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: - 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 redemption 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.

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 their belief that the bible tells the truth, and the fact that their hand-waving explanations don'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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Lee Strobel: Skeptic Believer

I read an old interview of Lee Strobel, in which he lays out his evidence-based case for belief in the Christian narrative.  Strobel says that he was an investigative journalist with a background in law, who was also an atheist and a skeptic.  And it was his regular practice to check out everything he was told - to seek out the evidence.  And that's what made him such a jerk, he says. 
we used to pride ourselves on being skeptical and actually had a sign in our newsroom that said, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!” In other words, where are the facts? Where is the proof? Where is the evidence? - Strobel
It's a little unclear what message we should take from a statement like that.  Is he saying that being skeptical is what made him a jerk in the past, but he no longer has that problem?  Or is he saying that his skepticism is what gave solid justification for the belief that he adopted?  If his Christian faith is based on solid evidence, and skepticism is what brought him to that evidence, as well as his success as an investigative journalist, then why does he equate skepticism with being a jerk?  It's puzzling.  At any rate, Strobel uses his credentials as a skeptic to bolster his case that his conversion to Christianity is based on solid evidence. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Irrational Trump Voters

Thanks to its being brought up in one of Jerry Coyne's recent posts, I read an interesting article in Quiilette by cognitive scientist Keith Stanovich that explores the question Were Trump Voters Irrational?  As a scientist, Stanovich takes a dispassionate approach to the question, and uses data to back up his position that Trump voters in the last presidential election are no less rational than Clinton voters.
I am afraid that my Democratic friends are just going to have to reconcile themselves to the conclusion that the cognitive science of rationality does not support their judgment of the Trump voters. ... Politics is not the place to look for objective rightness or wrongness"
As a non-expert who appreciates the value of scientific data and analysis, I find it difficult to argue with him.  He certainly makes good points about rationality and lack thereof on both sides, as I will explain.  But still, something seems to be missing from his analysis.  Perhaps this is bias on my own part.  Or perhaps not.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Why Modern Physics Refutes Thomism

Thomist philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette has written an article called Why Modern Physics Does Not Refute Thomistic Philosophy that attempts to defend his religious philosophy against charges that it's obsolete Medieval thinking that is inconsistent with modern science.  I have made claims of this nature before.  Obviously, Thomists are feeling the heat of these objections to their philosophy, and they insist that all such objections are wrong.  Thomism is fully in keeping with modern science, according to Bonnette and other Thomist proponents like Ed Feser.  But the real problem is that atheist scientists have a mistaken or ignorant view of philosophical (and especially metaphysical) principles at the heart of Thomism.  On the basic truths about the world, scientists and Thomists believe the same thing.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

How a Scientist Can Believe in God, Part 3

We now come to the end of my response to Albrecht Moritz' defense of theistic belief in a scientist.  Moritz presents 15 objections that an atheist might proffer in his article How can a scientist believe in God?, and attempts to debunk them.  Part 1 of my response is here, and part 2 is here. After addressing the last of his items, I will give a short summary.  I hope this hasn't been too drawn out for my readers.  Moritz makes some arguments, mainly for the benefit of his fellow believers, that don't hold water with scientifically-minded atheists, and that I feel should be answered.

Monday, October 16, 2017

How a Scientist Can Believe in God, Part 2

Continuing from my previous post, I address more of Albrecht Moritz' 15 objections from atheists against the compatibility between science and religious belief.  These objections are discussed in his paper How can a scientist believe in God?  Moritz is a scientist who believes in God, and defends that belief with sometimes unscientific explanations.  It seems clear that when he is outside his field of expertise, he often falls back on traditional theistic notions.  Without further ado, here is the next set of atheists' objections.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How a Scientist Can Believe in God, Part 1

In my previous post, I reviewed an article by Albrecht Moritz that echoes the argument of Alvin Plantinga known as the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, which claims that naturalism is self-refuting.  Moritz is a Christian and a scientist who appears to be competent in his own field of science, but holds unscientific theistic beliefs in matters that fall outside his area of scientific expertise.  Given that science, broadly speaking, tends to confirm a naturalist view of the world, one wonders how someone like Moritz could be competent as a scientist and still believe in God and the supernatural.  The answer is fairly clear - you have to be able to compartmentalize.  Science could not progress if observed phenomena were simply explained in terms of supernatural causes, bringing any further investigation to a halt.  A successful scientist must pursue the question without regard to any religious ideology. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Albrecht Moritz: Theistic Scientist

Victor Reppert cited an article by Albrecht Moritz, called "Naturalism is true": A self-contradictory statement that is a variant of Alvin Plantinga' Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.  It makes the claim that rational thought can't be produced from natural processes (and specifically evolution) alone.  I would probably dismiss this article as yet another scientifically ignorant theistic argument, not worthy of the time it would take me to make a refutation.  But Albrecht Moritz is a scientist, and he believes in evolution.  As he says:
Let me be clear from the onset towards those who believe this turns into yet another anti-evolution argument: I fully subscribe to the science of evolution and reject the idea of biological so-called Intelligent Design. I even have written a review article on the origin of life by natural causes - Moritz
Moritz works in micro-biology, and his paper in TalkOrigins provides support for a scientific view of abiogenesis.  This doesn't seem like your standard theistic rejection of science in favor of superstitious beliefs.  I was intrigued.  So I decided to look at this article more closely.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Theistic Causation: Abbreviated Reasoning

