A case against God.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able, and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God.
– Epicurus

Often theists like to brush off the burden of proof or to try place it onto those who simply don’t believe. Of course most people realise the absurdity of asking someone to disprove the existence of an item or being they don’t believe in.

We’ve all heard the argument that “you can’t prove god doesn’t exist” and it is technically correct, we can’t prove a deistic god doesn’t exist, in much the same way that we can’t prove an invisible unicorn doesn’t live on Pluto. To conclusively disprove a generic claim like a undefined god, or the invisible unicorn on Pluto, one would have to posses the ability to observe every part of the universe simultaneously. And that is obviously not an ability we have, so disproving generic claims is not possible. However this becomes a completely different situation when traits are attributed to the target of the claim, i.e. god, as most theists are want to do.

Once we begin to attribute traits to something, we then have something to start disproving. As humans we are the ones who define our language and therefore we define what these traits actually mean. And because they have definitions we can show if they could possibly apply to a god.

Several of the traits applied by believers to their particular version of a god disprove that god, or at least show that the existence of a god is extremely unlikely.

Creation:

Many people will both claim that everything must have a creator and that God has always existed. These claims are in direct conflict with each other and if the first is true then God must have been created by something. However if it isn’t true, and God has always existed or came from nothing, this can be used to explain the existence of the universe in the same way it has been used to explain God. This doesn’t disprove a god, but it does make one unnecessary.

Omnipotent:

Strictly speaking the idea that a being could be truly omnipotent, in the way many people think of it, is flawed in so much as paradoxes(such as creating a rock so heavy even God can’t move it) make it impossible. However if we restrict omnipotent to meaning “possessing the most power logically possible” then theoretically an omnipotent god could exist, at least until it is attributed other traits.

Omniscient:

Omniscience is something that can not truly exist, to know every piece of information that exists is impossible as if there may always exist a piece of information you don’t know about. And if you don’t know something, even if you’re not aware that you don’t know it, you are not truly omniscient.

Omnibenevolent:
The pain and suffering that occurs on a daily basis, not to mention the idea of hell, prove that if a god exists he is not omnibenevolent.

These are just a few of the traits often attributed to a god and they help to build quite a good case against the existence of that particular flavour of God. We may not be able to disprove a deistic god but we can say quite easily that an all knowing, all powerful, all loving god certainly doesn’t exist.

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A moment of insane clarity.

I wish I could stop feeling this way,
It’s forever the same,
Day after day after day,
Like a cruel, unending game.

I want you to be joyous,
To never feel bad,
Even if that means there’s no “us”,
At least you won’t be sad.

I imagined we could be happy,
I hoped we could be together,
That was probably naivety,
But I suppose this is better.

I am not…

I am not a man of decency,
My latest thoughts are mostly hatred,
With a lot of horrid cruelty,
That’s something that had to be said.

I am not a good person,
I may have been before,
But now I daily worsen,
I am good no more.

I am not a kind human,
If I was I wouldn’t think this way,
That’s easily proven,
I’m sorry but I’ll just darken your day.

It’s all about consent.

With the recent court rulings in Oregon and Pennsylvania overturning the ban on same sex marriage and finally giving people the right to marry the one they love regardless of gender, it felt like a good time to write a little piece discussing homosexuality. Particularly the misconceptions surrounding, or just deliberately ignorant arguments against, homosexuality.

Homosexuality is found in many species of animal, unfortunately homophobia is only found in one: humans. And I have never heard a rational argument to justify a person’s homophobia, especially not one that could possibly justify the creation of laws against homosexuality or same sex marriage. Instead what I have heard is misconceptions and deliberate, out right ignorance of facts.

“It’ll lead to…”
I’ve seen people try to employ the “slippery slope fallacy” many times when attempting to argue against homosexuality. This is a fallacy for a reason, accepting homosexuality as natural(which it is) will not lead to society accepting or legalizing pedophilia or bestiality. The main reason these are not, even remotely, comparable to homosexuality is one very simple word: consent. Children or animals are unable to give consent to engage in sexual acts or marriage. An adult on the other hand can, and has the right to do so. What two consenting adults decide to do in private is of no concern to anyone other than those involved in the action.

