Last updated: January 19, 2020
IMPORTANT: All submissions in response to this Call for Papers should be submitted according to the Scholarly Paper Submission Guidelines for publication in the Secular Web Modern Library.
Is Biological Evolution Evidence for God’s Nonexistence?
Many conservative Christians and lay atheists alike claim that if biological evolution is true, then God does not exist. Ironically, while many conservative Christians have attacked evolution because it supposedly entails atheism, no contemporary atheist philosopher has used evolution as evidence for atheism. Indeed, the only philosopher who has formulated an argument for the claim that evolution is evidence against theism and for metaphysical naturalism is agnostic philosopher Paul Draper. Draper defends an evidential argument from evolution for naturalism. Specifically, he grants that evolution is logically compatible with the existence of God. However, he argues that, all other things held equal, known facts about the origin of complex life are prima facie evidence against theism. Draper summarizes his argument as follows:
- Evolution is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true [i.e., Pr(E|N) >> Pr(E|T)].
- The statement that pain and pleasure systematically connected to reproductive success is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that evolutionary naturalism is true than on the assumption that evolutionary theism is true [i.e., Pr(P|E&N) >> Pr(P|E&T)].
- Therefore, evolution conjoined with this statement about pain and pleasure is antecedently very much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true [i.e., Pr(E&P|N) >> Pr(E&P|T)]. (from 1 and 2)
- Naturalism is at least as plausible as theism [i.e., other evidence held equal, Pr(N) ≥ Pr(T)].
- Therefore, other evidence held equal, naturalism is very much more probable than theism [i.e., other evidence held equal, Pr(N|E&P) >> Pr(T|E&P)]. (from 3 and 4)
- Naturalism entails that theism is false.
- Therefore, other evidence held equal, it is highly probable that theism is false [i.e., other evidence held equal, Pr(T|E&P) << ½]. (from 5 and 6)
We’re interested in publishing papers which comment on Draper’s argument. See Paul Draper, “Evolution and the Problem of Evil” in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (3rd ed., ed. Louis Pojman, Wadsworth, 1997), pp. 219-230; cf. Louis P. Pojman, Philosophy of Religion (Waveland, 2008 [originally Mayfield, 2001]), chapter 6.
Is the Scale of the Universe Evidence for God’s Nonexistence?
In his book, The Non-Existence of God, philosopher Nicholas Everitt provides the first detailed analysis and defense of the argument from scale for God’s nonexistence. Everitt formulates his argument as follows:
- If the God of classical theism existed, with the purposes traditionally ascribed to him, then he would create a universe on a human scale, i.e. one that is not unimaginably large, unimaginably old, and in which human beings form an unimaginably tiny part of it, temporally and spatially.
- The world does not display a human scale.
- Therefore, there is evidence against the hypothesis that the God of classical theism exists with the purposes traditionally ascribed to him.
Does the scale of the universe provide evidence against the God of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam? What about “God in general?” We’re interested in publishing a discussion of these and related topics. See Nicholas Everitt, The Non-Existence of God (New York, NY: Routledge, 2004), pp. 213-226.
Are Theodore M. Drange’s objections to J. L. Schellenberg’s Argument from Inculpable Nonbelief Sound? Can Schellenberg’s Leading Objection to Daniel Howard-Snyder’s Inappropriate-Response Defense of Theism be surmounted?
In his Secular Web essay “Nonbelief as Support for Atheism,” Theodore M. Drange raises objections to J. L. Schellenberg’s formulation of the atheistic argument from inculpable nonbelief (sometimes called the divine-hiddenness argument), but no reply to those objections has ever been published. Are Drange’s objections sound? Has he established that his own so-called argument from nonbelief (ANB) is superior to the argument put forward by Schellenberg? In the same essay Drange considers Daniel Howard-Snyder’s inappropriate-response defense (IRD) against ANB, and endorses one of Schellenberg’s objections to that defense. Has Howard-Snyder’s IRD thereby been irredeemably refuted?
Note: Books are listed in chronological order according to publication date, from most recent to least recent; prices shown are list prices, but these books can usually be purchased new or used by clicking on the book title links below.)
The Case Against Miracles ed. John W. Loftus. United States of America: Hypatia Press, 2019. Pp 644. $20.99 (Paper)
For as long as the idea of “miracles” has been in the public sphere, the definitions of a miracle have been forged by the same men who fought hard to promote their own beliefs as fitting under that umbrella. Incorporating his own thoughts along with those of noted academics, philosophers, and theologians, atheist author John W. Loftus offers his own definition of “miracle” and aims to show why there’s no reason to believe such a thing even exists. As a critical analysis of the very idea of miracles, this compilation represents the most extensive look at the phenomenon ever displayed through the lens of an ardent nonbeliever. Divided into three parts—”Miracles and the Abject Failure of Christian Apologetics,” “Properly Investigating the Miracle of Biblical Revelation,” and “Properly Investigating Key Biblical Miracles”—its contributors include such luminaries as Matt McCormick, Edward T. Babinski, Valerie Tarico, Robert M. Price, and Evan Fales.
