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February 2, 2023

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 […]

Interview with Jason Thibodeau on Whether Theism is Necessary for Morality

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!

January 31, 2023

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 […]

How to Change the Minds of Believers

In this paper John W. Loftus shares ten helpful tips on trying to change the minds of Christian believers based on his nearly 20 years of experience engaging in it. He reviews the most common cognitive biases that one bumps against in the attempt to plant seeds of doubt, and notes some of the most pointed questions that one can ask to really get to the heart of the matter. This includes highlighting particular facts about the world that simply cannot be reasonably squared with traditional Christian beliefs. Even if your attempts result in a low rate of success, Loftus argues, every mind changed amounts to less religious harm in the world than there would have been otherwise, and the results of an attempt can reveal rather eye-opening truths even when it is not successful.

Review of The Scout Mindset

In The Scout Mindset, Rationally Speaking podcaster Julia Galef provides a unique roadmap for avoiding errors grounded in the motivation for one's reasoning. Using a military metaphor, she describes two mindsets in approaching logical propositions, that of the soldier and that of the scout. Most of us default to a soldier mindset, questioning whether we have to assent to propositions that we dislike, and asking whether we are permitted to assent to ones that we favor. A scout mindset is simply concerned with determining whether or not a proposition is true, however, as when vetting the credibility of military intelligence. Although the soldier mindset boosts self-esteem, morale, and camaraderie, the scout mindset is essential to making good judgment calls. And while most people identify with a scout mindset, more often than not their behavior indicates something else. In this review, Mike Smith notes that this is where Galef's approach to critical thinking is distinctive in an otherwise saturated genre: Galef provides a number of external criteria and thought experiments for assessing the degrees to which a person really takes on a scout mindset. With this valuable framework as her background, Galef makes a persuasive case that the degree to which one exhibits a scout mindset is more of a matter of track record than attitude, and is contingent on the ability to imagine alternative perspectives as real possibilities. The Scout Mindset contains a lot of useful information for having productive conversations online, fostering an open mind, or communicating across different levels of understanding. This book is top of the line for those looking to improve the clarity of their thought.

January 26, 2023

Added the sixty-eighth Freethinker Podcast YouTube fifth Interview with Robert M. Price on Adversarial Exchanges on Mythicism (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web.. Check out this roughly 45-minute talk between host Edouard Tahmizian and long-time biblical scholar Robert M. Price on Price’s take on Dennis R. MacDonald’s view that […]

Interview with Robert M. Price on Adversarial Exchanges on Mythicism

Check out this roughly 45-minute talk between host Edouard Tahmizian and long-time biblical scholar Robert M. Price on Price's take on Dennis R. MacDonald's view that it's a misunderstanding to characterize the Book of Luke as a history (as Richard Carrier does in his 2006 Secular Web online book Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?), the conflation of what some Jesus mythicists have said with what Carrier, Price, and others specifically have said, how mainstream biblical scholarship might become more open to mythicism in the future (as Thomas L. Thompson's stance that Moses and Abraham were not historical persons eventually became the consensus view), and the reality of the Q source. The discussion then turns to the mythical personage of Judas and Peter, what we can know about how long an oral tradition inventing a mythical Jesus would need to develop, ancient Jesus mythicists like Celsus, Robyn Faith Walsh's view that the empty tomb story was a legendary trope borrowed from pagan works, Dennis R. MacDonald's view that none of the Gospels were written to evangelize/convert people to Christianity, and much more! Tune in for a wide-ranging interview with a legendary biblical scholar!

January 20, 2023

Added the sixty-seventh Freethinker Podcast YouTube seventh Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald about Mimesis, the Q-Source Hypothesis, and More (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web.. Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly 45-minute returning interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on mimesis (literary imitation mythologizing Jesus), the […]

Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald on Mimesis & the Q Hypothesis

