Carolina Residents Confused, Terrified As Victorious Hurricane Players Riot In Streets! - From 'The Onion'

Money quote;

" Police chief Jane Perlov is reporting that the NHL club, which was known as the Hartford Whalers until moving to North Carolina in 1997 and has struggled to attract much local attention, "somehow gained access to Raleigh's RBC Center earlier Monday, engaged in some sort of ritualistic violence involving sticks and nets, and then proceeded to drink heavily before heading to their cars."

The rest of the article is a perfect lesson in the crafting of irony. I dare you to read it and not laugh out loud.

As to the series this year, I have several thoughts;

- The 'New' NHL style of hockey, utterly, totally, freakin' RULES.

Remember Anaheim V New Jersey? Snore. Fest. These playoffs? Dramatic is an understatement. We had end-to-end offense, lethal powerplays, awesome goaltending, hits, breakways, overtime drama, and some of the most likeable 'stars' (Smyth, Brind'Amour) and superstars (Pronger, Staal) showcase their abilities.

The difference between the two series is multi-fold;

1. The crack down on obstruction is real.

Teams (including both Carolina and Edmonton) still played the trap situationally, it has not vanished as a system, but the inability of defending players to 'slow' the opposition rush by using, picks, hooks, holds, 'sealing them off', etc. has broken it's back as a coach-friendly offense and attention span killer. The crack down has the side-effect of creating more powerplays, which means more offensive chances, and which means that teams have a greater incentive to play attacking styles that are more likely to draw penalties. All in all, the obstruction crack creates a feedback loop in favour of offense. It showed.

2. The goals were moved back to where they belong.

One structural change to the game that Bettman was guilty of initiating was the movement of the goalposts forward away from the boards. In his mind it would increase the flow of play behind the net, bring the nets closer to shooters, and improve offense.

He was dead wrong.

The actual effect it had was to shrink the defensive zone, making it easier for penalty killers to block shots, shut down passing lanes, and move from covering the point and the half-boards much faster and more efficiently. It also all but destroyed the ability of playmakers to set up behind the net. Now, with so much room back there, opposing players couldn't be scraped off using the net as a pick, and instead of players moving back there to organize the attack, it became almost exclusively an area from which wraparounds could be attempted.

Moving them back stretches the offensive zone, brtualizes penalty killers by forcing extra steps to shift coverage, and gives the offense more room to breathe. The overall effect is an upswing powerplay efficiency, something especially for teams that had good point men options.

3. Ditching the red-line.

Not as vital as the the items above, it nevertheless proved to be the other necessary element in reducing the effectiveness of the trap. The extra room attacking players have, not to mention the long bomb options it provides for, created two more elements of the positive feedback loop that unshackled the game.

Other random thoughts on the Finals

-Samsonov and Hemsky both teased their unreal skill level, but left me wanting more. Especially from Samsonov who often looked lost.

- Did anyone go from hero to goat back to indifference because they won than Corey Stillman? That roller coaster was something else he put us through.

- Did a team ever win with a weaker defense corps than Carolinas? Brett Hedican is the top guy? Really? With a Glenn Wesley who is older than Zeus? With of all people, Sasquatch Mike Commodore (who couldn't crack Calgary's D two years ago) logging massive ice-time for them? It was bizzarre, and yet it somehow worked.

- Pronger is unbelievably, delirously good. I think he could play the whole game and still just be breaking a sweat before overtime. His first pass was always money, and he hit Carolina forwards with authority the entire series. He was the essence of dominant, and was my clear choice for playoff MVP if Edmonton had pulled it off.

- Cam Ward has to have been a million to one long shot for the Conn Smythe at the start of the year, if not a billion to one. It certainly bumped him up to the high end of our draft next year. No prospect status, or RFA status for him, he's somebody's starter.

- So it's now the 'Anaheim Ducks'. Thats better. C'mon, it's a little better. Ok, it still sucks badly, but I kinda liked the look of their purple unis with the Anaheim in script cross the front, and at least they aren't a cartoon anymore.

-Prospect Predictions!

IF we change the rules (and I think we will), here is my list of what I think are the top players who have not played an NHL game.

Note, there are several players who HAVE played NHL games who would easily crack this top 12 list. However if we change the rules I suspect that instead of poaching prospects, these players would simply become the long-shot picks of choice for 3rd and 4th lines. Among these players I include; Steve Bernier of the Sharks, Dustin Penner of the Ducks and virtually all of the Buffalo forwards past the top two lines i.e. Jason Pominville.

Here then are my top 12

1. Phil Kessel-C USNDT

He simply didn't dominate as was expected, but the package of offensive talents can't be ignored. He's the best skater in the draft, and he has the best shot in the draft. His downsides are that he has more than a little prima donna to him, and his game at the WJC was rendered predictable by tight checking D men with size who don't bite on Kessel's outside-inside fakery.

Future impact: The bad news is he could plateau as a me-first selfish gunner ala Jeremy Roenick without the quick wit - which all things considered, isn't bad, but the good news is he has the talent to become a franchise calibre offensive force quickly. I see 50 goals a season in his future.

2. Jordan Staal-R Peterborough

The complete skill forward package, he's got the same genes for 'fear my wingspan' that his brother does at 6"4, he sees the ice well, and he has the smooth skating stride of a power winger. Rumours persist that Carolina will move Jack Johnson to the Penguins so that they can add Eric's little brother to the team. He's not the overwhelming skater that Kessel is, nor will he ever score goals at a similar clip, but Jordan should be a better playmaker, and team mate.

Future impact: 1st line playmaking winger ala Jason Allison before the concussions.

3. Bobby Ryan-Anaheim

A broad shouldered power forward with a quick release, and strong skating style, he's an offensive force and goal scorer in the making. A year older than the two prospects ahead of him, Ryan is also more likely to make his team, and have an impact sooner, but doesn't have the hype surrounding him that Kessel or Staal have going for them. The other concerns are two-fold, the first being that eternal question of whether he is on the Neely or May track - that is, whether he can develop and maintain an offensive touch in the bigs, and secondly, how long will we have to wait?(see: Bertuzzi, Iginla, Neely, etc. etc. for 'big man syndrome'). That all said, he's a tremendous talent in a good system with solid management and supporting perssonel in place (compared to say, St Louis), a gifted playmaker in future line-mate/prospect Corey Perry and his development isn't likely to be stunted by misuse or abuse.

Future impact: a bulldozer power forward in the mold of Bill Guerin and Brendan Shanahan.

4. Jonathon Toews-C North Dakota

An all-round offensive player, he lacks the upper gear of skating ability of Kessel, and doesn't have the size/genepool of a Jordan Staal, or the extra year of development like Ryan, and for me that is what keeps them as more attractive options, but otherwise there is nothing about Toews to sneeze at. Much of his movement up or down the list will depend on what NHL team he is selected by (Islanders=bad). He has better than average speed, playmaking and shot, he has great hockey sense, isn't afraid to be physical, and is responsible in his own end. Smart and affable, he also looks to be a solid citizen without head case baggage. All the scouting reports I've read remark on how well his game should translate to the next level as an offensive player.

Future impact: There is some Brad Richards in Toews game. And some Boyd Devereaux.

5. Jack Johnson-D Car

A phyical two-way defenseman, J-Johnson is the clear front-runner as FUNHL D-man prospect. He's also got great defensive presence and a nasty streak to him, which will mean he should make the big club sooner rather than later, and then stick. His offense may not show itself for a few years while he acclimates, but he has all the tools to be a top 4 defenseman for many, many years. However, the fact he declined to leave school and join the depleted Carolina defense corps in their run to the Stanley Cup may mean that Carolina won't find it hard to move him (say for the #2 overall pick so they can take Jordan Staal and do the Brian-Burke-brothers-B-better dance).

