Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Jeff Lowder

I want to say, for the record, I think people like Jeff do an enormous service to the whole community of dialogue. It was at his invitation that the first Argument from Reason paper appeared on Internet Infidels.

The question that I am concerned with is whether there is a place for an open forum of debate and dialogue between believers and unbelievers. Some people engage discussion in ways that has a tendency to shut down discussion and polarize believers and nonbelievers. In the spirit of I Pet 3:15, and in the spirit of Lewis's founding of the Oxford Socratic Club, I think it wrong for believers or unbelievers to shut down discussion.

He takes as lot of abuse from more militant types taking the position he takes, and has dealt with it with far more grace than I would have.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

How do you get good people to do bad things?

You start with a greater good and a higher purpose, and then you buy in on the idea that the end justifies the means, and if they believe in God, that the means are acceptable to God. With Christianity at least, you have a belief in place that people are supposed to have a choice if their obedience is to be meaningful, and that the future course of the great events of history are ultimately under the control of God, not ourselves. Christianity does not encourage people to think that the end justifies the means. 

Just to give you an example, you hear a lot of anti-gay preaching from Christians in America, but even when you hear of queerbashings, religious condemnations of homosexuality, in almost all cases, aren't even used as a pretext, much less a motivation. Why? 

Why were there these mass killings in countries like China, Nazi Germany, and revolutionary France, and Soviet Russia. The French and Russian revolutions started off with what appear to be good motives about overthrowing tyrannical monarchs and fair treatment for workers. The French started with liberty, equality and fraternity and ended up with Madame la Guillotine. The Russian revolution overthrew the Tsar, and put in the Party. 

Some atheists today think that they have a great purpose of saving the world from religion. I am starting to hear "the end justifies the means" reasoning from some of them. Let's be honest, these people have no qualms about stirring up anti-religious hatred. What other than their lack of power to do so will prevent them from doing the kind of harm these previous revolutionaries did, all in the name of reason and science.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

An incoherent triad

Believers often look at the atheist demand for evidence, as presented by typical atheists, as a shell game.

 I went over this issue with the link to Shadow to Light, but I want to pursue the same argument in a different way.

The question I want to pose is whether these three positions can be held in a simultaneous, coherent way.

1) Belief in God is not justified unless there is evidence for belief in God.

2) Evidence for belief in God is possible. There are things God could have done, and should have done, to provide evidence for his existence. Thus, the absence of evidence is really evidence of absence.

3) God of the gaps arguments are wrong on principle. If we lack a good naturalistic explanation for something, an explanation in terms of God will not increase our understanding of it.

If God provides evidence, no matter what he does, it seems to me that 3 could be used to dismiss the case for his existence. Thus, it seems to me that you can't hold both 2 and 3 together. One of them has to go.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

An interesting question

Here. On a cool Autumn night, you are gazing up at the sky when a being suddenly appears and asks, "What can I do to make you believe that I am God?" What is your answer?

I once asked that question to atheist philosopher Keith Parsons. He told me that if the galaxies in the Virgo cluster were to spell out the words "Turn Or Burn This Means You Parsons," that the would turn.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Real Consent

A few months back John Moore wrote:

 Why not use consent as the moral test for sexual activity? If both parties are mature enough and give their willing consent, then it can't be wrong.

The problem with polyamory is just that it's sometimes doubtful whether all parties freely consent. That's also the problem with polygamy and sadomasochism.

 VR: It seems to me that this implies that Real Consent is more than just saying yes, and as such represents a far more restrictive sexual morality than one would be initially inclined to think. 

It seems to me that Real Consent implies a very strong case against pornography, since the person using the pornography cannot be sure that the actors and actresses are not being raped.  

As Linda Lovelace said, "When you see the movie Deep Throat, you are watching me being raped.

Anyone who uses lies or alcohol to persuade someone sexually, it seems to me, does not have real consent. 

I am pretty sure that real consent is not a sufficient test. But it is certainly a necessary condition, and one that is insufficiently developed. 

How to Defeat Modern-Day Atheism With Three Easy Questions

Here. 

From Shadow to Light.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Defining religious violence, or don't forget to subtract

Hector Avalos writes:
According to my definition, if someone commits violence primarily because of a belief in supernatural forces and/or beings, then I count it as an act of religious violence. For example, if someone says: “God told me to kill gay people” then that counts as religious violence, especially as the person offers or evidences no other reason for killing gay people.
I am not sure about this definition, for various reasons. Persons highly motivated by an anti-supernaturalist world-view, who use violence to advance anti-supernaturalism, it seems to me, are engaged in religious violence. 
Further, the religious factor is hard to isolate in many cases. In the case of violence in Ireland, for example, the political factors and religious ones are hard to separate, and there I suspect the political factor is primary and the religious one is secondary. 
But let's take Avalos' definition and see where it gets us. It seems to me that if we are assessing the tendency of supernaturalism, or some particular version of it to produce violence, then to get a fair assessment, we have to introduce the category of religious nonviolence. Remember that one of the Ten Commandments is "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Now, most of us don't think that the Commandment is the only reason for not killing someone, but surely the disapproval of Almighty God provides a significant motive for those who believe that God exists not to commit certain acts of violence. 
By the way, I am not familiar with any cases of religiously motivated killings of gay people. The most famous case of gay-killing is Matthew Shepard, and in that case not only is there no evidence of a religious motivation, there is good reason to think that this was a case of drug-induced murder, not a gay-bashing. Maybe there are some, but I am not familiar with any.