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Showing posts from October, 2008

Abortion: In this Election, One Candidate is Not Viable

In an election cycle that is dominated by Bush bashing, anti-Iraq fervor, and over-hyping of the current financial crisis, some think that some of the other social issues are irrelevant. Yet, for those like me who are not huge Sen. John McCain fans, I find that I cannot, in good conscious, vote for Sen. Barack Obama, a candidate whose abortion views are so extreme as to make his views completely unacceptable.

Let me make this clear: I am not a one-issue voter. If I thought that Sen. McCain's economics would send the United States into financial free fall, while Sen. Obama's views were the only things that could save the economy, then I might be forced to vote for Sen. Obama even if he were pro-choice/pro-abortion. But even in these troubling financial times, abortion remains an important factor in determining which candidate will receive my vote.

However, even if I believed it would be economically disastrous to elect Sen. McCain, Sen. Obama's extreme views on abortion mak…

New Archaeology Find Threatens Minimalist View of Israel's History

Archaeologists in Israel, lead by Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University, report finding what is perhaps the oldest Hebrew text on a pottery shard at a site near Jerusalem. The site is an ancient fortress city in the valley were David slew Goliath. The shard and text are 3,000 years old. This would by far be the oldest discovered use of the Hebrew language. There is dispute over whether the language on the shard is "proto-Cannanite" -- used by people other than the Israelis, or Hebrew. One factor that Garfkinkel finds determinative is the presence of a common verb that is typical of Hebrew but not found in any proto-Cannanite writings (of which there is a fair amount).

Carbon dating places the shard in the reign of King David. The "minimalist" approach to Israeli history doubts that such a figure, or people, existed at this time. If the ceramic is Hebrew, it would be weighty evidence against this school of thought. The site is a fortress city indicative of a…

Poor Tactical Debate Tools

Rob Bowman, author of The Religious Researcher, has posted a rather tongue-in-cheek blog in which he reveals some common debate tactics that are used on both sides in arguments about religion generally when one party is losing the debate. As the introduction to the aptly named Twenty Ways to Answer Someone If You Have No Case notes:

Finding someone’s argument too tough to handle? Over your head in a matter of biblical exegesis, scientific evidence, or logical validity? Don’t despair. Now you can always respond to those smart-alecks and put them in their place. These are field-tested methods for diverting attention from the lack of substance in your argument. Never be stuck again for a snappy comeback!
He then identifies twenty common tactics, including The Amateur-Status Violation, The Evil Nun / Mad Scientist Defense, The Hoagland Hustle, The Moroni Maneuver and The Sextus Empiricus Switch.

Very good.

What is Christianity?

Over at Debunking Christianity, Harry McCall responds to those who claim that he and other apostates just don't 'get' Christianity with a challenge: for Christians to come up with a succinct description of what they take Christianity to be. What is it exactly that apostates misunderstand?

It goes without saying that the word 'Christianity' can have many different connotations. Here I take it the challenge is to elucidate the cognitive content of Christian theism: what beliefs does it entail about the world, human beings, about history, etc.? Which of these are necessary and sufficient for someone to be labeled a Christian, and which are still important but peripheral? Obviously there is broad disagreement over this, just as there is over what makes someone a liberal or a conservative in politics or economics, what makes someone a naturalist or materialist in philosophy, etc. This disagreement is to be expected due to the way human cognition works (see for example Ge…

And He will come again to judge the living and the dead...

Many atheists react strongly against the idea that God is judgmental. They balk at the idea that God is a God of justice as well as mercy and will reward everyone according to their works. How can God be both a God of love and of judgment? What kind of insulated, utopian world do they live in?

In Congo, a doctor keeps helping as rape victims keep coming

When I read stories like this I hope with all my heart that God is a God of justice and that the wicked will not go unpunished. When an army uses gang rape as a weapon of war, this is not a matter of poor upbringing or having the wrong genes: this is cold, calculated atrocity designed to humiliate, traumatize and keep people under control. Those who perpetrate it are in full, rational command of their actions, and deserve the harshest justice one can imagine.

