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July 31, 2020

Added The Justified Lie by the Johannine Jesus in its Greco-Roman-Jewish Context (2020) by John MacDonald to the Biblical Criticism and Character of Jesus pages under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In this article John MacDonald examines the possible lie by Jesus in John 7:8-10. The article begins by providing an analysis of the context of lying and deception in the ancient world. Given this background, it moves on to examine (mainly) the insights of Tyler Smith, Adele Reinhartz, Dennis MacDonald, and Hugo Méndez/Candida Moss about the Fourth Gospel and deception. Here John MacDonald explores the thesis that John's Jesus does in fact lie, and that this lie is meant to be understood by the inner-circle reader. Jesus lying to his brothers is the method by which he is able to go up and preach to the crowd; the lie leads to belief or makes belief possible.

New in the Kiosk: Why I am a Humanist (2020) by Leslie Allan

In this article explaining why he self-identifies as a humanist, Leslie Allan first explains what he found attractive enough about humanism to adopt its label. Then he outlines what he takes to be humanism's three guiding principles. Finally, he explores a humanist view of what gives our lives meaning and purpose.

Recommended reading: A Debate on God and Morality: What is the Best Account of Objective Moral Values and Duties? (2020) by William Lane Craig and Erik J. Wielenberg

In 2018 William Lane Craig and Erik J. Wielenberg participated in a debate at North Carolina State University addressing the question: "God and Morality: What is the Best Account of Objective Moral Values and Duties?" Craig argued that theism provides a sound foundation for objective morality whereas atheism does not. Wielenberg countered that morality can be objective even if there is no God. A Debate on God and Morality includes the full debate plus endnotes with extended discussions that were not included in the debate. It also includes five chapters by other philosophers who have written substantive responses to the debate: J. P. Moreland, David Baggett, Mark Linville, Wes Morriston, and Michael Huemer. A Debate on God and Morality provides crucial resources for better understanding moral realism's independence from theistic foundations.

June 30, 2020

Added The Moral Argument for God's Existence, the Natural Moral Law, and Conservative Metaphysical Naturalism (2004) by Arnold T. Guminski to the Moral Arguments page under Arguments for the Existence of a God, the Naturalism page under Nontheism, and the William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, and Paul Copan pages under Christian Apologetics and Apologists in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Some Christian philosophers and apologists have vigorously mounted a moral argument for God's existence made apart from the standard nonmoral grounds. The moral argument is based upon the idea of natural moral law (fundamental moral principles and norms apprehended as such by persons of good will as universally binding and not based upon supernatural revelation or divine positive law). In this expanded version of a talk given to the University of Colorado Theology Forum, Arnold T. Guminski aims to show why those naturalists and theists who hold that the natural moral law obtains should conclude that the moral argument for the existence of God is unsound. Particular attention is given to the writings of J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, and Paul Copan.

June 14, 2020

New in the Kiosk: Religion as Parasite, Parasite as Religion (2020) by Anthony Campbell

Skeptics sometimes describe religion as a parasite on the human mind. In this article, Anthony Campbell looks at some of the implications of this way of thinking for understanding religion. He then considers whether biological parasitism may literally play a part in the formation of religious belief before bringing out some of the implications of these ideas for our understanding of why religion exists.

May 31, 2020

Added Two Varieties of 'Possible' and the Ontological Argument (2020) by James Henderson to the Ontological Arguments page under Arguments for the Existence of a God in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

The ontological argument for the existence of God has a long and well-discussed history. First clearly articulated by St. Anselm in 1078, it almost immediately generated lively debate, debate that continues to the present day. Attacks on the argument have been launched by Gaunilo, St. Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and others, and those attacks have forced supporters of the argument (including, but not limited to, Alvin Plantinga, William Alston, and David Bentley Hart) to present different formulations of it. This has sharpened the lines of demarcation between the two sides and made the issues involved clearer. In this article, James R. Henderson addresses an aspect of the debate that has been largely neglected—exactly what it means to "exist in the mind" in Anselm's sense. Henderson ultimately concludes that the coherence of the concept of God needs to be established before the ontological argument can be given any weight.

