How Atheist Fundamentalists ruin rational thought, civil discourse and science

(or “Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris are shallow twats no better than ranting fundamentalists.”)

In The Laws, in a passage known as “The Athenian Stranger,” the great philosopher Plato (yes, that Plato) speaks to a stranger most sources agree was obviously a stand-in for Socrates. The stranger says he does not believe in the gods or one God. Plato’s response, translated by a friend of mine who is a philosophy professor, was:

plato on atheism

“You are still young, my friend, and as time goes on you will come to have beliefs diametrically opposed to those you have now. So do not make up your mind too soon. The weightiest matter, however lightly you take it now, is to think correctly…and here is a crucial and irrefutable point, this, that you are not unique. Neither you nor your friends are the first to have held this opinion…It is a disease from which the world is never free, though the number of sufferers varies from time to time.”

Notably, the real Socrates actually believed in one God who came before all the others. So did Plato. So did Socrates’s other famous pupil, Aristotle. All agreed that for the universe to make much sense at all, there has to have been a first cause, an ultimate source, for not much else made sense if it did not. They recognized that they might be wrong, surely–just as any person who disagreed with them would be wise to acknowledge the same. Either way, you have taken a logical position, and there are consequences to whatever you decide to believe.

Countless religious thinkers, within the Abrahamic traditions and without, noted that what these ancient pagan philosophers describe matched their own descriptions of God and/or what they considered the ultimate source of all, and accepted that these pagan thinkers had great insights worth exploring. Indeed, Plato’s reasoning, including but not limited to the necessary existence of God, has informed Christendom, East and West, for most of the last two thousand years. Aristotle’s had at least as powerful an influence on the Western world since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas. These philosophers continue to influence orthodox religious thinkers—and some nonreligious thinkers!–to this day.

I like to tell people I gave up atheism for Lent. It’s a bit of a joke, but true enough. I am no longer an atheist. I chose something I find far more grounded in logic, careful thought, and rational examination of the universe—and more open to the kind of exploration that makes science, my favorite subject, possible.

But let’s be clear about something: Most atheists want simply to be left alone to what they believe, or don’t believe, and have no particular hostility or resentment of those who disagree with them. They also, quite reasonably, don’t want people dictating what is or isn’t reality to them based on some obnoxious and stupid religious person (of which the world has no shortage) ranting out of a holy book. Beyond simply wanting to live and let live, most atheists ask for no particular special consideration in society. They can and do get along great with theists as scientific collaborators, political collaborators, business collaborators, casual friendly acquaintances, or deep lifelong friends.

Furthermore, there is nothing new about atheism. Atheist philosophers go back in the Western tradition at least as far as the great Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Nietzsche is considered one of the most influential thinkers of the last few hundred years, and you can’t get more atheist than Nietzche.

The only people who were ever particularly dogmatic and intolerant about their atheism were members of atheist cults: some of the space alien zealots, the Marxists, Ayn Rand’s Objectivists, Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, and other exotics with strange beliefs that never went beyond a small part of the population in the English-speaking world (until recent years anyway).

But then much was made around the turn of the 21st Century (in the English-speaking world) of a group of men of minor scientific, literary, and political achievement whom became known as the “Four Horsemen” of this “New Atheism.”

This “New” atheism was different from what we had seen throughout most of the 19th and 20th Centuries. These “New Atheists” were on a Crusade, a Jihad, to attack religion as an endless source of violence, radicalism, irrationality, and intolerance. They wanted religion not just separated from government function but to have what they called “freedom from religion”—meaning they sought not to be annoyed by hearing ideas they didn’t agree with at school or at work or in almost any public space.

These days, I semi-regularly encounter atheists (mostly young ones) who will, unironically, state that all or most religion is dangerous and irrational. I made a joke to a young doctor recently and said, approvingly, that she was rather religious in her careful medical diligence about certain things—and she reacted as if I’d told her she was fat and ugly and stupid (although she is perfectly competent and a lovely person).

I’ve been told by people 20 or 30 years younger than me that embracing religion is throwing away rationality. The dogma of the young followers of the New Atheists today is not to be contradicted: If bad people do bad things and are influenced by theistic beliefs, theism is to blame. But when atheists and secularists do bad things, their atheism and their secularism were no part of it at all.

I call it the Immaculate Conception of Atheism: Theism can commit crimes, but Atheism is forever blameless, perfect, and untouched by corruption.

A group of insane Muslim ideologues murders thousands of people? That is, ipso facto, proof of either the religion of Islam or even religion in general as violently evil. Stalin, by comparison, murdered nearly 13 million Orthodox Christians in Russia for refusing to give up their faith in the name of science and progress. But, even though this is indisputably true (and not the only example), it is apparently blasphemy against Holy Atheism to suggest that there could possibly be a connection. Indeed, we must be evil if we suggest there might be consequences to elevating individual conscience to the ultimate moral authority.

Not long ago I had a a young atheist friend simply stop talking to me when I brought this up. He accused me of flinging insults at innocent people because I noted the bloodshed by dogmatic, militant atheists who talked exactly like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris do about religion. He was incensed I would even suggest this. Yet he was perfectly free to blather about every crime, real or imagined, of religious people throughout history, as reason to reject theism.

The towering rage I see whenever I point to horrible oppression and crimes by atheists and dogmatic secularists is rather fearsome to behold. It appears that atheists these days, particularly young ones, simply can’t take what they dish out. They won’t hold themselves or their fellows to the same standards they have for others. They’ll dodge and evade and say “the atheism had nothing to do with it!” even when you can quote the atheists saying, point blank, that the religious “superstitions” were harming science and progress, just exactly as the New Atheists and their adoring disciples say now.

Indeed, if you can find much difference between what Joseph Stalin and any of the Horsemen had to say on the matter of religion, I’d like to see it. But just so you know, “He was a Communist and they are not” is no more a response than “He wore medals on his chest and they do not.” Did his dogmatic atheism, his contempt for religious faith, and his views of “science” and “rationality,” have something to do with his decisions or did it not?

Would that make the New Atheist ideologues and their advocates potential mass murderers? No. Of course not, any more than being Catholic means you ever supported the vile terrorism committed by the (undeniably Catholic) Irish Republican Army. But it’s rather worrisome to note that I, as a Catholic, can acknowledge such crimes without fear, as I can acknowledge the crimes of other Catholics—but it is apparently horrific blasphemy if I look calmly at the atheist and say, “Yes, but then: what about this?”

A shallow man of minor achievement, Sam Harris, even forwarded the ludicrous argument that not-believing in God was no different than not-believing in fairies or unicorns, and so “atheism” shouldn’t even be a term, any more than we need a term for people who do not believe that Queen Elizabeth II is a space lizard. This is a man who considers himself a philosopher (apparently a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a neuroscience degree makes him a deep thinker), yet he has never answered Aristotle’s own basic argument from contingency, which I will state as simply as I can manage here:

Do you believe in cause and effect? If you do, then you must believe that if things happen, something caused them to happen. What made the laws of physics, and what keeps them going? The physicist attempts to test these laws but he can’t tell you exactly what makes them work. Though he’s certainly welcome to try, I think he’ll have taken on a task that was too big for Einstein or Heisenberg,

At the ultimate level, then, you are faced with two choices: either the universe of time and space as we currently perceive it was started by something beyond time and space, something beyond it—yes, no matter how very very big the universe is, we all understand that it’s very very big–or, the universe has existed forever in a sort of endless shifting about of ultimately causeless causes. Either it all starts with and runs due to something, or, the universe is an infinite series of events with no root cause to anything. You can believe one or the other, but you cannot believe both, and Aristotle, along with Plato and many of the other great philosophers, along with mathematicians (like Pascal and Descartes) and scientists (like Newton and Heisenberg) believed a universe with a first cause, a prime mover, made far more sense than a universe without.

It makes more sense to me too. It also makes sense to any number of working scientists I’ve known who don’t talk about it because they don’t particularly want to debate it with their dogmatic brethren, and it doesn’t affect their work either way.

There is no good reason to believe that modern working scientists are any smarter or wiser overall than these ancient (and not so ancient) philosophers and mathematicians and scientists. Yes sometimes the ancients were wrong about some things they observed in the physical universe, just as scientists today are almost always wrong about something or other sooner or later as one hypothesis is discarded in favor of another. And nothing in the history of science, all the way to this writing in late 2015, has changed that ultimate question of the existence, or nonexistence, of a first cause.

It appears to be something science can’t address, for science was a creation of philosophy and logic, both of which are its true building blocks. Those who think they can divorce science from philosophy and metaphysics are fooling themselves.

Many like to leap to things like The Big Bang. They even note that Stephen Hawking has declared that we cannot speak meaningfully of a time before the Big Bang. That’s a rather silly thing for Professor Hawking to say; what he means is that his math breaks if you try. But I’m sorry Professor, can you falsify the idea that everything that ever has been; or can be, fits within your mathematical scope?

