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Showing posts from February, 2013

Here's a great example of why I deconverted from Christianity

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Recently, I penned a quick post about the logical absurdity of Jesus being God. For one, it violates the law of non-contradiction. It also leads to a number of absurdities, like God praying to himself and granting (or not) his own request, or God sacrificing himself to himself as sacrifice to save us from what he'll do to us if we don't believe in him.

So, what does a Sophisticated Theologian™ have to say about it? Well, I found this video featuring John Lennox, an Oxford mathematician and philosopher who has debated several of the gnu atheists, including Richard Dawkins. What he says in this video exemplifies the kind of evasive, profound-sounding but ultimately trite garbage that I was often fed as I asked tough questions about my faith:




Notice that he quite conspicuously doesn't answer the question. He doesn't even try. Instead, he says that there are certain things you can't explain about the world, like what exactly consciousness is, or what exactly energy is…

Sometimes, you should just look at the universe

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The Hubble Extreme Deep Field (click here for the full resolution image):


What I remember about being in a Youth Group

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The Youth Group subculture really took off in the 90s, and I was smack in the middle of it. I was 14 when I became a "born-again" Christian back in February of 1994. Whether it was music from Jars of Clay and DC Talk, colloquialisms like "backsliding" and "on fire for Jesus", or the infamous "Teen Study Bible", I was neck-deep in the evangelical Kool-Aid. All of my social activities were church-related; I spent much of my spare time doing devotionals, Bible study work books, and popping in my cassette (yup) of keyboardy "worship music" and praying for hours. 

Maybe the most surprising thing, in retrospect, is just how easy it was to get sucked in. Although I had a few good friends in my early teens, I wasn't what you'd call the coolest kid in school. I was scrawny and pale, with a questionable sense of fashion (I'm still pale, but I've worked on the other stuff). I was shy, introverted, and practically mortified by the…

A great response to the Kalam from Peter Millican

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John over at Debunking Christianity tracked down an excerpt from one of William Lane Craig's recent debates that I think is well worth watching. Generally I don't watch Craig's debates anymore, because he just repeats the same bad arguments over and over (or goes for the volume approach). In this excerpt, however, Oxford Philosophy professor Peter Millican responds to the Kalam cosmological argument almost exactly as I would. I particularly like that he was keen enough to point out the fallacy of composition, which is often overlooked in criticisms of the Kalam, and that he quotes Alexander Vilenkin directly contradicting Craig's (ab)use of the BGV Theorem.




In my view, undermining the Kalam pretty much destroys Western monotheism. You can't subscribe to any of those religions without believing in a Creator, and when the evidence for such a being is revealed as bankrupt, it's pointless to have further discussions about, say, the reliability of the Bible. Some so…

Much ado about "nothing"

Last night I watched Lawrence Krauss, who's gaining quite a bit of notoriety as an outspoken atheist and science popularizer, on a panel with several other thinkers to discuss – among other things – the idea of a "universe from nothing". I haven't read Krauss' book of the same name, but having recently finished Alexander Vilenkin's Many Worlds in One, I'm guessing that Krauss' idea likely bears some similarity to Vilenkin's "quantum tunneling" concept in which the observable universe is birthed from some sort of quantum void.

On the program I watched, the theistic response was similar to the objection William Lane Craig made in his review of Vilenkin's book: that's not really "nothing". In Vilenkin's model, for example, there is no space, time, matter or energy – but the laws of physics would still exist in some way. Aside from the obvious philosophical conundrums the idea inevitably raises, one could argue that eve…

A universe from nothing? (Or, Craig/Vilenkin part 5)

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I deconverted from Christianity mainly because of its theological absurdity (see the previous post for an example), but it took another nine years or so before I considered myself an atheist. I held on to a sort of agnostic theism simply because "God" seemed like an intellectually satisfying answer to some of the most vexing questions we can think of – questions like Why is there something rather than nothing?, Where did the universe come from?, How did life get so complex?, or Why does altruism exist? Certainly those are vexing questions for scientists and laypersons alike, and just saying "because God made it that way" certainly takes most... well, actually all of the thought out of it.

But as time went on, I began to realize the vacuity of that "explanation". If God wants to create life, why create a universe so hostile to it? Why take nearly 14 billion years to do it? Why an expanding universe rocketing toward a slow, empty death? Why use the process …

Jesus is his own dad

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One of the more peculiar and absurd theological quirks of Christianity is that Jesus is "fully God and fully man", as is often said. He's not a distinct person from God – he is God. That's all well and good until you apply a modicum of logic to it for two seconds.

God supernaturally impregnates Mary, so Jesus is his own father.

Jesus prays to God. That means he prays to himself. He knew what he wanted to ask himself before he prayed, then granted (or not) his own request.

Jesus offers himself to God on our behalf as a sacrifice of atonement – so God is sacrificing himself to himself.

