Posts Tagged by atheism

What Does Atheism Become?

About five years ago I published a collection of essays that is no longer available for purchase. The collection is titled after the essay below. It is not, as far as I know, something I’ve published elsewhere. I was thinking of it recently and decided it should be dusted off. It seems as relevant today as when I first wrote it.

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That Which Atheism Becomes

Some might say that I just like to argue. The truth is that I believe that ideas have consequences and some consequences are more severe than others. Arguing, or more precisely, debating, these ideas helps everyone on all sides of a position understand a position better. In theory, if you could of got Bin Laden to sit down to have a nice debate you could of aroused for him some of the critical consequences of his beliefs and demanded that before he acted on them he had a much firmer basis. According to many Muslims, such a basis does not exist. I will leave that issue to them to sort out. But Bin Laden does have this going for him: he takes a belief to its rational conclusion. There are many dangerous beliefs out there that people consider harmless simply because they aren’t taken to their rational conclusion.

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Short Stories on Kindle – health care, cloning, world domination

A short collection of some of my favorite short stories is now available on Kindle.

The stories are ‘Polite Company,’ a lovely story of rationing gone bad, ‘Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Knowledge’, and ‘Bring on the Brave World’, another lovely story, this one of world domination.

Enjoy.

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The Explanatory Fallacy

In the nearly 20 years or so of debating with various kinds of non-Christians, I have often encountered a way of thinking that I think is self-evidently flawed, but oddly common nonetheless. What I mean is this: as soon as you press the point, they drop the principle, recognizing it can’t be maintained as tightly as was presented. A moment later, or in another conversation, the principle is re-presented.

The principle is this: that a proposition is true if it explains something. Or, a belief is to be preferred if it explains something. Or, the better belief is the one that explains the most.

At first blush, this principle seems pretty solid. After all, don’t we give weight to an idea, hypothesis, or theory if it provides an explanation for something else? If I come across the body of a clearly murdered person and the evidence points to another person who is known to have hated the victim, wouldn’t we say, “Well, that explains that. He hated him.” ? Well, yes. It does explain it, but it still doesn’t follow that he actually murdered anyone. The time honored tradition for hanging a murder verdict on someone does include motive- but also means and opportunity. Merely having a hypothesis that ‘explains’ the facts does not prove the hypothesis. One must corroborate it. If it cannot be corroborated, it doesn’t follow it isn’t true. We just have to be careful how we weight it. We certainly would not (or ought not) sentence a man to death for it.

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Atheism and the Problem of Death

As I argued above, all the religions and most of the world’s people deal honestly and seriously with the problem of death, but I should like to point out something truly unique about Christianity: it believes that at a specific place at a particular time in our history, God himself- knowing perfectly well what an offense death was- dealt death itself a death blow. He came to earth in a real place at a real time and interacted with real people that we can know from real history and really died and really rose from the dead and really promised to share that victory with anyone who will really accept the medicine he really offers.

In my view, since death is the common denominator for all of us and the one thing that stands in our way of ultimate and meaningful happiness, it is a proper subject of intensive human scrutiny. If there were hope, real hope, that there is an ultimate answer to death, then it is worth doing everything in your power to find out, and if one finds that hope to be more than plausible, but actual, seize upon it.

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KFUO Radio – Jan 6, 2011 – On atheism

I’ll be on KFUO radio today (Jan 6) at 4:30 p.m. CST talking about atheistic objections to the faith. Listen online here:  http://www.kfuo.org/TT_Main.htm If I remember, I’ll grab the mp3 and make it available for listening later on.

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Tips that Atheists can use for Understanding the Bible

When I was a high school religion teacher I ran into a bit of trouble because, for the final exam, I expected the students to be able to recall facts from the Bible that we had covered that semester. Yes, I know. If it had been chemistry class, recalling chemistry facts covered in the semester would have been an obvious thing to have on the exam. I think the reason there was resistance to requiring that students know biblical facts is because a lot of people- even parents of kids in Christian schools- don’t actually think the Bible is true. To them, ‘religion class’ is absurd; the only thing one needs to know is that God loves you and accepts you for who you are.

That is essentially ‘Sunday School’ religion, and basically why so many people today are falling away from the faith. After all, it isn’t like its true or anything, right?

So, my title is meant to poke atheists (and get some web traffic 😉 ) but what follows can be useful to anyone, Christians included, who wish to actually understand the Bible. Unfortunately, many people don’t. This is largely because they don’t grasp the over-aching framework of the Scriptures. This is then coupled with the fact that what they do know consists largely of Sunday School versions of popular Bible stories at best or Disney re-tellings of those stories at worst. However, even people who buckle down to read the Bible straight through will likely fail to understand it if they don’t keep some important principles in mind. So, note: if you are an atheist whose knowledge of the Bible stems from nothing more than Sunday School from 1st grade to 8th grade… pay attention.

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Knights of Contention Recording 10/26

Here is the recording of the second Knight of Contention: http://connectpro58388802.na5.acrobat.com/p35642882/ Fun was had by all.  I think you could call it lively! Taking suggestions on future KoC debate topics.  The next one will be next week, Nov. 9.

