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.
After the terrorist strikes in Paris on November 13, 2015, it was said that young Arabs in urban ghettos radicalize themselves because they live at the edge of society and have no future. This is little more than an apology. Other ethnic groups live under similar circumstances everywhere and they do not react this way. Only Muslims turn mass murderer and suicide bomber.
Creationists often point to the alleged orderliness of the universe as evidence for the existence of a creator deity, "God." But what are the facts? Is the alleged orderliness of the universe actually evidence for--or against--the existence of a creator?
"When anyone tells me that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened."
Christian leaders teach that the Bible is inerrant and authoritative, often referring to it as "The Good Book." They encourage us to read it, but they evidently realize that most of us will only read the recommended passages, accompanied by a good dose of interpretation, and that only a few of us will ever read it from cover to cover, and then form our own opinions about what it actually says. If all of us were to sit down and read the Bible straight through--and then actually put into practice what it admonishes us to do--civilization would be dealt a devastating blow from which it might never recover. That may seem to be a surprising conclusion, but the author makes a convincing case for it simply by looking at what the Bible itself actually says.
The group of people commonly referred to as Nones includes atheists agnostics, secular humanists and a variety of other skeptics and freethinkers all of whom have one thing in common--they are not affiliated with any organized religious group. Although some of them do believe in a Creator or some form of Supreme Being, most are nonbelievers, albeit with varying degrees of conviction. But they also have one other characteristic in common. If they reveal their disbelief--especially if they use the word "atheist," then they become targets of criticism, victims of ostracism and charges of "anti-Americanism."
Is something good because it is pleasing to God, or is something pleasing to God because it is good? Is something good because God commands it, or is what is good inherently good regardless of what God or anyone else happens to think about it? If "the wages of sin is death," how does the death of an innocent satisfy such an obligation? How one answers these questions has profound implications.
The problem of time is a serious conundrum for Christian and other Abrahamic religions: God, since he must have always existed, evidently waited a very long time before creating the world. In fact, he waited for an eternity. How can this be? How can it be that the author of the universe and everything in it spent an eternity before creating the cosmos? This question is relevant both to theism and to Deism; it is central to the question of any deity whatever.
In 1984, Josef Fritzl lured his teenage daughter, Elisabethâ€”whom he had already abused on previous occasionsâ€”into the basement of the family home. What Elisabeth did not know was that her father had converted the basement into a dungeon, in which Elisabeth would be confined for the next twenty-four years. During this period, Fritzl raped his daughter on numerous occasions, and Elisabeth gave birth to seven children, some of whom never saw the light of day until they were rescued many years later. How might a Christian apologist such as William Lane Craig explain the suffering of Elisabeth Fritzl and her children? What we will see is that Dr. Craig's attempts to explain evil and human suffering in conjunction with the existence of the traditional God of theism fall far short of meeting their mark.
This note is intended to describe why, from an artistic and anatomical perspective, the shroud image is an embarrassingly obvious fraud committed by a Gothic artist following the standard conventions of his time. The artistic errors are so severe that it is impossible for the shroud to record the image of an actual human body—unless it was a very seriously pathological person with a brain the size of a Homo erectus.
The philosopher René Descartes famously pondered the question of the possibility of God's deceit. If God was deceitful, we as his creations could never trust anything we contemplate or perceive; it may simply be a deceitful, omnipotent God directly warping our faculties or, as our creator, deliberately constructing us with faulty, unreliable faculties to start with. To dodge this disturbing possibility, Descartes argued that God, a perfect being, could not be deceitful because deceit is a fault, an imperfection. This simple stratagem appeared to satisfy Descartes. But was Descartes on to something more insidious and unthinkable than he was willing to contemplate; was he too hasty in sweeping this concern under the rug?
As far as I can tell, Christianity in the UK is moving slowly in small steps towards rationality and away from the excesses of fundamentalism that we harp about. Rationalists should recognize this, helping people to make the small changes they are willing to take rather than making them change all their beliefs at once and thus giving them an impossible hurdle to jump over.
"The Ten Commandments (Really!)" is a casual, sometimes sarcastically humorous, but honest, review of the story of the Ten Commandments in the book of Exodus. Do you think that you know the Ten Commandments? The author doubts that you do.
"Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are among the most intellectually formidable, witty and persuasive atheists currently writing. Although Harris tends to attack theism from a philosophical standpoint, and Hitchens prefers consulting history and using religions' own texts against them, both have elegantly articulated a sound, unanswerable argument against Christianity (and every other religion currently vying for adherents among people who ought to know better). I shall call it The Argument from Mundanity."
"I often find myself humbly suggesting that it is possible to raise children every bit as ethical, caring, loving, humane, inspired and well-adjusted without religion as with it. I don't believe parenting without religion is merely "as good" as parenting with it--I think it is immeasurably better. I think it blows the doors off religious parenting in every respect--powerful inquiry, reasoned ethics, ecstatic inspiration, cosmic humility and profound humanity. No need to waste time raining reason on the deaf ears of the faithful. Let the baby have his bottle. Our time is better spent clearing a space for the rest of us to dance with our children."
Although radical Islam is spreading, not much is known in Western countries about the Koran, and there seems to be an unwillingness to have a closer look at the book. Yet without this, informed discussion is impossible, and what debate does take place is no more than an exchange of opinion and ignorance. Amongst other things, the Koran is said to call for holy war and to sanction domestic violence. But when asked about this, Muslims and Western apologists flatly deny this. They maintain that the Koran does not preach violence, only compassion and justice (and one should well ask whose justice)--yet the Koran does not support their claims. One cannot rebut them without precise quotes. I have gone through the Koran and precisely referenced some very disturbing passages to bring these issues out into the open and to stimulate much-needed discussion, issues raised which need to be addressed openly and publicly, in the West and in Muslim countries alike.
Edward Tabash, a constitutional and civil rights attorney, critically analyzes Faith on Trial by attorney Pamela Binnings Ewen. Whereas Ewen attempts to show that a trial conducted under the Federal Rules of Evidence would uphold the claim that Jesus was supernaturally resurrected following his execution, Tabash argues that the so-called evidence of Jesus' supernatural resurrection would not even be admitted into evidence, thus the jury would not even get to hear it--let alone decide if it were true.
Ever wonder how you can be saved? Christians can't agree, and the confusion is embarrassing. A survey of sixteen major denominations proves the point.
Can you apply a skeptical empiricism to religious beliefs? The author answers, "yes"--and religion comes up short. In place of theism, Young offers what Einstein called "a cosmic religious feeling," in this excerpt adapted from his book.
For two millennia in Christendom every generation has been the last generation. Just in time, Edward Babinski is here to explain the delay.