Showing posts from October, 2012

Why Christianity is bullshit, part 3: The theology is absurd

Of all the things that compelled me to reject the Christian faith of my youth, none was more persuasive that the Biblical book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews essentially explains how Christian theology works; it explains how the new covenant through Christ is related to the previous covenants God had with humanity. And it's really, really stupid. Here's the short version, in handy bulletin form: Adam and Eve were created in God's image, but rebelled against God and were cursed with "sin", which they passed on through all their offspring – i.e., all of humanity. God made lots of covenants with humanity. Lots . In particular, he made one with Moses, which became Mosaic Law – a complex system of behavioral codes and atonement through ritual animal sacrifices. Ritual animal sacrifices were imperfect, so God gave his only son to be the perfect sacrifice of atonement. Jesus, being born of a virgin, did not inherent the sinful nature of humanity. He was perfect,

Why Christianity is bullshit, part 2: The Bible isn't true

In part 1, I pointed out the absurdity of believing that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God. That leads to closely related, but no less important point: most of what is in the Bible is simply not true . And in some cases, that actually impacts Christian theology rather profoundly. Adam and Eve did not exist. Overwhelming evidence from every field of biology points to humans evolving from a population of no fewer than 10,000 individuals. Any way you slice it, it's simply impossible that we can from one man and one woman. That's not an innocuous detail, either: the entirety of Christian theology is built upon Adam and Eve being real people. I'm fond of this quote from Pastor Tim Keller: “[Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the biblical authority.  If Adam d

Why Christianity is bullshit, part 1: The Bible is stupid

Imagine that you were the perfect, omnipotent, all-knowing Lord and Creator of the universe. You decided that you were going to give one -- just one -- book to humanity. It would be their moral compass, an insight into their nature and into yours, and act as a guide for how they could live rightly and walk a path that would lead their souls into an eternity with you. Obviously, the first thing you'd want to put in there are some totally unscientific, archaic behavioral codes for menstruating women, and for pregnant women after they give birth. You'd want to be sure to help them regulate slavery, and specify how badly they were allowed to beat their slaves. And of course you'd want the book to be chock full of mythology -- a creation myth, a flood myth, a fictional exodus, and hagiographical stories about how your loyal armies killed the shit out of everyone who dared to worship the wrong gods. There's a point here about the Bible that, in my estimation, really canno

Some things I watched that I thought you might like to watch, if you're the kind of person who likes to watch stuff

Richard Dawkins on sex, death, and the meaning of life: Sean Carroll on how we know what we think we know, and what it all means: I really like Dawkins' comment about morality being not a set of lofty ideals, but a practical system that allows animals to cooperate, survive and reproduce. And Carroll's whole lecture is just gold. Insightful, informative, and thought-provoking.

Responses to my review of "True Reason"

My review of True Reason hasn't gone unnoticed by its authors. Several of them have stopped by in the comments sections, and a few of them have written their own blog posts purportedly rebutting my criticisms. I've dabbled with debating them, but I've come to the conclusion that it's just an endless morass. I didn't write the review to de-convert the authors. The book isn't written for people like me anyway; it's written for Christians who have a strong need or desire to believe in their religion, and need something rational-sounding to ease their cognitive dissonance. As it is, I'm not going to be debating anyone on their blogs, or here for that matter because I have other projects I want to move on to. I'll update the "An atheist reads 'True Reason'" tab at the top of the blog with the responses as I hear about them so that my readers can check them out, but I'm content to let my arguments stand on their own and let my rea

Quick update, October edition

I'm finally through True Reason . It was a pretty lengthy project, one that to my knowledge no one else on the atheist corners of the interwebs has undertaken. And, given how terrible the book is, I completely understand why. The reviews for each chapter can be found in the tab at the top of the page. It was, frankly, an exasperating, mostly awful book that displayed an almost offensive lack of understanding of atheist arguments, frequently seemed to count on its readers ignoring the source material for themselves, all the while repeating the most popular and widely-debunked apologetic canards. I don't see how it will be remotely convincing to anyone who isn't already drowning in the Kool-Aid. But I'm done. I have two major projects in the works. The first, which has already seen two posts ( here and here ), will be a response to William Lane Craig's frequent (ab)use of the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem, including my forthcoming critique of Craig's review of Vi

An atheist reads "True Reason": Chapter 16

We're finally on the last chapter. And I'll be honest... I'm not quite sure how to review it. The chapter, written by Matthew Flannagan, argues that the scriptures detailing the genocide of Canaan should not be read literally, but as hagiography. I find it odd that the chapter says this excerpt is from Come Let Us Reason , edited by Paul Copenhagen and William Lane Craig. Odd because I've read several of Craig's defenses of the slaughter of Canaan, and his central defense is always the use of "divine command theory", which is basically just an elaborate way of saying, "even though that is objectively wrong now, it was objectively right at the time because God said it was." Flannagan makes a pretty thorough case that the accounts are hagiography, to which I say... no shit! Virtually every yarn in the Old Testament is hagiography. Let's not forget that not only is there positively zero evidence that Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt [ 1 ],