April 30, 2020

Added Same Old, Same Old: Dallas Willard and the Unending Quest to Prove the Existence of God (2020) by Keith Parsons to the Theistic Cosmological Arguments and Argument to Design pages under Arguments for the Existence of a God, as well as the Biblical Criticism page under Christianity and the Dallas Willard section of Criticisms of Christian Apologetics and Apologists, in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

As skeptics see it, recent theistic arguments are pretty much old hat. Their basic modus operandi has always been the same: represent some aspect of the universe as requiring an explanation that no naturalistic hypothesis can provide, and then propose God as the only possible or most satisfactory solution. Skeptics retort that either no explanation is required, naturalistic accounts suffice, or God provides no uniquely satisfactory explanation. The details may change, but the pattern remains the same. The theistic pattern is exemplified in the work of Dallas Willard, particularly his three-stage argument for the existence of God. Willard argues that God is needed because the natural universe is not enough. In this response, Keith Parsons provides the standard retort: naturalism suffices to answer all legitimate questions, and the appeal to God is either useless or obscurantist.

New in the Kiosk: The World's Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (2020) by Robert Shaw

The current COVID-19 pandemic has led many, whether believers or not, to consider how widespread suffering can be reconciled with a belief in a loving God. In this article, Robert Shaw considers the arguments advanced by people of faith to square this circle, such as the idea that the novel coronavirus has been sent by God as a punishment.

Recommended reading from the Bookstore: C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion (2007) by John Beversluis

C. S. Lewis was one of the most influential Christian apologists of the 20th century. An Oxford don and former atheist who converted to Christianity in 1931, he gained a wide following during the 1940s as the author of a number of popular apologetic books, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain. But do Lewis' arguments survive critical scrutiny? In this revised and expanded edition of the 1985 book, philosopher John Beversluis concludes that Lewis' "case for Christianity" fails. Beversluis examines Lewis' argument from desire, moral argument, and argument from reason for God's existence, as well as his attempt to come to terms with the argument from evil against the existence of God. In addition, Beversluis considers Antony Flew's criticisms of Christian theology, which were developed late in Lewis' life, and Lewis' crisis of faith after the death of his wife. Finally, in this second edition, Beversluis replies to critics of the first edition. As the only critical study of C. S. Lewis' apologetic writings, this readable and intellectually stimulating book should be on the bookshelves of anyone interested in the philosophy of religion.

March 31, 2020

New in the Kiosk: Thank God for the Atheist (2020) by H. J. van der Meer

In this article, H. J. van der Meer points out that although much of the world believes in some sort of divine being(s), believers seem perfectly happy to use scientific creations like modern medicines, artificial fertilizers, or mobile phones. He points out that these products could only have arisen from a manner of thinking that has led us to understand the natural world as a product of evolutionary processes. Although this scientific (or naturalistic) view of the world is incomplete and the world is not fully comprehensible, the worldview is the logical consequence of the methodology. Nevertheless, many Christians believe in a 'god of the gaps' that is called upon when scientific explanations fail, and they may even advocate Intelligent Design creationism. At least traditional (young-earth) creationists, Jews, and Muslims, he notes, are less hypocritical in their rejection of scientific theories about the evolution of life and the universe: they stick to their belief in a divine Creator in the teeth of the evidence. But what is it that causes people to cling so firmly to their religion, and become so suspicious of science, in the first place?

March 16, 2020

Added Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court Against Religious Discrimination (2020) (PDF) by Edward Tabash to the Religious Discrimination and Government Promotion of Religion page under the Separation of Church and State page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Edward Tabash and Center for Inquiry attorney Nicholas J. Little just filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, scheduled for oral argument relatively soon, to curb the power of religious organizations to discriminate against their employees. Tabash and Little argue that religious institutions should not be able to bypass complying with otherwise universally applicable employment discrimination laws when hiring or firing employees who are not clergy or whose jobs do not involve proselytizing the faith.

