toxic thought waste site

Theological whimsy, metaphysical larks, and other spiritually radioactive waste products.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Really spooky haunted house

It occurred to me recently that the Christians get to have all the fun with their hell houses and the like. It's time non-believers got to have some fun on Halloween. So I decided I would come up with the ultimate agnostic/atheist house of horrors.

Let's learn from the masters. In a hell house you will see a pageant of Christian propaganda: abortions, gays, persecuted believers, satanic rituals. These are the things that apparently keeps Christians up late at night. So what would be the scariest possible disbelief themed haunted house? The thing that would horrify me the most would be to learn that the Bible is literally true. That people killing abortion doctors really are doing the lords work. That god created the heavens and the earth and then via predestination choose which souls would be going to heaven and hell before a single person was placed on the earth. God really does hate fags and doesn't want women to speak in church.

So the scariest haunted house I can imagine is a simple well lit room containing a nondescript table with a large King Jame's bible on it with a sign next to it that says: "It's all true. Every word. Even the contradictory parts."

Gives me the shivers....



Saturday, October 28, 2006


I think the most interesting aspect of the "What Would Jesus Do?" movement is that in a sense we know the answer in almost every instance to this question will be singularly unhelpful. WWJD? He would likely do a miracle. This is almost never a useful answer in our day to day lives.

Let's say your friend is dying of cancer. WWJD? Forgive their sins and cure their disease. He didn't often pray for a cure or pray for the strength to accept this awful turn of events. He was a superhero and he did what a superhero would do: use his powers.

Even more perplexing is trying to determine what Jesus would do in our modern world (WWJ Drive?, WWJ eat?, etc.). Once again, he had magic powers so probably wouldn't need a car. And who knows if he needed to eat or not. The idea of god needing food seems pretty silly.

If we really could learn WWJD in specific scenarios, I'd be interested in learning the following:

  • WWJPIHNL (What Would Jesus Put In His Netflix List?) : I'm guessing he has supernaturally good taste and I'm always looking for a good movie.
  • WWJR? (What Would Jesus Read?): Also would like some good books. I wonder if Jesus was literate. Do you think he leaned towards SciFi or Self-Help books?
  • WWJPFTL?(What Would Jesus Play For Tomorrows Lottery)? : That would be practical and a pretty good indication of his divine credentials.
  • WWJPI?(What Would Jesus Program In?): I've always wondered what programming language god uses. Lisp probably. At least it's been around since Biblical times.

How would you fill in the blank? WWJ___?


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Toxic Theology - you may already be a winner!

There is a vanishingly small probability that we are *not* already in heaven or hell. In other words, welcome to the afterlife.

Why?, you ask. If we start with the presumption that the afterlife goes on for eternity and there is a short pre-afterlife phase (called living), if you were to randomly sample along this time line then you would *always* hit the afterlife part of the continuum. Therefore the odds are highly in favor of the thesis that this *is* the after life. So why does it seem like we are alive and in the "living" phase? Either we are alive (astronomically unlikely) or heaven/hell is simply a simulation of living on earth.

We leave as an exercise to the reader why god would make an "afterlife" that appeared for all intents and purposes to be "life".

This theological musing was borrowed from:

I've long held that Keanu would make a most excellent lord and savior.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

New Dawkins TV Shows

If I was a TV executive I would immediately green light the following two series (if Richard is available):

One is loosely based on the the crocodile hunter - it is called "The Creationist Hunter". In it Dawkins stalks and pins down a Creationist. While they squirm and wriggle he points out what's wrong with their world view. Generally the subjects will be released unharmed but some may be radio tagged for the public's safety.

The other is a cooking show called "Cooking with Richard" where Dawkins prepares recipes using characters from the Veggie tales movies.

This is probably why I'm not a TV exec....


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Essential conflict

I'm working my way through these talks: which alternately having me nodding approvingly and pounding my head on the table muttering "huh?".

I guess my worry in life is that I will starting being dogmatic in one set of beliefs or another and miss out on some aspect of real truth. Or even Truth. So I sincerely hope I haven't become a dogmatic atheist incapable of seeing a good idea that contradicts his beliefs. But when scientists talk about their religion I'm just kind of dumbfounded.

On the one hand they do all this brilliant objective work and have an open mind that lets them impartially consider different hypotheses. They demand real evidence before they will believe something is true and even then in a tenuous way. "This is true until I find a better explanation."

And then they start talking about religion. All of a sudden they know that the universe was made by a god who loves us and has a plan for us. And so on. So what happened to their common sense and demand for evidence?

I'm totally open to the idea that there are modes of understanding that are outside of, non-overlapping with science, but if they really are non-intersecting then how do you even start to validate it, reason about it?

Perhaps I have too simple minded a view of science but to me it is just refined and disciplined common sense. So how can *any* mode of understanding not be overlapping with a scientific way of viewing the world? Aren't religious/theological statements claims about reality? Shouldn't they be testable in some sense? If you say that the universe is a gift to humanity and I say how do you know?, how do we even proceed from this point in a rational way? If the definition of religion is that you can say whatever you want just because you know it's true then I'm not going to get very far.

From the speakers in the above link I really get the sense that many of them just *do* believe in something, they can't help it so they shape their world view around that. They don't care about the epistemology of it since they can't help but believe what they do. Maybe it's that simple. Of course, the type of god you have when he is indistinguishable from a random process seems hardly worth warping your world view for.

