Wednesday 15 October 2014

Is Islamaphobia a real thing?

I like to think contentious thoughts, trust me I am writing some other blog posts that are rather contentious of my own beliefs. "In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." - Bertrand Russell

Well this one is on Islamaphobia. Or the perceived racism that people get accused of when questioning Islam.

There is no doubt that humans stereotype, and perform irrational prejudice based decisions. Even the most rational of us will still check for our wallet if we are bumped by a person in a train who looks like they had seen better days. This is simply mistrust, something that served us well when we had to mistrust a strange looking creature for example that could kill us, if we mistrusted it and ran we survived either way, if we didn't and the creature was deadly then we wouldn't have passed on our trusting genes.

The common argument is that Islam is not a race, so it can't be racism. The joke that ran rife on Twitter post the Ben Affleck V Sam Harris debate was along the lines of: Tomorrow I am going to convert to Chinese. Which does make a good point, you can convert to Islam so it is not a race, anymore than Christianity is... or Judaism. But you can be an anti-Semite if you attack a Jew for wearing a yarmulke, just as you can be anti-Muslim if you simply attack a person for wearing a Hijab or Bisht. There are ill-informed prejudging people in the world, information is the only thing that can fix this.

Ah but you can't really convert to Judaism, see here and here. So maybe that is why Judaism gets that get out of insult card. But then really, Judaism is just a belief system, and beliefs can and should  be criticized. Peoples should never be as this is a generalization, this is prejudging someone based on their appearance and is fallacious. As Christopher Hitchens once eloquently put it "Hate the religion, not the religious".

Then again to break apart the word, Islamaphobia. Firstly my dictionary thinks it is not a word, homophobia it has no problem with, racism either. But anyway.
Islamaphobia seems to allude to the fear of Islam. Homophobia is not really the fear of homosexuals. I doubt many straight people fear that a homosexual is going to take away their rights, homophobia is more a disgust that homophobes have at the idea of same-sex relations. I heard it best put as you aren't afraid, you're just an arsehole.
So maybe it is the similar kind of unfounded fear here of Islam as homophobes have of homosexuals, don't get me wrong there are definitely some people out there who have unfounded fear of Islam, and will simply prejudge any Muslim they see as a member of Isis/Suicide bomber or whatever their culture has taught them. This is wrong and should stop now.
The points however that Sam Harris and Bill Maher make are fair and do allow for maybe a founded fear of some Muslims. There is a larger percentage of Jews who decry Israel's war on Palestine over Muslims who decry ISIL, with two different Jewish groups against the state itself.

Onto Indonesia which was mentioned as a shining light in the Muslim world. Indonesia is not that great, especially if you are an Ahmadiyya (a branch of Islam)... you also are in trouble if you question your faith;
I think what Reza Aslan on the panel was trying to say has been said very well by Steven Weinberg; "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

So maybe that is it, reverse the percentage of Muslims that believe in death for apostasy, reverse the number of Muslim countries that are anti-Jewish, anti-homosexual and  then you can complain when people try and use reason to attack your faith and attrocities attributed to it. Affleck was right in one of the last things he said, you don't criticize the people, you criticize the acts, and that is all I believe I and others are doing.

Maybe a reverse-ISIL should form, that fights to end capital punishment in Muslim countries, that ends imprisonment for apostasy/homosexuality and expression of art, science and sexuality, you know fights for peace. Til then there is no such thing as Islamaphobia from people who know the numbers Sam Harris talked about, that is now probably a tens of millions of people thanks to the internet and the reach of Realtime with Bill Maher.

Update: Interesting article here similar to my own thoughts.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Response - Ten quick responses to atheist claims

Response to (not going to link it as I don't want to give them the traffic :P )

I can't believe supposedly educated philosophers have used these arguments in an attempt to answer atheist questions, I guess it was christiantoday's writer Heather Tomlinson who did and not Prof Lennox, but Lennox is a believer so he probably would use these or similar. I am going to try and go through these quick as I have better things to do, movie with the kids tomorrow.

1) You don't believe in Zeus, Thor and all the other gods. I just go one god more than you, and reject the Christian God.

The first line in rejecting this is very facile, so what if Thor isn't compatible wit the bible, that doesn't nor ever could detract from its truth, if there was any.
The real point of this argument is that most Christians will claim that these Gods were made up with no reason why, usually due to someone has told them they are made up. If they have any level of skepticism that prevents them from believing in these gods they will not apply the same level of skepticism to their own God.
They quote Prof Lennox, who being a Christian would argue of course due to the complexity of the eternal nature of the Christian God he trumps the "simpler" story of the created Gods, this isn't an argument against a created God, it is just baseless assertion.