“It’s mentally and emotionally harmful.”
There is no evidence to suggest that being in a homosexual relationship is any more or less mentally and emotionally harmful to an individual than being in a heterosexual relationship is. The only “evidence” I’ve ever seen someone try to use to support this position is religious text, and not even effectively done so at that. This is not credible evidence and it certainly is not a reason to pass laws prohibiting people from being with the ones they love. After all the teachings of Islam are not used to prevent non muslims from consuming pork or alcohol, so why would it be ok to allow the teachings of Christianity to prevent consenting adults from being in a relationship or marriage with the person they love?

“It’s not natural.”
For something to be considered “natural”, in the sense it’s used to oppose homosexuality, it must simply occur in nature. Homosexuality does occur in nature. Homosexual behavior has been observed in many species of animals outside of our own(and yes, like it or not, humans are animals).

“Anal sex is physically harmful.”
This is a particularly stupid argument that I’ve seen a few times, but I still think it needs to be addressed. I’m not going to discuss whether anal sex is or isn’t harmful as it is actually irrelevant. Ignoring the fact that heterosexual couples can, and do, engage is anal sex it again comes back to one simple word: consent. Even if a sexual act can cause harm to one or more of the participants that is not as reason to outlaw the act so long as all parties are consenting to the act, and are of legal age to do so. This is a very simple concept, yet some people seem to struggle with it. A good analogy is that of a boxing match or UFC fight. When done without consent both of these activities would be classified as assault, but when participants give their consent it is different. This is because of “bodily integrity”. We, as people, have the right to do with our bodies as we see fit.

There are really only three reasons why people oppose homosexuality:

1) Religion says it’s wrong.
2) They find it “icky”.
3) It stirs feelings they didn’t know they had and that makes them uncomfortable.

None of those are reasons to pass laws against it, or limit the rights of good people who are not heterosexual. They are simply your issues and it’s not up to anyone else to pander to them.

It is all about consent!

But what about the good stuff?

Name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.
The second challenge. Can anyone think of a wicked statement made, or an evil action performed, precisely because of religious faith?

The second question is easy to answer, is it not? The first awaits a convincing reply.

– Christopher Hitchens

I often see people argue that we shouldn’t oppose and fight so hard against religion because throughout our history there has been good done by the religious and in the name of religions. And this is true, it’s an undeniable fact that religion has done some good in the past, and in fact it still prompts people to do good even now. Many people volunteer to help the elderly, the ill and the homeless. Indeed people work with many at risk groups through religious means, they volunteer with groups run by churches or other religious organisations. And this is a wonderful thing.

But religion is far from the only thing that prompts people to do good deeds and help those who are in need. Most people do good deeds, not because they are religious, but simply because they have basic human empathy. They help, not because they want the rewards or because they are trying to avoid the punishments promised by most religions, but because they want to make the lives of others easier. Some help because they get a good feeling from doing so, others help because they’d like to think they would get help if they needed it and some help others for no reason other than to help.

It’s undeniable that religious belief has prompted many people to dedicate their time to helping their fellow man, and anyone who tries to deny it is simply lying(either to themselves or you). But it is also an undeniable fact that religious belief and religious organisations have caused an incalculable amount of harm in the past, and still do so today. Even when you try to employ the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, you must still accept that Hitler believed he was doing god’s work or that Boko Haram believe they are being guided by Allah and thus they can justify their actions, if only to themselves. For many people the thought of systematically executing millions of people or kidnapping and selling young girls into slavery is unjustifiable in any context, yet both these actions have been justified by those committing them as the work of their god.

Yes the good done by, and in the name of, religion exists but the damage done is incalculable and far outweighs the good. Just because something has facilitated a degree of good actions does not mean it can’t, or shouldn’t, be condemned for the evil it has caused.

So for me, anytime someone utters the all too familiar words “But what about the good stuff?” I have but one response. “The good stuff is far outweighed by the evil”.

Why own dogs?

Recently I came across this tweet asking for reasons why we do, or should, own dogs. The tweet asks for one logical reason to have a dog, and even though many were offered, the original poster seemed unwilling to accept many of them as logical reasons for quite some time. So with that in mind I thought I’d compile a list of reasons for having dogs and instead of giving just my perspective, I decided to get the perspective of different dog owners. Here’s a collection of their accounts. Some are quite long but they are all wonderful and I’m grateful to everyone who contributed. Thank you.

