Sometimes a Question Reads as One Long Snarl

Question from “Progress. Forward.”:
Are you a communist? Atheism is an indirect, cowardly assault on the Constitution. Your overlords think they can eliminate God-given Rights by destroying God with a pathetic religion for low testosterone, limp wrist pussies.

Answer by SmartLX:
I’m not a communist. Communism dictates atheism because it declares religion “the opiate of the masses,” a drug to keep them from feeling the pain of their oppression and overcoming it. It’s a means to an end and theology doesn’t enter into it. (And once communism gets going, it usually functions as a pseudo-religion itself.) I’m an atheist simply because I don’t believe in gods. I run a site about it rather than keeping it to myself because I think people would be better off without their faith in gods, on balance.

I’m not an American either (I assume you are), so I have very little stake in your Constitution. I do know God is not mentioned in it, nor in the Bill of Rights – only in the Declaration of Independence. Your rights as an American citizen are not dependent on the existence of a god, even though most of the founding fathers apparently believed in one. They wrote those rights into secular law, and thus human beings endowed each other with enforceable rights regardless of what they believe.

Atheism is not a religion. It is instead a rejection of the position of belief in any god. No commandments spring from this rejection, nor an origin story for the world. Atheists must look outside of religion for their guidance and core values, and fortunately secular philosophy is a rich field.

As for the “low testosterone” part, I probably prove this in your mind just by not attacking you in kind. It seems an insult for its own sake, being entirely divorced from the subject matter. I hope it made you feel better.

M-M-M-Miiiiike Licona

Question from Violeta:
I am wondering if you have heard about Mike Licona? He is a Bible scholar who claims he has absolute proof that Jesus rose from the dead. He claims thousands of people saw him, and that group hallucinations of thousands is impossible. He debated Matt Dillahunty a few years ago and used those arguments. He is very highly respected in the Christian world. He also has rebuttals to all these atheist articles saying “Jesus never existed”. He claims there is tons of proof of his existence, and that he had to rise from the dead. What are your thoughts on this?

Answer by SmartLX:
I wasn’t familiar with Licona before your question, but that debate with Dillahunty is online. From it we can tell a few things:

– Licona has poor standards of evidence. Unsupported anecdotes count for him, for instance, while not convincing anyone new.
– Licona is perfectly content with a blatant argument from ignorance as his central theme: if there is no current natural explanation for an event (even a supposed event), he’s happy to not only posit but assert a supernatural cause.
– Licona only wants the idea that Jesus’ appearance to the large crowd after his death was real to be measured against the idea that it was an impossible mass hallucination. Two responses to this from me. Firstly, since I’ve been covering the “Miracle of the Sun” at Fátima a great deal in the last several months, I know that a phenomenon that only some people present even claimed to see can be claimed as a more universal experience after the fact. Secondly, we do not have accounts by the hundreds of people claimed to have seen Jesus, only one account that says they were there, and that account is subject to suspicion.

This is all very familiar, to me at least. If you search this site by keywords for any of Licona’s major arguments I think you’ll find they’re already covered. He has redefined “absolute proof” in order to claim he has it, when by the standards of others he has nothing of the sort.

I Think We’re Good on Near Death Experiences Now, Thanks

Question from Kamil:
Question about Howard Storm: some reasons not to believe, but other reasons it may be true.

1) he is supposedly dead, and in spirit form, yet he has nerves and can feel the cold floor or his hands making fists.

2) his experience takes place in the hospital room and the rest is in the hallway of the hospital. It is just a long dark road. He probably didn’t pay attention to how the hospital looked, so his brain had to fill in the gaps of the way it looked.

3) the demons mock his hospital gown. Why would his “soul” be wearing his hospital clothes?

4) These shadow looking demons are attacking him. Anyone could interpret this as anything. However, Storm assumes he is in hell, therefore he thinks of Jesus, and this makes his experience automatically religious.

