Kenneth W. Daniels | January 1, 2009 |
(2009) Author Website Kenneth W. Daniels (1968-), former evangelical missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators, received his BS in computer science and engineering from LeTourneau University, Longview, Texas, and a one-year certificate in biblical studies from Columbia Biblical Seminary (now Columbia International University), Columbia, SC. He currently resides with his wife and three children in suburban […]
Keith Augustine | October 13, 2008 |
This essay has been significantly revised to reflect updates that were published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies in 2007. Several points have been streamlined for clarity and to remove unnecessary verbiage. The section on psychophysiological correlates has been rewritten to be much more accessible, and now ends on a discussion of what is implied by the influence of medical factors on NDE content. A discussion of circumstantial evidence of temporal lobe instability among NDErs has been added to the section on the role of the temporal lobe in NDEs. A few points have been incorporated into the main text from Augustine's replies to Journal commentaries where they elaborate on points in the lead essays, such as a discussion of why cross-cultural diversity undermines a survivalist interpretation of NDEs. That argument is followed up by a similar one, cut for space from the Journal discussions, about the meaning of the apparently random distribution of pleasant and distressing NDEs. Additionally, a large number of new endnotes have been added to this essay. Most of these summarize the most important points of the Journal exchanges (notes 1-6, 10, 17, 20, 23, 28, and 30-32), but a significant number also concern other issues or recent developments (notes 5, 7, 8, 11-16, and 22).
John W. Loftus | January 1, 2008 |
Despite his seminary roots, John Loftus has come to conclude that Christianity cannot be reasonably defended on the basis of the available evidence. In this overview of his reasons for ultimately rejecting the Christian faith, Loftus considers a variety of sociological, philosophical, scientific, biblical, and historical facts, explaining why he is now an atheist and what it means for him to live life without God. His approach does not proceed from any internal theological inconsistencies, but rather from inconsistencies between theological ideas and the empirical reality in which we find ourselves. He ultimately concludes that all modern, civilized, educated, and scientifically literate persons should reject Christianity, and that a proper skeptical attitude toward religion, informed by modern science, yields a tentative naturalism subject to potential falsification by better evidence.
Arnold T. Guminski | January 1, 2008 |
This article examines Nowicki's novel version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (N-KCA), and finds it seriously flawed. The N-KCA purportedly shows the factual impossibility of a denumerably infinite set of coexisting concrete entities; and that there would be such a set were an infinite temporal series of events to obtain because each existing substance bears its own necessarily permanent temporal marks and those of its ancestors. Nowicki, professing the A-theory of time, nevertheless maintains that truth-makers of past-event propositions are not tensed facts, according to some correspondence theory of truth, but rather the temporal marks borne by existing substances.
Raymond D. Bradley | October 10, 2007 |
In The Miracle of Theism and elsewhere John L. Mackie argued that the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and wholly good God is logically incompatible with the existence of evil, as God could have created persons who always freely choose the good. Alvin Plantinga responded with his famous Free Will Defense, in which he claimed that, under certain conditions, it was impossible for God to create a world containing no evil whatsoever. In this refutation, Raymond D. Bradley notes that these conditions--such as actualizing a world containing significantly free creatures or one in which all of God's creatures suffer from "transworld depravity"--were entirely up to God, in that he could have refrained from creating such a world. Since in virtue of his omniscience any such God would have known the consequences of creating the world that he did, he would bear command responsibility for all the evils that resulted from his creation--if he only existed in the first place. In other words, a morally perfect, omnipotent, and omniscient God does not now, and never did, exist.
Raymond D. Bradley | March 22, 2007 |
In this highly original and challenging essay, Raymond Bradley develops an argument that all religions are probably false inspired by David Hume's famous discussion of the 'contrary miracles' of rival religions. According to Bradley's argument from contrariety, any one of the vast numbers of religions ever conceived (or to be conceived) makes factual claims contradicted by the claims of all of the other religions. Moreover, the claims of any particular religion are generally as well-attested as the claims of all of the others. Consequently, given the "weight" of the "evidence" of all of the other religions, the probability that the claims of any one religion are true is exceedingly low. From this it follows that all religions are probably false.
Raymond D. Bradley | January 25, 2007 |
In this autobiographical account of his journey from Baptist fundamentalist to freethinker, Raymond D. Bradley outlines his reality-driven philosophical predisposition and the difficulties it generated for his acceptance of traditional Christian doctrines throughout his childhood. These difficulties with specific doctrines--several of which Bradley discusses in detail--matured into a brief stint with deism before finally culminating in full-blown, outspoken atheism.
