Showing posts from October, 2013

Can we prove God does not exist?

It's a trite old maxim of folk logic that you cannot prove a negative. It's also a staple of religious apologetics to argue that belief in God need not be subject to methodological inquiry and verified evidentially. Combined, these two fallacies form a powerful weapon of perpetual ignorance among the faithful. Atheists themselves are fond of saying that atheism is a "lack of belief in gods", since that clears them of any sort of burden of disproof. Personally, while I think that atheism is at least in part a "lack of belief in gods", I think atheists who take the "weak" stance are to an extent selling themselves short. There are good reasons to say we can prove that God does not exist. How should we go about this whole God thing? First up to the plate is the contentious old question of whether the existence of God is a scientific question. I'd say that it depends on how one defines "God". If you simply mean some nebulous panthei

The Swedish Atheist: The review – part 2

Now things are getting a little heavier, with a discussion about how cultural influences shape religious belief. Sheridan seems convinced of something much like what Richard Dawkins said in a response to the question, "What if you're wrong?" after a reading of The God Delusion in 2006: Well, what if I'm wrong, I mean — anybody could be wrong. We could all be wrong about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the pink unicorn and the flying teapot. You happen to have been brought up, I would presume, in a Christian faith. You know what it's like to not believe in a particular faith because you're not a Muslim. You're not a Hindu. Why aren't you a Hindu? Because you happen to have been brought up in America, not in India. If you had been brought up in India, you'd be a Hindu. If you had been brought up in Denmark in the time of the Vikings, you'd be believing in Wotan and Thor . If you were brought up in classical Greece, you'd be believing in Z

The Swedish Atheist, The Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails: The review, part 1

Okay, I'm definitely gonna have to shorten that title for future segments. Maybe just TSATSCDaOART: The Review, part x . No? Okay, maybe just The Swedish Atheist . That's funny because practically all of Sweden is like, " Are yous talkings to me? " Well... funny in my head at least. The book begins by introducing the characters. There's you (the reader, who is apparently a believer), Randal, and an atheist named "Sheridan". Why anyone would name their kid Sheridan is beyond me. Now, Randal says in the book that he wants to make this conversation as balanced as possible; it's not meant to be about him just kicking the argumentative crap out of some naive atheist: I've tried to write an authentic conversation in which my interlocutor hits pretty hard and I don't always have satisfactory answers. My goal is not to compose an essay rubbed to a fine burnish but rather to chronicle the living, breathing reality of real, extended truth-seeking.

The Swedish Atheist, The Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails – I'm reading it

After my last foray into one of Randal Rauser's books , I wasn't about to drop coin on another one. Hell, I'm still disappointed that Randal ultimately chose to hone in one rather trite statement rather than actually discuss the central criticisms I published in my partial review. And yet even if he wasn't interested in conversing with yours truly, conversation seems to be something that Randal at least likes the idea of, because this longly (yes, I made up a word) titled book is about a Christian and an atheist talking casually about profound things over a cup of Joe. In any case, the book is free on Amazon today. And since I'm an atheist which of course means I believe in nothing, it seems like an opportune time to "buy" it and give it a read. My review of Randal's other verbosely-titled book What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven? wasn't a true review; I was just after a handful of specific questions I'd asked Randal about on his blog,

William Lane Craig on exposing Christians to secular material

You know how it goes. You have run the gamut with William Lane Craig's insipid arguments, and you swear you're done. Moving on. Then you watch this excellent video of Scott Clifton (a.k.a. "Theoretical Bullshit") coming out of quasi-retirement and sticking it to the Kalam . So then you say, "Hey, maybe I'll head over to that ironically titled site and see what old 'Dr. Craig' is up to these days". Then you see some colossally asinine post and feel oddly compelled to write about it. In this week's "Q & A" section on his site, Craig addresses a reader who is having some struggles with his faith while reading some atheistic material : Hi, Dr. Craig, I'm currently reading "Disproving Christianity" by David McAfee. I've also been listening to Richard Dawkins. I want to believe in God, but I'm having trouble with my faith. I've always been a Christian, but since I started talking t

Unpacking more of Randal Rauser's book on Heaven: the ascension of Christ

I basically take Randal's deleting binge as a sign that the dude's not worth engaging on his own blog. If he's just going to censor all discussion when it doesn't go well for him, there's not much point in challenging him directly. Nonetheless, I paid a whole $9 for his book, which could have scored me a Royale With Cheese – one of my favorite burgers here in Tulsa courtesy of upscale-casual dining at R Bar on Brookside – and since I made such a tremendous and deeply personal sacrifice to read the book, I'm not quite done talking about it yet. Today I was thinking about the first chapter in the book, which asks "Where is Heaven Now?" To us non-believers, this is a pretty easy one: "In your head." But for a believer like Randal, it's a bit more complex: We can begin with the most important New Testament texts that refer to the ascension, which are found at the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts. Scholars generally consider Luke and

Randal and the "new direction"

