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. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Proud to be gay, celibate for Jesus

If something is an unchangeable fact about someone, then one should not be prejudiced against them on that account. If gay means same sex attracted, then I think there are cases of persons who are gay, and they can't change that. Christianity may require that they be celibate, but there is no just prejudice against them based on who they are attracted to. I realize "phobia" is probably an inapt term. 

A group of Christian gays might apply to march in a Gay Pride parade with the intent to carry a sign that says "Proud to be Gay, Celibate for Jesus." Now the parade organizers would probably deny the application, but that would be religious prejudice. But if I am right in thinking that these people can't, as it were, "pray the gay away," then to treat them poorly because they are same sex attracted would be anti-homosexual prejudice.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Where have you gone, William F. Buckley, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you

I've often wondered what Bill Buckley would have said about the Trump campaign. Actually, Trump considered it in 2000, and Buckley said this. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Is this homophobia?

The equal treatment of persons is, for the most part, supported by religion, but traditional Christians tend to accept moral restrictions on sexual activity, and it might be that if you are gay in orientation, Christianity requires you morally to be celibate. It also require you to be celibate if you can't find a marriage partner, even if you are heterosexual.

Christians might say this: whether you are gay or straight does not mean God is against you. It just means if you are gay, you can't have a moral sex life. But being heterosexual doesn't guarantee that you can have a moral sex life, either, so why is this a prejudice against homosexual people?

To go from opposition to homosexual activity to prejudice against homosexual persons, additional steps in the argument are needed.

Were the crusades just wars?


Do you accept the law of noncontradiction? Based on what evidence?

Is the law of noncontradiction based on evidence? What possible evidence is there for it or against if? If you accept the law, and it is not based on evidence, does that mean that you accept something without evidence? 

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

An argument against religious morality

Some would make this argument. The parts of morality that are productive for society are those parts that religious and nonreligious people agree with (murder, theft, etc.). The parts of morality that religious people accept and nonreligious people reject are the parts of morality that are really harmful (such as opposition to homosexuality). Therefore whenever religion adds anything, it adds something counterproductive.

How would you respond to this argument?

Whose notion of virtue is this?

“If throughout your life you abstain from murder, theft, fornication, perjury, blasphemy, and disrespect toward your parents, church, and your king, you are conventionally held to deserve moral admiration even if you have never done a single kind, generous or useful action. This very inadequate notion of virtue is an outcome of taboo morality, and has done untold harm.” -- Bertrand Russell 

But what religion teaches this concept of virtue? Not Christianity. 

Matthew 25:31-46New International Version (NIV)

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Chesterton on Progressives and Conservatives

 "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected."

"The Blunders of Our Parties", Illustrated London News, 19 April 1924.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

New atheism and logical positivism

From a review of a book by Peter Williams

Why is this? Williams claims it is mainly to do with the devastating effect Logical Positivism had in the 20th Century on religious belief. Logical Positivism holds that only statements that can be observed to be true through our senses or otherwise be potentially verified, have any meaning. This leaves the unverifiable God hypothesis meaningless. However, argues Williams, it does the same to the opposite claim too. The atheist declaration ‘there is no God’ is also impossible to scientifically prove. So under Logical Positivism, atheism is also meaningless. As Williams writes in Ch1, “Dawkins’ atheism, no less than the theism he opposes, is built upon Positivism’s grave.” Positivism had to die for atheism to live. However, Williams then moves on to argue that bizarrely, Logical Positivism is historically the main reason atheism has such a grasp on public imagination today. It provided the social credibility for atheism upon which the New Atheists have built.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

David's Adoration of God

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.

'1 Chronicles 29:11-12, (NLT)