"Pious fraud" is a more general term for any act of deception by a religious person or group which uses the rationale that it increases belief in a supposedly real deity. A modern Christian-centric term for it is "lying for Jesus".
Elsewhere he lumped Christianity in with other religions as being based on a lie. In The Antichrist (much longer), he is eventually direct, referring to the 'lie of the "risen" Jesus'. He directly accuses Paul of lying in the same passage. Your answer is yes, Nietzsche really did think what you think he thought.
If there was no actual resurrection, and disregarding for a moment the possibility of hallucinations, someone had to be guilty of fraud, pious or not. (The chroniclers themselves are included in the list of suspects.) Arguing against this based on the character and moral fibre of those well-known characters involved does no good, for it simply implies that they were not the perpetrators.
Say for example that someone unknown impersonated Jesus so well that his friends and very old (for the period) mother believed he had returned. To achieve this he didn't have to look or sound exactly as he did, as he'd supposedly been through a lot. He just had to make the point that he was back, and disappear again. This scenario exonerates Jesus, the apostles and anyone else named in the Bible of any deception, while still letting deception happen. If you don't like that idea, come up with your own clever scheme.
Personally, the idea of Jesus' teachings fading away seems frightening enough to his followers that they would be willing to manufacture a miracle to keep them going, thus breaking a Commandment and possibly sacrificing their own souls for the cause. Clever schemes don't appeal to me as much as the infinite capacity of the human mind for rationalisation.
You dismiss a lot of what I wrote to your last question, without actually addressing most of my answers. I hope you realise that you can reply directly to my answers by commenting.
The founders of modern science were deeply committed Christians because almost the entire populations of their countries were. They approached everything from a premise of Christian faith, including science.
Their scientific endeavours, however, did not utilise the catch-all explanation that a god provides. Then as now, they searched for natural explanations for physical phenomena. THEN they credited God. They did not simply say, "God did it." They said, "God caused it to happen like this." If they couldn't work something out, they said, "We don't yet know how God does this." They still had gaps in their understanding, and filling them with God didn't stop them from wanting to close them.
Scientists today can be atheists, Christians or anything else. Modern science itself is not atheistic, it is rather agnostic. It is completely divorced from theology, and does not normally take any position on the existence of gods. It looks for natural explanations as always. Once those explanations exist, the religious are free to suppose that God is responsible. If you want to establish God's necessity however, you have to undermine the natural explanation and thus attack science.
Importantly, scientists of all religions HAVE found many explanations for phenomena for which there were none. The theory of gravity has explained not just the movements of planets but the means of their formation. Germ theory has explained diseases so well that we can now fight them directly.
This does not necessarily imply that all mysterious phenomena have natural explanations. It does mean that just because something doesn't have a natural explanation now doesn't mean that it never will. So scientists keep looking, not out of faith but from prior experience that the mysterious does not always remain so.
Scientists are under no illusions that they will understand the universe and everything in it in natural terms within a year, or even a century. The gaps, though shrinking, will probably always be there. If you want to say they're gaps in our understanding of God, go ahead. They're still gaps, and they always were.
- Do not misrepresent an opposing position, I'm sure you know what a straw man argument is. Nothing in existence can have created itself, and no one thinks life did. It likely didn't evolve into existence either, because evolution requires self-replication which only life has achieved. It emerged as a result of the countless chemical reactions caused by the huge variety of elements being thrown together constantly on and beneath Earth's surface. As I said before, with recent developments abiogenesis research is getting MUCH closer to a full explanation.
- Infinity is not mathematically nonsensical. It is perfectly acceptable to suppose that matter and energy, which as far as we know cannot be destroyed, will last forever into the future. Matter having lasted forever into the past is no different.
- The Big Bang was indeed a singularity, but as the religious are fond of saying, where did that singularity come from? It may have been a transient phase of an ongoing cyclical universe, or the offspring of another. There are other theories which do suppose that it emerged from what one might reasonably call "nothing", but the important thing is that those theories explain exactly how.
- You've more or less ignored my basic explanation of the origin of mind. Perhaps if I point you to animals in which its precursors have appeared: self-awareness in birds, emotions in elephants, culture in dolphins, all of the above in chimpanzees...if it helps creatures survive and procreate, which it does, then it is strengthened with each new generation.
- You've also ignored my distinction between objective morality and absolute morality. The object on which a moral or ethic is based does not need to be a universal absolute (we cannot determine whether anything is) in order to be valid; it simply needs to be common to all those who apply that morality.
- Science is not concerned with Jesus because there is no scientific evidence for him or his supposed miracles. That's not to say he didn't exist, or even that they didn't happen. There is simply nothing in the subject for science to do right now.
- Darwinian evolution is not the foundation of atheism, because there were atheists thousands of years before Darwin. It's generally accepted by atheists today, because the only real reasons to reject it are religious. Your bottom line is that because evolution contradicts the Bible, it must not be true. That premise leads you to believe that ANY existing criticism of evolution is valid, so you use them all, even the long-refuted ones like irreducible complexity. Don't.
Atheists can deny gods, but we can't "negate" them. If there's a god here somewhere, it's there, and all the disbelief in the world won't destroy it. If there aren't any gods, however, all the belief in the world won't create one.
I've addressed a lot of your numbered points before if you want to have a look in Recent Posts, but I'll summarise for you.
1. The Big Bang wasn't necessarily something coming from nothing. It might have been, sure, but nothing prevents the existence of a natural precursor: say, another universe. In that case, the implication is an infinite series of universes, or a stable external universe producing unstable internal universes like this one.
Your solution to the same problem is that God created the universe, and he existed forever before that. If you can simply declare this, isn't it simpler to cut out the extra entity and suppose that the universe itself has always existed in some form? God explanations always look so clean and simple, until you then have to explain the god.
2. Name one actually irreducibly complex system. Those presented in public so far have been hypothetically reduced, and in most or all cases already had been when they were presented as irreducibly complex. If you have a favourite example, we can go through it here.
3. The mathematical refutations of abiogenesis (life from non-life) have themselves been refuted, starting with Hoyle's famous Boeing 747 argument. In brief, although the chances were small, the opportunities were many and the possible forms early life could have taken were almost infinite. Most impossible-looking probabilities suppose that only a particular protein or enzyme must be formed.
4. Quote-mining Dawkins, of all people, will get you nowhere. The Cambrian "explosion" was if anything a very slow explosion, occurring over several million of the 15 million years of the Cambrian period. It was indeed a period of great change and many new variations, but since it's around the period when animals themselves first appeared, one would expect this. Nobody said evolution had to proceed at the same rate throughout its 3.5 billion year history.
5. The incomplete fossil record is hardly a secret. A given plant or animal has an incredibly small chance of becoming a fossil at all, and we'll never find most of them anyway, so it's inconceivable that the record will ever be "complete".
Those fossils we have found, however, paint a sparse but consistent impression of branching descent from a common ancestor. What would really throw evolutionary theory off is not missing fossils, but fossils in the wrong period. The famous hypothetical example is rabbits in the pre-Cambrian.
6. The anthropic principle is often very atheistic in nature. It counters the sense of privilege we might feel in having a planet which is perfect for our needs, by saying that we could only have emerged on such a planet, wherever it was.
What you really mean is the fine-tuning argument, which states that if the conditions of the universe were even slightly different, we could not exist. In the hypothetical context of a multiverse the above applies again; out of the many different universes we could only have emerged in one which suits our needs.
There are other objections which do not require this model, for example: perhaps to achieve a different but life-friendly universe, the conditions of the universe need to be wrenched rather than tweaked, and other equilibria exist far away from the current "settings". All possible arrangements have not been tested, only those near ours.
7. The mind can be easily explained, at least in broad strokes, by evolution. The mind is beneficial. Those animals including primates which developed rudimentary versions of the brain functions we think of as "mind" had a tremendous mental advantage over those which didn't. Later, any deadly contest of will or wits was won by whoever had the better mind. Natural selection favours the clever, all other things being equal.
8. Darwin was in no doubt that an undirected system had in fact produced the brain. It may not in fact be capable of determining ultimate truth, whatever that is, but it is perfectly capable of making reasoned decisions based on the evidence before it.
9. Perhaps nothing is intrinsically "right" or "wrong". We can never know. Therefore we adopt a heuristic approach to morality: that which is beneficial is usually right, and that which is harmful is usually wrong. If it works, we keep it. If it doesn't, we change it.
Without something transcendent to ourselves there is probably no absolute morality, but there is plenty of objective morality. The objects used can be simple and straightforward, like a comparison of relative benefit and harm, or they can be tried and tested, like the ancient ethic of reciprocity (the Golden Rule), or they can be complex and careful, like the law.
These objects can certainly be challenged, but in the absence of any infallible authority we actually know exists, we use the most solid things we have, such as logic, mathematics, group consensus and our common human empathy.
Tom, I notice something about your perspective, based on your nine issues. It is not science that points to God, it is rather the perceived failings of science. You point in every case to what science supposedly can't explain (though in most of these cases it's well on the way), instead of what it can. Yours seems to be a god of the gaps.
Those gaps are getting smaller. Just this year, for instance, scientists discovered a method by which RNA (a precursor to DNA) can form, and elsewhere they synthesised rudimentary self-replicators. There is now less we don't know about the natural emergence of life from non-life than there was a year ago. God is a necessary part of that process to fewer people. The nature of gods of the gaps, Tom, is that they shrink.
If you want to keep believing, you're better off embracing the world as it really is, rather than denying things like evolution for which the evidence is overwhelming. God can always fit around science if you want Him to. Just accept that things are as they are, and say God made them that way.
Your co-worker took what you said too literally. As you say, "bless you" in this context is actually short for "God bless you" which is a request for God to do the blessing rather than a blessing in and of itself. Perhaps if you reinserted "God" the next time someone sneezes around this guy...
The tradition of acknowledging a sneeze is spread worldwide, but not all of the international sayings are religious. The most famous secular response, and the one I use, is the German version "gesundheit". It literally wishes the sneezer "good health".
I agree with almost everything you've written, but you misunderstand my question. You've given an excellent explanation of why you don't believe in any gods, but absence of belief isn't the same as belief in an absence. I asked why you positively believe there are no gods. Reading your stuff, I don't really think you do.
There's a lot you don't like about the major religions. Ditto. Thinking they're misguided has very little bearing on the existence of a real god, who if it exists might be as depicted in any of them or might be unlike anything we've imagined. I think that if there is one, it's not as concerned with this planet as people think. As you say, and as Carl Sagan famously expressed in Pale Blue Dot, we don't amount to much in many ways.
You see atheism as a religion, which was a big clue to your idea of things. Atheism is simply the absence of god-belief, whether by conscious rejection of it (explicit atheism) or lack of exposure to it (implicit atheism). Your opinion, and your conclusion based on the evidence, is that there are no gods. If more evidence came along, you might start to believe in one. All that stands between you (or me) and god-belief is lack of a good reason, not some contrarian belief that has to be knocked down first.
Strongly rejecting a position doesn't mean believing in the opposite with no more justification than one's opponents. I don't think you're really a "strong atheist", but that doesn't make you any less firmly atheist.
For those who came in late, this is where I've laid out the definitions of all these terms.
It is indeed possible to be an agnostic strong atheist, Jessica. That means you allow for the possibility that there's a god, but you positively believe there are none. A similar position is actually the exact opposite one. The world is full of agnostic strong theists: those who do not claim certainty that there's a god, usually because of lack of evidence, but believe in one anyway. The very concept of faith encourages this position.
My question to you would be the same as to any theist: "Why do you believe this, when you know it might not be true?" In the absence of hard evidence, what is your alternative basis for believing that there aren't any gods? Consider if you like, and get back to me.
You don't have to burden anyone else with these semantics. Simply calling yourself an atheist expresses most aspects of your position. If people ask you how you know there's no god, you can honestly say that you don't, and that you don't have to. If they accuse you of having as much faith as a theist, they might actually be right (since you're a strong atheist), but this doesn't make you any worse than them.
My personal favourites out of that lot are "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," and the brilliantly simple "Why believe in God?"
Depending on your intended audience, some of the others may cause readers to take offense and dismiss the flyer, whether or not this is justified. The derogatory descriptions of faith are in this category. Be careful with these.
Okay, your turn everyone. Which do you like? Any other suggestions?