Added Toward a Naturalized Spirituality (2023) by Sam Woolfe to the Psychology of Religion page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. Among secular rationalists, the term spirituality is often criticized as being vague or meaningless at best, or pseudoscientific at worst. But secularists can acknowledge a rational middle ground between these […]
Among secular rationalists, the term spirituality is often criticized as being vague or meaningless at best, or pseudoscientific at worst. But secularists can acknowledge a rational middle ground between these two extremes. Building upon eminent psychologist Abraham Maslow's lesser-known concept of "self-transcendence" atop his more famous original hierarchy of needs (whose pinnacle is self-actualization), Sam Woolfe weaves concepts from humanistic psychology and the philosophy of psychedelics to advance a concept of spirituality grounded in the realization of our innate capacities within awe-inspiring experiences that situate us fully in the present moment and allow us to transcend our normal personal identity in ways that lead to meaningful improvements to our well-being and life satisfaction. A metaphysical naturalist can thus reasonably understand the process of transcending limitations for the sake of oneself and others as fundamental to leading an authentic spiritual life without any need to posit the existence of supernatural entities, forces, or realms.
In "Courtroom Apologetics: You Call Them Eyewitnesses?" G. P. Denken critiques a genre of popular evangelical apologetics that he labels "courtroom" apologetics. Courtroom apologists are recognizable by the way that they season their arguments with courtroom jargon and analogies. Denken highlights three apologists who make their cases by relying heavily on the four "eyewitness" accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Though the apologetic authors seek verdicts from their jury of readers in favor of Christianity, Denken offers a rebuttal case in their imaginary trial. He discusses how these apologists have not only misidentified the Gospel authors, but ignored how their proposed authors could not have been eyewitnesses to many famous scenes in the canonical Gospels.
Added the seventy-fifth Freethinker Podcast YouTube Interview with Stephen J. Sullivan on Divine Command Theory (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Check out the latest Freethinker Podcast interview with host Edouard Tahmizian for his roughly hour-long discussion with philosopher Stephen J. Sullivan about whether the position that God made […]
Check out the latest Freethinker Podcast interview with host Edouard Tahmizian for his roughly hour-long discussion with philosopher Stephen J. Sullivan
about whether the position
that God made us—and therefore he owns us—is a viable response to objections to classic (Plato-inspired) divine command theory, whether atheists can ground 'ought' statements (or at least moral duties) in the power of moral reasoning without need for a divine moral lawgiver, the role on biblical inconsistencies in countering ad hoc responses to objections to classic divine command theory, existentialist atheists like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, how fundamentalist Christians deal with the free will vs. determinism (or predestination) issue, and whether less conservative Christians are able to
concede that the Bible is not inerrant without generating logical inconsistencies. Tune in for some deep insights from a moral philosopher who has thought about these topics for decades!
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Added Christian vs. Survivalist Apologetics (2023) by Keith Augustine to the Empirical Arguments section of the Life after Death/Immortality page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. In a 2022 critique of the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies essay competition on the “best” evidence for life after death (“the survival of human […]
In a 2022 critique of the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies essay competition on the "best" evidence for life after death ("the survival of human consciousness") and in replies to two commentaries on it, Keith Augustine made passing reference to the parallels between the arguments provided by survival researchers—psychical researchers ostensibly investigating evidence for an afterlife using scientific best practices—and the well-worn fallacies repeatedly committed by creationists and other Christian apologists. In this essay, Augustine highlights several parallel fallacious arguments found among both those at the forefront of "scientific" research into an afterlife and those engaged in Christian apologists.
Atheist philosophers of religion try to disprove the existence of the Christian God by arguing against the philosophical proofs put forth for it. This is okay as it goes, but it overlooks the fact that Christians will just come up with different conceptions of "God" in response, despite the fact that these new conceptions are foreign to the gods we find in the Bible.
In this essay atheist John Loftus argues that there is a better approach, one that changed his own mind back when he was a Christian apologist himself. This (shockingly novel) approach involves simply taking the Bible seriously. When we take the Bible at its word, we find that the Judeo-Christian God had a complex evolution over the centuries from Elohim, to Yahweh, to Jesus, and then finally to the god of the philosophers, without the original gods having been credited with any merit.