This is @carrieboudreaux’s account:

I’ve always been a “dog person”. I get why some may not like dogs. They’re needy, can be destructive, even aggressive at times. But I see these traits as the humans problem not the dogs.
I read the interactions yesterday. I can agree that taking a wild animal and systematically breeding it for our own purpose is probably not the most humane thing to do. However…what’s done is done. These animals have been domesticated for thousands of years, not just to work for us, but to protect us and love us. They now rely on us for food, water, shelter, healthcare, ….and love.
We created this problem so it is our responsibility. There are shelters who have to euthanize dogs daily because of the lack of homes. Dogs who are “set free” are hit by cars, shot at, starve, suffer from disease, etc. I’ve never seen a healthy looking “free dog”.
Both of my labs are adopted. One came in to the shelter with mange and was going to be put down soon. The other was a stray living on a farm with little human interaction. It’s safe to say I love them like my family. Jojo follows me around everywhere I go. Boudreaux likes to be able to see me but mostly he does his own thing. Seeing them run around in a creek, chase after squirrels, gobble down a treat, play with their toys, etc gives me more joy than most in my life. When I get home from work they are just as happy to see me as I am to see them. I don’t look at them as an alternative to human interaction but as a bonus. They are my friends and I take care of them because I love them and I want them to be happy.
I so not see how it is illogical to have a dog unless you have one and don’t want one. Then yes, it is illogical for you to have a dog. But for me? No, makes perfect sense.
One small anecdote… I lived with my parents for a year and a half while I was saving up to buy my home. My grandmother also lives there. Both her and my father have told me that they miss me living there…but they REALLY miss the dogs! Lol! They bring so much joy into people’s lives and in return they are also (hopefully) loved and well cared for.
I’ll always “own” dogs.

And here is @OxfordComma____’s reasons for having his dogs:

Dogs have always been a part of my family. Since I was an infant my family always owned a dog (or more than one). Every dog that my family had was also a different breed, so I have been able to experience a broad range of behaviours, grooming needs, and energy levels. The breeds I grew up with include: Keeshond, Collie, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, and Pointer.

As an infant/toddler, my family owner the first three breeds listed above. As I was at a young age, I was not really close to them, but I remember them all. All three were older dogs and eventually had to be put to sleep. During my early grade school years we owned a Rottweiler named Dolly. She was pretty mellow for her breed (not the stereotypical aggressive reputation that often precedes this breed), but she was still a good watch dog. Dolly was the first “real family dog” that I felt a connection to growing up. We owned Dolly for 9 years. Dolly developed severe hip problems and arthritis and we had to put her down. This was a sad time for my family, and especially for me, as she was the dog of my childhood.

My family waited awhile before getting another dog after Dolly. We decided to adopt a dog from a pet shelter. She is the dog my parents still currently own. Her name is Shannon. She is a Pointer mix of some kind. Upon adopting her she was quite timid. We think that she had been abused by a previous owner. But she quickly grew fond of our family and became quite energetic and protective. Of the dogs that were a part of my family, Shannon was the one I was closest to (and still am despite not living at home anymore). She is 9 years old now and not as energetic as she once was. But she still brings my family as much joy and love as she always has. When the day comes that Shannon has lived her life to its end, I know that it will be extremely difficult for my parents (and me as well). Shannon became a family member (as all of our dogs essentially were). Although we adopted her, she, even more so, adopted us. She is a member of our family, just like my siblings, my parents, etc. She loves us even more so, I think, than we love her. And that’s why, I would have to say, that my wife, Heather, and I chose to own dogs when we became homeowners.

Heather and I consider ourselves parents to our two dogs (and them our kids). Fiona is our black Labrador Retriever (who we adopted as a stray) and Flynn is our German Shorthair Pointer (who was a gift from Heather’s parents). Both are young and full of energy and we look forward to spending the next several years of our lives with them.

Dogs are the only creatures (in my personal experience) that love their masters more than anything else in their lives. Upon returning home, no matter how long being gone, our dogs are ecstatic to see us. They are able to make any day, even the bleakest of days, a better one. Our dogs show us more love, happiness, and compassion than almost any human possibly could (which is why we often say that we love our dogs more than people). I only hope that I am able to show them as much love and care as they do me. Heather and I will be dog owners for the rest of our lives because of the love, the companionship, and the energy that dogs bring with them. Any dog that we currently have or will have in the future will always be considered a member of the family.

