Friday, December 30, 2016

The case against Napoleon

SP: That alleged event is not verifiable in a scientific sense or even an historic sense. That event is not repeatable, nor was it recorded by scientific instrumentation, nor do we have such scientific evidence for analogous events that would at least make your assertion scientifically plausible.

VR: Couldn't the same argument be made against, say, the Battle of Waterloo? 


I like the Christian Life

The Louvin Brothers' song. Perfect Christian camp song, covered by the Byrds.

My buddies tell me that I should've waited
They say I'm missing a whole world of fun
But I still love them and I sing with pride
I like the Christian life

I won't lose a friend by heeding God's call
For what is a friend who'd want you to fall
Others find pleasure in things I despise
I like the Christian life

My buddies shun me since I turned to Jesus
They say I'm missing a whole world of fun
I live without them and walk in the light
I like the Christian life

I won't lose a friend by heeding God's call
For what is a friend who'd want you to fall
Others find pleasure in things I despise

I like the Christian life
I like the Christian life

The reality of Christmas

We have just passed the Christmas holiday, but this is still of interest. 

By the way, I turn 63 today. 

HT: Bob Prokop. 

Friday, December 23, 2016


You think that my denial of Sweden is an actual claim of some kind, that it's a belief. But it isn't. It's a non-belief. There's nothing I need to explain–rather, I'm talking about something I lack, namely a belief in Sweden, so I don't need to give any evidence for it.

I don't have to provide evidence for my non-belief in Atlantis, El Dorado, Shangri-La, or the Customer Support Department at American Airlines, and nor need I for my non-belief in Sweden. I'm not making a claim of any kind–in fact, just the opposite: I'm claimingnothing. I'm merely rejecting one your  beliefs, your belief in Sweden. Andy Bannister, The Atheist Who Didn't Exist (Monarch Books, 2015), 31-32.

HT: Steve Hays


Defined here. 

Could that be motivating some people? Naah.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why allow same sex marriage or mixed race marriage?

Assuming atheism, I see no good argument against miscegenation laws. Jefferson said that we were endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, and if we have no creator, then there are no inalienable rights. A right exists just in case there is a moral fact that requiring those with the biggest guns from exercise power over those lacking the biggest guns. However, if atheism, (or at least materialistic atheism) is true, then there are no such moral facts, and there is no obligation on the people with the biggest guns from disallowing mixed marriages if they so prefer. Thus, if the government under Trump wants to make America great again by making America white again, and part of that operation is to prevent mixed marriages in order to maintain racial purity, there is no moral fact that obligates them not to do so. Similarly if the people with the biggest guns like gay people then they will give them marriage licenses, and if not then not.

On the other hand, if there is a God, then God may have revealed to us the basis of the doctrine of human equality, then that is another matter. The concept of race has no basis in Scripture, and there is no religious reason at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition for treating people of different races differently and preventing intermarriage. The only ethnic identity God seems to care about in the Bible is the lineage of Israel, and the lineage of David, and in Judaism and Christianity that is best defined in terms of a special mission, not a special privilege. There was concern about intermarriage for fear of the Jewish people falling into idolatry, but that is not an issue for miscegenation. 

On the other hand, in that context, we have to ask whether God intends for same-sex couples to marry.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

HItler: Christian, atheist or neither

Debated here. 

A question for Peter Singer

I once told an exterminator who came to our house that he was a mass murderer. But if all animals are equal, is that still a joke? 

Is the case for human equality religious?

Some argue that religious arguments should be excluded from public policy debate. But what happens when we do that?

Thomas Jefferson used a religious argument to argue for human rights, he said that those rights were endowed by our creator and that we were created equal. This obviously won't work if there is no God, since we weren't created, and therefore we could not have been created equal. Is it possible that the very principle of human equality itself, which is the basis for marriage equality, is based on a religious argument, and if you reject all religious arguments, you undercut the case for all forms of equality, including marriage equality.

Is it a consequence of atheism that the people with the biggest guns are entitled to determine who has what rights?

It can be replied that even though the concept of human equality had a religious source to begin with, we have discovered that the doctrine of human equality works out best for humans, so even if we discover that we got here by evolution and not creation, we should still respect human equality.  But how persuasive is that for people who have power and don't want to relinquish it?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Marriage, hookups, and shackups

Perhaps we need to clarify what calling something a marriage is. To even have marriage, gay or otherwise, you have to say that this is something they are doing over and above hooking up and shacking up.