Every major world faith going back thousands of years, including the polytheistic Hindus, as well as the Buddhists that many modern atheists seem so fond of, see this problem. All acknowledge the logical necessity of a being or force that is beyond time and space, eternal, uncreated…infinite. This concept has been understood and acknowledged by great scientists, mathematicians like Descartes and Pascal, and physicists like Heisenberg and Einstein, as well as by ancient Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and countless other faith based traditions, Abrahamic or non-, and countless other thinkers for thousands of years–with no “new” revelations from science, of any kind, altering that question in the slightest.

Some may say, “What about alternate universes? Maybe those exist.” To which the answer is, yes they might. Or might not. Why would that change the question? Nothing in Einsteinian physics can answer this question. Nothing in quantum physics can answer this question. Nothing in abstract theories of alternate universes or extra dimensions can answer it. Neither can anything in evolutionary theory. Nothing in mathematics can answer this question either–although Descartes did produce not one but three proofs to show the logical necessity of God, the same God that people like Plato and Aristotle had argued thousands of years before.

God by this orthodox understanding is infinite. Beyond time and space, infinite in every direction we know of and almost certainly directions we don’t. God would be what makes the laws of physics work. God would be what makes math work—and so being the reality on which all else relies, isn’t going to be directly detectable with the best man-made tools. Or it doesn’t seem likely. There’s no way you’re going to bounce an electron or photon off of it anyway.

Asserting that something is so “because science” is no more coherent than saying something is so “because Jesus.” In this way, many a fulminating atheist who insists that what he calls science is the way—not one way, but the way–to know if things are true or not looks no different from a ranting fundamentalist trying to prove the Earth was built in 6 days by reading out of the book of Genesis.

The witty and clever Christopher Hitchens gave us the New Atheism’s greatest doctrinal statement of faith and thought-terminating cliché: “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence,” which sounds clever until you figure out that he meant “evidence that I and people who think like me find convincing.” It also allowed him to dismiss uncomfortable questions he and his modern disciples and apostles can’t answer and therefore want us to think are irrelevant.

In other words, the New Atheists jumped over some of the biggest questions in human history, declared victory, and then began berating everyone who didn’t think like them as fools. They popularized ignorance of ancient ideas, and bigotry by the non-religious toward the religious, and tried to make that the respectable and somehow brave face of modern atheism.

Atheists shouldn’t be thanking them for that, and neither should anyone else.

And now, a decade later, a generation of young people “educated” by just this sort of dogmatic, “correct because something we call science says so” thinking now regularly tell everyone they know that religion is evil. I suggest that most of these people don’t even understand how to do science, or how science works, or where it came from, entirely aside from their often proud ignorance about religious thinking.

Indeed, I don’t think they can falsify their own premise on religion without running a measure against something else, and I suggest that if they run it against their fellow atheists, it’s not going to look very good for them.

What if there is something that happened before the Big Bang. Was it God? I didn’t say that. Maybe it was super intelligent space aliens. Maybe it was the death of another universe. Maybe there was nothing we can comprehend. Maybe it’s a jumping plumber and his brother. I couldn’t say. Maybe one day physicists or others will. But in the end, that begs the ultimate question: what made all that “before the Big Bang” stuff, those theoretical other universes, the extra dimensions the string theorists are sure are there, and so on? Is it still ultimately created and held up by something that makes reality go, or not? Is it still just an infinite series of events with no cause at all? Is everything ultimately the result of and dependent on a first cause, or not? You can spin out a multiverse with an indefinite, arbitrary number of “other universes” and you still have not touched this question of contingency.

It’s popular today to say that religious reasoning creates “God in the gaps” thinking—ascribing everything we don’t understand to God working magic in every bit we don’t understand. Such thinking certainly might be a cheap way to stop scientific thinking, which seems to be the outspoken atheist’s biggest fear.

But the atheist whom angrily fulminates that science Has Spoken has done the same thing, he has closed off further investigations… he has precluded further investigation.

To think we need “God in the gaps,” invoking a magic spell any time we see something we don’t understand, is to assume that God needs to be a constant fixer-upper of his own work. The better assumption is when we see something we can’t explain, it’s because we don’t understand it yet. Being curious, we can try to find out. But if you really understand science, you must also accept that some things we may never fully understand, though we can try. And why shouldn’t we try?

When Stephen Hawking declared we cannot meaningfully speak of anything being “before the Big Bang,” I suggest to you that all he did was make a dogmatic declaration of faith in his own mathematical skill and the skills of his scientific peers. By rendering their pronouncements unassailable, he and physicists like him closed minds, closed imaginations, and closed a channel of thought.

That’s science, huh? I don’t think so. Hawking was talking parochially, and completely outside his own competence. He and the Horsemen and their ideological brethren are Holy Men within an Atheist Church they’ve constructed for themselves. Fortunately, all anyone need do is walk out the door and keep doing science, logic, philosophy and yes; religion, all without their permission or approval.

There can be no doubt that religion, especially religious fundamentalism, has done enormous damage to individuals, communities, groups, and nations. But then again, dogmatic, intolerant people acting in the name of science, reason, and human Progress butchered tens of millions of people in the 20th Century—and no, we don’t need to argue whether Hitler was a Christian or not, for he was certainly a believer in religion and the supernatural regardless. But Stalin and Mao, both committed atheists running dogmatically atheist regimes, butchered 10s of millions of people. Stalin alone killed 13 million Russian Orthodox Christians for the crime of not giving up their faith, for the reason that they were allegedly getting in the way of scientific and social “progress”.

Stalin, who as head of the Soviet Union murdered significantly more people than Hitler, proudly boasted of his government and party’s ongoing opposition to religion of any form because they stood for science, because “all religion is something opposite to Science.”

stalin's thoughts on science and religion
stalin’s thoughts on science and religion

It’s considered rude by atheists for us to notice this. Tough. It’s the truth. Richard Dawkins has floated the idea that bringing children up in faith is “child abuse” and Dennett has suggested that in the future some religious believers might be preserved in “cultural zoos.” I guess we’re supposed to not take such remarks seriously though, because… well because reasons I guess.

Hardline secularism and atheism are now dominant in our universities, our systems of government, and most of our popular entertainment. These atheists, ascendant now, are facing problems within their own ranks with Social Justice nutbags, Feminist nutbags, Objectivist nutbags, Marxist nutbags, and more. It turns out that atheist cults are as easy to start and run as theistic cults. Whatever is a thoughtful atheist to do?

Perhaps the answer lies in a little more humility, and in starting to talk, once more, to philosophers and theologians, and to each other, like we’re all limited creatures with limited understandings of things, and we can all be just a little more gracious and open-minded with each other.

It’s a thought anyway. ∞

A comeuppance for the rape hysterics of Cologne

So when David Futrelle, Bernard Chapin (also known as Uncle Bern) and two confessed rapists, RooshV and Matt Forney, tell you that I was a rape apologist for calling into question the obvious rape hysterics over Cologne a couple of weeks ago, show them this: Teenage girl ‘made up’ migrant rape claim that outraged Germany.

The next time you read sources like these, bear in mind how they treat the accused, and how prone they are to accuse others even after their own confessed deeds.

Care about facts over feelz? Stop saying provably false stuff about Galileo.

Galileo was provably wrong. That’s one thing nobody seems to know, but it matters.

By comparison, odds are you’ve been told a narrative about Galileo that was–empirically, objectively–a bunch of bullshit.

The phony story goes sort of like this: Galileo proposed the Earth goes around the Sun, he proved he was right, and in retaliation he was tortured and jailed by the Pope, the Catholic Church, and Christianity in general for daring to challenge the Bible and how the Bible supposedly declares the sun goes around the Earth.

Most of this appears to be 19th or 20th Century Anglican agitprop that is nowadays popular among both Protestant Christians who still harbor animosity toward the Vatican, and among atheists who pride themselves on their love of the empirical but just unquestioningly believe anything that makes Christians or other theists look bad. All without bothering to ask if what they were told is true or not.

Galileo was not the first to suggest the Earth went around the sun. In fact that idea was many centuries old and was easily found in materials that the Church kept in its universities and libraries. Almost all universities at the time were built by, and maintained by, the Church back then–not because they demanded that privilege, but hardly anyone else was doing it and spreading education was considered the proper Christian thing to do.

By the way, are there Catholic schools in your area of the world? That’s because the Church always believed in education for anyone who wanted it, even non-Christians, and was running schools and science labs before your government was. (And it still does today.)

Anyway, most astronomical observatories at the time were also under Church control–NOT because they demanded it, but because they were among the few BUILDING observatories and supporting astronomers at all. You know the calendar we all use? That exists because during Galileo’s lifetime, Pope Gregory XIII had got tired of the fact that the calendar seemed to be slowly drifting year over year and asked astronomers at Europe’s various universities to come up with a way to fix it. They did. It’s called the Gregorian calendar and we are still using it. I mention this solely because I’m tired of the godawful lie that somehow the Church was actively discouraging astronomy or science when in fact it was the main source of science in this and numerous other areas. (Speaking on the Church’s behalf, you’re welcome science fans.)

Anyway, got all that? Heliocentrism was a curiosity, an odd idea that no one thought much of. Not some offensive notion that infuriated Bible-clutching theologians and Bishops. Although surely some at the time thought it was a dumb idea and some may have harbored a suspicion it was an evil idea–as always happens when large numbers of people encounter an idea that’s new to them.

