Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Take on "It's A Wonderful Life"

Last year I took on America's most favorite Christmas movie, which has dubious values.

This year, Craig Ferguson dissects it in a very post-modern way (starting at 5:10):

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review: The Religion Virus

The "New Atheists" have described religion as a delusion, a poison, and now apparently a virus.  The author says at the end that he hoped people would view their religions differently, but I doubt many religionists could get past the title of this book:  The Religion Virus: Why We Believe in God, An Evolutionist Explains Religion's Incredible Hold on Humanity.

Craig James applies Dawkins' theory of memes to the main concepts of religion.  In many ways I found this convincing, but he tries a little too hard to force the meme concept onto the book.

The concept in this book that has stuck with me most of all is the transition from pantheons of single-function gods to almighty, multi-dimensional single gods.  The All-Powerful god meme, which replaces the Warrior God Meme, the Protector God Meme, and the Loving Father God Meme, or rather conflates them all into one god-meme.  This transition wasn't ever complete with Catholics, at least.  They continue to pray to patron saints for help with their specialties. 

Still, it's a powerful idea.  It explains how God could be so contradictory, taking both sides of a football game for instance.  It also explains how the various stories and phases of the Old Testament portray different concepts of God.

The memeplex lost me a bit, but I get the concept of multiple memes sticking together and supporting each other.  I imagine a herd of gazellish ideas sticking together, which would be very adaptive.

Essentially, the analogy states that ideas that are advantageous to themselves will survive.  The most obvious is missionary work, of course.  Religions that prosletyze survive and those that don't, won't.  Christianity & Islam prosletyze and they number in the billions.  Judaism doesn't, and hence comprises a tiny minority in the world.

The virus analogy enters only at the end: religion is a parasite on society, needing to be passed from person to person to survive and yet destroying some of them.  It survives for its own purposes more than for the benefit to society... or something.  I found this part a little bit of a stretch.  A virus spreads through unconscious mechanisms, and religion spreads through prosletyzing, brainwashing, and "educating" young children.  Some of the memes seem to infect other memeplexes a.k.a. religions, though.

Some of the book oversimplifies, especially the virus analogy.  Religion has helped or hurt its societies to varying degrees.  Of course you can claim that there are beneficial parasites as well as destructive ones, and some that are only destructive under the right circumstances.

It's definitely a thought-provoking book.  Anyone who has read the Bible knows that the "unchanging" God has changed quite a bit from the beginning to the end.  Even the commandment "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" implies that at one time Judaism was not monotheistic.  "The" God just wanted to be Numero Uno.  The warrior god seems to have softened his approach.  He wiped out the world, then he wiped out entire peoples or countries in genocidal rampages, then honed in on cities and eventually individuals.  "An eye for an eye" was a big moral improvement over genocide.  Then later there's no payment at all thanks to penal substitution.  God went from destroying the whole world to saying "fuhgeddaboudit."  This book frames a theory that explains these changes.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The War on New Year's

We used to say "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."  The phrase has been immortalized in song.  We send greeting cards with this message.

Then we got lazy and started saying "Happy Holidays."  A two word catch-all greeting was much less of a mouthful than the six-word greeting that covered the whole holiday season.

And that worked for quite some time.  Many years.  Our hustle-bustle lifestyle fit with our holiday spirit just fine.  We could do Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving, then come home and eat leftover turkey.  On the day after Christmas we'd be back at the mall, shopping the sales in the same spirit as "Black Friday."  Then by New Year's Eve we'd be ready for a party that didn't include eating too much or giving gifts that people don't really need.  Just pure partying.  No baggage.

And then the next day we could start thinking about Valentine's Day.

But then certain people got concerned that our abbreviated greeting was giving short shrift to Christ's birthday.  After all, without Christ there would be no holiday season.  They don't celebrate all those holidays.  They just celebrate one, but they start it on Thanksgiving and finish up sometime after January 1.   So they took offense at the suggestion that there was more than one holiday in the "season."

It's bad enough that Thanksgiving gets the smack-down when it is clearly part of the Christmas season now, but New Year's is no longer recognized either.  These people want us to say "Merry Christmas" without adding "and Happy New Year."  They are rewriting history, claiming that "Merry Christmas is all that was ever said.