Different groups within society can issue the status of marriage, and they will do so based on their own religious convictions. The Southern Baptist Church will use different criteria from the Metropolitan Community Church.

The fact that we have marriage licenses suggests that the government has an interest in identifying and sponsoring relationships that have this status. But what, exactly, is that interest? And should there be such an interest? That is, I think, the proper focus of the gay marriage debate.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Nothing Fails Like Prayer Argument: a rebuttal

This is a statistical analysis of what I like to call the Nothing Fails Like Prayer argument.

Believer and unbeliever alike might well pause to reflect at this point on where this leaves us. Regarding God anthropomorphically for the moment, it appears that he has been put in a no-win situation. If he acts in answer to experimental prayer, he is denying his nature by becoming the tool of humans; if he fails to act he is judged to be non-existent!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The "woman's body" argument on abortion, and the village in your left arm

I think the slogan, "A woman has the right to do as she pleases with her own body, is flawed.
What if a village of tiny people were housed in your left arm. The village makes your arm itch sometimes. Would you have the right to wipe it out because, after all, it is housed in your body?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Chesterton on pseudo-objectivity

"An open mind is really a mark of foolishness, like an open mouth. Mouths and minds were made to shut; they were made to open only in order to shut. In direct connection with this question of mythology and human belief the point may roughly be put thus: An extraordinary idea has arisen that the best critic of religious institutions is the man who talks coldly about religion. Nobody supposes that the best critic of music is the man who talks coldly about music. Within reasonable bounds, the more excited the musician is about music, the more he is likely to be right about it. Nobody thinks a man a correct judge of poetry because he looks down on poems. But there is an idea that a man is a correct judge of religion because he looks down on religions. Now, folklore and primitive faiths, and all such things are of the nature of music and poetry in this respect — that the actual language and symbols they employ require not only an understanding, they require what the Bible very finely calls an understanding heart. You must be a little moved in your emotions even to understand them at all; you must have a heart in order to make head or tail of them. Consequently, whenever I hear on these occasions that beliefs are being discussed scientifically and calmly, I know that they are being discussed wrong. Even a false religion is too genuine a thing to be discussed calmly." ~G.K. Chesterton'IlllustratedLondon News,' 10 October 1908.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Dawkins' argument from simplicity

What Dawkins argues is that a real explanation explains that which is more complex in terms of that which is simpler. Explanations of anything in terms of God necessarily explains things in terms of that which is still more complex, and so such explanations are nonstarters, since they fail to explain the more complex in terms of the less complex.

The logic of this position is that evidence for God is impossible, for if there were evidence of God, it would provide us with an explanation of the more complex in terms of the less complex. But this is impossible by definition. The search for such evidence is doomed at the start.

Are wedding providers who refuse to serve same-sex weddings expected to lie?

They may not be refusing because they are gay. They may be refusing because they have to put speech on their wedding products which state that that which is being celebrated is a marriage, when they firmly believe it is not a marriage. In other words, they are objecting to being asked to lie.

This hinges on a distinction between providing a product, in which case the protected status of gay people can be applied, and providing speech, in which case the right to free speech should outweigh concerns of nondiscrimination.

Argument from the Laws of Logic for God


A paper by James Anderson and Greg Welty.

Why do laws of logic exist? They are not local to any particular place or time, yet they apply to all of reality. Why do they exist?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Can the pro-choice candidate be the pro-life vote?

But here the choice is between two candidates, one who supports choice restrictions, but also has supported workplace practices that punish women for remaining pregnant while working and carrying their pregnancies to term. You have another candidate who opposes choice restrictions but has strongly supported efforts that keep women from being punished in the workplace for carrying their pregnancies to term. If you don't want to see abortions taking place, which of these candidates do you vote for? I would argue that, in a case like this, it is actually more pro-life to vote pro-choice. Choice is awfully hard to restrict given the fact that it is underwritten by a Supreme Court decision of almost 44 years standing. You either have to change the Court and get it overturned (which three pro-life presidents tried to do and failed), and even there all you do is throw it back to the states. Are the states going to end up with laws restricting or eliminating abortion? I have serious doubts about that. I think if Roe were overturned it would save two fetuses in the state of Mississippi.  Or, do we work on creating legislation that supports women who want to carry their pregnancies to term but might be pressured by economic fears into aborting? 

