Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Atheist's Toolbox

I would like to post some great resources for those who want to learn more about atheism and relating topics!


PZ Myer's personal blog about science and atheism.  He is a biologist and professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris. 


Richard Dawkin's personal site about atheism and evolution.  He is a biologist and a world renowned public speaker for the promotion of atheism, science, rationalism, and skepticism.  Dawkins is the author of The Greatest Show on Earth, The God Delusion, and Unweaving the Rainbow.


A live, call-in public access (in Austin) television show produced by the Atheist Community of Austin (ACA), a non-profit organization promoting positive atheism and the separation of church and state.


An internet audio radio show produced by the guys at the ACA. 


An all around awesome article assortment/amalgamation about atheism, agnosticism, and alternative, albeit associated axioms.  (My tribute to the letter 'a'... this is what happens when I get bored!)


An anti-apologetic wiki developed by the fine gentlemen at the Atheist Community of Austin.


A great website explaining the evolution/creationism debate containing scholarly sources.


Promotes the naturalistic worldview of the Internet. 

Please note that I may add websites to this post as I think of more.  Anyway, e-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu or leave a comment below!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Another short post...  I apologize, I've just been relaxing and enjoying my two days off.  I'll get on track tomorrow!  E-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu or leave a comment below!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

E-mail me

E-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu or leave a comment below.  Thanks!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Going to bed early!

I did well on my Calculus test today as well as receiving good marks in Art History for some assignments I handed in.  I am exhausted since I woke up at 4am this morning and have been awake for 20+ hours a day all week so I going to bed right now!  E-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu or leave a comment below and I'll answer them when I wake up.  Good night!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

PHIL140: Short Writing Assignment Two

This is the second of four short writing assignments I have to complete during the semester for PHIL140.  Enjoy!

Short Writing Assignment #2:

            Although Jeffrey Reiman concedes that although the death penalty is a just punishment for murder in principle, the death penalty is an unjust punishment for murder in practice.  Reiman believes that the death penalty is just in principle because, simplifying the issue, “[C]hoosing to end his victim’s life the murderer earns the loss of his own as his just desserts.” (Reiman, 343)  However, the world we live in, according to Reiman is naturally unjust because humans will inevitably make mistakes when trying to enact capital punishment; so much so, in fact, that Reiman believes that capital punishment is impractical and should not be used as a means of legal punishment.  Reiman states that there are four conditions in evaluating the death penalty as used in the United States legal system.  If the current proceedings of carrying out capital punishment adhere to any of these conditions, Reiman argues, then the death penalty is unjust in practice.  The four conditions Reiman mentions are:  (1) Discrimination in the application of the death penalty among convicted murderers; (2) Discrimination in the definition of murder; (3) Discrimination in the recruitment of murderers; and (4) Life on death row as torture.  For the purposes of this short writing assignment, I will explain Reiman’s (1) condition; discrimination in the application of the death penalty among convicted murderers.
            Reiman’s argument for the reason that the discrimination in the application of the death penalty among convicted murderers makes the death penalty unjust is roughly:  (P1) If the potential harms in the misapplication of a particular punishment outweigh the overall societal benefit of the enactment of the punishment, then that particular punishment is unjust should not be used.  (P2)  Discriminating against certain groups of people so that they are more likely to receive a particular punishment is unjust and the harms of which outweigh any possible societal benefits.  (C1)  The death penalty is unjust and should not be used as a particular form of punishment.
            The evidence that Reiman cites to support his premise that the United States’ government is unjustly applying the death penalty is an agglomeration of court cases and societal observances.  According to Reiman’s research, Furman vs. Georgia (1972) ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional due to evidence that showed that “‘[a]mong killers of whites (in Florida), blacks are five times more likely than whites to be sentences to death.’” (Reiman, 345)  This discrimination against blacks that allows them to be sentenced to death five times more often than whites for the same crime demonstrates, in Reiman’s view, shows that the practice of applying the death penalty is unjust.
            Another piece of evidence that Reiman cites is the societal observance that the death penalty is reserved significantly more for murderers of black victims than of white victims.  In the first example, we see discriminatory practices in that the skin color plays an insurmountable role in the probably of the murderer receiving the death penalty.  In this example, we can see that the victims of the murderer also play a large part in whether or not a murderer receives the death penalty or not. (Reiman, 345)
            In conclusion, Reiman believes that the death penalty is unjust in a practical sense because of its inevitable misapplication by humans.  In this particular condition, Reiman states that, “…any society that punishes in such a discriminatory fashion loses the right to appeal to [a] justification of the death penalty.” (Reiman, 345)


Reiman, Jeffrey H. "The Justice of the Death Penalty in an Unjust World." Intrasocietal Issues (1992): 340-49. Electronic.

Please e-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu if you have any questions, suggestions, or just want to start up a discussion or leave a comment below!  Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Laptop!

I am approaching my 6th hour of doing Calculus today in order to prepare myself for the test on Friday.  Also, I got my new laptop today!!  I'm busy and still working and I'll try to get a post up tomorrow.  I'll be checking my e-mail at brbailey@umd.edu and the comments.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Math Review Sessions and Studying!

Major Calc II test this Friday, so no post today.  I will be answering e-mails at brbailey@umd.edu and any comments left below!  Have a great day!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Matt Dillahunty's "Leprechaun in the Box" Skit

This skit was made by Matt Dillahunty and performed on "The Non-Prophets" Internet radio show by Matt Dillahunty and Thad Engling.  I heard this skit listening through the archives of shows for about the fourth time and decided that this had to posted!  You can listen to the skit at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuzFzwbi-Uw&feature=related (reproduced below) and following the audio is the script that Matt posted on a blog:

"I wrote the following little skit as part of an e-mail response and Thad and I read through it on an episode of The Non-Prophets. Several people have asked for a written version (and Martin keeps pestering me to post at the blog), so I thought I'd make a few quick edits and post it here.

This is very rough and I doubt I'll ever bother to update it to a proper 'final draft' - but, here it is...
NOTE: HUGE DISCLAIMER - the 'Agnostic' in this story represents a particular type of intellectual agnostic that makes assertions about the unknown and unknowable (and sends me countless e-mails) - this doesn't represent EVERY type of agnostic or everyone who uses the label. Many of us have used or currently use the word agnostic to describe ourselves without ever approaching the nonsense represented here.

A very sturdy looking box rests on a table as two men walk up to it…

Theist: That box has a leprechaun in it.

Atheist: I don't believe that...why do you?

Theist: I heard him talking.

Atheist: I don't believe that either...in fact, I have no evidence that leprechauns exist.

Theist: Well, either there's a leprechaun in the box or there isn't, right?

Atheist: Right.

Theist: So it's 50/50...and since I heard him talk, I'm sure that there's a leprechaun in there.

Atheist: Either there's a leprechaun in the box or not, but that doesn't mean the odds are 50/50.

Theist: Of course it does.

Atheist: Actually, it doesn’t, but could you offer some evide...

