Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Ultimate Post

No, not ultimate as in “last.” Ultimate as in “this post is about the idea of an ultimate [insert concept here].”

So often in my discussions/arguments online with theists of various stripes I run into one of the following statements:

“If there’s no God, then there’s no ultimate source of morality. Everything would be subjective.”
“If there’s no God, then there’s no ultimate meaning to life.”

I find these arguments more than a bit bizarre. For one thing, they seem to assert that we absolutely, 100% know that there is an ultimate source of morality, or an ultimate meaning to life. For another, they seem to be a strange use of “ultimate.” When did “ultimate” come to mean “given to us by a supernatural creator?”

Yes, if there’s no God, then there’s no ultimate source of morality. But this does absolutely nothing to support either the existence of God or the existence of an ultimate source of morality! It’s essentially an argument based on the idea that there is some self-evident objective moral standard. But if were objective and self-evident, there wouldn’t be any argument. People who disagreed with it would be viewed with the same uneasy suspicion as people who disagreed with gravity. Instead, we live on a planet where people are constantly arguing over morality, and while we often find common ground, it’s rarely beyond the bare minimum standards we need to maintain social cohesion.

As for an ultimate meaning to life: Why would the meaning have to be ultimate? Why isn’t it enough for life to have current meaning? And what sort of value would the “meaning” have if it were dictated to us? If life’s meaning came only from some sort of ever-present quasi-benevolent universal dictator, then it would no longer be meaning – it would be purpose. And when you have a purpose, you’re not free – you’re a tool to be used for the desired ends of some other being. (Cue Rick Warren.)

I have absolutely no problem with the idea that ultimate morality and ultimate meaning don’t actually exist. To argue that God must exist because these things are self-evidently real is to do nothing but beg the question. I’m not a nihilist; I just think it’s silly to assume that something exists because its existence would support your preconceived beliefs.

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Charlie Crist, Defender of Florida

Apparently Florida governor Charlie Crist stuck a written prayer into the Western Wall in Jersualem asking God to protect Florida from hurricanes.

Crist said he isn’t trying to take credit, but he told a group of real estate agents Friday that he’s had prayer notes placed in the Western Wall in Jerusalem each year and no major storms have hit Florida.

Crist noted that just before his election in 2006, Florida had been affected by a total of eight hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

“Do you know the last time it was we had a hurricane in Florida? It’s been awhile. In 2007, I took my first trade mission. Do you know where I went?” said Crist, a Methodist, referring to a trip to Israel.

He then told of going to the Western Wall and inserting a note with a prayer. He said it read, “Dear God, please protect our Florida from storms and other difficulties. Charlie.”

“Time goes on — May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December — no hurricanes,” Crist said. “Thank God.”

Maybe Charlie could expand a bit and ask God to keep hurricanes away from the entire country. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Wonder what he’s going to say when Florida is inevitably hit by a hurricane, considering that the years 2000 to 2008 have had more recorded tropical or subtropical cyclones than any decade on record. I’m sure he’ll come up with some sort of rationalization…

(Note, 8/26/2012: The original Yahoo! article has been removed, but you can find another article based on the same AP article at the Tampa Bay Times website.

The Friendly Atheist Under Attack

Hemant Mehta, one of the most tolerant, genial, and patient atheists I’ve ever seen, is currently under attack from a thinly-veiled far-right Christian hate group calling itself the Illinois Family Institute, which has a history of saying some pretty nutty stuff. And I’m not just calling them a hate group, either; for a while, the Southern Poverty Law Center had them listed as one, specifically for their strident anti-gay stance, comments, and leadership. Continue reading

Church Visit: Trinity Baptist Church

Today I managed to wrangle a couple of co-heathens from my atheist/agnostic meetup group into going to church with me. We went to Trinity Baptist, which is affiliated with (among other groups) the extremely conservative Southern Baptist Convention. It was quite an experience.
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Francis Collins, Evangelical Christianity, and the NIH

So President Obama nominated Francis Collins as Director of the National Institutes of Health. I’ve been debating whether or not to blog about this, because I’m ambivalent about the decision and because it’s been so heavily covered already by other atheist bloggers and writers. But I read this story in Newsweek and felt that I should speak my peace about the subject.
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