The Design Argument by Elliott Sober. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019. Pp 94, $18 (Paper)
In this brief contribution to the series Cambridge Elements in the Philosophy of Religion, Elliott Sober analyzes the various forms that design arguments for the existence of God can take, but the main focus is on two such arguments. The first concerns the complex adaptive features that organisms have. Creationists who advance this argument contend that evolution by natural selection cannot be the right explanation. The second design argument—the argument from fine-tuning—begins with the fact that life could not exist in our universe if the constants found in the laws of physics had values that differed more than a little from their actual values. Since probability is the main analytical tool used, like his earlier Ockham’s Razors, the book also provides a convenient primer on probability theory.
God, Soul and the Meaning of Life by Thaddeus Metz. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019. Pp 62, $18 (Paper)
In this brief contribution to the series Cambridge Elements in the Philosophy of Religion, Thaddeus Metz critically explores the potential relevance of God or a soul for life’s meaning as discussed in recent philosophical literature. There have been four broad views: God or a soul is necessary for meaning in our lives; neither is necessary for it; one or both would greatly enhance the meaning in our lives; one or both would substantially detract from it. This book familiarizes readers with all four positions, paying particular attention to the latter two, and presents prima facie objections to them, points out gaps in research agendas, and suggests argumentative strategies that merit development.
Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J. P. Moreland. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018. Pp 224. $16.99 (Paper)
According to J. P. Moreland’s Scientism and Secularism, rigid adherence to scientism—as opposed to a healthy respect for science—is all too prevalent in our world today. Rather than leading to a deeper understanding of our universe, scientism actually undermines real science and marginalizes morality and religion. In this book, Christian apologist J. P. Moreland aims to expose the self-defeating nature of scientism and rails against scientism’s purportedly harmful presence in different aspects of culture, calling on us to witness to biblical Christianity and integrate faith and science.
The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions by David Benatar. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp 288, $24.95 (Cloth)
Are our lives meaningful, or meaningless? Is our inevitable death a bad thing? Would immortality be an improvement? Would it be better, all things considered, to hasten our deaths by suicide? Many people ask these big questions—and some people are plagued by them. Surprisingly, analytic philosophers have said relatively little about these important questions about the meaning of life. When they have tackled the big questions, they have tended, like popular writers, to offer comforting, optimistic answers. The Human Predicament invites readers to take a clear-eyed and unfettered view of the human condition. Here David Benatar argues that while our lives can have some meaning, we are ultimately the insignificant beings that we fear we might be. He maintains that the quality of life, although less bad for some than for others, leaves much to be desired in even the best cases. Worse, death is generally not a solution; in fact, it exacerbates rather than mitigates our cosmic meaninglessness. While it can release us from suffering, it imposes another cost—annihilation. This state of affairs has nuanced implications for how we should think about many things, including immortality and suicide, and how we should think about the possibility of deeper meaning in our lives. Ultimately, this thoughtful, provocative, and deeply candid treatment of life’s big questions will interest anyone who has contemplated why we are here, and what the answer means for how we should live.
Renewing Philosophy of Religion: Exploratory Essays ed. Paul Draper and J. L. Schellenberg. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp 242. $60 (Cloth)
Philosophy of religion needs to change; what is wrong with it and how to fix it are delineated in thirteen new essays by Sonia Sikka, Yujin Nagasawa, Stephen Maitzen, Eric Steinhart, Mark Wynn, John Bishop, Robert McKim, Wesley J. Wildman, David Rohr, J. Aaron Simmons, Graham Oppy, Jason Marsh, Clare Carlisle, and Wes Morriston. Part I explores possible changes to the focus of the field, ranging over such topics as how an emphasis on faith distorts attempts to engage non-western religious ideas, how philosophers from different traditions might collaborate on common interests, why the common presupposition of ultimacy leads to error, how new religious movements feed a naturalistic philosophy of religion, why both a focus on belief and on practice are mistaken, why philosophy’s values should set much of the field’s agenda, and on how the field might contribute to religious evolution. Part II focuses on the standpoint from which philosophers of religion should approach their field. This part includes a qualitative analysis of the standpoint of fifty-one philosophers of religion, addresses the implausibility of claiming that one’s own worldview is uniquely rational, considers a middle way between ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives, and explores what we could learn if we could get past the confessional turn in recent philosophy of religion. The goal of the volume is to identify new paths for philosophers of religion that are distinct from those travelled by theologians and other scholars of religion.
Five Proofs of the Existence of God by Edward Feser. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2017. Pp 336. $19.95 (Paper)
Five Proofs of the Existence of God provides a detailed, updated exposition and defense of five of the historically most important (but in recent years largely neglected) philosophical proofs of God’s existence: the Aristotelian, the Neo-Platonic, the Augustinian, the Thomistic, and the Rationalist. It also offers a thorough treatment of each of the key divine attributes—unity, simplicity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, and so forth. Finally, it answers at length all of the objections that have been leveled against these proofs. This work aims to vindicate the view that the existence of God can be established with certainty by way of purely rational arguments. It thereby attempts to refute both atheism and the fideism that gives comfort to atheism.