New Year's Eve used to be about getting drunk, kissing strangers, and waking up with a horrible hangover.  Now it's not even its own holiday anymore.  If it's a holiday at all, it's part of the endless marathon of Christmassing that starts just before Thanksgiving.  It's not about getting drunk and waking up in a fog the next day.  Now it's about organizing your shit into color coded Rubbermaid bins and making impossible resolutions.

But some of us know better, and it's up to us to stand up for what's Right and True.  If you know any sanctimonious Christians who claim that "Christ is the reason for the season," walk right up to them from December 26 through January 1, and say "HAPPY NEW YEAR."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Death of a God

The death of Kim Jong Il has brought to light a lot of information I didn't previously know.  I'm surprised he isn't mourned by more people.  His birth was accompanied by a heavenly miracle.  He talked within a few months and walked way ahead of schedule.  He authored thousands of books as a college student, and composed an opera. He made several holes in one on his first time on a golf course. But don't just trust me.  Read it here.

Or check out the movie:

So many people couldn't believe something so untrue, could they?  Sure, they were all taught to believe that, but they were taught it because it's true

Skeptics dispute the details of his life, of course.  Bitter hopeless people with nothing to live for but the evil wish to hurt the reputation of a beloved god will always try to dissuade the true believers.  The tears of the faithful should be proof enough that he is indeed a good and beloved leader.   

I prophesy that he will appear again to his people and tell them to obey his holy son's commandments. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"She's in God's Hands Now"

Last week a seven-year-old little girl and her 21-year-old uncle were killed in what seems to have been a burglary.  Their funeral was on Saturday and the TV news showed several people making comments about it.  And of course someone said the inevitable "She's in God's arms and God is taking care of her now."

I've heard that sentiment a million times but this time I realized.... why would you want a crime victim to be in the hands of the same god that let her get murdered?  I mean, if being "in God's hands" was some kind of protection, then obviously God isn't all-powerful or else he'd have protected her on Earth.  Not much of god if he can only keep her safe after she's shed her corporeal self and starts hanging out with him and the angels.  I thought there was no suffering in Heaven, so he's protecting her from what?  Boredom?  What a challenge!

Sometimes when a child dies they say "God needed another angel in heaven so he took her."  (Usually just the girls.  I suppose when boys die the Devil gets them?  *shrug*)  What?  Why would he need another angel?  What do angels do besides sing his heavenly praises?  There's no work in heaven, and if there was, why make children do it?  And why would God need an angel?  Why would God need anything for that matter?

And anyway, you'd think God would know how many angels he needs to surround himself with and not have to change his mind after letting one be a child for seven years.  There's no death or disease in Heaven, so it's not like one of the angels came down with laryngitis and had to drop out of the Heavenly Choir.

I can understand the need for comforting thoughts in a time of grief, but how can these fairy tales be any kind of comfort?  I find it rather dismissive of the absolute horror that the child experienced.  "Oh yeah she was terrified and then she got shot and maybe she bled and hurt for a little while, and maybe she saw her favorite uncle take a bullet too, but it's all okay now."   Uhhh yeah, her suffering is over, but not that of her family. 

When challenged about it, most people would admit that their fairy tales are just made up to soothe their feelings.  People say these things without any thought for the theology of it, or even the logic of it.  They make up a way to reframe their situation in a way that makes it less painful.

It reminds me of Dissociative Disorder.  The abused child has been taxed beyond their ability to cope, so their mind supplies them with another personality that can take the lumps for them.  We've all probably been in situations where we mentally "check out" because it's so uncomfortable.  The next phase would be imagining you're watching yourself taking in the pain.  After that, dissociation.  And then after that.... dissociate the entire universe.  Make up a universe in which the unfair becomes fair and pain is turned to comfort.

Life is tough.  Death is also tough.  We atheists comfort ourselves that Hitch left behind his writings and the fond memories people have of him.  We had the luxury of being able to prepare for his loss, but  we still miss him.  The little girl's life was cut so short that there wasn't much of a legacy there.  It was truly horrific, and we can empathize with the grief of her family and friends. 

Thanks to vaccines, water treatment plants, sewage systems, and food safety inspections, the girl's family was not unrealistic in believing she could have lived into her eighties.  But life still has its risks, however small, from day one through the "natural" ending.  This is one of those times when a rare event happens.  We wish they were even more rare, of course.