Theists have a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) that explains why everything exists and how everything works at the most fundamental level:  "God did it."  That doesn't mean they completely reject science and scientific methods.  It just means that when they reach the limits of their understanding through scientific means, they resort to the GUT.  Think of it like the interaction between an inquisitive child and her parent.  The child asks "Why?".  The parent responds with a brief explanation.  Probing further, the child again asks why, and the conversation proceeds in this manner until the exasperated parent no longer has an explanation, at which point he responds with a simple "Because."  That really doesn't answer the question, but at least it provides a stopping point, at which the child understands that no further explanations will be forthcoming, even if she isn't happy with the answer she got.  Likewise, the theists will happily cite scientific explanations until the limit of their scientific understanding is reached (or until the scientific explanation disagrees with their theistic beliefs), and they finally respond with "God did it."  At this point, the search for answers comes to an end.  No further explanation can be expected, even though there may still be many questions.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Proof Is In the Pudding

I have been arguing with Joe Hinman (again) over his "warrant for belief".  This is an issue that crops up over and over again in any discussion with Joe, whenever the topic turns to evidence, or reasons for belief.  Joe invariably cites his supposed "200 empirical studies" that he claims provide a scientific basis for his thesis that belief in God is empirically warranted.  And this is the thrust of his book, The Trace of God.  Ever the salesman for his book, Joe rarely misses an opportunity to drum up a few sales by bringing those 200 studies into the discussion, even when that was not the topic.  In the latest round of discussion, he makes this juvenile claim: "I have 200 studies and you have none." My response to that is that those 200 studies don't prove what Joe thinks they do.  But that brings up a whole new issue:  Is Joe actually trying to prove something with his empirical studies?  If so, what is it?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Three Points About the Dark Ages

Christians, and especially the Catholic Church, love to whitewash their own failings by creating a revisionist history in which they are the heroes - the shining exemplars of virtue and wisdom, the light by which mankind emerges from the darkness, and the source of all good things that we have today.  Even in the 20th century, the church has (fairly successfully) created a revisionist version of their relationships with the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini, covering up the fact that many church officials actively cooperated with and supported the fascists, and that the pope stood by in silence while the atrocities raged in Europe.  While there is plenty of documented evidence to dispute their modern revisionism, things become less clear-cut in the more distant past, when (at least in Europe) the church had more complete control over what could be published, and what should be suppressed.  The most obvious example of this historical revisionism is the New Testament, which is still believed by millions of Christians, despite modern historical and scientific advances that make it increasingly untenable.  And in between the modern era and the ancient, things were no different.  Christians also want to paint a revisionist picture of the time when the church dominated virtually every aspect of life and culture in Europe - the period that has come to be known as the Dark Ages.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Problem of Evil - the Nuclear Option

This is a topic that I addressed some time ago.  The Problem of Evil, or POE, is basically that the ubiquity of evil in our world is incompatible with a God who has the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omni-benevolence.  The typical response from theists is that God has some good reason for allowing evil, and even that evil is necessary to fulfill God's plan.  People are evil by nature, and they must be granted free will so that they can rise above it and earn their place in heaven.  Bad things happen to teach us valuable lessons so that we will be worthy to abide with God, etc.  There are a number of such explanations, and they are called theodicies.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

On Human Rights

I have been thinking about the topic of human rights lately.  Victor Reppert has raised the issue recently, first by pointing out an article in The Guardian from 2010 titled Do human rights exist? that denies the existence of human rights, as if to note the absurdity of the idea, and then writing a short post of his own that continues the same line of reasoning.  Victor says:
We might ask what evidence there is that rights exist. You have a feeling that everyone ought to be treated equally. Isn't that just your social conditioning? If you grew up in India, and were raised to believe that people occupy different positions in the caste system based on the Law of Karma, wouldn't you think that the idea that everyone was created (or evolved?) equal was slightly ridiculous? - Reppert
It is clear, at least in Victor's case, that this is intended as a kind of satire.  Victor is slaying two dragons with one arrow.  First, he seems to be ridiculing the notion that human rights might not exist, since they are self-evident by his way of thinking, even if some cultures may not agree.  Second, if you can accept that argument, then you can agree with him that John Loftus' Outsider Test for Faith is faulty as well.  I won't address the merits of Loftus' OTF in this article, but I would like to consider the question of human rights.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bad Argument: Physicalism Can't Be True

Victor Reppert has come up with an argument that supposedly proves his contention that mind must precede the physical.  According to him, this argument does not rest on any assumption of the primacy of mind, which is the metaphysical notion that mental phenomena, such as rational thought or morality, can't possibly arise from any purely physical source, and therefore mind must exist at the most fundamental level of reality.  In fact, most people who hold this belief are theists who think that physical reality itself is the product of a mind.  This stands in stark contrast to physicalism, which is the metaphysical notion that physical reality is all there is in our world, and therefore any mental phenomena that exist must be a product of that physical reality.  While Victor's argument assumes neither of these metaphysical positions, it still contains a serious logical fallacy  Here it is, in its entirety:

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Dark Side of Irrational Discourse

Over at Shadow To Light, Mikey is at it again.  In his never-ending crusade against "New Atheists" and all things that he can construe as being an affront to his religionism, Mikey has shown once again that there is no room for rational debate of issues that touch on any topic where he holds religious-based beliefs.  This time, his decidedly emotional rant is about a TEDx Talk by Gregg Caruso on The dark side of free will.  Now, this talk isn't about religion, and it doesn't directly attack religious beliefs in any way, but it does make a comparison between beliefs associated with free will and those associated with determinism.  In particular, it contains a chart that shows the results of empirical studies making a correlation between free will belief and other associated ways of thinking that may have negative social consequences for society.  Those correlations are religiosity, punitiveness, "Just World" belief, and right wing authoritarianism.  Even though the talk didn't include any discussion religiosity or right wing authoritarianism - it was focused entirely on punitiveness and "Just World" belief - the mere fact that they were included in that list of correlations was enough to set Mikey off, accusing Caruso of being a "New Atheist":
Whoa! “Religiosity” is the “Dark Side.” It looks like the professor is peddling the “Religion is Evil” talking point of the New Atheist movement. As for “Right Wing Authoritarianism,” does this mean Left Wing Authoritarianism is correlated with a lack of belief in free will? Or maybe for the professor, there is no such thing as Left Wing Authoritarianism.