Added the seventy-fourth Freethinker Podcast YouTube Interview with Philip Goff on Panpsychism and Consciousness (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Tune in to Freethinker Podcast with host Edouard Tahmizian for an about an hour-and-fifteen-minute interview with panpsychist philosopher of mind Philip Goff as Tahmizian, Keith Augustine, and Jason Thibodeau […]
Tune in to Freethinker Podcast with host Edouard Tahmizian for an about an hour-and-fifteen-minute interview with panpsychist philosopher of mind Philip Goff as Tahmizian, Keith Augustine, and Jason Thibodeau query Goff about his reasons for embracing panpsychism, the view that all matter has some degree of a conscious or experiential element to it. Goff expertly fields questions from all three interlocuters about how his panpsychist views differ from those of other philosophers of mind and his rationale for taking this position. He suggests that "physicalist" Galen Strawson holds substantially the same view that he does, their differences largely being semantic ones about the meaning of the term physicalism (or materialism). Goff also responds to criticisms (like those of Massimo Pigliucci) that his picture of the mind is unscientific. He canvasses the hard problem of consciousness, structuralism about physics, why he favors taking the Russellian monist theory of mind in a specifically panpsychist direction, and what it might even mean to say that something like an electron has experiences. Goff also discusses whether arguing from a "top down" cosmopsychism (i.e., that the universe as a whole has experiential aspects, and divides down into our individual consciousnesses) is less problematic than arguing from the "bottom up" that the most fundamental constituents of matter have simple experiential aspects that somehow combine into our more complex, but unified, individual consciousnesses. The discussion then turns to Goff's take on the (classic, Plato-inspired) divine command theory of ethics, fine-tuning arguments, whether there's a middle way between traditional omni-God theism and traditional atheism that may be more attractive than either of those binary choices, whether libertarian free will exists given the possibility of determinism, and how his broader philosophical views impact the question of life's meaning. Check out this wide-ranging interview with a renowned philosopher of mind who has become increasingly prominent in public debates about these issues over the last several years!
Added the seventy-third Freethinker Podcast YouTube Interview with Vincent Torley on Recent Apologetics (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly 40-minute return interview with skeptical Catholic Vincent Torley, opening with his critique of recent defenses of long-popular Christian apologetics, such as his recent […]
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly 40-minute return interview with skeptical Catholic Vincent Torley, opening with his critique of recent defenses of long-popular Christian apologetics, such as his recent Skeptical Zone post on Gavin Ortlund's (unsuccessful) defense of C. S. Lewis' liar, lunatic, or lord trilemma on Cameron Bertuzzi's Capturing Christianity podcast in August 2022, an argument that actually goes back to its first formulation in the late 19th century by Scots preacher John Duncan ("Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine"). Torley notes that there are, in fact, seven or so alternatives, including that Jesus' divine status was merely a legend, that Jesus was mistaken without being insane, that Jesus was simply a mystic, or that Jesus never even existed as a historical figure at all, among other possibilities. Torley summarizes Ortlund's responses to these alternatives, which claim that they are not genuine possibilities for Jesus, and Ortlund's reasons for maintaining that Jesus was neither a "liar" nor a "lunatic," either. Torley then outlines the unintelligibility of the theological concepts of incarnation or the Trinity, despite recent attempts to make sense of them, before returning to the point that neither the traditional "lord, liar, or lunatic" nor modified "cosmic judge, liar, or lunatic" trilemma will be convincing in light of scriptural sources. Tahmizian then turns the discussion back to the unintelligibility of the incarnation and the Trinity, and how the human disposition to sin could possibly fit into such concepts, before closing on lighter topics like what life is like for Torley in Japan. Tune in for this fascinating discussion of an often-repeated but not particularly compelling apologetic argument!
At a time when brutal leaders ruled according to the divine right of kings and serfs approximated slaves, intolerance fostered by the union of church and state led to the execution or jailing of heretics representing a threat to state power. But more than three centuries ago, chiefly in England and France, an epoch now known as the Enlightenment broke forth, spawning ideas that later grew into what we now call modern liberalism. The Enlightenment roused a new way of thinking: a sense that all people should have some control over their lives, a voice in their own destiny. Absolute power of authorities—either on the throne or in the cathedral—was challenged. Reformers sought to improve society and benefit nearly everyone using human reason and the scientific method. It is from this Enlightment spirit that the freedoms enjoyed across modern liberal democracies today sprouted, projecting a model for humane, safe, and fair treatment.