Future impact: a Wade Redden class two-way defenseman with an edge.

6. Niklas Backstrom-C Swe

A gritty, dynamic two way forward with exceptional skating ability, and heady offensive skills, Backstrom will be a little further under the radar for most FUNHL teams because of our lack of exposure to him. At least one scout I checked out had him as the top rated forward ahead of Kessel, but in part that was because his defensive game was the most developed of all the prospects, and because Backstrom displayed a toughness that makes him a dream for real world GMs, but doesn't necessarily translate well into the pure offense realm of the FUNHL.

Future impact: A Peter Stastny style two-way pivot if it all works out.

7. Justin Pogge-G Leafs

A big solid netminder with exceptional positioning and mental game, he outperformed everybody's expectations the last two years, going from afterthought walk-on as a junior rookie, to out of the blue all-star in the Dub, to backstopping Canada's WJC team. He may lack the atheleticism of other goaltending prospects (Rask), but the package of size and smarts that he brings, as well as the opportunity he will have in Toronto to be a starter sooner rather than later, make him the top goaltender on my prospect draft board.

8. Michael Frolic-R/L Czech

A strapping winger with exceptional playmaking ability, above average speed and size, and a whistling wrist shot, two years ago Frolic was the consensus prediction for top pick in this years draft. How times have changed. He stalled in his development this past year, in part because he grew two inches and added 20lbs to his developing frame, and because he had a horrible start to his season that didn't see him get rolling as an offensive force until the second half was well under way. Scouts who comment on his performance after the half-way point have returned to seeing him as a potentially high-end offensive force and first line winger. Frolic doesn't have a high gear ratio and he can't skate with the burners, but he does have massive leg drive and acceleration that makes him a handful coming off the wall, his stickhandling is superb, but his slap shot isn't overwhelming, yet. He seems to have regained his co-ordination and is back on track as far as his scoring is concerned. All in all he's got massive potential, but it isn't clear that the whole package will eventually gel into a dominant performer.

Future impact: his offensive game has a ceiling as high as Bertuzzi's (he'll never be in the same league as a hitter to Bertuzzi though) or he could remain a teasingly enigmatic washout like Roman Oksiuta. He's truly a boom/bust prospect, and the risk with him is that it might not be apparent which of those paths he is on until after several years of waiting (see: Viktor Kozlov, Milan Kraft and Jason Bonsignore as the posterchildren for boom/bust that took forever to diagnose correctly as 'bust', and Ollie Jokinen as a prime example of a big man taking his time to find his game and then going 'boom'). The team that selects him will also make a difference as to where he is picked.

9. Eric Johnson-D USNDT

He's big, strong, mean, and has a thunderous point shot. He's as a complete phyiscal package defenseman as has come down the pipe in some time. Three concerns will affect him for prospect lists; what team will he go to, how long will it take for him to dominate, and will he end up being converted into a defensive defensman (ala Chris Phillps)? Similar in size, attributes, and even university program to current Canadiens defender Mike Komisarek, E-Johnson could be an immediate contributer or take forever to put his tools into the same toolbox. Is very raw by FUNHL standards and will require patience.

Future impact: He reminds me of Rob Blake, including the prolonged incubation period required.

10. Alexander Radulov-R/L Nsh

A high octane skill winger, Radulov has been putting up excellent numbers in the AHL and played a scoring role for the Russian teams at the WJC and Worlds. He lacks a size component to make him fearsome, but his swift skating and quick shot release are what will get him a job in the NHL. Playing on the powerlay or on a line with Paul Kariya won't hurt him either. As a skill gunner, he has too many flaws (lack of elite balance, size, defensive ability, etc.) that I just don't see him making the grade as a top liner, but he is an excellent prospect even if he ends up a second line complimentary scorer rather than a 1st line threat.

Future impact: above average 2nd line scoring threat ala Corey Stillman

11. Guillame Latendresse-L Mtl

His pre-season last year was an eye-opener, with Latendresse flashing a high skill level to go with his still developing power-winger frame. Suffers from big-man development syndrome (prolonged by a shoulder injury to start his year), and maybe a true project, but he has put up serious number s in junior despite his average at best WJC. Skating speed is now the only serious concern, as the rest of the package, including a wicked shot and lots of 'fear my wingspan' moves is falling into place.

Future impact: he's definitely a 2nd line play-making winger with size, but is that just Oleg Kvasha/Nik Antropov, or can he eventually get to a 30-G, 50A ppg level of offense? Will get a legitimate shot in Montreal and be given every opportunity to put numbers up, but it may take time.

12. Dustin Boyd-C Cgy

He's got a magic combination as far as Calgary's GM Sutter is concerned, he's equal parts skill and sandpaper. Boyd was a two-way dynamo for Canada's WJC squad, showing an all-round game with few obvious downsides. At worst he's Kris Draper, but he reminds me more of a Mike Peca style agitating playmaker. Calgary's lack of skilled forwards coming up the pipe-line might also push his development curve, and finally, given the number of Calgary based Gms who will see Boyd in exhibition and pre-season play, I simply can't believe he won't find a home in the top 12 picks.

Honourable mentions;

Peter Mueller-C USNDT - middle weight power winger ala Gary Roberts/Ryan Smyth

Ivan Vishnevski - QMJHL - pure offensive defenseman, lacks polish

Bob Sanguinetti-D USNDT - Mike Van Ryn part II

Ben Shutron-D Kingston - Rafalski-ish

Tukka Rask-G Tor - will battle with Pogge

Ilya Zubov-C Rus - reminds me of Datsyuk

Alexei Emelin-D Mtl - the 'evil' Darius Kasparaitis has a clone

Chris Stewart-R Kingston - see: Anthony Stewart, power winger prospect in Fla. Has played some linebacker.

Kyle Okposo-R USNDT: another in a string of power wingers the Americans have developed.

Andrew Coyne explains why Hockey Rules, and other sports Suck

I don't always agree with Coyne, but on this topic, he's got it right.

Money Quote;

"You’re looking for a suitable trophy for your major-league sporting event? Ask yourself these questions. Can you remember its name? (I don’t even know what they give the NBA winners.) Can you drink champagne out of it? Does it have engraved upon it the names of every team and every player to ever win it?"

The rest is equally pithy - enjoy!


FUNHL Fuel for thought and Bar Bets!!!

Who is more deserving of the Hall of Fame, Dale Hawerchuk or Glenn Anderson?

Adjusting for the era they played, who is more dominant, Howe, or Gretzky?

Would you rather have Bourque, Orr or MacInnis if you compared apples to apples?

This link takes you to a land we poolies know, understand and remain ever fearful of;

Hockey Stats.



Ballet Suharto L Dopa

I've long (20 years now) maintained that Tom Ellard is a twisted genius. This video, I believe, is all the proof I need.

Friday Round Up

Well as you may have noticed, I have figured out how to attach video files to my blog by using the 'You Tube' site.

I am nothing short of blown away by it - and as such I highly reccomend that everybody give You Tube some love and affection. Any site that will let me upload a live performance by Godspeed You Black Emperor! of a song that has never been released as an album track, well they deserve every accolade there is (a severed heads video is coming next!).