Monday, September 4, 2017

On The Equivalency of Fascist and Antifa

We've heard a lot about the antifa lately.  They've been making a lot of noise and garnering media attention - most of it negative.  President Trump called them out in his rally at Phoenix recently: "They show up in the helmets and the black masks, and they've got clubs, and they've got everything.  Antifa!"  The mainstream news Washington Post published this headline: "Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley".   Up until the disgusting display of racist nationalism at Charlottesville last month, we all thought the neo-Nazis and white supremacist Trump supporters were the enemies of American democracy.  Now there's a new narrative.  Now it's the antifa.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Anthropocentric Bias of Scientism

In a discussion with Mike Gerow at Metacrock's blog, he made a comment that I thought was worthy of more than a com-box reply.  Mike comes across a an intelligent person, but he still has a woefully uninformed understanding of topics in science that he brings into his own arguments.  In this comment, Mike reveals some serious misunderstandings about what science tells us regarding the concept of self and about evolution.  These failings are driven, at least in part, by his religious training, and deeply ingrained bias toward religious explanations whenever they come into conflict with scientific explanations.  Here is what he said:

Monday, August 28, 2017

God Is Great

As I watched news coverage of the extraordinary flooding in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey, I saw something that happens whenever a natural disaster occurs: people who have been rescued praise the glory of God.  This is hard for me to understand.  I get that they are  happy and grateful that they managed to survive, but if God is really making all this happen, then God just turned their lives upside-down.  Is this something they should be grateful for?  It seems to me that God wreaked havoc, and destroyed or ruined a lot of lives.  God didn't save them.  It was the dedicated efforts of brave people who did everything they could to mitigate God's disaster that saved their lives.  And it's those people who deserve the praise - not God.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Flat Earth - Belief That Numbs the Mind

Everyone has heard of the Flat Earth Society.  These are people who supposedly think the earth is actually flat, much like prevailing view in ancient times, when the earth was thought to be a flat object the the center or bottom of the world, covered by a dome-shaped firmament to which the stars were affixed.  This is the way it's described in the bible.  But that belief died out long ago, didn't it?  Well, mostly, particularly among the educated classes.  But a modern pseudo-scientific version of the flat-earth theory of has been enjoying something of a comeback, especially in the past few years.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

To Impeach, Or Not To Impeach

That is the question.  I watched Bill Maher last night and heard an interesting discussion between him and Gavin Newsom.  The question is whether it is better for Congress to remove Trump from office or let him continue for the remainder of his term.  Maher and Newsom hold different views on this, with Maher advocating removal, and Newsom arguing that we'd be better off leaving him in office.  It's an interesting question, and worth exploring a little more.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thinking About Logic

I often wonder how a person who is trained in philosophy can be so utterly confused about logic.  It's not that they don't know the rules of logic, such as modus ponens, or that they are unable to apply those rules in a syllogism.  It doesn't take an education in philosophy to be able to construct an argument that follows the rules of logic.  Even an animal can reason something like this:  If I can unlatch the door, then I can escape.  But it does take a deeper level of understanding to be able to formally state what those logical rules are, and express them in symbolic terms.  The animal does not know that he us using modus ponens, despite the fact that he actually is using it in his primitive reasoning process.  But there are philosophers who don't see the distinction between using logic and thinking about logic.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Science Education And Reality

Victor Reppert has produced yet another stunning blog piece, called The authoritarianism of science education, that caught my attention because of its sheer ignorance.  It attempts to denigrate educational methods in science as being "authoritarian", and not "following the argument where it leads".  Here is the article in its entirety:
Science education is NOT an example of following the argument where it leads. If you do a chem lab and your results differ from those prescribed in the textbook, you are not to ask whether you  have made a new scientific discovery. No, you are asked to figure out where you made a mistake. - Reppert
I think it is worth commenting on this, not just to point out its ignorance, but because it illustrates the huge rift between scientific thinking and religious thinking, in general.  I'll get to that, but first, I need to explain why Victor is 100% wrong.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Slavery and Evolution

It is always sad to see Christians trying to make themselves seem intellectually or morally superior, but even more so when they attempt to use science to justify their smug haughtiness.  Sad, because this attitude is a violation of one of their Seven Deadly Sins (namely pride), which they blithely ignore, even as they go about touting how much better they are because of their Christian values and beliefs.  And sad, too, because they reject science whenever they see it as a threat to their belief system, but proudly claim credit for it when they think it will make them look better (as in their claim: It was Christians, not atheists, who invented science).  And then there's the misuse of science (or pseudo-science) in a vain attempt to show that their religious beliefs compare favorably to non-theistic scientific theories.  Perhaps the most notable example of this is ID science, which doesn't follow the methods of scientific investigation, but sounds kind of sciencey, and that's good enough for them.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Phil Torres - Voice of the Regressive Left

