Thursday, December 14, 2017

Secular Privilege - Say What?


Shadow To Light is at it again - bending reality to conform with his distorted views.  So obsessed is he with his hatred of atheists, that he sees God-haters and Gnus lurking in every dark corner, creating all the world's problems, and persecuting the poor, innocent children of God like himself, who are pure as the driven snow, and who would never do anything to deserve even the mildest of criticism.  I have already noted that Mikey has a tendency to associate everything he doesn't like with atheism, regardless of whether actual atheists are involved.  And that includes Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), most of whom are not atheists.  But it doesn't matter.  To Mikey, it's all the same.  If he doesn't like something he'll blame it on atheists.

Now, Mikey was recently incensed by an article by Suzannah Weiss about "white privilege", giving nine examples of how white people enjoy advantages in current American society.  As you may know, I am generally in favor of social justice, but I don't feel any great affinity for the SJWs, who often go overboard in their defense of the oppressed, to the point of being oppressive toward the rest of us.  Nevertheless, this article is basically factual and level-headed   So naturally, Mikey had to respond with a diatribe on "secular privilege".  Actually, I think he is quite confused about the difference between 'secular' and 'atheist', but as I noted, it's all the same to him.  See my note about his conflating 'secular' and 'atheist' *.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Another Illogical Conversion Story


William Alston is a religious philosopher who worked with Alvin Plantinga to develop Reformed Epistemology, which is a way for religionists to justify their God belief on the grounds that such beliefs are foundational, in the same way that empiricists would claim that belief in the existence physical objects based on the evidence of the senses constitutes foundational belief.  Alston also taught at the University of Illinois in Urbana, which happens to be where Victor Reppert got his PhD.  I don't know if they knew each other, but Reppert has posted an excerpt from one of Alston's essays that describes his return to the fold of religious faith after a period of youthful denial of that belief.  It struck me that this conversion story was in some ways similar to that of CS Lewis, whose writing figures prominently in the thinking and works of Reppert.  Both had grown up with religious belief and turned away from it in their youth, in the academic environment where rejection of religion was the trend.  And both lacked the scientific framework of understanding that would have given them a solid rational basis for non-belief.  So they ended up returning to belief, and making it sound as if their justification is logical and rational, when it really wasn't.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Chesterton On Miracles


Victor Reppert has posted a quotation from British apologist and philosopher GK Chesterton.  It is about the supposed incoherency of those who would argue against miracles.  Here is the quotation:
The historic case against miracles is also rather simple. It consists of calling miracles impossible, then saying that no one but a fool believes impossibilities: then declaring that there is no wise evidence on behalf of the miraculous. The whole trick is done by means of leaning alternately on the philosophical and historical objection. If we say miracles are theoretically possible, they say, “Yes, but there is no evidence for them.” When we take all the records of the human race and say, “Here is your evidence,” they say, “But these people were superstitious, they believed in impossible things." -G.K. Chesterton (quoted by Reppert)
This seems to be a typical example of of the style of argumentation that earned Chesterton the nickname "Prince of Paradox".  He famously asserted that paradox is “truth standing on its head to gain attention”.  And these snippets of paradox are much loved by his admirers, because of their snappy witticisms that point out the supposed illogic of those who don't buy Chesterton's "truth".

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Being Brutally Honest


Let's face it.  The only truly honest Christians are those who lack a sophisticated philosophical understanding of their faith.  I noted in my previous post that faith, as practiced by ordinary believers, requires a resistance to any evidence that would subvert belief, and those ordinary believers who aren't philosophically-minded generally agree with that.  But it is the apologists who insist that faith is based on evidence.  The apologists are lying.  It is intellectually dishonest to say that their faith is based on evidence, and at the same time, steadfastly refuse to critically examine evidence that refutes belief.  But they have painted themselves into a philosophical corner, so to speak.  They can't honestly admit that they reject evidence and still claim the intellectual high ground.  So they take the path of intellectual dishonesty, in the hopes that most people aren't astute enough to see the truth about their philosophical stance.  And they even manage to fool themselves into believing their own lies, because, after all, faith really does trump reason.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Apologetic Vs. Actual Christian Faith


In his latest post at Debunking Christianity, John Loftus has pointed out the deluded nature of Christian apologists' definitions of religious faith, such as this one given by David Marshall:
holding firmly to and acting on what you have good reason to believe is true, in the face of difficulties - David Marshall and Tim McGrew, in True Reason
Or as apologist J. Warner Wallace says:
Conviction is the result of certainty, and certainty is the result of evidential confidence. We are called to be convinced by mastering the evidence that supports what we believe. The Christians life is not one of "wishful thinking" or "hope in the unreasonable". It is a life of certainty, grounded in the evidence. - Wallace
Loftus rightly notes that these definitions are disingenuous, because they try to make their faith sound reasonable, when in fact the objective evidence that would justify their belief is severely lacking.  It is only due to religious delusion that they could possibly think the evidence merits their beliefs.  But apologists must defend belief in the face of all critiques, and don't necessarily use honest tactics in pursuit of that goal.  You often hear them claiming that atheists just don't understand what faith means from the Christian perspective.  But if that's true, they might as well admit that most Christians don't understand faith, either.  It seems to me that apologists have their own special definitions, involving evidence, reason, and justified belief, that aren't shared by ordinary Christians.

