The Devil Went Down to Utah

This article introduces The Satanic Temple of Utah. When I’d verified that SLUG Magazine wasn’t Utah’s version of The Onion, I went to their website.

As an atheist, more power to the Satanists. Their existence means we might become the second most hated group in the religious think space! I say “might”, because Christians are more than happy to see nonbelievers as a bigger threat than other believers, even though we’re an extremely small group. Strangely, TST don’t seem much into Satanism as it’s generally understood. They’re the religious group your having when you’re not having a religious group.

So I’ve gotta say that apart from the rebellious imagery, I’m not sure what Satan is bring to Satanism. They’re not into evil, the supernatural, or even trolling. It’s like the only other option they could come up with was “Humanists Who Aren’t Into Shit Stirring”, but it didn’t sound mystical enough.

Senseless Divinity

Yesterday, I showed that despite what Cootsona thinks, some arguments are not better than others. Today, let’s look at another of his arguments.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way:

Best of all: if science could prove God’s existence.

In the two articles I’ve read by Cootsona, he’s careful to point out that he’s not actually talking about proofs for his God. What he says he’s talking about are interesting scientific facts that kind of, sort of, make you think that maybe, there’s his God. Or some god, Or a Designer. Or theism. It’s like he wants to say it, but doesn’t because he knows that would be a step too far. These wishy-washy articles also give him an out; you see, he’s not actually saying his reading of the science definitively might be or might not be, proof for god. Rather, Cootsona believes:

science can present intriguing convergences with religious belief

but that only comes by mutilating or ignoring the science he’s using. Let’s look at how this article is another collection of modals that he hopes suggest the reader thinks science supports God.

Justin Barrett, through his work in developing a Cognitive Science of Religion, uses the findings of the cognitive sciences to argue that evolution has developed human beings so that we implicitly see purposes in events, or are predisposed toward teleology.

Cootsona complains that:

atheists can use this tendency to impugn belief in God—i.e., we cannot help but believe, and it starts at such an early age!

and then to his credit tries a counter argument:

Let’s try a suppositional argument. Suppose we are created by God, wouldn’t it be consistent to find an openness to belief as endemic to our cognitive structure?

Which leads me to ask, when were we created by God? If Cootsona is going to show, in his own words, “a convergence between scientific insight and theism” then leading with this is a very strange way to do it. His supposition that we were “created” flies in the face of science. Science doesn’t say that we sprang into existence, but that we evolved over millions of years. For his supposition to hold weight, he can only alter one parameter at a time, and he’s chosen to alter the source of our cognitive structure. If he needs to alter our whole creation to do that, then he’s ventured out of his original supposition and into a magical fairy tale where anything goes.

So to keep him consistent, let’s stick with evolution. Which then leads me to ask, when in our evolutionary process did God endow us with this cognitive structure? When we widen our view to look at the animal world, this question becomes moot. We are not alone at having this cognitive structure; we’re just the best at it. In terms of Cootsona’s supposition, certainly it’s an amazing coincidence that other animals have the same ability as us. And it’s an even more amazing coincidence that there is a definite scale to that ability through the animal kingdom. Because it doesn’t take into account any of these points, Cootsona’s supposition hasn’t evolved a leg to stand on.

Finely Tuned; Universally Applicable

This article is a bit old, but I’d like to have a look at it because the author has written a recent piece that I’d like to look at tomorrow.

Greg Cootsona says of the fine-tuning argument:

It does, nonetheless, offer evidences of God’s design. Fine tuning is consistent what we would expect from a Designer, and it supports theism better than materialism.

His use of a decreasing specificity in who or what this argument supports – first his God, then a nonspecific Designer, and finally theism – says a lot about how useful this is for Christians as support for their particular beliefs. Cootsona is mistaken to think the fine-tuning argument supports theism better than materialism; unfortunately for him it supports it to the same extent. But worse for Cootsona, it supports any other theistic version just as much.

