Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Does Evil Disprove Atheism?


Frank Turek presents a response to the Problem of Evil that attempts to turn the issue around, and make it an argument against atheism rather than an argument against God.  As you know, the Problem of Evil (POE) argues that the existence of evil in our world is logically inconsistent with the properties of omniscience, omnipotence, and omni-benevolence that are usually attributed to God.  Therefore God (if he exists) cannot have all three of those attributes, given the existence of evil.  The POE does not prove the non-existence of God, but it does present a strong logical argument that God cannot be what most Christians claim he is.  Most atheists find this argument quite compelling.  Theists, on the other hand, tend to explain away evil as something that God has no control over, not because he isn't omnipotent, but for other reasons that typically involve the free will of man.  I don't think Plantinga or any other religious philosopher has made a rebuttal th the argument that truly addresses the issue in a satisfying way.  That's why it is generally considered to be one of the most formidable arguments against God.  And that's why some theists, like Turek, prefer to duck the problem altogether.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Picking Cherries For God


He's at it again.  Over at Shadow To Light, Mikey has smeared Jerry Coyne with an accusation that has absolutely no basis whatsoever.  He says that Coyne is offended by PZ Myers' use of cherry-picking to distort the message of a "New Atheist" (Steve Pinker), by making the liberal Pinker seem to be part of the alt-right, but would happily agree with same tactics being used against a theist.  Of course, Mikey offers not a single shred of evidence to support this claim.  Because for people like Mikey, the truth has nothing to do with the anti-atheist narrative he is trying to purvey - that is, unless he can find an isolated fact that is useful to him.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Craig On Original Sin


In my previous post, I discussed the absurdity of the Christian doctrine of atonement.  It does not seem reasonable to think that someone else should be able to alleviate me of moral responsibility for my sins by taking the punishment upon himself.  But that is exactly what Christians believe Jesus did by dying on the cross.  A closely related issue is the idea that we should assume guilt and bear moral responsibility, subject to God's punishment, for the sins of our ancestors.  This is the Christian doctrine of original sin.  It holds that Adam and Eve sinned by their own free will, and the guilt for that sin is passed on to all of their progeny.  Furthermore, their sinful nature is also passed to the rest of us.  So according to the Christian dogma, each and every one of us is guilty the sin of our ancestor, and we are born as "fallen" beings, which implies that we are compelled by our nature to commit still more sinful acts.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Ray Comfort's Religious Babbling


I came across an article by Ray Comfort that purports to explain why the killing of Jesus as payment for the sins of man makes sense.  The question that had been posed to him is this:
I would like to ask you a couple of relevant questions pertaining to the ‘sacrifice’ of Jesus and its purpose. Please logically explain why an omnipotent, omniscient, and omni benevolent God would need to sacrifice Himself (as Jesus) to Himself (God) in order to forgive man of sins against Him (God)? The entire premise seems totally absurd. - Chuck
This is a question that has been asked many times by people who are trying to make sense of the most fundamental tenets of Christianity, when ordinary logic doesn't seem to suffice.  If you can step back from any ideological attachment to those religious tenets, and take an objective look at them, it really is a bizarre thing to say that God demands this sacrifice.  Perhaps Comfort can shed some light on it where others have failed.  Let's hear what he has to say.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Rational Discussion With a Thomist


In my previous post, I attempted to show two things.  The first of these is that I understand a key concept that is part of the Thomistic cosmological argument - that is, what is meant by an "essentially ordered" causal series (or EOS).  This has been an area of contention, because they insist that I don't get it, and I am not alone in my ignorance - many atheists are similarly painted with this same brush, regardless of whether there is any truth to it.  The second thing is that regardless my acceptance of the meaning of this concept, it is still inconsistent with physical reality, and therefore, I reject the reality of the concept.  In response to this, Martin was good enough to make another post of his own to clarify his position and open up the topic for further discussion.  I congratulate him for his willingness to discuss something that has divided us for such a long time, and to try to clear the air in a rational manner.  To my surprise, I found that we couldn't even agree on something that I thought was already in agreement.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Theistic Arguments: Essentially Ordered Series


I have been in a revived discussion with Martin, The author of the Thomistic philosophy blog known as Rocket Philosophy.  The discussion first began three years ago on my post where I was talking about infinite series, and WL Craig's illogical "proof" that such a thing can't exist.  Theists make claims of that sort to bolster their theistic arguments, assuming that there must be a first cause or a first mover.  For the record, while I agree that there cannot be an infinite set of physical things within the confines of our finite universe, there is no reason in logic or mathematics that an infinite set of things cannot exist in principle, and Craig's argument (based on mathematical logic) is both naive and incorrect.  But the comments following my article eventually led to the topic of "Essentially Ordered Series", and Martin entered the fray, trying to explain to me what that is, and that I am exasperatingly stupid because I couldn't understand the concept.  Martin later made comments to that effect on his own blog, like this:
Another time I was trying to get skeppy, again, to just UNDERSTAND what is meant by "essentially ordered series" and he refuse to allow his brain to go that far. Carrying on and on about "science!!!!" and how "science!!!!" has refuted essentially ordered series. Here is that thread: http://theskepticzone.blogspot.com/2014/09/theistic-arguments-series-on.html - Martin
It is my contention that Martin is so stuck on his medieval Thomistic philosophy that he refuses to take, or even to attempt to understand, a view that is more consistent with modern science.  Anyway, I stayed out of the discussion at his blog until just recently, and neither of us has budged in our position.  In light of that, I thought it would be worthwhile to provide a more complete explanation of my own understanding of the concept of essentially ordered series, and why it is shown to be meaningless in the context of modern science.

Friday, December 22, 2017

What Matters Is What's True


Richard Dawkins, discussing what motivates religious belief, famously said:
Who cares what you feel like?  Who cares what feels good?  Who cares what makes you feel comforted?  Who cares what helps you sleep at night?  What matters is what's true. - Richard Dawkins
Religionists don't care what motivates their belief, or perhaps it's the case that they willfully ignore it.  But they take great umbrage at the idea that a non-believer could lay any claim to caring about what is true, because their faith tells them that Truth™ belongs exclusively to themselves.  This is a dogmatic assertion.  Don't bother trying to bring facts to the table.  Facts have nothing to do with it.  Reality has nothing to do with it.  To a militant religionist like Mikey at Shadow To Light, an atheist's relationship with the truth is "slippery".  But his own relationship with the truth is taken for granted, because God.  Mikey speculates that the only reason an atheist would place any value on truth is because he comes from a culture with a religious history that values truth.  So the first lie in his article appears in the second sentence.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Jesus: Just a Regular Guy


I've always heard that Jesus died as redeem for our sins.  We grew up being told that we were born sinners, and Jesus took our sins upon himself.  In so doing, he bore the punishment for those sins so that we could be saved and find our way to heaven.  Indeed this has been one of the central tenets of Christianity from the earliest days of the faith.  Unlike the concept of the Trinity, which wasn't established until centuries after the life of Jesus, the notion of redemption has direct support in the bible.
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit - 1 Peter 3:18 
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8
Of course, this whole idea violates my own innate sense of fairness.  If Adam and Eve were sinners, why should that guilt be passed on to me?  And the idea that my own sins could be redeemed by someone else paying for them has never seemed right to me.  From the time I was a young child listening to these stories in Catechism class, it bothered me.  It didn't make sense.  This was the very first inkling of doubt that eventually led to my rejection of Christianity.

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.