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly 45-minute returning interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on mimesis (literary imitation mythologizing Jesus), the Q hypothesis (that a lost document dubbed "Q" was the common source for borrowed material found in both Matthew and Luke, but not found in the earlier Gospel of Mark), and the role of Christianity in America's culture wars. In MacDonald's experience, readers' reaction to his recently published three-part work on the Synoptic Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the three Gospels of John has been largely positive with respect to mimesis, but negative toward the the Q material largely because, as a lost document, it has to be reconstructed. The interlocutors discuss why this attitude is unjustified (and anti-intellectual), how taking mimesis all the way to Jesus himself is intellectually irresponsible, and how external evidence for the existence of Q renders such skepticism extreme (e.g., there are earlier references to a Q document than Luke and John, like the elder John's belief in a lost document of Matthew). MacDonald and Robyn Faith Walsh have argued that early Christians were trying to establish a social identity for the emerging Christian movement, not inventing a nonexistent Jesus. MacDonald argues that mimesis is part of early Christians' intellectual project, not a haphazard attempt by early Christians to simply borrow amenable stories from earlier literary sources (e.g., pseudo-Luke is trying to craft a Christian identity in the Roman Empire and in contemporaneous Judaism by using fiction to construct a founding mythology of the early Church, not craft a history). After illustrating the story of a woman anointing Jesus for his burial in the Gospel of Mark as a simple and representative example of mimesis, the interlocutors go on to address Robyn Faith Walsh's view that the empty tomb story is a pagan trope to symbolize a mortal man attaining divinity and how both atheists and Christian apologists misread Luke as providing a history rather exemplifying literary models. Check out this enlightening interview with a prolific expert on mimesis and hermetics!

December 31, 2022

Added Jesus Mythicism: Moral Influence vs. Vicarious Atonement—and Other Problems (2022) by John MacDonald to the Historicity of Jesus page under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. In this article John MacDonald examines the Christ myth theory and its difficulties. A number of flaws are pointed out with the theory. […]

The Bible and Self-Esteem

Christian psychologists and psychiatrists have taken Christianity by storm with a seemingly unending supply of therapy, seminars, and books offering a variety of cures for those that suffer from low self-esteem. These healers set out to heal that damaged sense of self-worth, yet they seem not to acknowledge that biblical Christian doctrine, itself, is likely a contributing factor to the very problem which they set out to cure. In this article, Hertzler looks at what both humanism and Christianity have to offer in terms of self-esteem.

Jesus Mythicism: Moral Influence vs. Vicarious Atonement—and Other Problems

In this article John MacDonald examines the Christ myth theory and its difficulties. A number of flaws are pointed out with the theory. One focus is the moral influence interpretation of Jesus' death, as opposed to the penal substitution/sin debt model that mythicism demands. Learning the Jesus story is imputing guilt, the opposite of Aristotelian purging catharsis. This is a substantial problem for mythicism. A celestial Christ who was never on Earth and was killed in outer space by sky demons can't inspire such guilt, and so mythicism isn't an effective interpretive model—among other problems. One must ask: Does the kind of theology being produced make more sense from a general historicist framework, or a mythicist one? Jesus' horrific torture and abuse points to a historical Jesus with immolated goat and scapegoat Yom Kippur theology, rather than a mythical one. There is something about the cross that goes beyond doing away with sin so that man and God can be reconciled.

December 12, 2022

Added the sixty-sixth Freethinker Podcast YouTube third Interview with Aron Ra about the Flaws in the Noah’s Ark Tale (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour long talk with regional director for American Atheists Aron Ra. The interlocutors discuss fallacious appeals to authority, […]

Interview with Aron Ra on Noah’s Ark

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour long talk with regional director for American Atheists Aron Ra. The interlocutors discuss fallacious appeals to authority, how young-Earth creationist arguments equivocate on the definition of "kinds" of animals, how macroevolution would (if anything) need to be accelerated if the story of the Flood were literally true, how feeding animals (and providing them with fresh water) during the Great Flood would not have been possible in the real world, how saltwater infiltration would poison any plant life post-Flood and cause Noah's saved animals to starve to death once they left the Ark, and other innumerable problems with taking the Genesis flood story as a literal account of a historical event. Instead, Ra argues that it is best seen as nothing more than a childhood fairy tale used by creationists today to assuage their fear of eternal oblivion after death. Check out where taking creationist beliefs seriously leads us in this broad-ranging interview!

December 11, 2022

Added the sixty-fifth Freethinker Podcast YouTube fourth Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald on Epic, Tragedy, and the Gospels (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour long interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on his magnum opus Synopses of Epic, Tragedy, and […]

Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald on Epic, Tragedy, and the Gospels

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour long interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on his magnum opus Synopses of Epic, Tragedy, and the Gospels, a groundbreaking hermetic commentary on the Synoptic Gospels and the narratives of the Acts of the Apostles. In this reference work all of the New Testament Gospels are translated side by side in adjacent columns for comparison with their (sometimes obscure) parallels in classical Greek poetry, especially the Homeric epics and Virgil's Aeneid. The interlocutors discuss how Pappias provides us with external evidence to the Gospels with a circa 110 CE text that predates the Gospels of Luke or John and reveals evidence of Pappias' knowledge of Johannine—but not Pauline—Christianity, and of Matthew and Mark. MacDonald goes on to explain why he hypothesizes from reverse priority that the lost document of Matthew referred to by Pappias was the Q source document before turning to what happened to the historical Jesus' body after his crucifixion, how the historical Jesus is hardly different from the historical Socrates, and two statements attributed to Jesus that are likely representative of the historical Jesus' views. Check out this intriguing interview with the world's foremost expert on hermetics—and check out his recent book while it's still on sale!

