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Michael D. Reynolds

"I am a retired physician. Since I retired and became free to study and write about something other than medicine I thought (to paraphrase C. S. Lewis) that the best service I could do for my credulous, spiritualist neighbors was to explain and defend naturalism."
— Michael D. Reynolds


Published on the Secular Web


Modern Library

Moshe Averick’s Nonsense of a High Order as a Model of the Flaws of Biblicist Denial of a Naturalistic Origin of Life

In an earlier critique of Orthodox rabbi Moshe Averick's Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism, Michael D. Reynolds pointed out that Averick's book is typical of recent popular works attacking "atheism" in leaning on various informal logical fallacies. In this follow-up critique Reynolds focuses specifically on what Averick has to say about the "failure" of naturalistic accounts of the origin of life, which comprise forty-eight percent of the text of Nonsense of a High Order. Reynolds finds that Averick is ignorant of the nature of science and its principles, that he either does not know, or else fails to understand, the standard scientific explanations of the topics that he addresses, that this ignorance or incomprehension causes him to invent odd notions that completely misrepresent the standard scientific view, that he arbitrarily rejects standard scientific explanations without providing any substantial argument against them, and that he repeatedly asserts that something is true without offering any argument for its truth, among other things.

Moshe Averick’s “Nonsense of a High Order” as a Model of the Flaws of Attacks on Nontheism

Orthodox rabbi Moshe Averick's Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism is in many ways typical of that niche of recent popular books that attack modern "atheism." The errors that plague Averick's own thinking are often found in other authors of similar works. For example, Averick repeatedly makes assertions without providing any arguments to back them up, fails to engage relevant research on the issues that he touches on, and misrepresents the views of his opponents. He also spills a great deal of ink critiquing idiosyncratic views of his opponents as if they were typical of nontheists as a whole, uncharitably attaches false meanings to his opponents' statements, and takes their words out of context. He both mischaracterizes how science is done and twists cherry-picked scientific findings to create the appearance that they support his own religiously informed positions. Projecting his own unwillingness "to consider anything that presents a challenge to his dearly held belief system" on to his opponents, Averick steadfastly advocates the existence of spirits and their frequent interaction with our world, that human minds involve a spiritual component, and that the Supreme Spirit sustaining the physical world has handed down rules for us to follow, dismissing naturalistic accounts of mind, meaning, and morality for the flimsiest of reasons.

Is Acceptance of Evolution Evil?

An often overlooked religious criticism of biological evolution focuses on the alleged ethical consequences of accepting it, particularly increased immorality and harmfulness. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds describes and critiques one such criticism, that provided by biblical literalist John MacArthur and his historical forebears documented in Charles Sprading's Science Versus Dogma and Maynard Shipley's The War on Modern Science. MacArthur makes seven chief assertions about the ethical consequences of accepting evolution: (1) that naturalism and its acceptance of evolution removes the foundation of morality and causes immorality; (2) that accepting evolution prevents belief in spiritual things; (3) that acceptance of evolution entails that humans are no better than animals; (4) that conceding evolution robs human life of meaning or purpose; (5) that naturalism and its acceptance of evolution leads to nihilism; and that evolutionary concepts laid the groundwork for (6) Communist and (7) Nazi ideology. Reynolds concludes that MacArthur's assertions exemplify the rejection of rational, evidential thinking in favor of unquestioning credulity.

On Christian Theology: An Introduction

Theology professor Alister McGrath's Christian Theology: An Introduction is a clear and comprehensive theology textbook that is balanced, at least, when presenting conflicting Christian opinions. This review by Michael Reynolds from the perspective of a nonbeliever is not intended to be comprehensive, but focuses on McGrath's treatment of issues found to be incomplete or misleading, or otherwise his omissions of discussion (or even mention) of large and important topics within Christianity. Some of these topics include the pernicious effects of Christian theology on social progress (such as equal rights for men and women), the conflict between science and religion, Christianity's history of suppression of thought by imprisonment, torture, and murder, religious wars, and rationalization of the conquest of non-Christian cultures. In short, McGrath neglects a large swath of issues close to the heart of Christianity in a way that suggests that Christian theology is taught in order to promote a set of fictions.
Kiosk Article

Thinking and Unthinking Faith

Ross Douthat is a conservative American writer whose recent opinion piece in the New York Times constitutes a digest of present-day Christian apologetics, one written by a respected layman and published on the front page of a major newspaper. As such, that piece cries out for a reply. This essay thus constitutes Michael Reynolds' response to and analysis of the common apologetic themes that Douthat parrots.