Theist: Hang on! He's just told me that if you don't believe he's in there, he'll chain you to a tree after you're dead and stick his shillelagh up your ass for 10,000 years!

Atheist: Um, wow, but I was asking if you could offer some additional evidence beyond your claim that you heard him. I didn't hear him say that, by the way.

Theist: Well, you're not listening hard enough.

Atheist: Ok (listens)...noth...

Theist: Give it TIME! You've got to sincerely WANT to hear him...

Atheist: If he's in there, I'd like to know it...I'll keep listening.

Theist: Did you hear that?

Atheist: Nope, nothing.

Theist: You're either lying or you're so closed minded that he's not letting you hear him.

Atheist: Not letting me? Leprechauns can choose who can hear them?

Theist: Of course! He could open this lid, show himself to me...and you'd never see it, you'd think the box was closed the whole time. They're MAGIC!

Atheist: Well, do you have any evidence for any of this? I mean, I've never seen a leprechaun...I have no reason to think they even exist and every time you tell me how to prove it, the tests fail.

Theist: No, YOU fail. It worked for me.

Atheist: (Motions toward a handful of people to one side) Well, there are other people here who have tried this...and it failed for them.

Theist: Yes, but these people (motions toward a huge group off to another side) heard it. In fact there are WAY more people over here who will tell you they heard it.

(The Atheist moves off to ask them a few questions.)

Atheist: I talked to some of them...they all have a slightly different take on this. Some say it's a leprechaun; others say it's a fairy; still others say it's a goblin. They don’t all describe the same voice and they apparently have conflicting messages that they claim came from inside the box. Most of them simply said that they knew other people who claimed to know what was in the box.

Theist: Ah, yes! There's actually a troll in the box with the leprechaun. He sometimes pretends to be the leprechaun, or a fairy, or a goblin in order to fool those other people - but you'll notice they STILL heard something.

Atheist: Yes, some say that, but others don't.

Theist: Well, that troll sometimes blocks the sounds so people can't hear it.

Atheist: So, how do you know, when you hear the leprechaun, that you aren't hearing the troll?

Theist: Don't be absurd! The leprechaun is my friend; he makes sure that I only hear him.

Atheist: But how can you be sure...if you think there's a troll there too, who pretends to be a leprechaun...how can you know? Maybe there's ONLY the troll and he's just fucking with you.

Theist: Now you're just being thick.Look, there's a box, right?

Atheist: Yup.

Theist: Now why would there be a box here unless there was something in it?? There MUST be something in it, right?

Atheist: No, the box could be empty.

Theist: No it couldn't, or there'd be no reason for the box to exist! Boxes are for holding things. We all know that.

Atheist: So you're claiming that the box could not possibly be empty?

Theist: Correct.

Atheist: And you don't see that as a flawed premise?

Theist: No, and it's confirmed by the fact that I heard a leprechaun.

Atheist: How did you hear him?

Theist: He talks to me telepathically.

Atheist: Oh, so you didn't mean to listen with my ears, you meant listen with my mind?

Theist: Your heart.

Atheist: That doesn't listen...

Theist: Your metaphoric heart!

Atheist: Ok...but that guy says he heard it with his ears.

Theist: He's wrong...he's hearing the troll.

Atheist: But I don't even hear the troll.

Theist: He's blocking you.

Atheist: Ok...how do you know all of this?

Theist: The leprechaun told me.

Atheist: Ok, so you've made appeals to magic, telepathy, leprechauns, trolls and non-empty boxes....you've offered no evidence. I'm sorry, but I don't believe you.

Theist: Don't forget the shillelagh!

Atheist: Right… and you've made threats about things that'll happen after I'm dead - when there's no evidence that there's any 'me' to experience anything after I'm dead. I just don't believe your claim.

Theist: What if you're wrong? Isn't that a lot to risk? He says he's got a pot of gold for you if you believe...isn't that worth believing?

Atheist: Look, even if I could make myself believe, which I can't, why would I want to do that? If there's no leprechaun in there, then I've wasted the opportunity find out what's really in the box. And if he wants me to follow his instructions...

Theist: Oh, he does...I've written them down for you, here...

Atheist: (Looks at the list) Then I'll have wasted time doing things that...does that say "Do not eat poo"?

Theist: Yup...great rule, isn't it?

Atheist: Yeah, but what about "Drop money in the box"

Theist: He's got needs too...pots of gold don't grow on trees.

Atheist: I thought he was magic.

Theist: He is...but, well, the money is so we can tell other people what the leprechaun wants.

Atheist: Why doesn't he tell them?

Theist: He could, but...well, he will, if they're open too it. Some, like you, are fooled by the troll.

Atheist: Why doesn't he get rid of the troll.

Theist: It's a mystery, but we're sure he will eventually.

Atheist: Anyway, if this isn't true, then I'll have wasted a lot of time and money on something false...only to avoid a threat that wasn't real.

Theist: Yeah...but what if you're wrong.

Atheist: Ok...look, I'm done. I do NOT believe there's a leprechaun in the box.

Theist: How can you be sure?

Atheist: I'm not, but I don't believe there is.

Theist: How can you say there's no leprechaun in the box!

Atheist: I didn't...I said I don't believe there is one.

Theist: Same thing.

Atheist: No it isn't...however, now that I've considered and rejected your claim...

Theist: Don't do it!

Atheist: I'm willing to say that I actually do believe there is no leprechaun in that box.

Theist: NO! You're making an irrational claim...you think you know everything?!??!

Atheist: No, I'm not claiming that I'm absolutely certain that there's no leprechaun in the box...but I actually believe, to some degree of certainty that there isn't...because if there were, I'd expect there to be some evidence to support it, and investigations keep coming up empty. I'll be back with some tools...we're going to open that box.

Theist: You can't open the box.

Atheist: Why not.

Theist: You just can't, it's impossible.

(Another person walks up)

Agnostic: He's right. Neither of you know what's in the box. You're both equally absurd to assert that you DO know.

Atheist: I didn't assert that I'm absolutely certain, I simply stated what my belief is...and it's based on the evidence, or lack thereof

Agnostic: Don't be silly...you're just as dogmatic as he is.

Atheist: I'm not dogmatic about this at all - I'd just like to open the box and find out.

Agnostic: The box is impervious.

Atheist: How do you know?

Agnostic: Um, well, I don't...it just seems impervious.

Atheist: Really, do you have other impervious things to compare it to?

Agnostic: Well, um, no...but I'm sure it's impervious.

Atheist: If you'll forgive me, as we're essentially on the same side in that we reject his assertion...

Agnostic: I don't reject it, I don't reject anything

Atheist: Do you accept his claim?

Agnostic: I don't know.

Atheist: You don't know whether you accept his claim?

Agnostic: No, I mean I don't know if he's right or not.

Atheist: Well, neither do I, but that's not what I asked.

Agnostic: The box is impervious

Atheist: Well, you sound just as dogmatic about our inability to know as he does about his private communications with the leprechaun

Agnostic: Now you're just being rude

Atheist: Look, I'm going to open this box

Agnostic: Silly atheist....