December 2, 2022

Added the sixty-fourth Freethinker Podcast YouTube Interview with Justin Tang About Traumatic Religious Experiences (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly hour-long interview with Justin Tang, an “ex-vangelical” trauma-informed coach and hypnotist who specializes in the deconstruction of religious trauma, particularly how to […]

Interview with Justin Tang About Religious Experiences

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly hour-long interview with Justin Tang, an "ex-vangelical" trauma-informed coach and hypnotist who specializes in the deconstruction of religious trauma, particularly how to break free of the subconscious cycle of guilt/shame and anxiety/fear that evangelical Christians are kept under. The first half of the interview starts with a discussion of how neo-Calvinist apologetics often hinge on double standards (e.g., where if we do something evil, it's evil—unless God happened to command us to do it). The first half continues with a discussion of how Calvinists like John Kearney try to explain away why God would have created human beings with a positive disposition to do evil things in the first place. The second half then turns to Tang's research into religious trauma, particularly the recurring themes that Justin has noticed from coaching people who are recovering from religious trauma, such as the fear of hellfire or divine judgment, the fear that having natural religious doubts is somehow immoral, and the loss of one's social networks and sense of identity that accompanies inevitably having such doubts. Tang then mentions some evidence-based, trauma-informed things that one can do to calm one's nervous system using bottom-up or top-down approaches before offering his take on near-death experiences, past-life hypnotic regressions, and the like. Check out this wide-ranging and intriguing interview!

November 30, 2022

Added Is There Life after Death? (2022) by Merle Hertzler to the Empirical Arguments section of the Life after Death/Immortality page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. Many people believe that something about our individual minds—a soul, if you will—lives on even after the brain has disintegrated. Ultimately, they see the […]

Is There Life after Death?

Many people believe that something about our individual minds—a soul, if you will—lives on even after the brain has disintegrated. Ultimately, they see the mind as a function of a soul that survives death, rather than as a function of a brain. But if a nonmaterial soul is really the seat of the mind, why do you even need a brain? What is left for the brain to do? Some propose that the brain is simply an interface to the body. But science has shown that it is the brain that is in charge. In this article, Merle Hertzler lays out the evidence that we think with our brains, not with immaterial souls. And the possibility of bodily resurrection doesn't fare much better. So we need to make the most of the one life that we know for sure exists because odds are, that's the only life that any of us are going to get.

The Absurdities of Sakshi Apologetics

Earlier this year Jeremy Shaughnessy was invited to attend a "How the Bible Changed the World" seminar in Poona, India, organized by Sakshi Apologetics Network of India. Many prominent Christian speakers in India participated in the event, including Christopher Singh, Ashish John, Asher John, Narendra Sahoo, and Chandrakant Wakankar. More often than not, these speakers either made historically, scientifically, and logically fallacious statements or drew from correct statements conclusions that were laughably mistaken. Although a Christian himself, in this essay Shaughnessy reviews many of the themes of this Christian apologetics seminar and how they regularly consisted of a string of non sequiturs.

November 5, 2022

Added the sixty-third Freethinker Podcast YouTube second Interview with Edward Tabash on the Conservative Turn in the Supreme Court (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Tune in to Edouard Tahmizian’s one-hour-and-twenty-minute interview with Los Angeles constitutional lawyer Edward Tabash as he surveys how the religious right-wing majority on the […]

Interview with Edward Tabash on the Conservative Turn in the Supreme Court

Tune in to Edouard Tahmizian's one-hour-and-twenty-minute interview with Los Angeles constitutional lawyer Edward Tabash as he surveys how the religious right-wing majority on the US Supreme Court is imposing religious tyranny and discarding science in the United States. The Court has demonstrated its disrespect for civil liberties precedent and overtly tried to impose a theocracy by, for example, ordering the state of Maine to make available its public education funds for the purpose of funding tuition specifically earmarked for religious indoctrination. In his dissent to Carson v. Makin, Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that there's no meaningful difference between the state paying the salary of a religious minister and that of a teacher who proselytizes to children. Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent that in the last five years, the Court has systematically dismantled the separation between church and state by shifting from a rule that permits states to decline to fund religious education to one that requires them to subsidize it. This, she notes, is leading us in the direction of treating those who uphold the separation of church and state as having engaged in a constitutional violation. The current Court's attack on Enlightenment values gives power to inherently unreliable voices to have sway in court and even permits the inadmissibility of scientific evidence under the guise of the "free exercise of religion," using the free exercise clause as a sword to wield against groups, rather than as a shield to protect them. Tune in as Tabash canvases growing threats to government neutrality in matters of religion, such as cases authorizing prayer at public school events, whether atheists could be excluded from testifying in court, whether states could have an official church under the new Court, the religious footing for anti-choice laws on abortion, and how voters' choice of the members of the US Senate directly affects who sits on the Court.

