bookmark_borderWhy This Skeptic is Secular Blogging – It’s a (Fairly) Long Story

My religious history that led to yours truly becoming a skeptical intellect doing research and commentary is complex. And rather interesting. Not my father’s side of our (rather dysfunctional) nuclear family. Indiana Hoosier from corn country, a Cold War United Methodist Republican to whom atheism was Godless Bolshevism. Yawn. To his credit when he found out I was an atheist in 2002 he was not happy, but did not make too much of a fuss, and did not reraise the subject prior to his death last year at 94.
 
Ye Olden Times
 
Over on my mother’s side is where it was very interesting. Some of her folk where associates of the Joseph Smith who made up Mormonism, one being a body guard, they made the trek to Utah, and had multiple wives (check out https://gatheringgardiners.blogspot.com/2010/03/noah-guyman-1819-1911.html, it’s pretty cool). Ah the good old days. My grandmother Zella who I knew very well, and was a quietly devout believer, was born in a central Utah desert town out of the old west and lived to 2002. She wrote an account of her life in which she as a teen she longed to be married in the Temple – very important in Latter Day Saint theology. She may have come close to doing so, gleaning from her autobio and what she told a relation she almost married a churchly distant (via polygamy) cousin, but he suddenly died in the Great Flu Pandemic. Then for reasons obscure she married a man who was never especially observant – I suspect my grandfather was not into paying that critical 10% per year tithe – and they never had that Temple ceremony. None of their five offspring remained in the church. My teen mother became something of a wild child in Salt Lake City during the world war, she was drinking and smoking heavily then and would only stop the former at fifty because her alternative was death. After both my parents ended up in the Virginia burbs of DC because of the war, in the late 40s they married and had two sons.
 
The Wonder Years
 
The result of all that was an incoherent religious upbringing. Until I was 9 we regularly attended the Alexandria ward grandmother went to. Why my father was into that I do not know – Mormonism is extremely heretical relative to Christianity, he probably did not know that. He was considering joining until his smoking prevented that, but he did not reconsider after he quit soon after. I hated church like Tom Sawyer (I was a much better behaved kid though). Boring. I was baptized at 7 in a water dunking ceremony that meant nothing to me. I believed in God there being no alternative that I knew of. I looked down on other churches from what an old friend much later told me. But problems arose. In a Sunday school class the young female teacher informed me I was wrong about the existence of the dinosaurs I already adored. What the…. Did not believe such a stupid thing for a second. She was an idiot, all the more so because LDS dogma has nothing to say about dinosaurs and deep time, they being matters of choice what one thinks about them, and a number of competent paleozoologists and geologists are active LDS.
 
In my preteens and into my teens I was learning about prehistoric beasts and humans from the likes of the cheap How and Why Wonder Books and lavishly illustrated Golden Books for children (for an account of my paleo upbringing see http://www.gspauldino.com/autobiography.html). They discussed an item called evolution discovered by Darwin as a matter of course. Made sense to me. After all, we were living in a new and exciting age of science, driving in autos when my grandmother had rode horses and buggies as a child, jetliners for long range travel, able to talk remotely via telephones, watching the new wonder of TV (The Flintstones!, Star Trek! The Avengers!), antibiotics. I sort of noticed they were not the wonders of some remote gods, they were the human result of science.
 
It is logically common for those who are deep into deep time astronomical and earthly, and bioevolution, to become atheists if not already raised that way. With a scientific explanation of the origins of the universe and us on hand supernatural alternatives become redundant and flippant. Evolutionary scientists and paleozoologists who have become prominent atheists (as I define below) include Thomas (Darwin’s Bulldog) Huxley (who also proposed a later verified link between dinosaurs and birds, one of my areas of research), Louis Leakey, Stephen Gould, and Richard Dawkins. So my course is not unusual.
 
Sunday June 21st 1964 was my day of sweet freedom. From church. Continuing the white privilege flight of the time made possible by the automobile we moved further out in the burbs, to just beyond the then new DC beltway. There were no nearby wards, none of the rest of the extended family except Zella were LDS churchgoers, my mom probably reeked of embarrassing smoke smell when attending, my dad was not churchly, and we stopped going in June. Freedom!
 
I spent some summers with relations in the Salt Lake Valley. Loved it. The big skies, the snow-capped Rockies, the dinosaurs. My Great Aunt Laurel. An artist-naturalist who when I think about it showed no signs of being religious, she encouraged my interests, including dinosaurs. When I was 13 a 11 year old distant cousin took a shine to me. Awww. She really liked my dinosaur drawings. I do not remember exactly why the subject came up, but at her place we were chatting and casually I mentioned how humans evolved from apes. Suddenly her eyes widened, she started backing away saying her parents had told her that was not true, and the rest of the day she would not stay in the same room. Apparently I was under the influence of that rebel against god Satan. I was amused. And theism was going downhill. Fast.
 
Back in the Church – Sort of
 
Things got more complicated. As I was turning 14 Brother Evans dropped by. A hyper evangelical Mormon (and as I later learned a beater of his sons), his trying to recruit me back into the church was going nowhere until he said the magic words. Boy Scouts. So I was a sort of LDS church attending slacker during my teens. I took none of it at all seriously. When I said a curse word in front of one of the Evans sons his silly warning that I could be struck by lightning did not help my theism. But I had fun Scouting et al.
 
Next summer was another in Utah, and by then I was an de facto atheist. When one of my nonLDS cousins discussed his interest in the occult I rolled my rationalist eyes.
 
Then something very important happened.
 
Although they were both intelligent – dad scored an IQ of 140 in 1944 – my parents were intellectually vacuous. All my dad really cared about was making it big in business. He subscribed to pulp magazines like Argosy and True Tales. They featured articles on alien visitations. I took those seriously – with their detailed descriptions of events that appeared inexplicable by earthly standards they seemed scientific, and of course adults would not publish items that were demonstrably untrue. Right? I loved the TV SciFi drama Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which I would later realize was an example of the clunky boiler plate SciFi pablum offered up by cheap skate Irwin Allen. A first season episode featured the Sea View encountering a flying saucer!!!! I was thrilled. Of course they would not do that unless it had been okayed by the authorities. Right? At the same time the likes of Frank Drake and Carl Sagan were saying that extraterrestrial were statistically probable. Yet they were denying aliens visiting earth. Hmmm.
 
The Book
 
First time into the high school library I saw on the shelf a book titled UFO’s Explained. Like wow! Finally a big grown up book that would settle the question, maybe showing that extraterrestrials were the real deal after all. Checked it out and read it. Written by aviation expert Philip Klass, it is renowned as the first skeptics book. Case by case Klass debunked every classic UFO story up to that date. I got it. That is how scientific analysis is done. Cold, hard, objective, rational yet flexible and nondogmatic examination of the available data. Go where the data goes, not on what your opinion favors. Have been a skeptic ever since.
 
Including of the gods. Religion is not as is often claimed a search for the truth, or to be moral or altruistic. It is looking for boons supernatural – al theists are expecting stuff in return ofr adherence. It’s the prefect recipe for waving away awkward counter evidence.
 
