Archive for December, 2010
I was an atheist for almost half my life.
When I was an atheist the concept that God could exist was impossible to me, because the cosmology I accepted as evidently true precluded the existence of such a being.
One of the authors who most influenced me in this view was George H. Smith, author of Atheism: The Case Against God. Judging by 258 reviews of this book on Amazon.com, this is a popular book on the subject, and judging that seven out of ten Amazon.com readers’ reviews are four or five stars, I’m not the only person who has regarded this as an important and compelling book on the subject. I knew George personally when we both lived in Southern California in the 1970′s and 1980′s, and I considered George a friend.
It’s easy to be friends with someone you agree with. Disagreements are the test of whether a friendship is real. It’s possible to be friends with someone who has profoundly different ideas if that person is generally congenial and if one has respect for their mind and character. It becomes impossible when congeniality is replaced with rudeness and one has contempt for the other. This isn’t just true for friendships. How many marriages have broken up because one spouse’s good regard for the other has turned to contempt?
I maintain Google alerts to send me email whenever there’s online discussion of my works, my projects, or my web presence. On December 11th Google sent me an email that a discussion had been started on the website “Objectivist Living” with the title, “Is J. Neil Schulman justified (logically) in believing in God?”
In the same queue was an even earlier email from David M. Brown, a fellow libertarian novelist and long-time correspondent, suggesting I participate in the discussion.
I’ve since published a chapter-by-chapter transcript of that audiobook for free reading — retitled I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith — beginning here.
The dedication of my book is:
To Charles Darwin, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and Ayn Rand
If They Still Know Anything, They Know Whether I’m Right
You can find the Objectivist Living discussion on whether or not I’m a complete whack job here.
I quickly discovered that George H. Smith was participating in the discussion when the second comment was his. George wrote, “Does God ever have nightmares? Yes, according to Neil’s account, and they last for ‘the better part of a day.’”
So much for the respect necessary to maintain a friendship. Buh bye, George.
What distinguishes my approach to God from others is that I’ve never abandoned my view that one should not accept the existence of anything on faith. Nor religious dogma. Nor scripture. Like anything else, I always have viewed existence of God as a fact that needs to be verified or negated. One can negate something by showing how the concept is impossible. But once a proposed existent survives the intellectual challenge that the very idea is impossible, one is still left with the problem of what constitutes sufficient reason to regard it as real.
For someone who is not put off by suspending rational analysis in favor of accepting the truth of a proposition by faith, this is not a problem.
For a rationalist it is.
I was a rationalist when I was an atheist. I’m a rationalist still. What overcame my skepticism were personal experiences that challenged my cosmology, my epistemological premises, my concept of what the nature of God is, and my view of the nature of man and his place in existence, itself.
Yet I did this without abandoning my reliance on any of the axioms or rules of logic that Ayn Rand used to dismiss the concept of God. I thought George H. Smith would have some respect for that.
I was wrong. It just annoyed him all the worse.
The discussion has now gone on for several weeks and now comprises over 22 long web pages.
I’m not going to participate anymore. I’d just be repeating myself.
But for the hearty, curious, and patient, I do recommend reading it, and possibly even continuing the discussion in my absence.
I’ve satisfied myself that I met the gauntlet thrown down at me. Beyond that, some third party not Me and not Them will have to decide whether I’m justified (logically) in believing in God … and whether my challenge to the atheists is deserving of any intellectual respect.
Summation: Objectivist Living Discussion — “Is J. Neil Schulman justified (logically) in believing in God?”
by J Neil Schulman on Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 3:47pm ·
I think the title of this thread asks the wrong question, or at least one which requires other subjects to be addressed long before we ask whether I’m logically justified in “believing” in God.
Here are questions that have been debated in this thread, but I think which have not been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. These are the premises upon which the question of my logic must rest.
Are there any axioms of existence or known scientific laws which preclude existence comprising multiple continua, some of which are designed, rather than the whole of existence being a single undesigned universe?
Is there any conclusive proof that human consciousness is solely a product of evolutionary biology, or could human consciousness precede evolutionary biology?
Is the human brain a generator of human consciousness, or merely a modulator of it?
Is human consciousness of an identity and nature that it can escape the termination of a human brain?
