Where did evil in the world come from? In this article Edouard Tahmizian considers God's causal influence on the origin of evil. He aims to show that, if biblical hard determinism is true, God would be the efficient cause of Adam and Eve's transgression—the original sin that the rest of humanity inherited when the first humans, Adam and Eve, purportedly ate fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil according to the Book of Genesis. Moreover, he argues, even if biblical hard determinism is not true and all events could have turned out differently, God would still be the final cause of Adam and Eve's sin, making him at least somewhat causally responsible for the sin of Adam and Eve that we all purportedly inherited. In the end, Tahmizian's analysis implies that God is ultimately the source of all evil.
Published on the Secular Web
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 25-minute interview with Bruno V., the world-renowned video game music remixer known for his use of diverse musical styles across artists and musical eras. Edouard and Bruno canvass Bruno's influences, his Metalltool project on social media, his guitar work and use of synthesizers, his remixing process, how composers can improve the quality of their music, the tracks that he covers, how he does the longer tracks, how he pays tribute to the soundtracks that he grew up with, and more. Take a peek into the behind-the-scenes world of video game music and keep an ear out for Bruno V.'s upcoming original compositions soon to be posted on his YouTube channel!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this twenty-five-minute return interview with Vincent Torley, the skeptical Catholic and former intelligent design proponent who wrote the blog series An A-Z of Unanswered Objections to Christianity, on the issue of whether or not the theological problems that arise from the existence of an inclination to sin under either compatibilist or libertarian notions of free will are insurmountable. The interlocutors canvass various unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem before focusing on whether introducing the notion of first- and second-order desires could give a theological out for why human beings have an inclination to sin in the first place. The discussion then turns to whether or not the way that we conceive of ourselves, or the inferiority of God’s creatures compared to himself, could dissolve the problem. Tune in for this in-depth analysis of attempts to get out of a central theological conundrum!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this twenty-minute return interview with Keith Augustine, Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief of Internet Infidels, as they review the five main kinds of parapsychological evidence for life after death, the most persuasive of those sources and their weaknesses, and the chiefly (but not wholly) neuroscientific evidence against life after death. The interlocutors then canvass the importance of weighing the total available evidence rather than just some particular subset of it. Check out this succinct interview with our illustrious DMCA Agent!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour return interview with esteemed Jesus Seminar scholar John Dominic Crossan as they canvass Crossan's thoughts on the 50s-60s CE Q source, why Crossan thinks that the later apocryphal Gospel of Thomas is reflective of an earlier oral tradition (e.g., the fact that roughly one-third of the sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas are also in Q, in different orders, suggesting a common 40s CE oral tradition informing both), how this hypothesized oral tradition approaches the earliest writings of Paul (30s CE), and what Crossan takes to be a good example of an authentic saying of Jesus (namely, the parable that God's kingdom on Earth is like a mustard seed, which is found in Q, Mark, and Thomas). Tune in for this fantastic interview with a leading biblical scholar about historians' attempts to reconstruct the origins of the Gospels!