There was nothing dramatic or agonizing about my going science-based, it was fun knowing that most folks were being absurd in believing in matters magical. I did not have much in the way of deep discussions with my parents who while they had their positives – including being largely supportive of my science interests and art — were too dysfunctional and nonintellectual for me to admire, seek their approval, or care what they thought. Moderate-liberal suburban northern Virginia was not especially churchly like the SE tidewater Virginia where and aunt and uncle lived, and this was before the rise of the religious right, creationism was not much of an issue. So theo talk was not all that common. Somehow the God subject came up with a young substitute teacher I think in art class. She and another student derided my nontheism, the teacher demanding I offer up a single great thinker who was an atheist. Could not come up with one – this was long before the atheist flourishing of more recent times – awkward. Did not change my mind though. Senior year in English the apparently nontheist teacher was for reasons I do not recall discussing issues godly. The student counter arguing happened to be the daughter of the ward bishop. Because of that I kept my mouth shut. As she was being shot down – at one point she was queried as to the physical condition old people would be in in heaven — she looked to fellow Vienna ward attendee me (but not a friend) with a facial appeal for support which I was not about to deliver. With the Boy Scouts thing winding down, the Evans having moved away, my interest in Mormonism still nil, LDS services as always excruciatingly dull – stay away from them for your own sake — and the ward bishop pressuring me to tithe while warning me to stay away from the atheist University of Utah I was toying with attending, I eased myself out.
 
When I moved at 20 I was careful to not let the church know my new address. I got a call from a church official at the work number I had earlier gave them silly me. They use the insidious techniques of salespeople. Start out nice and if that does not work ramp up the pressure until the mark caves just to stop the unpleasant situation. When the manipulative ass realized I was holding my ground he got nasty and threatened excommunication. Like I cared. This century one of my uncles deliberately got excommunicated to stop LDS operatives from pestering him. Another uncle had converted to the Greek Orthodoxy of his wife – those are the cool people I visit when in Utah;) Aside from a couple of missionaries who thought it cool I had ancestors who knew Smith while politely deriding their faith, I have not had contact with an active Mormon for decades. Yay!
 
The Book II
 
At 20 another book had a big and conclusive impact. A personal life item was going so well I imagined it must show the favor of a deity – classic theogullible superficial grade thinking mistake. When that situation did not work out I thought it discreditable to now abandon the belief – another classic theogullible superficial grade thinking mistake. I do not recall how I learned about it, but I purchased a copy of Mark Twain’s theonotorious Letters from the Earth to see what he had to say about the God thing. Like most Christians I had never read the damn Bible (I did much later as a research project, I survived). Twain was the first person to with his brilliant literary wit tell me the appalling truth about the book of horrors and its barbaric god, while attending to its cruelty to humanity. Here is a brief sample.
 
The human being is a machine. An automatic machine. It is composed of thousands of complex and delicate mechanisms, which perform their functions harmoniously…. For each one of these thousands of mechanisms the Creator has planned an enemy whose job it is to harass it, pester it, persecute it, damage it, afflict it with pains, and miseries, and ultimate destruction. Not one has been overlooked….  It is the Creator’s Grand Army, and he is the Commander-in-Chief. Along its battlefront its grisly banners wave their legends in the face of the sun: Disaster, Diseases and the rest…. It is wonderful the thorough and comprehensive study which the Creator devoted to the great work of making man miserable…. All of the Creator’s specially deadly disease-producers are invisible.  It is an ingenious idea. For thousands of years it kept man from getting to the root of his maladies, and defeated his attempts to master them. It is only recently that science has succeeded in exposing some of these treacheries.
 
(I strongly recommend LFTE to all — be cautioned that a lot of the book is criticism of literature by the inventor of modern non/fictional literature Clemens, not that that is a problem.)
 
I realized that I had been lied to by the churches. I hate being lied to, propaganda is vile and I try to avoid deceiving others. By the time I finished the sections on theism I said “I get it Twain,” and I have never had reason to modify my atheism since.
 
What is Rattling Around Between My Ears
 
So what is my atheism? I am not a theist, a person who has a belief in one or more deities/gods. Broadly and correctly etymologically defined, a-theism is the lack of theism, ergo I am an atheist. I am not an absolute atheist who is completely certain there are not any gods because that cannot be entirely proven – such folk are rare, a hot Hopkins undergrad I knew back in the day who was quite ticked when I denied absolute disproof of deities is the only one I have met. In that sense I am an agnostic as defined by the person who coined the term Thomas Huxley. So by his own statements so is Dawkins, we are both agnostic atheists. My position is based entirely on data analysis. I always follow the data as best I can, and if it supported the probability or certainty of some form of deity or deities being around and about I would opt for that and would not be writing this – as I will discuss in a later blog, if god/s existed there are many circumstances in which it would be obvious and not a matter of debate. As it is the evidence for the presence of anything supernatural is pathetic, and the possibility of their existence is about as close to zero as one can get without quite getting there.
 
Although the basic existence of a god and many other items supernatural cannot be entirely disproven, the existence of a decent, loving, benign moral creator that has the best interests of his human creations can be scientifically tested. I am the person who literally has done the most to prove that a Good God simply cannot exist because of the deadly nature of our planet to children. And that worshipping a creator god in search of boons is inherently immoral. I am also the leading researcher when correlating the relationship between levels of popular a/theism and socioeconomic conditions, which leaves no statistical doubt that the more atheistic democracies are, the better off are their citizens, and for inherent reasons it is not possible for highly religious societies to be highly successful. I am therefore anti-theism, similar to say Dawkins. As such I am not like many atheists tolerant of religion and belief, it is bad idea in terms of truth and for societies. That does not mean atheism cannot have its own downsides as I shall discuss in these blogs. I try to be fair and objective, and am often vexed when other atheists are not that. Or well informed. I am often aghast at the limited knowledge base of attendees at atheist groups. Lots of them don’t know that our planet is 4.5 billion years old. Sheesh.
 
I am an equal opportunity skeptic. Our society is deeply, cynically hypocritical, that being true of most of the majority who are theists here and abroad. Belief in supernatural deities for which evidence of their existence is extremely weak and their goodness is readily disprovable is widely seen as normal if not noble, while a host of other paranormal beliefs that are no better founded are commonly derided and condemned as baseless and mere superstitions. These days I have people asking this dinosaurologist if it is really true that aliens killed off the dinosaurs to pave the way for humanity, an item they picked up from cable and online “documentaries.” That outlandish notion lacks any actual evidence, but it is no more or less plausible than the conceit that a transcendent entity created our universe and planet. I am not a hypocrite when it comes to matters paranormal godly and secular, they are all bogus as far as can be determined. Faith is not truth, it is sheer opinion.
 
Becoming an Atheosecular Researcher
 
Having meme evolved into a strongly convinced but not absolutist agnostic atheist by 20 and not having seen anything close to suggesting I should change my mind since, I spent the mid 70s to the mid 90s focusing on my paleozoological research and art. Including doing the primary design work for the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park (do not blame me for the flawed appearance of the rest of the JP dinos, and the original King Kong is a way better dinosaurs and other monsters on an island movie, albeit typically racist per the times). Although not the very first I was among the very few illustrating smaller dinosaurs with feathers and fuzz which would be verified in the 90s, was the first to note that some dinosaurs might also be secondarily flightless birds, was the first to calculate that the bigger flying pterosaurs were massive monsters weighing as much as lions and tigers and bears, and named a number of dinosaur groups and genus-species (some of which remain in force) – you can check out my paleo work and art at www.gspauldino.com. Being an iconoclastic polymath is my thing. Did little about the nonreligion thing even as I was appalled by the anti-scientific religious right and its perverted consort creationism. In the mid 90s I started attending local atheosecular groups, partly for social reasons. On the positive side of matters in those days of post cold war optimism I was pleased to see the poll data indicating that the USA was in fact becoming increasingly irreligious, as I documented in my first atheism themed article in a 2002 Free Inquiry.
 