According to Alister McGrath, the early 21st century marks the decline of atheism. In this critique of McGrath's arguments, Keith Parsons considers whether the intellectual clout, stature, or influence of atheism has in fact declined in recent years, concluding that McGrath does not even begin to address the real intellectual case for atheism. That disbelief in God is just as much a matter of faith as belief in God can only be a stale platitude from McGrath given his failure to even superficially survey the best arguments for atheism. McGrath does address, however, four charges made by Richard Dawkins against religion, including the charge that evolution makes God unnecessary as an explanation and that religion is a source of much of the misery in the world. Parsons concludes that once one appropriately qualifies or refines Dawkins' accusations, McGrath's critique fails to adequately address the underlying problems for religion that inspire them. Moreover, to the extent that the influence of inherently controversial and divisive religions on people's lives grows, a corresponding dawn of the popularity of atheism is inevitable.
In Kingdom Coming Michelle Goldberg lets America's "Christian Reconstructionists," who openly advocate making the Bible the basis of a shari'a-type religious law, speak for themselves. Though considered extreme even within the religious right, an offshoot called dominionism, or Christian Nationalism, openly advocates theocracy and is rapidly gaining ground among "mainstream" right-wing Christians. Those swept away in this fundamentalist counterculture live in a universe that they have created, separate from and parallel to the one that the rest of us live in. The immediate danger they pose is not their impact on social issues, but the subversion of rationality itself, which has been achieved to an alarming extent. Today the best established scientific conclusions are routinely undermined and derided, and even the mainstream media feel that they have to offer "balance" on scientific issues by giving equal time to cranks and crackpots. The religious right is motivated, organized, and well-funded, and they are not going away. We ignore them at our peril. Goldberg has done us a service in giving us a beautifully crafted statement of why we fight.
Keith M. Parsons | April 1, 2006 |
One of the clearest statements of the case for a Creator is written by Roy Abraham Varghese in his introduction to the volume Cosmos, Bios, Theos. Here Varghese argues that the best explanation for why there is something rather than nothing necessarily terminates in God, rather than the ultimate features of the physical universe, for unlike any physical thing, God is self-explanatory. But we are left completely in the dark on the sense in which God is self-explanatory, and how that would differ from the self-explanatoriness of a putative original, uncaused state of the physical universe. Consequently, I argue that there is no intellectual difficulty in postulating an initial state of the universe as a ultimate brute fact, and conclude that Varghese's arguments to the contrary fail.
According to M. D. Faber's The Psychological Roots of Religious Belief, although we are born free of religious inclinations, widespread belief in a personal God has its roots in our early childhood development. In infancy, for instance, a child relies on his or her seemingly omnipotent caregiver (a "proto-deity") to supplicate cries ("proto-prayer") for nourishment and care. The child is consequently primed to map this process onto a religious narrative complete with its Parent-God. By promoting a religious narrative early on, religious institutions lay the groundwork for religious belief by exploiting an essentially subconscious process before a child has fully developed the ability to reason. None of us are quite "wired for God," however; the existence of nonbelievers testifies to the possibility of accepting alternative narratives by the time one is exposed to religious ones. Despite reservations about some of the author's contentions, Krause uses Faber's analysis to offer his own recommendations for ensuring that one's children enjoy the rewards of a rational life.
Jordan Howard Sobel's Logic and Theism is long, abstruse, and technical, but valuable for those who have an interest in its topics. Those looking for arguments based on empirical phenomena said to be best explained by the God hypothesis should look elsewhere. Sobel's focus is, rather, issues of definition and logical structure. He addresses everything from the ontological argument to the fine-tuning argument, demolishing all of the main arguments for God's existence. Moreover, he argues that the kind of omnipotence and omniscience that theists ascribe to God is incoherent, and defends both evidential and logical arguments from evil against the existence of God. Finally, he turns to a discussion of practical reasons for belief in God, such as those invoked by Pascal's wager. No cutting-edge research on these topics should omit Sobel's work.
