Irreligion: Book Review #5

While reading Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, I had some extremely mixed feelings. Not about the ideas presented, but about the book itself. Now for the most part there is no new material really presented in this book that you couldn’t get from any other atheistic writer, however there are some new ways of viewing the material at hand.

The author of Irreligion is a mathematician by the name of John Allen Paulos, Professor of Mathematics at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, known for his writings on Mathematic literacy. Now with those credentials one realizes that a man like this is quite intelligent, but then asks them self, “What does he know about religion?” Well truth is, Paulos presents the idea that using pure logic to see how a God doesn’t fit, is key to realizing what reality and unreality, truly is.

The average reader will go into this book and will easily pick up the basic ideas from each chapter, but Paulos will likely lose them when he begins to talk in Mathematic lingo, at times alienating the reader if they do not have an in-depth knowledge in the field of mathematics. Though he refrains from using many formulas, he does tend to create hypothetical equations in which variables are used to show, rationally, why certain things, such as divinity, miracles, etc. are just not supernatural.

The fast pace of this book is rather nice when it comes to the mathematics involved. When one is presented with something that is a bit too dense, there is a bright side: the book moves on from that topic rather quickly. Each chapter is relatively short, often less than 10 pages, but it does seem that some chapters are unnecessarily repetitive of earlier parts of the book.

Overall the concept of this book is cool, but the execution is tough. Paulos manages to create a book for those that have a more technical thought process, while he also teaches the reader to think more critically. Recommending this book is tough, its not an easy read, but it should not be overlooked, because it is rather rewarding.

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Existential Quote of the Week: May 1 – 7

“In life man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing. No doubt this thought may seem harsh to someone who has not made a success of his life. But on the other hand, it helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes, and futile expectations.”

-Jean-Paul Sartre

“The Bible says not to kill yet many Christians support the death penalty”, CARM defends this view.

In this I article I would like to address a post that was created on CARM.ORG. CARM is the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, an organization devoted to the defense of the Christian gospel and ideologies. The post I’d like to address is a CARM writer’s response to an email written concerning Christians and their support of the death penalty. The email reads:

” The Bible says it is forbidden to kill, yet many Christians in America support the death penalty and order wars and bombs which kill tens of thousands, yet this is somehow rationalized and an excuse is made as to how this does not violate Christianity, when it plainly does.”

This is a very serious statement and is quite hard to address when dealing with the “turn the other cheek” principle and forgiveness that Jesus taught. Is it Biblically moral for a Christian (a New Testament following Christian) to believe that the killing of a person who has committed a crime, is just?

The response to this email is blurred by word play, but in the end the conclusion is:

“Furthermore, murder is the unlawful taking of life. Killing is the lawful taking of life. Therefore, in the issue of taking life we must determine whether or not is lawful or not. If a murderer is sentenced to death in a lawful manner via the law of the land, then it is not murder.”

With this conclusion one can see immediate problems, starting with the assumption that there is a lawful and unlawful taking of life. This is then followed up by saying that the lawfulness of taking a life is determined by the ‘law of the land’, thus immediately raising the question “Does this in turn justify Sha’ria law also?”

Not only does the statement made by the writer of this article, produced by CARM.org, suggest that the taking of life can be lawful, it also condones revenge.

“[…]God gives us the right of self-defense and sometimes in that self-defense, it is necessary to kill someone.”

Self-defense would be prohibiting something harmful from happening in the first place. Revenge is making a harmful action after the initial wrong has been done. And of these two categories, the death penalty would fall under the latter.

To follow a Christian principle of forgiveness, murder cannot be justified, but if one feels so inclined to quote an obscure Old Testament verse that condones war or violence or murder, and rape for that matter, then remember this, using a holy scripture to justify your actions can go both ways. Any person who thinks it is lawful to take your life can be justified by scripture also.

Murder and Killing are two terms for the same act, taking ones life. Does either term seem less violent? No, Killing is Murder, Murder is Killing, they are one in the same. However, it is no surprise that Christian Fundamentalists do not share this view.

Thoughts on the Death of Osama Bin Laden

On May 1st, relatively late into the night, the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death was released to the world, thus radiating celebratory noise in the streets of New York City and Washington D.C. This finally brought some closure to the families that suffered from the extreme pain caused to them by the loss of their loved ones back in 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked by suicide bombers, along with the Pentagon.

With over three thousand lives lost on the bright morning of September 11th, 2001, people have yearned for some sort of justice to be done on behalf of their great loss. And finally after almost an entire decade this justice has been brought. And I would like to show great happiness for those families, and hope that this has brought some sort of relief to them.

When I heard the first reports of this, I did not believe it, but immediately I turned on the TV and quickly went to CNN’s website, to see none other than the headlines of “Osama Bin Laden, the face of terror, killed in Pakistan” and soon to follow the headlines, President Obama addressed the nation, explaining what exactly happened and telling the American people to stay ‘vigilant’ when it comes to defending against the forces of Al-Qaeda.

The full speech is available here.

We have overcome a great hurdle as a nation by the removal of such a strong force in the world of terror, and I would like to show recognition to each of the men and women in the military that have put forth effort to bring relief to the people of the United States.

Though I do not condone war in any form, nor revenge, I do not wish to denounce the fact that there were many people who suffered because of this man. If there was a way other than murder for this to be carried out, I would have supported that whole-heartedly. I do however, believe that this needed to be done one way or another, and that closure has finally come for the families affected.

Articles and Videos:

CNN –Osama bin Laden, face of terror, killed in Pakistan

CNN –How U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden

CNN –Celebrations at Ground Zero

Fox News –Usama Bin Laden Killed in Firefight With U.S. Special Ops Team in Pakistan

Fox News –President George W. Bush Congratulates Obama on Bin Laden Killing

Fox News –Bin Laden’s Death Ends Life of Terror

NPR – Osama Bin Laden is Dead; President Tells Nation “Justice has been done”

NPR –Bin Laden: From Millionaire’s Son to Most-Wanted 

NPR –Bush, Others Hail Bin Laden’s Death

Geotic

Geotic is the Electronic/Ambient musical project of Will Wiesenfeld, also known for his work as Baths, which he recently returned to after neglecting it since 2008. With his minimalistic style he manages to create wonderful landscapes that engulf your sense. Using a range of sound and loops accompanied with electric guitar  he is able to create a thought provoking atmospheric sound with lo-fi perfection.

Wiesenfeld has made his entire Geotic discography free to download here. However, there is also an option to donate, which I encourage everyone to do!

His newest, self-released, full length album, Mend grabbed the attention of Pitchfork and was reviewed with a 7.4. (Which is about as good as an ACTUAL artist will get when it comes to Pitchfork, considering Pitchfork rated Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a perfect 10.0 and named it album of the year in 2010(this still makes me cringe.)) Though Pitchfork does not cater as much to an artist like Will Wiesenfeld, it was some positive attention, which planted a seed and brought in some new fans.

Cover art of Geotic's album, Mend

I know I don’t usually blog about music, but I think the addition of music to the blog is not a bad idea considering it consumes a large portion of my time and energy. So there will be more in the future.

Existential Quote of the Week: April 24 – 30

“One’s own free unfettered choice, one’s own caprice, however wild it may be, one’s own fancy worked up at times to frenzy — is that very “most advantageous advantage” which we have overlooked, which comes under no classification and against which all systems and theories are continually being shattered to atoms. And how do these wiseacres know that man wants a normal, a virtuous choice? What has made them conceive that man must want a rationally advantageous choice? What man wants is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead. And choice, of course, the devil only knows what choice.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Notes from Underground)