But I was a very frustrated fellow. About the scientific investigation of the societal impacts of religion and nontheism. In order to understand that and many other things you have to have the comparative stats on hand. Duh. Lots of people were claiming mass deity belief is critical for societies to be well run, others denied it. But where were the objective, large scale statistical comparisons needed to test who was right? When I realized the correlations had not been produced which was an enormous failure of the sociological community, I went ahead and did them my little self, establishing a new field of research without really trying in the process. I was being innovative in this arena as I had in paleo. It was a fairly extensive project, but there was plenty of data available and the results were fascinating. I published them in the peer reviewed J Religion & Society and Evolutionary Psychology (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147470490900700305), as well chapters in academic books. The research – which has never been refuted because it is objectively not possible to do so — got a fair amount of media attention. Including being labeled the church’s public enemy #1 by MSNBC (https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna10351693) which I am quite proud of, and an appearance on FoxNews which I parried the sleazy reporter fairly well. The work, bolstered by the efforts of others, has done a fair amount to shift the public discourse more towards the favor of atheism.
 
In a statistics tells us a lot about morality parallel line of analysis, I had known since reading the first sentences of Arthur C. Clarke’s book version of 2001 A Space Odyssey that around 100 billion people had been born. I also knew that juvenile mortality rates are around 50%, so that meant some 50 billion children had been tormented to death by the diseases as outlined by Twain, and even greater numbers have miscarried. This was another ground breaking look at the old problem of how a perfect God and our imperfect planet do not go along with one another. I published an analysis in Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf) – no other atheists have scored the coup of publishing anti-theistic works in mainstream religious journals – that was the first publication to ever present the number of deceased children, and showed how theologians have bent over backward to evade the problem for ages that because mass death of youngsters directly refutes the belief that God is Good and deserves admiring worship, and that such is not at all noble. Very frustrating is that my efforts to get media attention for the core refutation of religion, and a response from the theists who have no means of producing a plausible counterargument, went nowhere. In order to tale another shot and that while updating the analysis I am publishing a two-parter on the subject in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanism (https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1). So far that has not been more successful at getting wide attention, with Religion News Service cynically rejecting my press release the theocads.
 
A major achievement was in 2011. I kept sending op-eds to major venues without success. Then it occurred to me to do one on the chronic discrimination against atheists, and do it in association with others. That worked, the Washington Post carried it. The piece garnered 1500 comments before those were timed out, and 80,000 likes. Nice. But that was the end of such major consideration of my work in the mainstream media and press. Dozens of efforts to place pieces in mainstream opinion venues have gone nowhere. And it is not just me. A big running problem is the stunning lack of attention paid to atheists by the mainstream news media, my next blog will be on that issue.
 
My atheo frustrations do not end there. Fact is that institutional atheosecularism has not been as effective as it needs to be. Basic means for promoting a world view include setting up think tanks to generate data driven information, and a news service to help distribute it. For reasons obscure to me this has not yet happened, despite my and others efforts to get such going. The lack of financial support had severely hindered the research and analysis by myself and others that would likely improve the situation for atheists around the globe. More about that later on this site.
 
Starting in 2017 I have had a regular column in Free Inquiry. That’s a major audience, but one can read my tomes only if one subscribes to the magazine which I suggest people do, and only nontheists subscribe. This blog expands the audience for my popular articles beyond FI. Also, those columns are limited to something over 1000 words, which is too short to fully address many issues. Things are complicated. One of the reasons why we are in the global discourse pickle we are in is because many pieces are more propaganda presentations than well thought out arguments backed up by solid data.
 
Coming Features
 
I will be covering a lot of cool topics. How the failure to develop fusion power has greatly slowed down the decline of theism and bettering the global economy – the former is dependent on the latter — while aiding theoradicalism. How the giant New Zealand moas and elephant birds of Madagascar disprove the contention of William Lane Craig that the good God has to allow predators to mug and chow down on other creatures – don’t get me started on how theists say animals do not really suffer because they are too dumb. Why the scandalous failure of nontheists to vote at the same per capita rate as theoconservatives is why the religious right minority is still a major political power in this country. How about how conservative Christianity is backing the right wing autocratic forces of Europe. Then there is how Dwight Eisenhower was the president who initiated modern government promotion of religion. Did you know that Yosemite Valley is one of the best disproofs of the Biblical creation story, and why – think granite. Here’s a goodie. Few realize that the establishment of the national parks was to a great extent an effort to promote god belief among White Americans at the expense of the Original Peoples, that’s a reason why park ranger uniforms are based on old US Army garb. Bet you did not know that. You may know that the antiabortion movement is really an effort to return the nation to its godly traditional ways of the 1950s, but if not I shall explain.
 
What virtually no one knows is that it was the Catholic Church that did more than anything else to put Hitler into power, largely to ensure the stream of tax revenue they still enjoy. Everyone knows about the pedophile scandals that have rocked and damaged the church, but not about the incredible links between the Vatican and mob elements that used to generate international headlines and inspired the Godfather III, but have been shunted aside. Do not forget how the Manifest Destiny that drove the ethnic cleansing of the America’s was a Godly project made possible by the diseases of Twain’s God liquidated most of the population.
 
Ever wonder why the American religious right is all for fossil fuels oil especially? I’ll explain that one. And don’t you believe that nonsense that while Jesus was probably not divine, he was a man of peace. He was not. If he existed.
 
And there’s a lot more.
 
Since I got into active atheism the good news has been how theism has been declining way faster in the USA than even I hoped, with nonreligion soaring by an astonishing 10% of the population each decade, and atheists as broadly defined now making up perhaps a fifth or a quarter of nation (for the stats see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf). Gallup found church membership was at 70% in 2000, now is only 50%. On the disappointing side the atheist movement is not expanding in tune with the population dynamics, perhaps because of the general decline is social organizations. On the very bad side theoconservatism has, despite losing some demographic ground – even white Republicans are less religious than they used to be – retained a much more powerful grip on much of the government than I predicted. And in their fury to maintain their power are going increasingly bizarro world toxic and autocratic here and abroad. Meanwhile other versions of paranormal thinking are doing all too well, especially concerning alien visitors and even flat-earthism which is a religious movement if you don’t know. But don’t blame everything on the theists. The virulent Chinese government is atheist.
 
Hope you find my coming pontifications of interest, and even better of use.

bookmark_borderOff-Topic: Three Proposed Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to Decrease Government Dysfunction

The four years of the Trump administration, but especially the events of January 6, 2021 and the ensuing impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate, have caused me to go into problem-solving mode. After giving this a lot of thought, I have concluded that various flaws, oversights, and loopholes created structural flaws which contributed to federal government dysfunction. Sadly many of these flaws can only be fixed by amending the U.S. Constitution. The text of these amendments, as well as supporting rationale, may be found offsite at my political blog, Data Over Dogmausing the following links.

Because amending the U.S. Constitution is so difficult (to put it mildly), I have only written the amendments which I believe have any chance at all of bipartisan support. I support other, additional amendments, but have not bothered to document them because I believe they have no realistic chance of ratification anytime soon, if ever.
Please post your comments, if any, on the other blog.

bookmark_borderOFF TOPIC: Fallon’s Fallacy

I wrote and published a post recently in which I argued there is a good chance that someone (including possibly Donald Trump) will attempt to shoot, kill, or seriously harm Donald Trump in the next year or two. I also commented that I would NOT mourn such an event but would instead CELEBRATE such an event by popping open a bottle of champagne.  (Note: I have no plan or intention to shoot, kill, or physically harm Donald Trump.)
This upset a die-hard Trump supporter who, along with millions of other IDIOTS, bought Donald Trump’s BIG LIE that Trump actually won the November 2020 presidential election.
Along with various other rantings, Cheryl Fallon offered an ARGUMENT for her clearly mistaken belief:

To NOBODY’S surprise, Fallon’s argument contains a basic logical fallacy, a fallacy that we see frequently here at The Secular Outpost in arguments for the existence of God: the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION.  Because of this fallacy, her argument FAILS.
Here is the core of Fallon’s crappy little argument:

1. President Trump received 74 million votes in the 2020 presidential election.

2. 142.5 million people voted in the 2020 presidential election.