Life, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions (3rd edition) ed. David Benatar. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016. Pp 484, $24.95 (Cloth)
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better to be immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Since Life, Death, and Meaning first appeared, David Benatar’s distinctive anthology designed to introduce students to the key existential questions of philosophy has won a devoted following among users in a variety of upper-level and even introductory courses. Students and educated laypersons who read through the anthology will become familiar with some of the best and most representative works in the field, which include many of the most central and important arguments on the issues discussed. While the articles are interesting and of a very high academic level, they are not too technical, too long, or otherwise difficult for students or the educated public to follow. Although there are already some anthologies that discuss the meaning of life, none relate the topic to questions of immortality, death, suicide, or the benefit of coming into existence as this one does.
Ockham’s Razors: A User’s Manual by Elliott Sober. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp 314, $29.99 (Paper)
Ockham’s razor, the principle of parsimony, states that simpler theories are better than theories that are more complex. It has a history dating back to Aristotle and it plays an important role in current physics, biology, and psychology. The razor also gets used outside of science—in everyday life and in philosophy. This book evaluates the principle and discusses its many applications. Fascinating examples from different domains provide a rich basis for contemplating the principle’s promises and perils. It is obvious that simpler theories are beautiful and easy to understand; the hard problem is to figure out why the simplicity of a theory should be relevant to saying what the world is like. In this book, the ABCs of probability theory are succinctly developed and put to work to describe two ‘parsimony paradigms’ within which this problem can be solved.
Scientism: The New Orthodoxy ed. Richard N. Williams and Daniel N. Robinson. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. Pp 200. $112 (Cloth)
Scientism: The New Orthodoxy aims to provide a comprehensive philosophical overview of the question of scientism, discussing the role and place of science in the humanities, religion, and the social sciences. After defining the key terms in play in discussions of scientism, this collection identifies the dimensions that differentiate science from scientism. Leading scholars appraise the means available to science, covering the impact of the neurosciences and the new challenges it presents for the law and the self. Illustrating the effect of scientism on the social sciences and the humanities, the volume addresses what science is and what it is not. This provocative collection includes contributions from Peter Hacker, Bas van Fraassen, Daniel N. Robinson, Kenneth Schaffner, Roger Scruton, James K. A. Smith, Richard Swinburne, Lawrence Principe, and Richard N. Williams.
The Problem of Animal Pain: A Theodicy for All Creatures Great and Small by Trent Dougherty. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Pp 197. $105 (Cloth)
The problem of evil constitutes the greatest challenge to rational belief in the existence of God. Animal suffering constitutes perhaps the most powerful version of the problem. Considerations that sometimes render human suffering theologically intelligible seem inapplicable to nonhuman animals. It is commonly held that animals do not have morally significant free will, immortal souls, or a direct relationship with God. In The Problem of Animal Pain, Trent Dougherty defends radical possibilities for an animal afterlife that open the door for a soul-making theodicy to apply to animals. He defends the idea that animals have souls and a novel model of materialist resurrection in case they don’t. He then proposes that animals will undergo union with God and be given the expanded cognitive resources to understand and embrace their place in the scheme of salvation. Along the way we get tours of probability theory, four-dimensionalism, and chimpanzee behavior.
Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails ed. John W. Loftus. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2014. Pp 555. $20 (Paper)
In this new anthology critiquing Christianity, John W. Loftus—a former minister and now a leading atheist—has brought together an outstanding group of respected scholars who focus on the harms caused by the world’s leading religion. The contributors begin by dissecting the many problematic aspects of religious faith generally. They repeatedly demonstrate that, with faith as a foundation, almost anything can be believed or denied. And almost any horrific deed can be committed. The authors then take a good hard look at many of the most important political, institutional, scientific, social, and moral harms committed in the name of Christianity. These range from the historical persecutions of the Inquisition and witch hunts to the current health hazards of faith healing. Finally, the authors answer three common Christian retorts to criticisms from nonbelievers: (1) that atheists cannot judge a harmful action without an objective moral standard; (2) that atheists need faith to solve the world’s problems; and (3) that atheists cannot live a good life without faith. Loftus and the contributors generally conclude that, given both the well-documented historical record and ongoing problems raised by the faith, Christianity decisively fails empirical tests of its usefulness to humanity.
Beyond Morality by Richard Garner. Brattleboro, VT: Echo Point Books & Media, 2014 (reprint edition). Pp 420, $29.95 (Cloth) $21.95 (Paper)
“Morality and religion have failed because they are based on duplicity and fantasy. We need something new.” This bold statement is the driving force behind Richard Garner’s Beyond Morality. In his book, Garner presents an insightful defense of moral error theory—the idea that our moral thought and discourse is systemically flawed. Establishing his argument with a discerning survey of historical and contemporary moral beliefs from around the world, Garner critically evaluates the plausibility of these beliefs and ultimately finds them wanting. In response, Garner suggests that humanity must “get beyond morality” by rejecting traditional language and thought about good and bad, right and wrong. He encourages readers to adhere to an alternative system of thought: “informed, compassionate amoralism,” a blend of compassion, nonduplicity, and clarity of language that Garner believes will nurture our capability for tolerance, creation, and cooperation. By abandoning illusion and learning to listen to others and ourselves, Garner insists that society can and will find harmony.