Tune in to Edouard Tahmizian's 20-minute interview with Aron Ra about three common creationist objections to Darwinian evolution. First, Aron Ra surveys concepts of abiogenesis from the 1860s to present as they show up in creationist arguments. Next, he responds to creationist arguments from information/complexity (e.g., that there is digital information recorded in our DNA that could not have arisen by natural causes). He then criticizes the claim that there are missing transitional fossils, or 'gaps' in the fossil record, as simply factually inaccurate, before turning to the biological implausibility of the Noah's Ark story. Check out this brief but informative interview!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this twenty-minute follow-up interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on his forthcoming 2-volume reference work Epic Tragedy and the Gospels (on the literary background to gospels that were never intended to be read as histories), the scholarship of Robyn Faith Walsh on mimesis (mythologizing Jesus), the misappropriation of his work by fellow atheists, the Q source and the synoptic problem, and much more. Tune in for this engaging interview with a long-established man of letters!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour follow-up interview with Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau as they survey various moral arguments for the existence of God and explain how arguments that chief features of morality point to the divine fall flat. First, Thibodeau notes that the argument that the existence of moral value presupposes the existence of God misfires. Next, he points out out that arguments that we cannot have knowledge of (presumed nonnatural) moral properties without divine assistance simply do not stand up to scrutiny. Finally, he considers a kind of Kantian moral argument that behaving morally only makes sense if good people are rewarded and evil ones are punished in a divinely organized afterlife. Both interlocutors agree that there has to be some independent standard of goodness, otherwise anyone could just define whatever one's nature happens to be as good, no matter how harmful that nature. Thibodeau then tries to flesh out this first kind of moral argument by suggesting that the 'odd' feature of morality that it exploits is that moral obligations are in authoritative, but notes that inserting God anywhere in the discussion does not provide the needed authoritativeness of morality. Both interlocutors then go on to note the ways in which all roads lead to moral subjectivism if God taken to be the source of morality. Tune in for this wide-ranging interview on the nature of morality!
Pick up where you left off at the end of Part I and return to host Edouard Tahmizian in the second 20-minute part of his two-part follow-up interview with esteemed biblical scholar Robert M. Price. The interlocutors go on to discuss whether the earliest Christians also believed in something like Calvinist predestination and which New Testament typologies (correspondences between Old Testament figures and New Testament one), if any, Price prefers. The discussion then turns to Price's forthcoming book The Gospels Behind the Gospels, his response to C. S. Lewis titled Merely Christianity, his When Gospels Collide on contradictions between the Gospel accounts, his Judaizing Jesus, his forthcoming Not Peace, But a Sword, his dabbling in writing fiction, and much more!
In this first half-hour of a two-part follow-up interview with esteemed biblical scholar Robert M. Price, host Edouard Tahmizian queries Price about his recent anthology edited with John W. Loftus, Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? They canvass the role of Jungian mythical archetypes as a kind of script for rituals/rites of passage, Price's take on the scholarship of Robyn Faith Walsh and the historical plausibility of her thesis that educated Hellenistic writers composed the New Testament, whether there were pre-Gospel narratives that were more consistent than the canonical Gospels and exploited by them (in themes like Jesus as the returned Elijah, Jesus as the new Moses, Jesus as a magician, and so on, and by portraying competitors to Jesus as servants of him), and the Gnostic understanding of salvation. Tune in to this animated conversation about fascinating ideas, and then be sure to tune in to Part II, too!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour follow-up interview with Internet Infidels President John MacDonald about why he thinks that the canonical Gospels do not support the idea that Jesus died as a kind of stand-in for us sinners (most clearly evidenced in the Gospel of Luke), what the historical Jesus would've thought about removing circumcision as a requirement for becoming a Christian, the alternative Gnostic understanding of salvation, how the gospel of Mark suggests that the historical Jesus would've had no inkling of the concept that his eventual death might serve as a substitute punishment for the sins of all humankind, and how the historical Jesus' understanding of love differed from the ancient Greek concept of it. MacDonald also compares the societal fall-out following Socrates' execution in Plato's dialogues to that anticipated by the historical Jesus, explains how the idea that Jesus died for our sins makes little sense not only because substituting one person for another's crimes is morally absurd, but because most of us haven't committed any sins that warrant capital punishment, and offers his take on Richard Carrier's defense of Jesus mythicism. Check out this historical and philosophical exploration of one of the core claims of modern Christianity (and the partial transcript of it on the Secular Frontier).