THEREFORE:

3. Joseph Biden received no more than 68.5 million votes in the 2020 presidential election.

This core argument is UNSOUND, because premise (2) is FALSE.
But Fallon supports premise (2) with the following sub-argument:

4. There were 216 million Americans who were registered to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

5. 66% voted in the 2020 presidential election.

THEREFORE:

2. 142.5 million people voted in the 2020 presidential election.

Fallon provided ZERO EVIDENCE in support of the factual claims made by premises (4) and (5).  So, she FAILED to provide a good reason to believe that premise (2) was in fact true.
According to The Washington Post (and other sources as well) the TURNOUT for the 2020 presidential election was 66.3%:

So, it appears, at first glance, that premise (5) is TRUE.  But this is NOT the case.  Statistics on voter TURNOUT are usually given in relation to the number of people who were ELIGIBLE to vote, and what that means is the number of people who were of voting age at the time of the election.  In other words, TURNOUT statistics are usually NOT based on the number of people who were registered to vote.
Premise (5) is stated in an UNCLEAR way.  It has at least two different possible meanings:

5A. 66% of the people who were OLD ENOUGH to vote, voted in the 2020 presidential election.

5B. 66% of the people who were REGISTERED to vote, voted in the 2020 presidential election.

Claim (5A) is TRUE, but claim (5B) is FALSE.  Statistics for TURNOUT (such as the 66.3% figure in the Washington Post) are relative to the number of people who were OLD ENOUGH to vote at the time of the 2020 presidential election.  There were MANY MILLIONS MORE people who were OLD ENOUGH to vote than there were people who were REGISTERED to vote in the 2020 presidential election.  This is because many people who are OLD ENOUGH to vote were not REGISTERED to vote (duh!).
If we interpret premise (5) to mean the claim made in (5A), then that premise would be TRUE, but the argument would FAIL because there would be a logical disconnect between premise (4), which talks about the number of REGISTERED voters, and premise (5A), which talks about people who are OLD ENOUGH to vote.  So Fallon’s sub-argument for premise (2) would be logically INVALID.
On the other hand, if we interpret premise (5) to mean the claim made in (5B), then that premise would be FALSE, because the percentage of REGISTERED voters who actually voted in the 2020 presidential election was significantly higher than the percentage of people who were OLD ENOUGH to vote who actually voted, and thus was significantly higher than 66%.   So, if we interpret (5) to mean (5B), then Fallon’s argument is UNSOUND because it rests upon a FALSE premise.
Therefore, on either interpretation of premise (5), Fallon’s argument FAILS.  It fails because it commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION, based on the UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS meaning of premise (5) of her argument.
Trump did NOT win the 2020 presidential election, except in the confused minds of the fools who were gullible enough to believe the constant lies and bullshit pouring out of the mouth of Donald Trump.
 

bookmark_borderOFF TOPIC: Farewell Donald Trump (UPDATED 9pm)

The past four years have been a time of division and anger and finger pointing.  It is now time to set aside our differences, and to come together in love and harmony and to once again become the UNITED States of America!
Excuse me, I just threw up a bit in my mouth.
Now that Trump’s fat orange ass is out of the White House, I have just a couple of things to get off of my chest:
1. There are 3 guns circulating in this country for every American.
This gives me great hope, because surely one of the million or so Americans who lost a loved one to COVID-19 will realize that the death of their loved one probably could have been avoided except for the fact that we had a shithead narcissitic con artist as our president this past year, and thus some grieving person who lost a loved one to COVID-19 might decide to pick up a gun and go put a bullet through the head of Donald J. Trump.  Note that I am NOT advocating that anyone do this.  I am merely pointing out that there is a good chance that someone will in fact attempt to kill Donald Trump in the next year or two.
2. Donald Trump is mentally ill and cannot stand being a loser.
This also gives me significant hope, because Trump is just now realizing that he is a BIG FUCKING LOSER, and as criminal cases and lawsuits pile up against him, he might well start to see that his future is one of poverty, imprisonment, and disgrace.  If so, there is a significant chance that Trump will become seriously depressed in the next year or two and pick up a handgun, put the barrel into his mouth, and pull the trigger, splattering his brain matter on the wall behind him.
I have NO plan or intention to shoot or kill or to physically harm Donald Trump in any way.
However, if somebody else does shoot or kill or seriously harm Trump, or if Trump becomes deeply depressed and shoots, kills, or seriously harms himself, I will NOT feel sad or sorry for him; rather, I will pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate the occasion.
TODAY IS A TRULY HAPPY AND WONDERFUL DAY!!!

bookmark_borderTHE FBI REQUESTS YOUR HELP

HELP THE FBI HUNT DOWN THE BASKET OF DEPLORABLES
The FBI is hunting down several of Donald Trump’s basket of deplorables who were involved in the INSURRECTION against our democracy.  You can help them by reviewing photos published by the FBI to see if you recognize anyone in the photos, and contacting the FBI with information you have about anyone you recognize in these photos:

MORE PHOTOS OF INSURRECTIONISTS FROM THE FBI
Please also review these other photos, to see if you can help the FBI to identify these people:
Photos 1-10
https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/violence-at-the-united-states-capitol/collage-8-5×11-01.pdf
Photos 11-20
https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/violence-at-the-united-states-capitol-2/collage-8-5×11-02.pdf
Photos 21-30
https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/violence-at-the-united-states-capitol-3/collage-8-5×11-03.pdf
Photo 30 (Confederate Flag waver)
https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/violence-at-the-united-states-capitol-6/@@download.pdf
Photos 31-40
https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/violence-at-the-united-states-capitol-4/collage-8-5×11-04.pdf
Photos 41-AFO to 48-AFO
https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/violence-at-the-united-states-capitol-5/collage-8-5×11-05a.pdf
Photos 49-AFO to 58-AFO
https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/violence-at-the-united-states-capitol-7/wfo-7.pdf

bookmark_borderAquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 4: The Logic of Applied Ethics

This will be a fairly short post about the logic of the core argument in Tim Hsiao’s article “A Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument against Homosexual Sex” (hereafter: PFA).   I take it that the core argument of that article can be summarized in this categorical syllogism:

4. All sexual activity that is not open to the creation of new life is immoral.

A. All homosexual activity is sexual activity that is not open to the creation of new life.

THEREFORE:

7A. All homosexual activity is immoral.

 
AN ANALOGOUS ARGUMENT IN APPLIED ETHICS
Let’s set that argument aside for now, and consider an analogous categorical syllogism, also in the area of applied ethics:

10. All cases of pregnancy in which maintaining the pregnancy until birth would produce significantly greater UTILITY than terminating the pregnancy by having an abortion are cases of pregnancy where it would be immoral to terminate the pregnancy by having an abortion.

11. All cases of pregnancy where the pregnancy does not put the pregnant woman’s life in serious danger are cases of pregnancy in which maintaining the pregnancy until birth would produce significantly greater UTILITY than terminating the pregnancy by having an abortion.

THEREFORE:

12. All cases of pregnancy where the pregnancy does not put the pregnant woman’s life in serious danger are cases of pregnancy in which it would be immoral to terminate the pregnancy by having an abortion.