This is not to say that the motive of God's justice is revenge. God's justice is fundamentally corrective, not retributive. But something has to happen to balance the moral b…

Richard Dawkins is Moving Towards Sanity

Richard Dawkins, blowhard stalwart of the New Atheist movement, has made a rather stunning and significant admission in a recent debate. According to Is Richard Dawkins still evolving? by Melanie Phillips in the Spectator:

This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

A serious case could be made for a deistic God.
This was surely remarkable. Here was the arch-apostle of atheism, whose whole case is based on the assertion that believing in a creator of the universe is no different from believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, saying that a serious case can be made for the idea that the universe was brought into being by some kind of purposeful force. A creator. True, he was not saying he was now a deist; on the contrary, he still didn't believe in such a purposeful founding intelligence, and he was certainly still saying that belief in the personal Go…

Proverbs and Amenemope

A claim that is made is that a portion of the Biblical book of Proverbs is actually copied from an Egyptian source, Amenemope. According to Introduction to the Old Testament by Georg Fohrer, Abingdon Press, 1968, p. 321:

As has long been recognized, the first subsidiary collection (22:17-23:11) is closely related to the Egyptian Instruction of Amen-em-opet, which probably dates between the tenth and sixth centuries BC. The introductory poem (22:17-21) and the ten themes discussed (22:22-23:11) follow--often word for word--their Egyptian source. Even the division of this source into thirty chapters ("houses") seems to have been borrowed by the Israelite redactor for the entire collection 22:17-24:22 (cf. 22:20, where the RSV correctly reads "thirty sayings" for the Hebrew "day before yesterday" or "adjutants").
Now, Benjamin Shaw, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has written a series of short bl…

Review of Churched, by Matthew Paul Turner

Through the Amazon Vine program I received a review copy of Churched, by Matthew Paul Turner. The subtitle is "one kid's journey toward God despite a holy mess." Part of the description on the back reads, "He spent his childhood trapped within the confines of countless bizarre, strict rules. And lives to tell about it." It ends describing the author as "a young man who, amidst the chaotic mess of religion, falls in love with Jesus."

As you may have figured out, the author was "trapped" in a fundamentalist church. To be specific, an "Independent Fundamentalist Baptist" church. His family left the Methodist church when he was four and joined an IFB church where he attended until his graduation from high school. The author writes from the perspective of his younger self, immersed in a fundamentalist church. This is a clever way to make the church he attended and his family and friends look more bizarre and clueless than they li…

A Sample of Twisted Bible Logic

This November, the people of the State of California will be voting on Proposition 8 which could ban homosexual marriage in that state. On a site that I ran across called "Gather" (which I gather is a gathering site for gay rights people), an author (Troy W) published a short essay entitled Why California’s Proposition 8 Would Make Jesus Weep in which he said:

In the name of “traditional family values” and spearheaded by conservative Christian groups a measure has been put on the California ballot to, for the first time in California history, add discrimination to the state constitution. This measure has no other purpose than to limit the rights of human beings to legally acknowledge their love for one another and make a binding commitment to one another.
Now, I don't particularly want to get into the merits of this proposition. Needless to say, I disagree with the opinion of Troy W. both as to the purpose and effect of the proposition. I will say that it seems apparent to…

Christianity and survivalism: some thoughts

These are truly momentous times we live in. The world is caught in the grip of the worst financial crisis in decades, governments and individuals are just beginning to come to terms with a future of diminishing natural resources (peak oil being just one example of the more general trend) and uncertainty and anxiety seem to pervade the cultural milieu. All these factors have renewed interest in the possibility of a systemic collapse of civilized order, whether through resource depletion, economic catastrophe, military escalation or all three, and the concomitant question of what life would be like on the other side of this collapse. Can we in the developed world really imagine a situation in which basic services like electricity, running water, medical assistance and food delivery to supermarkets were greatly reduced or non-existent? More importantly, what would be a proper Christian response to such a situation if it ever came about? What does Christian faith look like in a situation …

A Fishy Theory, That Doesn't Net Up Very Well

Last October (which tells you how far behind I am in my posting schedule {g}), I was having a correspondence with someone who referred to a fringe theory (in the sense that most scholars don't advocate it or think much of it, in at least one sense of that phrase) concerning the 153 fish caught by the apostles in the final chapter of GosJohn in a sort-of-repeat of the Lukan big-catch incident. (John 21:1-11; Luke 5:1-11)

This theory, is that the author (editor/final-redactor/whatever) of GosJohn completely invented the anecdote by, in effect, copy-pasting it over from a story about the Greek philosopher Pythagoras that was having a bit of a revival in its popularity thanks to a book about Pythagoreanism, written by Plutarch more-or-less contemporaneously with GosJohn. (Obviously it helps if one has already decided GosJohn was written in the final quarter of the 1st century, or later. But that's another discussion, and is probably still a majority opinion across the ideology boa…

All Phenomena Without Exception (except for... ... wait...)

And now for today's discussion in metaphysics.

Consider the following claim (from this philosophy paper from Spencer Lo, provided for context--the original statement can be found in the second paragraph of Part IV, "Empty Resolution"):

"The fact that all phenomena are dependently arisen, entails that all phenomena, without exception, come into being in dependence upon prior phenomena, remain in existence dependent upon prior phenomena, and cease to exist dependent upon prior phenomena.”


A.) How cogent is this claim, as it stands?

