No, you couldn’t have done otherwise

Wherever there are alternatives/ choices( as most like to call it) one could act in any one way. The presence of choice doesn’t tell you how I will act. I will try to demonstrate; you are on the fourth floor of a building and you want to go down in a hurry- there is a rope dangling on the window, there is a lift, there is a staircase. All the three are choices/ alternatives. Until you act, the awareness that you had so many choices tells us zilch about what you would do.

I believe everyone engaged in the freewill/ determinism debate isn’t talking about coercion which appears to me as Marvin’s pet fancy. All the examples he gives are about coercion; either being forced to drive bombers away, forced to say the pledge or whatever he fancies. I could be entirely wrong but I don’t think we could have spent hundreds of years discussing whether a person who was coerced could have acted differently. I think this naïve. And to insist on such a line of reasoning when one has access to better arguments is to me, simply lazy.

And I think he misleads his readers when he writes

When someone says, “I could have done otherwise”, they are not making any claims of super-human powers. All that they mean is that they had more than one option, and that they might have chosen the other option instead.

because, in my opinion, these people think if the conditions remained as they were, they would have acted differently which is an illusion. And this is the illusion of freewill. And there is really nothing super-human in it.

He is again wrong when he writes

When the “hard” determinist interprets this to be a metaphysical claim to freedom from causation and insists that there were never two real possibilities, but only one, he introduces mental confusion. After all, the waiter offered two splendid choices, steak and lobster, and at the time of the offer, both were possible.

There was only one real possibility; that which was actualized. The rest remain alternatives. The hard determinist confuses no one. It is Marvin’s make-believe world that is confusing to him and to others that follow him.

Rehabilitation only makes sense in a determinist world. It is here that training, environmental change- both physical and mental are believed to have an influence on how a person acts. In the world of Marvin where freewill runs amok, what is the use of rehabilitation when today one can do this and tomorrow a totally different thing. It is impossible in such a world to talk of a person’s character.

For the time being, this will be my last response to Marvin’s claims of compatibilism.

To qualify to volunteer can be

well, very difficult, maybe harder than applying for a job and especially if you are an atheist.

That mind boggling oddity called the Creation Museum run by Ken Ham is asking for volunteers.

And because I am not applying, I will answer the questions the best way we know how

1. How does one get to heaven when they die?

If you are Muslim, you can go on a pegasus. As a Christian, I don’t know if they have heavenly transport
2. Why do you believe YOU will go to heaven when you die?

I have no such belief, but if there is a heaven, I believe the god in charge would allow all in
3. What would cause anyone to go to hell?

Believing in the wrong god when the god in charge of hell is an asshole
4. Do you believe suffering in hell is eternal?

I think the person who asked this question is deranged
5. What do you believe to be the main difference between Christianity and other religions?

Christians, Catholics especially, wear torture devices around their necks as a sign of devotion
6. Do you believe the earth is thousands of years old or millions of years or does it matter? Explain your thoughts.

Is this still being debated in 2015?
7. “I believe that the ONLY legitimate marriage sanctioned by God and given in Scripture is the joining of one natural born man and one natural born woman. All other unions are contrary to clear Biblical teaching.” Do you agree with this statement or disagree?

Which is this? Marrying the girl you just raped? Or having as many wives/ concubines as you can? Or having the husband of the woman you desire killed? I am spoilt for choice.
8. Please provide a brief statement regarding your Christian Testimony of Salvation.

I was sleeping then one day I woke up and so all this religion was man made. That was my best day, I can’t recall what day it was.
9. Please provide a brief statement of your position regarding Creation.

I only know mould/ transform
10. Please provide a brief statement about your position as relates to the inspiration, inerrancy (100% accuracy) of the Bible as the ONLY true Word of God.

Negative. It is not inerrant and it is not a word of a god so far as I can tell
11. How would you respond to someone who said “The Koran or the Book of Mormon are equally the Word of God.”?

Who gives a fuck
12. Please confirm that you have a valid email address with regular access and confirm that you will periodically check email for forms and information from AiG.