In the Middle Ages people seemed to believe in Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck.  (Yes, even in the supposedly most religious age of Christianity there was a lot of pagan stuff floating around!  Who'da thunk it?)  She turned her wheel (The Wheel Of Fortune) and people rose or fell according to where they were on the wheel.  Even though they had a thousand or more years of Christian theology to turn to, they still had to admit that in the end sometimes shit just happens and it's out of your hands.  They didn't imagine that it was in God's hands, either. 

Medieval theology was based pretty much on the Bible, unlike the theology of the ultra-religious of American society (who claim to be "Biblical").  They believed in salvation of the soul, but as for the rest, shit happened.  I have to admire the fact that they spun off their dissociation into a different deity rather than rewriting the theology of The God to ameliorate their pain.  I think Christianity was as successful as it was in converting "pagans" in part because it originally lacked that promise of making things happen on Earth in the same way that pagan gods did.  The pagan god of harvest, childbirth, or whatever, was fickle and could let you down.  The Christian god of damnation and forgiveness wasn't interested in those things, just what you believed about him.  Of course, this left open the door to pagan ideas and celebrations, such as Fortuna, and yule logs and gift-giving at the Solstice.

Now, apparently, instead of reverting to Pagan gods or studying The Problem of Evil, people just make shit up about God.  You don't have to have a theology degree or even to have read the entire Bible to do it.  Here's the formula: 
  1. Feel bad. 
  2. Imagine a Hollywood fairy tale ending. 
  3. Attribute the fairy tale ending to God.

The End.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Goodbye, Hitch

Although I disagreed with some of his opinions, I will miss his voice in the atheist world.  He was one of the few outspoken atheists not to come from academia or the sciences.  His  voice was the voice of the common sense human being who looks at the world's superstitions and the damage done and says "This is crap."

Of course as an atheist blogger who isn't a scientist I appreciate that voice.  I also admire his way with words and I believe he opened the door for other voices to join in.  With Dawkins and Hawking we have representatives of the "answers" that counter the creationist worldview.  A lot of believers take the Genesis story with a grain of salt, anyway, so we need to point out the many other reasons why religion is false.  Hitch took on the "Religion does good things" meme. 

His "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" was one of the "New Atheist" books of the past few years.  I had never heard of him until I picked up that book.  It's worth the read just for his writing style, but also gives you plenty to ponder.  I'm a fan of religious art and music, and I have often had to deal with friends who point out "If it weren't for religion Bach wouldn't have comnposed his B Minor Mass!"  [so there].  It's tedious to have to point out that Bach composed a lot of secular music and DaVinci's Mona Lisa is just as important as the Sistene Chapel ceiling.  Without religion, Bach and DaVinci would still have been great artists, just not with religious themes.

So... I don't necessarily believe that religion poisons everything but I admire Hitch for expressing himself and showing another side of the atheist spectrum.  He will never be replaced, but his niche will be filled by some of the people he inspired.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

YAY for Team Atheist!!!

Athiests on reddit got together and donated to Doctors Without Borders.  Awesome!

Doctors without Borders (DWB), also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, gets about 4,000 hits on its U.S. website on an average Sunday. Last Sunday that number ballooned to 50,000 as a horde of redditors, subscribers to the social media site, thundered across the DWB homepage.

Thousands more clicked through from the atheism sub-reddit, a site normally given over to finding holes in religions and picking fights with creationists, and headed for a dedicated site at, where they have so far given $180,000...

DWB normally gets a few million dollars a year from about 250-300 third party fundraising events, anything from reddit to a child selling home-made lemonade on the street corner. Reddit has contributed about 10 percent of that total in a few days.

I have never posted at reddit so I took a quick glance.  It's kind of overwhelming.  But google came to my rescue and I found the actual donation page.  It's at $194k now, just shy of the $200k goal.  Open your wallets if you can and help Team Atheist reach the $200k mark!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nerds and Male Privilege

Men in the nerdlier professions tend to be atheists.  They are the ones who study the logical subjects but yet still have the instincts of any normal human being.  Sadly, they don't get the exposure needed to learn as much about women as they do about computers, computer games, and whatever science they love because women are typically discouraged from them even today.  (We also develop language skills earlier, possibly to the detriment of the parts of the brain necessary for science)

So... anywho, having observed Elevatorgate and contributed my two cents, I had some deja vu while reading this essay:

Completely different corner of geekdom, completely similar issues.  A brilliant, brilliant essay, from a man who "gets it."  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What do Atheists Feel?