In this half-hour follow-up interview with biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan about his just released book Render Unto Caesar: The Struggle Over Christ and Culture in the New Testament, host Edouard Tahmizian queries Crossan about what it meant for first-century Christians to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." Crossan explains why he reads the Gospels as being constituted by parables that were originally composed in order to emphasize the points that the Gospel-depicted Jesus wanted to really drive home to his followers (e.g., that not all Samaritans are bad in the parable of the Good Samaritan), the idea being that a parable puts the mental work of thinking about the moral of a story on to the listener, forcing him/her to really engage an issue rather than simply passively register it. In the ancient world, Crossan explains, the penalty for failing to solve a riddle was standardly depicted as death (because getting the facts wrong can produce irrevocable catastrophic consequences); so likewise in the Gospels, the failure to understand a parable could cost a person his/her salvation from Hell. They also canvass how the medieval misunderstanding of the literal/metaphorical distinction led to outlandish readings of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, whether or not Jesus (or Paul) 'predicted' that the end of days would occur in the disciples' lifetimes, and much more! Check out this fantastic interview with a world-class biblical scholar framing a lot of these issues from a fascinating perspective!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 40-minute interview with Dan Barker, co-director of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and co-founder of The Clergy Project, about his over 35 years of freethought activism, his forthcoming projects, what improbable events would meet the theological definition of a miracle, how to weigh evidence and what extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence actually means in the context of miracle claims, the tendency of some Christian debaters to argue for a generic "mere theism" rather than the existence of the Christian God, and more! Check out this easygoing discussion with a funny and all-around personable freethought icon.
Join host Edouard Tahmizian for about 45 minutes with historian and freethinker Richard C. Carrier as they canvass whether God is the origin of evil per Edouard's Secular Web Modern Library paper "God is Either the Efficient or Final Cause of Evil," the astonishing new trend among some Christian apologists called equal ultimacy, which maintains that God is still perfectly holy even if he is the direct cause of sin, how God could hardly be perfectly good if he knowingly imbued his creatures with a disposition to sin, and how atheists derive their moral principles. Tune in for this fantastic interview with a long-time freethought activist!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this nearly one hour interview with Jason Thibodeau, a philosophy professor at Cypress College who's on the board of directors of Internet Infidels, about Plato's famous Euthyphro dilemma to the classic divine command theory of ethics, in which morally right actions are identified with those actions that are commanded (or otherwise approved) by God. After briefly stating a simple version of the Euthyphro dilemma and explaining its history, Thibodeau discusses the difference between (deontic) moral rightness and (axiological) moral goodness, how Robert M. Adams defended a deontic, but not axiological, kind of divine command theory, how the arbitrariness objection to divine command theory arises, and the sophisticated (but unsuccessful) attempts by Edward Wierenga and William Lane Craig to forge a middle way between the two mutually exclusive options of the traditional Euthyphro dilemma (which boil down to whether or not God has reasons for his commands). The discussion then turns to the implausibility of libertarian free will, whether a person who has no knowledge of good and evil can, in that state of ignorance, commit sin, whether a being that is admittedly causally responsible for giving human beings an inclination to sin is in any way morally responsible for their sinful behavior, and whether a being (any being) simply telling someone not to do something can ever really make a forbidden action morally wrong. Check out this wide-ranging yet deep interview!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this quick follow-up interview with Justin Ykema, author of "A Critique of the Free Will Defense: A Comprehensive Look at Alvin Plantinga's Solution to the Problem of Evil," about his forthcoming Secular Web Kiosk piece on whether psychology, as it's currently practiced, is genuine science. Ykema notes how his discussion with a speech pathologist about children with autism fall on a "spectrum" spurred his thinking about how psychology seems more like statistics than science. For example, those on the autism spectrum can be high-functioning, moderate-functioning, or low functioning. Given such large differences between autistic individuals, Ykema suggests that psychology is closer to a branch of mathematics than one of science, in the sense that it foretells statistical probability in the same way that baseball players' future performance is extrapolated from their past performance, but doesn't involve experimental tests of hypotheses that can be replicated given the that each individual is unique. Ykema goes on to clarify that he won't be offering an abrasive stance against psychology, or arguing that it lacks empirical content, but simply pointing out that psychology might have been improperly classified as science when it's really more like data analysis (and thus been miscategorized in the same way that the general public has miscategorized a tomato as a vegetable when, by biological standards, it's unequivocally a fruit). Check out this intriguing interview!
