Did the Friendly Atheist Jump to Conclusions about the Texas Church Murderer?

“Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta tells us he doesn’t want to “jump to any conclusions” about the religious views of mass murderer Devin Kelley.  Yet he wrote the following on his popular atheist blog (a blog that was liked by Kelley):

For what it’s worth, the shooter’s supposed LinkedIn profile offers a very different story. It says he taught Vacation Bible School at a (different) Baptist church in 2013, where he worked with kids ages 4-6, “helping their minds grow and prosper.” (Reports say children were among those killed in today’s attack.)

Hmmm.  Perhaps Mehta should have waited a little longer to gather more details before helping to spread this information around the internet.  Especially when so  many of his fans think this is a fact.  What’s more, it seems to be the sole basis for Mehta’s claim that Kelley’s religious history “is very confusing.”

I have an idea.  Let’s check with the people who ran that Vacation Bible School.

STATEMENT TO THE MEDIA
Media reports have made a connection between Devin Patrick Kelley and First Baptist Church of Kingsville, Texas. According to our records, Kelley volunteered one night as a helper during the 2014 Vacation Bible School. He was not a member of the First Baptist Church of Kingsville, nor did he serve in any other capacity. Our congregation would like to offer our prayers and deepest condolences to the Sutherland Springs community mourning the loss of their loved ones.

Well, it sure likes like the murderer padded his resume with false claims of being some type of teacher.  I’m shocked.  He was a “worker” for a single night.  In other words, he probably helped clean up the trash and put away the toys when the day was over (a “Vacation Bible School” is a type of commuter camp for young children, where they play games, do crafts, and learn some Bible stories).  Being a “worker” for a Bible camp one evening hardly amounts to any evidence that the man held any religious views.

Can someone please explain then what is so “confusing” about Kelley’s religious history?

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Texas church shooter was a fan of the Friendly Atheist blog

As you have probably heard, Devin Kelley murdered 26 people while they were in church in Texas.  And it looks like he was a fan of several atheist groups.

According to this article, several of his old classmates remember he liked to “preach atheism.” 

Of course, I’m not willing to jump to any conclusions.  Just noting what is out there.

 

 

Posted in New Atheism, Uncategorized | Tagged | 24 Comments

Kevin Spacey Tries to Have Sex with a Boy and Friendly Atheist Blames Christians

The Friendly Atheist blog is becoming quite a source of hefty amusement these days.  In our latest installment of Friendly Atheist Zaniness, Hemant Mehta actually takes the news of  actor Kevin Spacey trying to have sex with a fourteen year old boy when he was twenty six and spins it furiously as yet another attack on Christianity.  Hilarious.  Only an experienced wild-eyed atheist activist could take the Kevin Spacey story and come up with a way to make the Eevil Christians the “bad guys.”  And, of course, large numbers of Mehta’s gullible and low-IQ fans just lap it up.

What’s even more amusing is how many of the Mehta’s fans go beyond lapping up his spin and are trying to actually defend the Hollywood pedophile.  In fact, one commenter found this to be rather disturbing:

Can I just say that despite coming into this comment thread a few days late (I honestly didn’t think FA would even cover this since I couldn’t see the religious connection) I’m seriously surprised and disturbed by the number of regulars who are actually defending Spacey? I don’t give a fuck if Rapp was 9, 10, 14, 15, 19 or whatever. He was still a kid. I thought we could all agree that touching kids was wrong, but not to many of the people here who think it’s fucking normal to have attraction to kids who aren’t even of legal age. And even for teens that are, you seriously want to defend being attracted to someone barely out of high school when the person having said attraction is well over twice their age? I’m disappointed and quite frankly, I may have to block even some regulars over this because this shit is not okay.

Now, I did not have time to mine the 450+ comments, but a quick glance found some gems.

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Posted in atheist activism, New Atheism, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Another Crackpot Sociologist

The social sciences seem to be infested with crackpots:

A sociology professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) recently argued in an extensive series of tweets that “the white-nuclear family” perpetuates racism.

Jessie Daniels, a self-described “expert on race,” began her tweetstorm this weekend by declaring that “what I’ve learned is that the white-nuclear family is one of the most powerful forces supporting white supremacy.”

“I mean, if you’re a white person who says they’re engaged in dismantling white supremacy but…you’re forming a white family [and] reproducing white children that ‘you want the best for’ – how is that helping [and] not part of the problem?”

Is there a single, sane, rational person on this planet who can defend this kind of nonsense?  Let’s see.  So if you are a white guy and marry a white woman and you have a child, you are …..RACIST(!).  Oh, and if you want the best for your children, you are …..RACIST(!).

Professor Jessie Daniels adds to the growing, and increasingly justified impression, that sociology is becoming nothing more than a cargo cult science.

