Tag Archives | Religion

If There Are Gods, They Are Evil

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

Via Reason and Meaning:

Here is a brief summary of a piece by B.C. Johnson, “Why Doesn’t God Intervene to Prevent Evil?” It offers a devastating critique of the possibility that there is an all powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving god. 

Are there any good excuses for someone (or a god) not saving a baby from a burning house if they had the power to do so? It will not do to say the baby will go to heaven, since one suffers by burning to death. The key is the suffering.  If the suffering was not necessary, then it’s wrong to allow it; if the suffering is necessary, the baby’s going to heaven doesn’t explain why it’s necessary.

It doesn’t make sense to say that a baby’s painful death will be good in the long run, and that’s why the gods allow it. For that is to say that whatever happens in the long run is good; since if something happened it was allowed by the gods, and it must therefore be good in the long run.

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No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God

Via Lawrence M. Krauss – The New Yorker:

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn’t heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes.

The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist. Rather, he’s a writer and a TV host, and the article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science—this time in a cosmological context. Life exists only on Earth and has not been found elsewhere. Moreover, the conditions that caused life to appear here are miraculous.

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A Just Cause ≠ A Just War

Poster Boy (CC BY-2.0)

Poster Boy (CC BY-2.0)

By Howard Zinn, via the Progressive:

Editor’s Note: Today we remember our legendary columnist Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States and champion of pacifism, civil rights, and the voices of the marginalized. On this fifth anniversary of his death in January 27, 2010, we present a classic essay on nonviolence adapted from his speech on May 2, 2009, at The Progressive’s 100th anniversary conference.

I want to talk about three holy wars. They aren’t religious wars, but they’re the three wars in American history that are sacrosanct, that you can’t say anything bad about: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II.

Let’s look carefully at these three idealized, three romanticized wars.

It’s important to at least be willing to raise the possibility that you could criticize something that everybody has accepted as uncriticizable.

We’re supposed to be thinking people.

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First Head Chopped Off with New Saudi King – Saudi’s Chop off Heads for Murder, Rape, Witchcraft

Salman bin Abdull aziz December 9, 2013

Salman bin Abdull aziz December 9, 2013

The AP via The New York Times:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia on Monday executed a man convicted of raping several girls in a case that has captured the kingdom’s attention and marks the first beheading carried out under the newly enthroned King Salman.

The Interior Ministry said Moussa al-Zahrani was executed in the city of Jiddah. The ministry statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, said al-Zahrani was convicted of luring underage girls, intoxicating them, forcing them to watch pornographic videos and then physically and sexually assaulting them.

His alleged victims were children assaulted in 2011 in a string of attacks in Jiddah.

The case has caused a stir on social media — which is unusual in Saudi Arabia for cases of violent crimes — in part because al-Zahrani claimed his innocence throughout the trial and two later appeals.

Last year, al-Zahrani appealed in a 20-minute video for Saudi King Abdullah, who died on Friday, to intervene.

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Building Moral Robots, With Whose Morals?

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants. Credit Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants.
Credit Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center

I certainly wouldn’t trust the politicians or corporate money-mongers. Heather Goldstone proposes three sources: The Geneva Convention, Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, and/or The Ten Commandments. Whose morals would you want AI to model?

Via at WCAI:

Giving robots morals may sound like a good idea, but it’s a pursuit fraught with its own moral dilemmas. Like, whose morals?

Stop and look around you right now. You’re sitting in front of a computer and, chances are, there’s a phone or some other “smart” device in your vicinity. As our devices get more capable, and we become more reliant on them, there’s increasing hand-wringing over whether our relationships with technology have gone awry.

In some circles, the conversation has a particular urgency to it – because they’re talking about whether or not robots could – or should – be entrusted with life and death decisions, and whether such robots could ever be conferred with anything comparable to our morals.

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The Triumph of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Ashton Carter’s predecessor, greets Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain, at right in the blue and red ties, respectively. Photo via Wikipedia

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Ashton Carter’s predecessor, greets Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain, at right in the blue and red ties, respectively. Photo via Wikipedia

Via Ben Cohen & Winslow Wheeler at Medium:

In his farewell address in January 1961, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower famously cautioned the American public to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Today it’s routine for critics of wasteful military spending to cite Eisenhower’s warning. Unfortunately, Eisenhower did not warn us that the military-industrial complex would become increasingly malignant as it morphed into less obvious forms.

