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Showing posts from June, 2008

Beyond God Arguments: Toward Belief Without Message Boards

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I woke up this morning thinking about this. I mean in that state where one is dropping out of a dream, this idea was already running in my head, like a word document you get to exist before you go to bed. I guess it's "heavy on my heart" as they say. It was a fully hatched idea as I did my morning "business." But by the time I got the coffee brewed I had already forgotten it. The time between dawn and now, which is 6:29 has been an attempt to salvage the fragments I remember.

I have thought of all of these things before. There's really nothing new here for me, but it somehow seems more fresh and its impressed upon my mind.

I guess the place to start is with the impossibility of proving the existence of God. This is a premise I have long since accepted, since my usual tactic is to argue for "rational warrant." I'm not sure that this is even a meaningful phrase, much less a possibility. I think the urge to produce a heuristic structure capable of …

Can someone explain this to me?

This was a post on the Debunking Christianity blog. It's by Loftus and then when I answered some another atheist comes in:

Loftus:
I find it odd that otherwise intelligent people can misread so badly what Beversluis had written about C.S. Lewis. I think it's because many Christians hold Lewis in some sort of iconic status that any criticism, even a mild one, and even if correct, is seen as a personal attack on their hero.

9:17 AM, June 26, 2008
Blogger J.L. Hinman said...

I couldn't stand Lewis for a large part of my Christian life. I only began to finally gain some respect for him as i began going to graduate school and actually learned enough to realize that he knew a great deal more than I did.

The problem is that skeptics can't understand faith. Probably they are too busy being skeptical about it. So faith is transitory. I grows. Growth means change. so when faith changes skeptics think it's been lost. Its not lost it's just changed.

8:59 PM, June …

Atheism and the Meaning and Taking of Life

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Atheists often demonstrate more zeal for their lack of faith than many Christians do for their faith. Why is that? When I was balancing belief and non-belief, it seemed to me that the choice was between something that offered meaning and Nihilism. It never occurred to me to believe so there would be meaning or to disbelief to escape the burdens of belief. That was simply the choice.

The human yearning for meaning, however, appears to transcend the logical extension of disbelief. This explains why atheist regimes have much more blood on their hands in the last few hundred years than Christians have compiled in its lengthier track record. (For a breakdown of the numbers, check out Richard Deem's article on the topic). It is hard to imagine an atheist believing in something so strongly that they would be willing to die for it, much less kill for it. But millions of victims of atheist states of the 20th Century bear witness to the contrary. Despite arguing that there is no tr…

Twenty Percent Growth . . . Or Not

In March 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey which contained a number of new, up-to-date details of American Life. Initial reaction to the study could be found in a press release issued by the Center for Inquiry on March 3, 2008. Of course, the pontification about the meaning of the data found in the press release is unbelievably slanted. However, the Center for Inquiry Press Release trumpeted a rather interesting fact.

According to the Center for Inquiry Press Release, atheism is on the rise and now includes a whopping four percent of the American Population. This is up from 3.2 percent which was the number reached by the last survey apparently completed in 2004. That's an increase of 0.8 percent or roughly a twenty percent increase in the total number of atheists!

Obviously, atheism is taking off, right?

Well, maybe not.

An article in the New York Times entitled Survey Shows U.S. Religious Tolerance by Neela Banerjee gives …

Failure to Identify the Author -- The Historical Books of the New Testament

A few weeks ago I did a post discussing the characteristics of ancient historiography displayed by the Gospel of John. In response, a commenter asked, “Which other ancient histories never name the author?” As pointed out by another commenter, this question was irrelevant to the point of the post because I did not claim that the Gospel of John was an example of ancient historiography, only that it was influenced by that genre in important aspects. Nevertheless, I provided four examples of Greco-Roman historiography that did not seem to identify the author in the text and asked the commenter whether he could offer any authority indicating that ancient historiography always identified the author in the text. He failed to respond.

The Failure to Identify the Author in the Text

A few weeks later, it was with great interest that I ran across an article on this very subject during one of my visits to the local seminary to check out the periodicals. In the latest issue of Novum Testamen…

Understanding the Gospel

The most recent installment of CT Direct includes an interesting interview with Pastor Tim Keller entitled Tim Keller Reasons with America. If you are unfamiliar with Tim Keller, CT Direct notes:

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and cofounder of the Gospel Coalition, is behind some of the most ambitious — if not the most radical — efforts to reach urban professionals. Now he's expanding his ministry in book form, with the publication of The Reason for God, which moved its way up to number seven on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.
Pastor Keller responds to a number of questions in the article each one containing interesting insights into his view of apologetics. For example, he is asked, "Are the doubts that believers face the same as the doubts that unbelievers face?" Pastor Keller begins his response by noting that the doubts that people have about Christianity can, in many respects, be the result of the society in which he is…

A Response to Atheist G.P.

A recent letter written to Dr. Billy Graham and published on Seattlepi.com has me scratching my head. Here is the letter:

DEAR DR. GRAHAM: I want to make myself clear: I have no interest in God or religion, and I don't care who knows it. As far as I'm concerned, God doesn't exist, and this life is all there is. Don't even bother to write me back, because I'm not interested. -- G.P.
G.P. makes several very interesting statements in this short letter. Let's read them again, one at a time:

1. "I have no interest in God or religion" -- Really? Then why are you writing to Dr. Graham to tell him so? Certainly, you have some interest, don't you?