February 29, 2020

Added The Argument from Reason: C. S. Lewis' Fundamental Mistakes (2020) by David Kyle Johnson to the Argument from Reason page under Arguments for the Existence of a God, as well as the Naturalism page and C. S. Lewis page under Christian Apologetics and Apologists, in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

C. S. Lewis' argument from reason is perhaps his most famous argument because of the legendary debate that it inspired. In a response to it at Oxford University's Socratic Club, G. E. M. Anscombe reputedly demolished the argument, causing Lewis to withdraw from contributing to apologetics ever again. Many disagree that Anscombe actually demolished Lewis' central point, but grant that the encounter destroyed Lewis' confidence as a philosopher. In this paper (originally presented as a talk) David Kyle Johnson argues that Lewis' encounter with Anscombe should have reduced his confidence as an apologist because his argument rests on an embarrassing fundamental misunderstanding. In particular, after outlining the exchange between Lewis and Anscombe, Johnson aims to show that Lewis severely misunderstood both naturalism and evolution, and that this misunderstanding permeated Lewis' argument from reason.

New in the Kiosk: Floyd's Judgment Day Brief (2020) by Floyd Wells

In this article, Floyd Wells provides a legal challenge to the indictment of mankind by the Abrahamic religions, which hold that we will all come back as zombies at the end of the world to stand trial for our misdeeds. Using logic and reason, as well as national and international law, Wells attacks the basic premise that mankind is guilty due to an infraction committed by the first generation of humans in the Garden of Eden. What results is a legal brief to be litigated on Judgment Day in the unlikely event that such a day should ever arrive, a showdown in which humans hold the moral high ground.

January 31, 2020

Added The Presumption of Atheism Revisited (2020) by Charles Echelbarger to the Evidentialism: Atheism, Theism, and the Burden of Proof page under Atheism and the Other Theistic Arguments page under Theism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Whether deserved or not, Antony Flew acquired a reputation for wrongheadedly using Karl Popper's falsifiability criterion against theological statements such as "God exists" or "God loves us." He also famously maintained that God debates should proceed under a presumption of atheism, with theistic debaters bearing the entire burden of proof while atheistic debaters simply tore down their arguments. In this paper Charles Echelbarger aims to make sense of why Flew seemed to be opposed to atheist debaters bearing a burden of proof by additionally offering positive arguments for atheism. Echelbarger concludes that a presumption of atheism may be justified if an atheist debater provides justified doubts that "God exists" expresses a proposition that could be true or false at all, such as if the concept of God definitionally includes the incoherent notion of an agent that acts outside of time. Theological statements may be unfalsifiable precisely because they possess such undetected conceptual incoherence. Though flawed in presentation, Flew's basic insight is more important than has often been acknowledged, and it is still highly relevant to current discussions in the philosophy of religion.

New in the Kiosk: Miraculous Cures? (2020) by Anthony Campbell

Many claims for miraculous cures concern recovery from cancer. These are highly impressive and dramatic, and to many people they seem to provide incontrovertible evidence for a miracle. But how often does cancer remit spontaneously outside a religious context? And how do such spontaneous remissions come about? While medical events that could not be accommodated within the realm of the natural can easily be imagined, such as the regrowth of an amputated limb or the restoration of sight lost through glaucoma, in this article Anthony Campbell divulges that he is unaware of the documentation of any such case.

January 12, 2020

Updated the Call for Papers page entries on Atheism and Theistic Arguments and added about two dozen books of interest for review.

Added books of interest surveying arguments for and against the existence of God, distinguishing science from pseudoscience, characterizing the relationship between science and religion, railing against "scientism," defending evolutionary biology, arguing for and against miracles, evaluating design arguments, confronting the problem of animal pain and horrendous evils, contemplating the meaning of life, utilizing probability theory and inductive inference, rethinking the philosophy of religion, and outlining the historically destructive influence of Christianity on society. Also added an item concerning objections to J. L. Schellenberg's argument from inculpable nonbelief and Schellenberg's responses to them and reiterated the call for a response to Darek Barefoot's argument against metaphysical naturalism based on intentionality, representation, and the ontological status of logical laws.