At the time of Galileo, Copernicus, a very Catholic monk, had done some fascinating work suggesting it made more sense that the Earth ran around the sun. He felt insecure about his proof, and only circulated it to a very limited number of people. This is not uncommon among people involved in scientific pursuits, although there was at least one political worry: he lived very near the where Protestantism at that time held most of the political power, and they were known to go after Catholics for bringing up points they didn’t like.

Galileo was younger, not a monk, less concerned about politics, and by all accounts was oblivious to offending people, and he broadly concurred with the Copernican view. He was also, however, famous for infuriating most people he encountered, having a very abrasive personality. Yet a number of people took a liking to him, including at least one Bishop who loved science that he befriended—a Bishop who later became the Pope by the way. Remember that point.

Galileo was very much in the habit of declaring himself smarter than everyone around him and that people who disagreed with him were dumb. He was also in the habit of making pronouncements that ran close to theological, because amongst other things he tended to speak as if he was irrefutable even on matters outside his own competence.

This is important: over the centuries Christians (and Jews and Muslims by the way) had increasingly gotten frustrated with the fact that observable reality sometimes seemed to bump heads with theological ideas. This is why the Scientific Method was invented and slowly promulgated. It was essentially a bargain: if you’re acting like a scientist, make no theological pronouncements. What you observe in science, you call it what you observe scientifically, and you don’t try to tell people what it means theologically. That’s not the scientist’s job.

Galileo had been warned once already about his tendency for sweeping pronouncements like this, so much so that he was told to shut up by some Bishops near him. But eventually he got frustrated, and when his old friend became Pope Paul V, he decided to appeal to that same Pope: The Pope was actually curious about the idea, having heard word of Copernicus’s ideas, and he invited–yes, invited–Galileo to make a presentation on the idea. He asked Galileo to show all sides and not stake out a position, especially a theological one.

Galileo, to put it shortly, wrote it in such a way that it was obvious advocacy, continued to suggest that any other position was idiotic, and wrote it in a way that easily misinterpreted as a direct personal insult to his old friend now the Pope. Many, including the Pope, read it and were pretty sure Galileo had just called his old friend, the former Bishop now Pope, a simpleton.

To add further injury to the insult, at least one of Galileo’s claims was irrefutably disproven. For his theory to be true as he formulated it, the tides had to work in a way that it was easily provable that they did not. Other scientists well-respected pointed this out: Galileo’s theory did not match observable reality. Galileo didn’t have a proposed fix, but insisted he was right anyway.

To add further insult to the entire thing, the Lutherans and Calvinists publicly mocked the Pope for even indulging this heliocentrist idea. Meaning the Pope had political embarrassment on top of personal anger on the whole affair.

The Church eventually convicted Galileo of meddling in theology after being told not to, ordered him to shut up, and put him under house arrest–where he was given a servant, living expenses, and was free to pursue his research as he pleased for the rest of his life as long as he stopped publishing on something that was both scientifically and theologically false. Galileo continued his other work in peace for about another decade, unmolested.

Arguably, the Paul V acted badly. One might note that most Popes are not Saints and Paul V wasn’t one. He obviously took some of this personally, and he was obviously exasperated by his old friend. He was also politically embarrassed.

in the 20th Century, in looking back on it, John Paul II and Vatican researchers declared that while there were obvious problems with Galileo’s work at the time, the affair was handled poorly, and that personal friction and political friction had led the Church to overreact to something.

Now, tell me: why did you believe the fairy tale that Galileo was tortured and jailed for contradicting the Bible or Church teaching? Why is it not good enough to note that Galileo’s ideas were scientifically questionable at the time, and that he was actually provably wrong about some things which gave other scientists reason to suspect him? And that politics and personal friendships entered into an embarrassing affair, but in the end they basically slapped him and then gave him a lab to work in and an assistant where he was left alone to his work thereafter?

Why is it necessary to stand by the fairy tale that it was nothing but ranting religious zealots out to destroy science?

If you believed the tale of Galileo in a dungeon being tortured, ask yourself this: why did you uncritically accept a fairy tale? Do the Catholics deserve so much of your scorn, that you’ll just repeat anything about them if it makes them look bad? Wasn’t he actual embarrassment of the whole thing enough?

There is no reason to believe in a rape culture in Sweden, Muslim or otherwise

Popular YouTuber Sargon of Akkad seems to have been swindled. There is no coverup of a massive “Rape culture” in Sweden, which likely any number of my Swedish friends could tell you.

Probably the best overall look at why the Swedish numbers are hysteria-generated nonsense is the two part article by George Boring challenging “rationalist” YouTube commentator Sargon of Akkad (of whom I am a fan generally) for his recent videos promulgating Swedish rape myths. I suggest reading them carefully before you believe hyperinflated right-wing propaganda on the matter:

Sweden’s rape culture? Checking Sargon’s sources, Part 1

&

Sweden’s rape culture? Checking Sargon’s sources, Part 2.

Boring’s conclusion is one I utterly share:

However, there is no need to start scaremongering about a rape culture when there clearly is not one. I’m not denying that some groups of people do have a culture of shared attitudes, customs and beliefs that result in them trivialising or normalising rape but there is no sign that there is any danger of European countries as whole adopting a “rape culture”.

I have talked to and published articles by Swedes and other Europeans regarding rape hysteria in countries like Sweden for a few years now. Anyone who thinks skepticism of Swedish rape numbers is something new or driven by ideology is indulging in ideological wishful thinking of their own: there is ample reason to be skeptical numbers on rape we commonly see in Sweden.

A free tip to shitposters trying to make a buck off lying about an MRA

A free tip to shitposters trying to make a buck off lying about an MRA: I’m not a soft target. I never am. In real life or on the internet. I know more things, and more people, in more countries, speaking more languages, than you can possibly imagine. And I’ve stared down people more powerful than you can possibly imagine. I also have more powerful friends than you likely imagine.

I am polite to almost everyone who approaches me politely. I am very unkind to people who are unkind to me because I do not care in the end that much what anyone thinks of me, only whatever results I generate.

Secret MRAs (or MRA supporters, which is the same thing here in early 2016) are everywhere, including in your own ranks, not just feminist ranks. Know who countless numbers of them come to privately? Me.

It is thus always better to approach me politely and with the possibility that I may have something useful to tell you on matters within my bailiwick. You might even make an ally of me, even if in the past we have disagreed. If I find your cause just you will see what I am capable of.

So attacking me is always short-term gain at best. When it comes to friendship, however, I am one of the best you will ever have.

Yes, really am a cuddly teddy bear much of the time. But when it comes to business, I operate not the Golden Rule but the Silver one: I do unto others as they do unto me, twice as hard. And that includes love as well as hate. 😉

*Update*: I’ve dealt with more lawsuits and lawsuit threats than you can possibly imagine too.

Letter to a Heathen Nation: Understanding orthodoxy, Muslim Christian or otherwise

My friend and onetime creative collaborator, Alison Tieman, has released two rather controversial videos regarding Muslims, particularly Muslim men. In one, she says she hates Muslim men, and while I know what she means, I think she is wrong in a certain respect that is not “Islamophobic’ and is also not mealy-mouthed subission to evil in order to feel good. But to start here is an important video that not enough people in the English-speaking media see:

https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10153464748691939/?fref=nf

Anyway i began writing this essay as a response to explain why I agree with much of what Alison said, but winced at much of how she said it and some of what was poorly phrased I think. I grew frustrated, as I often do discussing these things, until I realized that she and I lack a common etymology or metaphysics in order to ground discussion. My friend Alison, you see, is to the best of my knowledge functionally a heathen, and like most functional heathens (baptized or not) seems to have no well-defined theological framework except maybe scientific-secular skepticism, and/or the sort of loosy-goosy “everyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s as long as no one gets hurt” type of theology. That sort of theological background tends to typify not just completely unreligious people, but also late 20th Century college-educated liberal Episcopalian-style Protestantism–which now in the early 21st Century is functionally heathenism anyway (though it wasn’t always).

It’s also functionally identical to the people who say they base their faith in the Bible but never really read it, or if they do they only read it looking to confirm whatever they already decided to believe (see the Fred Phelps wing of Protestantism).

By the way I’m married to a functional heathen, and most of my friends are heathens. So as a stoic philosopher might say, “offense is never given, it is taken.” If you choose to be offended, that’s on you: a heathen is just a godless person, and they’ve been around forever. Before it became Politically Incorrect, “heathen” was a popular term for a reason: it describes very well something that people who are unapologetic adherents of organized religion have always seen. Heathens, while professing to not believe in anything in particular, tend in reality to believe a great many things in particular. It’s just that you can never predict what, although it tends to fall into predictable lines of thinking. This is why defining certain terms is so important before you can even have a productive dialogue–and this essay will be mostly about my efforts to establish the correct terminology and correct premises that make useful conversation possible.