Posted in academia, post-modernism, Social Justice, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

How I Defeat Sam Harris’s Attack on Pascal’s Wager

Several years ago, Sam Harris set out to refute Pascal’s Wager in the pages of the Washington Post. Harris began as follows:

The coverage of my recent debate in the pages of Newsweek began and ended with Jon Meacham and Rick Warren each making respectful reference to Pascal’s wager. As many readers will remember, Pascal suggested that religious believers are simply taking the wiser of two bets: if a believer is wrong about God, there is not much harm to him or to anyone else, and if he is right, he wins eternal happiness; if an atheist is wrong, however, he is destined for hell. Put this way, atheism seems the very picture of reckless stupidity.

But there are many questionable assumptions built into this famous wager.

When looking through the “many questionable assumptions,” it quickly became apparent to me that Harris doesn’t understand how the Wager can work.  So first, let me spell it out and then we can return to Harris critique.

I was not raised as a Christian.  I became a Christian, and remain a Christian, because of reason and evidence.  However, I also recognize the limitations of the human intellect. Since my Christian faith is not rooted in intellectual certainty, I fully concede that I could be wrong.  I could be deluded.  That naturally leads to the following question – “What if I am wrong?”  It’s precisely at this point that the Wager comes into play.  For if I am wrong, if when I die I simply cease to exist, the answer becomes “So what?”  It’s not as if I will ever know or notice it.

Let’s now turn to Harris’s critique:

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The New Atheist Movement: An Autopsy

There seem to be more and more articles out there trying to explain the demise of the New Atheist movement.  Jerry Coyne recently commented on one and offered his own analysis.  Since none of these articles seems especially insightful , as a long time observer of the New Atheist movement, I thought I would help explain this movement’s demise.

There are four primary factors that came together and devoured the movement.

1.Failure To Gain Traction in Academia. Soon after Dawkins published his book, The God Delusion, he chose to pick a fight with other atheists and scholars. Dawkins argued that the problem was not creationism or fundamentalism.  It ran deeper.  It was religion itself.  Dawkins then began to mock other atheists and previous allies by likening them to Neville Chamberlain.  The problem with the “Neville Chamberlain atheists” is they were willing to tolerate religious views as long they did not amount to hardcore fundamentalism.  Dawkins, who likened himself to Winston Churchill, insisted atheists must go on the attack against all religious people.

This militant attitude came to define the New Atheists.  They expanded this vocabulary and begin to mock other atheists and agnostics as “accomodationists” and eventually Jerry Coyne began to mock them as “faitheists.”  These were the days when Jerry Coyne was bashing Michael Ruse and Sam Harris was attacking Scott Atran.  These were the days when Coyne and Victor Stenger were arguing that most scientists were cowards for not wanting to help lead the attack against religion. And let’s not forget the way Jerry Coyne used his blog to hound and attack scholar Bart Ehrman while championing the crackpot views of blogger Richard Carrier.  Or the time that Sam Harris used the pages of the NYT to smear Francis Collins, arguing his religious views should prohibit him from heading the NIH.

All of this is much more significant than many people realize.  The New Atheists had always needed to expand their reach into academia.  In fact, that was one of their objectives in the 2006 Beyond Belief conference.  This is because for any movement on the Left to thrive, it needs the support of academia.  With academia on board, your movement has a plentiful supply of thinkers and advocates.  Your movement has a continual supply of new converts in the form of students.  What’s more, by housing your movement in academia, you increase the chance your movement will survive for generations, insulated from the ever changing socio-political terrain outside of academia.

Yet the New Atheists failed gloriously at acquiring any traction within academia. The reason is simple – the extreme, militant posturing of the New Atheists was perceived by many academic atheists as just another form of fundamentalism.  In other words, the assertions and behavior of the New Atheists was deemed embarrassing.  But don’t take my word for it.  Pay close attention to the words of a Nobel Laureate who had little patience for New Atheist antics:

Higgs has chosen to cap his remarkable 2012 with another bang by criticising the “fundamentalist” approach taken by Dawkins in dealing with religious believers.

“What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists,” Higgs said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.”

He agreed with some of Dawkins’ thoughts on the unfortunate consequences that have resulted from religious belief, but he was unhappy with the evolutionary biologist’s approach to dealing with believers and said he agreed with those who found Dawkins’ approach “embarrassing”.

Now couple this embarrassing fundamentalism to the manner in which the New Atheists lashed out at the “faitheists” and “accomodationists” and it should surprise no one that New Atheism never secured a serious foothold within academia.  Instead, all they accomplished was a) creating a population of scholars (atheist, agnostic, and theist) who greatly disliked them while b) ensuring that for their movement to survive, they now had to rely solely on media coverage.