Join Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour interview with Hemant Mehta, the legendary Friendly Atheist superblogger, YouTuber, podcast cohost, and former Jeopardy game show contestant who has appeared on CNN and Fox News and served on the board of directors of Foundation Beyond Belief and the Secular Student Alliance. Tahmizian and Mehta canvass the logical holes one has to plug to believe in the literal truth of the Noah's Ark story as history (resulting in peculiar attempts by Answers in Genesis to resolve the problems that such belief generates), how believers justify taking some claims in their religious texts as metaphorical while taking others literally, whether determinism about human actions precludes moral responsibility, the disconnect between philosophical debates and political action, and how his new stint at OnlySky has been going. Check out this fascinating conversation with a long-time atheist activist!
Join Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour interview with Massimo Pigliucci, K. D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science with doctorates in evolutionary biology, genetics, and philosophy. Pigliucci canvasses the philosophy of science since Karl Popper, particularly on the issue of how best to distinguish science from pseudoscience (where many pseudosciences are falsified in practice, and thus falsifiable in principle), before turning to his main criticisms of the so-called "New Atheists," Aristotle's three components of persuasion (arguments/reasons/facts, credibility, and getting your audience to care about what you're saying), his debates with creationists, his criticisms of Bernardo Kastrup's view that consciousness is fundamental, why he thinks that posing the hard problem of consciousness involves committing a category mistake, and the biologically indefensible implications of taking the Noah's Ark story as literal history. Check out this intriguing discussion of such a wide assortment of topics!
Tune in to a discussion between host Edouard Tahmizian and Monica L. Miller, the Vice President of the Humanist Global Charity and Executive Director of the Humanist Legal Society who has litigated for the American Humanist Association and the Nonhuman Rights Project, the only civil rights organization in the United States dedicated solely to securing rights for nonhuman animals. Miller has litigated nearly 30 First Amendment cases before the US Supreme Court and the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits, as well as historic animal personhood cases, and has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, The Young Turks, and other media outlets. In this discussion, Miller notes how busy the new Supreme Court has kept civil rights lawyers lately on church-state separation issues that they would have easily won in the recent past, the church-state violation cases that she's currently working on, and cases that she's worked on in the recent past. She also talks about some of the recent articles that she's written as an OnlySky columnist, such as an article on how Christians actually have to most to lose when the principle of separation of church and state is not upheld in practice and Christian religious ideals get watered down in the public square or become subject to more public scorn or ridicule than would occur otherwise. Check out this quick yet informative interview on the more pressing issues facing nonbelievers in the coming years!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly 10-minute interview with Dale McGowan, chief content officer for the secular media platform OnlySky and author of the classic Parenting Beyond Belief. Dale and Ed's breezy chat kicks off with an overview of McGowan's checkered past teaching music, promoting science advocacy, podcasting, and serving as the managing editor of the nonreligious blogs at Patheos before most of their content creators migrated over to OnlySky in 2022. The discussion turns to OnlySky's vision for reaching out to the larger bell curve of people who have no religious affiliation, but don't explicitly identify as atheists or agnostics, and how OnlySky has a wider vision for media production compared to Patheos' exclusive function as a multiblog. Check it out!
Tune in to this half-hour discussion between host Edouard Tahmizian and Jesus mythicist David Fitzgerald, a former member of the now defunct Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, and his wife Dana Fredsti, a sci-fi author and actress who has appeared in such films as Army of Darkness. Edouard's guests survey the plot lines of their cowritten Time Shards trilogy, their favorite draft beers, and whether Jesus mythicism is going to go mainstream. Check out this wide-ranging interview on a variety of interesting topics!