First up;

The Science of Gay Animals

Money Quote:

Giraffes have all-male orgies. So do bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, gray whales, and West Indian manatees. Japanese macaques, on the other hand, are ardent lesbians; the females enthusiastically mount each other. Bonobos, one of our closest primate relatives, are similar, except that their lesbian sexual encounters occur every two hours. Male bonobos engage in "penis fencing," which leads, surprisingly enough, to ejaculation. They also give each other genital massages. As this list of activities suggests, having homosexual sex is the biological equivalent of apple pie: Everybody likes it. At last count, over 450 different vertebrate species could be beheaded in Saudi Arabia."

Nature it seems, refuses to conform to any of our sexual predjudices. That said, over at Pharyngula, PZ Myers takes the author to task for some of her conclusions on sexual selection.

Does supporting Gay Marriage make religious objectors into Bigots?

“Once sexual orientation is conceptualized as a protected legal status on par with race, traditional religions that condemn homosexual conduct will face increasing legal pressure regardless of what courts do about marriage itself.” She predicts, “people and groups who oppose same-sex marriage will soon be treated by society and the law the way we treat racists.” - Maggie Gallagher

I admit that on a personal level, I think it does, and I think deservedly so. It's one thing to have a religious objection to something (say, eating pork products), but its quite another to have a religious conviction that someone else is a second class citizen. There are solutions to how to avoid this problem, and they are (of course) rooted in the precepts of liberalism and liberty.

Jonathon Rowe, writing at Postive Liberty has perhaps the best (if most flippant) response:

"We pro-gay rights folks promise to treat you anti-gay people at least as well as you have treated gay people. Enjoy. And remember, you’re always free to change your lifestyle choice."

A lengthier (and less confrontational) response from Rowe to Gallagher's concern is here. Fellow Positive Liberty writer
Jason Kuznicki also writes on the issue here, and makes the case that the proper analogy for tolerance of gay rights isn't the civil rights issue of race, but rather the respectful tolerance required for different religions to co-exist as private, rather than civil matters.

Gender Politics

feminist finally points out the obvious, that reclaiming the word 'Vagina' isn't any big deal, the real task is to reclaim the word 'Cunt'. (I can't believe I just typed that word into my blog...sorry Mom!)

A Killer Rythym

An article by the relatively unknown philosopher Luc Bovens that points out how the Catholic Church's preferred method of birth control, the 'rythym method' may actually terminate more pregnancies than abortion doctors, has touched off a firestorm of controversy among right to lifers and anti-birth control forces. Ha!

A Christian Defense of Sodomy?

I can't decide whether this is a spoof, or not.

Do you have the 'Horny Gene'?

I suspect strongly that I do. I also suspect that I got it from both parents. Finally, I suspect that neither would deny this possibility all that strenuously.

For all you comic geeks, Doctor Octopus is coming soon to a robotics lab near you.

For all you sci-fi geeks watching Battlestar Galactica, the burning question is, is Baltar a Cylon?

Finally, The sceptic in me couldn't resist posting this review of how fake psychic John Edwards bombs out doing 'cold readings' on Larry King Live.
Godspeed You Black Emperor! - The Albanian

The video is long (9+minutes) so it may take a while to load.


Spock's Crib


Red Five joins the Theological Debate

My good buddy 'Red Five' posted the following commentary to my takedown of the Jewish Philosopher, and I found the questions he raised to be important enough to warrant a full post reply. I have edited it slightly for brevity (which I might add, is ironically not my own strong suit), but hopefully not in any way that impacts his points;

So here it is!


If atheism is the absence of belief, how do we know if babies are atheists? We certainly cannot profess to know what their emerging brain wave patterns represent in terms of thought content, espcially as they lack a language construct around which to form said content. But can we say that a baby does not have any inherent belief? Depends perhaps on how one defines belief. Certainly they possess the "belief" that they are hungry, or wet, or tired etc. If by belief, however, we mean to say "faith", do we know with certainty that a growing child, unexposed to any concept of religion, will not come to believe or develop faith in something independently?


AR: For clarity's sake, Atheism is the lack of supernatural belief, not the lack of any beliefs at all. I have no doubt that babies believe things, the question is do they believe supernatural things?

The evidence seems clear to me that babies aren't born with any inherent religious concepts - i.e. it seems to be prima facie the case that you aren't born a Mormom or Zoroastrian, but rather that you are taught to believe in Mormonism or Zoroastrianism (imagine the amusing confusion that would occur if babies could be born with a particular religious belief - i.e. a Mormon child is somehow born to Zoroastrians! The hilarity! But I digress).

If the fact of a child's tabula rosa nature were not the case, why would parents need to insist on a religious education?

As to whether a child without any religious education would grow up to believe in the supernatural independent of any outside influence, I offer as evidence the fact that the Spanish felt it necessary to convert the native population of South America by force, rather than arriving to find a nation of Christians waiting for them. That isn't to say that the native 'animism' that the Spanish encountered doesn't count as a 'religious belief', I believe it does, but that 'animism' is a cultural phenomenae, not an innate human one.

So I'll stick my guns on this, babies are born atheists until someone can give me evidence to the contrary.

That obvious point made, there is something potentially more subtle about your suggestion than that point would address. Namely that while no child is born with any particular religious conviction, it is nevertheless likely that we all have an innate ability to engage in 'magical thinking' that pre-disposes us to consider religious content and arguments outside of any reasonableness they may have. In other words, we may not be born Mormons, but we are born with the potential to be Mormons.

I have made this point previously elsewhere that the human capacity for inductive reasoning is in part responsible for the powerful grip that untestable inductive arguments can have on us, so I don't think it's contradictory to say;

We are born atheists
We are also born with a predisposition to magical thinking that can lead us away from atheism


R5: More on this later, but another common argument which I'd love to hear AR expound upon - One often hears the atheist challenge the believer to "prove" that God exists. Aside from the fact that the nonexistence of "God" is as you put it, the "null" condition, can one prove that God does not exist?


AR: As a 'strong atheist' I definitely think you can prove God does not exist, but it's important to understand how the strong atheist arrives at this philosophical conclusion.

The agnostic (or weak atheist) is content to say 'I don't know' when confronted by the question of whether there are supreme beings, rightly pointing out that the evidence for supreme beings is non-existent or shoddy at best, and that the safest rational position to take on the matter is simply to admit that while it is possible that there are supreme beings, there isn't enough evidence for them to warrant positive belief.

The strong atheist however, makes an additional philosophical move; she notes that not only is their no evidence one way or another for supreme beings, but she points out that the very concept of supreme beings is both empty of content, and incoherent to discuss.

That is, the strong atheist can 'prove' god does not exist, the same way we can 'prove' that a square circle does not exist.


R5: Or conversely, why is it incumbent on the postulator to prove that which is postulated unless one postulates the nonexistence of something. Are we content to say that stating something does not exist requires no "proof", only stating that something does exist requires proof? While we're on the subject of proof, provide proof of the existence of a specific emotion, say "love" - prove that love exists...


AR: It is a philosophical axiom that you 'can't prove a negative', i.e. it is impossible to provide evidence for the absence of something (which you will note is why the atheists disproof of God doesn't rely on evidence, but rather relies on the incoherence of the theist proposition for its disproof).

In contrast, most philosophers (the exception being only those devout hardcore sceptics for whom no truth or knowledge claims can exist at all) would agree it is possible to provide proof for a positive claim, i.e. the claim 'some swans are white', because finding a single white swan would be sufficient evidence to make that positive claim 'true'.