The Oxford Handbook of Atheism ed. Stephen Bullivant and Michael Ruse. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp 780, $150 (Cloth) $50 (Paper)
The Oxford Handbook of Atheism is a pioneering edited volume, exploring atheism—understood in the broad sense of “an absence of belief in the existence of a God or gods”—in all the richness and diversity of its historical and contemporary expressions. Bringing together an international team of established and emerging scholars, it probes the varied manifestations and implications of unbelief from an array of disciplinary perspectives (philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology, demography, psychology, natural sciences, gender and sexuality studies, literary criticism, film studies, musicology) and in a range of global contexts (Western Europe, North America, post-Communist Europe, the Islamic world, Japan, India). Both surveying and synthesizing previous work, and presenting the major fruits of innovative recent research, the handbook is set to be a landmark text for the study of atheism.
Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem ed. Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Pp 480. $114 (Cloth) $38 (Paper)
What sets the practice of rigorously tested, sound science apart from pseudoscience? In this volume multiple contributors seek to answer this problem of demarcation, an issue that has stretched as far back as the early twentieth century and the work of Karl Popper. But by the late 1980s, scholars began to treat the demarcation problem as impossible to solve and futile to ponder. In this volume Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry have assembled essays that make a rousing case for the unequivocal importance of reflecting on the separation between pseudoscience and sound science. Far from a purely academic enterprise, the demarcation problem affects parents’ decisions to vaccinate children and governments’ willingness to adopt policies that prevent climate change. Using the superficial language and the trappings of actual scientific research, pseudoscience often mimics science in order to seem more respectable. Even a well-informed public can be taken in by questionable theories dressed up as science. Now more than ever the ability to separate genuine scientific findings from spurious ones is vital, and The Philosophy of Pseudoscience provides ground for philosophers, sociologists, historians, and laypeople to make decisions about what science is or isn’t.
The Trial of Pope Benedict: Joseph Ratzinger and the Vatican’s Assault on Reason, Compassion, and Human Dignity by Daniel Gawthrop. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2013. Pp 304. $15.95 (Paper)
On February 28, 2013, Benedict XVI became the first pope in nearly six hundred years to resign. In doing so, Joseph Ratzinger, the man who became Benedict, also relinquished a controversial religious career in which he was largely responsible for the Catholic Church’s prodigious troubles: his scorched-earth assault on modernity and the world of ideas destroyed any hope of progress in the Church while leaving a trail of shattered lives in its wake. In this persuasive new book, Daniel Gawthrop argues that Ratzinger must not be allowed diplomatic immunity from the abuse scandals that have rocked the Vatican. Gawthrop not only accuses Ratzinger of quitting to avoid potential prosecution, but also indicts him for promoting a toxic theology whose destructive impact can be felt far beyond the Church. In doing so, the book examines Ratzinger’s career in all its infamy, from his medieval understanding of women and demonization of homosexuality to his war on liberation theology. It also offers insight into Ratzinger’s successor, Pope Francis I, and provocative ideas on how the Church can transform itself, thereby restoring the faith of its followers.
50 Simple Questions for Every Christian by Guy P. Harrison. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2013. Pp 350. $18.00 (Paper)
Written in a respectful and conversational style, this unique book is designed to promote constructive dialogue and foster mutual understanding between Christians and non-Christians. The author, a skeptic and journalist, asks basic questions about Christian belief. What is the born-again experience? Why would God want to sacrifice his only son for the world? Do miracles really happen? How reliable is the Bible? What is the Rapture? Why isn’t everyone a Christian? Each question is followed by commentary and analysis that is skeptical and tough but never argumentative or condescending. Christians will find the book useful as a basis for developing their apologetics, while skeptics will welcome Harrison’s probing rational analysis of religious claims. This will enlighten, educate, and inspire thoughtful reflection on topics that are central to history’s most popular religion.
The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True by John W. Loftus. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2013. Pp 275. $18.00 (Paper)
This is a timely look at how to foster mutual understanding between believers and nonbelievers by viewing religion from an outsider’s perspective. Depending on how one defines “religion,” there are thousands of religions in the world. Given such religious diversity, how can any one religion claim to know the truth? Nothing proposed so far has helped us settle which of these religions, if any, are true—until now. Former minister and atheist John Loftus thinks that we would all be better off if we reviewed any religion—including our own—with the informed skepticism of an outsider. For this reason, he has devised the “outsider test for faith.” He describes it as a variation of the Golden Rule—”Do unto your faith what you do to other faiths.” Essentially this means applying the same skepticism to our own beliefs as we do to others. At a time when the vast diversity of human belief systems is accessible to all, the outsider test of faith offers a rational means for fostering mutual understanding.
The Turbulent Universe by Paul Kurtz. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2013. Pp 310. $20.00 (Paper)
In a work that blends realism and optimism, philosopher Paul Kurtz lays out the basic principles of an ethical approach that he calls humanist eupraxsophy—that is, the application of practical moral choices inspired by scientific wisdom. Emphasizing the dramatic character of the biosphere, human affairs, and the physical universe itself, Kurtz has structured the book in terms of an operatic scenario, with an overture, intermezzo, nine acts, and a grand finale. Citing the emergence of a new planetary civilization, he proposes the development of a planetary ethics based on universal human rights, free scientific inquiry unfettered by dogma, an attitude of exuberance toward human potentials, and courage and determination in the face of the daunting challenges of our time.