The only things I don’t get are:

1) How could his experience be so detailed?
2) he talks about having infinite knowledge, and says everyone’s NDE is different to suit them and their beliefs.
3) He asks detailed questions about the USA economy and future wars and gets answers
4) he sees 80 new primary colours

Usually, I find accounts so detailed like this could be fabrications because the more detailed it is, the less likely it seems to be true. However, in this case, I think he seems genuine. I don’t think he lied about his whole experience. He did become a church reverend. It’s just that his account was so detailed. Is it possible he really believes he had the experience, but that he added stuff to it later to make his story more convincing? I just wonder, maybe he believes he saw demons, Jesus and all, but maybe he added bits about his detailed questions and answers?

Also, what do you think are the odds his story was real?

Answer by SmartLX:
Straight to your “don’t get” list:

1) The detail is unverifiable, in both the sense that we have only his word how detailed it was and the sense that the details themselves cannot be verified. Lots of people can write a detailed story. They’re called writers.
2) This flies in the face of the argument several people have brought here, that NDEs are more believable because they’re consistent. Regardless, it’s an explanation of a fact he would have known beforehand, namely that people’s NDEs do not always line up.
3) He gets answers, but how many have proved correct? If any have, what were the chances? Did he tell the story after any predictions came true, giving him the chance to retcon the predictions? My piece on prophecies may help you analyse this aspect of the story.
4) Another unverifiable claim. Think about this: if you hadn’t been taught as a child which were the primary colours, how would you determine it? How would you recognise a fourth colour as another primary if it showed up?

The event occurred in 1985, so even if it was a complete fabrication to begin with he might believe a lot of it now. I doubt it was a complete fabrication, so a kernel of belief formed in an extremely vulnerable moment can grow and extend to all kinds of ideas. The strength of his belief has many potential sources besides truth, so be careful about letting it inspire belief in you.

Lightning for Dramatic Effect

Question from Jacob:
Hey, this is going to be a short one. So I heard that lightning allegedly struck the Vatican just moments after the former pope resigned. What are the chances of that happening?

Answer by SmartLX:
Lightning did strike the Basilica, there’s video of it. The chances are “in fact quite high” according to this article on this exact subject. The dome and spire are the top of a very tall structure with no comparably tall neighbours, and no protection against lightning strikes, so if there’s a thunderstorm it’s a prime target. It rains an average of 6 days out of February in Italy. While the lightning bolt was a remarkable coincidence it certainly wasn’t prohibitively unlikely.

NDEs: When Hell Gets Repetitive

Question from Alexia:
Hellish NDE consistency, potential proof:

Here is Timothy LaFond’s depiction of hell after he was electrocuted and had a near death experience: “Besides the screaming of other people in torment, there were also demons. Yes, there really are demons! I could see their grotesque faces. They came up to me and taunted me with indescribable horror and fear — yelling in my face with such intense volume; things like: “We’ve got you now!” Laughing and sneering at me saying, “We fooled you! We got you now!” … followed by hideous, evil laughter. ” “I somehow managed to cry out to God during this time, pleading, “Oh God – help me!” Again, “God – help me!” “He heard my plea. The right hand of the Lord touched me. I felt His fingers and thumb on my shoulder and He pulled me out of hell. He set me free from not only from the torments of hell,”
[URL removed]

Now this testimony by Joe Hadwin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn-PKUPYCg4&t=1002s

also sees demons who say “I’ve got you now” 9:10 in the video

14:06 he cries out to God, and his hand comes and saves him.

These are only 2 of many similar cases. Evil demons mocking people, beating them up, then they call out to God and a hand rescues them, how is this similarity so possible? How can so many people hallucinate this? They also claim to speak telepathically to God always.
Doesn’t this prove hell somewhat?

Answer by SmartLX:
Sorry Alexia, the first link to Timothy LaFond’s testimony threw up malware red flags so I won’t share it. Folks can find it by putting “precious testimonies timothy lafond” into Google without quotes, at their own risk.