Could the “afterlife” be an actual physical destination for a human’s conscious identity located in another continuum?
In the event where a phenomenal experience presents itself as paranormal or supernatural, is there anything other than an unproved assumption of impossibility that necessitates interpreting such an experience as unreal?
I repeat that I’m unable to present evidence of the reality of my paranormal experience of a person I’ve identified as God to anyone else.
Nonetheless, my experience has caused me to examine each of these questions and reach my own answers.
I suggest exploring each of these questions with epistemological and scientific rigor is no less of a requirement for anyone else who wishes to assert flat conclusions about the nature of existence and human consciousness.
If one agrees with Richard Dawkins, as I do, that concluding God’s existence should not rely on an act of faith, but should survive a rational thinker’s potent skepticism, one comes to consider Dawkins’ central argument against the existence of God as the creator of our universe.
Dawkins submits to us that the complexity of our universe requires a long chain of prior events to become so complex.
Dawkins further submits that beings capable of creative design are not at the beginning of such a long chain of events but follow such a chain of events.
Dawkins sees human beings as being the result of a long chain of prior events, and sees us as creative designers. So, Dawkins and those who regard God as a creative designer are at least in agreement that such preconditions for a creative designer to exist can be satisfied, since here we are. But could a creative designer create an artifact as complex as an entire universe?
Dawkins submits that for a creative designer to have designed the universe, the creative designer, himself, would have had to have undergone a long chain of events prior to the creation of the universe.
If we regard the universe we perceive as the totality of that which exists, Dawkins has ended the discussion by reducing the thesis of a creator of the universe to absurdity, and his denial of the very possibility of a universe-creating God is justified.
But if a cosmology is possible in which that which we regard as our universe is not the whole of that which exists but is merely a part of existence, the paradox vanishes followed close order by the absurdity of the proposition that the universe could be a created artifact.
The Hebrews identify God in their scripture as being Eternal — as having always existed. If there exists a being with this trait, we can derive from that premise:
1) An eternal being would have sufficient time to develop his intellect, imagination, and other prerequisites of creative design;
2) Such a being would have time to learn a great deal, try out different philosophies, paradigms, methods, and so forth.
The possibility of the Eternal Hebrew God, so long as God’s existence is something additional to the universe as we regard it — that existence is more than that which we regard as The Universe — therefore survives Dawkins’ challenge to our reason.
Dawkins is free to demand a proof that such a being exists, but if, like existence itself, consciousness is a property of existence itself — then like existence, itself, there is no basis to demand a proof for that which would be the self-evident foundation for all further proofs.
We would not therefore be looking for proof of God in the sense of a mathematician deriving one, or in the sense of a scientist conducting experiments to test a thesis, but in the sense of seeing if we encounter such a being who can present us with experiences sufficient to satisfy our doubts.
Dawkins has not had such experiences. I have. Dawkins hasn’t convinced me that my conclusion that my skepticism was sufficiently satisfied was irrational. Unless Richard Dawkins has experiences that personally convince him that his skepticism has been satisfied, it is reasonable for him to continue disbelieving in God until he has experiences satisfactory to his reason.
But Richard Dawkins demand for reason to be applied to the question of God existence is, itself, quite godly, seeing as how to create a universe as complex as the one we find ourselves in one would require a being who is himself a scientist.
J. Neil Schulman, author
I Met God
This article is Copyright © 2007, 2010, 2011 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
The hallmark of modern tyranny is the government demand that private citizens have no privacy while officials claim the right to privacy for their public affairs. The same government that despises Julian Assange for whistleblower journalism is the one sticking its hands down your pants if you want to board a private commercial jetliner.
Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Giusto Sustermans
Carbon dioxide emissions threatening global ecological catastrophe is the biggest hoax since the Inquisition tried Galileo for criticizing Church denial of the Copernican model.
Beware of Scams: My Warning to the LinkedIn Film Financing Forum
Artists are always victims of scammers because there are a lot more of them than there are real opportunities available.
The Society of Authors Representatives — in essence the guild for literary agents — had strict rules that only agents who made their living by taking a percentage of sales they made for their clients could be members. Agents who charged potential clients reading fees were shown the exit.