James Hannam | January 1, 2006 |
(2006) Introduction Kyle J. Gerkin’s critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith has a great deal to recommend it. It is not my intention to defend Strobel’s apologetics and I have not even read any of his books. Rather, as a historian specializing in the history of science and religion, as well as being […]
The latest release from the senior pastor of the World Harvest Church might not inspire great thoughts, but it certainly invites a great deal of criticism. A litany of deficiencies could be ennumerated: citing the founding fathers only when it suits him; glossing over the Bible's endorsement of slavery and the Christian Crusaders' brutality; showing little sign of compassion for the poor; demonizing entire segments of society because he dislikes their "lifestyle"; and so on. After noting the irony of Parsley's characterization of Islam as a violent superstition, Krause supplements Parsley's chapter on education with a history of Christian attitudes to public education. Peddling the standard fare in evangelical circles on abortion and the media, Parsley leaves little doubt that he intends Silent No More to do nothing more than play off its audience's fears as a vehicle for his own (unreflective) ideas.
Ted Drange develops two arguments for the nonexistence of the God of evangelical Christianity, an all-powerful and loving being greatly concerned about the fate of human beings and desiring a personal relationship with them. According to his argument from confusion (AC), widespread confusion between Christians over matters of ultimate importance entails that the God of evangelical Christianity probably does not exist. In particular, the rampant diversification of Christian sects on such matters entails that, even if any one of those sects is correct, large numbers of Christians must hold false beliefs about issues of ultimate importance--contrary to what one would predict if the God of evangelical Christianity existed. The argument from biblical defects (ABD) contends that if the God of evangelical Christianity existed, then the Bible would probably be perfectly clear and authoritative and without marks of solely human authorship; but since the Bible does not meet either of these criteria, the God of evangelical Christianity probably does not exist.
Book of Abraham Book of Abraham Skinny (1997) by rpcman (Off Site) Unanswerable questions on the Book of Abraham that Mormon apologists ignore. Book of Abraham Facsimiles by James David (Off Site) Photographs and images of the facsimiles. They have nothing to do with the Book of Abraham. Book of Abraham Facsimile No. 2 Altered […]
David Eller's Natural Atheism is no ordinary freethought handbook. Its chapter on church-state separation reviews most of the appropriate legislation and case law, concluding that freedom from religion is protected by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. As an unapologetic rationalist, Eller insists that any deviation from reason--including faith--merely masquerades as thinking. Advocating the relativity of moral systems to specific social contexts, Eller nevertheless thinks that reason can ground moral systems by encouraging socially beneficial behavior on the basis of intersubjectivity. And while he thinks that no religious source truly values toleration, he is ambiguous about the extent to which freethinkers should tolerate religion for social convenience at the expense of truth.
Hector Avalos' Fighting Words adds organization, scholarly research, and coherent theory to the phenomenon of religiously inspired violence. Analyzing religious violence in terms of "scarce resource theory," Avalos argues that sacred spaces and authoritative scriptures constitute scarce resources accessible to, controlled by, or interpreted by only a few. Competition for these resources, or for group privilege and salvation, inevitably leads to violence which is only that much more tragic because of the unverifiability of the very existence of such resources. Failure to recognize the authority of, or correctly interpret or observe, a particular sacred text creates the potential for bloodshed; and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam's soteriological justifications for violence only exacerbate its realization. Rather than merely explaining the root causes of religious violence, Avalos encourages us to assist religionists in modifying their traditions to thwart the maintenance and creation of unverifiable scarcities, or otherwise seek the elimination of their violent traditions.
Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers paints a broad picture of American secularism, beginning with the US Constitution's break with all precedent in failing to make even a passing reference to a deity, then outlining the importance of Enlightenment values--particularly the concept of natural rights--in propelling the abolition of slavery. Though Jacoby surveys a cast of nineteenth-century secularist heroes, she does not sufficiently emphasize the battles taken up by late nineteenth-century freethought organizations. But she does enjoin us to educate ourselves and ensure that the public never overlooks the harm that religion has caused, offering no compromises for the sake of political correctness.
Helen Bennett's Humanism, What's That? will undoubtedly please those searching for philosophical confirmation, but utterly fails as a work of children's fiction. With her mechanical writing style and one-dimensional characters, Bennett virtually ignores the most fundamental elements of effective storytelling, never revealing the finer details of the story's setting. The fictional teacher's encouragement to trust doctors rather than the will of God, and to seek knowledge in general, is commendable. But her mildly informative history lessions are hardly inspiring, and her god-like characterization of Humanism's adherents are Pollyannaish and dogmatic. Though potentially helpful to some, freethinking parents ought to be aware of its occasional tendency toward irrational or shallow thinking.
