The Nonexistence of Religious Morality

In a recent essay for a religion survey course I wrote that “If there are good teachings or moral ideas in the Bible or in the words of Jesus, they are good independent of their source and to rely on someone else’s teaching for your own morality is to be amoral.” My professor wrote a comment on my essay asking: “…what about when people motivated by religious ethics do really good things like the Civil Rights Movement? …are they amoral even if their cause is good?” By way of responding, I’d like to consider the classic “trolley problem” of ethics. Here’s the Wikipedia summary of this thought experiment:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You do not have the ability to operate the lever in a way that would cause the trolley to derail without loss of life (for example, holding the lever in an intermediate position so that the trolley goes between the two sets of tracks, or pulling the lever after the front wheels pass the switch, but before the rear wheels do). You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the correct choice?

Like many thought experiments in ethics, there is no “right” answer; both are pretty terrible options. The important part of the trolley problem is that the subject is forced to make a moral decision and is subsequently forced to examine the moral reasoning process that led them to that decision. For example, many would say that saving as many lives as possible is the most moral decision, others might say that the active participation in the death of the individual by pulling the lever implicates them in a murder. Both are valid concerns given the situation. [Read more…]

The Bizarre Case of Bethany Paquette and Amaruk Wilderness Corp.

Originally I wanted to post about this solely for the sake of one great quote in the first article I read about it:

Amundsen then used an expletive to state that if he met God, he would have sex with him.

I went in search of more information about the story and it’s one of those things where the more I learned the less I knew. For starters, Bethany Paquette, a graduate of anti-gay Trinity Western University in British Columbia applied for a job at Amaruk Wilderness Corp. that she was admittedly not qualified for. She was rejected on this basis but the rejection email from Olaf Amundsen of the company added that the company was opposed to the anti-gay stances of Trinity and wouldn’t consider hiring students from the school anyway. It’s an unprofessional, dickish move that wasn’t necessary and that Paquette rightly objected to. An email exchange followed,and Paquette filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. She’s claiming that she was discriminated against on religious grounds and the company is arguing that she was rejected because of her lack of credentials. [Read more…]

Christian Critics Struggle to Love Left Behind

Left Behind is currently rocking a 12 percent on MetaCritic, which makes it one of the most unlovable movies of the year. The Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, Chicago Tribune, and New York Daily News all gave it a big fat zero, but a handful of religious critics worked hard to find some positivity. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

Bob Hoose from pluggedin.com managed to give it four out of five plugs:

Left Behind doesn’t leave us with an altar call. Nor does it leave your knuckles white after you watch the disaster unfold. But you can’t watch it without wondering what’s up with your own spiritual condition.

“The content is not objectionable” isn’t exactly a rave review, but Left Behind picked up three out of four stars from Movieguide.org.

Not all Christians expect the pre-tribulation Rapture presented in the movie, but most do expect the Second Coming of Jesus. To its credit the movie profoundly presents the question “are you ready?” The script and execution could have been better, but the content is not objectionable, and the message profound.

Raphael Vera’s review on christiananswers.net is nearly 1600 words long and is punctuated with 3.5/5 stars. But how many of those stars were “for effort”?

“Left Behind” is a decently made, taut and suspenseful drama with enough humor to keep it interesting, but the small budget, by Hollywood measures, gives it a small screen (TV) quality that is occasionally hard to ignore. Messaging, however, is excellent (as far as it goes), and it made me wish this had instead been produced as a year-long TV series, as I do believe it deserves high marks for effort, though slightly lower for execution.

Christian Hamaker from crosswalk.com was brutally honest:

While those constraints keep the new Left Behind from ever rising above mediocrity, the film is, for a while, tolerable. Then comes a horrendous final 30 minutes, which play like a bad TV show. Theological quandaries, never given detailed exploration amid the confusion experienced by the passengers on Ray’s plane, yield to stock disaster-movie tropes and an absurd finale. Although the filmmakers seem to think they’ve delivered a genuinely terrifying conclusion, the only frightening moment is an utterance from one surviving character: “I’m afraid this is just the beginning.”

