When it comes to defending the claims of
various religions and supernaturalism in general, there are many awful
arguments. But there’s nothing quite like a poor, religious person babbling a
string of incoherent words to support wacked out beliefs.
Today’s three videos of the day come
from the internet show The Atheist
Experience, and they feature callers who base their religious beliefs on drugs
trips that they’ve had, using these experiences to justify jumbled nonsense.
Read on for descriptions of these videos and links.
Today’s Video of the Day is a podcast
starring Atheist Experience host Matt
Dillahunty. In this video, Matt talks about the essentialism that underlies the
thinking of most people (and that finds its expression in a lot of religious
The guy talking to him is kind of
annoying, but luckily he doesn’t have too much to say: the video mostly
consists of Matt freely discoursing on this subject, with the interviewer just
bringing up various topics for him to discuss. Some of the topics covered
include the “Ship of Theseus” thought experiment, identity/labels, abortion,
gay marriage, Hitler sweaters, and in what way numbers can be said to “exist.”
This is one of the best podcasts I’ve
listened to in a really long time.
Readers may want to reflect on the ways
that the argument from definition – a favorite of religious dunderheads – is
the product of one kind of essentialism. As Matt mentions in the video, words
don’t actually have (essential) meanings…they have usages that vary in
different contexts and that develop over time. He tells the story of one debate he did in which the Christians in the audience were dumbfounded by this idea
and mocked him for it…but it’s precisely this kind of essentialism that
underlies so many faulty religious arguments, from assumptions like “Marriage is a union of a man and a
woman” to “Materialists start from the assumption that the natural world is all
“Study Logic, which is the Code of the Laws of
Thought. Study the Method of Science, which is the Application of Logic to the
Facts of the Universe. Think not that thou canst ever abrogate these Laws, for
though they be Limitations, they are the rules of thy Game which thou dost
play." – Aleister Crowley, Liber Aleph
Whatever is, is what it is. Whatever is, is not what
it’s not. Something cannot be both what it is and what it’s not at the same
time and in the same way.
Those sentences above are descriptions of the
foundational laws of thought (or the “laws of logic”). The first thing that
you’ll notice about them is that they are tautologies. They’re circular
statements that are necessarily true because the contrary in each case is
impossible. While it may not be possible to demonstrate in any absolute way
that they are true (I’ll get to this in a moment), it would appear that these
laws are true and applicable to everything (or, more accurately, to our
conceptualization of everything).
Without these laws, thought itself would be impossible
because each thought is what it is and is not what it’s not. Ditto with
language: every word is what it is. That is to say, each word encompasses a
range of meanings and uses, and these meanings and uses all together comprise
what that linguistic building block is. Each one has to be what it is – and not
what it’s not – in order for there to be language at all. The same holds true
with logic: logic is built on the foundation of these laws, which establish
that true, mutually-exclusive dichotomies are possible. Without dichotomies, it
would be impossible to construct and validate syllogisms.
There seems to be a great deal of confusion about
these laws, on the side of believers and nonbelievers alike. These laws are not
contradicted by quantum mechanics, they are not contradicted by the fact that
people can develop logical systems with different categories for ranking truth
value (“Multi-valued logic”), and they cannot be argued against (because to
argue is to invoke these laws).
Their place in Thelema is also frequently
misunderstood. As Crowley clearly states, logic is the code of the laws of
thought, which cannot be abrogated. Though he acknowledges that these laws are
“Limitation,” they are also “the rules of thy Game which thou dost play."
To use the analogy he invokes often in Liber Aleph, the laws of logic are like
the rules of chess. So long as we’re playing chess, it’s absolutely true that
bishops can only move diagonally. It is senseless to object to this statement
on the grounds that it’s possible to pick up a bishop and put the piece in your
pocket. Whether or not this “law” applies in contexts outside of playing the
game is irrelevant. It’s one of the rules of the game, and within the bounds of
the game it’s absolutely true. By agreeing to play the game we bind ourselves
The laws of thought are very much like this. So long
as we play the “game” of thinking and logical argumentation, we are bound by
them, and there is no way to escape them. Whether or not they are “really”
absolute is irrelevant because within the
game they are as absolute as the rules of chess are in that game.
This remains the case even when thinking and reasoning
about subjects that are irrational, counter-intuitive, and paradoxical. A
photon of light may behave like a wave and a particle, but it’s something that
behaves like a wave and a particle and it’s not not-something-that-behaves-like-a-wave-and-a-particle.An
abstract painting may exist to defy our conventional notions of what art is,
but it’s still an abstract painting and it’s not not-an-abstract painting. We
may have a conflicted desire that partially wants to commit to a sexual partner
and partially wants to remain single, but it’s a desire that partially wants to
commit to a sexual partner and partially wants to remain single, and it’s not
So long as we’re playing the game of thinking and
talking about stuff, you have no choice but to play by its rules. You cannot
abrogate these rules, as Crowley tells us.
Read on for way too much more on this subject. Toward
the end of the post, I start talking about the more direct relevance of all
these ideas to Thelema.
Last year, a comment on my post about the Middle Pillar Ritual
led me to write a short essay on the process of invoking
the Holy Guardian Angel. I recently reread it and thought that I would make a
post out it.
Presented below is my essay with some
minor modifications. The impetus for writing it was a question about whether
the Holy Guardian Angel (or HGA) is an external being or not. As I state in the
essay, this question is explored very thoroughly by Erwin Hessle's excellent essay on the subject, which concludes that the HGA is most definitely not an
external being. Interested readers may also want to peruse this link and this link and this link for more details about what is meant by True Self and True