Phil Torres has expressed his displeasure with the "new atheist" movement, and announced that "today I want nothing whatsoever to do with it."  Sorry to see him go, but what exactly is he departing from?  What is this thing he calls a movement?  Is it the broad community of atheists?  That doesn't make much sense, because he's still part of that.  Is it the community of scientific-minded atheist skeptics?  My guess is that he still identifies as being aligned with them.  No, it seems to be a particular (but large) subset of atheists having political views that he takes issue with.  If you want to take a simplistic approach, and divide atheists into two camps on political grounds, you might draw a line between those who hold more traditional liberal views (which Torres calls "new atheists"), and those in the SJW camp (who are often called the "regressive left").  And my reaction to his announcement is: if you so vehemently disagree with their politics, what took you so long?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Trumpism as Religion

I am not the first to have the idea that followers of Donald Trump exhibit a religious devotion to the man, or that Trumpism really might be a religion.  As I read the news, and hear the daily stories about Trump's corruption, incompetence, and stupidity, I can't help but marvel at the irrational devotion of his followers.  He has a sufficient level of popular support that Republicans in congress don't feel the need to put an end to this horrific administration.  In fact, they fear they would risk their own seats in the halls of government if they should attempt to do so.  This is due in large part to constitutional restrictions on democracy that tend to give disproportional strength to the rural minority where much of Trump's political base comes from, and the increasing political fanaticism of that minority.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Christians Have No Concept of Religious Freedom

In a recent Senate confirmation hearing for one of Trump's political appointees, Bernie Sanders questioned the nominee about his vocal support for religious-based discrimination against non-Christians.  After receiving no assurances from the nominee that he would leave his hateful opinions behind while serving in an influential position in the federal government, Sanders said that he wouldn't support the nominee's appointment because he was "really not someone who this country is supposed to be about".  Queue the predictable Christian outrage against Sanders for his suppression of religious freedom.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Who Follows the Evidence, And Who Doesn't?

Victor Reppert thinks that if materialism is true, there can be no logic and no "laws of evidence".  And therefore, the claims of materialistic atheists - that they base their beliefs on logic and evidence - are self-refuting.

In my previous post, I agreed with John Loftus that people like Victor Reppert are ignorant of the arguments or philosophical stances of naturalists.  Victor is fond of pointing out what he thinks are logical inconsistencies in the beliefs of atheists and naturalists.  His argument typically takes this form:
1. Naturalists believe A, and they believe B.
2. But A is logically incompatible with B.
3. Therefore, naturalists belief in both A and B is illogical or incoherent.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reppert on Culpable Ignorance

In a recent piece at his blog, Victor Reppert takes issue with John Loftus for saying that he was ignorant regarding the question of what it takes to convince atheists of God's existence.  This is a topic that I have already commented about here.  A few days later, Loftus also responded to Reppert in a somewhat different manner.  The thrust of his argument was that he had already answered the question in detail, but Reppert refuses to read it.  So, like other defenders of the faith, Victor is arguing from a position of ignorance.  If only they understood atheists' claims about evidence and skepticism, they would surely realize that their complaints about atheists' unwillingness to accept evidence for belief in God are unfounded.  And I must say, I agree with Loftus on this.  Victor simply doesn't listen to what we have to say.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Soteriological Drama

It is interesting to see the stories people make up about why their supposedly maximally good and loving God would allow so much evil, pain, and suffering in the world.  These stories, known as "theodicies", are an attempt to explain away our observations of the world in the face of apparently contradictory assumptions about the qualities of God.  Most of them try to make the case that it's all for our own good - that we need all these bad things in our lives in order to build or prove our character, so that God can know we are worthy of spending eternity basking in his presence.  But every theodicy I have ever heard sounds like a just-so story   It provides an unlikely explanation that might be fascinating to a child, but doesn't stand up to any serious scrutiny, either from an evidential or logical perspective.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Reppert Responds to My Challenge

A while back, I wrote an article titled Heads I Lose, Tails You Win, in which I complained that theists try to paint naturalists as being unreasonable because they would never accept any evidence of a supernatural being or event as a genuine indication that something supernatural actually exists.  Naturalists have offered many examples of things that, if they were actually able to witness such a thing, would be convincing to them.    But no matter what they say, the theists' response is always to deny that the naturalist would really be convinced by it.  For the naturalist who is attempting to be reasonable and provide an honest answer to the question "What would it take to convince you?", the situation amounts to "Heads I Lose, Tails You Win".  There is absolutely nothing he can say that would be taken as a reasonable answer by theists like Reppert.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Reppert Still Denying Science

Victor Reppert has made yet another attempt on his blog to justify his thinking in support of his defense of the Argument From Reason (AFR).  It follows basically the same line of reasoning that he has used again and again, this time put into a fairly concise summary.  The thing is, his argument and particularly this line of reasoning has been rebutted, and a number of people have offered their sage advice to Victor: learn some science before you state what can or can't happen in a naturalistic world.  That advice has gone unheeded.

Monday, July 3, 2017

I Am a Fundamentalist

We often hear religionists accusing atheists of having religious fervor for their naturalist metaphysical views and the attendant empiricist epistemology.  Of course, religionists don't ever criticize these philosophical views directly.  You don't ever hear them say "You are militant naturalist", or "You adhere religiously to your empiricism, despite all the evidence."  But they do say those things about atheism, which seems a little silly to me, because atheism is a direct consequence of those philosophical views.  But religionists are apparently less inclined to criticize legitimate philosophical views, perhaps because they understand that their own philosophical underpinnings are on no more solid footing than those of the atheists.  But atheism, in its own right, is not a philosophy, although it is, in some sense, on a par with religion.  You believe in God or you don't.  If atheists can mock religious beliefs, then why shouldn't religionists mock atheism?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sitting On Both Sides of the Fence