It seems that your only argument for the reality of Hell is the similarity between accounts. As I’ve written before, this is not a strong argument because of the other possible reasons for it:

“One, the standard NDE story is by now traditional and very well-known. If someone who’s at least familiar with it has an ordinary dream or hallucination during a life-threatening situation, it is likely to follow the same pattern as it’s what the victim expects on some level. If there is no memory or a fragmented memory of the period, the existence of this very specific expectation for the experience can shape a memory over time until it fits very well. And if someone just makes up an NDE story, they will deliberately follow the pattern to match the expectation of their audience.

“Two, people going through the physical and mental states associated with near or temporary “death” are likely to have similar physiological reasons to experience certain things, even if they’re not fully understood. The white light in the distance, for instance, is consistent with temporary tunnel vision caused by lack of blood or oxygen to the eyes, growing brighter when the supply returns. Scientific American went into this six years ago.”

Search this site for the keyword “nde”. There have been a flood of questions lately, so there’s a lot to read on the topic. I think you’ll find it informative as a whole.

The Cosmological Axis of Evil: not nearly as awesome as it sounds

Question from James:
Has there been any discussion on here about what’s known as the cosmological “Axis of Evil” which shows that earth’s ecliptic plane is aligned at the center of the universe and therefore contradicts the Copernican Principle? Isn’t this phenomenon well documented by scientific data?

Answer by SmartLX:
Not until now, but I didn’t have to look far to get the general idea. Some data suggests that there is something very special about the way the Solar System is aligned, perhaps even put-there-deliberately level special. That data is suspect, and ambiguous even if accurate. So…documented, yes, established, no.

From Hollywood to Hell: “I was on my knees and I was like, ‘God’, I was like…”

Question from Vlad:
I am currently battling with my fear of evil spirits/demonic beings, when I came across this video. It is about a former Victoria secret model who lived in LA, was into hanging out with the wrong crowds, non religious etc. One day, she experiences an episode.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jImC9ixn_70&t=436s

It’s only 7:05 to 13:00.

I just really want some opinions of atheists, this video has given me problems sleeping, because it seems so genuine, and I don’t think the girl is lying. She doesn’t mention any drugs, so it seems nothing could have caused her to have this episode. Please please please leave me your opinions, I need this!

Answer by SmartLX:
Sorry it took so long to get to this in the circumstances, Vlad.

I wouldn’t guarantee she’s not lying, even after she says all those times that she’s not (seriously though, the direct segue into the hard sell for her book doesn’t help her case), but I’m willing to accept that she might believe what she says. The important thing to remember is that people who aren’t lying aren’t necessarily right either.

The woman had a whopper of what you rightly call “an episode”. (The additional word “psychotic” comes to mind, though it may or may not apply.) Others thought so at the time, because she was eventually admitted to hospital, passed out and woke up on a white bed. We hear nothing about what the doctors told her about her physical or mental condition, what drugs she was on and what any drugs were for, etc. (Particularly important point: she doesn’t deny the influence of drugs, she just doesn’t mention them.) All this and it was also nine years ago, which is time enough to convince oneself that just about anything was real, especially if one’s faculties at the time were impaired.

This was, no one would argue, a well-rehearsed story if nothing else. Whatever impact it’s meant to have, it’s been refined to hit that mark squarely, and from what you wrote it sounds like it has. A story about going to Hell while possessed by a demon is going to trigger your imagination to conjure the worst possible images you can of these things, using your own brain against itself. Immerse yourself in something else before considering this again; you cannot reclaim your objectivity while you’re in the depths of this thing. Just try to climb out for a while.

The Divisible Brain

Question from Ratburn:
In 2017, two scientists did tests with split brain patients, and even with the left and right hemisphere severed, there still seemed to be a unified consciousness. Here is the actual study:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28122878/

Here is an article which elaborates on it:

http://theweek.com/articles/728869/medical-mystery-splitbrain-patients

Would love to get some insight.

Answer by SmartLX:
The implication here is that split-brain subjects behaving more normally than first thought possible may contradict materialism, as two separate halves of the brain are still somehow communicating and functioning as one consciousness. Red flag right off the bat: this is an argument from ignorance if one were to make it directly, because the mere absence of an explanation is used to assert the influence of the supernatural. Even if it sounds convincing subjectively (not to everyone, by the nature of subjectivity) it can’t be called logical until every natural possibility is ruled out. In this way it’s similar to the mysteries of consciousness itself.