It would be great if AiG does not contact me.

Try your luck friends, you may just be granted an opportunity to serve as a volunteer in a madhouse.

is atheism good

The author of this post asks at the beginning of the post

Is religious faith normal, natural, or desirable? Does it serve an important function in the life of man, or is it, rather, an aggregation of pernicious superstitions, designed to soothe timid souls and blind man to truth by retarding his development?

I think religion is not desirable and serves no important function in life. It divides, rather than unites humanity.

Unlike this author who thinks Jean Messlier’s critique of religion and the Jesus character is bitterness, I think it was accurate.

And Messlier is right when he writes

The nations where this fiction is established, are they remarkable for the morality of their conduct?…We see haughty tyrants, courtiers, countless extortioners, unscrupulous magistrates, imposters, adulterers, libertines, prostitutes, thieves, and rogues of all kinds, who have never doubted the existence of a vindictive God, or the punishments of hell, or the joys of Paradise.

And all one need do is look at those countries or leaders who claim to be such ardent believers in deities to confirm the sentiments of Messlier.

And in proposing abolishing privilege, Messlier is not the first. Lycurgus did this in ancient Greece with success. People ate in common, it was worthless to have gold and such things. I don’t see how making such a suggestion not criticizing religion translates to bitterness and resentment. It is probably true that Messlier didn’t like his profession but that is not a reason to discredit his ideas. And that the communist experiment in the Soviet Union and that country led by Un failed is not reason to dismiss communism.

To say of him

His opinions about religion epitomize all the myopia common to materialism and atheism. He forgets the profoundly inspirational qualities of faith; he ignores religion’s storehouse of literature, myth, and consoling rituals; and he entirely forgets the critical importance of religion in passing on a culture’s moral values.

is to me uncalled for and untrue. Messlier was a religious man writing about religion. To claim his ideas are myopic is either to be unacquainted with his ideas or to desire to deliberately mislead. Religion is not the only repository for myth and art besides no one denies that a lot of literature we have has been religious but that doesn’t mean that in its absence the same wouldn’t be possible. And in his tract, Messlier is not concerned with promoting chimeras. It is his purpose to attack these chimeras that hold populations captive to priesthood and superstition.

I think, unlike his interlocutor, Messlier had a great understanding of human nature. He writes

We may be asked if atheism can suit the multitude? I reply, that every system which demands discussion is not for the multitude. What use is there, then, in preaching atheism? It can at least make those who reason, feel that nothing is more extravagant than to make ourselves uneasy, and nothing more unjust than to cause anxiety to others on account of conjectures, destitute of all foundation. As to the common man, who never reasons, the arguments of an atheist are no better suited to him than a philosopher’s hypothesis, an astronomer’s observations, a chemist’s experiments, a geometer’s calculations, a physician’s examinations, an architect’s designs, or a lawyer’s pleadings, who all labor for the people without their knowledge.

If this doesn’t show at least an awareness of human nature, then I don’t know what does. And I think it is the height of arrogance to say

Had he understood the nature of man more deeply, he would have understood that only philosophers and saints can be induced to do good by appeals to reason alone; for the average man, only the fears of eternal damnation will keep his baser instincts in check. Religion is the best unsleeping sentry created by history.

Contrary to the above false assertion, Messlier writes

Religious opinions, according to daily experience, produce much more evil than good; they are injurious, because they very often agree with the passions of tyrants, fanatics, and priests; they produce no effect, because they have not the power to balance the present interests of the majority of men. Religious principles are always put aside when they are opposed to ardent desires; without being incredulous, they act as if they believed nothing. We risk being deceived when we judge the opinions of men by their conduct or their conduct by their opinions. A very religious man, notwithstanding the austere and cruel principles of a bloody religion, will sometimes be, by a fortunate inconsistency, humane, tolerant, moderate; in this case the principles of his religion do not agree with the mildness of his disposition. A libertine, a debauchee, a hypocrite, an adulterer, or a thief will often show us that he has the clearest ideas of morals

The OP concludes, about Messlier’s Testament,

It is, perhaps, the best admonition against the danger of living an unfulfilled life that has yet been produced.

