Showing posts from April, 2009

Reported miracles: an important clarification

After reading through the chapter on miracles in The Jesus Legend again it seems to me that Boyd and Eddy are conflating two distinct skeptical challenges to the miracle claims of the Gospels. The first uses the mere presence of miracle stories in the Jesus traditions as evidence that the evangelists or their sources concocted them out of thin air, either as a free creative composition or modeled on Old Testament or pagan miracle accounts. They write: "The Gospels claim that Jesus and his disciples performed miracles such as healing the sick and disabled, casting out demons, and even raising the dead. To the thinking of many historical-critical scholars, this is enough to demonstrate that they are substantially legendary." (pp.39-40) According to this line of thinking, the Gospel accounts cannot possibly have their source in the actual eye-witness experience of the disciples, even if they merely record their (confused?) reaction to an unusual event. This amounts to the claim

Commentary on A Contra-Positive Deductive Anti-Theist Argument from Suffering

Warning!--a long and dense post is approaching. Several weeks ago, I posted up ( here on the Cadre Journal ) a revision of Richard Carrier's deductive anti-theistic argument from suffering, which he attempted during his debate with Tom Wanchick a few years ago (which for reference can be found here at the Secular Web. ) Now comes the commentary, where I take some time to explain the tactical and strategic applications of my revision. For an even longer commentary, where I discuss in more detail why I made the revisions I did, as well as discuss the level of similarity to Richard’s original argument, please see the doc file posted in the second comment of this thread at The thread’s initial post is the revised argument found here on the Cadre as well. Note: all argument element references afterward in this article, such as P1 or C1, refer afterward to the elements of my revision of Richard's argument, not to the element labels given by Richard t

Put off Meeting Your Maker by Visiting Him Regularly: The Benficial Effects of Attending Church on Health

This relates to my recent posts on some social benefits of Christianity in the U.S., which were prompted by a commentor who argued that Christianity offered nothing based on his dubious representations of social science data. In this post, I look at the relationship between attendance at religious services and health. First, to launch things off, I start with a quote from an article in the Southern Medical Journal : The beneficial effects of church attendance on all-cause mortality rates is the most solidly established positive effect on religion and health. "Methodologic Issues in Research on Religion and Health.” 2004, vol. 97, no. 12, pp. 1231-1241. This issue of the SMJ contained a number of articles on the relationship between religion and health. Next, the above-referenced issue of the SMJ contained a helpful review of related studies, "Religious Involvement and Adult Mortality in the United States: Review and Perspective." 2004, vol. 97, no. 12, pp. 1223-1230.

Knowing God (and anyone else for that matter)

In the comments section of one of my recent posts on religious epistemology, atheist David Ellis asks: "Of what does a personal relationship with someone who is invisible, insubstantial, and does not speak back when you speak to him consist? Does a personal relationship with such a God (assuming its real) look one iota different from a personal relationship with an imaginary God who one is firmly convinced is real?" This is a very good question, even though it was made from a standpoint of manifest ignorance of how personal relationships work, with God or anyone else. From the question I infer that Ellis takes the following facts for granted about any 'real' personal relationship: 1) the other person has to be visible, 2) the other person has to be substantial and 3) the other person has to speak back when you speak to him, where presumably speaking is limited to creating differentials in air pressure that are propagated to the ear, where stimulation of the cochlear

Another Prominent Atheist De-De-Converts

A.N. Wilson -- a noted British writer and journalist -- grew up in the Christian faith. In the 1980s, he deconverted, announced his atheism and published a pamphlet, Against Religion . He also authored critical biographies of Jesus, Paul, and C.S. Lewis. In an April 2008 article in the New Statesman, however, A.N. Wilson explains " Why I Believe Again ." Wilson recounts the initial joy he found in the certainty of atheism. A certainty that had eluded him as an adult Christian. He rubbed elbows with New Atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens, reveling in being in line with the sophisticated intelligentsia of his time. But Wilson realized that he is a doubter by nature, not just anti-religious, and began to question the certainty of the atheists. Yet he struggled to cling to his new-found atheism much as a fragile Christian doubter might: This creed that religion can be despatched in a few brisk arguments (outlined in David Hume’s masterly Dialogues Concerning Natural Re

My Transcendental Signifier Argument: I would like opinions

Jasque Derrida about mid life Many atheists who have no background in postmodernism do react to this argument as though ti was just a bunch of gibberish. When that happens I just laugh because it's a sure sign they aren't very advanced in philosophy or history of ideas. Of course it's one thing to say an argument sounds stupid, it's another to try and belittle and deride someone because you don't understand what he's saying. Then to try and destroy his ego by saying "this shows why you can't bet published becasue this shows you are so stupid." This argument may be a bad argument or it may be a good one. Two atheists who I respect have told them are facinated with it, but that doesn't mean anything to some. its' childish to try and save your face by belittling other people's ideas. The obviously manly thing to do would be to either say "this is not in my field I really don't know about it" or to show why its bad. This argum

Easter reflections on Christology, Part I: In Adam's sin, we sinned all...

Lee Randolph has posted a catalog of uniformly silly, vulgar and inconsistent stock objections to Christianity. Normally I wouldn't give it a second thought, but since this Sunday is Easter I was struck by the tone of some of the accusations he makes, because he provides an unwitting illustration of the kind of thinking and behavior that Christ came to save us from. So I'd like to take a look at some of his objections, those having to do with Christology, and use them as a springboard to make some more general observations about the meaning of Easter. This will be a two-part series. First, notice the title of the post: The Horror of Easter. I think he meant to say the horror of the crucifixion and Christian adoration of the cross as a symbol of salvation, because I don't see how anyone in their right mind could see something horrific about an event that foretells the eventual transformation of the entire universe into a paradise without evil or suffering. Assuming he is re

Resurrection Resources

In addition to church services, egg hunts, and special meals, this time of year brings out those skeptics intent on ruining your Easter festivities. My advice is to ignore them over the weekend, skeptical Easter bloggers tend to have more gusto than merit. But if you find some free time and want to read some Apologetics related to the Easter season, I have a few recommendations: * The CADRE maintains a page providing the best available defenses of the resurrection of Jesus. The page includes a section devoted to responses to the skeptic assault on the resurrection, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave , written by CADRE members. * Another feature on our website is an article providing 15 substantive book reviews of academic, apologetic, and skeptical books about the resurrection. * On this blog, I have a series of blog posts responding further to Dr. Richard Carrier's chapter in The Empty Tomb . You can also read my list of best books on the resurrection over at Ama