That said, here are some points that make it sound less convincing.
– From the article: once the main link is severed, “the hemispheres have virtually no means of exchanging information” (emphasis mine). If there is any means at all, it will be working overtime to compensate for the lost connection as much as possible. This is what the brain does to cope with any injury, as described in this article from Carnegie Mellon University.
– The classic experiment is to put objects in different hands for the subject to describe. A lot of the writing is ambiguous about whether the opposite eye is blocked off for this; if the side of the brain that controls talking gets any information for itself it may be able to learn to process it independently.
– See this response from Neuroskeptic: the subjects had been brain-split for decades, giving every opportunity for the brain to knit itself back together, functionally or structurally, any way it can. The author of your article is one of the authors of the study, which admits this.

A Scattershot Against Science

Question from A:
“science is religion… people think gravity is proven, it has never been proven, and name the experiment that “proved” it, or at the very least, wasn’t disproven…… as nikola tesla said “science has substituted experiments for math, and it has no relation to reality”…. then u have things like cancer, that have easy cures…..

and the earth is flat……. i suggest u all thoroughly look into it, science is satanism… funny how the quantum physicists say we r in a simulation now, due to experiments like the delft quantum entanglement experiment or the double slit anomaly…. “future humans put us in a simulation” they try everything to take god out.. they admit (orion missions, 2013) we can’t get by the thermosphere or the vab.. the wires alone get fucked by heat and radiation.

chicago skyline from 60 miles away? not possible on a 24901 mile round ball….. seeing from end to end on a 100 mile salt flat? not possible…. v2 rocket from white sands new mexico, 65 miles high, no curve, yet in 1935, explorer 2, 13 miles high was the first picture of the curve………eh?

u think they r using science to just lie about stupid shit? nooooo….. they warped ur perception. the greatest deceiver in the world convinced us the world was different itself. ptolemy and copernicus r still being argued over int he science world lol…. waka that lying jap physicists says “we look like we r the center, BUT I CHOOSE NOT TO BELIEVE THAT” WATCH THE PRINCIPLE, he says that in that documentary lol”

Can someone explain?

Answer by SmartLX:
Yes I think I can explain. You have a deep mistrust (possibly even paranoia) of science in all its forms, and have chosen to accept and disseminate the specific material which purportedly discredits science to attempt to persuade people to abandon their confidence in science and trust only in God. This leads you through multiple pseudosciences and conspiracy theories, from easy (but supposedly suppressed) cancer cures to the simulated universe to the flat Earth to geocentrism. This journey arms you with multiple reasons to trust God over science which are good enough for you but not nearly good enough for others who see the issues with your material, so you remain resolutely reassured while failing to persuade anyone else, most or all of the time. This must be terribly frustrating for you, whenever it actually registers.

From Morality to Politics in 17 Words

Question from Ted:
Why do atheists have now morals and why do they vote for a crooks like Hillery Clintons ?

Answer by SmartLX:
I normally apply some proofreading to questions, but the density of mistakes in such a short question was so remarkable that I’ve preserved it as-is.

Atheists have morals, they just don’t get them from the Bible. Actually, some of them do, because many moral statements in the Bible are perfectly sensible even if the God taking credit for them isn’t real. Besides that there are all kinds of philosophical bases for a system of ethics, and people not tied to a particular scripture are free to use any or all of them.

According to the Pew Research Center the religiously unaffiliated (which includes but is not limited to atheists) voted for Clinton over Trump 68 to 28. That said, the Hispanic Catholic vote was within one percentage point of that, Jews voted even more strongly for Clinton and the other faiths combined went very much the same way. Trump appears to have appealed to white Christians and almost no one else. It’s hard to convince people who don’t believe in the Christian God that Trump is His chosen candidate, and even if you do believe but you’re in a minority it’s hard to accept that God would choose such a flagrant enabler of bigotry.