He ascends to Heaven and sits at the right hand of God, meaning that he is literally beside himself.


I could go on, but you get the gist. What's funny is that there's really no way at all for Christians to make any logical sense of this. It's a clear violation of the law of non-contradiction, and it's nonsensical – if Jesus is an autonomous person with unique desires, t…

Perhaps the most thorough thrashing of William Lane Craig I've ever seen

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By way of Jerry Coyne's blog I came across this video that is a response to William Lane Craig's arguments about the suffering of animals – namely, that the apparent cruelty in nature is theologically compatible with a loving Creator, because animals don't really suffer like we do.

Well, it's actually a response to a response. See, Craig brought up the argument in his debate with Stephen Law. Following that, some intrepid skeptics interviewed a bunch of leading neuroscientists on the matter, and came to the conclusion that Craig's arguments were unsubstantiated crap. Recently, Craig responded to that video in one of his podcasts. Now, we have this response to his podcast.

I think this is a great beatdown for several reasons. Firstly, it shows Craig, in his own words, backtracking on his own positions. It unambiguously shows him misquoting and misrepresenting the views of his opponents. And most importantly, it utterly destroys his arguments with an onslaught of tho…

Life as an atheist

I want to take a break today from the heavier topics of cosmic origins and theoretical physics to talk about something a bit more personal.

I received a message the other day from a friend of mine who roughly a year ago deconverted from Christian and is now a happy, well-adjusted atheist. Some elders from her old church decided to drop in on her at her home and tell her that she needs to turn back to God to save herself from her empty, depressing life. A brief quote from her letter:
These two morons didn't want to listen to what I have to say, but wanted to lecture me on what will happen to me if I "don't change my ways". And all they ever say about missing me is they miss me playing my violin, piano, and my singing (I'm pretty sure they miss my money too, but they won't say that). No matter how much I explained I was content and happy with my life, they still kept making it seem there is something not right with my life and that's why I'm so un…

Causality and fine-tuning the universe (Or, Craig/Vilenkin part 4)

Broadly speaking, Many Worlds in One can be divided into four conceptual sub-sections:
The development, successes and difficulties of inflationary cosmologyThe speculative implications of the mathematics used to develop inflationary theory, including the existence of a multiverseThe beginning and end of the universeQuantum models that show a "universe from nothing" Unsurprisingly, William Lane Craig (in his review of the book here) is eager to jump on board with Vilenkin regarding the beginning of the universe. However, as has been discussed in the first part of this series, Craig is equivocating. While Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument argues that the universe was instantaneously materialized out of complete and absolute nothingness, Vilenkin only says that cosmic inflation cannot be past-eternal, and we must use other physics (i.e., quantum models instead of classical models) to describe the boundary condition. To paraphrase Stephen Hawking, classical Big Bang models …

Paradoxes of creation – or, How William Lane Craig misrepresents Alexander Vilenkin: part 3

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Part 1
Part 2

I confess that it's taken me much longer than I anticipated (a new relationship has a tendency to rearrange my priorities!), but I'm nearly done with Alexander Vilenkin's book "Many Worlds in One". He has a lot to say about whether the universe had a beginning, whether you need God to bring it into existence (his answer is that you do not), and the idea you may have heard from Lawrence Krauss and/or Stephen Hawking about a "universe from nothing", and what it all means.
I was introduced to Vilenkin, ironically, by the Christian apologist William Lane Craig, who frequently cites a paper Vilenkin did with fellow physicists Alan Guth and Arvind Borde as evidence that the universe had a beginning -- thus (according to Craig) it needed some external cause. (See the Kalam Cosmological Argument).

It would be the understatement of the century to say that Craig is liberally cherry-picking Vilenkin's work to favor his theistic presuppos…

The Christian concept of sin and salvation: no matter how you slice it, it's ridiculous

Over at the ironically named website Reasonablefaith.org, this week's Question & Answer column deals with a tragedy in a Brazilian nightclub and the ramifications of all those people facing eternal judgment. The reader writes,

According to my evangelical christian faith, most of these people are now in hell. It seems to me extremely cruel. They were good people, young, with dreams and hearts full of love for their friends and life. Now let me set some things straight: I read the last chapter of your book "On Guard" and I've been following some of your work and I think I know what you will say. I know according to classical christian beliefs none is good enough to God, and those who live without Christ, without Christ will perish. But again, it seems extremely painful. I just can't look to the parents of the victims and think of that. So this context makes me really wonder about salvation in christianity. In theory is not that hard to accept it, b…

Laurence Krauss on science and religion

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A great excerpt from a recent debate between Lawrence Krauss and Uthman Badar. I've often inquired of theists: what is the methodology for discerning true religious claims from false ones? And I've never gotten anything but the run-around. Religion begins with the conclusion and tries to make the evidence fit; science examines the evidence and forms a picture that is subject to evolve as new evidence is discovered.