Freedom to Offend Imaginary Gods

This topic is still very much in the news and in my thoughts. 

Who Deserves the Blame? from

A good article on this is On the Freedom to Offend an Imaginary God from Sam Harris and I agree with this other than the “no apologies necessary”:

The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. No apologies necessary. Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance. And Governor Romney, though he is wrong about almost everything under the sun (including, very likely, the sun), is surely right to believe that it is time our government delivered this message without blinking.

In my last post I said people do harm and not religions so I support freedom of religion and freedom from religion. I also said freedom of religion doesn’t mean religions are free from criticism.  Sam Harris criticized our government for disavowing the offending speech while claiming to protect free speech in principle.  He also said:

Our government followed the path of appeasement further by attempting to silence the irrepressible crackpot Pastor Terry Jones, who had left off burning copies of the Qur’an just long enough to promote the film. The administration also requested that Google remove “Innocence of Muslims” from its servers.

These last parts are inexcusable in a free society practicing true freedom of religion so  I agree that this path of appeasement doesn’t protect free speech.  However, I think the one and only thing our government should have done was apologize on behalf of the government only.

Here is the type of apology our government should give for any attack, criticism, parody, etc. of any religion:

The U.S. government is deeply sorry that you feel offended.  The government firmly believes in the freedom of religion for everyone and deeply respects each individual’s right to believe or not believe as they choose.  There may be things in the world that offend you and your beliefs or disbeliefs because of the freedom of religion and freedom of speech that each individual enjoys.  Rest assured that the U.S. government does not share in this criticism even as we defend the right of individuals to exercise their freedom of speech, including your rights to say whatever you want in response.  However, we will not tolerate violence from anyone in the name of any religion and will serve to protect freedom of speech and religion across the world.  This freedom of religion includes freedom from the rules of religions that don’t apply to that individual.  Blasphemy in a religion only applies to people that share in that same religion and is not a governmental law.

This should be the words of a government that has freedom of religion in their Bill of Rights.


Agnosticism: Making the World We Want

Courtesy of Atheist Revolution

I agree with vjack that Bertrand Russell “captured one of the most inspiring and intimidating aspects of atheism [also agnosticism and freethought]: it is up to us to make the world in which we want to live.”

vjack continues with:

Superstitious belief has done its share of damage, but we can improve through the pursuit of reason. Organized religion has certainly caused considerable harm, but we can help to hasten its demise and reverse much of the harm it has caused. Nobody would ever suggest this will be easy; it may take generations. The question for each of us to ponder is how we will contribute.

My view of religions in general is that the harm they cause is the harm of specific individuals. They cause harm with their application of religion to others instead of keeping its impact to themselves. It’s not an inherent characteristic of the religions and we give religion too much credit to say it causes violence. If it did, then violence is a characteristic of any work of fiction or thought.

My thoughts toward religious beliefs is to think of them the same way as fans of any other fiction. Star Wars fans, Trekkies, and any other super fan of a fictional reality sometimes shroud their lives in that fiction. What they believe about that fiction could even impact how they treat others and an irrational result of any fiction could be some very bad behavior towards others, particularly people that don’t think the same way. However, do you blame the fiction and the beliefs for this or do you blame the person? Should we also hasten the “demise” of those other fictions because their fans might turn into fanatics and kill people in the name of the dark side? When do we start the book burning to save us from all fictions? This is why I blame the person and not the gun, or in this case, the belief. Firmly attack the fanaticism and not the theism, otherwise the non-violent theists will rightfully think you’re attacking them for simply believing in their fiction.

I believe in the separation of church and state. I also think religion shouldn’t be considered a public “harm” as long as that separation is defended and religion remains the activity of individuals. I don’t believe anyone should try to stop religious beliefs or push for everyone to be free from religion since it’s a part of our human freedom to believe in any fictions we want. Freedom of religion and freedom from religion should both be a personal choice as a part of making this the world we want.

However, this doesn’t mean we are free from criticism of our beliefs. Everyone should know that other people have the right to not share in their beliefs and do see them as fictional. Even the religious think the non-religious believe in a fictional view of a universe without gods. I don’t advocate for the demise of religion and the religious shouldn’t advocate for the demise of freethought. I don’t care what anyone else believes or puts their faith in as long as everyone can admit their supernatural beliefs or disbeliefs aren’t equivalent to knowledge and it’s valid for others to not believe as they do because of this.

My favored tactic for the public square is equal access (all belief and non-belief displays for the holidays) instead of trying to suppress and deny the majority religion (remove Christian displays). Fighting for the demise of religion is like fighting for the demise of “traditional marriage” in the name of supporting gay marriage. Can’t we each have our own way of life and our individual freedoms?

This would be the world I would want. Religious people with their personal freedom of religion AND an acknowledgement of the validity of everyone else to have the same freedoms including a personal freedom FROM religion. This is all an “atheist revolution” should ever strive for because when you attack someone else’s freedoms to think and believe as they want then they will respond in kind. We need freedom for all for there to be true peace for this subject.

Omnipotence and Scott Adams’ God’s Debris

Epicurus: “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?”

from Living in the Balance

Scott Adams writes the Dilbert comic strip. He also wrote an interesting thought experiment called God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment. It’s interesting to contemplate even though it’s fiction and has no basis in reality. It’s an interesting thing to think about related to any other view of God because it’s just as likely or unlikely as any other belief in an intelligent creator.

Scott writes that the only challenge for an omnipotent being would be the challenge of destroying itself and its own omnipotence. A God that is omnipotent would have no motivation to do or create anything because it already knows and has everything. However, a God might be motivated to try to answer the one unanswered question of what happens if the God ceases to exist. Scott’s fictional hypothesis is that our existence is proof that God is motivated to act and since only self-destruction could interest and motivate an omnipotent being, then we must be a part of the God’s debris that came from the Big Bang as God caused itself to no longer exist.

Scott suggests that matter is the bits of God. The other part of God’s debris is probability as an infinitely powerful guiding force for everything in the universe. All of this, including us, are the building blocks of God reassembling itself. The universe is God with our consciousness, desires, and instincts to communicate and generate collective knowledge serving as a part of God’s reassembly. We can imagine and see God around us because we are all a part of God’s mind pulling itself back together into omnipotence.

One of the more interesting ideas in that book is that an omnipotent being wouldn’t have any desires or motivations. If you already knew exactly what I was going to do with each step of my existence then why would you desire to dictate any guidance for me since you already know what that additional guidance does? How could we be given free will when reality is viewed from omnipotence and everything is already known and predetermined? If I can truly do what I want then God is not omnipotent. Omnipotence may actually be all of the knowledge of all possible intellects and not something that is held by a single intelligent being.

When I contemplate the concept of God’s debris pulling itself back together into an omnipotent singularity I see that the logical conclusion is that it is once again that being again. It’s the being that no longer has motivation to do anything because it knows it all and has it all since it is everything. Once it reaches this state of being again, it would again understand that the only thing that can be done is to see if it can destroy itself and its omnipotence over and over again. Like Scott Adams says, it’s an interesting thought experiment, but it doesn’t mean it’s real even if we can’t prove that it’s true or false.