I’ve been meaning to write a series of Letters to a Heathen Nation, now that we functionally are one, and so this may be the first of a series. But anyway here goes, and yes it does all matter so hang on:

A person who does not recognize God, as described by the great world religions, is a heathen. The ancient Christian term for those who believed in the One God but rejected correct Christian teaching was “infidels.” Pagans of course are those who worship many gods, like the Hindu. Although countless Pagans recognize the One God as well, many others are functionally heathen, not believing anything in particular but just going along for the usual assortment of unserious reasons to be part of any religion.

Now just so we’re clear about what I am: I am an orthodox Christian. Orthodox in the sense G.K. Chesterton wrote about. Orthodox in the sense of “right teaching” or “correct opinion.” And yes, while it may displease you that someone might claim to know things that are true, and thus to be able to call other things false, I am just such a person. And yet I am still fully capable of admitting to error. If you can accept that, then you may as you read this letter further start to realize what the benefit of orthodoxy is.

For example, I can state that if you put the Bible at the center of Christianity (as many Fundamentalists, atheists, and general vague heathens do), you’re doing it wrong. I say that not because it’s Dean Esmay’s opinion, but because it is the orthodox opinion. Furthermore, it is a fact that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. That is not my opinion. That is the orthodox opinion.

You know us orthodox Christians by quite a few names, but broadly, we are:

Eastern Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy
Assyrian Orthodoxy
Roman Catholic

Together we comprise 70-80% of the world’s Christians. Thus if you are a Protestant you are automatically speaking from a minority position. All branches of orthodoxy view protestantism as a massive confusing ball of strange teachings, a disaster ultimately caused by managerial incompetence and political overreach by the Church in Rome. In that opinion you will find few in the Vatican in 2016 who disagree. Rome is still trying to repair that damage caused by terrible politics and policy, but if Protestants find the Vatican to be frustrating in talks of reunification, our other orthodox brethren can almost always see exactly why the Vatican shouldn’t bend on certain things.

So the Christian world is not divided into “Catholic and Protestant.” It is divided into orthodoxy in occasional disagreement versus thousands of forms of Protestantism. But since in the English speaking world we are dominated by the otherwise minority Protestant element worldwide, it’s easy for us to see the mistake you are making. For if you wrongly think most Christians put the Bible at the center, you’ll probably also do that to other faiths. Which we see you doing a lot to the Jews and the Muslims, and not just us.

To be clear about this: If you wrongly think the Bible is at the center of Christianity, you will tend to assume that whatever holy books another religion, like Islam or Judaism, must follow the same premise. Even though in reality, orthodox Jews and Muslims both reject the notion that the sacred writings may be understood in this “read it and its meaning will be plain to you” manner. Each sees their sacred writings in somewhat different ways, but all orthodox thinkers in all those religions would reject as foolish the idea that anyone–you, me, anybody–could just read it and understand it.

Did you ever wonder why the Jews don’t really respond well when you quote the Old Testament to them? Because to orthodox Judaism, not only is our “Old Testament” not the same as their Bible, but just reading the Bible (they call it Tanakh) in isolation is insanity. The orthodox Jews of today are the inheritors of an ancient tradition they believe goes back to Moses, to Abraham, of unbroken ORAL teachings that were always and everywhere as vital, true, and important as the writings. Only minority sects, such as the historically now-irrelevant Sadducees, ever adhered to the written text alone as authoritative.

Extra credit bonus: Have you ever met a Pharisee? Talk to an Orthodox Rabbi. Furthermore, a sore spot between Jews and Christians actually goes back to the 3rd Century ACE. You see, that’s when we Christians were a hated underground religion of mostly slaves. This is the period where martyrdom was probably most common, at least until the 20th Century. But anyway, it was around this time, when our faith was illegal and often literally underground in tunnels filled with dead bodies, that the people we still call the Jews began codifying their Oral Teachings in what most of them use today as their Talmud. Christians at the time accused them of intentionally writing some of the oral teachings into Talmud wrongly, to obscure or deny Jesus, and of using disputed versions of the “Old Testament” that were less friendly to the Christian interpretation. The Church held that the Deposit of the Faith (which included the oral teachings along with some scattered writings and what what was then known as the Septuagint) was correct and the Jews in Israel were denying correct teaching in order to erase Jesus and his message.

Not to put too fine a point on it, it was during this period we saw the Jews as persecuting us, not the other way around. We didn’t become the official religion of the Romans until later.

Believers in Jewish orthodoxy believed what they were doing was fighting off Christian heretics. We thought them in error, they thought us in error. Everybody with a brain in orthodox circles knows it’s not productive to argue over it. Forced conversions and/or recantations don’t work, and this all happened long ago and can’t be undone. We know that now. (Gotta wonder whether you heathens know it though, given all the ideas you seem to think we’re all required to subscribe to to be good people.)

Anyway by the time Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, two grand oral traditions were established, the ones the Christians kept and the ones the Jews kept. This is one of many reasons why there can never be a merging of the faiths. When Christians and Jews today are angry at each other, they accuse each other of having warped the faith. When orthodox thinkers realize this is all stuff that’s very old and can’t be fixed, cooler heads usually prevail, and everybody remembers that hating each other for religious disagreements is a really bad idea, since ALL OF US have had experience of that. Jews hated and persecuted us at various times, we hated and persecuted them at various times, and this is never good and so we must respect that we have differences but work, when we can, in this world, on areas where we may agree or at least peacefully coexist.

And there you see again the benefit of orthodoxy: those who keep the teachings and the law are also usually the ones who know the history and even on tough questions can tell you what the authoritative answer is to most things most of the time. Which can only work if it includes the ability to expel people who are teaching the wrong thing, i.e. declaring others heretics, infidels, or unbelievers. Contrary to what you may think, that process of telling people where we believe them wrong gives us a greater clarity in dealing with people with whom we disagree: if you and I know where we disagree up front, we can work productively on areas where we have compatible values. Indeed, I suspect the average orthodox Christian has an easier time fitting in with people he disagrees with than a loosey-goosey heathen who just always goes with their own personal intuition and whatever logic seems to make sense to them at the time.

Say what you will about religious cults, which are real enough. But when you look at the history of secular cults, and their wild growth over the last few generations, those of us who believe in God may also have some insights on how to avoid this phenomenon. We’ve dealt with it. But it looks to me like the treasured secularism of today is fast going awry as secular cults like the modern feminist and International Social Justice on the left and the NeoHayekians and corporate libertarians on the right, have greater and greater control of our everyday lives. (I think we will examine the idea of secular cults in greater detail in another epistle.)

So. Unlike you heathens, we Christians, we orthodox, the ones who actually keep the history of our own faith, we can tell you some things. And what we can mostly tell you is, we’re the ones you’re specifically referring to when you talk about the Crusades.

You know that, right? We’re those guys with the Patriarchs and the Popes and the priests and bishops who had the actual, literal crusading, right? OK so did you ever consider that maybe, just maybe, instead of behaving like a superstitious heathen and assuming our faith made us unthinking zombies, that our experience in these affairs taught us lessons in humility that maybe you could learn from? Some of the crusading was legitimately defensive, some was badly handled, some of it was barbaric out of control mayhem and sheer stupidity, some of it appears to maybe have even been mythological, but for heaven’s sake please stop looking at me as a Catholic in 2016 and demanding I apologize to you for the Crusades. Instead how about you ask me how we all might avoid doing something that stupid again?

Because let’s face it, if we add up all the slaughter and mayhem by secular regimes the last 100 years next to the slaughter by religious regimes, you rabid secularists don’t look all that swell to me.

So when you speak to me of hating the Muslim man, the question comes: what do you mean by that?

Christians and Jews both agree that Islam is a false faith. We reject Muhammed as a prophet. This sometimes causes hurt feelings, but it is pretty much a definitional requirement of being an orthodox Jew or Christian. Likewise, you cannot be both an orthodox Jew and an orthodox Christian. It can’t be done. Knowing that need not make us hate each other. Indeed, if we approach each other respectfully, it makes us able to look past the areas where we disagree to look for areas where we can can work together. Believe it or not, we usually find it easier to deal with each other than we do with you heathens who seem to think your “liberal” tolerance came purely from your own sense of moral and intellectual superiority.

Liberal tolerance, that undeniable root of the secular order you treasure so much? We theists invented that, including orthodox religious thinkers who had to learn to deal with the unorthodox religious thinkers without persecuting or imprisoning them. You’re welcome. Now maybe talk to us about how you can do that in your own communities? Or in secular countries like China or North Korea or Syria? Or here at home, where the utterly secular International Social Justice leftist pukes and the corporate libertarian whackadoodle right are destroying sanity everywhere? Given all that and the current state of our young men, you rabid secularists in charge of our cultural leadership haven’t got much to brag about that I can see these days.

You the heathen are often tempted to play with Occam’s Razor between the disagreeing Jew, Christian, and Muslim: perhaps, while you roll your eyes and say “you’re all wrong” you will think yourself wise and superior. But in saying that, you too are making an assertion of faith. No, maybe we’re not all wrong, and possibly one of us is more right than the others. And maybe we agree with each other on some major things that we think you’re plainly very wrong about. So did you want to talk to any of us, or just keep talking at us like we’re primitives, or like we’re not even here? Did you ever think it was maybe you who were the primitive in this conversation?