Christians are all over the map when it comes to their feelings about science.  They don't want to be seen as science deniers, but many of them are uncomfortable with the idea that science doesn't support theistic beliefs.  Some openly express their contempt for science.  These people are not representative of the majority of Christians.  Others say they have no problem whatsoever with science, and even proudly claim credit on behalf of religion for the early development of science.  But ask them what they think of scientists, their view is decidedly less friendly.  They often point out that science is incapable of detecting or determining the existence of God, so a broader view is needed, and that's why scientism is fundamentally wrong, in their view.  Science alone can't be used confirm theistic beliefs, so it must be lacking the epistemological power needed by theists to feel justified in believing despite the lack of empirical evidence.  Still others dishonestly pervert the practice of science to promote their religion.  Probably the best examples of this are "creation science" and "intelligent design", where theists employ methods and language that sound "sciency", but don't follow scientific method, and then dishonestly claim that science leads to the inescapable conclusion that God (or some other powerful agent) is responsible for making the living things we observe in our world.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Argument From Desire - Wishful Thinking

Ed Feser has made an interesting post on what he calls the "argument from desire", in which he rightly notes that there are different forms of the argument, and they aren't all successful.  Basically, the argument from desire, as commonly expressed by unsophisticated theists is not so much an argument for the existence of God as it is a reason for believing.  It is the acknowledgment that the idea of life coming to an end without any eternal reward or compensation for the pain endured while living in the physical world is depressing.  But according to Feser, if a more sophisticated form of the argument (ie, Thomistic) is considered, it may well be worthwhile.

Monday, June 19, 2017

What It Means To Be Indoctrinated

Ask any religionist if he has been indoctrinated, and he will swear that he hasn't.  The word 'indoctrination' is something that religionists recoil from.  It's something bad, and it's certainly not what they do to their children.  To them, indoctrination means something like brainwashing.  Like what the Soviets did to their citizens to turn them into loyal comrades, or what many Arabic nations do in their public schools to make them hate Jews.  But definitely not what happens in Sunday School.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Ground of Being

Have you ever heard the phrase "whispering sweet nothings"?  It usually applies to the utterances of someone who says things that sound pleasing but are insubstantial or meaningless, in an effort to flatter or woo his lover.  I have often heard descriptions of God that strike me as nothing more than starry-eyed adulation.  God isn't simply the finest example of every attribute the theist admires - love, goodness, wisdom, etc, etc, - he is identical to each of those attributes.  For example, he isn't merely the ultimate example of a loving person - God is love itself.  And he isn't just perfectly good at some particular endeavor such as morality - he is "essentially perfect", which means, I suppose, that in one fell swoop, the theist has granted God perfection in all endeavors.  He is the perfect provider, the perfect judge, disciplinarian, bowler - whatever you like - he's just the bestest and the mostest.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Heads I Lose, Tails You Win

What does it take to convince an atheist that God exists?  This question has been asked and answered again and again.  But no matter what reasonable response an atheist gives, it is automatically rejected by the religionists.  If an atheist suggests that some supernatural event would be convincing to him, that suggestion will be met with one of two possible responses from the religionist: either "That's unreasonable because you're asking to see something that is never going to happen" or "You wouldn't really accept that as being convincing because your own belief system doesn't allow it as a possibility".  The religionist will never simply take the atheist's answer at face value, because that would be tantamount to admitting that the atheist is being reasonable.  That's something religionists will never admit, regardless of how reasonable the atheist's position might actually be.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Moral Realism = Muddled Reasoning

It has long been my opinion that moral realists (aka theists) are confused about the difference between fact and opinion.  That's not surprising, because theists in general are confused about the difference between objective reality and fantasy.  They speak of God's existence as if it were an objective fact, like the existence of the table in front of me right now.  One might argue that it is only my perception of the table that makes me believe it exists, but that's not true.  I know the table exists as an objective fact because it impacts not only my perception, but it can be detected and measured by physical devices and instruments, as well as being seen and felt by other people.  Nobody says you have to believe first, and then you can see it.  It's there, and I can photograph it and weigh it.  Everyone can see it, regardless of whether they have a certain kind of mindset, or framework of beliefs.  That's the essence of objective reality.

Friday, June 2, 2017

"God Did It" Explains the Ethical Treatment of Slaves

Victor Reppert has pointed out a piece of apologetic fluffery that he sees as evidence that the biblical Yahweh raised the ethical level of the Hebrews above that of the rest of the world.  The article, found in the blog Cold-Case Christianity , discusses slavery in the biblical Hebrew culture, and makes the claim that under Mosaic law, the practice was humane and ethical, especially as compared to the form of slavery practiced in the New World in more recent times.  More on these claims later.  With this "evidence" in hand, Victor believes that the behavior of the Hebrews, as influenced by Yahweh's law, rose to an elevated standard of morality that couldn't be explained under naturalism, which he supposes would entail that people act only in their own self-interest.
You can call Yahweh a moral monster, but somehow, he managed a quantum leap forward in the moral consciousness of the Western world. Quite an accomplishment for the most unpleasant character in all fiction. ... I think these leaps are hard to explain naturalistically. - Reppert

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reppert On the Scientism Bandwagon

Scientism has been a topic of considerable interest to me lately, mainly because I see it as a major battleground in the war on reason.  As with other monotheistic religions, Christianity has long been hostile to anything that would encroach on its ideology.  In a recognition of the logical absurdity of belief in the Christian mythos, Tertullian proclaimed that faith was incompatible with natural reason.  That attitude is still reflected today in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which places faith above reason as a matter of doctrine.  Most Christians today deny that they are opposed to reason, but when it comes down to matters of science or secular philosophy versus religion, there is no question that their sympathies lie on the side of faith.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shadow To Light Doesn't See the Light

