Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Mythicism


Nothing raises the hackles of Christians more than the suggestion the Jesus might not have actually existed.  It is likely to provoke an emotional response containing elements of dismissiveness, categorical rejection, derisiveness, or mocking and ridicule.  (What's that, you say?  Christians use mockery and ridicule?  Perish the thought.)  That's what we see in an article called Does Richard Carrier Exist? by apologist Glenn Peoples, for example.  OK, I know that it is intended to be humorous (and I agree his use of Bayesian inference is funny), but still it openly mocks the scholarly work of Richard Carrier, and includes ad hominem attacks that don't seem humorous at all, rather than presenting any reasoned argument against what Carrier says.  And this is coming from a guy who has this to say about him own approach to argumentation:
Although I am a Christian (something that will become obvious to regular readers and listeners), when it comes to the sorts of debates that Christians and non-Christians get into, while I am a participant and a commentator, I do not want to be a cheerleader. Fairness is one of the most important measures of integrity, and I certainly do not wish to give religion a “free pass.” I criticise the arguments of Christians as directly as I do the arguments of non-believers when I think that they go wrong, as I think that by doing so I am actually doing the Christian community a service. Christians – like atheists – are not helped by having their intellectual standards lowered by poor argumentation that is accepted because of a partisan spirit. The pursuit of excellence involves the willingness to reject bad arguments even when they are given in defence of “your side.” Peoples

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The One-Dimensional Religionist


Joe Hinman has written a baffling piece of apologetic nonsense called One Dimensional-Church.  I say "baffling" because after reading it, I really don't know what he means by the phrase that is the title of that article.  One might expect to hear some explanation of it, but apart from the title itself, the word 'church' never even appears in the article.  The reader is left guessing what he means by it.  The article begins with a single sentence that criticizes the political right for co-opting the evangelical movement as a tool for the Republican Party.  So is this the "One Dimensional-Church" talking about?  It doesn't seem likely, because he is otherwise not critical of religion or the church, nor does he refer to them as one-dimensional, and this is never mentioned again.  But the article does criticize technological society (which produces the "one-dimensional man") and scientific thinking, so one might speculate that he is likening science to a kind of religion, although he never actually says that in the article.  Whatever Joe has in mind as the "one dimensional-church", it is not effectively communicated.  One can only guess.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Not Skeptical of Alexander the Great


Some time ago, I pointed out the Christian Blind Spot, which is an inability of many Christians to see glaring flaws in their own logical arguments for God, despite the fact that they would have no trouble at all identifying the very same flaws in another argument that applies to something other than God.  This is not an issue of Christians lacking intelligence or acumen in logical argumentation.  It's simply a lack of objectivity when it comes to matters that concern their religious beliefs.  They tend to have a huge blind spot when it comes to seeing the problems with their own arguments.  And this blind spot exists for more than just logical argumentation.  It is equally debilitating in their examination of evidence (or lack thereof) for their religious beliefs.  I have yet to encounter any Christian who is willing to admit that evidence to support his beliefs about the life of Jesus is anything less than rock solid.  Yet they can be oh so skeptical of other things in the historical record that enjoy far more substantial evidential support.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Atheist Apologist


Some time ago, I got into an unpleasant exchange with a guy named Tim O'Neill who calls himself an atheist, but whose attitude appears to be unreasonably hostile toward atheists.  I looked at his blog, which is called History For Atheists, and found many articles that are quite critical of atheists (especially the ones he calls "New Atheists") and the historical claims they make, and none that are even slightly critical of dubious claims made by religionists.  He often mocks the idea that atheists are skeptical.  This struck me as rather odd, because there's no balance.  He defends religious claims and beliefs, while criticizing the claims of atheists.  For example, he strongly defends the idea that there was no such thing as the "dark ages", which seems to be a matter of opinion, and that the church was always supportive of the advancement of science, which I think is patently false.  I'm all in favor of criticizing false claims, including those made by atheists, but this guy seems to go overboard - to the point of revealing what appears to be a clear bias in favor of religionism and against atheism.  And that's why I said that I "could find no reason to think that he is anything other than a Christian who claims to be an atheist."  He could well be an atheist, but he sure doesn't sound like one.  His brand of skepticism seems to be highly selective.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Misrepresenting Science