We the orthodox religious have a base we stand on for our opinions. What the base you stand on for your opinions? Objective science? Pull the other one.

So now to the Muslim man, as I understand him from my perspective as an orthodox Christian man: he believes God wrote a book that was recited and written in epic Arabic poetry by an ordinary man who said it was all coming straight from God. People found its message awe-inspiring and wrote what he recited down. That book, being considered by them a representation of God’s literal word, is authoritative and true in all things it speaks of according to them. But orthodox Muslims, everywhere, will tell you that the book is meant to be what we in the West would call part of a liturgy: prayerfully recited and sung and meditated upon, rarely to be understood as a science book or a history text or a book of literal instruction. Most who understand orthodoxy know meditation and prayer are one and the same, and for them, the Qu’ran is for meditating upon the deepest truths of the human experience and the deepest truths of the universe and the deepest truths of the one God, as we try to commune with that eternal uncreated creator. They are meditating upon that thing that is recognized not only by all the Abrahamic faiths, but was discovered through reason alone by great philosophers who’d never heard of Moses or Jesus, and also appears to have been found at least in part by the great theologians of the Hindu, maybe the Zoroastrians even.

The Muslim faith does have a warlike element in it. It has always been there, and violence is indeed part of its earliest history. The question is not whether that is there, but what should be done about it without forcing them to surrender their beliefs. Did you think you were going to convert them to Christianity? Or to atheism? You realize you have no more chance of that than of that than making me an atheist again, even at gunpoint, right? (And before you mock, you know that’s actually happened to people, right?)

My view is not ecumenicism. We all view each other as wrong. But we see this one God, which heathens so frustratingly assert are different gods rather than varying understandings of the One: the Prime Mover, the thing that makes logic go, the thing that makes the laws of physics work, the thing that Thought itself emanates from, the eternal, the uncreated creator, the first mover, the uncontingent reality upon which all other reality depends.

That thing that modern Horsemanite cultists childishly try to flick from their thoughts by comparing it to an invisible leprechaun? You do not begin to understand that truly awesome presence by whipping open any book, ESPECIALLY an ancient one said to be written by God, and assume its meaning is plain to you. Unless God made you an idiot, you should realize this.

So when someone who is not an authoritative source on the Islamic faith starts opining to me with their own personal analysis, or analysis by scholars known primarily for hostile exegesis (including the occasional hysterical or angry apostate), I simply stop listening. They rant about Sharia without really knowing what it is from an orthodox Muslim perspective. They may, if they’re clever, using the same hostile exegesis techniques, dig down into various Islamic schools of thought and try to find there the most nasty primitive and violent interpretation among Muslim scholars there too. As a Catholic, I am used to Protestants here in the English-speaking world doing that to my faith’s teachings and history, ripping into the Deposit of the Faith and seizing on every misbehaving Bishop or priest in our tradition as proof of our evil. I am painfully aware of how that exact thing has been done to the Jews over the centuries, including by some in my own faith tradition. So I fancy I know something of what it feels like to my Muslim friends when someone does that to them.

When you say to me you see Muslims doing bad things, and you imply that this is due to their religion, I say to you that you are not holding that individual to account for his actions, you are trying to blame his faith, and by extension all who share it. That’s a faith held by over a billion people speaking dozens of languages in countless cultures with differing schools of thought, exegesis, and interpretation. They even vary from so poor they live on literally less than a thousand dollars a year, to as rich as Midas. You speak to me of Saudi Arabia and its religious police, but I can speak to you of faithful orthodox Muslims who hate everything about the Saudi regime. Why are you letting the violent thugs define the faith for all of them?

As a Christian who is a part of the faith that actually HAS fought with Muslims–unlike almost any of the chest-beating Protestants of North America and Europe–and who still views Muslim religious beliefs as flawed, I cannot countenance group guilt. I can only hold them to account for what they do as individuals. And I can hope for, pray for, and encourage those orthodox Muslims who are attempting to change the violent element within their vast, disorganized, often conflicted religious tradition toward a more peaceful orthodoxy–a peaceful orthodoxy that we know for a fact exists because we have seen it in our 1400 years of sometimes good and sometimes bad relations with them.

In fact, I would say that this demonizing of Muslims, of the Islamic faith, is not only counterproductive, it is a form of the very Identity Politics that the modern Right otherwise claims to be so very much against.

We orthodox, we keep the history. We knew the Muslims well before the Arabs and Persians discovered oil, unlike most modern-day self-appointed experts.

Recently people told us that a thousand Muslim men raped a hundred German women in Cologne. It didn’t happen. If there was an organized gang of thugs, those thugs need to be reported on and brought to justice. But blaming their faith is an exercise in actual, literal Othering. It also legitimizes the violent elements within the faith while dismissing and marginalizing those Muslims trying to change what’s going on in various parts of their faith culture. And it is a childishly foolish game of our placing our impressions of their religion all over everything that is theirs, whether everything they do has a religious motivation or not.

And if I hear one more idiot tell me that the “real Muslims’ are the violent ones, I’ll puke. You have just reduced every Muslim on the planet to zombified unthinking machines who can only be saved if you snap them out of a grand and sophisticated religious tradition that spans countless centuries–because you think your views are axiomatically better than theirs? Why, because of iPhones and internet porn?

Those on the Right who wish me to condemn Islam, or natter at me endlessly about their personal opinions of Sharia this or Hadith that, speak with no authority that I respect at all. Thus my dismissal of Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugged and her fans, my rejection of pious frauds like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, my rejection of the work of Robert Spencer* of Jihadwatch as anything but fringe opinionators. Bat Ye’or is not automatically rendered a misunderstood genius and courageous truthteller just because no one who actually studies Middle Eastern history and politics professionally will take her seriously.

For myself, I will never blame “muslims” for anything. Sorry. There is no ethical justification for this which I can see. Will I blame hateful virulent strains of what I consider a false religion for horrid actions? Well no actually I won’t do that either, no matter how much someone wants me to. I will blame those individuals who did that, and those who taught the violent interpretations of their traditions. I know, for a fact, that there are orthodox traditions within Islam that make the sort of violence we talk about today anathema. So I pray for them, if they aren’t going to give up Islam and become orthodox Christians, that they find their way to the scholarly, tolerant ways that we the orthodox Christians, and Jews, have known together with them in the past.

That does not require us to ignore the difficult questions. It requires us to discuss them and make productive plans and take productive action. We not only have a Muslim refugee population in one part of the world, we have a Christian refugee population in different parts of the world, such as our Mexican and South American brothers (mostly Catholic) pouring over the border into the USA, fleeing an oppressive economic climate and the hideous drug war. We have other Christians running from Muslim extremists in lands traditionally Christian or where Christians have usually lived at peace with Muslims. We have lands where it is death to convert from Islam to another religion, which aside from the violence is something else we need to discuss candidly with our Muslim brothers.

But tell me which is the best alternative:

Attack people’s most deeply held convictions in the most hateful manner you can, assuming the worst about them at every turn?

Or, work with them on those areas where we can agree on common goals and shared values, and try to help those who are fighting against violence emanating from their communities?

I know which one I stand on. It is an entirely orthodox one. What’s yours? If you say there are no Muslims doing this, you’ve just not been looking. Or worse, you’ve let others tell you to ignore them because you know better than the nonviolent orthodoxy.


(Watch the video later if you want to, but it’s not required. But don’t say I never showed you an example of the kind of person we should be supporting.)

So is this all addressed to Alison? No obviously not, but to the entire community she and I are both affiliated with, the Men’s Human Rights Movement, a community that cares first and foremost about our forgotten and discarded sons, brothers, and fathers in a world that has changed Male Disposability from an emergency escape hatch into a way of life. And I didn’t sign up to limit who I advocate for based on religious belief. Catholic schools hospitals homeless shelters AIDS hospices etc. are there for all comers, not just other Catholics. Our religion requires that of us, you see–helping people regardless of their religious views or lifestyles or racial or ethnic background I mean. Our religion teaches us that. What’s your tradition teach you, and what can you say is authoritative in your beliefs?

And finally, if you say you know the Muslims better than I do, I will tell you the story of the Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan I tried to help years ago, and also how when I tried to bring decent Muslim folk to the attention of others, I was attacked for doing so, as were they. It was a thankless task. But we’ll leave it for another time to explore. In a future letter, perhaps. But to make something clear:

As far as opinions of Islam are concerned: good faith criticism of any religion is a good thing. Ed Feser has written some terrific stuff. But bad faith, shallow, agenda-driven scholarship used to whip up paranoia by driving the most relentlessly negative narrative possible is not a good thing. Unless you are a genuine religious scholar or an orthodox practitioner I will generally consider your opinions on a religion ill-informed and irrelevant. Your opinions should only matter on how to live with these people, which is what I really want people talking about. I think I’ve just identified the right approach to living with people, as long as yes, we all agree, we want to stop the horrible violence.


* – Robert Spencer and I were once bitter enemies. We shook hands and agreed to disagree, and have even had dinner a couple of times together. We speak of things like high quality sushi and the merits of various forms of Jazz and Blues music. We are not friends, but in the great orthodox tradition, we know better than to squabble unnecessarily.