Before Amazon.com made it possible for any author who desired to publish their book on the Kindle platform, a lot more subsidy or “vanity” publishers made a good living by charging authors thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars to read manuscripts, edit them, then charge authors to print them. These books rarely got ordered by bookstores and authors found themselves with a garage full of book cartons they couldn’t even give away.
In the film business indie producers sooner or later will run into distributors who will acquire the distribution rights to films which producers have spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce, sometimes charge producers up front fees for “deliverables,” then charge off against distribution costs their own office overhead, bundling dozens of films together into packages and selling the packages, with nothing or practically nothing left over for the out-of-pocket production investors.
Many film festivals and screenwriting contests rise to the level of scams. Producers and writers are charged submission fees sometimes more than $100 which are in essence lottery tickets where most films get rejected and only a few are accepted for screenings. Then the festivals sell tickets, and share none of the ticket sales revenues with the producers who have not only spent tens or hundreds of thousands of production dollars but also travel and publicity costs — and sometimes major studio releases are played by these festivals, free publicity subsidized by the submissions fees from indie producers whose own films are never shown at the festival — and not even a thank you in the program book.
We also find here on LinkedIn the equivalent of the old literary agents asking producers for reading fees for projects seeking financing. Finding financing for a film is what executive producers do. It defines the job title and requirements — and executive producers receive fees and points when a movie is funded and goes into production.
Another scam is film “financiers” who are only looking for films with A-list stars attached, a completion bond, and a distribution deal in place. If I had that, I could walk into any bank and walk out with a loan for production funds. Once again, the scammer wants to do none of the actual work of producing but reap all the benefits.
Anyone asking a producer to pay for these sorts of services are parasites on artists’ hopes and dreams.
Let’s not mince words. Environmentalism and population control, as opposed to humanism, is the purest and most perfectly conceived form of evil misanthropic nihilism ever advocated. It’s so purely evil and anti-human that it’s almost enough to make me believe it originates not with human beings but with either extraterrestrials planning invasion and occupation or supernatural and jealous demons.
Environmentalism (as opposed to conservationism) is and has always been a subterfuge for the destruction of human rights and property rights.
The libertarian solution to the “pollution” of the commons has always been to eliminate the commons. The problem of externalities has always been: if you don’t like free riders, keep it hidden.
The idea of “right-sizing” the human population is Nazi-like from the ground up. If I want and can support one thousand children, it’s no one else’s fucking business.
Excuse me, I need to apologize for my previous comment. I was unnecessarily harsh on Nazis, who only wished to kill off inferior human beings, as opposed to the current generation of environmentalists who want to kill off the entire human race.
Plus, the idea that there is any sort of “natural” environment is pure unadulterated misanthropic horseshit. To paraphrase Heinlein, it assumes that beaver dams are natural but human dams aren’t. Or that a wolf eating a sheep is natural but a human eating a sheep isn’t.
Any human being who thinks the earth is overpopulated has my sincere wishes that they reduce the human population starting with themselves and their devil spawn.
Who wants to take a pledge carefully to ration the carbon emissions by ammo used to take on anyone who tries to ration our food supply? I mean, I don’t believe in wasting ammo. Shouldn’t every shot count?
The reason libertarians are consistently hostile to discussions on environmentalism and the size of human population is that the very premises necessary to be assumed by both are anti-libertarian from the ground up.
Libertarians don’t acknowledge the concept of “an” environment.” The function of private property rights is to create multiple environments, a sphere of control within each of our own property boundaries. Significant and damaging incursions onto someone else’s property is almost always regarded as actionable under any conceivable libertarian legal system, minarchist or agorist.
The very concept of “population” is collectivist and anathema to the libertarian who regards all human rights as held by individuals. Reproductive rights are a subset of individual rights, and others have no more right to limit someone else’s fecundity than they do to demand someone else produce children for them as workers or cannon fodder.
The libertarian premise bypasses the entire question of whether there is such a thing as a “right” number of people, just as much as libertarians reject the concept that there is such a thing as too much or too little property, or that the “globe” is the wrong temperature.
