Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"No gods or kings, only man."

As usual lately I've been inspired to post a bit from stuff over at Randal Rauser's blog.  I posted this as a comment there in response to the idea of "How much freedom would you surrender to live comfortably?".

Randal has the very right-headed sentiment that giving up freedom for extra security is not something worth doing, and I pointed out that this is a bit of an odd view for him to take, considering the Christian god knows all our thoughts, before even we do, and that it is a punishable sin to merely even think certain thoughts. You don't even have to act on them, just thinking about something Yahweh doesn't like is enough to get cast into hell if you don't accept Jesus to forgive your thoughtcrime.

After a brief exchange, the entire thing reminded me of something rather profound that was pointed out to me by other atheists online when I had just deconverted and was reaching out for help - the idea that my thoughts and my mind are my own.

To see the reply to Randal keep on reading.

Author's side note: This is not an attack on Randal, it's just another area we disagree.  It's just that his posts helped me remember something rather profound when I had just deconverted. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Virtual Beers with Counter Apologist - Randal Rauser (6/13/2013)

Virtual Beers with Counter Apologist is where I have a conversation (not a debate!) with other people involved in the debate over god's existence online.

This session was with Christian apologist and theologian Randal Rauser and we covered a lot of topics from Metaphysics to Morality and had what I think was a great conversation.  Many thanks for Randal for participating!

This is my first attempt at doing this, and I didn't know how to use Google Hangout's On Air, so instead of swapping between Randal and me talking, the video turned out to only show Randal. My sincere apologies to Randal, I thought it was showing the full screen view that I saw on the controls.

So much for all my cool gestures and the visual cues from my side of the discussion. :(

I'd also like to note that I was sharing my thoughts on what will go into a series on the Moral argument, but it's still in development, so if you've got criticisms on what I said (or good feedback!) please let me know!

Monday, June 10, 2013

On the use of Mockery

There is a discussion going on between John Loftus and Randal Rauser on the use of mockery.

Many in the atheist community do engage in mockery, and predictably Randal disagrees with that decision.

Since I seem to enjoy taking abuse, I come in on the middle ground:

Mockery is a double edged sword, but to pretend that this sword is always unnecessary is wrong.

Certainly there are plenty of atheists who don’t engage on the issues strongly, and all too often resort to mockery of religious believers.  Blanket mockery is a dangerous thing that can lead to uncritical acceptance of the status quo. I would imagine that this is something Christians would appreciate. 

However, this doesn’t mean that mockery cannot or even should not be used.  It does mean that mockery should not be the default response, reason and kindness should always be the first thing to be employed.  But that can only go so far.

Riddle me this dear moderate Christians:

What response should we have towards the more dangerous fundamentalists like Ken Ham, or the (US) congressmen who cite bible passages as to why climate change isn’t a real problem because human’s can’t really harm the planet due to god’s providence?

Ken Ham is a perfect example, many have attempted to reason with the man, and his response is to ask “Were you there?” as though it was a piece of rhetorical brilliance.

When reason has been tried, and your ideological opponents consciously reject the use of reason and science to determine the truth of empirical matters, what exactly are we left to do?  These are the people who define “truth” as a literal reading of the bible, and they reject any attempts at defining it otherwise.  Reasonable, meaningful dialog is pretty much lost at that point. 

I think quoting Sam Harris is appropriate here:

“If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide that proves they should value evidence? 

If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument would you invoke to prove they should value logic?” 

There are certainly many problems that will come as a result of mockery, and Randal has highlighted many of them.  The conscious anti-intellectualism, the Young Earth “Creation Science”, the increasing levels of cultural isolation (homeschooling, ideologically “pure” colleges, etc).

The only good thing is that on the long haul, the mockery is working.  The numbers of the Young Earth creationists are dwindling, and they will continue to dwindle as each generation progressively rejects their ideology.  

That said I fear we have no other recourse.  There is at the core of this a fundamental disconnect between science and religion because sub-groups of religious people have decided to reject the accomodationist approach and have made it the case. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: God or Godless

I've been interacting with Randal Rauser a good bit on his blog recently, and I've been a fan of John Loftus's counter apologetics for a while.  These two guys have a bit of an admirable history together as a textbook case of "Frenemies". They're on opposite sides of the issue but treat each other with respect, despite the fact that they trade effective rhetorical blows.

So when the two of them released a book debating various topics on god's existence I went ahead and picked up a copy.  I was not disappointed.

Here's the quick version of my review:

If you like following competent debates between theists and atheists then you should read God or Godless.

The book is immediately accessible to folks who are new to the issue, but it also has value for those of us who've been engaged in the debate for some time.  It also has the benefit of being entertaining to read.

If you'd like to see the full review, keep on reading below.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Theological Dilemma for Christians

I've been pretty bad about being "active" in having counter apologetic discussions online (Twitter, commenting in other blogs, etc) and not actually blogging here.   Time to rectify this, by laying out a substantive exchange I've had with Randal Rauser on his blog last week.

Randal was very kind in asking me to write up why I don't believe for a segment over on his blog, which started a pretty interesting discussion that centered around the problem of Christian's calling things related to morality "good"  that at the same time cannot be a part of their god's "necessary nature".

The problem for the Christian in this case is that they end up having to give up the moral argument for god's existence, since they have to ground moral "goodness" in their god's "necessary nature" in order to avoid the Euthyphro Dilemma.

This problem becomes particularly acute when we consider the problem of evil, the problem of hell, and the existence of heaven.  Since being morally free to commit sin is something that absolutely cannot be a part of god's necessary nature, such a moral ability is not "good" on the Christian's own set of definitions.

Now for what it's worth, Randal is to be commended for trying to actually engage this very tough issue.  I've not seen a substantive engagement on this point before, so while I think he's wrong, you've got to give the man some props for trying.

This led to a discussion on Randal's blog that spanned three different posts by Randal replying to issues myself and Jason Thibodeau were bringing up as he tried to come up with answers to problems related to the core issue outlined above.