So you can see how a postulate or positive claim 'Red Five is 7'2", 350lbs and plays centre for the Miami Heat' is at least something that can be demonstrated to true or false - and for those who don't know Red Five the claim is absolutely true. ;-)

As for your remark about 'prove the existence of love' (which as some of you may recognize is the argument Carl Sagan put into the mouth of Palmer Joss in the book 'Contact'), I'd have this to say;

'Love' is an emotional state of an individual (actually I contend it is several different but related emotional states - i.e. I love my wife, but that is not the same thing as the love for my parents, or the Platonic love I feel for my friends, or the 'love' I have for my hockey pool,etc.), so while we may not have direct epistemic evidence of the individuals mind, we nevertheless have evidence that we can point to when discussing emotions;

- I know my parents 'love me' because they demonstrate this with their actions. I received hugs, affection, attention, care, positive constructive feedback, and of course, their own positive claims in the form of speech that they in fact 'love me'. Is this 'proof' that they love me? Perhaps not in the sense that a mathematical proof is 'proof', but given that behaviour is the chief evidence for the existence of emotions, the actions of my parents certainly qualify as solid evidence for the proposition that they love me.

- It is also at least possible to consider that direct evidence through comparitive brain scans, that these emotional states are 'real' biological events and more than just mere wordplay on the part of the declarer.

- It would be possible to demonstrate that the actions of someone who claims to 'love me' are false. For example, if my wife were to say 'I love you' and then hit me in the groin with a frying pan, I'd be inclined to say that the evidence of her actions contradicts the verbal claim she makes as to her emotional state.

- Finally, anthropology gives us good reason to believe that the existence of emotional states is not confined to human beings. Emotions like; anger, affection, dissapointment, lust, etc. are determinable in the Great Apes for example, whereas they are not for other forms of life like insects or fish, which seem to exhibit no emotional responses at all outside of raw survival instincts (though I do wonder if wasps get 'mad' when you try to swat them). Anybody who doubts that animals have emotions has never been greeted by their pet after a long absence.


R5: Finally (for now), if one believes that the natural and scientific processes of the universe are, in fact, God, do we not agree with one another and argue simply over semantics? You call it natural law, and another calls it God, are those incompatible?


AR: The position you describe in the above (god = universe) is the same position as argued by the philosopher Baruch Spinoza (and perhaps more famously declaimed by Einstein) known as 'pantheism'.

However, I have this to say about pantheism - given that the pantheists position is predicated on 'God' being indivisible from the universe, impersonal, and a non-actor (ie. there are no 'miracles'), ultimately, Pantheism is simply atheism with a theistic face in that there are no 'supreme beings' or 'supernatural' elements for the pantheist, just the raw material universe.


The 'Jewish Philosopher' whips up another dandy of an argument....

Spiritual Illiteracy

Maybe there was some grain of truth in the concept that they are more free and more enlightened than I am. I wanted to find out.

So, I found out.

I believe that secular people are lacking an important life skill. They are lacking the ability to look beyond their own immediate needs and to see a larger reality. They are suffering from a certain type of learning disability.


AR: Nothing says you are treating your opponent fairly in an intellectual discourse like commenting on how their perspective is just like 'a learning disability'. At least it is an upgrade on calling them 'stupid'.

As for my ability to 'look beyond my own immediate needs to see a larger reality' what reality is that exactly? Is it Pat Robertson's apocalyptic-Jesus-is-coming-back-real-soon reality? Is it the reality presented by the temples of Salt Lake City? Is it the larger reality of engrams, Thetans and 'going clear' that Scientology pushes?

Seriously, help me out here. How is that the Jewish Orthodox 'larger reality' is any more sensible than the larger reality of the 'Easter Bunny'? How do you judge which of these 'larger realities' is the actual 'larger reality'?


I feel that it’s comparable to a modern, educated person visiting a primitive, illiterate community and trying to convince people there of the importance of literacy. Some might be receptive to the idea, however surely many would be resistant. After all, they could ask, what exactly is the point in spending hours a day staring at worthless bits of paper? Shouldn’t a rational, practical person hunt, fish, gather fruit, build homes or make tools? I have heard of cases of American teenagers who did poorly in school and dropped out in disgust with “trick learning”, hating their school and their teachers.

Obviously, people like this are to be pitied. Literacy can do so much to enhance anyone’s life, young or old. There is so much a person can learn about the world through reading. Of course one could point to a lot of worthless or evil literature. And there are literate people who live miserable lives of great poverty. However on the average, literacy, together with a good, thorough education has undoubtedly changed the lives of countless millions for the better. No sociological study is needed to prove this.


AR: So far, we can agree on at least this; Literacy = good. Illiteracy = bad.


I submit that the same is true of spirituality.


AR: Then you must be 'learning disabled'.

See how it feels? Thats the level of discourse you have adopted, adolescent name calling.


Belief in God, in an afterlife, in ultimate reward and punishment, in an ethical system based on the Ten Commandments, the love of neighbors and the golden rule, tremendously enhances a person’s life.


AR: Allright, now we've definitely crossed the line. Actually, suggesting atheists are 'learning disabled' crossed it first, but this takes you to a whole 'nother level of line crossing.

Of the items you list I will agree that the 'love of neighbours', and the golden rule definitely both enhance a person's life. Loving your neighbours is cool by atheists. We have neighbours, and hating them would require a lot more effort than getting along. Nothing unsecular about that.

The 'golden rule' (do onto others...) is actually the basis of secular liberalism (John Stuart Mill, etc.), not to mention a factor in pre-Christian morality going back as far as you care to go. Further, the discovery of 'mirror' neurons and their relation to empathy may well explain the biological roots of the golden rule. Our ability to understand and empathize with how our fellow humans is an essential component of all ethical systems and isn't anything endemic to Judaism or or it's retarded bastard child, Christianity.

As for an 'ethical system based on the ten commandments' this is a doozy of a suggestion. Of the Ten, only three really belong in any legal framework; don't kill, don't lie, and don't steal (and as you should know, these pre-date Christianity as foundations for ethics - I mean c'mon, do you really believe that Christians invented the prohibition against murder?).

The rest are all far lesser moral issues, with the first four being of solely Christian/Jewish concern and not worthy of being the basis for any ethical system.

The fifth is definitely a nice idea, but in no way is necessary for ethical conduct (afterall, what if your parents are jerks, or worse, atheists? Do you still honour them then? If so, why?).

The 7th (don't covet thy neighbours ass) is in direct conflict with modern capitalism, and the 10th (don't bang your neighbours wife) while probably sound advice, isn't anything that a reasonable person believes should be criminalized.

Further, lets take a quick look at 'ultimate reward and punishment'. How is it that a loving caring God would ever consign someone (like say, an atheist child) to eternal damnation? How do you square that with any ethical system anywhere?

Innocent child + eternal suffering in a lake of fire = moral?


The all embracing, detailed legal framework of rabbinical Judaism supports these ideals to the highest level possible. People who have accepted these ideas are as different from those who do not in the same degree that a scholar is diffrent from an illiterate. They are focusing on God and their fellow men in a constant, real, practical way. They are not obsessed with their own comfort and profit. Their lives have a cosmic purpose, a mission with universal, eternal value. They can have so much more satisfaction in life and accomplish so much more.


AR: The followers of Jim Jones, the Bhagwan Rajneesh, Wahabbists and the members of the Solar Temple would no doubt agree with you that their lives have much more cosmic meaning then those of us atheists.