God and the Atom by Victor J. Stenger. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2013. Pp 300. $25.00 (Cloth)
This is the fascinating story of one of science’s most enduring and triumphant ideas—from its genesis to the 21st century. In this history of atomism—from Democritus, considered by many to be the father of modern science, to the recent discovery of the Higgs boson—physicist Victor J. Stenger chronicles one of the most successful scientific hypotheses ever devised. Originating separately in both Greece and India, the concept of the atom persisted for centuries, despite often running afoul of conventional thinking. Until the 20th century, no direct evidence for atoms existed. Today it is possible to actually observe atoms using a scanning tunneling microscope. In God and the Atom, Victor J. Stenger makes the case that the total absence of empirical facts and theoretical arguments to support the existence of any component to reality other than atoms and the void can be taken as proof beyond a reasonable doubt that such a component is nowhere to be found.
Atheism and the Case Against Christ by Matt McCormick. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2012. Pp 330. $19.00 (Paper)
Hundreds of millions of people believe that Jesus came back from the dead. Philosopher Matthew S. McCormick presents a decidedly unpopular view in this cogent, forcefully argued book—namely, that the central tenet of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus, is false. McCormick asks a number of probing questions: Is the evidence about Jesus as it has been relayed to us over the centuries of sufficient quantity and quality to justify belief in the resurrection? How can we accept the resurrection but reject magic at the Salem witch trials? What light does contemporary research about human rationality from the fields of behavioral economics, empirical psychology, cognitive science, and philosophy shed on the resurrection and religious belief? Can we use contemporary research about the reliability of people’s beliefs in the supernatural, miracles, and the paranormal to shed light on the origins of Christianity and other religions? Does it make sense that the all-powerful creator of the universe would employ miracles to achieve his ends? Can a Christian believe by faith alone and yet reasonably deny the supernatural claims of other religions? Do the arguments against Christianity support atheism? By carefully answering each of these questions, Atheism and the Case against Christ undermines Christianity and theism at their foundations; it gives us a powerful model for better critical reasoning; and it builds a compelling case for atheism. Without stooping to condescension or arrogance, McCormick offers persuasive arguments that are accessible, thoughtful, and new.
The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates by Howard Bloom. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2012. Pp 575. $18.48 (Paper)
God’s war crimes, Aristotle’s sneaky tricks, Galileo’s creationism, Newton’s intelligent design, entropy’s errors, Einstein’s pajamas, John Conway’s game of loneliness, information theory’s blind spot, Stephen Wolfram’s new kind of science, and six monkeys at six typewriters getting it wrong. What do these have to do with the birth of a universe and with your need for meaning? Everything, according to Howard Bloom.
God in the Age of Science? by Herman Philipse. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp 400. $75.00 (Cloth)
God in the Age of Science? is a critical examination of strategies for the philosophical defense of religious belief. The main options may be presented as the end nodes of a decision tree for religious believers. The faithful can interpret a creedal statement (e.g., “God exists”) either as a truth claim, or otherwise. If it is a truth claim, they can either be warranted to endorse it without evidence, or not. Finally, if evidence is needed, should its evidential support be assessed by the same logical criteria that we use in evaluating evidence in science, or not? Each of these options has been defended by prominent analytic philosophers of religion. In part I Herman Philipse assesses these options and argues that the most promising one for believers who want to be justified in accepting their creed in our scientific age is the Bayesian cumulative case strategy developed by Richard Swinburne. Parts II and III are devoted to an in-depth analysis of this case for theism. Using a “strategy of subsidiary arguments,” Philipse concludes: (1) that theism cannot be stated meaningfully; (2) that if theism were meaningful, it would have no predictive power concerning existing evidence, so that Bayesian arguments cannot get started; and (3) that if the Bayesian cumulative case strategy did work, one should conclude that atheism is more probable than theism. Philipse provides a careful, rigorous, and original critique of theism in the world today.
Probability in the Philosophy of Religion ed. Jake Chandler and Victoria S. Harrison. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp 272. $80 (Cloth)
Probability theory promises to deliver an exact and unified foundation for inquiry in epistemology and philosophy of science. But philosophy of religion is also fertile ground for the application of probabilistic thinking. This volume presents original contributions from twelve contemporary researchers, both established and emerging, to offer a representative sample of the work currently being carried out in this potentially rich field of inquiry. Grouped into five parts, the chapters span a broad range of traditional issues in religious epistemology. The first three parts discuss the evidential impact of various considerations that have been brought to bear on the question of the existence of God. These include witness reports of the occurrence of miraculous events, the existence of complex biological adaptations, the apparent ‘fine-tuning’ for life of various physical constants, and the existence of seemingly unnecessary evil. The fourth part addresses a number of issues raised by Pascal’s wager. A final part offers probabilistic perspectives on the rationality of faith and the epistemic significance of religious disagreement.