This is @Cindy_b09’s take on the subject:

I’ve always had dogs in my life, Couldn’t imagine not. My earliest memory(2-3 yrs old)  is of Mikey, he was a babysitter for my brother & I when we’d go play outside, never letting us get to far away from home or into too much trouble, he’d sleep with us at night, keeping us warm & protected. We had others through my childhood, never any “bad” ones though, we were taught to respect their boundaries & comfort. I had a Doberman, Sonny, that watched over Jennifer from birth, he’d sit patiently at the corner of her blanket & gently nudge her bottom to help her when she was learning to crawl, they were the best of friends, a 100 lb dog that was a little girls best friend until his last day. I’ve since owned chihuahuas, not known for being the calmest or most child friendly breed, but I have to say, Toad has been the best “big brother” to Emily, from the day she came home from hospital, he has been kind & loving to her, even now, when she tries to pick him up, pulls on his skin & ears, he never flinches. Not to sound like Caesar Milan, but there is a pack order that has been established, from day one. She is also learning this, it’s about mutual respect & love.

And this is comes courtesy of Jennifer, Cindy’s daughter:

I own dogs because theyre most times a lot better than people, they can have diverse personalities ans just like people if you treat them right theyll treat you with the same love and respect. I grew up with a blackmouth cur who was absolutely the sweetest dog ive ever met, shes about as old as i am if not older(im 17) and shes been my best friend, and now my younger cousins best friend without falter. She was basically a nanny, always following us around and showing concern if we ever were in trouble, always coming to us when we were hurt and kissing the booboos away. The only person shes ever been hostile to has been either strangers, in which she barks at but has never bit, or my older cousin who is really mean to her. My dog that i have now is somewhat of a mut, as my dad found her at his work, we dont know what she is, but shes a total sweetheart. Shes a bit skittish because she was abused at my dads work by a fellow employee, (dont worry he was talked to about this) and so shes a bit skittish but has never bit anyone, nor has she shown any violent tendancies other than being too playful and not knowing how large she is, im not kidding she trys to crawl up in your lap if youre sitting. My aunt also has a pit bull, which i would like to take the time now to say that again, its the way you raise or treat a dog that determines how theyll react to people. The pit bull my aunt has is a very sweet, eccentric dog. Hes also very protective of his family and would never hurt any of us, as ive wrestled and played with him many times. Basically, dogs are such amazing and great animals, and like people you have to treat them with love and respect and theyll return that to you, if you dont then obviously youre either going to get hurt, the dog hurt, or someone else.

Here’s a quick explanation from @SlagOffTwits:

I’ve had dogs my pretty much my whole life. They are unconditional pals, make me smile, force me to interact and exercise, keep me from excessive drinking, and help maintain mental and physical well being.

Now here’s a piece I was really excited for, courtesy of @TheGingaNinja83 a wonderfully kind and loving woman:

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
This quote holds very true to myself, especially when it comes to certain members of our family, our dogs.
Living on a farm, I grew up with dogs. There isn’t really a moment that I can think of that didn’t include a furry companion by my side
As I became an adult and started a family of my own, it was only natural to me to seek out a loving pup to add to our already growing crew.
Daisy was the first we added to our family, a beautiful Lab/Pyrenees cross who was born on a local farm here in Alberta. We brought this sweet girl
home and watched her change from a playful pup to a beautiful adult. Don’t get me wrong, there were days when I wanted to pull my hair out due to regular
puppy behaviors such as chewing and digging, but over time we worked through this and now she is the thriving “queen” of the household.
When Daisy was around 1 year, we were at a BBQ held by one of our good friends. At this particular event, I met a lady who had a small puppy with her that she
“fostered” through a local dog rescue. I was immediately curious by this as I knew absolutely nothing of fostering puppies. When I went home that evening, I did some research online and signed up to be a “foster mom”
Almost immediately I received a call to take in a few orphaned 5 week old puppies, I was about to get a crash course into the world of fostering
I remember these sibling puppies coming into my care, they were so tiny and vulnerable and would likely not survive in the wild without their mother. The dogs we receive come
from local reservations, not the ideal environment for these pooches. Many of these dogs are wild, which continue to breed and over-populate. Eventually the strong will pack up and the weak will likely die off due to starvation or the elements.
Fast forward to the present, we found homes for these particular puppies as well as countless more ( I honestly couldn’t give you a number, as soon as one foster found a home we had another one waiting for its spot) Overtime we began taking in medical cases (broken bones, amputations, malnourished)
People always ask me, “Why?”
Clearly, we have 4 children and now two dogs of our own ( by this time we “foster failed” meaning we adopted one of the pups who came to our home)
How could we possibly have time and why would we even want to help?
I am sure dog owners would agree when you look into the loving eyes of your best friend that there really is no other option
We do what we do because if we don’t, who will?
It’s really quite simple. There is no greater feeling then giving a new family their very own best friend. A loyal, loving companion to join them on their own personal journeys in life.