After the whole big fiasco over my allegedly uncharitable partial review of Randal Rauser's book What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven? , Randal opted to delete both of his posts on the topic and all the ensuing comments (over 150) with them, citing a desire to take his blog in a different direction : I regret the direction the conversation took in the articles and ensuing threaded discussions. It was not edifying or illuminating and generated more heat than light. Since this is my blog, I must own the lion’s share of the blame. I'm of two minds about Randal's decision. On the one hand, I've made no secret of the fact that I get more than a little fed up with debating religious apologists. I really like Tim Minchin's analogy, that it's like two tennis players trying to win a match with beautifully executed shots from opposite ends of separate tennis courts. We're operating on entirely different sets of assumptions and often end up just talking past eac

And, that's all that needs to be said

When I wrote my partial review of Randal Rauser's book What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven? , I intended it primarily to discuss four questions that, to my mind, undermine the logical coherency of the Christian concept of Heaven. I had asked the questions to Randal directly on his blog, a snapshot of which I reposted in the review; Randal did not respond to the questions directly, briefly explaining that he addresses them in this book. After reading the relevant content in his book, it was my conclusion he had not done a very good job of resolving Heaven's logical paradoxes. On a couple of the questions, he literally did not even try! Worse, the book was filled with all sorts of grandiose claims about what Heaven will be like, and Randal never provided any sort of evidence for his claims. Randal's response to me was to completely ignore the four topics central to the review, instead diverting the discussion into a criticism of my core epistemological assumptions. But

Randal Rauser blows a gasket

Imagine that you were arrested and charged with first-degree murder. You call your lawyer, and you sit down with the prosecutor. Your lawyer asks, What evidence do you have against my client? The prosecutor responds, Oh... you think I need evidence to prove something? How can you prove such a statement? With evidence? It might be easier to get a sense that you're dealing with first-rate bullshit than to be able to identify the fallacy at work here, but this is the 'argument' Randal Rauser used in response to my critical partial review of his book . Randal was rather butthurt by my statement that he engages in a lot of "making shit up", calling that "uncharitable". That's weird... I call it accurate , and I spent a good chunk of the review explaining why I thought he was just making shit up. Frankly I could not care less whether Randal thinks I'm not being nice enough by calling a spade a spade. Randal pointed out that the book is not inte

NDT on the science of "Gravity"

I haven't seen Gravity yet. I've heard it's pretty awesome; a friend described seeing it in IMax 3-D as "an hour and a half on the edge of my seat". It holds a ridiculously impressive 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and did big business over the weekend. The film sort of presents itself as a slightly more plausible take on a sci-fi thriller, but the brilliant buzzkill Neil deGrasse Tyson is on hand to tell us how wrong the movie gets... well, just about everything : I wonder how sci-fi nerds will take this. Some people, for example, really hated Ridley Scott's Alien prequel-ish film Prometheus because it gets a lot of science really wrong. (For the record, I concurred wholly with Roger Ebert's review .) But here's a supposedly more 'realistic' (at least by appearances – no warp drives, aliens, etc.) sci-fi film and it turns out it fails the science test pretty hard as well. What ever are we to do? I dunno... maybe accept the fact

"What on Earth Do We Know About Heaven?" Pretty much nothing.

Randal Rauser wrote a book recently called What on Earth Do We Know About Heaven? Being a non-believer, I had about as much interest in that book as I do in books about the afterlife in general, which is to say zero. But I thought it might be worth checking out Randal's book simply because of a quick exchange over at his blog:   And "check it out" I have. I want to hold Randal's feet to the fire here and see if he really gives provocative answers to my questions, or if it's just the usual apologist goalpost shifting that I've come to expect.  It's worth pointing out that this book deals with Heaven from a conceptual and theological standpoint, not an evidential one. Randal's not trying to convince non-Christians they should be concerned with Heaven. And that's good, because while anecdotal accounts (i.e., 'case studies') of near-death experiences and trips to the hereafter are in no small supply, evidence resulting from properly


The other day, I got a comment notification for a post over at Randal Rauser's blog, which was strange because I hadn't visited his blog in a while per my exasperation with engaging Christian apologists . I mean shoot, there was even a whole series of debates between Lawrence Krauss and William Lane Craig, and some drama that involved letters exchanged between Krauss, Craig, and Alexander Vilenkin. And even that induced a mere yawn from me, because it was just Craig's same old bullshit. Anyway, the comment was just a troll. Against my better judgement, I replied anyway. I then dropped a few other belated replies on the post. The next day, this same troll, named Joseph O Polanco, found my blog – presumably by way of Randal's site. Now, I have some rules for new visitors. These are common-sense rules that are posted in the "About - Comment Policy - FAQ" tab at the top of the page. But hey, who the fuck reads comment policies these days anyway am I right fol

The most blasphemous burger ever

Right now it's taking all my willpower to avoid indulging the latest batch of apologist trolls who are polluting my comments sections with their bullshittery. You know what seems like a fine distraction? A burger. I consider myself somewhat of a burger enthusiast, and Friendly Atheist has a blurb on one in Chicago that is causing some predictable butthurt among predictably easily-offended religious types. It's the Ghost Burger , named after the rather awesome Swedish rock band Ghost, whom I was privileged to see live last year when they toured in support of metal titans Opeth and Mastadon. They're not really a metal band though – they sound more like Blue Oyster Cult or something. But they're thoroughly blasphemous in that delightful way that only a European band can be, and it makes for a very entertaining show. The ingredients are: 10 oz. patty Slow braised goat shoulder Aged white cheddar Ghost chile aioli Red wine reduction Communion wafer garnish