I think the latter approach, combined with a strong emphasis on the fact that there the legal possibility of choice does NOT entail moral acceptability, is the best approach to take if you want to see as few abortions as possible. Oh, and you can pray to end abortion.

The case against assisted suicide

Does the legality of assisted suicide lead health insurance companies to push it and use it an excuse to deny payment for end of life care? That has always been my biggest worry about it.
Apparently yes. 

Friday, December 09, 2016

Do Christian views discriminate against gay people?

Are the religious views on homosexuality straightforwardly discriminatory? It is not clear to me that they are. Being a same-sex attracted person is no problem for many of them, it is just that, on their view, it is wrong for such persons to pursue intimate relationships. One celibate gay man is a leading biblical studies professor at a conservative Christian college.

Some people, it seems, can't help being attracted, and only attracted to little boys. They shouldn't be discriminated against if they are this way, unless, of course, they pursue intimate relationships in accordance with their orientation. But the pursuit is an action, not a fact about them that cannot be changed.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Does secularism undermine the foundations of same-sex marriage?

 Ironically, I think that while religion provides most of the arguments against gay marriage, it also provides the foundation for the central argument for it. Jefferson says we were endowed BY OUR CREATOR with certain inalienable rights, which means that even if the people with the biggest guns want to deny us those rights, there is an authority above possession of the biggest guns that tells us that rights should not be violated, even if they are violated. However, if we were just spat up by evolution as opposed to created, then the idea that the people with the biggest guns should respect the rights of gay people even if they don't like them goes by the boards. Might does not make right, but might does what it wants to. Secularism undermines the religious arguments for gay marriage, but it also undermines the best argument for it, which is the doctrine of human equality.

The difference between ID and creationism

The difference between ID and creationism isn't so much what they believe (although in ID there is no attempt to underwrite biblical literalism scientifically), but rather concerns what science can show. There is a difference between something being created and being designed. Plato believe that the natural world showed signs of design, but his philosophy made the Demiurge (his designer) only a designer, and not the creator of the basic stuff of the world. The idea is that we have ways of figuring out if things are designed (think about the way we decide whether someone is cheating at cards--- was the arrangement of cards you got from the deck designed or not designed by the dealer), and if we follow those rules, you get a positive result for design in nature. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Trump and hopes for the right to life

People who had pro-life motives for supporting Trump are putting the hopes for fetal lives in the hands of someone who thinks that pregnancy is "an inconvenience for a person running a business." If woman thinks her boss might say "you're fired" if he finds out she's pregnant, where do  you think she is likely to go?

One easy logical step

One element of New Atheism that strikes me as aggressive is Dawkins' claim that religious believers who present their religious beliefs as true to their children are abusing them. Usually when people make charges of child abuse, they expect law enforcement to stop child abusers from continuing to do so, sometimes by removing the child from the home. Dawkins hasn't suggested that, but that seems an easy logical step. 

What is wrong with being a bigot?

Is opposition to bigotry itself religiously based? If we were not created, we were not created equal, and therefore do not have any 'inalienable" rights except what the people with the biggest guns see fit to give us.

Thus wedding providers who don't serve gay weddings can only be criticized if they are violated their God-given rights. But either there are no God given rights, in which case there is no case for gay marriage, or they were given those rights by God. But, based on the possible sources of revelation we have, is it plausible to say that God granted gay people the right to marry?

Craig's Video on the Kalam Cosmological Argument


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

How do we define evidence?

How do we define evidence? How do we define evidence? I maintain the x is evidence for y just in case x is more likely to exist if y is true than if y is not true. And on that assumption, there is lots of evidence on both sides, and we have to decide which side is sufficient. But others define evidence differently. 

Why I am for legalizing murder in some cases

I am inclined to think that there is there are moral issues that can't be fully dealt with by the law, and abortion is one of those issues. The law can act where were have enough consensus to put violators in jail. But if we admit that something isn't so clearly wrong that we should be putting someone in jail who does it doesn't mean that it's just OK.