Added Crabb’s Christian Psychology (2023) by Timothy Chambers to the Psychology of Religion page under Theism, and the Christian Worldview page under Christianity, in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. Does the Christian worldview provide a suitable guide to human psychology? The late counselor Lawrence J. Crabb, Jr. thought so, inspiring his […]
Does the Christian worldview provide a suitable guide to human psychology? The late counselor Lawrence J. Crabb, Jr. thought so, inspiring his bestselling counseling text Effective Biblical Counseling, first published in 1977 and reprinted in 2013, all in all selling over 200,000 copies. In this essay Timothy Chambers outlines Crabb's Bible-based model of how the human mind works, shining a light on the broader Christian view of "fallen" human psychology that it represents. Chambers then subjects this model to critical scrutiny, noting both the ways in which it echos more mainstream theories in psychotherapy and deviates from them and related sciences (such as when Crabb seems to suggest that non-Christians' moral development is arrested at a self-centered stage). This central theme throughout the book delineates what Crabb takes to be essential psychological differences between "saved" Christians and "lost" non-Christians. As one might imagine, nonbelievers are characterized as enslaved to sin, self-serving, and self-glorifying in multiple places. In addition to substantial questions about Crabb's model's testability, the model is out of step with contemporary psychology in a number of places, particularly concerning child development, human altruism, neurobiology, and psychopharmacology.
Added Freethinker Podcast YouTube video Ultimate Weight Loss Plan (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Tune in to a short video clip where Internet Infidels Vice President Edouard Tahmizian talks about his unique diet plan, as well as some of his achievements for Internet Infidels. He believes that some […]
Tune in to a short video clip where Internet Infidels Vice President Edouard Tahmizian talks about his unique diet plan, as well as some of his achievements for Internet Infidels. He believes that some diet plans fail to mention what is actually the central concern that keeps people from being successful, and plans to share information on those tips once he loses weight. He is currently 202.6 lbs and plans to reach 140 lbs by September at latest.
Added How Psychedelics Can Ease the Fear of Death within a Naturalistic Framework (2023) by Sam Woolfe to the Naturalism page under Nontheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has great potential to resolve existential concerns underlying much psychological distress, having produced reduced death anxiety in terminally ill patients, […]
What we call religions were once called cults until they grew into a system of beliefs and superstitions with a significant number of adherents. Given the origins of religion in cults, it makes sense that we can apply the same criteria and categories when investigating and evaluating religions that we use when doing such for cults. In this article John MacDonald looks at religion through the lens of undue unfluence, a concept developed in the legal system to assess brainwashing-type phenomena. MacDonald shows readers strategies to approach religious belief from the point of view of religious people being indoctrinated rather than educated, and considers some strategies for uncovering and countering the unconscious superstitious narratives upon which religious people base their faith.
Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has great potential to resolve existential concerns underlying much psychological distress, having produced reduced death anxiety in terminally ill patients, the most meaningful experiences of patients' lives, and a greater sense of connection to nature, one's own emotions, and other people. In this essay Sam Woolfe concentrates on the potential of psychedelics to alleviate death anxiety since that existential concern has the most propensity to instill terror, as evidenced by (among other things) philosophical and theological systems constructed to nullify it. Why are patients able to overcome their fear of death during a psychedelic experience? While psychedelics can radically change people's metaphysical beliefs to include belief in an immaterial soul and supernatural realms and entities, they can also produce a heightened sense of spirituality that's grounded in the natural world alone by expanding a person's sense of connection to community, society, the planet, and the universe. Since this enlarged self is not completely annihilated by death even on naturalism, psychedelic experiences can open people up to seeing death as nothing to fear as a final Epicurean release from suffering.
Added the seventy-second Freethinker Podcast YouTube Interview with Keith Augustine on Doing Afterlife Research (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this over half-an-hour interview with Keith Augustine, Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief of Internet Infidels, as they discuss what parapsychologists or psychical researchers have presented […]
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this over half-an-hour interview with Keith Augustine, Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief of Internet Infidels, as they discuss what parapsychologists or psychical researchers have presented as the "best" parapsychological evidence for life after death, the largely neuroscientific evidence against life after death, and problematic religious or spiritual conceptions of the purpose of earthly life. The interlocutors then canvass how those who research life after death from an ostensibly scientific starting-point often mirror the same sorts of fallacious reasoning found in Christian apologetics. Check out this quick interview for such a wide range of topics with a long-time afterlife skeptic (and Digital Millennium Copyright Act Agent)!