I do not agree with this argument.  This argument for the immorality of abortion seems like a very dubious argument, even for someone who accepts utilitarianism as being the true or correct theory of morality.  Maximizing utility would seem to be an argument that supports the morality of having an abortion, rather than being an argument against abortion.  Furthermore, even if maintaining SOME pregnancies until birth that do not put the pregnant woman’s life in serious danger would produce significantly greater utility than having an abortion, this is certainly not going to be so in ALL cases of pregnancy that do not put the pregnant woman’s life in serious danger.  Nevertheless, this argument illustrates the form of many important arguments in the area of applied ethics:One of the premises asserts a normative claim that rests upon an ethical theory, in this case utilitarianism:

10. All cases of pregnancy in which maintaining the pregnancy until birth would produce significantly greater UTILITY than terminating the pregnancy by having an abortion are cases of pregnancy where it would be immoral to terminate the pregnancy by having an abortion.

The other premise asserts a factual claim about particular actions or kinds of action:

11. All cases of pregnancy where the pregnancy does not put the mother’s life in serious danger are cases of pregnancy in which maintaining the pregnancy until birth would produce significantly greater UTILITY than terminating the pregnancy by having an abortion.

The conclusion of this argument in applied ethics, makes a moral judgment about a specific kind or category of action:

12. All cases of pregnancy where the pregnancy does not put the pregnant woman’s life in serious danger are cases of pregnancy in which it would be immoral to terminate the pregnancy by having an abortion.

 
In order to understand this argument in applied ethics about abortion, one must understand the key terms or categories that make up the statements in the argument:

  • cases of pregnancy that do not put the pregnant woman’s life in serious danger
  • maintaining a pregnancy until birth
  • terminating a pregnancy by having an abortion
  • action X will produce significantly greater UTILITY than action Y
  • immoral [actions]

The point of an argument is to provide a good reason to believe the CONCLUSION of the argument.  So, one cannot understand an argument unless one understands the meaning of the CONCLUSION of the argument.   We cannot understand this argument about abortion unless we understand the meaning of the CONCLUSION of this argument about abortion, and we cannot understand the meaning of the CONCLUSION of this argument unless we understand the key terms or categories that make up the CONCLUSION:

  • cases of pregnancy that do not put the pregnant woman’s life in serious danger
  • immoral [actions]
  • terminating a pregnancy by having an abortion

Because this argument about abortion is based on a utilitarian theory of ethics, it is tempting to define the term “immoral” in terms of utilitarianism.  For example, one might be tempted to understand the meaning of the term “immoral” in the CONCLUSION of this argument as follows:

Action A is immoral IF AND ONLY IF:  some alternative action to action A would produce significantly greater UTILITY than action A.

However, it seems to me that defining the term “immoral” in terms of utilitarianism would be a mistake, because this would make the key normative premise of the argument TRUE BY DEFINITION.  Not only would the normative premise be TRUE BY DEFINITION, but it would be obviously TRUE BY DEFINITION.  We can see that this is so by substituting the above definition  for the term “immoral” in the normative premise and in the conclusion of the above argument:

10A. All cases of pregnancy in which maintaining the pregnancy until birth would produce significantly greater UTILITY than terminating the pregnancy by having an abortion are cases of pregnancy where there would be an alternative action to terminating the pregnancy by having an abortion which would produce significantly greater UTILITY.

11. All cases of pregnancy where the pregnancy does not put the pregnant woman’s life in serious danger are cases of pregnancy in which maintaining the pregnancy until birth would produce significantly greater UTILITY than terminating the pregnancy by having an abortion.

THEREFORE:

12A. All cases of pregnancy where the pregnancy does not put the pregnant woman’s life in serious danger are cases of pregnancy where there would be an alternative action to terminating the pregnancy by having an abortion which would produce significantly greater UTILITY.

There are at least two problems here.
First, premise (10A) is obviously TRUE BY DEFINITION, whereas the original premise (10) was not TRUE BY DEFINITION, at least not obviously so.  The original premise (10) was NOT obviously true, and required evidence or reasons to show that it is true.
Second, one could accept the conclusion (12A) and still reject the original conclusion (12), because one could accept the idea that maintaining the pregnancy in such cases would “produce significantly greater UTILITY” than having an abortion, and yet reject the view that having an abortion is immoral in such cases.  One could accept (12A) and yet reject (12) because one might reject the utilitarian theory of ethics (for example).
Therefore, it would be a mistake to define the word “immoral” in the conclusion of the argument against abortion in terms of the utilitarian theory of ethics.
Because this argument in applied ethics is analogous to Hsiao’s core argument against “homosexual activity”, it would also be a mistake to define the term “immoral” in the conclusion of his core argument in terms of the Natural Law theory of ethics.  Doing so would render one of his key premises obviously TRUE BY DEFINITION, and it would make it so that one could accept the “clarified” interpretation of his conclusion while consistently rejecting the view that “homosexual activity” was immoral.

bookmark_borderEvaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #2 – Part 1: SIN

In this post I will begin work on an evaluation of the Christian answer to worldview question #2, in preparation for creating the next podcast in my series of podcasts called Thinking Critically About: Is Christianity True?
 
THE FOUR BASIC WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS
There are four basic worldview questions, four questions that can be used to analyze the content of a worldview:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)

Q3. What is the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Cure for the Disease)

Q4. How should we implement what is (allegedly) the solution to what is (allegedly) the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Treatment Plan for the Patients)

 
CHRISTIAN ANSWERS TO THE FIRST TWO WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS 
The following is a short version of what I take to be the Christian answers to the first two worldview questions:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)
Alienation or separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and in the next life: divine eternal punishment.

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)
Sin (disobedience to God) is the root cause problem of separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and ultimately results in eternal divine punishment.

 
FURTHER ANALYSIS OF THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER TO WORLDVIEW QUESTION #2
The Christian answer to worldview question #2, like the answer to worldview question #1, can be analyzed into four categories: spiritual, physical, mental, and social (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):  
WHAT DOES THE WORD “SIN” MEAN?
The DIAGNOSIS of a disease involves the making of CAUSAL claims.  To say that “Donald Trump’s fever and shortness of breath is because of a COVID-19 infection” implies that a particular type of virus is CAUSING those symptoms of fever and shortness of breath.  Similarly, to claim that SIN is the reason for human alienation from God, disease, death, and disharmony between human beings, is to make CAUSAL claims about the relationship between SIN and those various alleged human problems.
A CAUSAL claim should be doubted and set aside unless someone can provide good reasons to believe the CAUSAL claim.  So, the Christian answers to worldview question #2 should be doubted and set aside unless someone can provide good reasons to believe the CAUSAL claims that are asserted or assumed by those Christian answers.
But before we can evaluate such CAUSAL claims or reasons provided in support of them, we must first have a CLEAR understanding of what those causal claims mean.  Since SIN is supposed to be the root cause of all of the most important human problems (according to Christianity), we must first have a CLEAR understanding of what the word “sin” means, before we can evaluate causal claims involving the concept of SIN.
Here is a helpful comment from the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms:

The Bible presents sin as both fallen humanity’s state of separation and alienation from God and as a person’s purposeful disobedience to God’s will as evidenced in concrete thought or act.  (p.107)

This comment points out two different aspects of the idea of “sin”.  First there is sin as the state of “separation and alienation from God”.  Second, there is sin as “purposeful disobedience to God’s will”.  These two different aspects or notions of sin must be separated for our investigation, because a basic claim of the Christian worldview is that SIN is the root-cause of the problem of human alienation from God.
In order to take that claim seriously, we obviously cannot take the word “sin” to mean a state of alienation from God, because that would make a basic claim of the Christian worldview into an insignificant tautology:

Being in a state of alienation from God makes a person alienated from God.