People are also dealing with these questions from different world-views, religious and nonreligious, and there are citizens representing many groups, all of whom are good citizens of our country. There are many tools of moral persuasion that pro-lifers de-emphasize because they want a legal solution. But three pro-life Presidents have tried and failed to change the Supreme Court so as to be overturn Roe. The chances that a fourth will succeed seems slim to me.

I guess that means I believe in legalizing murder in some cases. Oh well.

Monday, December 05, 2016

C. S. Lewis on homosexuality and the Special Sin Heresy

In taking what we can from C. S. Lewis with respect to the current issues concerning homosexuality and marriage equality, I think there are two points that are raise caution flags for the traditionalist, and one that I think benefit the traditionalist. Here is one of the caution flags: 

Here’s a fellow, you say, who used to come before us as a moral and religious writer, and now, if you please, he’s written a whole chapter describing his old school as a very furnace of impure loves without one word on the heinousness of the sin. But there are two reasons. One you shall hear before this chapter ends. The other is that, as I have said, the sin in question is one of the two (gambling is the other) which I have never been tempted to commit. I will not indulge in futile philippics against enemies I never met in battle.
(“This means, then, that all the other vices you have so largely written about…” Well, yes, it does, and more’s the pity; but it’s nothing to our purpose at the moment.)
Many Christians commit the mistake I like to call the Special Sin thesis, that homosexuality, as opposed to other sins like carelessness in divorce, pornography, or even greed and exploitation of the poor, is a sin in its own special category of wickedness, which, unlike other sins, brings down the wrath of God. I think this is heretical. There are no special sins. 
Lewis goes on: 
The Wyvernians seem to me in retrospect to have been the least spontaneous, in that sense the least boyish, society I have ever known. It would perhaps not be too much to say that in some boys’ lives everything was calculated to the great end of advancement. For this games were played; for this clothes, friends, amusements, and vices were chosen.
And that is why I cannot give pederasty anything like a first place among the evils of the Coll. There is much hypocrisy on this theme. People commonly talk as if every other evil were more tolerable than this. But why? Because those of us who do not share the vice feel for it a certain nausea, as we do, say, for necrophily? I think that of very little relevance to moral judgment. Because it produces permanent perversion? But there is very little evidence that it does. The Bloods would have preferred girls to boys if they could have come by them; when, at a later age, girls were obtainable, they probably took them. Is it then on Christian grounds? But how many of those who fulminate on the matter are in fact Christians? And what Christian, in a society as worldly and cruel as that of Wyvern, would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation? Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at least as dangerous as the Flesh. The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither Christian nor ethical. We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law. The world may lead you only to Hell; but sodomy may lead you to jail and create a scandal, and lose you your job. The World, to do it justice, seldom does that.
If those of us who have known a school like Wyvern dared to speak the truth, we should have to say that pederasty, however great an evil in itself, was, in that time and place, the only foothold or cranny left for certain good things. It was the only counterpoise to the social struggle; the one oasis (though green only with weeds and moist only with fetid water) in the burning desert of competitive ambition. In his unnatural love affairs, and perhaps only there, the Blood went a little out of himself, forgot for a few hours that he was One of the Most Important People There Are. It softens the picture. A perversion was the only chink left through which something spontaneous and uncalculating could creep in. Plato was right after all. Eros, turned upside down, blackened, distorted, and filthy, still bore the traces of his divinity.
Long before the days of the marriage equality movement, I taught Contemporary Moral Issues courses at Northern Illinois University. I had students there with Catholic backgrounds, who had largely abandoned their Catholic beliefs, at least where sexual issues were concerned, except when it came to homosexuality. They hoped to hold on to some semblance of righteousness because, while they certainly weren't good Catholics in their conduct, at least they weren't homosexuals. 

Beware of stereotyping atheists

I found this statement interesting:
First, the dogmatic nature of this position is evident to anyone who has actually argued with an atheist. After arguing with hundreds of atheists, I have yet to encounter one who will not back off the extreme nature of this dogmatic posture. That is, I cannot find an atheist who argues as follows:
I agree there is some evidence for theism, enough such that theism can be considered a reasonable position. However, I find this evidence to be unconvincing and weak, thus I remain an atheist.
But in this piece by Jeff Lowder, he takes the exact position you say atheists never take.
There are real “old atheists” out there. The gnus just yell louder.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A Counterintuitive Answer

From Scott Klusendorf's The Vanishing Pro-Life  Apologist. 