Here’s an actual quote from dove.org’s review:

“Left Behind” (2014) has earned five Doves from The Dove Foundation, our best rating. It is entertaining, suspenseful, and will motivate viewers to examine their own lives.

Jackson Cuidon from christianitytoday.com “tried to give the film zero stars, but our tech system won’t allow it.” So, the movie ended with one star (out of four). Though, the user reviews place the film’s score at three out of four stars.

But my favorite review came from a MetaCritic user who successfully employed the phrase “down on Christianity.”

The movie was obviously not on a big budget and had some of the cliche “action movie” stunts in it, but overall the movie was very good. If you are down on Christianity, you will most likely rate this movie low. If you love Jesus, you will most likely like it.

Reza Aslan Doesn’t Understand Atheists

 

I wouldn’t mind this week’s rant wars about “is Islam a bad idea?” if there was an actual discussion taking place. But it doesn’t seem to me like Reza Aslan and Ben Affleck have actually been listening to what Maher and Harris are arguing; they certainly haven’t addressed the Pew polling that Maher tried to bring up in the clip below. Recently Aslan wrote an opinion column for the New York Times in which he makes clear how little he understands the atheistic arguments against both religion in general and Islam in particular. He does this by neatly articulating many of the reasons why I hate religion while attempting to defend it. [Read more…]

Ben Affleck VS. Sam Harris and Bill Maher

Ben Affleck is enjoying some social media flattery after butting heads with Sam Harris and Bill Maher last week.

This is the kind of conversation that I actually have a difficult time taking sides on. I definitely don’t have the stomach to support Affleck’s wide-eyed version of reality, where mainstream Islam preaches gender equality and tolerance. That’s just not the case.

But I also have a hard time with westerners foisting their value system on other countries. So, it bothers me when people like Harris and Maher argue that we need to promote change within another country’s society.

That being said, I would probably end up sitting on the Maher/Harris side of the table.

At the end of the day, Maher and Harris are arguing for human rights and Affleck is simply calling everyone racist, which doesn’t really address the issue.

If you think I’m an idiot, let me know in the comments. Seriously. I’ll happily change my stance if the argument is solid.

Kent Hovind is Back In Court

Hovind

I’m usually not the sympathetic type when it comes to religious shysters ending up behind bars, but I’m starting to feel bad for Kent Hovind. Back in August, Hovind was relocated to a Santa Rosa County Jail so the state of Florida could run him through the legal system yet again.

Hovind’s latest judicial bugaboo revolves around his inability to pay off his governmental debt while incarcerated. I’m not a lawyer, but it sounds like the state of Florida registered an injunction against Creation Science Evangelism, Hovind’s former ministry, which prohibited the company from filing liens agains some Hovind-owned real estate. But that didn’t stop them from filing a lis pendens lien.

“Lis pendens” is a bit of legalese that only effects real estate. From what I can tell, it means that whoever purchases the property from the government would be responsible for any outstanding lawsuits, severely reducing the value of the real estate. Here’s a snippet from wikipedia:

Recording a lis pendens against a piece of property alerts a potential purchaser or lender that the property’s title is in question, which makes the property less attractive to a buyer or lender. After the notice is filed, anyone who nevertheless purchases the land or property described in the notice takes subject to the ultimate decision of the lawsuit.

Since the state of Florida already had an injunction against Creation Science Evangelism’s lien-filing ability, Hovind is, apparently, in contempt.

Hovind’s son, Eric, posted an update on his dad’s blog back in August, but his description of the problem doesn’t exactly match the court’s filings. Here’s what Eric said:

The prosecution obtained approval from Judge Rodgers to press more criminal charges. These allegations purport that the appeals, motions, and lawsuits filed by Kent Hovind are “frivolous” and that they have “encumbered” the government.