I however think it is one of the best tomes against religion ever produced, accessible to the public, clear and concise in its argumentation and above all else a great gift to his parish and humanity as a whole.

Be the judge, but as for me, I agree with Messlier.

an open letter to a

Dear theist,

thank you for your letter that you wrote to us. It was well received. From it you said you were a secular humanist but you left. If you don’t mind my asking, what was your understanding of secular humanism and why did you leave?

What in the philosophy of secular humanism did you find most untenable? Is it embrace of human reason, ethics and philosophical naturalism or is it the rejection of religious dogma, pseudoscience and superstition that you didn’t like?

Or is it the claim that  human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god that you most disagree with? I hope you will be kind enough to indulge me.

As to your question, you ask what is the meaning of life? You say this question is fundamental and being that it has been asked by several generations of humans, I will take it to be so. Do you ask about all life or just human life? In my time I have seen men, mostly men, kill other life forms for pleasure. I am sure you heard of Cecil. Do these lives matter or do they exist for the pleasure of men? I digress. Life is to be lived. Trees have life, they grow and then die. Animals live and then die. We are unfortunate. We find ourselves in an absurd universe with the faculty for reflection. And we often think every question that occurs to us is answerable.

This is not to evade your question but to point out the futility of asking it. Maybe we should start by answering what is life before we get to what is the meaning of life. I hope you can shed some light on what is life?

In your letter you mention Belgium and it’s suicide rates and laid the blame on secular humanism. Assuming for a moment you are right and secular humanism is to blame, what is your argument against suicide? Who’s to decide when a person should quit this life? Does the alarm you raise about the low birth rate have anything to do with your Catholicism that sees women as breeders or something close? Or is it intellectual? I would love to know why you decry low birth rates.

You say the fatal flaw in secular humanism is its attempt to give meaning where there is none and me wonders really whether you thought about this statement fully. How it would be a flaw?

Your final question is unclear.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours naturalist and secular humanist.

On moral responsibilty

Marvin writes in his recent post

[..]Rehabilitative penalties presume a person with free will. A person with free will autonomously chooses for themselves what they will do. Education, skills training, counseling, and post-release programs like Offender Aid and Restoration open up new and better possibilities for the prisoner upon release. The goal is a changed person, someone who will make appropriate choices of their own free will.


Before I respond to his claims, let us first dispense with matters definitions. In the SEP, they write

to be morally responsible for something, say an action, is to be worthy of a particular kind of reaction—praise, blame, or something akin to these—for having performed it

This is an interesting topic. It relates to the question of determinism and how in a deterministic world can a person be morally responsible.

Below is an argument against moral responsibility, by Galen Strawson, that says what I would have said better.

(1) It is undeniable that one is the way one is, initially, as a result of heredity and early experience, and it is undeniable that these are things for which one cannot be held to be in any responsible (morally or otherwise).

(2) One cannot at any later stage of life hope to accede to true moral responsibility for the way one is by trying to change the way one already is as a result of heredity and previous experience.

For (3) both the particular way in which one is moved to try to change oneself, and the degree of one’s success in one’s attempt at change, will be determined by how one already is as a result of heredity and previous experience.

And (4) any further changes that one can bring about only after one has brought about certain initial changes will in turn be determined, via the initial changes, by heredity and previous experience.

(5) This may not be the whole story, for it may be that some changes in the way one is are traceable not to heredity and experience but to the influence of indeterministic or random factors.

But it is absurd to suppose that indeterministic or random factors, for which one is ex hypothesin no way responsible, can in themselves contribute in any way to one’s being truly morally responsible for how one is. The claim, then, is not that people cannot change the way they are. They can, in certain respects (which tend to be exaggerated by North Americans and underestimated, perhaps, by Europeans). The claim is only that people cannot be supposed to change themselves in such a way as to be or become truly or ultimately morally responsible for the way they are, and hence for their actions. pdf

For further reading

Determinism, freewill and moral responsibility

Moral responsibility and determinism [ I just skimmed through this article]