Stephen Sullivan | January 5, 2006 |
In Finite and Infinite Goods Adams gives his defense of a modified divine command theory its fullest elaboration, defending it against a number of standard objections. This material is essential reading for anyone interested in whether morality does or could depend on religion. Moreover, Adams thoughtfully argues for the need for several forms of moral faith, including faith that morality "is not a massive socially induced delusion." Along the way, he also offers a striking defense of liberty of conscience and church-state separation, with an emphasis on the value of critical thinking in both ethics and religion. Although Sullivan finds much to agree with here, he offers two particular criticisms of Adams's version of divine command theory. Nevertheless, Sullivan concludes that intelligent nonbelievers and believers can only benefit from carefully and critically working their way through this important book.
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.
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 […]
Paul Doland | November 14, 2005 |
In this chapter-by-chapter critique of Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator, Paul Doland comments on the general direction of the book before analyzing Strobel's interviews with his various experts on specific topics. Topics include the origin of life, evolution, the relationship between science and religion, the origin of the universe, the alleged fine-tuning of the universe, whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, intelligent design, information theory, the origin and nature of consciousness, and whether consciousness can survive the death of the brain. Particularly noteworthy is Strobel's silence when his experts make conflicting claims (e.g., Wells and Dembski on evolution).
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 […]
“Happy is the Man that Feareth Always”: Psychology vs. Religion (2005) Daniela Kramer and Michael Moore Abstract Fundamental contradictions between psychological and religious ideation are illustrated by excerpts from Jewish, Christian and Islamic prayers and hymns. Four substantive areas are discussed: locus of control, self-esteem, social values and the status of the family. In each […]
Graham Oppy | January 31, 2005 |
(2005) Graham Oppy Review: Michael J. Murray, ed. 1999. Reason for the Hope Within. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. xvi+429 pp. Foreword: Alvin Plantinga Introduction: Michael J. Murray Chapter 1: “Reason for Hope (in the Post-modern World)” by Michael J. Murray Chapter 2: “Theistic Arguments” by William C. Davis Chapter 3: “A Scientific Argument for the […]
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.
Richard Carrier | January 1, 2005 |
(1999, 2005) [Part 4D of a larger Review of In Defense of Miracles.] When is Prophecy Miraculous? Robert Newman contributes a chapter on Old Testament prophecy, with the general idea that certain predictions found there are so uncanny that they are in themselves miracles. He begins by outlining the usual criticisms of this idea and […]
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.
(2004) Richard Carrier On May 8, 2004, I debated the existence of God before an audience of a thousand. It was a team debate, and my colleague was my good friend Dan Barker, against two theists, respected Muslim scholar Hassanain Rajabali and Michael Corey, author of The God Hypothesis. It was a fantastic event. Organized […]
(2004) Jeffery Jay Lowder Many of the books listed below are available from BarnesAndNoble.com. If you follow the links provided to buy books from Barnes and Noble, you’ll be helping to pay for The Internet Infidels’ Secular Web. The following are selected works for further study. While space constraints prevent listing every possible book under […]
Theodore M. Drange | May 15, 2004 |
(2004) In finishing up my debate with Chris McHugh (CM), I shall first deal with the remarks that he made in his fourth rebuttal and then, at the end, return briefly to my argument from nonbelief. CM claimed that in his opening statement he had made a “case for Christian belief.” But in fact he […]
Christopher McHugh | May 15, 2004 |
(2004) In my opening statement and subsequent rebuttals, I presented a case for belief in God, and for belief in Jesus Christ. In this closing statement I will not restate that case here, but will focus on refuting Drange’s last rebuttal. It seems that Drange is confused about which arguments I am using against ANB. […]
Theodore M. Drange | April 15, 2004 |
(2004) Chris McHugh (CM) has apparently given up his appeal to the afterlife defense, for he makes no mention of it whatever in his third rebuttal. His sole response to ANB is now the expectations defense. In his endnote #1, CM claims that an explanation of why GC (the God of evangelical Christianity) would allow […]
Christopher McHugh | April 15, 2004 |
(2004) Christopher McHugh In this rebuttal, I argue that Drange has failed to demonstrate any problems with the case for Christian belief given in my opening statement. Argument from Simplicity (AS) Drange grants that the individual the steps in AS are reasonable, but objects that the conclusion cannot be believed, and should be regarded as […]