Of course, the atheist\agnostic\materialist\naturalist will reply: I am only concerned with real, practical matters. I have no time for imaginary gods and imaginary rules. This is like the illiterate person who claims he only has time for practical tasks, not for worthless book learning. The atheist and the illiterate have no idea what they are throwing away and how limited, narrow and miserable their lives needlessly are.


AR: Now you are being contradictory not only to reason, but to yourself. Given that your exposure to atheism is largely from ex-Orthodox Jews, you can hardly claim that atheists have no idea what they are throwing away. It seems clear to me that know EXACTLY what it is that they are throwing away.


Just to illustrate this, I am involved in two groups on
www.yahoo.com: one is for people who have left Orthodox Judaism, usually for atheism. The other is for parents of children with cerebral palsy. The first group is filled with anger and hatred; unhappy, lonely people, trying to console themselves by ridiculing their former religion. The second group is full of kind, concerned people who love someone who is disabled and who are happy to help someone else while hoping for God’s blessings. The contrast is striking.


AR: Is it really surprising to you that the atheists you encounter in a chat group composed of ex-Orthodox Jews would have more anger than a support group for parents of the severely disabled? Isn't at least part of the point of a chat group for fallen members of orthodoxy to blow off some of the built up resentment and anger towards religion that caused them to leave in the first place? And is using a cerebral palsy suppport group the right comparison to use?

I mean, Puh-leeze.

It looks to me you have stacked the deck in your 'research' to arrive at the conclusions you presume to be true. Atheists must be angry bitter beings with shriveled up souls and no moral centre - so to confirm this you hang out in a chat room with people who you can be fairly certain harbour ill-feelings towards Jewish Orthodoxy. What a surprise! The atheists you find there are sometimes hostile and angry! Then you compare it to the people you encounter in an environment that is by design meant to be supportive, and nurturing for those in the deepest pain, and to your shock and amazement you discover that these people on the whole are more supportive and nurturing then those angry ex-Jews!


Antiphon and the Jewish Philosopher

A Jewish Philosopher says;

The non-existence of God, of course, defines atheism.

AR: Agreed (it’s actually the non existence of god(s) - atheism isn't just a rejection of the Judeo god, its also a denial of Thor, Zoroaster, and the Easter Bunny, but that may be just quibbling).

Atheists also do not believe in a soul; a soul implies spirituality and an afterlife, which atheists reject.

AR: Again, agreed, though spiritual dualism is not incompatible with atheism on its face (you can be an atheist and hold that the 'mind' is non-material in an empirical sense, ala Aristotle, and then there is the position of epiphenomenalism) , I will however concede that I personally believe the two are irreconcilable conceptually, largely because talk of the soul is ultimately incoherent.

The universe must be eternal since a created universe would require a supernatural creator.

AR: Not so. An atheist can quite reasonably believe that natural processes created the universe, and that it may have a finite beginning and ending completely independent of supernatural explanations. ‘Brane theory' is just such one example of a cosmological theory for the origin of the universe that is not god-dependent, and the fact of the accelerating expansion of the universe to what projects to an ultimate end of cold dissipation is neither inconvievable, nor dependent on any notion of a supreme being.

The universe must function completely automatically since anything else would be by definition supernatural.

AR: If by ‘completey automatically’ you mean 'by natural processes and without supernatural interference’, then you are again correct.

Although many atheists dislike being called “religious”, and think of atheism purely in negative terms as a rejection of God, atheism can be called a religion since it is a specific system of beliefs about God and spirituality. It is clearly a new, positive ideology in itself.

AR: Pure blather. Babies are born atheists. You have to teach them to believe in invisible things, like; Zeus, Santa, racism, etc. Atheism requires no specific adherence to a belief ‘system’ (Buddhists are after all, atheists, as are the secular officials of Communist China – yet they have mutually incompatible belief systems neither of which is derived from its atheism). Atheism is defined by the absence of belief, and hence it is the null or neutral position. Religions are collectives of people who share a common faith. Faith is belief in something in the absence of evidence, and religions are groups of people who share the same faith systems and objects.

Atheism, is precisely then NOT a faith, since there is no faith system or object that is common to atheists. We are defined by the absence of religion, and the reliance on other secular methods for exploring the world.

Naturalism, rationalism, materialism, empiricism, skepticism, secular humanism and scientism are virtually synonymous with atheism.

AR: Again, pure nonsense. Each of the above has a specific definition that, while related to some of the others on the list, does not necessarily entail any of them. For example, you can be a hardcore empiricist and not be a secular humanist, or atheist. The first is a process that is used to analyze the world (the empirical method), the second is a political stance based on a philosophy of humanism, the third is a simple philosophical position. As another example, you can be a materialist, and not be guilty of the supposed sins of 'scientism', a concept you'll note that itself has a variety of contradictory definitions.

For you to equate all of these with the broad category of 'atheism' and suggest they are 'virtually synonymous' is either mendacious or incompetent.

Agnosticism is basically a less confrontational name for atheism. It implies accepting the possibility of an impersonal God, although actually agnostics do not take religion in any way seriously and therefore are little different than atheists.

AR: To a point you are correct, agnostics are in fact a sub-set of atheists in that they do not profess any active faith. I suspect that most who label themselves as ‘Agnostics’ would prefer not to agree with the less popular slur of 'atheist'. This is the difference between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ atheism. That is, the difference between having no position of belief ('weak atheism', or agnosticism), and that of believing all god-talk to be incoherent (strong atheism). Colour me a strong atheist.

The primary rational basis for atheism is the following arguments:

- The Argument from Evil. This argument states that if God exists, no small children would ever suffer since God would not permit that injustice. This was first proposed be Epicurus 300 BCE. [This argument is based on the assumption that man has no eternal soul. In fact, if man does possess a soul, then a suffering child may possess the reincarnated soul of a sinner who is justly deserving of punishment.]

AR: Actually the problem of evil is just the best reason to not believe in the Christian God of omni-benevolence, not necessarily the best reason to be an atheist. Take the following premises;

God is All Good (Omnibenevolent)

God created the universe

There is evil in the universe

Since God created the universe, God must have created evil

Therfore, god being ‘all good’ is logically contradictory and incoherent. That is the problem of evil.

- The Argument from Lack of Proof. This argument states that no religion has provided sufficient evidence to prove its claims. In fact, miracles are so unbelievable that it may be virtually impossible to produce sufficient proof to demonstrate that any miracle has ever actually occurred. This was first proposed by David Hume in “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” published in 1758. [This argument is based on the assumption that God does not exist. In fact, if God does exist, miracles could easily take place. Just as he created the laws of nature, he can violate them. In fact, we would even expect God at some point in history to identify himself and communicate with mankind.]

AR: I’m unaware of any evidence that would satisfy claims of the miraculous, and given that the evidence of Santa Claus (the weather bureau faithfully announces his arrival on radar every year, the post office take his mail, etc.) is far greater than that of any miracle, I suggest it is reasonable to conclude that there is markedly less evidence for miracles then there is for Santa Claus. Admittedly, the evidence for Santa Claus is exceptionally poor quality evidence as well, but still of higher quality than for miracles. As to the contention that Hume’s argument is predicated on requiring more than the bible’s say so that something happened is necessarily true – you are again correct. He wants something more than mere ‘because the bible says so’, and so should we all.

- The Argument from Fossils. Fossil evidence allegedly proves that the first 34 verses of Genesis are fictional; therefore Judaism, Christianity and Islam are bogus; therefore monotheism and the concept of an afterlife are bogus. This was implied by George Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon in “The Epochs of Nature” published in 1778. [This argument is based on poor Biblical scholarship. In fact, the Jewish scholars taught 1500 years ago that earlier worlds existed before Adam. The fossils are apparently remnants of them.]