Join Edouard Tahmizian in this over-an-hour interview/presentation with the legend himself, Jeffery Jay Lowder, co-founder of Internet Infidels, as they canvas approaching philosophical topics with a scouting rather than soldiering mindset, cognitive bias in the philosophy of religion, the definition of atheism, the Euthyphro dilemma to classic divine command theory, how inference to the best explanation and Bayesian approaches to evaluating evidence work, whether theism is a better explanation for the existence of objective moral facts than naturalism, William Lane Craig's moral argument for the existence of God, and much more!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 5-minute interview with fellow board member Paul Richards, the top administrator of and board liason for Internet Infidels Discussion Board (IIDB). In this friendly chat, Paul briefly notes the recent history of IIDB and welcomes newbies looking for an online hub to take a look and sign up if they'd like to participate in the lively discussions on a wide range of topics there. The IIDB community has served as a kind of online family for many long-time IIDBrs, and is just a fun place to be for those looking to participate in humor contests or video game strategy rundowns in addition to the more heady discussions of science, skepticism, religion, and politics. There's a bit of something for everybody in the appropriate subforums, so if you're into chatting on discussion forums, check out the new and improved Internet Infidels Discussion Board!
Check out this roughly 10-minute talk between Internet Infidels social media manager Edouard Tahmizian and Grant Kirkhope, a BAFTA-nominated (by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) composer who composed the soundtrack for the video game series 007 Golden Eye, Perfect Dark, Ghostbusters, Mario Plus, Donkey Kong, and many others selling in excess of 30 millions copies, to say nothing of his movie soundtracks (including movies coming out January and March 2022). Kirkhope outlines his current musical projects, what it's like working with a large team on such projects, how he decides what musical score would be appropriate for a given video game, and the digital composition tools he uses to compose music for video games and movies and whether these have made his compositions easier to produce than before they were available. Tune in for this fascinating interview with an industry insider!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly 15-minute interview with Justin Ykema, author of "A Critique of the Free Will Defense: A Comprehensive Look at Alvin Plantinga's Solution to the Problem of Evil." The discussion canvasses Ykema's main points of critique and motivation for writing his paper, such as the problem of evil casting doubt on any God being worthy of worship (since you would have to give up at least one of God's perfect power, knowledge, or goodness in light of the amount and kinds of suffering in the world). The discussion then turns to whether psychology is really a science, or whether it's closer to mathematics, given how heavily psychology relies on statistics, and given that the uniqueness of each individual makes it difficult, if not impossible, to replicate experiments across individuals. Ykema goes on to discuss what he's been doing since he got his philosophy degree before diving into what have been effective teaching styles in Ykema's experience. Check out this wide-ranging interview!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 10-minute interview with Jeana Jorgensen, a lecturer at Butler University (Indiana) with degrees in folklore and gender studies. In this interview their discussion ranges from her goal to make intellectual histories more accessible to everyone (in her new book Folklore 101: An Accessible Introduction to Folklore Studies, for example), her accessible and inclusive teaching style, her blogging about Middle Eastern dance (including belly dancing), current events, and politics at Patheos on the Foxy Folklorist blog since 2017, her future collaborative pieces forthcoming at OnlySky, cooking, and her work on gender, sexuality, sexual education, folklore, fairy tales, and urban legends more generally. Check out this eclectic interview!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this quick interview with Josephine Jacob, a biochemistry and molecular biology major and president of the Secular Student Alliance chapter at Trinity University in Texas. Their discussion spans her role on the board of directors of the Secular Student Alliance, the goals, projects, and charitable activities of the Trinity University SSA chapter, and the performance of the Trinity University choir. She even mentions how much she enjoyed reading Edouard’s 2020 Secular Web paper "God is Either the Efficient or Final Cause of Evil.” Check it out!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour interview with Darren M. Slade, a theological historian, systematician, and critical rationalist philosopher who serves as president of the Global Center for Religious Research (GCRR) and serves as editor of its flagship publication, SHERM Journal. Slade summarizes GCRR's groundbreaking work in the first and largest sociological study of the causes, manifestation, and treatment of religious trauma as a real mental health condition before turning to whether the supposed early witnesses to Christianity, like Pappias or Polycarp, actually knew any of Jesus' apostles, or whether claims of a lineage back to Jesus were more of a political means to establish the authority of the early Church. The discussion then turns to whether 2 Peter (and similar scriptures) were ad hoc scriptures written to preserve the second-century Church when the dominant theologies of the time began to fall into doubt (because John failed to live to see the Second Coming of Christ in his lifetime, for example), and which New Testament books should be in the official Church cannon (or whether the question itself is misguided).