(The atheist manages to drill a tiny hole in the box...)

Atheist: Look, it's not impervious! I've got a hole here. We may eventually be able to investigate this in more detail.

Theist: You switched boxes!

Atheist: No, this is the box.

Agnostic: It's STILL impervious; your little hole doesn't give you enough information to support your claim.

Atheist: I can continue to investigate...and so far, there's no evidence to support the theist's claims.

Theist: You switched boxes!

Atheist: No I didn't.

Theist: Then, um...he's hiding. He needs you to believe without seeing him, so he's hiding.

Atheist: That makes no sense.

Theist: The troll has created an illusory hole that is providing you with false information about what's in the box!

Atheist: /sigh

Agnostic: That might be possible, I really couldn't say.

Atheist: No, I bet you couldn't.

The theist walks away, to tell other people about the leprechaun in the box.

The agnostic tries not to be anywhere near either of them, while secretly keeping an optimistic eye on the atheist's activities.
The atheist goes about his life, occasionally finding new ways to investigate the box, but he tries to enjoy his life while preventing the theist from ruining it by imposing the leprechaun's rules on everyone."

E-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu for any questions!  Also, feel free to leave a comment below!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Start of a New Week!

No lengthy post today!  Please, please, please e-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu so I may answer any questions you have!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It Takes More Faith To Be An Atheist!

To start off this post, I have to recommend this video:

When I suggest videos to watch, which isn't that often, I am really expecting that you watch the video.  I only post videos that I find to be extremely informative or helpful in aiding my readers understand what I am trying to get across.

The aforementioned video is tangentially related to the topic for the post today, which is "It Takes More Faith To Be An Atheist!".  This is is one of the most common statements I hear from theists because it falls into the category of arguments I like to call, "putting us on even footing".  The types arguments that attempt to put the theist and atheist on even footing include:  the "you have just as much faith as me!" arguments, the "your atheists groups are just like churches" arguments, and the "if we can't prove a god then you can't disprove it" arguments.  The purpose of these types of arguments from theists is to say that atheists and theists are equally irrational, have just as much evidence as the other, and have as much justification to believe as the other.

Many proponents of the "It takes more faith to be an atheist!" argument claim that for atheists to be absolutely certain that a god doesn't exist, in the face of the evidence that is this universe, takes an extraordinary amount of faith.  The first problem with this argument is that most atheists do not claim to be absolutely certain that a god doesn't exist, but rather they are convinced beyond reasonable doubt.  Using the phrase "absolutely certain" is utterly pointless when trying to sort out what we do and don't know.  We cannot be absolutely certain about anything and bringing up absolute certainty just ends the conversation.  Second, rejecting a claim that doesn't provide enough evidence isn't taking something on faith.  Recall that faith is believing in something for which there is no evidence.  Atheists are rejecting something for which there is no evidence for; the exact opposite of what faith is.  For more on this argument, see http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=It_takes_more_faith_to_disbelieve.

E-mail brbailey@umd.edu for any questions or to start a discussion with me, or leave a comment below! 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rest Day!

I am taking today off, however I will still respond to comments and answer e-mails.  My week of three tests and two papers is finally complete and I deserve to relax!  E-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu or leave a comment below!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My PHIL140 Short Paper

This is my completed short paper for my PHIL140 class on "Is Pornography Morally Problematic and Does Pornography Have Harmful Effects?"  If you have any questions, concerns, or just want to have a conversation, e-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu or leave a comment below!

Is Pornography Morally Problematic and Does Pornography Have Harmful Effects?

Many critics of pornography (e.g. feminists, Focus on the Family, and politically right-wing Conservatives) have argued that pornography is morally problematic because it has harmful effects. I do not believe that pornography has any significant effects (in fact, pornography may even be beneficial to society; a point I am unable to address in this paper) and I counter three arguments that the aforementioned critics may have about their perceived ways in which pornography is harmful to society. These arguments are (1) that human males, if exposed long enough to pornography, will eventually try to carry out the behavior they find in pornography to human females in a real context; (2) pornography distorts human males’ perception of female sexuality; and (3) viewing pornography is inherently immoral.

Longino defines pornography as:

“verbal or pictorial explicit representations of sexual behavior that… has as a distinguishing characteristic ‘the degrading and demeaning portrayal of the role and status of the human female… as a mere sexual object to be exploited and manipulated sexually.’” (Longino, 42)
I believe that Longino’s definition of pornography is a sufficient starting point in defining the types of pornography that most critics object to, however I believe this definition needs to be broadened to accommodate other reasons I would think people would object to pornography. In addition to defining pornography as depicting human females in a “degrading and demeaning” manner, I am explicitly adding that pornography must treat human females as inferior and must necessarily be submissive to human males.

Those critics of pornography that wish for the state to regulate pornography are often citing harmful effects that pornography has on society. This has been a popular strategy in arguing for state regulation of pornography because, I would argue, that a harm based argument is the only proverbial leg these critics have to stand on. Other than showing how pornography demonstrably harms society in a significant way, critics of pornography have little hope for changing or legislating laws to regulate pornography because of the high value the United States places on The First Amendment. This is not to say that the critics of pornography may have a decent case for states regulating pornography on the basis that it is obscene, however the United States has vague guidelines on determining what is obscene. Examine the United States Supreme Court’s holding of the Miller v. California (1973) in which Chief Justice Warren Burger attempts to establish a set of criterion that defines what obscene materials are.
“The basic guidelines for [obscenities] must be: (a) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, Roth, supra, at 354 U. S. 489, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” (Miller v. California (1973))
Take criteria (b) for instance, “…whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law…” I believe that a court would be more likely to start regulating pornography if there was demonstrable harm rather than arbitrarily deciding that pornography, as I have defined it, is “patently offensive”.

I am of the opinion that pornography has very few harmful effects (of those few effects, none are more than negligible) on society; much to the same extent as violent films and video games are insignificant in the harm they inflict on society. I am sure that critics of pornography may find this as a very strong and controversial statement to make, so I will take some time in dispelling counter-examples I find likely for my opposition to use against me.

The first counter-argument, relative to my position, I would like to dispel is that human males, if exposed to degrading, demeaning, male dominating pornography for long enough, will eventually try to carry out the behavior they find in pornography to human females in a real context. Cameron and Frazer address this fallacy by referring to this type of behavior as “[the] copycat model” or “…you see it, then (therefore?) you do it…” (Cameron, 242) Humans, being animals with the ability to rationalize and come to conclusions that may be contradictory to our natural instincts, have the self control to watch violent pornography and then not copy what they see. Cameron and Frazier believe (and I think they are correct) that:

“Humans are not like billiard balls – or indeed like animals, whose behavior can be described in terms of a stimulus-response model… [Human Behavior] is not deterministically ‘caused’. It needs to be explained in a different way, by interpretation of what it means and elucidation of the beliefs or understandings that make it possible and intelligible.” (Cameron, 249)
Human sexuality or the impulse to have sex is relatively easy to control and more easily controlled compared to animals, some of which show no reserve to act out sexually on the nearest potential mate.

