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.