Why Would Anyone Believe Justin Barrett’s Theistic Arguments?

Christian psychologist Justin Barrett argues that belief in immaterial minds is similar to and justifies belief in God. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates that Barrett's concept of mind is outmoded. Moreover, Barrett does not distinguish between innate beliefs in other people's mental abilities and the cultural concept of mind, which is learned, not innate. The belief that other people think, have emotions, and so forth is supported by evidence, but there is no evidence for the existence of God.

Barrett presumes that "atheism" is difficult to maintain because innate ways of thinking promote belief in spirits. In response, Reynolds provides some of the reasons for nontheism and refutes Barrett's arguments that having moral principles and confidence in one's beliefs pose special problems for nontheists. Reynolds concludes that, to the contrary, living as a nontheist is not difficult and does not require social and cultural segregation to sustain it.

How to Know Deepak Chopra’s God

Deepak Chopra operates a business that offers "life-changing retreats" and courses instructing clients in meditation and "alternative medicine," especially Indian techniques. In How to Know God he postulates seven responses of the brain to God. From this notion he constructs a detailed theistic scheme. A prominent theme of the book is an attempt to relate his ideas to quantum physics. Readers and reviewers have heaped praise on the work, but it contains numerous errors of fact and logic. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates some of the errors in the foundational first chapter of the book.

What are Judeo-Christian Values?

One common expression of religiosity by candidates for government office in the United States is a statement that Judeo-Christian values are foundational for American society and government. Unfortunately, no one has the idea or the courage to ask candidates what they mean by "Judeo-Christian values." In this essay Michael D. Reynolds attempts to determine what this phrase might mean.

Was Jesus an Extraordinary Person?

The conventional notion about the character of Jesus is that he was an extraordinary person: unique, grand, captivating, a paragon of virtue, and a teacher of concepts that all human beings should use to govern their lives. But is this true? The biographical material shows that Jesus was not a peace-maker, did not offer socially useful ideas other than being charitable, possessed no ethical concepts more advanced than those of his society, and did not have original thoughts. The evidence does not prove that he was charismatic. The prevalent notions that Jesus was the perfect human being, a great teacher, or the perfect moralist are constructs created because of the belief that he was divine.

Proof of Heaven or of an Impaired Brain?

Once again a news magazine has published an article that "demands an answer." This time a disease-induced hallucination is being propped up on a frame labeled "Science" and sold to the credulous public. Under the guise of science, the article is a regression to the body-mind dualism that since antiquity has distorted humankind's understanding of itself and of the universe. Here, as usual, the chief incentive is the lust for persistence of one's precious ego after death, and the secondary motive is a wish for a gift of unending bliss—both selfish urges.

Christianity Has Been Destroyed

The April 9, 2012 issue of Newsweek International contains a refreshingly honest jeremiad about the degenerate state of American Christianity ("The forgotten Jesus") written by Andrew Sullivan, a confessed Christian. Mr. Sullivan does not ascribe his and other persons' "thirst for God" to indoctrination. Instead, he attributes it to three questions, which he calls "the profoundest human questions" and describes as "pressing and mysterious": What happens to us after death? How did humanity come to be on this remote blue speck of a planet? Why does the universe exist rather than nothing? The purpose of this essay is to answer, or provide sources of answers to, these questions.

Transcendence?

Could it be that Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and a well-known critic of religion, believes in transcendence—and perhaps even in God? Author Lisa Miller of Newsweek International seems to think so. What are the facts?