The second counter-argument that is worth mentioning is from pornography critics that would assert that pornography distorts human males’ perception of female sexuality. Longino, among other critics about pornography, makes no reference to women who enjoy bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism (BDSM), to women who enjoy humiliating and compromising sexual positions, nor to women who enjoy degrading and demeaning behaviors from their male partners. I do not believe that pornography advocates indiscriminate sexual abuse with nonconsensual females, but rather, provides the same type of sexual gratification to those with BDSM/humiliation fetishes in the same way as sexually explicit material does with people who find sexual gratification in male/female consensual, respectful intercourse. I believe that most human males have no misconception of the fact that what they see in pornography is not necessarily what women enjoy. Pornography may be an outlet for which men, with fetishes that are impractical in the real world, may live out their fantasies. However, I do not find that these men with these particular fetishes are immoral. The men I would consider immoral are the men as a subset of these men with fetishes for pornography whom treat women as inferior “outside the bedroom” and sincerely hold sexist beliefs.

The third counter-argument in which a pornography critic would incorrectly find convincing is that viewing pornography is inherently immoral. I would contest the assertion that deriving pleasure from the viewing of two humans engaging in heterosexual or homosexual sexual intercourse, however demeaning, degrading, or dominating one sex or person is to another, is morally problematic. Consider this example, is it morally problematic if a human male or human female is sexually attracted to children that would be consider “underage” (under 18 years of age in the United States)? I believe that being sexually attracted to children is not morally problematic, but taking action upon real children to satisfy your sexual fantasies is, however, morally problematic (having sexual intercourse with someone who society deems unfit of making personal decisions and perhaps against their will). A person with a fetish for children may turn towards child pornography as a cathartic experience to prevent themselves from harming real children. I am not advocating child pornography to be produced for any reason (this would be immoral), but rather, I would advocate consuming computer generated child pornography (such as “lolicon” pornography). I cannot conceive anything immoral about human males and females being “turned onto” or having fetishes about having sex with children, so long as they never act out on this fetish.

Returning to the original counter-argument and relating it to people with fetishes for children, viewing pornography, for any reason one may choose to, cannot possibly be inherently immoral. I would assume that most people, including these critics of pornography, agree that playing first person shooters (FPSs) is not morally problematic. I have played and enjoyed FPSs in the past and, to be honest, never thought about the action of killing other persons via a video game. Mentally, FPSs are like engaging in laser tag. No matter how gruesome or disturbing the graphics used are, I am only thinking about the strategy similar to the one found in laser tag. Furthermore, I would never kill another human being and doubt that any of the other players in the game would kill another human being. Extending the analogy to the viewing of pornography, even if a person enjoys the degradation of women, demeaning treatment of women, and dominance over women in the context of pornography, I would not be able to make the claim that they are an immoral person.

In conclusion, although arguments that critics make against pornography that are harm based are the best arguments the critics have, these arguments alone still do not justify that states should regulate pornographic materials. I have attempted to counter three major arguments that critics of pornography may use as an attempt to demonstrate that pornography is harmful, namely that pornography is immoral, pornography distorts males’ views of female sexuality, and pornography encourages men to act on their sexual fetishes indiscriminately and with malice. 


Cameron, Deborah, and Elizabeth Frazer. "On the Question of Pornography and Sexual Violence: Moving    Beyond Cause and Effect." Pornography: Woman, Violence, and Civil Liberties (1994). P. 240-53. Electronic

Longino, Helen E.. “Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom: A Closer Look.” Take Back the Night: Women on Pornography. Lederer, Laura. p. 40-54. New York. William & Co. 1980. Electronic

Miller vs. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973). Full text of majority decision found at http://supreme.justia.com/us/413/15/case.html. I find this source to be reliable because supreme.justia.com has full text copies of Supreme Court decisions verbatim.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My E-mail Exchange with Dr. Gourley

Over the past two weeks or so, I have been in e-mail contact with Dr. Gourley after he submitted a comment on my blog (see post, "Defending the Rights of Christians").  Dr. Bruce Gourley has a Ph.D. from Auburn University, is the Executive Director of the Baptist History and Heritage Society (http://www.baptisthistory.org/), is the Online Editor for Baptists Today (http://www.baptiststoday.org/), owner of BaptistLife.com, and has authored three books (www.brucegourley.com/writings).  Today's post comes from our e-mail discussion and this particular exchange is on the nature of truth and the most accurate/reliable ways to discover it (shared below with explicit permission by Dr. Gourley).  I believe that this exchange is an excellent example of the kinds of intellectual discourse that atheists and theists should be having.  I hope you enjoy!


On the whole, I don't have any problems with someone following the teachings of Jesus if they believe that adhering to Jesus' teachings is the best way to live out their life. I would disagree, but that is a perfectly reasonable way to choose to live your life. However, Buddhists follow the teachings of Buddha and is usually referred to as an atheistic religion (i.e. a religion which has no deity they worship). So my question is, are you following an atheistic version of Baptism where you subscribe to Baptist traditions, teachings, and culture while not believing in its supernatural claims? Furthermore, if you accept the supernatural aspects of Baptism, such as Jesus' divinity, an omnipotent God, miracles, etc., how do you justify your belief? Thanks!



Baptists are all over the map; because Baptists have historically rejected religious creeds and hierarchy, there is no "official" Baptist position on ... anything. Truly, Baptists are among the most diverse religious groups in the world - perhaps the most diverse - representing some 250 distinct groupings worldwide, and within each grouping, a wide range of beliefs.

But, here's an interesting historical tidbit: in the ancient world, Jews were considered atheists because ... everyone else (read: animistic and other primitive, polytheistic type faiths) worshiped visible gods (or gods who took visible forms). Jews, on the other hand, worshiped a supposedly invisible God who did not manifest himself in nature's objects.

- Bruce


Similar to Jews being called atheists, Christians were also called atheists by the Romans because Christians didn't believe in the Pagan gods. You are correct in that I shouldn't make blanket statements about the beliefs of Baptists because their beliefs are diversified. Therefore, I would like to know more about your beliefs specifically. How do you define the supernatural entity that I assume you believe in, and why do you hold that belief?



How do I define God? Something along the lines of: mysterious, experiential, all-encompassing, ever present, ungraspable, glimpsed in Christ, allied with the poor and down-trodden, emanating compassion and love in its best sense, so forth.  I don't know of anyone, including the men who penned the Jewish and Christian holy texts, who understands the fullness of that which I (and many others) call God. But I do know quite a few folks who worship a God crafted in their own image.

- Bruce


Do you care if your beliefs are true? Or are you just content with accepting some of your beliefs on faith?



Truth is what I seek. Yet when it comes to God, no human or text can fully comprehend. So while truth I seek, I also know truth is only partially obtainable. We all see through a glass darkly, to paraphrase the NT's Apostle Paul.