2. "I don't care who knows it" -- But you want Dr. Graham and all of the readers of his column to know it, right? Why is that?

3. "As far as I'm concerned, God doesn't exist, and this life is all there is." -- Did you give this any thought? I mean, if you don't believe he exists or …

The Privileged Planet More Privileged Than We Thought

I am an aspiring amateur astronomer. That is, I aspire to have enough time to even be considered an amateur in this field. I have a small telescope, several books, a pair of gigantic binoculars, and a subscription to Sky & Telescope. Of these, the subscription gets the most use.

Anyway, I ran across this little entry noting some new discoveries that indicate the earth's privileged status is the result of even more unique processes than we knew:

Genesis: Earth is Weird

When NASA's Genesis spacecraft crash-landed in the Utah desert in 2004 after collecting samples of the solar wind, the mission seemed lost. But scientists have painstakingly salvaged the solar-wind samples, and these tell an odd story.

The Sun's oxygen-isotope ratios don't match Earth's. Instead, they match those of the earliest meteorites. So, when the solar system was forming, it's Earth that somehow became the oddball, not the meteorites as scientists had assumed. Now there is "n…

Who is Winning?

I have been reading Timothy Keller's The Reason for God. Although I might not classify him as an academic heavy hitter apologetically speaking, he has a knack -- somewhat like C.S. Lewis -- of putting his finger on important points and evaluating claims and evidences from a novel perspective.

In the Introduction, Pastor Keller has a section titled, "The Enemies are Both Right." He points out that many skeptics would claim that the fundamentalists are a rising threat, gaining ever more political power and growing mega-churches. On the other hand, conservative Christians see ever increasing skepticism and hostility in major universities and media companies. So Pastor Keller asks the question, "Is skepticism or faith on the ascendancy in the world today?" As the section title suggests, he thinks both are right. "Skepticism, fear, and anger toward traditional religion is growing in power and influence. But at the same time, robust, orthodox belief in t…

How Should I Be A Sceptic -- the leveled playing-field

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. A continually updated table of contents for all entries so far can be found here.

This is the final entry of the section, and concludes a summary of positions reached in previous entries. I recommend reading at least the previous entry first. I concluded that entry with a paragraph where I stated that even as a sceptic "I would not propose that we can discover nothing useful and/or true about the IF."]


Closely related to this, as a sceptic I think I would discount worldviews (atheistic, pantheistic, theistic, whatever) that require the IF to be an abstract generality. The implication of such a worldview, when followed through, ends by denying the existence of the IF--or else holding such a worldview in name, I would still end up contradicting myself by treating the IF (after all) as a particular highly concrete thing. Put another way, I would understand that the implications of t…

How Should I Be A Sceptic -- a summary of results

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. A continually updated table of contents for all entries so far can be found here.]


Having followed a path throughout this section that leads to the question of evidence, I am now ready to proceed with my positive argument. However, before I begin my next section, let me summarize where I am.

As I said near the beginning of this book, my goal for this section is merely to level the playing field so that misunderstandings about religious propositions don't lurk undisclosed in the background, inspiring unwarranted and spurious opposition. In the process, I have necessarily had to pare off certain propositions here and there. But I have at least followed one of my core positions for this chapter: no matter how complicated the proposition, if it is built on a fundamental misunderstanding of the implications of propositions, then the proposition ought to be rejected.

This does not mean I nece…

The Walls of Jericho -- Falling into Place

Several years ago, Time magazine published an article about archaeology and Christianity. the article appeared to concede that there was a great deal of archaeological evidence consistent with the descriptions of the places and events described in the New Testament (as Christians contend). However, as one heads further back into the murkier days before King David, the article announced unreservedly that the archaeological evidence actually contradicts the Biblical account. One of the breaking points that I recall was the account of the fall of Jericho to the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land as recounted in the Book of Joshua, Chapter 6. According to the Time story, Jericho hadn't even been occupied at the time that the Israelites would have entered into the Promised Land. Hence, the entire account had to be a myth made up at a later date.

My own personal thought was: how do they know that? After all, there really is no confirmation as to the date of the Exodus itself…

How Should I Be A Sceptic -- evidence from reasonable scepticism to reasonable belief

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. A continually updated table of contents for all entries so far can be found here.

I ended the previous entry (which continues chapter 12), by asking, "If I was a sceptic, what kind of evidence would I accept?"

Please note that this is one of those entries which might not necessarily be agreed to by all Cadre members.]


I will presume I am not in the grip of a strong emotional pull toward some belief. I do not (speaking actually as a Christian) deny that God can and does convict many people through a process that doesn't seem, at first, to have much to do with analysis. But I think that sooner or later the converted sceptic, whether to or from a religious belief, should face questions of coherency and intelligibility in the new position he is taking. Otherwise, I cannot see how he would be acting responsibly. I think it is easier for errors (or ‘heresies’, religiously speaking) …