B.) Would it cohere well enough with an attempt to deny the existence of an independently existent reality with at least some intrinsically fixed, unalterable characteristics?

C.) Would such a claim, if true, be any protection against, or any denial of, an attempt to claim that phenomena may come into and go out of existence completely uncaused?

D.) Would any failure of (A), (B) and/or (C) be remedied by replacing the occurrences of the phrase &q…

Does God Say, "Believe or Go to Hell"?

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In a recent post, I discussed some weak objections to Christianity that were highlighted on Austin Cline's about.com site. There, Mr. Cline posted the following question (among others) which he apparently believes will cause the typical Christian to stop dead in his tracks with that deer-in-the-headlights look:

Free Will. Freedom to choose is given to man by God. Man has two main choices: 1) accept the Love of God and, upon death, go to paradise for eternity, 2) Refuse God and, upon death, just die, be utterly damned. How is that freedom of choice when it is the same thing as a gun to your head?
At the time, I didn't challenge the analogy, but merely commented, "If people truly lacked free will in the sense used in this question, there would be no skeptics." It now appears that at least one reader didn't understand my point. Hence, this post is intended to break this comment down a bit more.

Freedom of Choice vs. Free Will

The title of the objection Cline posted is …

Not a Review of a Review of Religuous. Maybe! Or, maybe not!

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And yes, that title is supposed to be confusing. It represents my state of mind after picking up last week’s copy of Entertainment Weekly Tuesday night, and reading Owen Gleiberman’s review of Bill Maher’s recent documentary-slash-humor film, Religuous. (The review can be found at ew.com’s site, here.)

Before I go any further, let me try to make clear that I am not about to review the movie: I haven’t seen it, and I haven’t read enough about it from pro-and-con directions to think I have much right to even a second-hand opinion about it. Nor am I trying to review Owen’s review. Exactly. I think.

Okay, in hindsight, having written my article: maybe I am reviewing the review. {lopsided g} Because the review leaves me wondering just what in the heck I-the-reader-who-hasn’t-seen-the-film am supposed to think about the film.


One the one hand, Owen gives us statements like the following; call them Category A: Maher is “curious” and “inquiring” about religion, with “childlike logical glee”. The…

New Apologetics Blog -- The Religious Researcher

Robert Bowman, a very informed apologist and one of the researchers behind the Institute for Religious Research, has now started his own apologetics blog. The new blog, entitled The Religious Researcher, will seek to answer questions about Christianity.

Today's blog is entitled FAQ on the Trinity, 1: Must one believe in the Trinity to be saved? In responding to the question, Mr. Bowman notes:

The short answer is that it is not quite accurate to say that belief in the doctrine of the Trinity is essential for salvation. Doctrinal accuracy on any theological subject is in any case at most a litmus test or barometer of the genuineness of a person’s salvation, not a prerequisite for receiving the gift of salvation. There is no theology exam on which a person needs a passing score before God will accept that person’s trust in him for salvation. We are saved by God’s grace through faith, that is, through our trust and reliance on God’s gift of salvation in Christ (Rom. 3:21-26; Eph. 2:8-…

Hiatus From My Hiatus Approaching! {g}

("What do you mean...? 'Flash Gordon approaching'?" {cue Queen's underlying bass theme} {g})

I've been off-site working on other projects since June, mostly to do with writing the third in my series of novels (the first of which, Cry of Justice, won 2007 Novel of the Year in a retailer poll sponsored by the Christian Small Publishers Association. The self-critical side of my head hastens to add that for all I know one retailer sent in a vote for me and no one did for the other guy. {self-critical g!})

But, since I've been in a creative slump for the past month (thanks to a main character deciding to do something that makes perfect sense for her character but of which the back of my mind can't figure out what effects this will have for the grand finale plot elements {inhale}), I've decided to take a hiatus from my hiatus and start posting up some material I've been gathering.

I have a number of one-shot posts and limited series queued up, on a wid…

The Wired Negative Wrold of Atheist Morality

In the last blog peace I said that Morality is progressive.We evolve into higher understandings of morality, and since I see God as in process with the universe then i have no trouble thinking that creates the opportunity for evolution and things evolve. This goes for societies as well as physical evolution. Now anyone who has half a brain would be able to understand that this view is not a fundameentalist view. Its' a going to be concieved as very anti-fundamentlist and most fundies will be very angered by it and I'm expecting to get a lot of flack for it from the supports of the CADRE. I'm expecting certain people to say "O relatives look at this blog I don't want them to be ashamed of me or think I'm liberal." Yet a good number of atheists tag this notion as fudie. One even made some sarcastic comment that it was good imitation of a fundamentalist.

They hate fundies and they talk about how stupid they are incessantly and yet, they have NO concept of wha…