November 3, 2022

Added the sixty-second Freethinker Podcast YouTube Interview with Myriam Valenzuela on Spirituality and Inner Consciousness (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Check out this over half an hour long interview with Myriam Valenzuela, the fitness, Yoga, and Hawaiian dance instructor who owns Aloha Yoga and Hula and founded the […]

Interview with Myriam Valenzuela on Spirituality

Check out this over half an hour long interview with Myriam Valenzuela, the fitness, Yoga, and Hawaiian dance instructor who owns Aloha Yoga and Hula and founded the skin care company Organic Skin Care. In this interview she schools host Edouard Tahmizian on reprogramming our subconscious thoughts concerning how we see life by "affirming" (speaking out loud) various items, her belief that individuals can "manifest" whatever they want because they are creating their experiences in life via their thoughts, how the powers that be purportedly control others by keeping this sort of information from them, her belief that everything is constituted by light, vibration, and frequency, her experiences with "energetic" astral surgery during meditation, the existence of spirit guides, star seeds, and light workers, hypnotic past-life regressions, intelligent extraterrestrial life, and humanity's massive Awakening. Tune in to learn about some of the ideas that have been permeating New Age subculture for quite some time, but that most viewers are likely unfamiliar with!

October 31, 2022

Added Review of Eternal Life: A New Vision (2022) by Taylor Carr to the Conceptual Arguments section of the Life after Death/Immortality page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. The fear of death has been a major struggle for human beings all throughout history, and we have found a variety of […]

Review of Eternal Life

The fear of death has been a major struggle for human beings all throughout history, and we have found a variety of ways to cope with this uncomfortable fact. Our world religions are man-made institutions designed to give comfort from this fear in the form of purpose, meaning, and life that transcend death. Embracing these realizations, John Shelby Spong's Eternal Life: A New Vision argues for the necessity of abandoning traditional theistic religion for the adoption of a more humanist, life-centered perspective. Nevertheless, Spong's labels for numerous concepts are often pointless and sometimes even confused. If the divine is fully experiencing the human, why call it the divine in the first place? What stands to be gained from calling the totality of human experience, and the sense of transcendent unity, God? Carr sees this as merely an attempt to ease the transition out of a system which is already in the process of collapsing.

Psychic Epistemology: The Special Pleading of William Lane Craig

In this paper John Loftus aims to expose the special pleading inherent in William Lane Craig's psychic (or spirit-guided) epistemology. After questioning the need for apologetics and warning about the monumental challenges to it, Loftus urges Christian apologists to become honest life-long seekers of the truth, to get a good education in a good field of study, to accept nothing less than sufficient objective evidence, and especially to determine how to know which religion to defend. He then goes on to sharply contrast these recommendations with the modus operandi of today's Christian apologists.

October 27, 2022

Added the sixty-first Freethinker Podcast YouTube Fourth Interview with Robert M. Price on Biblical Inerrancy (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Tune in to this roughly one-hour discussion between host Edouard Tahmizian and esteemed biblical scholar Robert M. Price as they discuss how biblical inerrantists try to deal with […]

Interview with Robert M. Price on Scriptural Inerrancy

Tune in to this roughly one-hour discussion between host Edouard Tahmizian and esteemed biblical scholar Robert M. Price as they discuss how biblical inerrantists try to deal with textual evidence of New Testament contradictions. The interlocutors canvas how inerrantists deal with an apparent misquote of Jeremiah by supposedly God-inspired Matthew in Matthew 27:7-10 (whose actual source seems to be Zacharias)—with Calvinists attributing it to copyist error, and others sometimes claiming that it refers to an unwritten prophecy by Jeremiah and so is not erroneous—solid evidence that the longer ending of Mark after Mark 16:1-8 was interpolated by someone other than Mark (someone who wanted to compile details from other Gospels about the risen Jesus to avoid an awkward ending to Mark's empty tomb narrative and give more "evidence" of the resurrected Christ via his resurrection appearances), and Price's take on whether Robyn Faith Walsh's reasons for thinking that Jesus mythicism is implausible stand up to scrutiny. Check out this novel interview with an indefatigable biblical scholar!