Put differently; is there any reasonable person in America today who would argue that while he personally opposed the enslavement of blacks, he wouldn’t oppose the legal right of his neighbor to own one if he so chose? In fact, when people tell me they personally oppose abortion but think it should be legal anyway, I ask a simple question to audit their core beliefs about the unborn. I ask why they personally oppose abortion. Nearly always, the response is, “I oppose it because it kills a baby,” at which point I merely repeat their own words. “Let me see if I’ve got this straight: You say you oppose abortion because it kills a baby, but you think it should be legal to kill babies?”

But how does a pro-life apologist answer a straightforward "yes" here. Yes, it's wrong to kill babies, yes, it's equally wrong to make laws against killing babies under these circumstances.

Does the prolife apologist have anything more than intuition here?

Friday, December 02, 2016

A hard case on abortion

Let's try the following case. A woman has a toddler, and conceives again. At this point, her husband becomes abusive, and she feels it necessary to leave her husband and take the toddler. She has a job, and can barely make it with her toddler. But having two children would break the bank and make it impossible to even care for her one child. Can it be justified for her to abort her fetus in order to make sure she can care for her toddler? 

Abortion laws around the world


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Astronomer says we are cosmically special, contradicts Hawking


The limits of retribution

 There can be limits on retribution based on what we can humanely do. We might think a murderer who tortures his victims to death should himself be tortured. But who could take that job and come out of it a decent human being?

A Lewis scholar reviews Nagel

Lewis scholar Michael Aeschliman review Nagel's Mind and Cosmos. Here.

Hard and soft determinism

Hard and soft determinism  are both determinism and it is the same type of determinism. The difference is in how freedom is defined. With soft determinism, freedom is defined as the ability to do what you want to do. With hard determinism, (and libertarianism) freedom is a matter of being able to do otherwise from what you did given the actual past.

Chronological snobbery once again

 Have we regressed? Just because something has changed over time doesn't necessarily mean it changed for the better? To think that such change is necessarily progress is to commit the fallacy of chronological snobbery.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tom Gilson's Critique of The Christian Delusion


David Bentley Hart on New Atheism

I think I am very close to concluding that this whole “New Atheism” movement is only a passing fad—not the cultural watershed its purveyors imagine it to be, but simply one of those occasional and inexplicable marketing vogues that inevitably go the way of pet rocks, disco, prime-time soaps, and The Bridges of Madison County. This is not because I necessarily think the current “marketplace of ideas” particularly good at sorting out wise arguments from foolish. But the latest trend in à la mode godlessness, it seems to me, has by now proved itself to be so intellectually and morally trivial that it has to be classified as just a form of light entertainment, and popular culture always tires of its diversions sooner or later and moves on to other, equally ephemeral toys.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Christian concerns about Trump


If you’re a Christian who voted for Trump, I understand your concerns — jobs, the economy, health care, national security, frustration with the political status quo. What I don’t understand is your heart. All factors considered, were Trump’s calls for massive deportation of immigrants, along with his anti-Semitic dog whistling, racist commentary, documented history of misogyny and his mocking of the vulnerable, worth overlooking in favor of his shaky promises to make things better in your world? If, as Christians, we’re supposed to love our neighbor, a vote for Trump seems a little suspect. Am I wrong? If so, tell me how.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

If Christianity is debunked, why keep debunking it?

From atheist Taylor Carr. Here. 

At the risk of further infuriating some of my critics, I'll end with something I've been wondering for a while - which I genuinely do not intend to be mean-spirited. John Loftus is obviously very proud of his three master's degrees in philosophy of religion. He has brought them up in several posts, in discussions on Facebook, and elsewhere, often to imply that he is qualified to discuss philosophy of religion, while those of us poor young students who haven't earned our degrees yet are not. Normally, I don't bother with petty quibbles over credentials unless there is actually a legitimate appeal to authority to be made. The problem here is that John Loftus quite clearly thinks the field from which he earned his degrees is an illegitimate field. To be frank, he got his three master's, from two Christian universities, in a discipline that his friend Jerry Coyne has referred to as "garbage". So, in all sincerity, I'm left wondering why John Loftus doesn't seem to accept that his degrees are in nonsense. I don't believe that they are, but if philosophy of religion is truly dead, and we should all stop "god-bothering", as James Lindsay calls it, why continue to run a blog like Debunking Christianity, or write books like Christianity is Not Great? You might argue that you're doing your part to bring others into that realization, but why not lead by example?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

