Monday, February 27, 2006



"Secular regimes like Maoism, Stalinism, North Korea, the Third Reich, and the Khmer Rouge, to name a few, have not been conspicuous for their freedom of dissent."

steve, I refer you to Usenet prescident on this matter. Anyone who make a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis has lost whatever debate they are in by default. Adam is the instant victor of this due to your own incompetance.

# posted by Lillymon : 2/26/2006 5:38 PM


i) This is a very revealing insight into the way the mind of a “free-thinker” works, or doesn’t work.

I make a comment about the Third Reich in relation to secular humanism.

In response, I am “referred” to Godwin’s Law, and duly informed that “whatever” the debate, my opponent is the “instant victor” while I have lose “by default.”

Can you come up with a more anti-intellectual reply than that?

Forget the substance. Forget the content. Just invoke this made-up rule.

ii) Notice, as well, that this is a blind appeal to the argument from authority. Godwin is being treated like an absolute moral authority and lawmaker, so that anyone who “violates” Godwin’s law is automatically disqualified.

Whatever happened to those old radical slogans about questioning authority and truth speaking to power?

iii) Furthermore, I didn’t make a “comparison” with National Socialism. Rather, I cited National Socialism as an example of a secular humanist ideology, which is exactly what it is.

And this was in the context of the claim that humanism stands for “tolerance.” It is a perfectly valid move to cite a counterexample to a general claim.


Wow, I didn't actually think you'd try to say that comparing the ACLU to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party was actually valid.

# posted by Lillymon : 2/26/2006 6:15 PM


Again, if you go back and read what I actually wrote, I didn’t compare the ACLU to the Nazi Party. I didn’t compare the ACLU to anything.

Rather, I cited the ACLU as a secular institution which is very intolerant wherever Christianity is concerned.

But as long as Lillymon broaches the issue, the ACLU has become quite fascistic in undermining the democratic process.


You said this about atheism, steve:

"If it were true, it would be the discovery that life is a trap. That you cannot escape the trap. That, whatever you do, or don’t do, you’re doomed—like a rat in burning barn.
Or like being buried alive. You wake up only to find yourself sealed away in a coffin, six feet under. What a pity the undertaker was so busy that day that he pronounced you D.O.D. just a tad prematurely."

I have just one question: Aren't you a Calvinist?

# posted by Adam Lee : 2/26/2006 10:40 PM


Before I answer the question, let’s remember the context. I had posted an essay in which I said that atheism was a losing proposition, for even if the atheist was right, he had nothing to gain by being right. If he’s wrong, he loses; but if he’s right, he also loses. By contrast, the Christian has nothing to lose if he’s wrong, and everything to gain if he’s right.

Evan picked up on that theme in his critique of Lee’s post.

Of course, this all goes back to Pascal’s Wager.

In reply, Lee said:

”If you're a theist and you're wrong, you lose just as badly. There are plenty of other religions besides Christianity that stipulate a hell for non-members, as Mr. May seems to have forgotten.”

Followed by:

“On the other hand, I do not agree that an atheist who is correct loses anything. On the contrary, such a person has gained something extremely valuable - the chance to live this life, the only life they will ever have, free of superstition and fear, with a clear view into how the universe really works.”

This is where I came in, with such statements as:

“The problem with this is that, from Lee’s perspective, once you’re dead it doesn’t matter if you lived your life free of “superstition” and “fear,” with a clear view of how the universe “really” works.”

“Once you’re dead, there’s no more you. Once you’re dead it’s just as if you never existed.”

“You built your little sandcastle during the low-tide of life, and all that’s swept away under the high-tide of the grave. No hopes or fond memories remain.”

“For fifteen billions years you never existed, followed by this nanosecond of consciousness, followed by billions of years of oblivion. Yes, that’s pretty positive outlook on life, all right.”

“Even if it were true, he’d be tossing it aside, not lightly, but precisely on account of what its truth implies for the quality of life. If it’s true, then it’s a one-way ticket to oblivion: zippo; blotto.”

That’s the flow of the argument. And this brings us to:

“If it were true, it would be the discovery that life is a trap. That you cannot escape the trap. That, whatever you do, or don’t do, you’re doomed—like a rat in burning barn.”

“Or like being buried alive. You wake up only to find yourself sealed away in a coffin, six feet under. What a pity the undertaker was so busy that day that he pronounced you D.O.D. just a tad prematurely.”

In answer of his question, yes, I’m a Calvinist.

If, however, Lee is trying to argue that this would commit me to the same dilemma, it doesn’t follow:

i) The reprobate are indeed losers.

ii) The elect have everything to gain, and nothing to lose. They are winners.

iii) In a sense, the reprobate are trapped. They cannot escape the justice of God, which is a good thing—unlike, say, Nazi war criminals who fled to S. American countries without an extradition treaty, and spent the remainder of their lives sipping Tequila on the beach.

One of the problems with atheism is that, if true, there are no winners. Everyone comes out empty-handed.

That’s quite different from Calvinism.

In addition:

iv) Calvinism is not the same as fatalism. In fatalism, Oedipus cannot escape his fate, try as he might. Indeed, he fulfills his fate by trying to avoid it.

In Calvinism, the reprobate are not trying to escape their fate. Indeed, they regard themselves as masters of their own destiny.


  1. Two comments:

    "Furthermore, I didn’t make a “comparison” with National Socialism. Rather, I cited National Socialism as an example of a secular humanist ideology, which is exactly what it is."

    First, this is absolutely false. Whatever Hitler's true beliefs were, he was categorically not an atheist. Here are some things he said in public speeches:

    "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without religious foundation is built on air; consequently all character training and religion must be derived from faith..."

    "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."

    And from Mein Kampf:

    "I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord's work."
    (See for a more detailed look.)

    Now, let's talk a bit about Calvinism. Steve comments that, under atheism, he views life as a "trap" one cannot escape; and yet, he admits he is a Calvinist, and try as he might to avoid it, that commits him to *exactly the same* conclusion. If God has predestined someone for damnation, then no matter what they do, no matter what they desire, they are trapped, and doomed to undergo that fate. And if Steve is a consistent Calvinist, he must admit that, for all he knows, he might be one of the people who is thusly doomed. (Even if he professes faith at the moment, it might be "spurious faith"). I don't call that a very uplifting view of life.

    Steve's main criticism as I understand it is that even according to Calvinism there are some winners, whereas with atheism, there are none at all. I reject that conclusion. If I spend my life surrounded by friends and family, devoted to making my loved ones happy, learning about this magnificent and beautiful world we live in, and fighting for the good when I have the chance, that is more than enough for me. My life is no less meaningful because it is finite; in fact, its very finitude is what makes it so precious to me. I need no additional supernatural pie-in-the-sky to make it all worthwhile, nor do I need to live forever to be assured that my deeds were important and meaningful. They were important and meaningful *when I did them*, and that is enough.

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