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Posted in academia, atheism, atheist activism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

The Dark, Pseudoscientific Side of Determinism

Jerry Coyne is relying on his free will denialism once again, this time to defend the sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.  We can’t blame Weinstein for his behavior.  He is not at fault.  For he couldn’t help it.  Something made him do it:

But what Weinstein’s behavior wasn’t was something he chose, in the sense that he could have refrained from being a predator……Given Weinstein’s environment and genes, he could not have behaved other than the way he did.

In fact, Coyne expresses his inner social justice sentiments by reframing Weinstein as a victim:

This is an explanation, and a plea for people like Bruni to take a more scientific attitude and see that we are all victims of our genes and environments.

Wow.  So we’re all victims of our genes and environments.  I suppose we next need to determine the heirarchy of victimhood among criminals.

Now, as if that isn’t dark enough for you, consider the next step:

Weinstein should be mocked, shamed, and punished for what he did…..he needs punishment….he should be jailed…..For what he did, punishment, shunning, and ire are all appropriate

Wow.  So the logic of determinism demands that we mock, shame, and punish victims.  Weinstein couldn’t help doing what he did as other forces around him made him do what he did.  Yet, we must punish him.  Even though could not have behaved other than the way he did, let’s mock him and jail him.

It’s pretty dark to insist that we should kick victims in the teeth.

But why?

punishment to set an example for others

Whoa.  We need to punish victims to make an example out of them.  Sounds like the logic of some tin-pot dictator. Why not simply execute him if you want to really “set an example for others?”

And let’s consider the other part of Coyne’s assertion:

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Posted in free will, Social Justice, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 46 Comments

He Lives is Back

There are some good blog postings over at the He Lives blog.

In Science v. Science+, David exposes a core problem with the “science and religion are incompatible” talking point that is so commonly embraced by New Atheists.   It turns out the Gnus have been promoting Science+.

In Honest Science (modified), David weighs in on the issue of free will.

And in You’ve been flanked! (Alternate title: I’ll turn you into a newt!), he pours cold water on the notion that the rise in the Nones is bringing us closer to a Gnutopia.

It’s all good stuff, so be sure to pay a visit.

Posted in free will, New Atheism, Religion, Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

How can you study if Republicans are in the building?

Another day, another example of postmodern campus madness.  In today’s installment, a small group of social justice warriors decide to protest a meeting of college Republicans and demand the student Republicans should not be able to meet in the library.  One of angry agitators tries to explain her reasoning to the librarian:

“I think that’s unfair…I think that what is going on right now is actually that these folks are preventing folks from their everyday lives, not just studying, all everything, safety on campus, whatever it is that they are engaging in.  And so I feel like this group should be asked to leave actually. And I feel like you’re kind of looking at it from an interesting perspective, maybe in line with university policies but I think if you understand what their ideologies are and how you feel safety really is, how you feel education, how you feel learning really is…Students can’t be studying when their lives are being f**king discriminated against.”

Here’s the video:

A few points of interest to note:

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Free Will: Evidence for God

Does atheism entail determinism?  Jerry Coyne seems to think so.  He makes it quite clear how his views of determinism follow from his acceptance of atheism/materialism:

The best answer I can give (besides reading Sean Carroll’s “The Big Picture”) is to say that our brain is made of matter, and matter follows the laws of physics. Insofar as our neurons could behave fundamentally unpredictably, if affected by quantum mechanics in their firing, that doesn’t give us a basis for agency either.

Since our behaviors all come from our material bodies and brains, which obey the laws of physics, which by and large are deterministic on a macro scale, then our behaviors at any one instant are determined as well by the configuration of molecules in the Universe.

All you have to do is accept that our bodies and brains are made of stuff, and stuff on the macro scale is deterministic in its behavior. Even compatibilists accept these points as well the fundamental determinism (though often unpredictability) of our behavior.

And when one of his commenters wrote, “we aren’t billiard balls”, Coyne replied:

Yes we are, but we’re billiard balls made of meat.

What I am sensing here is that atheism is incompatible with free will.  And if you ask me, that poses a serious problem for atheism.  While the truth of determinism seems to be dependent on acceptance of an atheistic, materialistic worldview, the truth of free will is dependent on ….. a lifetime of lived experience. And it’s not some shallow, “live in the moment” type of experience that’s preoccupied with the dramas of life.  It’s an experience coupled to much introspection and self-awareness. I’m not quite sure why I am supposed to believe this is all an illusion when it’s the deterministic word salads that appear far more likely to be an illusion.

Thus, from where I sit, my experience with free will counts as evidence for the existence of God.  That is, if free will is incompatible with atheism, it would seem to me that atheism is false.  Meaning, that theism is true.  The evidence for God is not some writing in the sky.  It’s with me each and every moment.

Posted in atheism, free will, God, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 28 Comments