C. S. Lewis's Critique of Chronological Snobbery

Barfield never made me an Anthroposophist, but his counterattacks destroyed forever two elements in my own thought. In the first place he made short work of what I have called my "chronological snobbery," the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also "a period," and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Concerns about assisted suicide, because it is cheaper

 If PAS is available, since people other than the patient have to pay for end-of-life care (which is expensive), wouldn't there be pressure on patients from their financial caregivers, whether family members or insurance companies, to make use of the PAS option? (We won't pay for that, can't you just kill yourself instead and make life easier on us?)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What do you say to someone who is gay?

Sexual orientation is a matter of who you are naturally attracted to sexually. Some people seem to be sexually attracted to the same sex, others to both sexes, and some only to the opposite sex. Now, traditional sexual morality says that these desires can only be acted on where there is a marriage, and marriage, in the sacred sense is only possible for opposite-sex partners. I seriously doubt that this is simply genetic, as some have argued, but for some people at least it doesn't seem to be alterable. Trying to "pray the gay away" doesn't seem to work for some people, and the failure of Exodus International seems to support this contention. But if traditional Christian sexual morality holds, then people who are in this condition through no fault of their own are morally obligated to be celibate. It doesn't seem to me that those who are in that condition can alter their condition, nor does it seem to me that they had to have committed some sin in order to get into that condition. 

What does the Church have to say to such people? There are four possibilities. 

1) You are this way because God hates you. When Westboro Baptist says that God hates fags, they don't mean that since you chose to be a fag, you is angry with you. They believe in a particularly strong version of Reformed theology according to which God chooses some for heaven, whom he loves, and he hates everyone else. And one expression of God's hatred for you would be if you were to be an homosexual. That is a pretty good sign that God has created you for the fiery pits. God doesn't have you because you're gay, you are gay because God hates you. 

2) You can change your orientation and become straight, through prayer, Bible study, and therapy. I think this was the position of Focus on the Family, and is the basis of Exodus International, and it looks to me like it doesn't work. And I when I read histories of the gay rights movement, and try to explain why so many Americans now accept gay marriage, this chapter in the story tends to be left out. 

3) The celibacy option. This is the view that, yes, there are people who are unalterably gay, and these people are obligated to be celibate. Technically, there is nothing wrong with being gay any more than there is anything wrong with having black skin or blue eyes, but the moral path to acceptable to intimate relationships is closed to them. 

4) The Lord is my shepherd and he knows I'm gay (the title of a book by Troy Perry, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church). This is to hold that the traditional prescriptions against homosexual conduct are not absolute, and that gays should seek a homosexual equivalent of traditional heterosexual marriage. 

These are the four options. 1 seems unacceptable, 2 doesn't work, so 3 and 4 are what is left.

Mafia morality

 What does it mean to have morals? Does it means to have a set of rules one lives by? Sure, atheists have that. So does the Mafia.

So, what does it mean, exactly?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Did the universe have a beginning

Manuel Alfonseca discusses this matter here.

Homosexuality and the fear of underpopulation

Some would also argue that while it might have made sense to restrict same-sex marriage at a time when reproductive failure was likely to cause harm, we have gotten past that point. The dangers come from overpopulation, not from underpopulation. In the Bible, children were a blessing and barrenness was a curse. That is because a loss of population left the nation vulnerable to hostile attack and the family unable to work the fields when the father became too old to work. 
But this is no longer the case, right? Or not?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Atheism and morality

There is nothing about  agnosticism or even atheism that prevents people from adopting moral values and following them. However atheism does make it more difficult to hold that there are certain moral values which are the right values, as opposed to others which are not the right values. On religious views, there are correct moral values, whether people follow them or not. If one person says one should be generous and another says we should always be selfish, it makes sense to say that someone is mistaken. On the other hand, without God, it is harder to argue that one side of that dispute is right and the other is not.

The Bible teaches that Jesus was bisexual. I'm not kidding

Whether a person is gay or not depends on who they are attracted to sexually. The Bible, for example, contains proscriptions against sexual acts, not sexual orientations.

