April 28, 2009

Loftus on “The Strange And Superstitious World of the Bible”

Posted in Atheism, The Bible tagged , , , , , at 9:26 am by Andrew

I thoroughly recommend John Loftus’s Why I Became An Atheist. In my mind it fills the gap nicely between pop-atheist works (like Dawkins) and specialized scholarship (such as Michael Martin). Of course, any well-read atheist or theist should have all three authors on their bookshelves, anyway.

John has rightly trumpeted his “Outsider Test for Faith” as a new and unique contribution to atheist counterapologetics (and I agree). But I wanted to focus in on a less-celebrated but still insightful passage. This is from page 152 of the paperback edition:
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April 27, 2009

The Delight of the Saints in the Suffering of the Damned (or: This Is Why I Like Victor Reppert)

Posted in Atheism, The Bible tagged , , , at 12:37 pm by Andrew

I’m not enamored of Victor Reppert’s favorite apologetic argument, the so-called Argument from Reason, but I do appreciate his honesty and his willingness to tackle the strange and the unpalatable within his own belief system.

Today, it’s the long-standing Christian tradition (expressed here by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica and here by Puritan — and all-around jerk — Jonathan Edwards) that those in Heaven will have their eternal enjoyment magnified through the knowledge that the damned are suffering eternal torment in hell. Here’s how Aquinas puts it:

Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.

And here’s Edwards:

When the saints in glory, therefore, shall see the doleful state of the damned, how will this heighten their sense of the blessedness of their own state, so exceedingly different from it! When they shall see how miserable others of their fellow creatures are, who were naturally in the same circumstances with themselves; when they shall see the smoke of their torment, and the raging of the flames of their burning, and hear their dolorous shrieks and cries, and consider that they in the mean time are in the most blissful state, and shall surely be in it to all eternity; how will they rejoice!

I know that some Christians try to mitigate the implications of this line of analysis by becoming annihiliationists (which Theopedia describes as heretical), but other than that, I don’t know how Christians can answer the common-sense objection that for many people, it simply wouldn’t be heaven to know that others are suffering for an eternity in Hell.

“Evangelical” Atheism (or: Hey, Steve, You’re Not Helping!)

Posted in Atheism, Personal Experiences, Science, The Universe, Worldview tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:55 am by Andrew

Okay, this one is a real head-scratcher. A self-help guru (“Steve Pavlina,” not that I’ve ever heard of him) has posted his personal guide, “How to Graduate From Christianity.”

Ugh. Hey, Steve: you’re not helping! After the jump, I tackle Steve’s misguided notions of “graduating” from Christianity and defend my own vision of “evangelical” atheism.
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April 24, 2009

Bayes’ Theorem and the Argument from Design

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Creationism, The Universe tagged , , , , , at 12:28 pm by Andrew

Mark Reid has a great article up analyzing the Argument from Design using Bayes’ theorem. The focus is not on whether the Argument from Design is true, but rather explaining how one’s evaluation of Argument from Design depends upon prior beliefs about the supernatural generally. His conclusion validates that:

Bayesianism therefore has an explanation of why religious folk are more ready to accept the argument by design than skeptics.

The whole article is definitely worth a read.

Gay Marriage = Religious Freedom

Posted in Law tagged , , , , at 10:32 am by Andrew

HT: Slacktivist

April 23, 2009

Presuppositionalism, Part 4 (answering Cameron)

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Worldview tagged , , , , , , at 11:07 am by Andrew

(This series begins with Part 1; Part 2; and Part 3.)

In the comments to Part 1 of this series, Cameron takes up the presuppositionalist argument for the existence of God. I don’t think his answers respond to my original claim. Here’s my evaluation of Cameron’s specific arguments:
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April 20, 2009

Tattletales

Posted in Atheism tagged , , at 4:08 pm by Andrew

I consider Dr. James McGrath to be a blog-friend of EC (although I don’t know him personally) and I frequently link to his blog, Exploring Our Matrix. In short: I think he’s the kind of Christian that both atheists and Christians should read.

I am thus slightly mortified that one of my commenters apparently wandered over to Dr. McGrath’s blog, declared him a heretic, and tattled to Dr. McGrath’s pastor — I suppose in some sort of misguided effort to get Dr. McGrath excommunicated. On the plus side: Dr. McGrath’s pastor was well-aware of his theological views, so no real harm was done.

But it got me thinking, and so I ask my Christian readers–

1) What would it take for you to label someone who holds themselves out as a Christian as definitively not a Christian by your standards; and

2) What subset of (1) would motivate you to “tattle” on someone online to their pastor?

The Brick Testament

Posted in Atheism tagged , , , , at 1:06 pm by Andrew

If you’re not familiar with the genius that is The Brick Testament, or you simply haven’t been in a while because updates are slow, you’ll be pleased to know that the site has been updated with a Lego re-enactment of (segments of) the Book of Revelation.

April 19, 2009

Rick Warren’s “Jack Tripper” Problem

Posted in Atheism tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:58 pm by Andrew

If it combines Pastor Rick Warren and “Three’s Company,” you know Fred Clark must be behind it.

Notwithstanding the terrific humor value, I think Clark is dead on here. Just as with his inaugural invocation (to say nothing of the recent controversy over Prop 8), Warren is trying to pretend as though his theology and politics are much more mainstream than they really are.

The (predictable) result seems to be that he’s losing his natural allies among the Way-of-the-Master crowd without gaining any support from liberal evangelicals like Fred Clark (let alone atheists like me).

Does the Gospel of John Subvert the Synoptic Gospels?

Posted in Atheism, The Bible tagged , , , , , at 3:55 pm by Andrew

Rev. Jeremy Smith seems to think so. His argument stems from (1) John’s omission of the prayer at Gethsemene followed by (2) John 18, in which Rev. Smith claims that Jesus quotes from, and ridicules, the prayer account contained in the other Gospels.

HT: James McGrath.

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