Friday, November 24, 2017

It Follows That Atheism Is False


I came across this article by Richard Bushey, called If Atheism Is True, It Follows That Atheism Is False.  On the chance that it might be a worthwhile argument, I thought I'd see what Bushey has to say, because I continue to hold open the possibility that I will someday find the elusive theistic argument that is convincing to someone who is not already convinced.  I must admit, though, that my expectations are low.  The most sophisticated theistic arguments by highly educated philosophers may be logically valid, and certainly seem to be unassailable in the eyes of other theists, but still fall short of the mark in changing the mind of someone who isn't already a theist.  The main reason for this is that they all seem to depend on premises (whether stated explicitly, or simply assumed) that cannot be accepted by a non-believer.  To accept premises of this type would be tantamount to conceding that God exists before the argument is made.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Conscience As a Guide to Truth


Victor Reppert made an interesting post that raises the issue of reliability of our moral intuitions.  Since it is brief, I'll repeat his post here in its entirety:
A common atheist retort: "Would you rape, pillage, and plunder if you did not have the Bible to tell you not to?"
The implication is that this would be a superficial morality. And it would indeed.
Reply: Theists and atheists alike refrain from such acts because conscience tells them that it is wrong. The question is whether they have equally good explanations for why we should suppose that conscience is a reliable guide to truth. - Reppert
The first question it raises in my mind is what kind of statement is this retort from atheists responding to?  It seems to be an answer to the common trope from religionists that atheists lack the moral guidance that comes from God, which is often stated as Dostoyevsky's famous line from The Brothers Karamazov: "If God does not exist, everything is permitted."  Many religionists take this claim at face value, and assert that atheists are devoid of any morality at all.  To such an assertion, a retort like the one Victor cites might be appropriate.  But Victor's view is slightly more sophisticated than that.  At least he doesn't deny that atheists have some kind of morality.  He just denies that the morality of an atheist is a truly worthwhile or effective way of guiding human behavior.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Brain-As-Receiver Concept


Christians can come up with some really wacky ideas in defense of their religious dogmas that fly in the face of logic and science.  When defending literal the truth of biblical stories that directly contradict each other, for example, they might make the claim that "three days and three nights" really means a period of as little as 38 hours.  If one book says Jesus was buried on a Friday afternoon, and rose from the dead on Sunday morning, and another book claims it was three days and three nights later, what should Christians think?  Surely not that either of those stories could be wrong.  They need to find some way to make those two things seem to be in agreement.  If Friday is the first day, Sunday is the third day, so you might be able to get away with saying three days had passed, but three nights?  I don't think so.  This is just a case of Christians groping for any excuse at all to justify what their belief that the bible tells the truth, and the fact that their hand-waving doesn't make logical sense is simply ignored in favor of the dogma.  Their dogma says those two accounts are telling the same story, and the good Christian is obliged to believe it.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Lying For Jesus: Blame It On Atheists


Shadow To Light is at it again.  Mikey is spewing more of his hate-filled propaganda against atheists in an effort to distance Christians from anything bad that happens, and pin the blame on those nasty atheists.  This time, it is the recent mass killing by Devin Kelley at a church in Texas.  Mikey wants desperately to attribute this tragic event to an atheist, so that he can point to it as evidence for his monotonous message: "How terrible those atheists are!"  But not surprisingly, Mikey is truth-challenged, as I will show.  In his latest two posts, he goes to some effort to make a case that the killer was an atheist, and then double down with the claim that the killing was an anti-theistic act against Christians.  And in his zeal to paint this event as an example of atheist rage against Christianity, he only succeeds in making a case against the ethical standards of Christian zealots like himself.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The A Priori Gambit


     "Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses" - Thomas Aquinas

This statement from Thomas Aquinas, known as the peripatetic axiom, expresses the basis of empiricism, and was adopted from Aristotle's teachings.  It became part of his Thomistic philosophy.  But Aquinas had a religious agenda.  He needed to justify his belief in something (namely God) that doesn't present itself to the senses.  So as he did with other parts of Aristotle's teachings, he modified it to fit his religious purpose.  Aquinas said that the intellect extends beyond what is evident to the senses, to reach a higher realm of understanding that is yet justified on the basis of perception.  His five ways are said to be a posteriori arguments for the existence of God because they are based on observation (as well as a system of metaphysics that assumes God from the outset).  So at least Aquinas pays lip service to the idea that knowledge of God is something that is derived from from the evidence of the senses.