Then you add in that most of “environmentalism” and “population science” is based on crackpot junk science, and the hostility rises to my statement that these are nothing but evil and nefarious schemes to create a holocaust of the human species itself — one which makes the Nazis desire merely to kill off people they regarded as racially inferior seem charming by comparison.
I’ve come up with a term for these sort: not Greens, but Gangrenes.
Of course the Gangrenes want to wipe out home-growing of food — how else can they gain control of food production and ration it only to their own cronies, wiping out their political enemies the way Mao Ze Dong starved 80 million Chinese during his Great Commie Revolution?
Hanukkah candles burn for about a half hour. They’re supposed to be lit after sunset. But on Friday nights you’re not supposed to light a candle after sunset. How many more millennia will it take before Jews understand that God is just fucking with them?
The one Hanukkah riddle I know, and it’s one I wrote.
Q: What’s the real danger of Jewish/Christian mixed marriages?
A: Hanukkah candles set the Christmas tree on fire.
The existential argument I always thought applied to my fellow Jews. Let’s see, 12 million Jews, a couple billiion Christians. And Jesus wasn’t the Messiah … why?
The more I believe any businessman who says he’s in business primarily to help others, the less I trust him.
The Vatican can’t have it both ways. Either Roman Catholic clergy are citizens of the countries they live in and are subject to local laws, or they’re agents of a foreign power and countries can treat them as such.
Roman citizens were complaining that Rome was granting citizenship to a bunch of unwashed foreigners in territories they’d conquered. “These people, they come to Rome, take tutoring jobs away from Roman teachers, piss in our aqueducts …”
I can always go for a nice piece smoked salmon. Bagel and cream cheese optional.
Glenn Beck on his Fox News Channel show said how “Struggle is liberating.” *sigh* Would someone please tell Mr. Beck that the title of Adolf Hitler’s most-famous book was My Struggle and that the Arabic word for “struggle” is “jihad”?
What I like about Glenn Beck is that he wants to be a real boy.
I don’t know what you call it when a bank charges 20% interest to lend me money but only pays me 1% when I lend them money, but it sure as heck isn’t capitalism.
Maybe I’m just old enough to remember that when you put money into the average bank savings account the competitive interest rate was around 4% to 6% — and car, boat, and home loans were not that much different. I’m talking about the early 1960′s, when I opened my first savings account. Back then charge cards were something gasoline companies and department stores gave out, and my dad used to pay off all charges every month.
There was no national credit card debt because revolving credit was a rarity in American life.
Major banks no longer lend out money deposited with them and instead lend out money they get to create by fractional-reserve banking through the Federal Reserve system. This drives down interest rates for deposits to practically nothing even in smaller institutions that do have to rely on deposits for lending. This makes banks rely on treating consumers not primarily as depositors — except when they can empty their accounts through overdraft fees, ATM fees, and other schemes — but as consumers for high-priced credit. That’s the business they’re in.
And as I said up top: this is not capitalism any more. It’s fascism.
The reason so many movies are financial disasters is that the people who decide which stories are profitable to produce are clueless about the interests and values of the vast majority of their potential audience. So they slice off shavings from a much larger market and play only to niche markets.
There are probably as many good writers working in television today as write movies or novels — when they’re not replaced by unscripted game shows, reality TV, and singing or dancing competitions. Glenn Gordon Caron and Chuck Lorre immediately come to mind.
Simple consistency: whatever age you declare someone is a child for the purposes of statutory rape is the same age that if they commit a heinous crime they may never be tried as an adult.
Without carrying information, drama becomes masturbation — a roller coaster, a thrill ride — the old joke about Chinese food, that an hour after consuming it you’re hungry again. Without message, drama becomes redundant of music and without the distinct purpose of telling a story: not just to move, but to edify, enlighten — and yes, teach.
The master storyteller learns to convey information through drama, not eliminate information from drama.
If you can’t do that, you’re still a journeyman apprentice, no matter how successful you are.
Storytelling is how ideas are sold. Movies today are even more than novels the public transit for storytelling.
Time to remind everyone once again that it was precisely TSA screening and disarming passengers that gave us 9/11 in the first place.
I swear to God, the second they can’t make anyone believe anymore that carbon dioxide pollution is destroying the earth, they’ll come up with some excuse why the presence of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere is the problem.
This article is Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!