An atheist reads "True Reason": Chapter 15

So close... so very close. I'm quite ready to be done with this unintentionally funny book. It's going out with a whimper too, with two chapters that seem completely superfluous and don't address any major arguments regarding the veracity of Christianity. This chapter, by Glenn Sunshine, is on slavery; the last, on the slaughter of Canaan. Alright... deep breath, and let's get this over with. Chapter 15: Christianity and Slavery I'm going to start out by saying that right out the gate, the whole premise of this chapter is bogus. Sunshine lays it out as follows: Christianity comes with promises and expectations, one of which is that those who follow Jesus Christ will do good. Biblically, then, we would expect that some who claim the name “Christian” would do evil, but that many would do good, and that on the whole the influence of Christ on civilization would be positive. I'm not sure where he gets the idea that "Biblically", we ought to expect

An atheist reads "True Reason": Chapter 14

Chapter 14, by John M. DePoe, is on the Problem of Evil. I did a post on this topic fairly recently, and when I went through the chapter I was looking to see if any of the responses offered would speak to my own argument. They did not. So I once again will not be going point-by-point through this chapter; I simply don't think it's necessary. Instead, I'm going to summarize my own argument from my recent post, and highlight why I think this response falls short. Chapter 14: The Problem of Evil and Reasonable Christian Responses In the first half of the chapter, DePoe argues that God has two morally sufficient reasons to allow for evil – one, that it's necessary for moral development; and two, that it's necessary for free will. I essentially agree that evil, as in acts of human volition , are a necessary contingency of free will (not to get into a debate about free will ). In my most recent post on the problem of evil , I elaborated:

Quote of the day – on materialism

Epistemic humility—the recognition that we could be wrong—is a virtue in science as it is in daily life, but surely we have some reason for thinking, some four centuries after the start of the scientific revolution, that Aristotle was on the wrong track and that we are not, or at least not yet. Our reasons for thinking this are obvious and uncontroversial: mechanistic explanations and an abandonment of supernatural causality proved enormously fruitful in expanding our ability to predict and control the world around us. The fruits of the scientific revolution, though at odds with common sense, allow us to send probes to Mars and to understand why washing our hands prevents the spread of disease. We may, of course, be wrong in having abandoned teleology and the supernatural as our primary tools for understanding and explaining the natural world, but the fact that “common sense” conflicts with a layman’s reading of popular science writing is not a good reason for thinking s

How William Lane Craig misrepresents Alexander Vilenkin, part 2: quick thoughts on the big question

Before I jump into the next part of this discussion, it's crossed my mind that this subject matter may seem too esoteric for many, and I can certainly understand why. There's a lot of technical terminology being tossed around, and even those of us who have a grasp on the general concepts don't generally understand the academic literature at a technical (mathematical) level. But I think that even if this kind of stuff seems a bit technical, it's worth studying. That's because it all hearkens back to a very basic question: Why are we here? There are other ways to phrase that question, like Why does the universe exist? or Why is there something rather than nothing? , but I think they all touch on the same existential mystery that perplexes humanity. I deconverted from Christianity when I was 19, but it wasn't until I was 28 that I considered myself a full-blown atheist. Part of what kept me holding on to theism was precisely the above existential mystery. God

How William Lane Craig misrepresents Alexander Vilenkin, part 1

I'm reading Alexander Vilenkin's book Many Worlds in One right now, and while perusing Google I happened upon a lengthy review of the book written by William Lane Craig. Because Craig refers to Vilenkin in nearly all his debates and uses Vilenkin's research to support one of his major arguments for the existence of God, I wanted to take the time to address the matter in depth, which will include a critique of Craig's book review. For this first part, though, I'm just going to look at the academic literature itself to see if Craig's representation is accurate. In case you're not familiar with the connection between these two people, here's a quick summary: Craig is a theologian who has long propagated the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA), which states: Everything that begins to exist has a cause to its existence The universe began to exist Ergo, the universe has a cause to its existence Alexander Vilenkin This argument is, quite simply, a

William Lane Craig debates a chair

As if what I wrote last night wasn't enough to show what a hack William Lane Craig is, he's now taken to "debating" Richard Dawkins. And by "Richard Dawkins", of course, I mean an empty chair. William Lane Craig desperately wants to be more relevant and influential than he is. To him, debates are where arguments are settled decisively; they're his primarly platform for his brand of evangelism. And of course, he always declares himself the winner of his own debates , so all the atheist has to do is show up and, no matter how bad his arguments are, Craig can spin his performance however he wants . But if the desired opponent doesn't deem Craig relevant enough (and why should he ?), Craig can just make-believe. Y'know, I think Craig is wrong about the impossibility of an actual infinite, and the proof lies in the size of this guy's ego. To him, Dawkins is like the mothership in Independence Day . It frustrates him immensely that Dawkins does

William Lane Craig is a hypocrite and a charlatan

A while back I mentioned Sean Carroll's response to William Lane Craig's podcast critiquing the article Carroll wrote for The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology . I swung by Cosmic Variance earlier today and perused the comments, and it appears Craig himself popped by to offer a comment. Among the comments he offered was this gem: The “eternal cosmologies based on quantum mechanics” so easily imagined by Prof. Carroll are not, in fact, tenable; but his unsuspecting readers would not know that. Perusing the comments a bit more, it turns out that Craig has offered a pretty thorough response on his website , where he duplicates the above quote. So, it's safe to say the comment is authentic. What surprises me about this remark is that Carroll is a cosmologist. At Caltech. William Lane Craig has often taken atheists to task for purportedly speaking beyond their areas of expertise, and yet here he is – a fucking theologian – presuming to lecture a physicist on wha

Does atheism assume materialism to be true?