Objecting to God by Colin Howson. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp 232. $88.00 (Cloth); $29.99 (Paper)
The growth of science and a correspondingly scientific way of looking at evidence have for the last three centuries slowly been gaining ground over religious explanations of the cosmos and mankind’s place in it. However, not only is secularism now under renewed attack from religious fundamentalism, but it has also been widely claimed that the scientific evidence itself points strongly to a universe deliberately fine-tuned for life to evolve in it. In addition, certain aspects of human life, like consciousness and the ability to recognize the existence of universal moral standards, seem completely resistant to evolutionary explanation. In this book Colin Howson analyses in detail the evidence which is claimed to support belief in God’s existence and argues that the claim is not well-founded. Moreover, there is very compelling evidence that an all-powerful, all-knowing God not only does not exist but cannot exist, a conclusion both surprising and provocative.
Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts by Craig S. Keener. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011. Pp 1210. $75.00 (Cloth)
According to New Testament scholar Craig S. Keener, most modern prejudice against biblical miracle reports depends on David Hume’s argument that uniform human experience precludes miracles. Yet hundreds of millions of people today claim to have experienced miracles. Keener argues that it is time to rethink Hume’s argument in light of the contemporary evidence available to us. This wide-ranging and meticulously researched two-volume study presents the most thorough current defense of the credibility of the miracle reports in the Gospels and Acts. Drawing on claims from a range of global cultures and taking a multidisciplinary approach to the topic, Keener suggests that many miracle accounts throughout history and from contemporary times are best explained as genuine divine acts, lending credence to the biblical miracle reports.
Reasonable Atheism: A Moral Case For Respectful Disbelief by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2011. Pp 219. $20.00 (Paper)
Reasonable Atheism presents a compelling argument both for atheism and the necessity of mutual respect and open debate. Recent research suggests that atheists are one of the least trusted social groups. Perhaps compounding this negative impression is the attack-dog persona taken on in the past decade by the ‘New Atheists.’ Not only have they been quite public about their disbelief, but they’ve also stridently lambasted religious belief in a number of bestselling books. Disturbed by this negative public perception and the deterioration in the tone of open debate, the authors of this eminently reasonable work attempt to introduce a note of civility and rational clarity. The heart of the book is the authors’ moral case for atheism. Atheism, they contend, manifests a decidedly moral concern for others and their well-being. They further argue that atheism is driven by the kinds of moral considerations that should be familiar to all religious believers.
Morality Without God? (Philosophy in Action) by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp 192. $14.95 (Paper)
Some argue that atheism must be false, since without God, no values are possible, and thus “everything is permitted.” Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that God is not only not essential to morality, but that our moral behavior should be utterly independent of religion. He attacks several core ideas: that atheists are inherently immoral people; that any society will sink into chaos if it is becomes too secular; that without morality, we have no reason to be moral; that absolute moral standards require the existence of God; and that without religion, we simply couldn’t know what is wrong and what is right.
The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions by Alex Rosenberg. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. Pp 368. $25.95 (Cloth)
We can’t avoid persistent questions about the meaning of life and the nature of reality. Alex Rosenberg maintains that science is the only thing that can really answer all of them. His bracing and ultimately upbeat book takes physics seriously as the complete description of reality and accepts all its consequences. He shows how physics makes Darwinian natural selection the only way life can emerge, and how that deprives nature of purpose, and human action of meaning, while it exposes conscious illusions such as free will and the self. The science that makes us nonbelievers provides the insight into the real difference between right and wrong, the nature of the mind, even the direction of human history. The Atheist’s Guide to Reality draws powerful implications for the ethical and political issues that roil contemporary life. The result is nice nihilism, a surprisingly sanguine perspective atheists can happily embrace.
The God Debates: A 21st Century Guide for Atheists and Believers (and Everyone in Between) by John R. Shook. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2010. Pp 241. $105 (Cloth) $21.00 (Paper)
The God Debates explains key arguments for and against God’s existence in clear ways for readers at all levels, and brings theological debates up to date with current ideas from modernism, postmodernism, fideism, evidentialism, presuppositionalism, and mysticism. It’s structured according the latest terms of the God debates and provides an overview of religious and nonreligious worldviews, as well as predictions about the future of faith and reason.
The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails ed. John W. Loftus. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010. Pp 422. $21.00 (Paper)
In this anthology of recent criticisms aimed at the reasonableness of Christian belief, former evangelical minister and apologist John W. Loftus has assembled fifteen outstanding articles by leading skeptics expanding on themes introduced in his Loftus’ Why I Became an Atheist. Central is a defense of Loftus’ “outsider’s test of faith,” arguing that believers should test their faith as if they were outsiders with the same skeptical standards they use to evaluate the other faiths they reject. Experts in medicine, psychology, and anthropology join Loftus to show in four chapters why, when this test is applied to Christianity, it becomes very difficult to rationally defend. Three chapters follow that demonstrate errors and superstitions throughout the Bible, making any claim of the Bible being God’s word nearly impossible to sustain. Two chapters expose the immorality of the biblical God, with an innovative argument from animal suffering and a cogent reply to Christians who attempt to defend the depravity of the Bible’s God. Three chapters then focus on why it is unreasonable to believe that Jesus is the risen son of God. Finally, the contributors show why Christianity does not provide the basis for morality, why atheism was not the reason Hitler murdered so many, and why Christianity was not responsible for modern science. Contributors include Hector Avalos, Richard Carrier, David Eller, and Robert Price.