Tune in to Edouard Tahmizian’s two-hour-long interview with atheist debater Edward Tabash, a constitutional lawyer in Los Angeles who chairs the board of directors of the Center for Inquiry and has amicus briefs with the US Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court to preserve the separation of church and state. Tabash lays out how the new religious right-wing majority on the US Supreme Court (and other right-wing judges) are threatening government neutrality on matters of religion. The dangers posed to atheists' legal rights (such as religious organizations gaining the right to endorse candidates for public office while secular ones cannot) are compounded by those that flow from giving special legal privileges to religious special interests and no one else (such as churches being exempt from COVID restrictions placed upon all other establishments, or being able to bar same-sex couples from becoming foster parents who would otherwise be protected by antidiscrimination laws). What is particularly under threat today is the long-established principle that no branch of government can favor religion over irreligion, or aid all religions against nonbelievers, but there is also no shortage of attempts to allow religious individuals (and no others) to jeopardize the health and safety of the public or prevent government from meeting its obligations. In the second half of the hour the discussion turns to religious opposition to abortion rights, which if fully successful would represent the first time in history that the US Supreme Court has retracted a constitutional right that it had once granted.
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this hour-long interview with esteemed biblical scholar Robert M. Price as they discuss Price's early realization that the amount of effort needed to fill in the gaps between the ancient concerns of the biblical writers and the unaddressed modern concerns of today would not be expected of a straightforward revelation from God. Their discussion goes on to consider how the Haggadic midrash, a way to interpret the Old Testament used in the parables attributed to Jesus, undermines the historicity of any Gospel story (as virtually all of them just repurpose an Old Testament story), before finally turning to the ahistoricity of the New Testament characterization of Paul (even if the literary Paul had been inspired by the historical person Simon Magus), the case for Jesus mythicism and the absence of contemporaneous references to Jesus, the implausibility of the penal substitutionary model of atonement, and much more. Check out this fascinating interview with a biblical scholar who became a legend himself!
Tune in to host Edouard Tahmizian's nearly hour-long interview with Jonathan M. S. Pearce, a founding member of the Tippling Philosophers, a friendly group of believers and nonbelievers who regularly meet over a pint of ale to discuss life's big questions. Pearce is the author of several books and a speaker on philosophy, religion, and skepticism best known for his old popular blog A Tippling Philosopher. In this interview, Pearce outlines how William Lane Craig's rendition of the kalam cosmological argument presupposes an implausible Platonism about abstract objects and a particular notion of causation that, if rejected, deflates the force of the argument. The interlocuters also canvass how the only remaining phenomena challenging naturalism are the beginning of the universe and consciousness, whether Jesus would have ever been buried in a tomb at all, why there are contradictions between the Gospels on basic details about the empty tomb story, the flaws in Mike Licona's argument that Paul wouldn't have hallucinated a risen Jesus if he had then seen Jesus as an enemy, the rationality of belief in miracles, the role of motivated reasoning in apologetic arguments, much more! Check out this fascinating interview with a prolific author on the Gospels as more propaganda than history.