This is a worthless and useless claim.  This is clearly NOT a basic claim of the Christian worldview.
So, for purposes of our investigation, we have to separate the two different aspects or senses of the concept of SIN, and use the sense that allows the Christian answers to worldview question #2 to make some sense.
Consider the following Christian answer to the question “What is the root cause of the problem of human alienation from God?”:

Sin causes a person to be alienated from God.

If we just use the second aspect or sense of “sin” from the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, we can make sense of this CAUSAL claim:

Disobedience to the will of God causes a person to be alienated from God.

The definition of “sin” above also specifies that this disobedience must be “purposeful”.  Presumably, the idea there is that accidentally or unintentionally violating God’s will does not count as SIN (or is, at most, a borderline case of sin).
How can one purposefully or intentionally disobey the will of God?  The Bible clearly indicates that this happens when humans knowingly disobey some command or law that God has revealed to those humans.  The very first sins, according to the Bible, occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s explicit command to not eat the fruit from a particular tree:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”  (Genesis 2:15-17, New Revised Standard Version)

After Adam ate the forbidden fruit, God cursed Adam and all of his descendants:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
    and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”   (Genesis 3:17-19, New Revised Standard Version)

Adam and Eve purposefully and intentionally violated God’s explicit command to NOT eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  They committed the first SINS.
Later, according to the Bible, God revealed the Ten Commandments through the prophet Moses, plus many other laws, to the Israelites.  So, when an Israelite violated one of the Ten Commandments, they were, according to the Bible, purposefully and intentionally violating a command of God, and thus committing a SIN.
There were, according to the Bible, thousands of years between Adam’s first SIN, and the revelation of the Ten Commandments by Moses.  So, how could people purposefully and intentionally violate a command of God in the time after Adam and before the arrival of the prophet Moses?
According to Paul, who is the author of most of the New Testament, God placed some of his “laws” into the hearts of humans:

12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.  (Romans 2:12-16, New Revised Standard Version)

According to Paul, “what the law requires” is “written on their (non-Jews) hearts”.  In addition to revelation of the Ten Commandments and other laws through the prophet Moses, God also builds some of his commands or laws into human “hearts” or a person’s “conscience”.  So, there are two different kinds of divine commands or laws:  (1) God’s commands explicitly revealed through prophets (like Moses), and (2) God’s commands that are somehow hardwired into the minds of humans by God.  So, there are two different ways to purposefully and intentionally disobey the will of God.  There are two different ways to SIN, according to the Bible.
TO BE CONTINUED…
 
 
 
 
 

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 9: More Historical Errors

WHERE WE ARE
In the previous post, Part 8 of this series, I supported my fourth reason for doubting the view that we should condemn homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus:

4. Leviticus is NOT an historically reliable account of actual events.

God, if God exists, is all-knowing and perfectly good, so any book inspired by God would NOT contain false historical information, and clearly no book inspired by God would provide historical accounts of alleged events that never happened or highly unreliable accounts of historical events.
In this present post I will provide more specific examples of historically false and dubious claims and assumption in the book of Leviticus.  False or dubious historical claims in Leviticus give us two reasons to reject the view that commandments or rules in Leviticus should be accepted as having some sort of divine authority:  (1) if Leviticus contains a number of historical errors, then it is an UNRELIABLE source of the words of Moses and Jehovah, and (2) if Leviticus contains a number of historical errors, then the content of Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
 
CONTRADICTIONS BETWEEN LEVITICUS AND OTHER BOOKS IN THE TORAH
Dr. Steven DiMattei has identified and explained 74 different contradictions between passages in Leviticus and other passages in the Bible.  Of those 74 contradictions, 66 contradictions are between passages in Leviticus and passages in other books in the Torah (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), books that are traditionally ascribed to Moses.  In nearly every case, these contradictions cast doubt on an historical claim or assumption made by the book of Leviticus.  Thus, Dr. DiMattei gives us dozens of good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus, and also to doubt the divine inspiration of Leviticus.
In many cases, the contradiction is between laws or regulations put forward by God or Jehovah.  God, if God exists, is all-knowing and perfectly good, so God would NOT put forward contradictory or conflicting commandments or laws or regulations.  Because according to the Bible Jehovah is supposed to be the creator of heaven and earth, Christians who believe in the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible must infer that Jehovah is God, because God, if God exists, is the one and only creator of the universe.
So, any time Leviticus claims that “Jehovah commanded that we do X”  and some other book in the Torah claims that “Jehovah commanded that we do Y”, and the command to do X contradicts the command to do Y, then Christians must infer that at least ONE of those commands did NOT come from Jehovah, and thus that at least ONE of those two biblical passages asserts an historical claim that is FALSE.  (As a skeptic, I take such contradictions as evidence that there was no Jehovah at all, and no communication from Jehovah to Moses, and that the contradictions arise because the “history” in Leviticus and the other books of the Torah is actually legend and fiction, stories that were made up centuries after the alleged events.)
However, I am not going to go through all 66 of the contradictions between Leviticus and passages in other books of the Torah.  I am going to focus on just a few examples, and will attempt to focus on examples that are more directly about alleged ordinary historical events.  What Jehovah said or did not say on a given occasion is not a matter of ordinary observation involving vision, hearing, touch, taste, or smell.  I will focus primarily on contradictions between Leviticus and other books in the Torah that relate to ordinary historical claims or assumptions.
Is the mount of revelation Horeb OR Sinai? (Ex 3:1, 17:6; Deut 1:6, 4:10, etc. vs Ex 19:11, 19:18, etc.; Lev 7:38, 26:46, etc.)
According to Leviticus, God’s revelation to Moses happened on Mount Sinai:

37 This is the ritual of the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the offering of ordination, and the sacrifice of well-being, 38 which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, when he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai. (Leviticus 7:37-38)

46 These are the statutes and ordinances and laws that the Lord established between himself and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses.  (Leviticus 26:46)

According to Deuteronomy God’s revelation to Moses happened on the mountain of Horeb:

3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the Israelites just as the Lord had commanded him to speak to them. … 5 Beyond the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law as follows:

6 The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.   (Deuteronomy 1:3-6)

9 But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10 how you once stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, “Assemble the people for me, and I will let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me as long as they live on the earth, and may teach their children so”; 11 you approached and stood at the foot of the mountain while the mountain was blazing up to the very heavens, shrouded in dark clouds. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 He declared to you his covenant, which he charged you to observe, that is, the ten commandments; and he wrote them on two stone tablets. 14 And the Lord charged me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy.  (Deuteronomy 4:9-14)