- Bruce 


Well why do you believe the Bible has any type of authority on what is true or not? How is the Bible different than any other religious texts (i.e. the Qur'an, the Bhagavad Gita, etc.)? From my point of view, the Bible is not a credible source for the truth of the extravagant claims it makes. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In fact, except for a few historical truths (about place names and rulers) there are claims in the Bible that directly contradict our understanding of science. If you attribute these inaccuracies to metaphors that are taken too literally, how do we discern what is metaphorical from what is supposed to be taken literally?



Truth has many dimensions. The Bible is and never was a scientific textbook. Those who try to make it so are trying to force a modern mindset of truth upon an ancient text written at a time when truth (and knowledge) was far different than it is today.

- Bruce


How does truth have multiple dimensions? Sure, the Bible isn't supposed to be a science textbook, however when the Bible does try to make scientific claims (e.g. the Genesis story of creation) they are directly contradictory to our current scientific understandings. Although this would not dismiss all other claims found in the Bible, such as the supernatural, there should be some doubt cast on the truth that the Bible claims to have. I would agree with you that the knowledge possessed by the people who wrote the Bible was vastly inferior to ours, but that does not mean the truth has changed. Yes, their perception of what is true may be different and that is what science attempts to correct. However, the 'truth' about how our universe actually came to be is fixed. We can speculate as much as we like about how the universe came to be, but the 'truth' of how it happened does not change relative to when people are pondering the question. You referred to the Bible as an ancient text and that is exactly what it is. I have two questions for you:

1) Considering other ancient texts such as the Bhagavad Gita (came millennia before the Bible) and the Qur'an (came centuries after the Bible) along with the Bible, how do you determine (coming from my standpoint) which one is the most accurate and/or which religion I should subscribe to?

2) Suppose you are doing research and writing a scholarly paper on the history of the Middle East. After publishing this paper, a group of Muslim historians call you out and tell you that your work is very poor and obviously fallacious because there are things you talk about in the paper that directly contradict what is in the Qur'an. To me, you are perfectly justifiable in saying that the Qur'an's claims about history must be suspect because you have found contradictory evidence. How would you respond to these Muslim scholars? And how would your answer differ if a group of Christian scholars said your work contradicted the Bible?



Genesis does not make scientific claims; modern Christians force Genesis to make scientific claims.  Not until modern times (post Reformation era) have some Christians insisted that Genesis must be literal to be true. The "days" of Genesis in Hebrew are infinite periods of time; "Adam" (in our English translations) is not an actual man in Hebrew; the word "adam" literally means "earthling," and if you put Genesis in its actual context, it is talking about God creating earthlings over a great but unknown period of time. The rib story is not presented as fact in the original context, but a story-telling explanation of how man and woman are to relate. In their own time and context, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are two entirely different stories, non factual stories that harbor greater truths beyond mere facts.

In the larger context, and no offense meant, but you seem to be approaching the Bible the way religious fundamentalists do: that is, you want to make it an empirical, modern truth-based book.

Truth is far more than quantifiable fact, and is not confined to realm of science. It is found, just as readily, in poetry, ancient myths, other literary devices, emotion, experientialism, philosophy, the list goes on. Even in the discipline of history, truth has many (and often opposing) dimensions. Pick a recent historical event, such as: why did the recent revolution in Egypt happen? There is no one answer, no one truth. The truth is much more complicated, more multidimensional, and ultimately not fully known in this instance. There is not even a given truth for exactly how or when the universe came to be; if you follow current scientific thought, you are aware that there are various theories among scientists, including a theory that the universe has always been. In economics, the most learned economists disagree greatly over what is necessary for a healthy economy; there is no one truthful answer, and it is quite likely that shades of truth exist in the various economic theories of a nation's well-being.

I could even ask the simple question, "Who are you?", and you would only be able to partially answer the question, because you don't even know the full truth about who you are ... and you never will. (Nor will I as to who I am.)

Until one begins to grasp the fuller dimensions of truth - a difficult task for many modern, Western humans - he or she will have a stunted view of himself or herself, the world in which he or she lives, and the history (including the religious dimension) that has led us to this point in time.

- Bruce


Genesis does explain how the Earth was made. Animals weren't just placed on the Earth at one time, the Sun was formed before the Earth, a woman wasn't born from the rib of a man, do you think there is a talking snake?, where is the Garden of Eden now?, there was no global flood, there was no migration of species to the ark, and so forth. I know that I'm looking at empirical truths because that is the only thing that matters. Genesis, although perhaps you can argue is a particular elegant creation myth or piece of prose, is demonstrably false in a factual sense. Genesis was an attempt to explain the formation of the world we live in and how humans came to be. As I am sure you know, this is just one of thousands of creation myths throughout the world.

The reason most people don't look at the Bible as literal truth anymore is because they realize it is factually wrong. The Bible has taken a more metaphorical meaning. Again, I don't mind if someone picks out the good parts and decides to live their life based on the opinions of the writings of the Bible, however it is irrational to say that the Bible is entirely factual.

I am sorry, but I just cannot buy the, "Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are... stories that harbor truths beyond mere facts." What are these truths that you are talking about?

When I say science, it is just shorthand. Allow me to clarify what I mean by science. Science, in this context, is the application of skepticism, the scientific method, and critical thinking in order to better understand reality. Under this definition (and the definition I am referring to when I say "science") history, philosophy, and other academia, as well as science, fall into this category. So yes, I agree with you that there are way outside of literal science to discover what is true.

Using your analogies for the recent revolution in Egypt, the scientific "theories" (used in the colloquial sense; a scientific theory is defined by scientists as a well established model of something that encompasses several laws, pieces of evidence, etc.), and economics, I think you are actually in agreement with me. I am not claiming we know everything; I am also not claiming finding specific causes or best ways of doing something is easy (or if it is possible at all). What I am claiming however, is the truth of the formation of the universe, the truth for the exact ways and reasons the revolution in Egypt happened, and the truth for the best economic model to follow exists. It is impossible or nearly impossible to reach this truth. You said that, "there is no one truthful answer, and it is quite likely that shades of truth exist in the various economic theories of a nation's well-being". I am sure that there are many models of economies, that if implemented properly, would achieve positive results. However, there must necessarily be a best option, depending on what quantifiers you would use to define "best". "Shades of truth" are probably in most, if not all, economic theories, but by saying this you admit there is a truth from which these shades come from.

Your paragraph on the "Who are you?" question, I'm in complete agreement with you.  I agree with the notion that we must study, "the world in which he or she lives, and the history (including the religious dimension) that has led us to this point in time" as well as "poetry, ancient myths, other literary devices, emotion, experientialism, [and] philosophy". I love to talk about religion; it is one of my favorite topics to discuss. However, although these things may stumble amongst truths. The best method of finding/discovering truths as accurately as possible is the scientific method by far. By studying emotion or poetry we may find truths, but the tool set we use to find out if they are true or not is the scientific method or some close variant.