*Update* Alison Tieman is in possession of one of the most beautiful minds and souls I have ever known. She has given more to try to bring genuine compassion back into the world than most people ever will. I’ll denounce her when Hell freezes over.

Inside Matt Forney’s rape club #RooshRecitesShahada

Confessed rapist Matt Forney has recently lied in public and, using Futrellian quote-mining, made it look as if I said women in Cologne lied about being raped. He knows this isn’t true, as does his cult leader RooshV, the king of the PUA rapetards and creator of the bizarre “NeoMasculinity” secular religion. Yet despite knowing the truth, and having had ample opportunity to retract his story, he and his creepy rapetard cult members keep saying it.

You know, I can only think of one reason to continually make a false allegation like that: Guilty men like to virtue signal by white knighting. So it appears that Matt Forney and RooshV are trying to recover some respectability by attacking innocent men. Why else with their disgusting lies about what I said on Cologne? (Which, for the record, was that early social media reports were not credible and many claims flying around were completely absurd, including using obviously phony evidence. When more credible reports came out, none backed the hyperventilating narrative of a hundred women being raped and disfigured with fireworks, which was what the early idiot reporting on social media looked like).

Unfortunately, when rapetards like RooshV and his bizarre cult members like Matt Forney start virtue signaling for white girl pussy, pretty much anyone who has a brain can spot them as self-serving phonies. Sociopaths and Cluster B personality disordered men act pretty much like Sociopath and Cluster B women: their innate narcissism eventually comes out and they destroy themselves the minute they are confronted in a way they can no longer deny.

Not long after they began their little character assassination campaign, I was contacted by former friends of Matt Forney, to discuss not just Forney’s publicly confessed rape, but other things they know about Matt. Personal things. Here’s some of what I got, with names redacted to protect the innocent from the Rape Cultists of Return of Kings.

MattForneyRapist1

MattForneyRapist2

MattForneyRapist3

MattForneyRapist4

There’s more where that came from.

If you’ve been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted by Matt Forney, RooshV, or anyone associated with Return of Kings, please let me know. I have a long history of getting innocent men out of jail. I wouldn’t mind putting some guilty ones behind bars for once.

Oh, and Roosh Recites Shahada.

Free Prayer–I mean Meditation–for the Four Horsemanites, aka the Scientific Atheists

Vox Day, a man with whom I have some disagreements and some areas of agreement, has written two books that I enjoyed over the holiday season. He is always an engaging, witty, and/or thought-provoking read. And that is not a compliment I dole out lightly. I’ll probably have reviews out on both of them at some point, but one of be books was The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, And Hitchens (short take: I liked it) and SJWs Always Lie (short take: aside from mixing Hayek with Aristotle, which I cringed a bit at, and failing to acknowledge SJW-like behavior on the “other side” of the nebulous left-wing/right-wing thing, it’s still a great fucking book on how to deal with institutional sociopathy and bonus: helps introduce more people to Aristotle which is always a very good thing to do). In the forementioned book, I found something that I thought would help my Movement Atheist friends–I think of them as the Children of the Four Horsemen or the Horsemanites for short.

Anyway for my Horsemanite Atheist friends, I noticed lately you seem to have problems with having a coherent understanding of, well, much of anything actually. The only thing you can seem to agree on is that religion is bad, except when it’s good of course, but anyway you are not RELIGIOUS because you’re more rational, even if you seem really confused a lot.

Knowing that studies have shown that prayer and meditation can be psychologically beneficial at least (I know you need to dismiss every study showing possible physical benefits because that’s just obvious bullshit/flimflam) I realized that maybe if someone helped you with a prayer you could use–well you wouldn’t pray so it would only be a meditation–might just add clarity to the conflicts you have amongst yourselves. It might make you form more coherent arguments when you talk to those nuisance theists, who as we all know are the source of most violence and abuse and backward thinking in the world.

So to help psychologically brace and/or heal yourselves amid the confusion and turmoil in your universe whereby the powers of “Skepticism” and “Rationalism” seem under assault from within, here I give you a meditation I crafted, with permission, from part of Vox’s book on atheism (which you can get by clicking the link above or by just using a search engine to find the free version he put out there). It’s something he called The Atheist Creed.

As a former atheist in good standing (I read American Atheist and everything for a while there) for many years, I have reviewed this Atheist Creed carefully and I agree that no rational Horsmanite could possibly object to a word of it. I also realized it would be a totally inoffensive and potentially helpful meditation for my atheist brothers and sisters.

It lacks a sort of assumption the Horsemanites are contingent upon, namely, that Science will solve our issues, and that Atheism is merely Rational, and if we are Rational like them the world will be a better place. And the more we can get our governments to act like what we tell you is Rational in the name of Secularism, the better off we’ll all be by inference. Because iPhones, Astronomy, and Science.

Yet the creed alone lacks the reassurance needed so you can remind yourself regularly of correct thinking. Thus a meditation is perfect, both to bolster and unify Atheism, and, to resolve all those troubling disputes among the movement that isn’t a movement because it believes it doesn’t believe things.

Anyway, with love, my New Atheist brothers and sisters, I give you this meditation to use in your times of trouble and warring confusion:

—-[begin creed/meditation]—-

Meditation of the Scientific Atheist:

I am a Scientific Atheist. I have no creed. Dogma is anathema to me, for only the following things can be true:

Nothing exists but natural phenomena.
Thought is a property or function of matter.
Death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units.
There are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature.
There are no forces, phenomena, or entities which transcend nature.
There are no forces, phenomena, or entities which are supernatural.
Nor can there be
But first and foremost I must always remember:

I have no creed. Dogma is anathema to me. For I am a Scientific Atheist, and I seek to embody Rationalty in all things.

…I’m pretty sure.

—-[end creed/meditation]—-

If nothing else you can ward off many potential sexual harassers at Skeptic conventions and in elevators with this prayer I’ll bet.

Does anyone think if I approach Patriarch Dennett, Pope Dawkins, Cardinal Harris, or Saint Hichens in the Nonexistence, that they might give it their blessing? Or at least let us know if this meditation or its underlying creed is wrong in some respect? I’m sure if we spread it further, the distress in New Atheism and especially Science will find it a healing and unifying meditation.

Oh by the way, as one of those irrational people–those scary deranged theists–I would still wonder, if you could ask fans of the Horsemen and people like Neil deGrasse Tyson this question:

Is it possible that sometimes people mask intellectual and religious bigotry and prejudice by saying it’s “just challenging an idea?”

Alternatively, should we add a sort of filoque otherwise implied by the silence?

“It is good to condescend to and insult theists, for they work evil. Holding them to different standards than we do our fellow Scientific Atheists is just fine. Even outright lying about religious theists serves the greater good. This we know to be true.”

Well I’d appreciate you passing on my questions, anyway.

*Update*: For more to ponder on how very very rational atheism is or is not, you might like this piece I recently published on goPandora: How Atheist Fundamentalists ruin rational thought, civil discourse and science.

Someone suggested Lynn Margulis was a closet Creationist. Or that I am. Um, no.


In the past I have been vindictively and falsely accused by the likes of PZ Myers of being a Creationist. He and other High Inquisitors of the Church of the Horsemen (also known as the Church Fathers of Freethought Blogs) are pretty much like McCarthyites who fear Communists under their beds. They stand ready even now to find the dirty Creaties. People within the “skeptic” community acted as Inquisitors in the name of Holy Science, ready to strike lest anyone harbor an heretical thought or two on the nature of Darwinism as currently understood and the limits of what the sciences can currently tell us. Or lest anyone question whether we’ve got the right paradigm for future investigation of certain important matters.

It did not matter that I was an atheist at the time, it did not matter that I repeatedly said I thought Creationism was silly and Intelligent Design was not science. It did no good–the repetitions and howls that I was a Creationist and anti-Science just got louder and more vicious. They even made up a permanent entry in me for it in something called “The Encyclopedia of American Loons” claiming, falsely, that I had suggested teaching Creationism or Intelligent design in the schools was a “good idea.”

It was a cyber-mobbing and pure cyberbullying. And my first taste of just how vicious the supposed “rationalist” community could be. These people called themselves sceptics but mostly they were anti-intellectual bullies who also obviously, in many cases, could demonstrate no coherent understanding of the scientific method or even notice how often their own claims could not be falsified.

My crime? It was for suggesting that if you fight the Creationists too hard, you’ll actually make them more powerful. I argued that it would be much better to note that they were and are a religious fringe, but if you look like bullies by dragging them into court you’ll just make people sympathetic. An editorial writer at no less than Science (the most prestigious science journal in the world) wrote a near-identical opinion, but even my citing him did not matter: I was a disgusting nutbag who wanted Creationism in the schools. No amount of evidence mattered: I was guilty as charged.

Now you have a right to say I was wrong, although I would suggest that in the decade since I’ve been proven at least somewhat correct in that prediction; scientists are increasingly being seen as dogmatic bullies who can’t prove their own shit, which certain “rationalists” respond to by blaming innocent religious folk who were never anti-science in the first place. Or looking around for some other religious idea that offends them rather than look critically at their own behavior.

