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* faith

* fallacy of the mean


* 50 Reasons People Give For Believing In A God ; HARRISON, Guy P.

* Fighting Words ; AVALOS, Hector

* flying spaghetti monster


* Freedom Evolves ; DENNETT, Daniel Clement

* free thinker, freethinker

* fundamentalism

* faith (n.)

* fallacy of the mean

See agnosticism.

This logical fallacy is also known as the "fallacy of middle ground", the "golden mean fallacy" or the "fallacy of moderation". Latin equivalent: argumentum ad temperantiam. See Fallacy: Middle Ground on the site of The Nizkor Project.


The author of these essays, Robert Feinstein, lives in Brooklyn, New York. He has been totally blind since birth. Further, he is totally devoid of psychic powers. He does however possess a powerful organ of which he makes constant use: the brain.

Robert's experiences with religious institutions and believers have not been positive, and this is reflected in his writing. Some religious persons would claim that atheists are morally inferior, that belief in god makes one a better person. Such a claim is of course ridiculous and has no basis in fact. It would be similarly incorrect to claim the opposite, that atheists and others without religious faith are somehow "better" than the faithful. The problems which Robert discusses in these articles are not a matter of personal character. The targets of his criticism and anger are not individual believers, but rather irrational religious belief systems and the institutions which promote them. Even a person with the best of intentions can behave very badly when motivated by nonsensical dogma.

To reach the author by e-mail:

Author of the following articles hosted on this site:

* 50 Reasons People Give For Believing In A God
Keywords: atheism religion
Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, USA

* Fighting Words
The Origins of Religious Violence
AVALOS, Hector
Keywords: history religion violence
Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, USA

The Creation of Virtual Scarcities

Avalos presents a new theory of religious violence based on the observation that religions create scarce resources—even though the actual existence of these resources is unverifiable—and that the scarcity of these 'virtual' resources generates conflict and violence among those who value them, i.e. among religious believers. Avalos identifies four kinds of such resources:

"...while scarcities have figured prominently in many systematic theories of violence, few, if any of these theories, recognize the extent to which religion itself can generate scarce resources. ...theories of violence by academic scholars of religion are still dominated by religionist and essentialist paradigms that see 'true' religion as peaceful, and deviant forms of religion as violent."

p. 37, Introduction to Part 1: 'Past Explanations of Violence'

"Briefly, we hold that scarce resource X created by religion may cause violence when at least one of two or more groups (1) desire X and/or believe that they are uniquely entitled to X; and/or (2) violence is used as a method to acquire and/or defend against the loss of X. Of course, these categories can be found even when group privileging is not religious in nature. But, as our argument holds, group privileging resulting from religious motives is more wasteful in the violence it produces because the premise on which the privilege is granted is ultimately unverifiable....When this privilege is attributed to supernatural forces and/or beings, then we may say that religious belief has generated a scarce resource called group privilege. And when a privileged group feels threatened, then it may take violent measures to preserve that privilege or extend that privilege. Thus religious belief can be said to be a main factor in generating this violence."

pp. 141-142, Chapter 6, 'Judaism and the Hebrew Bible'

"The idea that Christianity brought a whole new concept of love to the world is so powerful that even some of the most skeptical thinkers have accepted it without much scrutiny. Thus, Michael Shermer, one of the leading popular skeptics today, repeats this commonplace Christian view when he says, 'This may represent the difference between Old Testament and New Testament morality: inflexible moral principles versus contextual moral guidelines—a stricter draconian God versus a kinder, gentler God.' Accordingly, our response will center on showing that, in regard to the New Testament and Christianity: (1) hate is also enjoined by Jesus; (2) love can entail violence in the New Testament and in Christian exegesis; (3) love can be tactical rather than substantive; (4) forgiveness is an ambiguous concept; and (5) peace can be interpreted as a form of Christian hegemony. In brief, our discussion will center on the fact that any interpretation that sees the New Testament or Jesus as essentially advocates of love, peace and forgiveness must rely on an ultimately unverifiable rationale for the selection of what counts as representative texts. Such a selection is no more verifiable that the selection of violent views, and the ultimate theological grounds for pacifist actions by Christians are no more verifiable than the grounds for violent ones."

pp. 215-216, Chapter 9: 'Academic Defenses of Christian Violence'

"The fight over sacred space is part of the stated grievance voiced by Osama bin Laden, regarded as the foremost enemy of the United States today. In a declaration dated February 23, 1998, bin Laden and four of his cohorts issued a fatwa, an edict obligatory to all Muslims. The fatwa bears the title 'Jihad against Jews and Crusaders,'... The fatwa begins with a standard praise to Allah and a reference to his Qur'an. Specifically, it quotes Sura 9:5, 'But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every strategem (of war).' This verse is one of the most prominent of the jihad verses... Of course, there are political reasons given for opposing the United States. However, bin Laden perceives the political to be an instrument of the religious. The United States is using political and military power in order to carry out what is essentially a religious or anti-Islamic agenda that is aligned with Zionism, which is all about sacred space for bin Laden."