For some time now, I have noticed that Mikey at Shadow To Light makes the mistake of identifying social justice warriors (SJW) with atheism (as well as other demographic groups, such as transhumanists).  See here, for example.  This is rather remarkable, because the majority of SJWs are not atheists.  This is what Mikey said recently:
It’s good to see that New Atheists have begun to figure out how reality works.  For a long time now, I have criticized one of the central claims of the New Atheist movement, the notion that if we could only get rid of religion, the world would be a much better place.  Not only was there no evidence to support this belief (which, ironically, was little more than faith), but the evidence we did have pointed in the other direction.  And what was that evidence?  The atheist community itself.  A crystal clear example of what I was talking about was Elevatorgate and the rage-filled rhetorical wars between the New Atheists and Social Justice atheists.  The existence of the Social Justice atheists, along with their power and influence, clearly showed there is no reason to believe that a world without religion would be any better than the one we have. - Shadow To Light
So Boghossian finally sees the light because he has criticized SJWs?  OK, the Elevatorgate debacle was an example of ridiculous behavior among SJWs who happen to be atheists.  But that whole episode just goes to show the absurd behavior of SJWs in general.  It says nothing at all about the broader atheist community, nor does it prove or disprove any claims about whether the world would be better off without religion.  Not surprisingly, Mikey fails to explain how he makes the logical link between atheist SJWs and the question of whether the world would be better off without religion.  (And incidentally, the idea that this is a "central claim" of New Atheism is just another of Mikey's lies.  There is no identifiable group called "New Atheists", much less a doctrine common to that group.)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Problem With Religionism

Shadow To Light recently posted a You-Tube video made by Jordan Peterson expounding The Problem With Atheism.  The point of Jordan's discussion is that, as Dostoyevski said, without God, anything is possible.  It is a repetition of the mindless religionist assertion that God serves as the ground of morality, and without that grounding, there is no rational basis for moral behavior.  So the logical consequence for atheists is a moral void.

Peterson claims that in the absence of God, it would be perfectly rational to base one's behavior purely on self-interest.  It would make sense to set aside any tendencies to act for the benefit of others, and instead do whatever benefits ourselves, even if that includes murder.  The thing that prevents us from behaving in the most rational self-interested way is what he calls "moral cowardice" - the moral inhibitions that result from being indoctrinated with religious beliefs.  So according to Peterson, without God, and without our religious moral indoctrination, everyone would be acting strictly out of self-interest.  The presumed consequence is that a functional society would be impossible to achieve.  And it is God that saves us from the abyss.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Philosophical Elitism on the March

Alvin Plantinga is widely regarded as a leading Christian apologist and philosopher of religion.  Perhaps his most notable philosophical contribution in the field of epistemology is his so-called "Reformed Epistemology", which holds that belief in God is justified without evidence or argument.  According to RE, belief in God is said to be properly basic, or foundational - the same as the axioms of logic or mathematics are considered to be properly basic beliefs that are universally accepted and require no justification.  Thus, RE constitutes a rational basis for belief in God, despite the utter lack of any objective evidence that would provide justification for an empiricist to believe.  A major difference between this and the properly basic beliefs of an empiricist epistemology is the fact that belief in God can be rationally denied without creating a problem of functionality or coherency in one's worldview.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Only Valid Form of Knowledge

I hope to clarify the the religionists' gross misunderstanding about the epistemology of many atheists.  It is an ideology, they say, called scientism.  This was the subject of my previous post, What is the Real Scientism?, where I attempted to explain the difference between scientism from a religionist's perspective, and from the perspective of those atheists who are accused of adhering to it.  Basically, the religionist insists that scientism implies an attitude that science is the only valid form of knowledge.  But that attitude is denied by non-religionists because it doesn't reflect what real people believe.  I hope I am not belaboring this issue too much, but the religionist skull can be very thick, and difficult to penetrate by any thoughts or ideas that are not consistent with their own beliefs and prejudices.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What Is the Real Scientism?

I find myself once again defending a reasonable approach to epistemology in the face of religionism.  Epistemology is defined as:
The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion. - Oxford Dictionaries 
There are two major schools of thought in epistemology: rationalism and empiricism.  The division between them concerns the sources of our knowledge.  The empiricist position is that knowledge ultimately derives from our experience of the world through the senses, while the rationalist thinks that there are other valid ways of knowing things.  These schools of thought correspond roughly to the distinction between skeptical and theistic belief systems.  The skeptic limits his beliefs about what is justified knowledge to that which is supported by empirical evidence, and the theists allows for other forms of knowledge that are less tangible, such as intuition or innate knowledge, or even divine revelation.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Stepping Out of the Box

Victor Reppert asked an interesting question in a recent post:  How are scientific beliefs caused?  It's interesting because it illustrates how his own thinking is boxed in by his ideological presumptions, including the notion of primacy of mind.  This is the way he puts the question to his readers:
Yet naturalists insist that when minds arose, no new mode of causation was introduced. Matter functioned in the same way, it is just that evolution but it into forms of organization that made it seem as if it had purposes when it really didn't, and this explains the very theorizing by which scientists like Dawkins and philosophers like Mackie reach the conclusion that God does not exist. In the last analysis, you didn't accept atheism because of the evidence, you became and atheist because the configuration of atoms in your brain put you in a certain brain state, and C. S. Lewis became a Christian and a theist for exactly the same reason. If this is true, how can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality? - Reppert
According to Victor, materialism, which is the root of scientific thinking, implies that the world contains no rationality - that everything is just matter in motion, following the natural physical laws of motion and nothing more.  Consequently, according to this belief, there is no rational thought, no conscious mind, no intention.  We are all just meat machines who go about or lives like zombies, simply reacting to the physical forces that propel us, not genuinely thinking, not feeling, and not wanting.  Our brains make us do things, but brains are just a collection of atoms.  Therefore, physical state of one brain causing someone to become a materialist is no more rational than another brain state causing someone to become a theist.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mikey's Subjective View of Reality