Traditional Christianity is restrictive of  sexual conduct in general, and does put same-sex attracted persons at a disadvantage with respect to being able to have a morally acceptable sex life. Some Christians are not fully traditionalists on sexual issues, however. However, it is a mistake to say that Christianity teaches that there is something wrong with being gay. It doesn't say that at all.

To this is can be replied that not only sexual acts, but the lust for them, can be sinful. However, because Christianity makes a crucial distinction between temptation and sin (Jesus experienced the former but not the latter).

In fact, if you take literally the statement that Jesus was tempted in all things just as we are, (Heb: 4:15), then we have to conclude that the Bible teaches that Jesus was bisexual. He experienced temptation both to hetersexual sin and to homosexual sin, so he had to have been bisexual. QED.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Is there a purpose for human existence?

If we are evolutionary accidents, then our biological purpose is to reproduce ourselves, but even people who believe that we are evolutionary accidents don't take this as a moral imperative. (Otherwise, people who are atheists would be even more strongly anti-gay than Christians, since gay people aren't doing their jobs and reproducing).  But what they will say, instead, is that there is no given purpose for human existence, and we can choose what purpose we consider important.  But that leads to the conclusion that  apart from a teleological world view, there is no purpose for our life that comes from the nature of reality. 

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Eric Erickson on Trump as the anti-Christ

I do not think that Donald Trump is anti-Christ. But I do think what you will read below shows you that there is a growing softness and desperation in the American church that is only going to grow. - Erickson 

I have a problem with the deeply un-Christian character that Trump consistently exhibits, and even without apocalyptic thinking here, he is deeply problematic from a Christian standpoint. And this is independent of the fundamental divide between liberals and conservatives. 

When you say that you have the right to approach women sexually without permission, and that wealth and position of power gives you permission to do so, then you have something deeply un-Christian. I am not saying that this can't be repented of, but someone who has said those things has to really walk these attitudes back in ways in which Trump has not. 

Saturday, November 05, 2016

A problem with the divine command theory

God by definition is omniscient, omniscient, and perfectly good. If we define God in terms of good, but define good in terms of God, isn't that circular? 

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Scientists: Dawkins misrepresents science

Controversial British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is well-known for his criticism of religion, but a new Rice University study of British scientists reveals that a majority who mentioned Dawkins' work during research interviews reject his approach to public engagement and said his work misrepresents science and scientists because he conveys the wrong impression about what science can do and the norms that scientists observe in their work.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Religious moral motivation

Does religion provide only reward and punishment as moral motivation? Does it not also provide us with a sense that we are fulfilling an ultimate purpose by being moral, regardless of what is in it for us? A lot of people just assume that all there is to it is reward and punishment, but that seems just obviously mistaken. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Are morals objective? Does the law of noncontradiction apply here?

If Bill Cosby says that if you are wealthy, powerful, and famous enough, you don't need a woman's permission to have sex with her, and Gloria Allred thinks that this is not true, can both of them be right? (Yes, I know the law prohibits rape. But at one point in time, the law prohibited helping a slave escape.)

If moral relativism is true, then neither of them are wrong, since there is nothing to  be right or wrong about. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Can the laws of physics be explained?

Paul Davies thinks that we shouldn't stop asking this question, as some have suggested.

Argument from the Laws of Logic for God


A paper by James Anderson and Greg Welty.

Why do laws of logic exist? They are not local to any particular place or time, yet they apply to all of reality. Why do they exist?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Arguments from motive

 People think they have reasons to believe in God, and you cannot explain them away by attributing ulterior motives to those who accept those reasons. If you could do that, then a believer could say that the real reason people are atheists is  because they don't want there to be a supreme being who can tell them what to do, or that they are engaged in activity that Christians regard as sinful, and they would have to stop it if they became believers. Or someone might be so afraid of wishful thinking that can't consider the reasons for being a believer.

The real question concerns the reasons people have for believing what they do. Whichever side is right, there is no shortage of ulterior motives to explain how someone might have ended up with the wrong answer. Arguments from motive really don't do much, because they are too easy for both sides to produce, and cancel each other out.

Rebutting the "nothing fails like prayer" argument

The argument is sometimes given to the effect that Christianity offers assurances that prayer should work, and since it does, Christians should be healthier and wealthier than nonbelievers. Since they are not, Christianity is false. I call this the "nothing fails like prayer argument."