There are certain theists who are so beyond the reach of rational discussion or consideration that I simply dismiss them and all their rantings as being unworthy of my attention.  If their arguments are illogical and they refuse to hear anything that does not echo their own position, then there is no point in arguing with them.  In many cases, there is no point in listening to them - unless they might have some impact on the debate in the broader community of believers.  One such theist is Mikey, who blogs at Shadow To Light.  This guy is a rabid atheist-hater, makes terribly illogical arguments, and aside from searching their words for sound bites to use against them, never listens to anything they say and never makes the slightest effort to understand their position.  There's only one reason I read his articles.  He seems to have the ear of some other theists, who then spread his extremely poor thinking to a broader audience.  So from time to time, I feel that it would be appropriate to answer his ridiculous claims.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Feser Evades the Issue


Asking a theist to give a cogent explanation for anything is typically an exercise in frustration.  Most of the time, the best answer you can get is something that boils down to "God did it".  Of course, they don't put it in those words specifically.  There is always a certain amount of hand-waving and dissembling when you try to press them for details.  This rule of thumb applies regardless of what you may be seeking an explanation for.  If God is presumed to have any role in it, the theist will be hard-pressed to provide any technical details on exactly what kind of manipulations occur at the interface between the physical world and the divine.  And there's a reason for that.  Explanations of a detailed technical nature that involve God simply don't exist.  The best they can do is to use vague language or divert to another topic to cover up the lack of any specific details in their answers.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Fine Tuning Fallacy


Fine tuning arguments are ubiquitous among proponents of theistic belief.  They are the ultimate "God Did It" argument.  That is to say, they appeal to ignorance.  It boils down to this:  How did the state of affairs in which we find ourselves come to be?  I don't know.  Therefore God Did It.  Now, of course, theists will object to that statement of the problem.  It's based on probability, they will tell you.  It's based on the fact that the probability (of physical laws and constants being what they are) is so small that we almost certainly wouldn't have found ourselves in this state of affairs without divine intervention.  So divine intervention is the most likely case.  But I'm here to tell you that this theistic argument based on probability is bogus.  And I'll explain why.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Argumentum ad Argument


It never ceases to amaze me how Christians will jump through intellectual hoops to justify their religious beliefs.  There is no end to the clever tricks and ploys they use in an effort to get around the simple truth that their belief isn't rational.  Have you ever heard the claim "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist"?  It's an obvious reversal of the truth - placing themselves in the position of the objective evaluator of facts, while the skeptical atheist supposedly abandons evidence in favor of some irrationally-motivated ideological position.  Clever.  But to a truly impartial judge, the tactic of the Christian in this ploy is obvious.  This is not an honest argument, nor is it any kind of argument at all.  It's an intellectual sham.  It's quite typical of the games we observe Christians playing to make themselves appear more intellectually competent than the facts would justify.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Ghost In The Machine


David Chalmers has attained a degree of celebrity and earned the adoration of theists, with his philosophical argument against physicalism.  The argument is based on the conceivability of philosophical zombies (or p-zombies).  Before I get into the argument itself, I should explain what a p-zombie is.  This is not the fictional creature of movies that has returned from the dead, but rather a philosophical concept of something that is physically and behaviorally identical in every respect to a person, but that nevertheless lacks any conscious experience.  A p-zombie can't be distinguished from an ordinary person, because it behaves the same, reacts the same, and gives the same answers to any questions.  It would recoil from pain and say "ouch", for example, but not actually experience the feeling pain.  Another way of saying this is that the p-zombie has no subjective or first-person experience.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wars Aren't Started For Religious Reasons


Victor Reppert makes a plea for the sake of honesty and historical accuracy: Religion is not responsible for most wars- can people stop repeating this nonsense?  Fair enough.  I think we should all strive for honesty and historical accuracy.  And of course, he's right - as long as you understand what is meant by the term 'responsible for'.  He cites an article by anthropologist Scott Atran, who says "the chief complaint against religion — that it is history’s prime instigator of intergroup conflict — does not withstand scrutiny."  And aside from the fact that this isn't really the chief complaint against religion, he's correct.  Wars are started for many reasons besides religion.  But it would not be correct to say that religion plays no major role in the conduct or sustainment of warfare.  So we need to understand Victor's plea in a nuanced way.  It's not as if religion has nothing to do with it.