If you talk with religionists about evidence for God, they invariably insist that it is clear and indisputable, if only you are willing to see it.  Atheists, they say, willfully ignore the evidence.  They don't have the "eyes to see", and this is their own fault, because seeing the evidence is simply a matter of choosing to accept the truth of religious belief.  And having done that, all is revealed.  The problem for the skeptic is that this is a catch-22 situation.  The skeptical stance is to withhold belief until sufficient evidence is revealed.  But the evidence isn't visible until you first believe.  Once you become a believer, then evidence of God is everywhere you look.  Ask any theist, and you will hear the same thing.  The evidence is overwhelming, they say, and the skeptic is blind for not seeing it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Would I Become a Christian?

BK puts forth this question in his latest posting at Christian Cadre: If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?  He supposes that this is the all-time gotcha question that would force atheists to come clean and confess the truth of the faith, or expose themselves as being dishonest.  BK presents three possible responses that an atheist might offer to this question.   One is to deny Christianity without any explanation.  Another is to deny it with an explanation.  And finally the atheist might accept the truth and say yes.  But I think the question requires more depth of discussion before a simple yes or no answer can be given.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You Can't Get Ought From Is

David Hume famously described the Is/Ought problem: there is no logical means of deriving moral values from statements of fact.  Well before there was any evolutionary theory of morality, he recognized that our will is a "slave of the passions".  Our motivations do not derive from reason alone.  Through instinct, we make judgments about what is right and wrong.  Through our sense of pride, humility, love and hate, we are motivated, and we experience social approval or disapproval as a result of our actions. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Basics of Non-Belief

In my previous post, I noted that in conversions between Christianity and atheism, the stories people typically tell about their own conversion experience are starkly different.  The convert to religion is often driven by emotion, while de-conversion is often rational in nature.  This may have led some readers to think that my opinion of emotional experiences in general is negative, and that I treat those religious conversions derisively.  I certainly didn't mean to convey that impression.  Nevertheless, as an empiricist, it is my opinion that a belief that derives from a rational thought process based on objective evidence is likely to have better epistemic justification than a belief that stems from emotional experience.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Basics of Belief

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see
It's a story we've heard throughout the ages.  I was miserable.  I was depraved.  I was suffering.  My life was lacking something.  And then I found religion, and my spiritual needs were fulfilled.

Some variant of this theme is ubiquitous in stories of conversion.  I have pointed out in the past that the big difference I have observed between accounts of religious conversion and accounts of de-conversion is as distinct as night and day.  The atheist de-conversion story is usually a tale of intellectual dissatisfaction with the fantastic claims and the illogic of theism, while the religious conversion story tells of emotional dissatisfaction with the vagaries of life.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hypocrite-In-Chief Changes His Tune

The current situation in Syria is shocking to people around the world.  Dictator Bashar al-Assad has apparently attacked the Syrian people with sarin gas, resulting in at least 70 deaths, and many victims suffering horribly from the effects of the deadly chemical.  This situation has had an effect on the Donald, too.  He has called it an "affront to humanity", and now says that he is re-thinking his position on Assad.  We'll see how much his position changes.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Refried Epistemology

Last time, I wrote about the arrogance of Christians when it comes to claiming the high ground of morality.  This attitude derives from their absolute certainty in the existence of God, without which, their morality would have no grounding whatsoever.  But this raises the big issue that is still more fundamental: what makes them so arrogantly cocksure about their God in the first place?  Does Steve Harvey have any kind of sound basis for his arrogant dismissal of atheists?  Perhaps it's just a blind acceptance of what the bible tells them.  Sometimes, religionists seek to justify the certainty of their beliefs with arguments, as we see here, but they never doubt that belief, and would never seriously consider any arguments to the contrary.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Grounding of Morality

Having been involved in many discussions with religionists on the topic of morality, I often hear claims that have no basis in reality.  It is particularly annoying when they arrogantly proclaim they hold a monopoly on morality, for example.  This is due to their belief that God is the source or the ground of all moral values.  Without God, they say, there could be no moral values and no moral behavior.  As with their belief in the existence of God, the idea that morality is dependent on God is not consistent with reality.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Parody Turns On Itself

I have found myself the subject of yet another post at Christian Cadre.  This time, by none other than JP Holding.  JP is somewhat famous for making gratuitously insulting responses to well-known atheists, such as Ed Babinski, Robert Price, and Bart Ehrman.  Should I feel honored by this?  Hardly.  JP doesn't know the difference between a scholarly argument and a third-grader's crude retort.  To him. they're all just "fundy atheists", they're all stupid, and they can all be answered with facile responses.  Check out his channel at YouTube.  There, you will find many cartoon videos that go something like this:
Stupid atheist says some thing stupid.
Smart Christian says something clever to prove him wrong.
The End.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mikey's Alternative Facts

Never admit you're wrong.  This is the modus operandi of arrogant and dishonest people for whom winning is everything, and the ends are justification for any means.  When Donald Trump is caught in a lie, he doesn't admit that he's wrong.  He doubles down, piling more lies on top of his lies.  It's a show of strength.  Better to be seen as strong man who can fool lots of people than a weakling who fools nobody, and will compromise his values on the altar of truth.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wall of Separation