The “complex” is no longer just “military” and “industrial,” and it has extended far beyond just its congressional branch, which Eisenhower also intended to include.

It’s now deeply embedded in the fiber of the American political system, academia, the civilian leadership of the Defense Department and—increasingly—the White House itself.

• • •

The military-industrial-complex was on display—but passed without wide notice—on Dec.

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Psychopath vs. Empath: the War Between Truth and Deception

good_vs_evil_by_flyinfrogg

Gary ‘Z’ McGee writes at Waking Times:

“The supreme mystery of despotism, its prop and stay, is to keep men in a state of deception, and cloak the fear by which they must be held in check, so that they will fight for their servitude as if for salvation.” –Baruch Spinoza

Are you fighting for your servitude as if for your salvation? Then you have been well-deceived. You have been sheeple-compromised. Your thoughts are not your own. Your actions are not your own. You are in all ways a conditioned puppet who is under the delusion that it is free, and the psychopaths of the world are your uncompromising puppet masters. The questions you need to be asking yourself are these: “Am I willing to do what it takes to become free? Am I ready for the uncomfortableness of undeceiving myself? Would I rather be slapped by the truth or kissed with a lie?

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The Death Sentence That Could Inflame Sectarian Tensions Across The Middle East

Nimr al-Nimr (Photo: freenimr.org)

Nimr al-Nimr (Photo: freenimr.org)

Giorgio Cafiero writes at Foreign Policy in Focus:

Last October, Saudi Arabia’s Special Criminal Court sentenced Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr — a popular Shi’ite cleric and outspoken political dissident — to death.

This was not an ordinary criminal trial, even considering Saudi Arabia’s liberal use of capital punishment. Among other charges, the prosecutor sought to convict al-Nimr of “waging war on God” and “aiding terrorists,” even calling for the cleric to be publicly executed by “crucifixion.” In Saudi Arabia, this rare method of execution entails beheading the individual before publicly displaying his decapitated body.

The widely revered Shi’ite cleric was ultimately convicted of “disobeying” the king, waging violence against the state, inviting “foreign meddling” in the kingdom, inciting vandalism and sectarian violence, and insulting the Prophet Muhammad’s relatives. However, al-Nimr’s family and supporters claim that the ruling was politically driven and insist that the cleric led a non-violent movement committed to promoting Shi’ite rights, women’s rights, and democratic reform in Saudi Arabia.

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The Woman Who Tried To Murder Dr. King

izolaheadshot

William Bastone, Andrew Goldberg, and Joseph Jesselli write at The Smoking Gun:

On the eighth floor of a nursing home in Queens, New York, a 98-year-old woman sits slumped in a wheelchair in the hallway outside her room. She is sleeping, oblivious to the roar coming from the television of her next-door neighbor, who is watching “The Price is Right” at an ear-piercing volume.

Though the corridor is uncomfortably toasty on this July morning, the woman has a knitted shawl over her shoulders. She is wearing green sweatpants, a green t-shirt, and black shoes with Velcro closures. The remaining wisps of her hair are gray and tangled. In her clenched left hand is a wad of tissues that she will use to absent-mindedly dab at her face and rheumy eyes.

As she naps in the hallway, it is hard to imagine that frail Izola Curry was once a would-be assassin, a woman who nearly changed the course of U.S.

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Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel

This mummy mask was one of the masks that the researchers took apart to reveal ancient papyri. This mummy mask is similar to the one that contained the first century gospel fragment. Credit: Courtesy of Prof. Craig Evans

This mummy mask was one of the masks that the researchers took apart to reveal ancient papyri. This mummy mask is similar to the one that contained the first century gospel fragment.
Credit: Courtesy of Prof. Craig Evans

Owen Jarus writes at LiveScience:

A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published.

At present, the oldest surviving copies of the gospel texts date to the second century (the years 101 to 200).

This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue.

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