December 30, 2019

Added Hume's Beautiful Argument (2019) by Keith Parsons to the Argument from Miracles and Resurrection pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

The received view of Hume scholars is that Part I of David Hume's essay "Of Miracles" proffers an argument that it is never rational to accept a miracle claim on the basis on testimonial evidence. But even among those advocating the received view, there's debate about exactly what argument is being offered in Part I. More significantly, the received view of Part I is notoriously hard to reconcile with the four evidential arguments offered in Part II of the essay. For if no testimony would ever be sufficient to establish that a miracle has occurred under any circumstances, why bother to evaluate whether the testimony that we actually have is good enough to rationally accept that any miracles have in fact occurred? In this essay Keith Parsons reconciles Parts I and II of Hume's long-debated "Of Miracles" by interpreting Part I to be allowing the possibility that one could rationally affirm the occurrence of a miracle on the basis of testimony in an ideal case. Part II then simply aims to show that no actual miracle claims even come close to approximating the ideal case. That is, in Part I Hume the philosopher lays out exactly how heavy a burden of proof the miracle claimant must meet when miracle claims are directed toward the well-prepared skeptic. Then in Part II Hume the historian cites the historical evidence that has been offered for miracle claims to show how unlikely it is that any actual miracle claim can meet such a burden. These two parts combine to show that, while it is in principle possible to substantiate a miracle claim with human testimony, the actual circumstances of such claims disclose a vast gap between what is verifiable in principle and what is confirmable in practice.

New in the Kiosk: The Internet Gives Doubters a Home (2019) by James A. Haught

The Internet provides a worldwide haven for freethought—and it also creates more freethought. If in-person meetings can't make a sanctuary for doubters, cyberland can. Religions spent centuries draining believers' resources to build a trillion-dollar global labyrinth of cathedrals, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, etc. Skeptics have only a few physical citadels. But, with little investment, the secular movement is making a worldwide intellectual home in the scientific marvel of cyberspace.

Recommended reading from the Bookstore: Doubting Jesus' Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box? (2nd Edition) (2014) by Kris D. Komarnitsky

Doubting Jesus' Resurrection begins at the Bible's account of a discovered empty tomb three days after Jesus' death. Considering scholarship from both sides of the aisle, it explains why there is good reason to conclude that this tradition is a legend. Following up on this possibility, Doubting Jesus' Resurrection turns its attention to the earliest recorded Christian beliefs that Jesus was raised on the third day and that he appeared to many people. Covering many topics often encountered in discussions about Jesus' resurrection, this book proposes an answer to the question: What plausibly could have caused the rise of these extraordinary beliefs if there never was a discovered empty tomb and Jesus did not actually rise from the dead?

December 21, 2019

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While politicians continue to pander to citizens' religious sensibilities, younger generations are increasingly—and likely irrevocably—secularizing the country. For the first time in US history, in 2019 the number of Americans who identify as nonreligious overtook those who identify as Catholic or evangelical. The General Social Survey's data points plainly show the nonreligious as the only 'affiliation' whose numbers are not declining or stagnating, but rising steadily. At the same time, hopes that millennials might turn back to religion as they get older and start families are not being realized; as one report put it, "there's mounting evidence that today's younger generations may be leaving religion for good." And as another report added, "the rise of religious non-affiliation in America looks like one of those rare historical moments that is neither slow, nor subtle, nor cyclical."

For over two decades Internet Infidels has shaped minds around the world by making hard-to-find material about atheism and naturalism freely available to anyone with Internet access. Whether underscoring the conflict between science and religion or exposing the all-too-human origins of Bronze-age myths about the Canaanite god of metallurgy, Internet Infidels is the only nonprofit that provides an extensive counterbalance to supernaturalistic ideologies.