It seems to be a common trope among religionists that the First Amendment to the US Constitution is designed to keep government out of the affairs of the church, but that in no way should inhibit the church from meddling in the affairs of state.  They say the so-called "wall of separation" is just a myth, mainly due to the unfortunate wording of Thomas Jefferson, in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, which has been misunderstood.  In their misguided view, Jefferson was not describing anything like an actual wall that separates two things from one-another, but rather something more akin to a pen that keeps the government within bounds, but places no restrictions on the church.  But that raises the question: If that's what Jefferson meant to say, then why didn't he say that?  One answer that seems to elude them is that Jefferson actually meant what he aid.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Trump's Orwellian Speech

One thing that struck me about the president's address to congress was it's positively Orwellian nature.  The speech was fairly well-received, mainly because he stuck to his script, reading from the teleprompter, and not interjecting his usual ad-libs that would likely lead him into trouble.  When this president speaks impromptu, he invariably insults some segment of society, cites "facts" that are patently false, or otherwise puts his foot in his mouth.  That's why simply sticking to the script makes him sound "presidential" by comparison.  On the surface, that speech had a positive tone, and to most people, sounded better than the dark, disparaging, and divisive words we have become so accustomed to hearing from this man.  That is, unless you look beneath the surface, and realize that the picture painted by Trump's words is not what it appears to be.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Best Thing to Happen Since Trump Inauguration

It may be rather dated story by now, but I received the news of the firing of Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn with great delight.  It isn't because I take pleasure in seeing the failures of Trump's new administration.  Rather, it is because I think that Flynn was one of the most dangerous people ever to hold such a position of power and influence in the West Wing.  It is the National Security Advisor's responsibility to serve as the chief advisor to the president on national security matters, member of the National Security Council, and chair of the Principals Committee in the absence of the president.  This should be a non-political and non-ideological position. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hard Determinism is Immaterialist Woo

Back on the topic of free will again.  As you may be aware, I call myself a determinist who also believes that we are responsible for our own actions.  The idea of free will, as conceived by religionists, is logically incoherent under theistic assumptions about God as the "unmoved mover".  This is a topic I have discussed previously.  But my compatibilist view also doesn't sit well with many materialists.  It is the view of many "hard determinists" that we can be no more responsible for our actions than a billiard ball is for its failure to fall into the pocket after being struck incorrectly.  Human actions are purely the result of a brain that acts in a deterministic manner, subject to the laws of physics, they say, and to think that we can do otherwise is just nonsense.  I explored the topic of compatibilism versus hard determinism in this article.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Dishonesty of Atheists

Those darned atheists.  One of them says one thing, and another says something somewhat different from that.  There is no consistency, and more importantly, no honesty among them.  Or so thinks militant religionist Mikey at Shadow To Light.  In one of his customary tirades against atheists, Mikey has outdone himself with another showpiece of incoherent, mindless raging against the atheist beasts.  Why would I call it mindless?  Because it is difficult to discern exactly why he is so outraged, and why his complaints shouldn't apply equally to religionists, or all of humanity, for that matter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Problem of Divine Hiddenness

I just read a strange argument from BK, over at Christian Cadre.  In praising Tom Gilson's review of John Loftus' forthcoming book How To Defend the Christian Faith, BK inadvertently undermines Gilson's argument.  But BK's thought process is thoroughly irrational.  He doesn't even recognize that he has abandoned all logical argument in favor of an emotional knee-jerk reaction against the atheist Loftus. 

Before we get to any discussion of divine hiddenness, BK starts out by expressing his dislike of Loftus.  He says:
I don’t like to give the aforementioned Mr. Loftus any recognition on this blog because he is remarkably uninformed about Christian thought even by atheist standards. - BK
Apparently, BK is completely unaware that Loftus was raised as a Christian, and was a fervent believer for more than half of his life.  He holds a Bachelor of Religious Education degree, a Masters of Divinity, and a Masters of Theology.  He was an ordained minister.  He studied under William Lane Craig, and taught apologetics.  In BK's view all this amounts to being "remarkably uninformed".  He then goes on to make the childish proclamation:
For the remainder of this post, I will treat him like Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter by referencing him as “he-who-shall-not-be-named”. - BK
And this sets the tone for the intellectual content of the remainder of his post.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Religion As Child Abuse

Richard Dawkins famously argued that religious indoctrination is a form of child abuse.  Militant theists have used that in an effort to make Dawkins and like-minded atheists seem unreasonable, typically by distorting the meaning of the atheists' words, and trying to make a nuanced position seem much more extreme or outrageous than it really is.  At Shadow to Light, Mikey thinks he has scored a devastating blow against New Atheists who argue that religious indoctrination is a form of child abuse.  He summarizes his main argument in this way:
Atheist activists commonly argue that religious indoctrination is a form of child abuse and thus religious parents have a moral obligation to refrain from instilling their religious views in their children.  This position is fatally flawed.  It ignores the findings of social science that demonstrate a healthy bond between parent and child is essential for the development of a person’s emotional and psychological well-being.  By trying to thwart religious socialization in families headed by religious parents, the atheists are advocating that harm be done to the children.  What makes this even worse is that the atheist position is grounded in hypocrisy, given that the arguments against religious socialization apply equally to political socialization.  That is, while atheists argue that religious indoctrination is child abuse, they have no problem “abusing” their own children with political indoctrination.   The atheist position is essentially nothing more than disguised bigotry that has the potential to do great harm.   Reasonable and ethical people should oppose it. - Mikey