Believers, especially evangelical Christians, seem to be immune to logical arguments against their beliefs.  My theory is that they believe for emotional reasons, as their emotional "arguments" for belief indicate.  I have enountered many completely emotional responses to my rational arguments.  It's like we speak two different languages.  Atheism as a non-belief position rather than a systemic response to existential fears and feelings, so it offers nothing for them.  In fact, they actually accuse atheists of believing in "nothing."  To them, our worldview is dark, depressing, and nihilistic.  So I thought I would answer some of the questions I've heard and seen coming from the other side.

Isn't atheism depressing?

Not unless you're being discriminated for it.  Depression is depressing.  Grieving is grieving no matter whether you believe in God.  Believers must really work their rationalization skills when bad things happen to them.  Whatever happiness or comfort they get is as much from their social network as from the "answers" they get in their religion.  Why else would funerals be universal amongst religious practices?  Religion gives comfort, and we atheists recognize this.

But whether a belief is comforting doesn't have anything to do with whether it's true, and my atheism is based on a desire to know what's true, not to hear comforting words.  I suspect that many believers, when pressed on the tenets of their belief system, would deny quite a bit of it, but they cling to their religion as a salve for their uncomfortable feelings.  The "Problem of Evil" (which is really the Problem of Things Not Going My Way) is a real conundrum for Christians.  Why would a loving God allow child rape, plane crashes or cancer?  Those things aren't "fair."  For the Christian whose rationalization muscle isn't strong enough to answer this question, their worldview actually causes them more sadness and angst than the atheist position would.  Chance occurrences are "fair" in that all of us are equally at risk for bad things.  When something devastating happens, it doesn't "mean" anything except that something devastating happened.  That "fairness" brings me quite a bit of comfort.

Depression with a big "D" is a disease, and also a chronic mood.  The extent of "depression" depends on genes and other factors for atheists as much as it does for believers.  In the modern age there are proven psychotherapies and drugs that can address depression.  Social networking has also gotten a bit easier.  An atheist who is an avid racketball player may find a social network in this activity that is comparable to that of believers' networks.  The fact that so many staunch believers in the U.S. live in rural areas with fewer opportunities outside of their churches tells me that the community aspect may be the real reason they cling to belief.  As more people live in urbanized areas, they will find more ways to connect with others of similar interests, and the need to belong to a religious group will decline.

Aren't you afraid of hell?

Nobody wants to die.  It's an instinct.  And so of course the idea of an afterlife is very appealing.  Justice is also a universal desire.  We want to think that we will be rewarded for our goodness and that horrible people will be punished even if they got away with their crimes in life.  Christians have the odd theology that states that belief itself is enough to decide who receives reward or punishment.  They seem only to hold that belief when encountering atheists, however.  When they encounter believers who have done something terrible, they want them to go to Hell.

Judgment Day for me is my last moment of consciousness.  I want my last thought to be "I did what I could with the time I had."  I think a lot of atheists feel that way.  Having a finite lifespan makes our actions in life that much more urgent and important.  I don't want to think that Gandhi is in Hell for disbelieving the Bible but Karla Faye Tucker is in Heaven for accepting Christ.  Hitler never renounced his belief in God.  As a Catholic, he would be in Hell for committing the mortal sin of murder.  In evangelical Christianity, he'd be in Hell for not being "born-again" rather than for his actions, if he were to go to Hell at all.  Where's the justice here?  As far as I'm concerned, Gandhi, Hitler and Karla Faye Tucker are all dead and that's that.

You just want to sin.

Most prohibitions that are called "sins" are just common sense in a human society.  Other sins really don't matter in the grand scheme of life.  Is it really a big deal for women to go out with their heads uncovered?  Is it really a big deal to eat shellfish?  Is it really a big deal to decide which day of the week you want to take off from work?  No.  As the diversity of societies proves, these religious practices don't affect society at all, nor do they affect the individuals.  Men who are bald should cover their heads to prevent skin cancer.  People with shellfish allergies should avoid shellfish.  And all people should take a day off from work at least once a week to refresh and rejuvenate themselves.  You can decide these things for yourself without any penalty whatsoever.  People do it every day.

But... is it a big deal to kill people, lie to others, and make enemies of your neighbors?  Of course it is.  Any society has rules like this, including secular societies.  And atheists on the whole don't really want to do these things any more than believers do.  Note that believers have been guilty of many things considered "sins" universally, so being a believer doesn't really protect them from acting on their baser feelings.  The odds are pretty good that most people in prison were indoctrinated with religion as children, considering how overwhelming the "majority" is.