One of the most common misunderstandings I encounter when theists argue against atheism is the assertion that atheism presupposes materialism (also called metaphysical naturalism ) – that atheism entails a faith-based assumption that the material world is all that exists, and the existence of God and/or supernatural things is simply impossible. I recently remarked about my frustration with this frequent claim from theists when reviewing True Reason . Co-author and editor Tom Gilson stopped by to offer his comment on the matter, saying: [If] you don't know any popular atheists who presuppose metaphysical naturalism, all I can say is wow, how does that sand feel in your ears, nose, and eyes, and how do breathe with your head in there? As a brief reply, I offered two examples of popular atheists saying the contrary: Richard Dawkins' assertion in The God Delusion that God's existence is improbable , not impossible; and Sam Harris saying, in one of his debates, that "s

Survey finds 19% without religious affiliation

The number of non-believers is rising rapidly. According to a new aggregate of Pew surveys , the number has risen from 6% of US adults in 1990 all the way to 19% through 2011. Interestingly, the researchers say that the chief way the category grows is by "switchers" -- people who grew up religious, but are now agnostics, atheists, or simply "nothing in particular". The researchers speculate that two things could keep the numbers down: immigrants from religious nations, whose numbers fluctuate, and that they have a low birth rate because they are " disproportionately young, often single, and highly educated".

Totally obvious things that religious conservatives don't get, part 372

Religious conservatives oppose sex education. Religious conservatives oppose contraceptive distribution. Religious conservatives oppose abortion. I would think this would be a pretty obvious contradiction to anyone with a modicum of common sense. Being educated about sex makes you more likely to use contraception. Contraception makes you vastly less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy. And reducing unwanted pregnancy should, quite obviously, make you less likely to seek an abortion. Now, there's a pretty huge study to back up what we liberals have been shouting from the rooftops for ages: Free birth control cuts abortion rate dramatically, study finds When more than 9,000 women ages 14 to 45 in the St. Louis area were given no-cost contraception for three years, abortion rates dropped from two-thirds to three-quarters lower than the national rate, according to a new report by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis researchers. From 2008 to 2010, ann

I can't make this stuff up

Here is an actual quote from an evangelical Christian friend of mine, posted to her Facebook page earlier today: "Amazing morning at Bible study learning Gods word. It's crazy how satan will try to stop you for growing inGOds word he was working overtime this morn. All before nine am, I had a doctors apt, rushed Lexi to the vet after she was beaten up by some devilish dogs and still got to study on time and looking at the time frame it was not humanly possible but that's what's great about God." I'm not sure what 'satan' has to do with her doctor's appointment (presumably, she scheduled that in advance) but apparently she believes that God sat idly by while her dog was mauled by other dogs, necessitating an emergency trip to the vet, but then he somehow orchestrated traffic so that she would arrive at her Bible study in a timely fashion. I do not think this is an isolated example. This is typical of the stuff my Christian friends post, and it&

An atheist reads "True Reason": Chapter 13

Hey look! Just four chapters left! This one's gonna be... uh... well, another one. Alright, at this point, I'm pretty cynical. I wasn't looking to be re-converted. I was just hoping to keep an open mind, to hear something I hadn't heard a hundred times before, or to hear a new angle on an argument I hadn't considered. No dice. Now, we're to a long-overdue chapter: the historical evidence for the gospels. Kind of a big issue, being that the gospels are absolutely foundational to Christianity. If the gospels aren't demonstrably reliable, then there's no reason to believe Christianity is true at all. I just want to state, at the outset, that I've spelled out my general gripes with the gospels in both The Gospel Challenge (also in the tab at the top of the blog) and my 3-part critique of Lee Strobel's movie The Case For Christ . I'm not big on rehashing things I've already covered in detail (especially since the whole reason I'm read

An atheist reads "True Reason": Chapter 12

I'm almost through it. I can safely say that most of the dirty work is over. The last few chapters of this book are not ones I need to respond to in any great detail. I'm going to skip my usual intro, and just jump right into the twelfth chapter – another one by Tom Gilson, basically on the same topic as the previous chapter. Chapter 12: God and Science Do Mix He begins: As Sean McDowell wrote in the preceding chapter, Christianity (properly understood) takes a high view of science. There is yet one more objection, however, that some atheists (especially atheistic scientists) have made. Simply stated, it is that God and science don’t mix. That was in fact the title— and the strongly stated message— of a 2009 Wall Street Journal1 opinion piece by Arizona State University physicist/ cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss. His article centered on this quote from geneticist J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964): My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an expe