You also mention that truth can be found in ancient myths. I would agree that can be found (however rare that is), but we need some way to determine if these claims are truthful or not. It is not as if an ancient myth is a carefully calculated masterpiece of truthful claims. They are stories that are ad hoc in nature and can be as simple as someone writing a stream of consciousness. How does ancient myths lead us to truths unless it's by accident (which we won't even know until it is verified by some other means)? Consider this situation, for example: Suppose the Qur'an gives a detailed and correct account of the exact science of the chemistry and biology that takes place in a mother's womb throughout a nine month pregnancy. Impressive right? How would the culture of the 7th century know that this is true? They wouldn't. They would have to accept this on faith (a problematic practice in general) to accept this as true. In fact, they should reject these claims as true because there is no evidence to believe in it at the time (although now we know it to be true). The point is, we need some else to discern what is true in ancient myths, poetry, etc. and this is what I call "science".



If your contention that empirical truth is all that matters, is true ...then we live in a sad and hopeless world, it seems to me.

As to a literal understanding of the Bible: prior to the 16th century Protestant Reformation, few Christians interpreted the Bible (as a whole or largely) literally; allegory was the most common method of biblical interpretation prior to this time.

Not until the early days of the Scientific Revolution / Enlightenment did masses of Christians begin thinking in terms of the Bible as a literally-interpreted text. And only then did Christians begin forcing modern scientific truth/constructs upon the ancient scriptural texts. In short time, as modern science became the norm, believers began defending the Bible as science, or defending the Bible from science - the latter often utilizing scientific reasoning to prove the Bible's truth over science, ironically.

From that time forward, it has been very difficult for Western humans to allow the Bible to be what it is ... rather than re-shaping it by modern norms (of which many religious people, from fundamentalist to liberal, are prone to do).

- Bruce


When I say that empirical truth is all that matters, what I mean is that when we are talking about claims that people are trying to pass off as true, empirical evidence/skepticism/critical thinking is the most reliable way of discerning what is true from what is false. This is not to say that you cannot find beauty in things that are not 'true'. I find beauty in chess games, in nature, the girl that I love, in artwork, etc. I find hope in humankind, charitable acts, etc. These things (e.g. beauty and being hopeful) are wholly irrelevant when talking about truth. I am not sure how you can assert that if you accept that science is the most reliable way to discover what is true, then the world is sad and hopeless.

Perhaps I am incorrect in interpretations of the Bible over history (I am convinced that you know more about the history of the Bible than I do), but I would say that anyone who takes the Bible as literal truth is sorely mislead. I would even say that if your belief in God comes from the Bible you are mislead. There are good things about every religious text, however when looking at them outside the scope of being metaphorical, but still fictional, I would say that is harmful to an individual's understanding of reality.



Firstly, methinks you draw too narrow a box around truth.

Secondly, I would say there are good and bad images of God in the Christian Bible. Different Christians focus on different aspects.

And finally, I would argue that no one (even the most fundamentalist fundamentalist) interprets everything in the Bible in a literal fashion.  Anyone who turns to the Bible as a book of faith does so selectively.

- Bruce


I think the box around truth needs to be fairly narrow. There are people who believe that homeopathy works (excluding placebo), that evolution is false, and some people believe they have been abducted by aliens. If truth is defined any more broad then there is going to be contradictions. A pet peeve of mine is when people try to argue that all religions are correct or your theory about how the universe is formed is just as good as mine. There are statements in religions that are mutually exclusive, dichotomies that would have to be held at the same time. There may be true elements in all of them, but all cannot be 100% true. Speaking in a objective sense, there has to be a religion or scientific theory that has the best representation of reality. Drawing the box around truth any wider than I am leaves room for interpretation and when determining what is true, interpretation should be removed as much as possible. This is not to say interpretation doesn't have its place.  For example, you can interpret artwork to mean whatever you want, even if the artist didn't intend for it to mean what you perceive it to mean.

I agree. God does some terrible things in the Bible and He does some good things as well. Christians (usually) focus on the good parts.

Again, I agree. I would be scared if somebody took everything in the Bible as literal truth and we never see this (at least simultaneously). For example, people refusing to eat shellfish, stoning their unruly children to death, not wearing polyester, advocating slavery, and so forth. What I don't understand is how people decide what parts of the Bible is ok to follow and which parts are not. If they truly believed that the Bible is divinely inspired by God shouldn't they accept everything? This is why I have a certain respect for the Westboro Baptist Church more than most others. Even though their beliefs are crazy and are taken to extremes, every view they publicly share is supported by textual evidence from the Bible.

Yes I realize nobody follows the Bible literally literally. I should qualify my statement more.



And yet ... in most truth, there is some degree of interpretation. As professional historians know, history is interpretation. Historians strive for the best interpretation by trying to assemble as much evidence as possible, stitching it together (in a manner of speaking), and drawing a conclusion ... that will likely be revised later in light of new evidence ... and so on.

Conversely, historical interpretation detached from evidence is wishful thinking.

Science is a never-ending search for truth, because the more we explore our natural realm, the more dynamics and dimensions of reality open before us. We're always moving toward a greater understanding of truth, but not even science will ever unlock all truth.

In essence, the big question is this: since we humans are finite creatures with limited tools (natural and man-made) with which to examine the (essentially infinite) universe, will we ever really know the truth?

- Bruce


What I said was, "when determining what is true, interpretation should be removed as much as possible". I realize that some type of interpretation is absolutely necessary (for some fields of study) in many cases. I would just like to limit interpretation as much as possible. For example, suppose we find one piece of evidence for X during a certain time period for a location in history. Our first guesses about what X was during that time period for that location will inevitably be off the mark and require a lot of interpretation and educated guesswork. However, the more evidence we find for X, the less interpretation is necessary for X. Using a combination of critical thinking and research, we are narrowing the room for interpretation until we ultimately reach a sufficient amount of evidence that leaves room for no interpretation. We will then be able to fully and accurately describe X at that point. Granted, this is nearly impossible to accomplish and there will always be a need for some interpretation. Therefore, I agree with everything in your last e-mail! Just more to the point and eloquently then I have been saying it.

You asked "Will we ever really know the truth?" The answer is obviously no. However, that doesn't mean we should stop seeking it and it doesn't mean that some methods of finding truth are unreliable!



I think we have much agreement on the nature of truth. And I do wonder, say 100 years from now as truth continues to unfold, if humans then will know that some methods of finding truth that we now consider reliable - are much less so.

- Bruce


That is a very good question. I would like to say that I can't think of a way of discovering truth than is better than science. However, because I recognize that this is fallacious (being an argumentum ad ignorantiam,) I have to say that there could be a way in the future of discovering truth more reliably or accurately. Although, I have no idea how likely this is.



Actually, what I was thinking of is that scientific methods (broadly speaking) are constantly changing, and today's experts know that some of yesteryear's accepted methods of determining truth are not really reliable and/or are incomplete or fall short.

However, it is quite possible (as you indicate) that "science" (as we understand it) a hundred or two or three hundred years from now will be unacceptable in the search for truth, replaced by something that today we cannot imagine.