I do owe these dogmatic, bullying anti-Creationist zealots a debt of gratitude though. It led me to begin to wonder why I’d ever thought atheists were more rational or intelligent or decent than anyone else. And it led me ultimately to asking if my own atheism made sense.

Anyway, back then one of the Atheist Inquisitors got particularly incensed and started up on me again when I noted how much I thought of the work of Lynn Margulis and how the problem with corruption in peer review funding was a serious problem, along with bad textbooks and phony research getting published more and more. I was immediately ridiculed for mentioning the “crazy cat lady” Lynn Margulis (apparently some in the Richard Dawkins Fan Club like to call her that). Her crime? She liked the “Gaia” metaphor for how gasses operate and how microbial life so strongly influence that.

(Ask Exoplanet Astronomers if Lynn Margulis was nuts. Go on try it. They might not even have jobs without her.)

But no, as one of her friends made it plain in her son’s wonderful book of remnances, “Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel” she was an atheist, an unwavering materialist to the end.

In what is probably her most important book, “Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origin of Species,” she examines Darwin’s original treatise at length, but finds him wanting on some big questions. But she also reveals her own theological views very well:

—[begin quotation here]—

Probably more bought the book than read it. After a century of exegesis by savants and much translation into common language, the authorities have agreed that Darwin’s insights were many and valuable. The book itself, however, is laced with hesitancies, contradictions, and possible prevarication. Darwin made it clear that Man, like all live beings, survived to the present preceded by an immense and daunting history. No God had made either Man or tomato. Nor had any other form of life been created separately in seven or fewer days. Yet Darwin, perhaps mainly for reasons of political acumen, did reserve the possibility that God had begun life in the first place.

Surprisingly, when all was said and done about “grandeur in this view of life” (one of Darwin’s last phrases in the great book), it was abundantly clear that in 500 pages of closely spaced type the title question–on the origin of species–had been entirely circumvented–abandoned, ignored, or coyly forgotten. As the Australian biologist George Miklos so appropriately put it:

The ‘struggle for existence’ has been accepted uncritically for generations by evolutionary biologists with the Origins of Species quoted like so much Holy Writ, yet the origin of species was precisely what Darwin’s book was not about.

For those who skimmed the book, those who read his myriad other works, and those who simply learned about the book’s contents from others, Charles Darwin ultimately established, to the satisfaction of his scientific contemporaries and followers, a major idea entirely valid in our day. All species of life did descend from related predecessors. All life, whether or not made by a deity in the very beginning, is connected back through time to preexisting, proximally similar life forms. Today, with our better understanding of cosmic evolution and the chemistry of life’s origins, any requirement for a deity can be pushed back still further, to the mysterious origins of the cosmos in the Big Bang.

—[end quotation here]—

Actually as a fan of Margulis I can’t fail to note how she so frequently goes out her way to bash theists, often in a very catty way; some of her remarks in one of her other books about the great biologist Gregor Mendel were pure MeanGirl bullying, or would be seen as such if Mendel were alive. Mendel was a monk you see so he must have harbored heretical thoughts not approved by Science.

No, she wasn’t a Creationist you dolts. She just thinks Selfish Gene is ludicrously reductionist and can’t account for most of what we see in life’s diversity, and she’s got a way better hypothesis for how it all works. Now she might be right or wrong–I happen to suspect she’s right–but if you’re going to argue with me about this lady argue about her work on its merits not because you think she might be a Heretic to Lord Science.

Now, in the years since I was first dogpiled by the Rabid Hateful Atheist Club, I’ve grown wiser. And I wish I could talk to Lynn, and explain to her how very primitive and reductionist her own ideas of God are. The God spoken of by Plato, Aristotle, and in the Septuagint can’t be contained in such ridiculously primitive reductionist formulas. Sorry, we are not one jot or tittle closer to answering the arguments made by the ancients of the necessity of a noncontingent Creator today than we were 2000 years ago.

Creationism was always for weak-minded theists–and weak-minded atheists tend to think exactly like them, in my experience.

Anyway, Lynn Margulis: one of the most important scientists of this century. She’ll be remembered for her contributions to science long after everybody’s forgotten the irrelevant Pope of Atheism, Richard Dawkins, the king of the Neo-Darwinist bullies.

Check out “Acquiring Genomes.” It’s fucking brilliant. And you can verify most of what she says with an ordinary microscope if you really want to. How’s that for offering evidence?

*Update*
By the way, trusting institutional Science? Not that wise a thing to do these days. And no, don’t blame me. I’ve been complaining about this problem for a decade and been called a conspiracy theorist and a crackpot for saying it.

Towards a universal theory of human (and other) cognition (early draft 1)

This is an early draft presentation which will hopefully evolve over time. Others are invited to comment and offer to contribute/collaborate. The author is openly seeking collaboration to flesh this out further and make it more robust, fill in gaps, add information, and challenge the model.

In the early 20th Century Korbinian Brodmann defined regions of the cerebral cortext by their apparent function. Anatomists and others have long been frustrated by the Brodmann areas and some even deprecate them because anatomists have difficulty distinguishing them on dissection and because we know that one region of the brain can take over functions of another part of the brain via means such as neuroplasticity. However the Brodmann regions stubbornly persist in showing up because it remains that when you damage these specific regions, the functionality associated with them becomes impaired.

u of m brod map

(Illustration found in Google Images and used under Fair Use but may be replaced later.)

Furthermore, what we have also discovered in recent years is that by using EEG technology to focus on brainwave emissions from a single Brodmann region, we can read the frequency(ies) that a dicrete Brodmann region emits on EEG, and, using biofeedback to monitor that region in real time and train that frequency emitting from that particular Brodmann region towards a somewhat arbitrarily-established mean or median from EEG data collected from thousands of putatively “normal” brains, clinical practice shows that the functions associated with that region improve in the individual. The following is redacted from a Quantitative EEG prescription from an American neurologist for a patient who agreed to have it appear in this presentation:

qeeg snippet

Clinical experience which can be attested to by neurofeedback practitioners globally, as well as numerous studies on neurofeedback found in sources such as Medline/Pubmed, shows overwhelmingly that techniques such as this are effective, and tend to be far more effective than drugs or psychotherapy alone, although it is agreed that psychotherapy and sometimes drug interventions are absolutely advisable in conjunction with this form of therapy; this technology does not render obsolete all other forms of psychiatric/psychological treatment irrelevant. It is generally agreed that to be most effective, the treatment will be most effective in conjunction with some form of cognitive therapy whether it be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or other clinically proven talk therapies.

It is generally agreed in the literature and among practitioners that the biofeedback training using EEG data is creating new neurons and neuron paths in the subject’s brain, i.e. neuroplasticity, probably including Hebbian learning.

Furthermore, clinically, the results are generally agreed to be permanent unless insults to the body post-treatment result in new dysfunction or returning to previous dysfunctional patterns. Essentially, the neurofeedback treatment is effectively a permanent cure for what it purports to treat, unless something happens to undo the cure.

The fact that the new neuron pathways are being established is in no way in dispute by this author. However, neuroplasticity and Hebbian learning have long seemed insufficient/incomplete to this author. Having consulted multiple practitioners and surveyed much of the literature, the author can find no explanation that is fully satisfying as to why this long-term clinical effect is seen from the simple act of modifying the EEG signal in a Brodmann region. Why such dramatic results from a simple frequency change?

The author makes the rather audacious suggestion that “brain waves” are in fact carrier waves for signaling within the brain and indeed the entire nervous system. Those looking to individual neurons firing are missing a much broader picture, seeing the trees not the forest: the human brain almost certainly does not operate “like a computer” in more than crude ways, but the human brain most definitely operates along principles similar to computer networks, although in a more sophisticated fashion than is usually the case in modern computer networks.

The author proposes that each Brodmann region is not just a “semi-autonomous” (as is generally agreed by most sources) but is in a very real sense already capable of all the functionality of the larger brain, albeit in smaller scale. Each Brodmann region is actually transmitting streaming data 24 hours a day, non-stop, broadcasting its own needs and responses to other Brodmann regions to meet their needs. Different segments of the brain (and nervous system) will be gated off from each other, so not all Brodmann regions can hear each other, but Brodmann areas will be logically grouped by related function so they may “hear” each other and cooperate with each other directly.

Within computer networks there is a concept of “logical” versus “physical” topology. Physical topology can take almost any form so long as the logical topology is preserved. A lesson on computer networking will help us understand, even as we emphasize the author does not propose the brain works exactly “like a computer.”
Early computer networking technicians and engineers noted a realty of how electricity behaves when sent down wires. In short summary, electricity will flow everywhere on a wire until it finds resistance. So for example, as in this simple illustration:

wire 1

To be clear this is not a lesson in electricity, but to the concept of how it flows: if you put an electrical charge on one end of a copper wire, the electricity immediately flows to the other end. Ground the wire or otherwise put a source of resistance on the end, and the electricity flows through.