Both stories are fictional in my view, but at the very least, the contradiction between Leviticus and Deuteronomy casts doubt on the historical claims made in chapters 7 and 26 of Leviticus.
Does the Action From Exodus 40 to Numbers 7 Take Place on One Day or Not?  (Ex 40:2-33; Lev 8; Num 7:1 vs Lev 9; Num 1:1)
And it was in the 1st month, in the 2nd year, on the 1st of the month, the Tabernacle was set up. (Ex 40:17)
This is the Priestly writer’s chronology: the cultic institution, around which its whole theology is based, is erected on the New Year’s day of the second year from the Exodus (see also #109-110). Yet, even within the Priestly source there seems to be some discrepancies concerning what happens on this day.
On this day, at least as depicted in Exodus 40, the Tabernacle and all of its components are anointed, that is rendered holy, consecrated unto Yahweh. Next, in Leviticus 8, Aaron and his sons are anointed, made holy, and consecrated unto Yahweh, and they perform the first sacrifices. Leviticus 1-7 originally stood as a separate document written solely by and for the Aaronid priesthood; it describes in detail how to preform the various sacrificial offerings to Yahweh. It was later inserted between what is now Exodus 40 and Leviticus 8.
The anointing of Aaron demands that he remain, in his holy state, in the Tent of Meeting for 7 days (Lev 8:37).  Yet Numbers 7 depicts an event, the dedication ceremony to Yahweh, which also supposedly happens on this very day: “and it was on the day that Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle and he anointed it” (Num 7:1). And to top it off, this is a ceremony that lasts 12 days, a day per tribe, wherein Aaron supposedly officiates over each tribes sacrifices (see #155), but how can he since according to Leviticus 8-9 he is ensconced in the Tent of Meeting, and furthermore the whole Tabernacle facility is deemed holy for those 7 days.
Did the Israelites have meat to eat in the wilderness OR not? (Ex 12:38, 17:3, Lev 8-9; Num 32:1 vs Ex 16:2-3; Num 11:4-6)
Based on both the numerous commands to sacrifice animals and the reports of such sacrifices in Leviticus, it appears that the Israelites had plenty of domesticated animals to eat while they were in the wilderness:

14 He [Moses] led forward the bull of sin offering; and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bull of sin offering, 15 and it was slaughtered.    (Leviticus 8:14-15)

18 Then he [Moses] brought forward the ram of burnt offering. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, 19 and it was slaughtered.    (Leviticus 8:18-19)

22 Then he [Moses] brought forward the second ram, the ram of ordination. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, 23 and it was slaughtered. Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.     (Leviticus 8:22-23)

1 On the eighth day Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel. 2 He said to Aaron, “Take a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord. 3 And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering; a calf and a lamb, yearlings without blemish, for a burnt offering; 4 and an ox and a ram for an offering of well-being to sacrifice before the Lord; and a grain offering mixed with oil. For today the Lord will appear to you.’”  (Leviticus 9:1-4)

But according to the book of Numbers, the Israelites had to go without eating meat in the wilderness:

4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”   (Numbers 11:4-6)

One might be tempted to explain away this apparent inconsistency by saying that the Israelites were exaggerating in their complaining: they did have some domesticated animals, but the quantity of animals was low and so they did not have many animals to spare.  However, it does appear that the circumstances portrayed in Leviticus in terms of domesticated animals are anachronistic:

One thing is certain, these are not the customs of the time in the desert, but rather, an entire code of conduct for priests and Levites who serve at the temple in Jerusalem. The sacrifices and offerings demanded for great feast days can only come from a farming people. The very size and types of sacrifices and festivals mentioned presuppose a large population raising many herds and crops in the promised land. (Reading the Old Testament by Lawrence Boadt, p.188)

So, even if the Israelites did have some domesticated animals with them in the wilderness and were able to eat some meat in the wilderness, they probably did not have enough domesticated animals with them to support all of the sacrifices that are described and required in the book of Leviticus.  This supports the view of most OT scholars that the book of Leviticus was written long after the time of Moses, when the Israelites had become established in the promised land.

The erection of the tabernacle and the Sacred vessels, as in Exodus 40:17–19; from the 1728 Figures de la Bible

Are sacrifices to Yahweh permitted on any altar OR only the altar before the Tabernacle? (Ex 20:24 vs Lev 1-9, 17)
Strictly speaking, this is a contradiction concerning what Jehovah said or did not say to Moses.  Such events are not ordinary historical events, since even if we had a videotape of Moses during the time he was “communicating” with Jehovah, the fact that there is no other person near Moses and that we hear no voice speaking to Moses would NOT prove that it is FALSE that Jehovah was communicating with Moses, since Jehovah is an invisible spirit and can presumably communicate telepathically to Moses.
However, these alleged communications from Jehovah to Moses presumably impacted the actions of Moses, and impacted what Moses would allow the Israelites to do in terms of the worship of Jehovah.  The actions of Moses, if Moses existed, and the actions of the Israelites in worshiping Jehovah would have been ordinary and observable historical events (if they actually occurred).  So, commands and laws communicated from Jehovah to Moses, would presumably have a direct impact on the actions of Moses and what Moses would tolerate in terms of the actions of the Israelites in their worship activities, which would be observable events.
According to Leviticus, animal sacrifices were only to be conducted at the tabernacle of the Lord and the priests (Aaron and his sons) must be involved in presenting the sacrifices:

1The Lord spoke to Moses:
2 Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them: This is what the Lord has commanded. 3 If anyone of the house of Israel slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or slaughters it outside the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, he shall be held guilty of bloodshed; he has shed blood, and he shall be cut off from the people. 5 This is in order that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they offer in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and offer them as sacrifices of well-being to the Lord. 6 The priest shall dash the blood against the altar of the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and turn the fat into smoke as a pleasing odor to the Lord, 7 so that they may no longer offer their sacrifices for goat-demons, to whom they prostitute  themselves. This shall be a statute forever to them throughout their generations.
8 And say to them further: Anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, 9 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to sacrifice it to the Lord, shall be cut off from the people.   (Leviticus 17:1-9)

According to a passage in Exodus, animal sacrifices did NOT need to be conducted at the tabernacle of the Lord, nor presented by official priests (i.e. Aaron and his sons):

22 The Lord said to Moses: Thus you shall say to the Israelites: “You have seen for yourselves that I spoke with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.   (Exodus 20:22-24)

Strictly speaking, the contradiction here is between what Leviticus claims Jehovah said, and what Exodus claims Jehovah said.  The two statements attributed to Jehovah are inconsistent with each other.  As a skeptic, I view this as evidence that there was no Jehovah, and that both accounts are fictional stories.  But setting that aside, assuming that the stories are not entirely fictional, there is also the implication of two different practices in the worship of Jehovah.
Assuming that Moses actually existed, either Moses insisted that animal sacrifices be conducted at the tabernacle by official priests, or he did not.  The passage from Leviticus implies that he did, and the passage from Exodus implies that he did not. Those are contradictions about ordinary and observable historical events, assuming there was an actual Moses.  Thus, this contradiction between Leviticus and Exodus casts doubt on the historical accuracy and reliability of Leviticus.  
From the point of view of OT scholarship, the practice of animal sacrifice apart from a specific tabernacle or temple and apart from an official priesthood was the historical norm at the time of Moses, and the establishment of the more restrictive concept of worship described in Leviticus comes from an historical period centuries after the time of Moses.  The Exodus passage above is thus is closer to historical truth than the above passage from Leviticus.
Does Yahweh choose only the Aaronids as priests OR all the Levites? (Ex 28:1, 28:41, 29:1-9, 40:12-16; Lev 1-8; Num 3:1-9, 25:10-12 vs Deut 18:1-8)
Dr. DiMattei provides some helpful background for understanding this contradiction:

The redacted text of the Pentateuch as it now stands bears witness to an internecine rivalry that existed within the tribe of Levi, that is within the priesthood itself. At least two priestly groups that we know of wrote texts aimed at legitimating their right as sole officiating high priests and mediators to Yahweh. These two priestly schools and the texts they wrote have come to be identified as the pro-Aaronid Priestly source, whose main religious and cultic ideology is found in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, and the (rest of the) Levites whose religious views are found in the book of Deuteronomy, as well as a couple of passages from the Elohist source.