- Bruce

I hope you enjoyed this dialog because I know I sure did!  If you have any questions, suggestions, or you disagree with me, e-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu.  If you have a comment specific to the content in this post (by me or Dr. Gourley), feel free to leave a comment below!  Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

United Pentecostal Church International: The Apostles' Doctrine

Greetings one and all!  This is part five of my mini-series on the doctrine of the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI).  I am trying to get to bed early for my 8am class tomorrow, so I am going to breeze through "The Apostles' Doctrine".  This section, found at http://www.upci.org/doctrine/apostles.asp, is a list of many words and what they correspond to in their doctrine along with supporting Bible verses.  I will touch on each of the 18 words briefly.

The Apostles' Doctrine

Before I do anything; prove that that Bible is useful in discovering truths and/or provides accurate information!!!!  Okay, now I can begin.

"With sincerity we pray that God will grant the reader grace to accept the truth as it is in Christ Jesus."
How does Jesus Christ lead anybody to truth? What types of evidence are there that the Jesus character of the Bible is relaying accurate information that is infallible?

Wow. "[Gives] a true history of the creation of heaven, earth, and humanity...". Where is this true history in the Bible? Please show me where heaven is. Granted, heaven may be supernatural or metaphorical, however this means there is no distinguishing heaven from being supernatural/metaphorical or nonexistent. In layman's terms, please describe the differences, that we can verify, between a supernatural unicorn and a nonexistent unicorn (trick question, there aren't any). The creation of the earth, as stated in the Bible is just plain wrong. In the Bible, the "light" (or the Sun) was created after the earth. Now, through modern science (a reliable method of discerning what is true and what is bullshit) we know that the Sun, in fact, predates the earth (i.e. there was light before earth). Humans are a product of evolution, like all human life. Creationism has not been demonstrated and has no place in science. I will move on for the sake of time.

"There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). He is the creator of heaven and earth, and of all living beings. He has revealed Himself to humanity as the Father (Creator), in the son (Savior), and as the Holy Ghost (indwelling Spirit). "
Prove it.
"God is a Spirit (John 4:24). He is the Eternal One, the Creator of all things, and the Father of all humanity by creation. He is the First and the Last, and beside Him there is no God (Isaiah 44:6). There was no God formed before Him; neither shall be there any after Him (Isaiah 43:10)."
Again, where is the evidence of this outside your Bible?
"Jesus is the Son of God according to the flesh (Romans 1:3) and the very God Himself according to the Spirit (Matthew 1:23)."
So God made a spiritual copy of himself on earth, to "sacrifice" (not a real sacrifice; sign me up to be tortured and crucified if I get to be a god in three days) Himself, to Himself, to circumvent the rules that He created. Furthermore, He is omniscient and saw all of this coming. God is pretty twisted.
Holy Ghost
"The Holy Ghost is not a third person in the Godhead, but rather the Spirit of God (the Creator), the Spirit of the resurrected Christ. The Holy Ghost comes to dwell in the hearts and lives of everyone who believes and obeys the gospel, as the comforter, Sustainer, and keeper (John 14:16-26; Romans 8:9-11)."
"Sin is the transgression of the law, or commandments of God (I John 3:4). The guilt of sin has fallen upon all humanity from Adam until now (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:14) to all those who refuse to accept salvation as set forth in the Word of God."
"Eternal" in "eternal death" is a little redundant. I'll do a post in the future about the ridiculous laws found in the Bible such as not being able to eat shellfish, wear clothes of two different fibers, etc. and maybe your views on how Christians determine what is sinful will change.
SalvationHuman don't need saving from anything. Humans aren't inherently sinful.
Water BaptismPutting your head in water is necessary to enter into the kingdom of God? Next you'll say that babbling is a sign of possession by a ghost-like figure.

Mode of Baptism
"Sprinkling, pouring, or infant baptism of any kind cannot be substantiated by the Word of God, but are only human traditions."
This made me laugh. There's actually a way to baptize somebody wrong in the eyes of these people.
Formula for BaptismBasically just says that Jesus' name must be used.

Baptism of Holy GhostSpeaking in Tongues is evidence that your spirit has been baptized.

TonguesOh. You do.

HolinessSee previous posts on the doctrine of the UPCI.

Divine HealingShow me one case in which God has healed somebody. The first place you go to when you are hurt is a hospital; not a church.
Second Coming of Christ
Still waiting after thousands of predictions and two millennia?


"There will be a resurrection of all the dead, both just and unjust."
So now they believe in zombies.


Too bad there isn't an "I told you so moment" for atheists to tell theists after we all die.

Again, I realize that this is short as I am terribly busy. Please e-mail me at
brbailey@umd.edu if you have any questions, comments, or just want to start a discussion. Or, if you prefer, leave a comment below if you wish to publicly humiliate me!People who "feel" the Holy Ghost, in my opinion, are being mislead by their dogma. I have no doubt that they feel something, however I believe it is akin to getting goosebumps when listening to a particular singer or eating something particularly delicious. Furthermore, even if there is a Holy Ghost, your personal anecdotes do not count as evidence. For example, there are living, breathing people today that claim they have been abducted by aliens (sometimes in entire groups) and seem to sincerely believe it. Do you accept their testimonies?

Monday, February 21, 2011

E-mail me!

I have a test tomorrow and a test on Thursday, as well as 2 papers due Friday.  Therefore, no long post today!  Instead, you should e-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu so I can answer any questions you have about religion, apologetics, atheism, science, etc.!  Have a great day!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

United Pentecostal Church International: Modesty

Hello all!  This is the fourth post of my mini-series on the doctrine of the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI).  The list of doctrinal positions can be found at http://www.upci.org/doctrine.asp  The UPCI's fourth positional paper is on "modesty" (see http://www.upci.org/doctrine/modesty.asp for the full article).


"Many times what we wear helps to mold their expectations as well as our own. When a woman wears an immodest dress, she begins to think of herself as seductive and acts accordingly. Other people perceive her as provocative and treat her as such, which reinforces her behavior. In short, appearance both reflects and to large degree determines what we are in the eyes of self and others."

Believe it or not, I almost fully agree with this statement.  The only part I would contend is where they mention, "When a woman wears an immodest dress, she begins to think of herself as seductive and acts accordingly".  I think they have the cause and effect mixed up.  A women who thinks of herself as seductive is the one who would wear an immodest dress and reinforce her behavior.  I don't believe that if you forcibly require a shy/timid woman to wear an immodest dress, she will suddenly become seductive.  Much like putting a seductive woman in a modest dress wouldn't make her seductiveness go away.  Sadly, however unfortunate it may be, people judge you based on the way your are dressed, how you present yourself, and how you look.  This is just reality.  I would prefer that the actions people take and values they hold are how we judge people, but we all make the mistake of forming an opinion of someone before they even open their mouth.
"God considered baring the leg and uncovering the thigh to be shameful exposure of nakedness. This gives us a good idea as to what God would regard as the minimum standard of modesty, regardless of culture."
Why would God be ashamed of our nakedness?  God must have self-esteem issues if He doesn't want us to be seen naked and we are made in his image.  Come to think of it, He is a jealous God that only allows a few lucky people to see Him.The basic reason for modesty of dress is to subdue the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.
"The exposed body tends to arouse improper thoughts in both wearer and onlooker. To implement the purpose behind modest dress, the body should basically be covered, except for those parts which we must use openly for normal living. This suggests that clothes should cover the torso and upper limbs. Reasonable guidelines, then, would-be women’s dresses over the knee and sleeves to the elbow. In addition, we should avoid low necklines, sleeveless dresses or shirts, very tight clothes, very thin clothes, and slacks on women because they immodestly reveal the feminine contours of upper leg, thigh, and hip. Likewise, swimming in mixed company is immodest. Since the primary effect of makeup is to highlight sex appeal, we reject makeup as immodest."
Sounds like the writer of this policy must have a fetish for natural looking, innocent women clothed with baggy garments.  Very similar to the fetishes of the leaders of the Church of Latter Day Saints, after all, Mormons wear "magic" underwear.