November 29, 2019

Added To Galilee or Jerusalem? A Response to Apologetics Press (2019) by J. C. Jackson to the Resurrection page under Christianity, as well as the Eric Lyons section of Criticisms of Christian Apologetics and Apologists, in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

There's a discrepancy between the Gospel of Luke on the one hand, and the Gospels of Mark and Matthew on the other, as to where Jesus' disciples were instructed to stay after Jesus' resurrection. Luke has the post-Resurrection Jesus instructing them to stay in Jerusalem, whereas Mark and Matthew have him telling them to stay in Galilee. In an article for Apologetics Press, Eric Lyons attempts to explain away this discrepancy by positing that Jesus' post-Resurrection instructions to his disciples in Luke didn't necessarily happen on Easter Sunday, but could have happened on a subsequent day. In this response to Apologetics Press, however, J. C. Jackson points out that this interpretation is flatly inconsistent with the conclusions of innumerable Christian scholars and theologians. Worse still, it's inconsistent with the understanding of early Christians themselves, who were willing to simply remove references to an event in Luke's Gospel altogether in order to smooth over the timeline problems that keeping them would lay bare. But most damning of all, Jackson's direct analysis of the context clearly demonstrates that Apologetics Press' rationalization of the discrepancy immediately falls apart.

New in the Kiosk: The Future's Not Ours to See (2019) by Robert Shaw

In this article Robert Shaw examines some of the successes attributed to the authors of the Bible, and compares them to those of other secular prophets such as Nostradamus, in being able to precisely tell the future. Shaw looks at a number of ways in which these prophecies are given the appearance of fulfillment by those that advocate their validity. He then argues that the skill of being able to predict the future accurately is scientifically impossible.

October 31, 2019

Added God Doesn't Punish? (2019) by Michael Moore to the Christian Worldview page under Christianity and Psychology of Religion page under Theism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Apologists from several different Christian denominations paradoxically maintain that God doesn't punish sinners, but instead shows mercy on them. In his final essay the late Michael Moore categorizes the kinds of contortions that these apologists explicitly resort to in order to rationalize the numerous biblical passages that show otherwise. Moore concludes that there are four standard responses to the paradox: God shows his mercy by (1) playing word games, (2) letting the Devil do his punishing for him, (3) punishing only those who fail to play by the rules, or (4) making bad things happen in order to demonstrate his greatness.

In what sociologists call a total institution, daily life is strictly regulated according to the norms, rules, and schedules set forth by a single authority, whose subordinates enforce these directives. Erving Goffman's original typology of total institutions included (among other things) convents, nursing homes, boarding schools, prisons, and concentration camps, but subsequent scholars have expanded it to include elementary schools, the home, the media, tourism, universities, and other organizations. In this essay Michael Moore argues that religion should also take its rightful place alongside these institutions since it, too, exerts control over its subjects by "putting to death" one's self along the same seven dimensions that characterize other total institutions.

New in the Kiosk: Meditation, Spirituality, Enlightenment? (2019) by Anthony Campbell

Do you meditate? If so, why? Is it because you are spiritual? Do you hope that it may lead to enlightenment? What is enlightenment anyway? Does it even exist? In this article Anthony Campell considers these questions in the light of his experience of two methods of meditation, Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Buddhist insight meditation (mindfulness).

September 30, 2019

Added Nonbelief as Support for Atheism (1998) by Theodore M. Drange to the The Argument from (Reasonable) Nonbelief page under Arguments for Atheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In this paper (originally presented as a talk) Theodore M. Drange seeks to improve upon J. L. Schellenberg's watershed argument that a perfectly loving God would reveal his existence clearly to people in order to get them to believe in him. Schellenberg's argument maintains that the existence of a large number of nontheists provides good reason to deny the existence of such a perfectly loving God. But Drange argues that a stronger version of the argument would add to God's attributes a strong desire for humanity's love. Since one cannot love God if one does not believe in him, God would more clearly desire widespread belief in his existence under Drange's revised formulation. Drange then responds to objections to this line of reasoning, particularly those couched in terms of a free-will or unknown-purpose defense, including Daniel Howard-Snyder's inappropriate-response defense. To this day Drange is unaware of any response by either Schellenberg or Howard-Snyder to his objections to their arguments.