The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion (Cambridge Companions to Religion) ed. Peter Harrison. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp 307, $34.99 (Paper)
In recent years, the relations between science and religion have been the object of renewed attention. Developments in physics, biology, and the neurosciences have reinvigorated discussions about the nature of life and ultimate reality. At the same time, the growth of antievolutionary and intelligent design movements has led many to the view that science and religion are necessarily in conflict. This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the relations between science and religion, with contributions from historians, philosophers, scientists, and theologians. It explores the impact of religion on the origins and development of science, religious reactions to Darwinism, and the link between science and secularization. It also offers in-depth discussions of contemporary issues, with perspectives from cosmology, evolutionary biology, psychology, and bioethics. The volume is rounded out with philosophical reflections on the connections between atheism and science, the nature of scientific and religious knowledge, and divine action and human freedom.
Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne. New York, NY: Viking, 2010. Pp 282, $29.95 (Paper)
In the current debate about creationism and intelligent design, there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned—the evidence. Yet the evidence of evolution by natural selection is vast, varied, and magnificent. In this succinct and accessible summary of the facts supporting the theory of natural selection, Jerry A. Coyne dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms the scientific truth that supports this amazing process of change. Weaving together the many threads of modern work in genetics, paleontology, geology, molecular biology, and anatomy that demonstrate the “indelible stamp” of the processes first proposed by Darwin, Why Evolution is True does not aim to prove creationism wrong. Rather, by using irrefutable evidence, it sets out to prove evolution right.
Theism and Explanation (Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Religion) by Gregory W. Dawes. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009. Pp 222. $125.00 (Cloth)
In Theism and Explanation Gregory W. Dawes defends the methodological naturalism of the sciences. Though religions offer what appear to be explanations of various facts about the world, the scientist, as scientist, will not take such proposed explanations seriously. Even if no natural explanation were available, she will assume that one exists. Is this merely a sign of atheistic prejudice, as some critics suggest? Or are there good reasons to exclude from science explanations that invoke a supernatural agent? On the one hand, Dawes concedes the bare possibility that talk of divine action could constitute a potential explanation of some state of affairs, while noting that the conditions under which this would be true are unlikely ever to be fulfilled. On the other hand, he argues that a proposed explanation of this kind would rate poorly, when measured against our usual standards of explanatory virtue.
Naturalism (Interventions) by Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008. Pp 132. $16.00 (Paper)
Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro present a succinct and accessible critique of metaphysical naturalism in both its “strict” and “broad” forms. Their critique argues that either form of naturalism will have implausible consequences for the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of action, value theory and metaethics, philosophy of religion, teleological explanation, and causation.
The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy) ed. Michael Martin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp 352, $27.99 (Paper)
In this volume, eighteen of the world’s leading scholars present original essays on various aspects of atheism: its history, both ancient and modern, defense and implications. The topic is examined in terms of its implications for a wide range of disciplines including philosophy, religion, feminism, postmodernism, sociology and psychology. In its defense, both classical and contemporary theistic arguments are criticized, and, the argument from evil, and impossibility arguments, along with a nonreligious basis for morality are defended. These essays give a broad understanding of atheism and a lucid introduction to this controversial topic.
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Pp 416, $27.00 (Cloth)
Dawkins critiques God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. In so doing, he makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just irrational, but potentially deadly. Dawkins has fashioned an impassioned, rigorous rebuttal to religion, to be embraced by anyone who sputters at the inconsistencies and cruelties that riddle the Bible, bristles at the inanity of “intelligent design,” or agonizes over fundamentalism in the Middle East—or Middle America.
Arguing about Gods by Graham Oppy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp 472, $90.00 (Cloth)
Graham Oppy examines contemporary arguments for and against the existence of God. He shows that none of these arguments are persuasive enough to change the minds of those participants on the question of the existence of God. His conclusion is supported by detailed analyses of contemporary arguments, as well as by the development of a theory about the purpose of arguments, and the criteria that should be used in judging whether or not an argument is successful. Oppy discusses the work of a wide array of philosophers, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Kant and Hume, and more recently, Plantinga, Dembski, White, Dawkins, Bergman, Gale, and Pruss.
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett. New York, NY: Viking Adult, 2006. Pp 464, $25.95 (Cloth)
In a spirited narrative that ranges widely through history, philosophy, and psychology, Dennett explores how organized religion evolved from folk beliefs and why it is such a potent force today. Deftly and lucidly, he contends that the “belief in belief” has fogged any attempt to rationally consider the existence of God and the relationship between divinity and human need. Breaking the Spell is not an antireligious screed but rather an eye-opening exploration of the role that belief plays in our lives, our interactions, and our country. With the gulf between rationalists and adherents of “intelligent design” widening daily, Dennett has written a timely and provocative book that will be read and passionately debated by believers and nonbelievers alike.