Furthermore, absent something to stop it (resistors, gates, etc.) electricity will flow through every bit of copper that goes to ground; if you keep adding wires, no matter how chaotic the pattern of wiring, the electricity will hit every part of the wire indiscriminately:

wire 2

NB: It is acknowledged for any electrical engineers reading that these are very simplified descriptions of electrical flow from their point of reference. There will also be those who have studied individual neuron function to begin objecting here that this is a crude analogy of how sophisticated neurons really interact. So noted: the above is not a crude drawing of a neuron or a lengthy lesson on electricity. It could, however, be a drawing of how millions of neurons are strung together to make a communcations line. More on that proposal later.

Returning to our simplified explanation, when you send a signal down a wire, it goes everywhere on that wire unless something stops it from doing so. It is the natural way electricity flows, and is thus the way signals on that electrical current flows.

In designing the classic, early form of Ethernet now popular through the world, engineers took advantage of this tendency of a signal to go everywhere to their advantage in designing a copper wire with computer (and printer and other) nodes on the wire, in this classic formulation:

ethernet

(Illustration found in Google Images and used under Fair Use but may be replaced later.)

Note that this method of Ethernet communications is now fairly rare in the real world as systems using hubs, switches, and so on came along. Nevertheless, examine this model: clearly, if one computer sends a signal down the copper wire, it will go to every single part of the wire and every node on the wire. (Resistor terminators are used on the ends to simply stop the signal. Once again, we ask that electrical engineers who wish to go into the finer points of this operation resist the urge to do so. We are explaining fundamental concepts here.)

Ethernet has evolved to a more complex system involving hubs, switches, routers, signal amplifiers, and more. With increasing complexity, engineers have had to move from describing physical topologies (the literal and exact way each and every node, wire, and other piece of equipment is placed) to describing what are known as logical topologies: how the network is logically laid out regardless of where exactly its wires and various nodes are. For example, a look at the logical topology of a very large and sophisticated computer network is still easy to understand no matter how complex and snarled the actual wires and computers are, as such:

ethernet2(Illustration found in Google Images and used under Fair Use but may be replaced later.)

Odds are if you are reading this presentation you may be in an office whose wiring is exactly described by this logical topology, even though that office might in fact have thousands of computers so arranged, and the actual physical location of wires, hubs, routers, computers may seem completely chaotic and to in no way resemble this simple, clean, logical topology. But this logical topology allows us to understand instantly the operation of the otherwise bewildering mass of boxes and wires—logically, no matter how much you move equipment and wires around, so long as the connections are properly maintained, communications are smooth and uninterrupted.

To emphasize again the point that we are not attempting to draw a direct analogy to computers and the brain, we also note that similar logical topologies describe vast networks of electrical power generation and transmission:

electrical power lines(Illustration found in Google Images and used under Fair Use but may be replaced later.)

Multiple power plants and millions of kilometers of wires and millions of homes, offices, and other facilities using electricity can be described and understood using the above logical topology.
We propose that the brain, and cognitive function may also be described by a logical topology known as a gated mesh topology:

complex mesh

Multiple reputable sources in contact with the author have agreed that It is generally accepted that there are 27 Brodmann regions associated with specific cognitive functions such as hearing, vision, language decoding, language production, and so on, with other Brodmann regions used by other functions in the brain. This presentation accepts these assertions uncritically for the purposes of illustration and this claim as to how many Brodmanns are involved in any particular function is beyond the scope of this presentation. In any case we will not attempt to draw 27 nodes or any other specific number. Rather, this conceptual diagram shows a mesh topology with individual Brodmann nodes connected by multiple reduntant wiring that intersects. Essentially, when one Brodmann puts out a signal, all other Brodmanns in its region can detect and respond to that signal at any time in an almost completely ad hoc fashion. The nodes semi-autonomously decide, individually, what to listen and respond to, and the other nodes decide, individually, which responses to listen to and how to respond to them, in a never-ending systemic cycle. Within any given segmented part of the brain, such as what we think of as the “higher brain” that does cognitive function, each Brodmann will be clearly receiving all signals from the others in that region.

clean topology with words2

Furthermore, it is proposed that since the regions are mostly autonomous, deciding individually both what to send to the rest of the network and what to not-send, what to respond to and what not to respond to, each is essentially intelligent in its own right, and decisions for the entire region are made by consensus and not any particularly complex sorting algorithm. The Brodmann nodes talk to each other very much in the way that colonies of groundhogs, ants, and such “talk” to each other; wasps may use pheromones and complex dances, groundhogs may communicate mostly by chirps and grunds and squeals, but all are capable of “hearing” each other simultaneously while clustered together and can decide either as individuals or in groups how to behave; the Brodmann communications strategies with each other will mirror natural organic communications schemes found in pack and hive species.

Furthermore, every collection or cluster of associated Brodmann areas will have a gate or set of gates to send and receive communications from other regions of the brain and nervous system as follows:

clean topology with gateway2

The “cloud” in this formulation is the entire rest of the nervous system.

Indeed, we note here that it seems likely that the entire human nervous system operates on these principles, though in the human “higher” brain the complex parts involved in higher cognition are just a bigger collection of Brodmanns grouped together in this case for cognition, while other much smaller network clusters may be involved in other functions such as heart and lung function, walking, using hands, keeping balance, dealing with fight/flight/freeze responses for the system as a whole, and so on.

Those educated in neuron anatomy may now be objecting strongly that the dendrites, axons, Ranvier nodes, and synapses do not appear to work like this. We suggest our friends with this mentality are zooming too far in to the wiring. We propose that neurons are there to modulate the signals flowing through them in chains; essentially the “wires” to the nodes in this configuration may be millions or billions of neurons long. Individual firing of neurons is not the key to understanding, it is their collective retransmission of signals that produces cognitive processing within the Brodmann areas and in the “wires” logically connecting these areas together. Indeed individual synapses may be involved modulation or other changes to the signal as it passes through neuron chains, but we propose that generally neurons in transmission lines will faithfully pass on whatever signal they receive down the line; they do not need to involve themselves in intricate manipulation of the signal if their assigned role as neurons is to form a chain to pass signals. Individual neurons within a Brodmann region are almost certainly involved in far more complex activity than is within the scope of our exploration here. Here we assume Brodmann regions are vast collections of billions of neurons aligned for one function, with neurons also forming chains of wires whose main job is merely to pass data on.

We note that this description obviates the need for a central controller for any function; decisions are arrived at by group consensus, either in so-called higher cognition and possibly in every other functional region of the brain and nervous system as well.
In reality, it is frequently objected that it is nearly impossible to distinguish where one Brodmann area begins and another ends. The actual physical layout/topology of various nodes on the network may look chaotic, such as this:

spaghetti topology

As in an ever-growing and changing Ethernet network, lines may be laid over time to add more bandwidth, ad-hoc connections between two busily communicating nodes may be run, and indeed, some Brodmann regions may (and almost certainly do) begin merging physically. But within the functioning of the network, the logic will remain (mostly) logically pristine:

 

complex mesh….no matter how snarled, random, and spaghetti-like the Brodmann areas may become internally, and no matter how haphazard the physical wiring between regions may appear to become, logically they will continue to communicate on these patterns at all times.
Within this model we also propose a few other items which are not necessarily central to this logical configuration, but which would match with it well:

1) Within at least “higher” function or what we call “consciousness”, every Brodmann area “thinks.” Auditory brodmann regions both process audio information and construct a logical language within themselves to process logical thoughts in an auditory form. Visual Brodmann areas will process logic visually. Odd as it sounds, smell and taste Brodmanns may well process logic using smell and taste logic. We believe this is speculation but not unreasonable speculation.

2) A much more wild guess, but possibly worth entertaining by those trying to decode signaling in brain waves: the mind and other parts of the body seem to consistently use patterns of 2 or 3. I propose that information may be passed or stored in a sort of organic binary and/or trinary, with no concept of 0 or negative numbers. If so, we would predict data storage, logic, and even transmission to all be based on 2, 3, a merging of both for a base of 5, and otherwise a general use of either adding numbers or exponents of numbers. We cannot prove this, but those attempting to decode brain information may find this suggestion a useful starting point, what computer hackers term a “WAG,” to start looking for how information may be decoded.

We finally note that regardless of the guesswork of the previous numbered items, this model also answers the question: why does functionality improve when you change the signal frequency used by individual Brodmann areas? Because the Brodmann areas may now communicate to each other in improved, undistorted fashion, in fundamentally the same way that glasses can fix astigmatism, nearsightedness, etc., or that pixellation and other transmission issues in a television signal can be cleared by fixing the frequency and running new lines. The Brodmanns are communicating better now, and this contributes substantially to the improved function found in clinical experience.

 

 

Note: This presentation is a draft and is part of a larger GPL v3 licensed project for open source neurofeedback. It is not a scientific paper, it requires more development and considerably more references. Nevertheless conceptually we have not seen these proposals in the literature, and we believe these present plausible, falsifiable hypotheses which also lead to obvious suggestions for further research, and is worth sharing with those intending further research on brain waves and possibly other brain functions. Many illustrations were taken from Google image search and are uncredited and will need replacing and are otherwise used under fair use. Nevertheless we feel the implications are so strong we want people to see this and give their feedback.

*update*: An informal presentation given to my friend Catreece MacLeod on this same subject:

Defending the liberal tradition in history, science, and philosophy