Prayer in the Christian tradition has two trajectories. The believer is expected to present his needs to God, but its primary purpose is for the believer to open his own inner state to God's correction. The "promises" concerning prayer have a condition, they apply only if the prayer is in accordance with the will of God.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

C. S. Lewis on truncated thought

From Chapter 6, Answers to Misgivings, in C. S. Lewis's Miracles: A Preliminary Study, pp. 41-42.
All these instances show that the fact which is in one respect the most obvious and primary fact, and through which alone you have access to all the other facts, maybe precisely the one that is most easily forgotten—forgotten not because it is some remote or abstruse but because it is so near and so obvious. And that is exactly how the Supernatural has been forgotten. The Naturalists have been engaged in thinking about Nature. They have not attended to the fact that they were thinking. The moment one attends to this it is obvious that one’s thinking cannot be a merely natural event, and that therefore something other than nature exists. The Supernatural is not remote and abstruse: it is a matter of daily and hourly experience, as intimate as breathing. Denial of it depends on a certain absent-mindedness. But this absent-mindedness is in no way surprising. You do not need—indeed you do not wish—to be always thinking about windows when you are looking at gardens or always thinking about eyes when you are reading. In the same way the proper procedure for all limited and particular inquiries is to ignore the fact of your own thinking, and concentrate on the object. It is only when you stand back from particular inquiries and try to form a complete philosophy that you must take it into account. For a complete philosophy must get in all the facts. In it you turn away from specialised or truncated thought to total thought: and one of the fact total thought must think about is Thinking itself. There is a tendency in the study of Nature to make us forget the most obvious fact of all. And since the Sixteenth Century, when Science was born, the minds of men have been increasingly turned outward to know Nature and to master her. They have been increasingly engaged on those specialized inquiries in which truncated thought is the correct method. It is therefore not in the least astonishing that they should have forgotten the evidence for the Supernatural. The deeply ingrained habit of truncated thought—what we call the “scientific” habit of mind—was indeed certain to lead to Naturalism, unless this tendency were continually corrected from some other source. But no other source was at hand, for during the same period men of science were becoming metaphysically and theologically uneducated.

A skewed perspective

There is a widespread myth about religion and war. The biggest sources of war throughout the  20th Century were the nationalist ideologies of Germany and Japan, and the completely atheistic ideology of the Soviet bloc. Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot have more blood on their hands than a thousand Torquemadas.

If you think God isn't the answer, then  there is nothing stopping you from concluding that something else is the answer, and that answer (whatever it is) is something you DO want to kill or die for. If you think God IS the answer, then you may conclude, as many have, that force is a lousy way to promote that answer, because religious commitment by definition needs to be voluntary, and cannot be forced. But you can also become a Grand Inquisitor or a terrorist. If you are a secularist, you can believe that goals of humanity must be achieved by violent revolution, or you can trust democratic social institutions to achieve those goals peacefully.

The rise of Islamic terror has skewed our historical perspective quite a bit, as I see it.

I share something in common with militant atheists

Namely, unlike people who are indifferent to the matter, I think questions of religion are important.

Only one third of people without religious affiliation self-identify as atheists or agnostics. Though that percentage is growing.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Good without God?

 Where does the objectively valid moral standard come from for being moral except from religion, or at least metaphysics (something like the Form of the Good).  If on the other hand it is subjective whether something is right or wrong, then all we mean by being moral is that we like what they do. If that is all you mean, then, sure, there are plenty of nonreligious people who meet that standard. But is that interesting?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

More on gay celibacy

By gay I mean a person who is same sex attracted. There are Christians who consider same sex attraction to be an inescapable fact about themselves, and not a sin in itself. However, in obedience to Christ, they maintain that they are obligated as a matter of obedience to Christ to live celibate lives. 

It is possible to hold that homosexual acts are sinful, and something to be ashamed of, but homosexual orientation is not. 

I am very sympathetic to the orientation/act distinction. One of the things that has fueled the gay rights movement has been the perceived failure of Exodus International. Biblical injunctions seem exclusively directed toward homosexual acts, not homosexual orientation. But charges of prejudice make sense only if what one is accused of prejudice against is something about which one has no choice. We can choose our actions, even if we can't choose our orientation. 

See Wesley Hill's discussion here.