verses were written. In essence, we are condemning what were once common practices through the lens of modern morality. At least on the surface, this is not a bad argument.

Suppose that slavery could be found in most of the civilizations in existence during the time period in which the Christian bible was written. If that was the case, it would make sense that the bible condoned the practice. The same could be said for all sorts of other practices that strike us as barbaric today but were once commonplace. According to some Christians, atheists are being neither fair nor honest when we focus on such practices without taking into account their historical context.

This sort of objection makes some sense. At least, it would make some sense if the person making it was prepared to let go of the absurd notion that the bible is timeless and/or serves as a guide for how modern Christians should live their lives.

August 21, 2017

Little Rapture Talk on Day of Eclipse

With a solar eclipse taking place today, I am somewhat surprised that I have not heard more about the rapture from the local evangelical fundamentalist Christians. Then again, I have been busy and have not invested much time perusing the various platforms they use for disseminating their views. Perhaps there has been a big hoopla about the rapture taking place today, and I've just missed it. But I doubt it. I am reasonably confident that I would have seen plenty of atheists mocking it on Twitter by now.

The combination of anti-science views, belief in the supernatural, and a tendency to filter the world into good and evil makes me wonder if some evangelical fundamentalist Christians will be terrified when the sun is at least partially eclipsed today (I do not live in the direct path where the eclipse will be total, so a partial one is all we get to see here). So far, this does not seem to be the case. Aside from the very small number of end-of-the-world grumblings I have heard on the fringes, many of the local Christians seem to fall somewhere between indifference and excitement over the eclipse. Some parents are even pulling their kids out of school to enjoy it with them.

August 20, 2017

False Equivalence or Not

equals sign
I've seen quite a few people complaining about "false equivalency" related to President Donald Trump's troubling references to "many sides" following the alleged murder in Charlottesville, VA. Accusations of false equivalence are nothing new and can be found in many contexts. In a surprising number of cases, these accusations are also misplaced. In fact, I have come to suspect that many people who take to the Internet to angrily accuse others of false equivalence aren't entirely sure what equivalence means. I aim to help them in this post.

When we say that two things are equivalent, we are saying that they are the same (i.e., equal). If President Trump were to assert that the counter-protesters in Charlottesville were every bit as bad, every bit as violent, and/or every bit as responsible as the far-right protesters, he could rightly be accused of false equivalence. After all, he would be equating the groups on at least one of these dimensions. On the other hand, if he were to suggest that the far-right protesters were worse, more violent, and more responsible, he could still claim that the counter-protesters were also bad, violent, or responsible. Both of these claims could be true (though I do not happen to believe that they are both true), and this would not be a false equivalency because he would be making no claim that the two groups were equivalent. Both groups would be bad in some ways, but one would be worse.

August 16, 2017

My New Favorite Thing on Twitter

withdrawing from conversation on Twitter

Helen Pluckrose (@HPluckrose) is one of the many fantastic people I follow on Twitter. She's a secular humanist in London. She also happens to be one of the very few people I follow on Twitter who regularly interacts with people with whom she disagrees without being disagreeable and resorting to name-calling. Yes indeed, she's a rare treasure!