AR: Wow – and now we enter the realm of the weird. Ok, first and foremost, all of the sciences demonstrate that the early accounts of Genesis are fictional – not just the fossil record. Physics, Biology, Anthropology, Chemistry, etc. effectively all reject the biblical account of creation.

However, just because the sciences make Genesis into a metaphor rather than a true account of creation, doesn’t entail that monotheism and the afterlife are bogus.

They are indeed bogus, but not because the fossil record leads us ineluctably to think so. They are bogus because they are intellectually empty constructs.

The primary emotional attraction of atheism is the absence of all sexual restrictions.

AR: HA! I submit the primary emotional attraction of atheism is liberty from theocratic tyranny, the vibrant sex-life is simply a bonus side-effect of not having pre-medieval beliefs regarding the enjoyment of intercourse. Speaking of which, how's that whole hacking off a piece of your sex organ in the name of God working for you?

Atheists claim that their beliefs are different from other religions since they are completely rational and are simply based on pure logic and reason.

AR: I agree. Atheists are firmly part of the 'reality based community'.

Of course, members of many other religions claim that as well.

AR: And as an atheist I am willing to test the logic of my non-belief against their gobbledygook faith talk any day and any time. For every burning bush in your book, for every angel who is accosted by horny Sodomites, I've got a human footprint on the moon. Loaves and fishes? Science has cured Polio. Healing the blind? Please. I'll see your miraculous sight restoration in the bible and raise you with the sight restorations performed by science every single day at your local hospital. It's over. Every day reality has trumped your legend. You want to know why science and modernity have triumphed so resoundingly? It works.

Don't know what I mean? Try going a few months without that eminently modern and thoroughly non-religious invention toilet paper sometime. Just don't sit next to me.

Atheists must contend that although life on earth appears to have been designed, in fact it is merely the result of chance chemical interactions.

AR: Who says ‘life appears to be designed’? No scientist I’ve ever met.

Here’s a thought experiment if you think we are ‘designed’; Why do we have vestigial organs? What is god’s plan for the appendix anyway? In evolutionary language we can discuss the role it played in our past as a way of digesting plant materials – but we long ago lost that ability and the appendix now serves mostly as a means of collecting deadly infections. Or, how about our tonsils? Male nipples? The Coccyx? Wisdom teeth? Etc. etc.

Lastly, if we were designed, why did God use 99% of the design he used for chimpanzees and orangutans with only slight modifications?

Given enough time and space, anything can happen randomly. [The constructive portion of evolution is totally random; natural selection merely is the destructive part of the process which filters out all organisms unable to reproduce.]

AR: Natural Selection is defined here. Just in case you want to know what it means.

They must also assume that although Judaism is a remarkable religion, it is merely the product of some sort of mass brainwashing which occurred about 600 BCE in Palestine during the reign of King Josiah. The Jews at that time for some reason completely and fanatically accepted as true whatever their king told them, however obviously absurd it was.

AR: I can think that you are wrong in your beliefs without believing you are the victim of ‘mass brainwashing’. Though I am pleased to see you at some level are acknowledging the absurdity of them.

Evolution is not a proof of atheism but it is a crucial apology for atheism. It creates a false impression that atheists can explain the existence of life without an intelligent designer. [Many religious people believe in evolution because they have been deceived by atheists into believing that there is overwhelming scientific evidence supporting it. In reality, while there is proof that life on earth is millions of years old and has changed over time, spontaneous evolution from one universal common ancestor is nonsensical and unsupported by any evidence.]

AR: I have bad news for you, it's now a fact that we can explain the origin of man without resorting to any 'intelligent designer', and the evidence is indeed totally overwhelming.

What is nonsensical is your statement in brackets. Evolution is supported by ALL the evidence. There is no field of science that has thrown any doubt into the theory of evolution (indeed they all in their own way, confirmed it), and you simply can’t do modern biology without understanding how evolution impacts it. But let me take specific issue with your contention that ‘spontaneous evolution from one universal common ancestor is nonsensical’, or rather, let me ask you (since it isn’t clear) what exactly is ‘nonsensical’ about it? All life as we know it is based on DNA, which means the building blocks for everything from Mastodons to bananas to Jewish Philosophers is created by following a common alphabet of instructions in a common code. (Perhaps you don't believe in DNA? Or what it entails?)

So, given all that, what is nonsensical about suggesting that all life has at its core an ancient common ancestor in the primordial mulch of our early planet? In fact, it is exactly the kind of hypothesis that is open to falsification or confirmation by evidence, the essence of 'sensible'.

Humanism and utilitarianism are apologies for atheism. They create a false impression that atheists are obligated to follow a Christian-like code of morality. In reality, of course, if there is no eternal, universal lawgiver there can be no eternal, universal law.

AR: This may shock you, but people behaved ‘morally’ long before the Christian church was around. That is to say, moral codes of conduct are common to all civilizations, and peoples, even those societies that are explicitly atheist or secular. Humanism and utilitarianism are merely secular philosophies that have specific ethics. Interestingly, they both provide logical methodologies for arriving at their moral codes – and hence therein lies their appeal, since both (as well as libertarianism, conservatism, Marxism, etc.) seek to find a path to morality independent of the invocation of invisible super-beings.

Speaking of morality and Christianity, was it moral for God to ask Abraham to kill his son? Or for God to bet with Satan on the amount of suffering that Job could endure at the fallen angel's hands and still fear God more than Satan? Is polygamy immoral, and if so, why, since it's biblically prevalent? How about the stoning of adulterers? The biblical support for the keeping of slaves? Seems to me that if these are legitimate moral questions that the bible isn't always on the right side of, morality is distinct from Judaism and Christianity.

If Man is the highest moral authority then each man can fabricate his own rules, which are as legitimate as anyone else’s. An atheist is amoral.

AR: Atheism is not a commitment to total moral relativism. Buddhism is compatible with atheism, but it is by no means an ‘amoral’ philosophy. Likewise, libertarianism, liberalism and a host of other political philosophies satisfy the human need for rational ethical rules that promote a stable society and yet don't rely on supreme punishment or reward for enforcement.

If nature is indeed all there is, nature has no moral preferences.

AR: Atheism is perfectly compatible with saying there are moral preferences. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that ‘killing is wrong’ for secular ethical reasons. Further, there is every evidence that moral faculties are universal to human societies. How did the ancient Greeks arrive at a functioning democracy (albeit limited in scope) with respect for the rights of its citizenry without the benevolent guidance of Christian thinking? Obviously they did so in part because acting morally and abstaining from barbarism isn’t dependent on being a Christian.

An atheist can, and often will, honestly say “I am nice to people because doing so makes me feel good and helps me to be successful.” However he cannot say “I am nice to people because I am morally obligated to do so.” In practice, this is not often too relevant. Most people are ethical because of societal pressure or personal temperament, not fear of God. However on the other hand, active participation in modern Christianity or Judaism does seem to be generally therapeutic and aids many people in leading more peaceful, sober and productive lives.

AR: Says who? The divorce rate for all of us runs about the same. How is Judaism or Christianity ‘generally therapeutic’? Sounds like a placebo effect to me. Anyway, let me say this so we are clear;

“I am an atheist, and I am nice to people because I am morally obligated to do so. Also, I like people in general. Even those who practice bad philosophy'.

See? I just said it.