Not to mention, what about all the pedophile priests & ministers, the evangelical preachers caught practicing homosexuality or cheating on their wives with a prostitute?  "You want to sin" is a case of psychological projection.  They refrain from antisocial behaviors because they want to refrain from them, not because God is looking over their shoulders.  Atheists refrain from hurting people for the same reason.
Atheists are just angry at God.

How many Christians are angry with Vishnu or Thor or Zeus?  A lot of atheists harbor anger toward religion or individual members of their previous religions.  But it's impossible to be angry toward a god that you don't believe exists.  And yet this is one of the most common accusations I've heard.

This meme comes from the God-as-Santa-Claus fantasy held by many Christians.  They themselves wrestle with the issue of God not answering prayers, so they assume others have failed to adequately rationalize this for themselves and then left the church in a huff.  It's certainly possible that some people came to their atheism from this starting point, but from the atheists I've known it just doesn't happen often.  Christians will switch denominations or parishes out of anger, or they'll stop going to church for awhile, but they usually don't stop believing altogether.

A lot of things do anger atheists, but this has more to do with Christian hypocrisy (in the U.S. especially) and intolerance.  Check out Greta Christina's long list of things that make her angry.  Believers should be angry at these things too.  There are also some atheists who feel they were snookered by their former religion.  After you come up for air, you realize what you've missed during the years of needless self-deprivation and emotional self-abuse.  The more extreme the former religion, the more snookered former adherents may feel about it.

Rejection of God is an intellectual position rather than an emotional one.  This is hard for believers to accept.  As long as their religion makes them feel good they can't understand others not deriving the same happiness from belief.  Evangelical Christianity understands this, and this is why love-bombing features so prominently in their activities.  The other trick they use is to offer so many activities through the church that members' entire social lives depend on their church membership.

Believers "think" with their feelings, so they project onto us atheists the only feeling they can imagine driving them away from their feel-good God.  As Matt Dilahunty often says on The Atheist Experience, it matters to us whether something is true.  An atheist doesn't find the "arguments" for religion compelling, and believers' appeals to emotion do nothing to prove their religion true.

Doesn't atheism make you feel lonely?

Yes, it does sometimes, especially in the Bible Belt.  This is why there are so many "closet athiests," who belong to a church and take part in its activities despite not believing in any of the tenets.  Some of these closeted atheists are even pastors, priests and rabbis.  They are perhaps the loneliest atheists.

Fortunately for us, this is changing.  We have the ability via the internet to find each other, and there are groups popping up everywhere.  This includes schools.  We don't have rummage sales, spaghetti dinners, or softball leagues, but that may come some day!  We do have "retreats" in a sense, with the few conferences we can attend.

Again, feelings don't prove the truth of a position.  Feeling comfort from your religion is very, well, comforting.  That doesn't mean there's a supernatural sky-daddy looking in on you.  It's a comforting fantasy, but just a fantasy.

Belonging to a megachurch that offers dozens of weekly activities may stave off loneliness, and that's a good thing.  Having a "prayer circle" that checks in on you when you're in the hospital is a very nice thing.  Having dozens of people show up at a loved one's funeral makes it easier to go on with life.

We don't dismiss the comfort that religion brings, only the tenets that religion requires.

You worship Dawkins (or Darwin or whomever).

Atheism is a rejection of supernatural religious beliefs, and for some people those beliefs are grounded on respect for authority.  If you have an authoritarian viewpoint, naturally you would expect to substitute another authority for the law-giving God.

"Worship" for many Christians is really just synonymous with admiration, or else this accusation wouldn't come up so often.  It seems to have lost its supernatural definition for them to think we could "worship" a mortal being.
So if we use the word "admire," Christians have a long list of people they admire, and not all of them are church leaders.  Likewise, atheists can admire any number of people.  We can also admire ideas, laws, principles, and even religions.  Once you open your mind to looking for the best that humanity has to offer, you can experience an even greater sense of awe than you experience from a fairy tale.

How can you look at the stars (nature, babies, etc.) and not feel that there is a God?