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Problem of Pain and Suffering Radio Interview

KFUO radio interviewed me again, this time on the problem of pain and suffering. Download and listen below.

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On Free Will, Fair Trials, and the Problem of Evil

Here is the part of Mark’s argument where I saw a parallel: the KSM trial won’t be a ‘show trial’ because the outcome isn’t rigged. I retorted that there was no doubt in my mind that if KSM was declared innocent, whether on the merits of the case or because of a technicality, there was no way that KSM wouldn’t end up in custody again, which is in effect an unfair trial under the constitution, for if a person is declared innocent under the constitution, he is free to go. Mark replied that what happens after the trial is irrelevant to the fairness of the trial.

I will leave aside other aspects of the conversation which you can read for yourself.

I find this to be an interesting argument that seems to be the same argument that many atheists appear to be running with when they decide that it is likely that God doesn’t exist because a loving, omnipotent and omniscient God wouldn’t allow such horrible evils to occur.

What is the alternative? Let us imagine that every time someone did an evil thing, God swooped in and prevented it. If this happened, would we imagine that that person really had free will?

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How the Placebo Effect Proves there is a God

We are all aware of the placebo effect. This is often described as being the result of ‘sham’ or ‘fake’ treatments or pills with the fact being that the body would have ‘healed itself on its own’ or has its effect because the illness was ‘only in their mind.’

All of these attitudes represent a materialistic outlook, if not outright reductionism. This hard core atheistic outlook has been at the bottom of scientific development in all fields since the early 1900s, and this has certainly spilled over into medicine. This has sometimes been to the detriment, and even the embarrassment, of scientific progress as described in a book that is still one of my favorites, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz’s The Mind and the Brain. The book charts the history of brain science up to the point where it was finally admitted that thought itself appeared to be able to shape the matter of the brain.

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Atheism as ‘Gateway Drug’ to Drifting Away

As of this writing, I am facilitating a course/discussion regarding the decline of Christianity in America. Someone made a point in the discussion that is similar to one I’ve made previously… but I can’t find where I made it so I’m making it anew. 🙂

The question begins with a look at the measured increase in self-identified ‘religious nones’ in America since around 1990. (This data can be found linked to here.) In 1990, some 8% of Americans identified themselves as having no religion. Today, that figure has doubled. In the meantime, there has been a drop in those identifying themselves as Christians, from about 86% to 76% of the nation’s population. Some back of the napkin calculation suggests that some 30,000,000 fewer people call themselves Christian than did in 1990 with a significant portion of these falling into the ‘religious none’ category.

However, of note, the number of outright atheists has seen only a moderate increase. Even many of the ‘religious nones’ say they believe something.

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Uncertainty the Only Absolute Moral Value?

From my experience dealing with secularists, ‘true believing fanatics’ is really a redundancy to them. A fanatic is, virtually by definition, someone who truly believes what they say they believe. ‘Humility’ in practice means, someone who doesn’t act on what they believe.

My response to the gent was brief:

Is your belief system a fact?

Clearly, if your belief is that all beliefs that claim to be fact must be debunked, then it is also true that this very belief that all beliefs must be debunked must be debunked.

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Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge and PZ Myers

Here is a short story I wrote inspired by the comments in this thread on PZ Myer’s blog. Enjoy!

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Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Knowledge

“I got here as fast as I could!” gasped the old man. He put one hand on the hood of the squad car and bent over as he tried to catch his breath.

The annoyed chief stared at the man waiting for him to explain who he was because the chief didn’t recognize him at all. At last, the balding and sweating gentlemen stood erect and stared back at the chief expecting some word of thanks or gratitude from him. But the chief was silent.

“Well, don’t you want my help?” the old man snapped.

“I don’t know who you are,” the chief grumped back.

“Don’t you know who you’ve got up there?” the old man gestured in the direction of the top of a seven story building that was the object of all the attention.

The chief shrugged, irritated, “Two people threatening to jump?”

The old man scowled.

“This is what I’ve been trying to tell you, chief,” said a police officer standing nearby.

“What? Just tell me already!” the chief cried out, slapping his hand on the hood of the car.

“That’s Adam and Eve,” the old man snarled, “and I’m Dr. Stein Franken.”

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Eugenics the Logical Consequence of Evolutionary Theory Part One

So, if it is the case that eugenics is not a logical consequence to evolutionary theory, by all means, we should wonder how it came to be so strongly associated in the first place. It isn’t enough to righteously deny a connection. For decades the most learned people on the planet believed there was.

To help promote such an investigation, I submit for your reading the positions of a certain Jacob Appel, a modern evolutionary bio-ethicist in support of eugenics, and a book called Applied Eugenics by Paul Popenoe,writing in 1918. Skip to around chapters 7 and 8 and see if you can spot the similarities between Popenoe’s arguments and Appel’s. (Earlier in, Popenoe credits the Germans for their innovation…)

For example, there is this juicy bit: “The science of eugenics is the natural result of the spread and acceptance of organic evolution, following the publication of Darwin’s work on The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, in 1859.” Page 148.

So, where did the world’s smartest men go wrong in the early part of the 20th century? And why do their arguments sound so similar to what we hear coming out of today’s politicians urging us on to ‘make sacrifices’ ‘for the good of society’?

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