Higher Biblical Criticism, or the Documentary Hypothesis, is one atheistic interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. It assumes the existence of several "mini-Pentateuchs" during the First TempleSecond Temple era. This is a very unbelievable and complicated way to account for a few apparent redundancies and contradictions within the Pentateuch. After all, how did those earlier mini-Pentateuchs suddenly disappear without any trace? Were Jews the victims of national amnesia? I think the trend today is to assume that the Pentateuch was pretty much completely the product of an anonymous scribe in the court of King Josiah and he simply needed a better proofreader. era, which were then combined together into the full Pentateuch in the...

AR: If you say so, but given your record for creating atheistic strawmen to knock down, you’ll forgive me if I will remain doubtful of your conclusions.

Two groups of people seem to include the highest percentages of ideologically committed atheists: scientists and Communists.

AR: I’ll let atheists take credit for the former (science actually works), but not the latter.

Scientists frequently choose their profession because they are atheists to begin with. Atheists believe that nature is all there is and therefore atheists have a natural attraction to science which is the intensive and systematic study of nature. Just like most Talmudic scholars are theists, most scientists are atheists. Scientists have given a great deal of prestige to atheism however atheism is not scientific.

AR: Nothing much I disagree with in the above, except the final sentence. Atheism is compatible with science – perfectly so since science is the practice of methodogical naturalism, specifcally excluding supernatural explanations and searching only for natural ones. If every electricity experiment had to have included considering variables like, Thor's mood, or the proximate distance from Mt. Olympus, no science could ever have been done. Here's the thing, science works - that is produces repeatable and 'sensible' results, precisely because it ignores all the supernatural fluff you want to peddle and concentrates on what is materially testable.

There is in fact nothing atheistic about science itself. Modern science actually strongly supports religion in many ways. Biology demonstrates the complexity of life and therefore supports Intelligent Design Theory.

AR: Pure baloney. The first part, 'Biology demonstrates the complexity of life', is correct. However, there is no evidence anywhere in biology that supports ‘intelligent design’. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Not one paper in biology on the subject by a respected journal. Not one experiment proposed. Nor is there an understanding as to what something that is 'designed' in biology would look like - not even in theory. It is in the end a completely religious argument (not unlike ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?’ the answer to which by the way is 'all of them'. Probably saved you a few years of study on that one. Your welcome).

Cosmology has discovered the Big Bang, which implies the existence of a supernatural creator.

AR: The Big Bang was deduced first by an astronomer and then later supported by physicists with evidence found in the natural world, not' discovered' by cosmologists. Further, the Big Bang does not necessarily imply a supernatural creator, any more than the opposite case for an eternal universe would necessarily imply one.

Indeed, it specifically does not imply the Christian god as supernatural creator (go back and re-read Genesis – then read any cosmology text on the big bang – you’ll be hard pressed to make the two fit in any meaningful sense).

A greater understanding of creation can lead to a greater love for the Creator. Great skepticism must be used when dealing with scientific proofs of evolution, since scientists are naturally inclined, if not to fabricate evidence, to slant the evidence toward their religious beliefs. [See “Icons of Evolution” by Jonathan Wells for some examples.]

AR: Sure, now I get it, it’s all a conspiracy of scientists.

Let me ask you something else, if you were diagnosed with cancer, would you go see an atheist oncologist, or depend on your local rabbi to pray you to health?

Communists believe that no organizations should be active in society other than the Party and therefore they support atheism.

AR: I’m not sure communists would put it that way, but I’m not interested in defending communism. They are not equitable to atheists. They have in fact, a comprehensive (and flawed) ideology that is secular (you may have heard of it before, its called ‘communism’), but even if all communists were atheists, that doesn’t mean that all atheists are communists. Nor is the presence of a political ideology like communism necessarily incompatible with religious belief, I use the liberation theology of Christian Marxists in South America as an example.

Outside of the scientific community and Communism, atheism is not too popular. Few countries have an atheist\agnostic majority and most have few atheists at all. Because atheists tend to have a low birth rate, it would seem likely that they will remain a small and perhaps shrinking minority.

AR: You wish. Church attendance in North America is still in steep and steady decline. The only churches for which this is not the case are the Southern evangelical churches of the US – who are explicitly cannibalizing other less activist churches for membership. Religion has been on a steady decline of influence throughout Europe as well. Eventually, the evangelical movement will run out of converts willing to tithe themselves to the apocalyptic cool-aid they preach, and a dampening of the general publics religiosity will continue.

Various levels of materialism and skepticism have always existed, especially in ancient Greece, however true, modern atheism is a fairly new religion, which originated in 1770 in Paris. James Thrower in “Western Atheism: a short history” p. 105 to 107 credits Baron D’Holbach as being “probably the first unequivocal professed atheist in the Western Tradition” with the publication of “The System of Nature”, anonymously in London, in 1770. Atheism began gaining wide popularity following the publication of “Origin of Species” in 1859. Atheism is the youngest of the world’s major religions.

AR: Atheism is not a religion. It is the absence of supernatural belief. Go back and re-read your own definition. You got it right the first time.

The rise of modern atheism seems to have been stimulated primarily by three factors:
- increased wealth in Europe, caused by greater trade, exploration and imperialism after about 1500, has meant less need for the comfort of religion
- the intensive study of fossils, beginning about 1780, has convinced many people that the Bible is bogus
- the publication of “Origin of Species” in 1859 convinced many that the teleological argument for God’s existence is incorrect.

AR: I attribute the rise of atheism to something else we philosophers call ‘The enlightenment’. You may have heard of it, though given your predilection for forcing the ‘Origin of Species’ into the picture as an atheist manifesto (it isn’t anything of the kind, but then, I doubt you’ve even read it) I am inclined to think you have chosen to remain ignorant of it.

The popularization of the Internet since about 1995, which includes many websites promoting atheism and promiscuity, would seemingly be a great step forward for the spread of atheism.

AR: Atheism will spread because all faith systems are rotten to their intellectual cores. They contain no ‘truths’ that can be verified, make no evidentiary claims that can possibly be pursued and insist on a host of incoherent claims (bushes that talk while burning, angels, demons, hell, heaven, people rising from the dead, father figures waiting for us in a paradisical afterlife, lakes of fire, etc.)

Sure Atheists get to be more clear-headed about sexuality than Christians do (Onan anyone?), but that isn’t equitable with ‘promiscuity’.

Japan and Scandinavia are cited as successful societies with very high proportions of atheism, however North Korea and Vietnam could be cited as counter examples.

AR: The atheism of Asian countries has a different origin than the atheism of Scandinavian countries. Scandinavian countries are properly thought of as being ‘post-Christian’. Denmark still has Christianity as its official state religion, but in practice the society has evolved to being fiercely secular. In contrast, Japan’s history shows us they have long experience with ‘atheist’ belief systems that are not related to Christianity at all. Buddhism, Confucianism, etc. all influence the Asian countries in ways that are not comparable to the post-Christian secularism of Scandinavia. Further, consider the post-communist atheism of the Czech Republic (where a majority of citizens declare themselves to be atheists, but no longer have any truck with ideological communism), the enforced secularism of Turkey, or the secular multi-culturalism of my own country, Canada. There is no parallel to be drawn between these nations other than their insistence that someone's delusion of an invisible overlord isn’t the best way to determine the supreme law of the land.

Atheism would seem to have a significant negative impact on its adherents and on society when one considers that active participants in modern day Christianity and Judaism exhibit lower levels of criminal behavior, substance abuse, depression and suicide than their secular neighbors. (Orthodox Jews may have the best statistics.)