Philosophers Without Gods: Atheism in a World of Believers ed. Louise Antony. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp 304. (Cloth)
Atheists are frequently demonized as arrogant intellectuals, antagonistic to religion, devoid of moral sentiments, advocates of an “anything goes” lifestyle. In this revealing volume, nineteen leading philosophers open a window on the inner life of atheism, shattering these common stereotypes as they reveal how they came to turn away from religious belief. These highly engaging personal essays capture the marvelous diversity to be found among atheists, providing a portrait that will surprise most readers. Many of the authors, for example, express great affection for particular religious traditions, even as they explain why they cannot, in good conscience, embrace them. None of the contributors dismiss religious belief as stupid or primitive, and several even express regret that they cannot, or can no longer, believe. Perhaps more important, in these reflective pieces, they offer fresh insight into some of the oldest and most difficult problems facing the human mind and spirit. For instance, if God is dead, is everything permitted? Philosophers Without Gods demonstrates convincingly, with arguments that date back to Plato, that morality is independent of the existence of God. Indeed, every writer in this volume adamantly affirms the objectivity of right and wrong. Moreover, they contend that secular life can provide rewards as great and as rich as religious life. A naturalistic understanding of the human condition presents a set of challenges—to pursue our goals without illusions, to act morally without hope of reward—challenges that can impart a lasting value to finite and fragile human lives. Collectively, these essays highlight the richness of atheistic belief—not only as a valid alternative to religion, but as a profoundly fulfilling and moral way of life.
Why Would Anyone Believe in God? (Cognitive Science of Religion) by Justin L. Barrett. Lanham, MD: Altamira Press, 2004. Pp 152. $22.95 (Paper)
Appealing to evidence from cognitive psychology, Justin Barrett argues that belief in God is a natural consequence of the kinds of minds that all human beings possess due to natural and cultural selection in the struggle for survival. Most of our conscious beliefs are driven by subconscious assumptions which fit well with belief in gods, especially the belief in an all-knowing and all-powerful God. Religious beliefs are widespread because it is difficult to think without the underlying assumptions which drive them.
The Myth of Morality by Richard Joyce. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp 264. $75.00 (Cloth)
Richard Joyce argues in this study that moral discourse is hopelessly flawed. At the heart of ordinary moral judgments is a notion of moral inescapability, or practical authority, which, upon investigation, cannot be reasonably defended. He asserts, moreover, that natural selection is to blame, in that it has provided us with a tendency to invest the world with values that it does not contain, and demands that it does not make. This original and innovative book will appeal to readers interested in the problems of moral philosophy.
Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Cornell Studies in the Philosophy of Religion) by Marilyn McCord Adams. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999. Pp 220, $53 (Cloth) $23.95 (Paper)
When confronted by horrendous evil, even the most pious believer may question not only life’s worth but also God’s power and goodness. As a distinguished philosopher and a practicing minister, the late Marilyn McCord Adams wrote this highly original work on a fundamental dilemma of Christian thought—how to reconcile faith in God with the evils that afflict human beings. The ground rules taken for granted in the last half-century of analytic philosophy of religion have usually led philosophers to avert their gaze from the worst evils—horrendous evils—and their devastating impact on human lives. This approach, Adams argues, is inadequate for formulating and solving the problem of horrendous evils.
Did Christians Destroy Classical Works from Antiquity?
Some writers have claimed that Christians actively destroyed classical works from antiquity, including the burning of a library in Alexandria. We’re interested in publishing a review of the relevant historical evidence.
What is the historical evidence for the alleged miracles of Muhammad? Has Islam helped or harmed women? Does the Qur’an contain predictive prophecies that prove a divine origin? Has the Qu’ran promoted science?
Did Joseph Smith make predictive prophecies that confirm his status as a divinely-appointed prophet? What was the Mormon Church’s original doctrine about African Americans?
The Utility of Religion
Much of our web site is concerned with whether various religious claims are true. We are also interested in publishing several articles on whether religious beliefs have helped or harmed humanity.
Internet Infidels is interested in publishing discussions of the following theistic arguments:
The Modal Cosmological Argument (Aquinas’ “Third Way”)
According to this argument, reality cannot consist ONLY of contingent (or dependent) entities, and therefore, there must exist a self-existent necessary being to explain the way things are. Sometimes the argument is expressed as “God is needed to explain why there is anything at all rather than nothing.” This argument does not appeal to the concept of time, and it allows that time (and the universe too) may always have existed. Even if the universe has always existed, it would still be contingent, and therefore requiring a self-existent necessary being as its ground or explanation. Thus, this argument needs to be distinguished from the temporal (or kalam) cosmological argument that Craig uses in his debates.
The Argument from Reason
Reply to Barefoot. In response to a review by Richard Carrier of Victor Reppert’s C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea, Darek Barefoot has presented an accessible prima facie argument against naturalism from logical necessity and intentionality. We would like to publish an accessible rebuttal on the Secular Web from a commentator familiar with the literature on intentionality, representation, and the ontological status of logical laws.
If you’re interested in submitting an essay on one of the above topics, please see the The Secular Web Submission Guidelines.