Next, Cootsona thinks he’s addressing one of the major flaws in the fine-tuning argument. He describes this flaw thus:

Simply put, the only reason we can have this conversation is that we are already here in this type of universe, however improbable it might be.

To which he gives an analogy of two wedding anniversary celebrations, one in which he makes little effort, the other in which makes a lot of effort. He asks the reader to imagine which one looks planned. The problem for Cootsona is that he’s just rephrasing the problem, and rather poorly at that. He leaves it for us to assume that the universe is the highly planned celebration, but we certainly don’t have to. Both celebrations exist, just as our universe exists. He offers no evidence that the Designer (we may as well take the denominational-free version), wasn’t slumming when he created this universe. The reasons for his own awe at this universe:

Physicists have identified over thirty discrete, precisely calibrated parameters that produced the universe we know.

even support this other assumption in that if any of these discrete, precisely calibrated parameters were to be altered, someone else could well be standing here in something else. And that something else could be the highly-planned wedding anniversary!

Cootsona does what theists often do when they try to apply science to their beliefs. They latch on to the one point that seems to support their view, and begin and end with that. He doesn’t think of what the counter to that argument is, if the argument applies to any other cases, if there are other cases that give the same outcomes, or what happens if it is extrapolated. He just hears that the universe has a finely-tuned order, and sits his god on top of it.

Why You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About

This article is yet another puff piece on the evils of not believing in Christianity. Light on anything but opinion, it’s old ground. So let’s mine it for just a few talking points:

Atheists try not to think about the question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Atheism has no rational answer to this fundamental question, and even considering the question has the potential to chip away at the beliefs of an atheist.
Of course atheists think about this, it’s just that whatever the “rational” answer really is, we’re pretty confident that it’s not a “magical” being.
In addition, the theory of atheism has no explanation for the development of the human mind, and no logical rationale as to why man chooses to believe in a deity.
Atheism isn’t about these questions. It’d be like asking a Christian why there’s no hot pink M&Ms, then saying Christianity is DOA because it can’t provide an answer.
For example, why do more and more people accept Christ as Savior?
If “more and more” means a “greater percentage of the world’s population”, then people aren’t flocking to Christianity. Right now Christians make up about 34% of the world’s population, which is the highest it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. Islam is rapidly catching up, with it expected to exceed Christianity around 2070. Basically, a faith that began almost 14 centuries after Christianity has almost the same number of adherents. Christianity has had two millennium, but hasn’t even convinced most of the world’s population, with its high-water mark being about one-third.
Why does the message of the risen Savior continue to be trusted by millions of people based on the evidence at the scene of the crime 2,000 years ago? Shouldn’t naturalism have dominated and destroyed Christian faith long ago?
The real question is Dan, shouldn’t Christianity have dominated and destroyed all other faiths long ago?
The man who refuses to trust God is a man who assumes he can trust his own senses and opinions.
Billions of people drive cars. To do so they have to trust in not only their their own senses and opinions, but the senses and opinions of others. If so many are willing to risk their lives every day doing this, I’m pretty sure we can handle debating whether magical, non-observable beings exist based on those same senses and opinions.
Atheism is dead on arrival because it places absolute trust in a worldview that is based on accidents.
Atheism doesn’t place trust in a worldview based on accidents, but let’s assume it does. Why is that so bad? We exist. We live. We love. We have hopes. We have dreams. We create. We die. We do these thing no matter the persuasion of our faith. The only thing Christianity can bring to the table is life after death, which is a promise based on a belief in the supernatural. It’s magic beans.

Silly Billy

This advice from Billy Graham is very shortsighted. If God can conquer “the most stubborn heart”, it seems silly to pray for just one atheist. His friend really ought to pray for them all. And while he’s at it, all the theists that don’t follow his god, too. Then we could have one mass conversion and get it all over with at once. It just makes sense.