October 20, 2009
I frequently get this sort of question on this site and in my email: “Why do you spend so much time talking about something you don’t believe in? Why can’t you just live and let live?”
I usually answer this in two ways. First, I very much do believe in “live and let live.” When a Christian tells me that she just believes, that there’s a personal feeling or experience or history or whatever, I accept that. I’m not out to convert Christians to unbelievers; I’m out here to answer apologetics. By and large, my criticism kicks in only when your mindset shifts from “Hey, I believe in Christianity, but it’s cool if you’re an atheist” to “I believe in Christianity and so should you.”
But there is a second reason, and it’s powerfully illustrated by the latest missive from Bill Donohue. To be sure: Donohue is low-hanging fruit (probably in the same genus as our old friends Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort). But this bigoted moron is given space in the New York Times to peddle his unadulterated hate speech — that tells me that we atheists still have a ways to go before things are right with the world.
Donohue tells us:
Today’s radicals are intellectually spent: they want to annihilate American culture, having absolutely nothing to put in its place. In that regard, these moral anarchists are an even bigger menace than the Marxists who came before them.
If societal destruction is the goal, then it makes no sense to waste time by attacking the political or economic structure: the key to any society is its culture, and the heart of any culture is religion. In this society, that means Christianity, the big prize being Catholicism. Which explains why secular saboteurs are waging war against it.
So apparently this blog and thousands of others like it are all frauds; we’re all part of the Vast Conspiracy to Destroy American Culture. It isn’t that we don’t believe in an invisible man who lives in the sky; it’s that we know that the secret shortcut to destroying American Culture is to give polite, logical arguments against the religion that ~70% of its inhabitants profess (and perhaps 20% believe quite fervently).
Welcome to the Conspiracy, my brothers and sisters!
April 28, 2009
One of the most popular contemporary apologetics is the Argument from Morality (AfM); William Lane Craig uses it in every debate round, for example. Despite its near-ubiquity, I maintain that the AfM is, on balance, an argument against the command-morality of theism. Let’s dive in:
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Here’s a sneak peek at the rules and regulations at Pensacola Christian College. Students and staff at PCC are prohibited from:
* the use of alcohol in cooking
* watching PG-rated movies
* listening to “popular contemporary Christian music artists” such as “Steve Green, Amy Grant, or Steven Curtis Chapman.” (Don’t even ask about Stryper!)
* possessing a cell phone
* utilizing any wireless computer connection (including wireless print servers?)
And so on. The strangest part is the bit where women are not allowed to drive east, and men are not allowed to drive west. I would make some Sun-god crack here, but seriously: I can’t figure this out.
Although there’s a certain amount of ridicule in this post, let me be clear: if you want to live your life this way, have at it. I do think this highlights the pernicious influence of the belief that morality requires a God to lay down the rules. Once you no longer trust human reason, you wind up with a set of guidelines prohibiting adults from carrying cell phones, listening to Amy Grant, and driving off into the sunset. That’s part of why I think the argument from morality is one of the worst apologetic arguments for the existence of God (even as it remains stunningly popular).
HT: Slacktivist, and if you haven’t been reading liberal evangelical Fred Clark’s hilarious and well-informed dissection of the Left Behind series, you owe it to yourself to head over there right away.
April 14, 2009
The Barna Group, as many of you know, is a professional research organization — run by conservative Christians, mind you — that collects data about American Christianity and Christian beliefs and practices. Notably, the folks at Barna follow accepted research methods; as far as I can tell, it’s every bit as good as a secular polling outfit (and probably better than the Zogbys of the world).
Well, Barna has released their latest report, and it’s chock full of cross-tabbed goodies. For instance:
* 59% of professing Christians agree or strongly agree that Satan “is not a living being but a symbol of evil.”
* Similarly, 58% of professing Christians agree or strongly agree that the Holy Spirit is a symbol, rather than an actual, living being.
* Sadly (and weirdly), however, 54% of Christians continue to believe that people can be under the influence of demons or evil spirits, which I guess explains the persistence of people who believe in exorcisms. Well, that, and powerful imagination.
Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the rest of the fun. Go read it!
HT: The Real Issue.
March 23, 2009
Over at Cydonia Mensae, James McConnell asks (among other things) for atheists to explain where our morals come from and how we can distinguish right from wrong. I noted that there are two broad approaches that many atheists take that seem to me to provide a sufficient, reasonable explanation:
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