pp. 262-263, Chapter 10: 'Islam and the Qur'an'

"Islam is many things, and violence has been part of its theology from the beginning. As is the case with Christianity and Judaism, Islam has created scarce resources that always have the potential for violence. Muslim scriptural traditions have been held to be sufficiently valuable to kill others who may challenge their authority as indicated by the Qurayza massacre. Sacred spaces have been created, and many Muslims feel that death is part of the price of defending them. Group privilege has resulted in oppression and violence toward non-Muslims. Salvation is premised on the existence of a torturous and externalized violence called hellfire. Above all, Muhammad, who is held to be the paradigm of Muslim behavior, committed acts of unspeakable violence that are still imitated today."

p. 274, Summary of Chapter 10: 'Islam and the Qur'an'

"Islamic violence is neither solely a modern reaction against colonialism nor some aberrant feature of the religion. Rather, violence forms the initial premises of Islam, be it in the Qur'an or in the life of Muhammad..."

p. 295, Summary of Chapter 11: 'Academic Defenses of Islamic Violence'

"Our thesis does not argue that secularism is completely peaceful or that only religion is violent. Since the root of violence is scarcity, violence will never disappear as long as something is perceived to be—or actually is—scarce. Our argument has been that scarcities caused by unverifiable propositions form a more tragic and preventable violence. One may not be able to do much about the scarcity of land, but one need not create a new scarcity of land by calling it 'holy' on the basis of unverifiable claims."

p. 301, Introduction to Part 3: 'Secularism and Violence'

"Religion is inherently prone to violence. This does not mean, of course, that all religions result in violence or that religions cannot proclaim peace. Rather, what we mean is that the fundamental characteristic of religion as a mode of life and thought is predicated on the existence of unverifiable forces and/or beings. This means that disputes and claims are not easily settled by verifiable means, and violence is often the means to settle disputes and claims."

p. 347, Introduction to Part 4: 'Synthesis'

"Having a god in a moral system does not inherently change it, except to add another scarce resource and bureaucratic layer to our moral decision making, rendering morality even more relativistic."

p. 352, Chapter 15: 'A Comparative Ethics of Violence'

"It is always immoral to commit any act of violence for religious reasons."

p. 354, Chapter 15: 'A Comparative Ethics of Violence'
(emphasis in the original)

"...nonexistent beings cannot save anyone. If there are saviors, they are human beings. Accordingly, our solution is to make sufficiently abundant those resources that people are actually lacking. These include food, shelter, justice, and so on. We can see that people are dying of hunger and disease. Empirico-rationalist epistemology is the key to determining what people actually need to live."

p. 368, Chapter 16: 'Solutions'

"It is immoral to encourage anyone to behave well if we realize that the supernatural rewards are no more verifiable than the belief in the existence of Santa Claus."

p. 369, Chapter 16: 'Solutions'

"...many of the benefits attributed to religion are intended to reverse problems caused by religion itself."

p. 370, Chapter 16: 'Solutions'

"If there is anything 'essential' about the Abrahamic religions, it is that they still are permeated by a slave mentality."

p. 371, Chapter 16: 'Solutions'

* flying spaghetti monster

The flying spaghetti monster is the Creator of the universe! That, at least, is the theory put forward by members (called "Pastafarians") of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This "belief" is just another intelligent design theory, an alternative to (and obviously a parody of) the one promoted by some Christians, Muslims, etc., especially fundamentalists.

See the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster


Author of the following article hosted on this site:

* Freedom Evolves
DENNETT, Daniel Clement
Keywords: evolution philosophy
Penguin, London
ISBN: 0-670-03186-0 (hc.), 0 14 20.0384 0 (pbk.)

A few excerpts:

"As thinkers have recognized for centuries, it is not hard to see why it is rational to cooperate when Big Brother is watching. Any society that was lucky enough to harbor a belief in a vigilant, omnipresent God—who could be expected to mete out punishment in the afterlife more than compensating for any local gains—would be a society populated by citizens who could be counted on to do what that God commanded, even when out of sight of their fellow citizens....But as critics since Nietzsche have insisted, a 'morality' thus based on fear of God is neither as noble, nor as stable, as we would like. What would happen to a society in which this useful scaffolding began to break down, or never existed in the first place? Would there be no way for its members to evolve robust habits of cooperation?"

p. 203

"The complexities of social life in a species with language and culture generate a series of evolutionary arms races from which agents emerge who exhibit key components of human morality: an interest in discovering conditions in which cooperation will flourish, sensitivity to punishment and threats, concern for reputation, high-level dispositions of self-manipulation that are designed to improve self-control in the face of temptation, and an ability to make commitments that are appreciable by others. Innovations such as these can thrive under specifiable conditions that co-evolve with them, supplanting the myopic 'selfishness' of simpler organisms inhabiting simpler niches."

p. 218, summary of Chapter 7: 'The Evolution of Moral Agency'


* free thinker, freethinker (n.)

* fundamentalism (n.)

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