Added the seventy-first Freethinker Podcast YouTube third Interview with Dan Barker on Future Directions in his Forthcoming Projects and the Recent Activities of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Tune in to Freethinker Podcast with host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly 20-minute interview with […]
Tune in to Freethinker Podcast with host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly 20-minute interview with Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) co-director Dan Barker about his recent trip to India and the Atheist Centre there, FFRF's legal victory to display a secular nativity scene with a manger holding a copy of the Bill of Rights in Texas' state capitol, the FFRF's involvement in the formation of the Thomas Paine Memorial Association to establish a permanent Thomas Paine memorial statue in Washington, DC, and Barker's latest books, including the (Richard-Dawkins-inspired) title God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction (available in paperback in May 2023). In Dawkins' The God Delusion, the first sentence of chapter two characterized the biblical God as "the most unpleasant character in all fiction; jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving, control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." In Barker's forthcoming (and expanded) paperback edition of God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, each of the 19 chapters in part 1 ("Dawkins was Right") lays out the biblical verses (especially those in the Old Testament) backing up each of Dawkins' characterizations of Yahweh. In part 2 ("Dawkins was Too Kind"), Barker adds eight additional chapters on the personality flaws of the biblical God that Dawkins could have mentioned: pyromaniacal, angry, merciless, curse-hurling, vaccicidal, aborticidal, cannibalistic, and slavemongering. On an FFRF companion website to the book, Barker lists a sampling of verses on all of these characteristics, adding three more still: homicidal, evil, and terrorist. Barker also dives into what to expect from his longer-term book project (slated for 2024), The End of Worship, which in part 1 ("What is Worship?") just allows religious believers to speak for themselves long enough to incriminate themselves (so that Barker can't be accused of straw manning them). In part 2 ("Why Do We Worship?"), Barker lays out his hypothesis that some human beings voluntarily subjugate themselves to a "master" or king-like higher power for biological reasons instilled in us over the generations by those in power. In part 3 ("Should We Worship?"), Barker adds his personal take on whether worship is a desirable behavior for us to engage in. Check out this quick overview of the shape and direction to look forward to in Barker's future projects!
Added the seventieth Freethinker Podcast YouTube Interview with Bill Gaede & Jason Thibodeau on Human Extinction (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian in this hour-and-a-quarter interview with Rational Science podcaster and ex-Cuban-spy Bill Gaede and Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau on the […]
Join Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian in this hour-and-a-quarter interview with Rational Science podcaster and ex-Cuban-spy Bill Gaede and Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau on the future of humankind. First they canvas the possibility that all mass extinctions on Earth have been the result of an ecological pyramid overturning (the population pyramid overturning for plants and the ecological pyramid overturning for animals), and the extrapolation from this pattern that human beings are unable to stop this overturning in their own case. Human beings were put on track in 1963 for zero population growth by mid-21st-century, Gaede argues, and rely on an artificial construct of money to secure the food that we need to survive, but that construct is divorced from the actual growth of resources necessary for the sort of economic system that human civilization has developed. A critical discussion ensues about the so-called "Alvarez hypothesis" that an asteroid impact wiped out the dinosaurs, if unprecedented economic collapse leading to the arrest of food production entails full-blown human extinction rather than simply a precipitous drop in population, the upper bounds of when human extinction might take place, and much more. Tune in for a fascinating—if sobering—discussion about the future of our own species!
Added the sixty-ninth Freethinker Podcast YouTube fifth Interview with Jason Thibodeau on Whether Theism is Necessary for Morality (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Check out this nearly 90-minute debate preparation between host Edouard Tahmizian and Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau about the ways in which some apologists […]
Check out this nearly 90-minute debate preparation between host Edouard Tahmizian and Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau about the ways in which some apologists might argue that belief in God is necessary for morality, and how opponents might respond to those arguments. Thibodeau proposes that they first break down the issue into smaller, more digestible slices on central concerns, starting with the meaning of should/ought in the sense raised in David Hume's is/ought distinction (i.e., that one ought to do what one is morally obligated to do). Moral philosophers widely agree that its meaning has something to do with at least having reasons for acting, and more importantly for morality, having an all-things-considered reason for acting in particular instances. Thibodeau proposes starting with a simple version of a moral argument for the existence of God: that moral obligation could only exist if God existed, it does, and therefore so does God. If the argument were reasonable, then there would have to be some specific aspect of moral obligation that's difficult to account for on the assumption that God doesn't exist—but then what aspect could be proffered that has that feature? There would also have to be some way in which positing God's existence would clearly account for the existence of this feature. After recounting a list of features that Christian apologist Matt Flanagan has said are central to the concept of moral obligation (like reasons for acting being authoritative and categorical, or failing to act in a certain way being blameworthy), Thibodeau goes on to consider how any of them could be problematic on the assumption that God not exist, or how positing God's existence could even possibly explain their existence. To get a feel for the angles that a Christian apologist might try to exploit to force some sort of necessary connection between morality and religion, look no further than this multiperspectival discussion!
Added Review of The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t (2023) by Mike Smith to the Freethought page under Faith and Reason in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. In The Scout Mindset, Rationally Speaking podcaster Julia Galef provides a unique roadmap for avoiding errors grounded in […]