Easy.  We look at these things, admire their beauty and feel awe without giving that feeling a supernatural origin.  The mind is a tricky thing.  You can have an aesthetic experience that seems supernatural, but it really isn't supernatural.  That takes nothing away from the good feelings you get from these experiences.  If you are open to beauty you will be open to beauty no matter what your cultural upbringing or system of beliefs.  The beautiful things of life are admirable on their own.  In fact, imagining a supernatural being behind it all takes away some of the awe.  Billions of years of astrophysical events are much more amazing to me than the thought that some superpower caused it with a wave of a magic wand.

We do feel that there's something bigger than ourselves, but we don't personalize it.  Gravity as a force is pretty awesome.  The circle of life is awesome.  The delicacy of a hummingbird or a flower is awesome.  Period.  That's good enough, and it's pretty good!

You are your own God

I assume from this accusation that they don't mean the supernatural aspects of their deity.  From conversations with believers, I have deduced that this accusation refers to the law-giving God.  Rejection of the supernatural is the one and only thing that atheists agree on, and we don't attempt magic tricks to substitute for your God. It's true that without a cultural God, atheists must figure out right from wrong on their own.  The good news is that most of what believers take to be wrong is wrong for everybody.  Killing other people is considered wrong everywhere, with the exception of killing during war, which is considered right virtually everywhere.  Telling a lie is considered wrong.  Not keeping your word (e.g., cheating in marriage) is considered wrong.  The belief-centered Commandments and the food rules of the Old Testament can be thrown out without changing much about how people get along in society.  And getting along in society is what gives people, atheists and believers alike, a sense of security and well-being.

A lot of Christians are more like us in this respect already.  Christ's sacrifice supposedly granted them forgiveness from breaking God's laws, so what really keeps them from running amok?  Parents can inculcate a conscience in their children without reference to "What would Jesus do?"  After all, Jesus did some strange things so he's not the best role model anyway.  If you feel like having a fig and the fig tree isn't due to produce figs for several more months, would you set it on fire?  No, of course not.  You'd eat something else.  Christians should give themselves more credit for their own common sense and respect for humanity.  If they did, they'd realize atheists are pretty much the same.

But what about things like homosexuality and abortion?  Some sects of Christianity leave it to their believers to figure out their own positions, and some are "liberal" in the sense of not viewing these things as sins.  Atheists can come to various positions based on the way they frame the questions, just as Christians can.  For a lot of us, not being told what to believe by a supernatural authority figure presents an interesting intellectual problem.  But some of us are as emotional as believers are, and may decide that homosexuality is wrong based on projection of feelings: i.e., fighting their own urges, or feeling revulsion at the idea of sex with someone of their own gender.   As the high number of anti-gay evangelicals who have turned out to be gay themselves shows, there is more to the question than reading some ancient text.  Anyone who has actually read the Bible knows that there are many, many prohibitions against a lot of things that modern Christians don't pay any attention to at all.  How many evangelicals refuse to eat shellfish because the Bible says it is an abomination?  In reality, believers pick and choose which "laws" they will follow based on whether they want to do those things or not.  Personally, I don't eat shellfish because I think it's icky.  I don't have sex with women because I think that is icky too.  I don't care if other people do either of those things, though.  My own feelings on the subject guide only my own life, and I don't think I should dictate the actions of others.

Monday, December 5, 2011

10 Reason Why Libertarianism is Bullshit

NOTE:  Comments are CLOSED 
for this post

I have encountered some libertarian atheists, and a video of Penn Jillette talking about his version of libertarianism I screamed BULLSHIT!

1.  It's impossible.  Libertarianism is impossible except for survivalist nutters and hermits.  Humans need a social structure because we're a social species.  Trusting that humans can moderate their own behavior on their own is just a fantasy.  If we were as sparsely distributed as wolf packs, we could get along in our small groups without intervention from a higher authority in theory.... but the matriarch or patriarch would be the higher authority so even that isn't strictly libertarian.  Anyway, we're long past the point in evolution where we could manage our behavior without a formal structure.  Michael Shermer theorizes the optimal size for a human community to manage without any oversight is about 150.  Those days are gone.

2.  It's naive.  It assumes people are basically good.  This is a nice thought, and a refreshing break from the Christian belief that all people are sinners who need to be saved, but it's just plain wrong.  Just as we differ in our DNA we differ in our personalities.  Some of us will go through life making very few decisions that negatively impact others, and some of us are sociopaths.  At its best, government protects the truly good from the sociopaths.  Without a government, we would be reduced to lynch mobs which can only avenge bad deeds, not prevent them.  And we certainly wouldn't have something like the FBI, which can trace the path of a serial killer from one area to the next based on DNA evidence, etc.  I think the people who believe that "survival of the fittest ergo libertarianism" probably assume they are the fittest themselves.  They don't think that they would be the victims of a sociopath.  Bernie Madoff counted on this kind of hubris to make his illegal millions.

