Showing posts from April, 2014

For theists, God is still in the gaps

We've heard the refrain a thousand times: that one can be a believer and still fully accept science. Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller are devout Christians who accept evolution; John Polkinghorne is a former physicist and a now a priest, famous for his conciliatory works like The Faith of a Physicist ; and there is the mathematician and philosopher of science John Lennox, who critiqued Stephen Hawking's atheism in his book God and Stephen Hawking but who was careful not to reject the science out of hand. Examples like this abound, but the accommodationism hides an ugly truth: even for these presumably sophisticated thinkers, their rationale for belief still exists in one of the oldest fallacies of all: God of the gaps . Not pictured: God I was reminded of this tonight with a facepalm-inducing article from Time , called " Why Science Does Not Disprove God ". This type of statement is rewarded with an immediate facepalm because it does not clearly express w

Is the Christian God amoral?

I was thinking about various omni-paradoxes this morning, spurred by a relevant post over at Deity Shmiety , and something related crossed my mind. One of the constraints generally placed on God's omnipotence is that he is incapable of evil – he is the embodiment of moral goodness. This does of course place Christians in the awkward position of saying that all sorts of deplorable violence, slavery (and the beating of slaves), the subjugation of women, and eternal torment are morally good – at least in a certain context – so that God, say, hardening the Pharaoh's heart and then punishing his stubbornness by murdering Egypt's firstborn sons (thankfully, just a myth ) is totally morally good. But the idea that God couldn't choose to do evil not only renders him conditionally omnipotent (which seems to be a pretty idiosyncratic use of the word that only theologians believe to be valid), it seems to make God totally amoral. Not immoral , but simply lacking any moral chara

Arguing with brick walls

Please, dear readers, hold me to this: I'm done with Randal Rauser. I deleted the link to his blog from my bookmarks and I'm going to try my best to resist the temptation to engage with him. I was originally introduced to Rauser by some readers who suggested that he might be a worthy interlocutor given his knowledge of philosophy and his generally liberal brand of Christianity. But y'know, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me seven or fifty times, and... well, I dunno. Remember when I did a partial review of his book on Heaven? I had asked four questions about the logical coherency of Heaven on his blog, and he claimed that his book answered them. So, kindly, I blew $9 on a book that's about on the level of literary and scholarly prestige as The Poop That Took a Pee and, not surprisingly but still kind of disappointingly, his book didn't actually answer any of those questions – at least one wasn't even discussed at all . I wrote

I could use your help

I haven't mentioned it in a while, but I'm still working (intermittently) on a "best of" compilation, a book that contains the best work of this blog organized topically and edited slightly for flow. If you've been reading this blog for any significant length of time and there are any posts that were memorable to you that you think are deserving of being in the top few, please let me know. I'm of course pulling posts that I am partial to, but I'm interested in hearing readers' perspectives as well.

Easter fun time Bible facts

Easter's almost over, and it's been a busy day! But I have a few minutes to mention some important facts about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The gospels are not eyewitness accounts. Or at least, there is absolutely zero evidence that they are eyewitness accounts. They do not claim to be, and several scriptures (the temptation in the desert, for example) describe Jesus' actions and prayers even though he's purportedly alone. Eyewitness accounts tend to fairly unreliable anyway, even in the short term. Considering the gospels weren't written down for many decades (at least 50 years), there was clearly a lot of time for details to become omitted, altered, or added. There's no evidence that the gospels were passed on through any sort of oral tradition, at least not in the rigid sense of the oral Torah, an obviously Rabbinic tradition. The gospels don't claim to be the product of any such oral tradition and there's zero independent evidence that they

American history, revised and updated

Last night Vanessa and I watched Jesus Camp , which I'm sure many of you have seen. It brought back some memories of my brief stint in Pentecostal-style evangelical churches. But something caught my ear, and that's a refrain I've often heard from conservatives: a quip about the moral decline of America. They've kicked God out of schools! You can't say "one nation under God!" The gays are marrying! Dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria! Later in the evening, I came across a provocative article on the Huffington Post which, courtesy of famed photographer Ansel Adams, documented the lives of Japanese-Americans living in an internment camp during World War II.  Here were ordinary American citizens detained in direct violation of their Constitutional rights. It struck me as odd, though increasingly less surprising, that I never learned about that in my many US history classes in grade school. An unrelated article I read later discussed the global

Our moral evolution must transcend religion

Today my fiance Vanessa and I wrapped up the last session of our premarital counseling, which we had been doing under the guidance of the head pastor of my parents' church. Secular premarital counseling is hard to find in Oklahoma, and he agreed to respect our wishes for the counseling to be non-religious. But, as a pastor might be reasonably expected to be, he was curious about our perspectives on religion. We both briefly shared the stories of our deconversions – Vanessa having been raised Catholic and never feeling connected with religion, as well as being frustrated by the evasiveness of the church elders on matters of doctrine; and myself, being raised in a Christian home but ultimately leaving the church after a rigorous study of theology, apologetics, and comparative religion. We both made it clear that we're "live and let live" non-believers; we both think that if someone feels what Alvin Plantinga would call a sensus divinitus that leads them to faith, the

The meaning of suffering

I've been having a conversation with some regulars on Randal Rauser's blog about the problem of natural suffering. Frankly, I see it as being utterly devastating to theism. All theodicies attempt to resolve the problem of suffering by suggesting that God has morally justified reasons for allowing (causing?) suffering, in that it is ultimately a step toward a greater good. My take is that it's logically impossible for theodicies to be valid, because an omnipotent God – by definition of his omnipotence – could always achieve his aims without natural suffering. If a theist claims that natural suffering is in any way necessary for God's plan, they've tacitly conceded that God is not all-powerful. In my comments, I referred to an eight-year-old girl I encountered while working as a physical therapy tech during my college years. She was afflicted with terminal brain cancer, and had lost most of her physical and cognitive functions. I remember thinking that there was a