2) Science has explained everything, and it doesn't include God.
This is an argument from ignorance. Science can't (at present) explain ethics or beauty, therefore God is missing loads of steps.

Science explains the origins of the universe, religion gives people hope who don't have the intellectual fortitude to say they don't know.

3) Science is opposed to God.
I don't know if I have heard many people say this, there are religious scientists. Science follows naturalism, that there is a natural explanation for a phenomenon and then endeavors to find it, not once has this explanation been magical or supernatural... that doesn't mean it can't happen, but it isn't looking good.
There are issues with an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God of being logically valid. You can always argue the incoherent God is outside logic, but that is destroying any argument you could make as you are arguing against using the very logic you are using.

4) You can't prove that there is a God.
I agree with Lennox here, you can't "prove" it, in the mathematical definition. Of course I don't think you can do it in the reasonable doubt definition either. Some of the arguments Lennox uses here I have rebutted before, especially the WLC ones. The slighlty new ones are the argument from personal revelation (people have witnessed miracles), which is easily countered with people have seen Elvis since his death, probably as many non-Christians have seen miracles they attribute to their religion, and UFO witnesses: Witness testimony is at best biased and untrue and worst a complete mental fabrication knowing or unknowingly to make the person the center of a attention. This is best summed up with anecdote != evidence (that symbol in the middle means does not equal).
The other argument is from the Gospels, which for all we know where once considered a work of fiction or allegory, then there is the fact that they were witness testimony, not only written down near the event but in some parts of the bible almost a hundred years later.
So yeah you can't prove there is a God, and can't prove a negative, but the balance of probability doesn't favor one at this stage.

5) Faith is believing without any evidence.
Maybe Lennox doesn't know his bible;  "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1.
Faith is not belief with evidence, we already have a word for that knowledge. Again quoting the Gospels that are of unknown authors and undefinitive veracity doesn't sway anyone. To quote Thomas Paine "
To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture."

6) Faith is a delusion. I'd no more believe in God than I would in the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
I don't think the people Lennox is talking about here are afraid of the light, these are the kind of people who would spend there entire life on an issue with a theory, and throw it out the window at the first strong sign of evidence to its contrary. I think most atheists I know would be intellectually honest enough to believe in God if he showed up and provided some proof, or if some decent evidence actually came to light.
I don't know if there are many Christians who would throw away their beliefs if they found them wanting, because they wouldn't be Christians long.
I know some atheists that wish a God did exist that answered prayers and actually had a plan for them, it isn't wish fulfillment if you don't have that wish.

7) Christianity claims to be true, but there loads of denominations and they all disagree with each other, so it must be false.
This is more to the point that you think that an omnipotent being could make a religion that would appeal to all, if God is so powerless that 10,000 religions to appeal to the 10,000 styles of worshiper rather than 1 that claims the monopoly on truth. The issue with the many denominations is many (see most) will claim that the others are wrong, and that the one you are currently in has the monopoly on truth and the other denominations believers are going to hell. They can't all be right with this monopolistic behavior, but they could all be wrong. Add these 10,000 denominations to the 15,000 other religions that have existed and you have an issue.

8) The Bible is immoral.
Morality has a basis in a secular world, it is built from society, it is built for social harmony and community cohesion. It is basically; least pain to the most people, see my other post here.
The bible is (based on the previous points) immoral, it encourages Genocide, OK's slavery and rape.

9) Surely you don't take the Bible literally?
I know people don't take the bible literally, it would be very hard to, no one stones their kids for back talk anymore. I think most atheists would realize that few people, but the most fundamentalists take it 100% literally. The question is, are they the ones that are being honest. How do you tell which parts to NOT take literally, how do you tell which parts aren't allegory or metaphor, if your only answer is what your pastor tells you then you are on shaky ground.
If you are a fundamentalist that takes it literally then the evidence is against you.

10) What is the evidence for God?Oh yes, please impart upon me something new from the last 2000 years of Theology and apologetics... Nothing new, just the same tired debunked arguments.  Hmm....

The question in this section is a valid one, if someone presented me real decent evidence for God and Jesus continued existence, then I think I'd be a bit terrified and want clarification... can I now get to heaven through good deeds or is it faith only or both, or am I predestined for hell as some faiths believe. I am guessing I would get none of these answers and I would have to just lead a good life and if God judges me well for that then he is just, if he doesn't then I would never have worshiped him/her.