3.  It's cold-hearted.  For example, regulations about safety in cars aren't needed because over time car companies would be forced to make safer cars or they'd go out of business.  So the people who died in fires caused by exploding gas tanks in Ford Pintos, or in wrecks caused by the design of their Corvair were just collateral damage in the evolution of better cars.  People who died because of unregulated businesses did nothing to deserve that fate, except perhaps not be able to afford better cars.  And the pseudo-Darwinism of libertarianism really doesn't care what the strong do to the weak.  Rich and powerful people are good and deserve to be rich and powerful.  The poor and powerless deserve what they get.

4.  It ignores history.  We haven't always had a U.S. government.  It's only a little more than 200 years old.  But we do know earlier forms of society.  We've had monarchies.  We've had theocracies.  We had the ancient Roman & Greek systems that privileged people with money.  Modern democracy certainly has its failings, but we really be better off returning to "less" government considering what our previous systems gave us?

5.  It's not natural.  The underlying assumption of libertarianism is that government is an artificial construct that interferes with natural behavior, which they believe works just fine on its own.  There's no evidence that humanity could have survived without some form of social organization.  The instinct for survival that causes some to climb to the top of the heap and others to hide from the climbers just doesn't result in a society that works for large numbers.  It probably won't work for small numbers, either. 

6.  It ignores human failings.  We no longer live in family groups in tiny villages, and if Libertarianism became the "law" of the land, we would pretty much have to go back to that.  In our distant past, we helped each other within our own group and competed against other groups for resources.  Surviving without a government would require all of us to gather into small groups for protection and predation.  Child abuse and spousal abuse would again be perpetrated with no recourse.  Victims of alcoholism or mental illness would have no access to services, and their families would suffer.  A small group's only hope of survival when "infected" with a defective member would be to ostracize that member.

7.  It ignores human compassion.  Libertarianism denies the instinct to help others, which has been shown in other species as well. Government taking a role in "lifting up" the poor is an extension of the instinct we would follow individually in a smaller group.   By blaming the victim, libertarians can imagine themselves the agents of their own good luck.  There's no place in their worldview for helping the blind, the deaf, the physically impaired, or the children of these people.  The mentally ill who are incapable of working for a living due to their illness?  *shrug*  At least religions have charities that make a dent in these issues.  Secular libertarians leave the powerless to their own devices as if blindness or mental illness were somehow the victim's own fault.  There have been hundreds if not thousands of examples of other animals helping each other or even other species, so compassion seems to be instinctual.  I have yet to meet a libertarian who has a relative that needs help to survive.  If I had the power to curse people, I'd curse libertarians with multiple sclerosis.  Let's see how many ways they make use of the ADA law's provisions.

8.  It ignores Somalia.  Somalia is the perfect example of libertarianism in action. There's basically no government in Somalia so we can see what would happen.   Without a government, pirates and tribal groups terrorize others.  Women and children are mistreated.  Disease is rampant.  There's no viable business other than crime.  It's a chaotic mess.  Why would anyone want to copy that model?

9.  It's selfish.  On the surface, Penn Jillette saying that he doesn't know what's best for someone else seems humble and charitable.  But really, sometimes he would know what's best.  He would know that a woman being beaten on a daily basis by an abusive husband would be better off if she could get out of that situation.  He would know that someone with asthma would be better off in a world with less air pollution.  His pseudo-humility covers up a basic unwillingness to get involved.  Or, he's got his head in the sand when it comes to the problems of society and of individuals that are just too big or complicated for a family or small group to help with.

10.  It's provincial.  It ignores the fact that the economies and socieities of all the world's nations are now interconnected.  If someone lives in the country with well water, septic tank and a burn pit for their garbage, they can fantasize they are not relying on the government.  But then when their four-year-old comes down with cancer, they're only too happy to take him to the big city hospital for chemo that was studied using federal funding.

So...  I call BULLSHIT on libertarianism.  It's a stupid position to take.  Even if it could be implemented it couldn't succeed.  Its thinly veiled social "darwinism" but without any of the nuance of true evolutionary theory.

Penn Jillette on libertariansim:

Ford Pinto video: