Upcoming Internet Censorship in Australia

How worried should I be about the Australian government's plans for internet "filtering" in order to "protect the children". Is my belief that religious conservatives will hijack the system in order to censor material they disagree with a justified one, or am I being overly paranoid? And do you or any other atheist honestly think that they WON'T manage to force their way in to the censorship process?
Atheist Answer: 

Though it is a concern, I'm not overly concerned.

Conservatives of all sorts will be trying to add all kinds of material to the exclusion list, not just the religious ones. It'll be a battle for many different groups to keep their material available, not just the non-religious.

That said, there's always a way round. The internet outside the World Wide Web is almost completely unaffected; torrents and most bulletin boards will carry on regardless. Even banned websites can be accessed using a number of methods: mirrors, proxies, etc.

That's assuming that the new laws are actually enforced in any serious way. Going by precedent, that's not likely.

- SmartLX

homosexuality ...info please

ok i said i wasn't gonna ask this but i lied...i'm a lesbian i'm gonna set that out here and now but i want to know the views of homosexuality good evil unnatural my mother says that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong (lovely to live with her i assure you) anyways but i have been doing research on homosexuality, the biblical references to such and science etc and i wanna know more on all of it so what do you know that might help? i do soo much research about stuff these days i might explode ...but i'l;l explode smart (i think) so yeah help me out here.
Atheist Answer: 

Yes, let's tackle the issues which matter most to you.

Most Bible references to homosexuality are concerned only with male homosexuality, for instance Leviticus 18:22 which is addressed to a man: "Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

References to lesbianism, if any are even intended, are more oblique, for instance Romans 1:26: "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature." (Romans 1:27 goes back to talking about men.) Nevertheless, male homosexuality is universally derided and condemned in the Bible, and Christians have tended to generalise that to cover all LGBT behaviour.

The current scientific consensus on homosexuality is that it is largely hard-wired into the brain six to eight weeks after conception. All embryos start female, but at that point if there's a Y chromosome it causes a burst of testosterone which converts first the body, then the brain, to that of a man. If something interferes, a man might not get the full dose and be left with a partly feminine brain which desires men. Under other circumstances, a woman might get a small dose by mistake and have her brain partly converted, and thus desire women.

Therefore homosexual desire is not a choice. The abundance of homosexual activity in the rest of the animal kingdom demonstrates that it doesn't even require the ability to make a fully reasoned choice. It's instinct.

Homosexual activity, on the other hand, is a choice as much as any sexual activity is. That brings us to the question of whether homosexual activity is a sin to Christians. Even if you ignore the direct condemnation throughout the Bible, all sex outside of marriage is sinful. According to most denominations marriage is by definition between a man and a woman. Thus homosexuals can never marry their desired partners, and any sex they might enjoy is sinful. Their only sinless choice is celibacy, or else reluctant marriages to the opposite sex.

This is the problem right here. Why has God supposedly created people who can never be sexually fulfilled without damning themselves? Why does marriage, the only haven for sinless sex, exclude them?

Some Christians respond to this, and to gay rights campaigns, by attempting to prove that even homosexual desire is a choice by converting gays into straights. This is the impetus behind the whole "ex-gay" movement. The success rate of these programs is abysmal; since all the subjects are doing is suppressing their natural urges, they are tremendously likely to "relapse". Even the instructors, most of them "ex-gays" themselves, are regularly in the news after being caught having gay affairs.

While homosexuality is not the expected norm for a human being, it's hardly unnatural. It's not your choice, it's not your fault and it's not something you can truly change. You and those around you are just going to have to live with it. Fortunately, if you meet the right woman you can live happily thanks to it.

- SmartLX


This is the only life you have. Why waste it conforming to the morals and customs of others and answering questions on this site? Life is short, it defies rationality to waste it in this way.
Atheist Answer: 

A few reasons.

- I get free on-the-job training in written debate, research and effective writing in general, with rapid feedback if I do badly.

- I'm relatively new to atheism, and I'm crash-testing it. I'm actively seeking the best arguments against it to see whether I've missed something obvious. Nothing so far.

- Many religious folks paint a really horrid picture of atheism and atheists themselves. That reflects badly on me and any of my friends and family who are atheists. I want anyone who's genuinely curious about atheism to be able to ask an atheist about it directly, and set the record straight.

- You call this conforming to morals and customs? I spend half the time here explaining to people why I don't conform to their doctrines.

- SmartLX

Atheist Community

You have an atheist community. Just living in this world quite a few years, I know people do some of the most dastardly things to each other. Whether the people are believers in God or not I've experienced this nastiness in both groups and have heard stories from others. I'll even be real honest and say I can be quite troubling sometimes. The question for the Atheists is When one atheist verbally attacks, insults, abuses or belittles another atheist, how does an atheist who is on the receiving end deal with this? I know you atheists attack each other because I saw Kelly in one of your videos complain about other atheists belittling her representation of them. In the Christian faith, the bible basically predicts that people in general and christians are going to get shafted by others and to look for it in your experiences (Micah 7:5; Jeremiah 9:4). People have never disappointed me in living up to these predictions, which helps confirm my faith.
Atheist Answer: 

Sure, atheists fight amongst themselves as much as any other group. Not everybody likes the RRS, for instance. The difference from religions is, we can't resort to schisms in order to draw clear battle lines. When it happens, we respond like people do in any non-religious argument. We reply, we rebut, or we rebuke. Sometimes, unfortunately, we retaliate. We're human.

Everybody knows that people will sometimes attack and betray each other...including the authors of the Bible. Passages like those you mention use the observational fact of constant human conflict. All the authors do is predict based on their own observation that it will continue, in other words human behaviour will not change in the forseeable future, any more than it had in the thousands of years of history available to the authors. I argue that the Bible is wrong in many of its claims, but nobody's saying there isn't a single true word in it.

Approaching this prediction using my new reference post on prophecies and predictions, it fits squarely into the first suggestion: High Probability of Success. It is indeed an implicit prediction, and it is correct so far, but it was pretty darn easy to guess. Did it really need to be divinely inspired to be accurate?

- SmartLX

a question of logic

I have an odd request: I need a mediator, perhaps a logical referee. I am a Christian theist with an on-going debate with an atheist over the relationship between the Omni-max Christian God and human free will. The argument has devolved into a stalemate over a dispute regarding formal argumentation. I suggested obtaining an outside opinion in order to resolve the dispute, and I also suggested it be an atheist opinion to allay any concerns of bias. I am comfortable with this as most atheists consider reason more important than winning an argument, and based on a quick tour of your site I see no reason why that wouldn't be the case here. I am hoping you will be willing to invest a small amount of time in an effort to resolve this question. In fairness to my opponent, we should remain anonymous, until at least that time that he wishes to identify himself. Thanks in advance.... The point of order that needs to be answered is whether a contradiction between omnimax and free will can be proven deductively, or whether it should be approached evidentially or probabilistically. Whether the argument is true or not is unimportant at this stage, though you are more than welcome to comment on it after providing the primary answer. I'm sure I can predict where you stand, but it would be fun to hear anyway if you have a mind to. At any rate, here's the issue: P1) God is omni-max. P2) Humans have free will. P3) The existence of an omni-max God precludes human free will. C) Therefore, an omnimax God and free will humans cannot coexist. Let's assume my quick formulation of the argument is free from equivocation (we could argue definitions of free will and omni max), and is logically valid; that is, if the premises are true, the conclusion necessarily follows. Setting aside my defeaters for P3, I contend that your example supporting P3 is an expression of your limited, finite perspective. You cannot know all the potential supernatural factors surrounding omnimax (OM) and human will (FW). If you can't know all the factors due to your finitude [or for whatever reason], there may exist an OM/FW harmonizer in the supernatural realm, or the natural realm for that matter, that you are unaware of. Therefore, you can't know with certainty that OM precludes FW, and if you can't know with certainty, you can't demonstrate P3 to the level required to execute a deductive argument. But if something is logically contradictory, it's false in all possible worlds, right? We could argue that, though I tend to agree. Please note, though, that my contention here does not disavow logic, it only claims that the mechanics of logic are working with insufficient data based on your finitude and limited knowledge. With additional data, the OM/FW harmonizer for instance, the conclusion driven by the logic would change. The POE deductive argument fails for the same reasons as listed above: P1) God is omnimax and omnibenevolent. P2) Evil exists. P3) God does not have a morally sufficient reason to allow evil. C) Therefore, God does not exist. In the same manner, your limited perspective precludes you from demonstrating P3. But what if I substituted the following for P3 of the POE argument? P3) God does not appear to have a morally sufficient reason to allow evil. I have now transferred my claim to an inference to the best explanation. The argument is weaker propositionally, but it more than compensates by virtue of the claim I can now maintain, especially since I can now defy any theist to demonstrate the morally sufficient reason for allowing babies to be tortured. The same is true for our current argument. If I substitute P3 thusly: P3) The existence of an omni-max God appears to preclude human free will. I now have a defensible argument for my contention that OM and FW are inconsistent concepts. Thanks again. Sorry to put you on the spot out of the blue, but I think your answer will be interesting.
Atheist Answer: 

I'm honoured to help. I think I can be properly impartial, because I don't agree with either of you; I don't believe in free will at all. We can do what we want, but we can't choose what to want.

Just a quick note before I begin - isn't "Christian theist" partly tautological? Is it possible to be a Christian and either a deist or an atheist? How would a person of either combination reconcile the supposed miracles of Christ?

Plus, a quick glossary for those not used to this kind of discussion: omni-max means omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and omni-benevolent all at once, as Christians claim God is. P1, P2, etc. are premises from which conclusion C is derived. If the combined P doesn't lead to the C, it's a bad argument.

You can do better than an unknown hypothetical OM/FW harmoniser. There are known hypotheticals out there. For free will to exist, let's go large and say it must be possible for any human to make any choice at any time, even if that choice may not agree with a god. One solution which also allows an omni-max god is that all choices agree with that god; the nature of benevolence is that all human choices, regardless of the suffering they may cause, are ultimately beneficial. The god has used its infinite mind and intuition to predict all possible futures, and has found (or declared) all of them to be good. This is a potential solution to the Problem of Evil as well.

Therefore I don't think there's a deductive path to a contradiction between an omni-max god and free will, so if you're going to argue it anyway evidential and probabilistic arguments are the way to go.

To add my own spin, the fact that there are answers to the tough questions like supposed free will and the Problem of Evil does not help Christianity as much as you'd think. The problem is that there are too many answers coming from the one religion. The PoE is the better-known example. Answers to that can involve exempt demons, free will, "mysterious ways" and the nature of evil itself. It would sound better if Christians settled on one answer, because the current multitude demonstrates that nobody actually knows.

- SmartLX

atheism a realigion ??

Just got done with a pm debate with a gentleman who considers himself a deist. One thing that came up in conversation, he says "In the United States the government classifies atheism a religion". Is this true? he certainly believes it.
Atheist Answer: 

No, it's not true, but I can see how the deist fellow might get that idea.

Laws against discrimination on the basis of religion extend to cover atheists. That's not because atheism is officially a religion, but because there are additional clauses in the laws to include those with no religion.

If atheism really were classified as a religion, atheist organisations could apply for the same tax exemptions as churches. As it is, the best they can do is get recognised as non-profit charities, like the secular Red Cross.

- SmartLX

The Great Big Arguments #6: Pascal's Wager

If God exists and you live as if He does, your reward is infinite. If God does not exist and you live as if He does, you lose nothing. If God does not exist and you live as if He doesn't, you gain nothing. If God exists and you live as if He doesn't, your punishment is infinite. Therefore if there is the slightest chance that God exists, by any analysis of benefit it is better to live as if He does, in other words believe in and worship Him. The same argument is often expressed in shorter form: "What if you're wrong?"
Atheist Answer: 

This is an argument I've been answering constantly ever since I started here. No matter how many times it comes up, there are always those who think it's a brand new, ingenious zinger which will take us by surprise. I'll address it once more and then refer back to here in future.

There are four main issues with the Wager, any one of which would render it nonsensical or inadequate.

1. It presents a false dilemma: that either God exists or no god does.

There is an obvious third option, namely that any deity besides the expected god exists. If the real deity is Thor, for example, the punishment for Christians is infinite (possibly worse than for atheists, who at least do not worship a rival god).

Humans have imagined something like 20,000 different major deities or equivalents so far. Together with the countless ones we haven't thought of yet, there are an infinite number of possible gods. Without evidence for any particular god, all gods share equal probability of practically zero, and the probability of a particular god existing is infinitesimal compared to the probability of one or more rival gods, so worshipping any god is a hugely bad bet.

The response to this, I know, is to argue that there is evidence for your particular god and not for any of the others. That's a valid response, if true. However, if you have proof positive that your god is the one and only there's no need to mess around with probabilities, so you don't need to use Pascal's Wager in the first place. Just push your evidence instead.

2. If there are no gods, you don't lose nothing by living as if there is one. You lose plenty.

You spend hundreds or thousands of hours attending religious services. You give money to organisations whose primary purpose is not to help people but to convert them. You prevent yourself from doing some things you enjoy, not because they hurt anyone but because a book told you to. And so on.

3. Belief in gods is not a choice.

A person either believes there's a god or doesn't. This may change, but it's not a conscious decision by the person. Her or she has to be convinced, or else no longer convinced, one way or the other. The idea that it's beneficial to believe in a god does not support the idea that there is one. They're two independent issues.

4. Any decent god would spot a faker.

This is related to the third point. If an atheist were convinced that it's beneficial to believe in and worship God, he or she could certainly worship, but would still not believe. The worship would therefore be insincere on a fundamental level. It'd be a farce, maintained to give the appearance of belief. Would the Christian god, for example, accept this lip service?

It's said by some religious folks that if you pray with doubt, but pray with sincerity, belief will come. I don't doubt it; if you pray as if there's a god there for long enough, you may manage to forget that there isn't. If brainwashing yourself like this is the only way to believe, however, are you really doing the right thing?

In short, Pascal's Wager uses an incomplete and incorrect premise, and is useless to nonbelievers even if they agree with it. Blaise Pascal was a brilliant mathematician to whom we are all indebted, but his apologetic really let him down. Let this one go, people.

- SmartLX

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