In his typical accessible style, Alan Dershowitz tackles some of the most central ethical questions in Rights From Wrongs. Do we discover rights derived from either God or Nature, and if not, on what basis do we invent them? Should we pretend that there is a perfect and absolute source of rights even if we know that there is no such beast, lest everything be permitted? Arguing that such "fraud" would only invite more mischief, Dershowitz develops a secular theory of rights that he intends to ground, among other things, the free marketplace of ideas. But while appreciating the merits of Dershowitz's attempt to derive rights from agreed-upon wrongs, Krause is skeptical of the capacity of the general public to come to any sort of reasoned agreement about what sorts of actions are morally wrong.
Yujin Nagasawa | June 23, 2005 |
In The Evolution of the Soul Richard Swinburne makes a courageous attempt to defend (Cartesian) substance dualism—the thesis that the mind (or soul) is distinct from the body, yet interacts with it. Nagasawa's review critically analyzes two of Swinburne's arguments: (i) that one's conscious existence entails the existence of one's soul; and (ii) that a dualist has no obligation to explain how interaction is possible between ontologically distinct minds and bodies. At the very least, Nagasawa concludes, Swinburne has an obligation to explain why such interaction is inexplicable—and without invoking the existence of God.
Jeffery Jay Lowder | April 4, 2005 |
Naturalism is an alternative to supernaturalism, which includes theism. Paul Draper, an agnostic philosopher at Florida International University, explains the difference between naturalism and theism well: “Naturalism and theism are powerful and popular worldviews. They suggest very different conceptions of the nature of human beings, our relationship to the world, and our future. Though I […]
Richard Carrier | January 31, 2005 |
(1999, 2005) [Part 4A of a larger Review of In Defense of Miracles.] The Project Beckwith’s chapter has one objective: to answer the question “can history be inspected for the occurrence of miracles?” (87) Of course, this question must follow the prior question of whether any miracle can ever be recognized at all (see The […]
Edward Tabash | January 1, 2005 |
(2005) Review of On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A Debate Between Richard Carrier and Michael Licona. University of California, Los Angeles. April 19, 2004. The Carrier-Licona debate was a debate between an atheist historian and a Christian fundamentalist historian. Though I wish Richard Carrier had invoked his general arguments against the supernatural more pointedly […]
In this review of Michael Shermer's most recent attempt to ground secular ethics in evolutionary biology, Kenneth Krause outlines some of the highlights of The Science of Good and Evil before turning to a discussion of some of its deficiencies. Among the former is the emphasis that moral problems "must be subjected to rational scrutiny," that moral sentiments and behaviors arose from evolution rather than God (and exist outside of us in this limited sense), and that while religion may have had limited success in "identifying universal moral and immoral thoughts and behaviors" and canonizing them, religion did not generate them. Krause then turns to a survey of empirical evidence for the thesis that "monotheism has proved an ineffectual prescription for morality," finally noting statistics showing that widespread American belief in God hasn't improved social problems like crime rates. This paves the way for Shermer's secular alternative. Many of Shermer's points were not original, but still valuable since they clearly "cannot be repeated enough," and his core standards are fairly intuitive and thus hardly revolutionary.
Theodore M. Drange | January 1, 2005 |
Drange explains why atheists should defend their atheism.
Paul Doland | January 1, 2005 |
(2005) Review: Lee Strobel. 2004. The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 352 pp. [Note that the author only critiques the chapters of the book that consist of interviews with Lee Strobel’s experts. — Ed.] Chapter 3: Doubts about Darwinism Chapter 4: […]
In this review of Sam Harris' The End of Faith, Kenneth Krause notes Harris' most important points about the destructive nature of faith. After pointing out that hundreds of millions of Americans hold beliefs clearly inconsistent with well-established scientific and historical facts, Harris turns to a discussion of how faith adversely affects our daily lives, directly motivates religious violence, and even threatens the future of civilization. The problem is not so much specific religious doctrines as it is the principle of faith itself--a principle which eschews reason and ends all meaningful conversation. Harris also blames religious moderates as much as fundamentalists for the ongoing religious conflicts of our times. Though Krause greatly appreciates all of these points, he ends by noting at least two deficiences of this book.
Horia George Plugaru | January 1, 2005 |
AIK is a new probabilistic argument against the existence of the Christian God. According to one version of the argument, if the Christian God existed he would ensure that (nearly) all human beings have an excellent knowledge of the Bible before they die. But, as a matter of historical fact, most human beings do not even get close to having an excellent knowledge of the Bible before they die (if they even know it at all). Therefore, the Christian God probably doesn't exist.