These two priestly schools—the Aaronids and the Levites—had vastly different and competing views on religion, the role of the cult and its priesthood, Yahweh, ethics, how sin was to be expiated, and Yahweh’s covenants… . More surprisingly however, is that both of these priestly schools wrote texts whose purpose was to legitimate their position and beliefs through the creation of archaized narratives that retrojected into the past their religious views and divine right to rule as high priests, expressed through the mouthpiece of their god Yahweh. These narrative creations served to legitimate and justify each guild’s claims.

[…]

It is difficult to know with certainty the history of the Levites since the literature produced by this guild has its own agenda. Nevertheless, 1 Kings 2:26-27 recounts how Solomon banished the Levites from Jerusalem. Additionally, the rest of the Deuteronomic history from Solomon to Hezekiah makes no mention of Levites as priests in Jerusalem. Yet with the Levite led Deuteronomistic reform under Josiah, a Levitical priesthood emerged or reemerged in Jerusalem. What we know is that the 7th century BC Deuteronomic literature presents the Levites as sole officiating priests at the centralized altar in Jerusalem. Deuteronomy 10:8-9 and 18:1-5 present Yahweh as choosing the Levites to serve him and to officiate his cult. This was also the case in the Golden Calf narrative penned by the Elohist.

Yet other texts now contained in the same Sinai material, namely those written from the opposing camp, the Aaronids, present Yahweh claiming just the opposite: only the Aaronids are priests (Ex 28:1, 28:41, 29:1-9, 40:12-16; Lev 1-8; Num 3:1-9, 25:10-12). And, more shockingly, the Levites are demoted to the role of mere ministers of the officiating Aaronid priesthood (Num 3:5-10, 16:8-11, 16:17, 18:1-7).

All of these passages from Numbers are written by the Aaronids, and not surprisingly present Yahweh declaring as an eternal covenant (25:19) that only Aaronid descendants may serve as priests and serve Yahweh at his altar. The Levites, on the other hand, are appointed to serve the Aaronid priests! But they cannot officiate over the cult, perform sacrifices, expiate sins, nor enter the Holy of Holies.

In Leviticus chapters 1 through 8, Jehovah specifically designates Aaron and his sons to be his official priests.  Here are a few passages from Leviticus:

If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you shall offer a male without blemish; you shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, for acceptance in your behalf before the LordYou shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you. The bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer the blood, dashing the blood against all sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The burnt offering shall be flayed and cut up into its parts. The sons of the priest Aaron shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. (Leviticus 1:3-7)

10 If your gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, your offering shall be a male without blemish. 11 It shall be slaughtered on the north side of the altar before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall dash its blood against all sides of the altar. 12 It shall be cut up into its parts, with its head and its suet, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar;  (Leviticus 1:10-12)

 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the ritual of the burnt offering. The burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth upon the altar all night until the morning, while the fire on the altar shall be kept burning. 10 The priest shall put on his linen vestments after putting on his linen undergarments next to his body; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar, and place them beside the altar.  (Leviticus 6:8-10)

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take Aaron and his sons with him, the vestments, the anointing oil, the bull of sin offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread; and assemble the whole congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. When the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting, Moses said to the congregation, “This is what the Lord has commanded to be done.”  Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward, and washed them with water. He put the tunic on him, fastened the sash around him, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him. He then put the decorated band of the ephod around him, tying the ephod to him with it. He placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden ornament, the holy crown, as the Lord commanded Moses.  10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. 11 He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the basin and its base, to consecrate them. 12 He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him. 13 And Moses brought forward Aaron’s sons, and clothed them with tunics, and fastened sashes around them, and tied headdresses on them, as the Lord commanded Moses.  (Leviticus 8:1-10)

But in Deuteronomy chapters 10 and 18, Jehovah designates the entire tribe of Levites to be his priests:

1 The levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no allotment or inheritance within Israel. They may eat the sacrifices that are the Lord’s portion 2 but they shall have no inheritance among the other members of the community; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.
3 This shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder, the two jowls, and the stomach. 4 The first fruits of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. 5 For the Lord your God has chosen Levi out of all your tribes, to stand and minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons for all time.
6 If a Levite leaves any of your towns, from wherever he has been residing in Israel, and comes to the place that the Lord will choose (and he may come whenever he wishes), 7 then he may minister in the name of the Lord his God, like all his fellow-Levites who stand to minister there before the Lord. 8 They shall have equal portions to eat, even though they have income from the sale of family possessions.  (Deuteronomy 18:1-8)

 
CONCLUSION
There are dozens of contradictions between Leviticus and the other books in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament).  Nearly all of these contradictions cast doubt on the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus and also cast doubt on the historicity of the books of the Torah in general.
If the book of Leviticus is historically UNRELIABLE or if it contains a number of false or dubious historical claims and assumptions, then we can draw two conclusions: (1) we cannot rely on Leviticus to present accurate information about what Jehovah communicated to Moses (even if Jehovah actually existed and if Moses was an actual person), and (2) Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  Both conclusions are good reasons to reject using the content of Leviticus as a basis for moral condemnation of homosexual sex.

bookmark_borderCalvinists Needed!

I was raised a Presbyterian, and I think that debating predestination with my Sunday School teachers was one of the main things that pushed me towards an interest–and finally a career–in philosophy. However, there are still many things about the doctrine that I do not understand. I am presently teaching a graduate-level survey of the history of ideas and we are covering the Reformation, with readings from Luther and Calvin. Below is a portion of some notes I plan to post for my students:
The greatest emphasis of Calvin’s theology is the majesty of God. God’s sovereignty is absolute. The universe and everything in it reflect the glory of God, and everything that happens occurs to serve the glory of God. Even the most atrocious actions of the wicked serve the will and purpose of God in the long run. Indeed, God is constantly active in the world to the extent that everything can be seen as an instrument of God’s activity and a product of his will. Even Satan and his devils acted upon God’s command. However, does this not implicate God in the occurrence of evil, since no evil thing can happen without his active involvement?
The problem of God’s responsibility for evil becomes particularly acute when we consider the famous (or infamous) doctrine of predestination. Calvin held that God has foreordained some for salvation and others for damnation. Since God is all-powerful, whatever he ordains must take place. Nothing any human can do can alter God’s eternal decrees. Those who are saved are saved by the irresistible action of the Holy Spirit. Free will has nothing to do with it. The spirit moves those elected for salvation and they must believe the Gospel, and so will be saved. However, if the lost can do nothing to alter their fate, does this not imply that it is God, not the sinner, who is responsible for the sinner’s terrible fate?
One possible way of avoiding blaming God for the fate of the lost is to say that God has foreordained their damnation but not predetermined it. God grants free will to all human beings, but, left to their own devices, all will fall into sin. All humans are therefore corrupt and deserving of hell, but God mercifully chooses to save some. Those he chooses to save are no more deserving than those not chosen. God’s reasons for choosing some and not others are wholly mysterious and unknowable. As for the unsaved, God does not force them to sin, but he leaves them in the state of sinfulness and disobedience which they have chosen for themselves. Therefore, God is not to blame for the fate of sinners, but is to be praised for his mercy in saving some.
First, are these points accurate, so far as they go? Second, according to Calvin, are humans individually responsible for their own corruption, or is corruption the condition into which we are all born, consequent upon the fall of Adam and Eve? Frankly, I find Calvin somewhat confusing on this point. Finally, Calvin says that God shows his mercy by saving some and not others. Some of my students are sure to object as follows: If ten people are drowning and I can easily save them all but only save four, would I not rightly be blamed for not saving all rather than praised for saving four? Would not the same blame attach to a God who only saves some when he could just as easily save all? I have read Calvin’s answers to questions like these, but I am still not completely clear on his responses. Any elaboration or clarification would be appreciated by me and by my students.