In all seriousness, it is very difficult to restrict the human body's desire to have sex.  Do you honestly think that sexually explicit thoughts are diminished significantly because the opposite sex is dressed more modestly?  Also, where is the extensive coverage of the ways in which men should dress more modestly?  Is a woman's lust less significant or less potent?  Although, I guess it makes sense because God is sexist.
"Conduct, gestures, gait, body language, and speech must be modest. If a woman wants to, she can display her body immodestly and act seductively even in the most modest of dresses. We must never use dress to promote immodest conduct, and no degree of external modesty can cover-up an immodest, lustful spirit."
Guess what, still isn't going to make men not have an erection every once in a while!  Sure, there is a culturally placed, arbitrary line of things appropriate for being in public and those things appropriate for the bedroom (with Christian groups such as Quiverfulls, Pentecostals, etc. being notorious for having excessive amounts of children, we all know these groups are not being modest in the bedroom). This being said, what is the problem with looking attractive in public?  What grave danger is anybody in that would justify dressing overly modest as opposed to having on a shirt that outlines your breasts?  I do not hold anything against the people who wish to dress modestly in public (or even privately).  This does not seem unsettling or weird to me at all.  When your cult asserts that the people that are dressing "immodestly" are filthy and unholy, your cult is pathetic.  In fact, I don't understand why it is illegal to be naked in public.  Personally, I don't think I would walk around naked in public, but I wouldn't mind if someone wanted to do that in the slightest.

It is imperative that humans, being animals, have sexual feelings for the opposite sex.  If you have sexual feelings towards the opposite sex, there isn't anything wrong or immoral about that.  When I use the word "imperative" I mean, "important if the goal is reproduction".  There is a reason that sex feels good and there are obvious evolutionary rationalizations for this fact.  Those animals that have more pleasure having sex are more likely to have sex.  Therefore, their genes are more likely to pass on (because they are having more offspring).  Restricting human sexuality is utterly pointless and having distorted views on sexuality is demonstrably destructive (google "Vatican and pederasty").

E-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments!  Leave a comment below if you wish!  Have a great start to the week! 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rest Day!

I am taking a break from my mini-series of dissecting the United Pentecostal Church International's doctrine just for today.  I'll be back on track tomorrow!

Friday, February 18, 2011

United Pentecostal Church International Doctrine: Technology

This is the third part of my mini-series on the United Pentecostal Church International's Doctrine (found at http://www.upci.org/doctrine/technology.asp).  For a full list of the positions I am covering, see http://www.upci.org/doctrine.asp.


Currently, the position that the United Pentecostal Church International (hereinafter, 'UPCI' ) holds about technology is that they hold no position on the use of technology.  The UPCI states:
"The [UPCI] has an obligation to establish standards of conduct when necessary, but it refuses to make rules for every aspect of daily living. Each Christian is responsible to God to maintain holiness in his life, for God alone is his judge, but the [UPCI] is also responsible to teach biblical standards of holiness."
The UPCI believes that it is incumbent to the specific Pentecostal man/woman to use technology so long as he/she remains "holy".  Well, this begs the question:  What does it mean to be "holy"?  The UPCI says:
"Holiness as a spiritual experience and a way of life is not an option for a Christian but a biblical injunction. We are to 'cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God' (II Corinthians 7:1). We are urged, 'Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God' and 'be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind'” (Romans 12:1-2).
Again, prove that the Bible is an accurate representation of the will of God.  I am sorry, but I have to mention this every time someone tries to use the Bible as a justification for something.  The UPCI gives this warning:
"As new media appear in the marketplace, the Christian must not accept their usage without evaluation of their impact on his spiritual walk with God. We are to 'walk circumspectly [looking around us], not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil'" (Ephesians 5:15-16).  
This seems to insinuate that if you encounter a type of new media that contradicts your beliefs about your "spiritual walk with God", you should automatically reject this new media.  This is the antithesis of skepticism, critical thinking, and science.  You should never start with a conclusion and evaluate where the evidence is leading you (with the possible exception of a reductio ad absurdum or assuming the conclusion as true to show how the argument is invalid/unsound).

Let's take a look at the positions which the UPCI has taken in the past (according to their own testimony):
"...the [UPCI] has expressed its concern that Christians may be influenced by the media to compromise biblical holiness. It has officially dealt with technology in three ways:

(1) allowed its use without voicing caution or disapproval (telephone, automobile, microwave, central heating, printing press, photography, computer, etc.);
(2) accepted its use with warning and restrictions (radio, video);
and (3) rejected its use as being unsuitable for Christians or for their homes (movie theater, television)."
I will address each case individually.
  1. This is the way the use of technology should be (excluding warning labels for uses that may be hazardous to yourself).  The invention of technology is a wonderful byproduct of science and the critical thinking that accompanies science.  We have improved medicine, this laptop that I am using to write this post, the Internet which is used as the proverbial public marketplace for the exchange of ideas, telephones, electricity, and so forth because of science.  We know Christianity has historically been against scientific progress (examine the Dark Ages), but we have been dragging religion kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
  2. I am not quite sure why radio and video need to be warned against and restricted.  Perhaps the UPCI is afraid of atheistic/devil inspired programming such as the Internet radio show The Non-Prophets or YouTube videos from popular atheists such as thunderf00t and AronRa.  Why would the UPCI need to shelter its members from these sorts of un-Christian materials?  Are they so dogmatic as to not even consider other points of view?
  3. Well too bad none of those people will be able to read these doctrinal positions without the use of their computer.
Overall, allowing for Pentecostal Christians to use technology when they see the use as appropriate is good enough for me.  Technology should never be restricted unless when, in extreme cases, the use of which will inevitably lead to excessive amounts of harm (e.g. releasing the blueprints on exactly how to build an atomic bomb). 

I apologize for the brevity of this post, however the task of arguing against these particular positions is pointless if their only leg to stand on is their Bible.  They should make a statement about how they know that the Bible is an accurate representation of God's will, history, and infallible; then my post would take days instead of hours to write!

As usual, e-mail me at brbailey@umd.edu or leave a comment below!  Have a great weekend!