Obviously, I have no idea how it all went down, but if Hovind intentionally filed this lien, he’s got super huge balls. He had to know about the injunction, which means that he’s either purposefully trolling the government or he’s ignorant about how the legal system works. Either way, he’ll be back in court next month.

Right now, he’s scheduled to be released on August 10, 2015, but it might be a while before we see him in the wild.

Source: Forbes, Kent Hovind’s Blog

Hi Kirk.

 

Various news outlets have reported this, but the headline over at CBS News really captures it well: “Bizarre dinosaur with jaws like a crocodile, feet like a duck unveiled“. I doubt Mr. Cameron will eat his words, an ability creationists didn’t evolve with, but that doesn’t mean we can’t revel in how beautifully ironic this creature is.

Back in the Habit

Back In The HabitIt’s been far too long since any of us has spent some quality time with Crocoduck.com, and that’s a terrible tragedy. Someday, maybe I’ll go into detail about why we decided to take a few steps back, or maybe I’ll just wait until Larry King asks for an interview. Either way, we’re back in action.

We’ve got some cool plans in the works, and we’re adding a few writers to the rosters. So, check back often, because we’ll probably have something snarky to say.

 

Ryan Crocoduck’s New Year’s Challenge

Hey everybody, Happy New Year!

Social media is a tricky beast. It can do a really great job of keeping people connected across continents and introducing us to new things as our friends share them. However, it can also serve to spread misinformation at incredible speeds and its buffet style approach to information sharing can create an echo chamber where we only see posts we already agree with.

Last year saw a number of hoaxes get shared millions of times in a matter of days. Fake news sites attempting (and failing miserably) to emulate the Onion generated articles that were taken as fact and spread around the social media platforms. Meanwhile, it seems that topics of public discussion quickly turn into shouting matches with people on all sides of the issues regurgitating only what they’ve read in articles preselected to appeal to them. We are constantly feeding on information that confirms our beliefs, demonizes those who disagree with us, and values the rhetorical impact of a statement over its factual accuracy. When our carefully constructed information bubbles collide with another person’s bubble, chaos ensues and truth is often ignored.

Let’s try to stop that, ok? I offer this challenge both to myself and you: before you post, (re)tweet, share, like, or pass an article or video on to your peers, take some time to verify that the information it  contains is actually true. Don’t just click “like” because you agree with the headline. If it’s not worth your time to spend 5-10 minutes making sure that you’re not spreading false information, than it’s not worth posting it. If it’s about something political or about any topic where sides are taken, don’t just confirm with sources that agree with you. Go find out what the other side has to say about the information. It’s possible that sources friendly to your views are editing out or neglecting bits of information that run counter to the message they want to present. Be as critical of sources that agree with you as you are of sources that disagree with you. If you search and can’t find the facts, feel free to share the article in question and ask your friends, in particular the ones that disagree with you, to help you determine the truth.

So there you have it, that’s my challenge to you. Let’s honestly try our best this year to check our facts, be critical of articles that we agree with, and not post anything that we haven’t verified as true. Let’s make this year more informative and less reactionary than 2013.

-Ryan

Doing Science With Kevin Swanson

nobodybroughtupleviticus18I hate to break it to you godless nerds, but according to talk radio giant Kevin Swanson (of whom I had never heard until this story hit my news feed), Star Trek: Into Darkness is a pretty evil movie, because it’s all about having sex with aliens, which we all know never happened in the original series.

…and of course the whole premise of this is that within an evolutionary construct there is no real problem with speciation and cross-species mating, there’s no problem with that at all, in fact that’s how you evolve, that’s how you get evolution, and so the end result of course is that evolution has no basic problem with bestiality or cross-species mating.

And that, my friends, is how evolution works.  So glad he cleared that up for us.  And it’s awesome that he’s able to filter out all that other stuff to get to the heart of the movie – the sex scene between Kirk and a couple of hot alien babes. [Read more…]