AR: Now you are just making shit up.

On the positive side, many great advances in modern technology and medicine have been created by atheists. But since modern technology includes many extremely effective weapons systems, some of which threaten the existence of life on earth, its real net value may be questioned.

AR: Question the net value of science the next time you need a root canal. Seriously. Go ahead, you can bitch about the weapons systems but only if you don't go to the dentist.

You can use science to create anaesthetics or nerve gas. Science tells you how to forge iron, and you can hold science responsible for the swords so long as you are giving science all the credit for the plowshares. Do you have clean potable water treated by chemicals to remove parasites where you are? Just wondering.

Since atheists tend to be solitary they do not have many children. This is one of the main reasons for the low birthrate among Caucasians, who seem to be heading gradually toward extinction. For example, Bangladesh has a larger population than Russia.

AR: The fastest growing population of atheists is in India. The largest officially secular country in the world is China. Atheism is not a cultural or religious phenomenon because atheism is common to all cultures as a rebellion against its dogma.

One may generalize that the more atheistic a society is, the more technologically advanced it will tend to be, however also the more unhappy and infertile. The wisest strategy may be to enjoy the social and emotional benefits of religion while at the same time enjoying the technology created by atheists. Many people do just that.

AR: You have hit the nail on the head here, science is good for many things; creating comfort, active economies, creating wealth, curing disease, creating weapons to protect ourselves from our enemies, creating actual knowledge etc. Whereas, religion is good for…making you feel better. Just like Santa Clause does for kiddies. Or what Marx said about the masses and their favourite opiate.

When atheists have full political power, as they did for example in the Soviet Union, they tend to be extremely intolerant of other religions, just as adherents of most religions are when they have total control of the government.

AR: Human nature at its best. 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'. Atheists aren’t immune from any moral disease of humanity. That said, Europe, Canada, Australia, represent actively secular tolerant societies, so it's not like secular countries are exactly hellscapes. Compare them to some Abrahamic religious countries you should be so proud of, like say, Iran, or Pakistan where everything is perfectly fine thanks to the imposition of divine law. Or perhaps you prefer that period before the Enlightenment? You know, when the church was the supreme authority, and all knowldge flowed from it? You know, the 'Dark Ages'.

Atheism has its own revered visionary founder, Charles Darwin, and sacred scripture, “Origin of Species” [like the Bible, few read it]. It has its own code of behavior which comes in two flavors – Communism and humanism. There has been an effort to create atheistic congregations, in the Society for Ethical Culture, however most atheists are too self-centered to be part of any society.

AR: Darwin is hardly a beacon of philosophical atheism. He is however, one of the most important thinkers ever, not for any contribution to atheism (which is frankly meager at best), but for his contributions to science (impossible to calculate).

Atheist heroes tend to be; Socrates, Voltaire, Camus, Kierkegaard (an atheist Christian), Nietzsche, Hawking, Dawkins, Sagan, Asimov, Clarke, Dennett, Huxley, Russell, Hume, Flew, Mencken, Mill, the CFI, etc. etc. Darwin is on that list, in part because he provided an expanation that he knew would not be popular with the church on human origins, but his writings on atheism is extremely thin. He is a hero for atheists because of his intellectual honesty in the face of seemingly intractable theocratic unfavour, but not for any teleological coup d'etat.

As evidence, Darwin wrote vastly more about the reproduction habits of snails than he ever did about god or atheism. 'Origin of Species' is not a philosophical text.

Atheism is of great interest to Orthodox Jews because in recent decades, if an Orthodox Jew chooses to convert to another religion, that religion almost invariably is atheism. This is not surprising when one considers that among Caucasians world wide, atheism is rapidly growing today.

AR: in other words, when an Orthodox Jew comes to his intellectual senses and abandons his faith, he tends not to make the same mistake again by jumping to another faith. I call that progress.

In my opinion, atheism is clearly a false religion since, aside from being based on weak arguments, it cannot plausibly account for the existence of the universe, the existence of life or the history of the Jewish people.

AR: Hunh? Since when does atheism have to account for any of that stuff? If you want to discuss what you think is so ‘weak’ about the arguments for atheism I’m all for it. But atheism doesn’t have to spend any energy explaining the life of the Jewish people, the origins of life on earth, or the origin of the universe. The first is a sociological and historical question, the last two are scientific. Atheism is compatible with both history and science, but it is not identical with them.

As with members of any other religion, it is almost impossible to debate with committed atheists. Especially if you are young and single, atheism is fun. Atheism means living a life with fewer rules and atheists will grasp at any excuse to hang on to that. “God made me? No, evolution made me.” “The Torah was given at Sinai? No, King Josiah wrote it.” “Orthodox Jews are morally superior to atheists? No, they are just better at covering up their crimes.” It’s impossible to get beyond the wall of total denial.

AR: As an atheist I can tell you I have no opinion one way or another on the Torah, Mt. Sinai, or King Josiah, nor do I feel the need to commit to one, anymore than I feel the need to declare a favourite among Santa’s reindeer (ok, you got me, it’s Blitzer, truth be told. Once we added the bbq sauce, he was perfect). As for the notion that I hang on to my atheism because ‘there are fewer rules’, there are indeed fewer rules. I’m not bound by dietary restrictions that are nonsensical (as the ‘Pulp Fiction’ reference goes; ‘Pork tastes good, bacon tastes good.’), nor do I feel bound by half of the ten commandments (1-4 and 10 can all go as far as I’m concerned), and the parsimony of my belief system is indeed a strength for me. So I guess I'll agree. Atheism is less complicated than invisible super beings.

Ultimately, it’s a very strange philosophy – believing that all men are merely soulless robots, created spontaneously from simple chemicals (through a gradual process which took a few billion years), functioning automatically until they stop and disintegrate. There is no such thing as choice or personal decision.

AR: I am not a Cartesian dualist (I don’t believe in the soul), but then, spiritual dualism is an incoherent proposition, and one I would happily debate with you. We are not however, mere ‘robots’ as you say. Daniel Dennet (a high functioning atheist if there ever was one) has written extensively about how free will is compatible with atheism and evolution (see his work: ‘Freedom evolves’), so to suggest we atheists are deniers of free will is simply wrong. But let me turn the tables on you with regards to the question of free will.

If God is; omnipotent, and all-knowing (omni-prescient) then, it logically follows that any decision we make, He knew we would make it in advance. All choices we make are therefore predestined by God, and no human free will is possible (we are all simply following God’s plan). Even those who choose atheism are predestined to do so, and God has condemned us knowingly to hell before we were ever born (which also brings us back to the problem of evil). There is nothing conceptually compatible between a supreme being with omnipotence and human free will.

Atheism, on the other hand is predicated on there being no supernatural beings. Hence, we are not predestined to do anything, and are free to make decisions. I submit then that atheism is philosophically compatible with free-will, while theism, is not.

Our “free choice” is merely an illusion. No one is good or evil since all behavior is automatic, not chosen. If someone shoots a hundred children he is no more evil than a tornado or a tsunami; his brain chemistry and environment caused him to do it. Can anyone really believe that without, as Nietzsche did, losing his mind?

AR: You have now openly confused atheism with moral relativism. Not that surprising given the way you have mistakenly characterized atheism throughout your piece. Lastly, Nietzsche lost his mind because he had syphilis, a known material cause for his deteriorating mental state. If you believe in spiritual dualism, then how do you account for the interaction between the physical world (his syphilis) and his ‘mind’? How does the virus affect the spirit world anyway?

I look forward to any response you care to make.