I've read only one of Ken Miller's essays on how religion and science don't conflict but I was honestly scratching my head the whole way through. The tension between religion and science is an interesting one, so I'll keep looking at it, but so far I'm not too hopeful of learning anything too deep.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Toxic Theology - god is finite

Perhaps I shouldn't quit my day job yet, but seriously, I'm a good theologian. Nah, I'm great! Today we show that god is finite.

We prove by contradiction. Let's start by assuming that god is infinite. If that were so then he would extend into and occupy all of space and time. He would then in fact be the entirety of reality. Since presumably we are not parts of god and the universe we know is not just god but also his creation there exists something that is not god which means that reality contains god and not-god (matter, time, etc). Since this contradicts our assumption, it follows god is finite.


Of course he is still allowed to be effectively infinite wrt to any scale we might apply.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Toxic Theology - the problem of evil solved!

Wherein I solve more mysteries of the divine.

Theodicy (thoughts about how can god be good and yet allow evil) have been all wrong. This is a clear case of where we need to use the 5th grader's writing technique of getting out of an impossible situation by claiming it was "all a dream". But in this case it's true.

- Given: god is infinitely good
- Given: god knows everything for all time

The conclusion is clear then.... we are all living in one timeline of a simulation running out ALL timelines of all possible universes. OK, maybe that's not clear, so let me spell it out.

Before god created the best possible universe he had to know which one that was. For god to know everything he needs to have examined every possible pathway thru space time of every possible universe from every possible starting configuration. Now since he is infinitely powerful and knowing, this simulation occurred instantaneously. Unfortunately for me, as an actor in the simulation playing a finite being I have to experience the entire time line in real time.

Since we are in a universe that has the problem of evil, god will "prune" us out as a possibility for when he does actually create the universe. So good news for the eventually created universe. So god doesn't owe us an apology for making us in a messed up universe since he hasn't in fact created the universe. He just has an *incredibly* vivid imagination.

So there you go another mystery solved. I can't believe people pay to learn about theology, it's so easy.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Toxic Theology

In the Denys Turner video, I was surprised to learn that atheists never think about the question "why is there something rather than nothing?" and that if you do ask the question you are doing theology. Well, if it's that easy to do theology, then, heck, I can say something equally insane and unfounded. The problem is getting someone to pay me for it....

So queue the theology intro music, it's time to explore the nature of god.

Let's say god is infinitely more complicated, knowing, powerful, etc than us. Here's a chart:

[infinitely many dots]
believer (just a skosh closer to god, all things considered)

Now consider two people on earth who have some different conceptions of god. It doesn't even matter if either of them are true or false. The fact that they have a finite brains, how ever well they are working, the difference between the two conceptions of god (or lack of conception) are completely dwarfed by the vast expanse between the concept holders and the actual deity that is the object of their thoughts.

In other words, to any level of precision you wish to go, all conceptions of god are essentially equal wrt to the actual god. Even if two people completely disagree their concepts are essentially the same (are the same?) when viewed from infinitely far away.

Wow, that's almost fun...


Monday, October 09, 2006

Quick links

This looks like an excellent documentary:

BBC 3 part documentary on the history of atheism :
The Denys Turner episode is mind boggling yet oddly fascinating. He clearly believes he is saying something deep and profound.

Also Sam Harris among others have some interview podcasts here:

And finally, I need a full size poster of this for my wall:


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Quick links

It always amazes me how little power of persuasion the creator of the universe has over his creations:
God can't reach them directly so maybe a conference will come up with some idea that God hasn't thought of yet.

Of course if one of their goals is to get their kids in long lasting and stable marriages then perhaps they should let them lose faith:


Friday, October 06, 2006

Confusion about delusion

How do you know if you are an undeluded seeker of truth? I imagine most people believe they seek the truth. Does any one think they are deluded? This question occurred to me (an atheist) as I was chatting with a fundamentalist about the basic epistemological underpinnings of his belief. We both claim to seek the truth but at least one of us is gravely in error and possibly both. But certainly not neither.

So if you truly value truth over other goods such as happiness and comfort, how do you go about seeking truth unfettered by preconceived notions and rationalizations posing as deep thinking? Even if you came up with a list of features of that truth seeking must exhibit, how would you know those were valid features?

It seems fairly straight forward to identify non-sensical thinking in others, is it really so hard to detect in yourself? At least one major stumbling block is that the less you know about something the worse your ability to gauge your expertise in that area.

So my first rule of undeluded truth seeking:

Learning about an issue you want to be undeluded about can't have a termination point; you must continue to revisit and explore. Learn both sides to the same depth even if you find the opposing view repugnant; at least understand how the opponent pieces together the facts on his side. If you don't take the time to really understand the othersides' arguments then you may be fighting a strawman w/o even knowing it. You must be as honest as possible about what you really know as opposed to what you merely suppose to be the case.

For instance, it's easy for atheists to believe that all fundamentalists are just ignorant and/or dumb. While I'm sure there are many who fit that description, there are plenty who are well educated and thoughtful who have struggled with those big issues that you think are killer questions. I can just about guarantee that any question you think you could ask a fundamentalist that would expose them as intellectually inept, has already been debated for 1000+ years in one form or another. You may not agree with the answer or the methods used to get there, but more than likely they are not ignorant of these questions.