This is the amazing @ErinAtlas’ reason for having her dog:

I wanted my family to have a dog because I had a dog growing up and I wanted to give my kids the same joy and love that I knew came with having a big hearted, furry friend in the family.  I specifically wanted a Great Dane because I thought they were so gentle and majestic and regal. I thought a Great Dane would serve as not only a companion but also as an intimidating guard dog.  Dagny is nothing that I imagined a Great Dane or dog should be but I love her more for it.  She can crack drywall by turning around in a small hallway or wagging her tail, she trips and falls going up and down the stairs, she thinks she can not only fit on anyone’s lap but that everyone wants her in their lap. She is also fearful of other dogs and terrified of small animals.  So, she is not exactly what I expected her to be but she is everything my family needed a dog to be and more.

I had planned on adding my own reasons for having a dog but my reasons have already been covered by the wonderful contributions above, and honestly I couldn’t write them any better myself. So instead I’ll just finishes with this, a contribution from a man who has worked for years as a professional animal care giver.

@_Mr_Merrick has this to say:

I’m a professional animal person. I have been one for 23 years and counting. I’ve trained animals from Kinkajous to Elephants, and quite a few between.
That being said, dogs are not for everyone.
Let me explain.
When you bring an animal into your family, there is a hierarchy that is already in place. The pack exists. The dog is the junior member, but like all pack animals, looks to find their niche. Their behavior varies wildly from breed to breed.
Some are needy.
Some are independent.
Some are highly energetic.
Some are aggressive.
These traits came from us. We (humans) have bred these traits depending on our desires for the ideal canine companion.
GMOs, anyone?
There are tons of fortunate dog owners out there, and an equal amount of fortunate dogs.
We have learned some tolerance.
Some people, however, treat dogs as props or accessories.
That’s wrong.
They need time from you. They need love from you.
They need interaction from you.
Do you want a great dog?
It takes work. Lots.
If you’re not willing to put the work in, please, do me a favor.
Don’t bring a dog into your family.
I am @_Mr_Merrick , and I approve this message.

I’d like to thank everyone who wrote for this piece, and I’d recommend(if you’re not already doing so) that you follow them on twitter. They’re all wonderful people.

Interacting with theists.

It’s something many of us do on an almost daily basis while using social networking sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, and sadly we don’t always conduct ourselves in the best way possible.

Occasionally we will encounter theists who are simply trying to insult or offend us because we are atheists or agnostics, but that’s not the case with the vast majority of theists. Most of the time if we are respectful in our interactions then they will show us the same level of respect. I think this is something that is forgotten far too often.

We need to remember that when we question a person’s beliefs about a god or their religion, we may be forcing them, in many cases for the first time, to truly consider that some of their core beliefs. That’s not an easy thing for anyone to do, especially not for those that have believed something for as long as they can remember.

I understand the desire to mock and ridicule the religious,I really do. And, honestly, when it comes to charlatans like Ray Comfort or Ken Ham I say go for the jugular. People like them are detestable, they are actively working to brainwash people and indoctrinate children, and that’s something we need to stop from happening. But when it comes to your “run of the mill believer”, the hard working parent or your average student who attends some kind of religious service each week, we should show more respect.

Beliefs are important to many, and while belief itself is not safe from ridicule, we need to remember that often belief is a core part of a person’s life. We need to show people the respect that they deserve, treat them as we would like to be treated or at least treat them with the same degree of respect they show us. After all, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Remember, it’s unlikely that someone will walk away from your conversation having changed their mind about what they believe, but you may have planted the seeds of doubt. And people are much more likely to nurture those seeds if the person who planted them did so while being respectful.

Many often joke that the bible should be one page, that simply says “try not to be a cunt”. This is an idea we should embrace. To those who are kind and respectful, be kind and respectful. To those you’ve never spoken to before, be kind and respectful. Even to those who are bigoted, try be kind and respectful(though I understand, from experience, that’s not always possible). You’re much more likely to change a person’s mind by having a respectful conversation than by attacking them.

If we want to see a change in this world, we first must embody that change.