New in the Kiosk: The Search for Meaning (2019) by James A. Haught

We unsure people are doomed to be seekers, always searching for a meaning to life, but never quite finding one. Both the cosmos and our biosphere seem utterly indifferent to humanity, caring not a whit whether we live or die. Only a monster would arrange the monstrosities too often found in our world, and do nothing to save the victims. So common sense proves that the beneficent modern God is a fantasy who doesn't exist. We who are not orthodox religious believers can't find any underlying reason for existence. And we know that death looms ahead. So we must make the interval as enjoyable as possible, while we're here.

August 31, 2019

Added The Argument from Physiological Horrors (2004; updated 2019) by Horia Plugaru to the Evidential Arguments from Evil page under Arguments for Atheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In this essay Horia Plugaru argues that the existence of physiological horrors provides evidence against the existence of a traditional theistic God. Although the argument proceeds from the empirical observation of facts that shouldn't obtain in a theistic world, and horrors by definition bring us some sort of suffering, the argument is not a variation on the evidential argument from evil, though it is related to it. Rather, the argument is that unjustified and extreme ugliness is unlikely to be found in the work of a perfect creator, but since it is in fact found in the world, human beings are probably not the products of a perfect creator.

August 17, 2019

New in the Kiosk: The Humble Origins of the Abrahamic Religions (2019) by Robert Shaw

An embellished and creatively written history of the origins and development of a Canaanite tribe underlies Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. None of the myriad of documents from ancient Egypt ever mention hundreds of thousands of foreign slaves leaving following a series of catastrophes, for example, nor has any archaeological evidence of the movement of a supposed half a million refugees from the Sinai peninsula ever been uncovered. Nevertheless, the Jesus of the Gospels seems to concur with this erroneous version of history, affirming the Genesis creation myth, the existence of the mythological Noah and Abraham, and the historicity of Moses' exodus, among other things. The Qur'an and Islamic exegesis subscribe to the historicity of such people and events no less. The arbitrary selection of Yahweh—the Canaanite god of metallurgy—from the vast Canaanite pantheon of gods over 2,500 years ago has had a profound effect on the belief systems of billions of people who have lived since.

July 31, 2019

Added Filthy Lucre: The Church and Wealth (2019) by Michael Moore to the Christian Worldview page under Christianity and Psychology of Religion page under Theism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

The New Testament laments that "money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith." Meanwhile, the Vatican discovers "hundreds of millions of euros 'tucked away'" off the books in various departments of the Holy See, to say nothing of the officially recorded cost of the construction and maintenance of various lavish Catholic buildings. While there is no lack of "prosperity gospel" apologists who twist and turn in their efforts to explain the blaring discrepancy between the New Testament's condemnation of wealth and the mammon accumulated by the Church, as Pope Francis himself noted, "It is a scandal to say one thing and do another."

Added Religion as a Total Institution (2019) by Michael Moore to the Psychology of Religion page under Theism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In what sociologists call a total institution, daily life is strictly regulated according to the norms, rules, and schedules set forth by a single authority, whose subordinates enforce these directives. Erving Goffman's original typology of total institutions included (among other things) convents, nursing homes, boarding schools, prisons, and concentration camps, but subsequent scholars have expanded it to include elementary schools, the home, the media, tourism, universities, and other organizations. In this essay Michael Moore argues that religion should also take its rightful place alongside these institutions since it, too, exerts control over its subjects by "putting to death" one's self along the same seven dimensions that characterize other total institutions.

New in the Kiosk: My Friend Peter and Possibilianism (2019) by Gil Gaudia

I share with my friend Peter the idea that organized religion and contemporary beliefs about God are not credible, but I think he still possesses some of the elements of a "seeker." He recently expressed excitement after learning about neuroscientist David Eagleman's "possibilianism." After listening to one of Eagleman's talks, it seemed to me that he made an argument from ignorance when he concluded that "our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism." What does "ignorance of the cosmos" have to do with atheism? I think he does not understand what atheists actually think. Simply stated, we think that there is no evidence to support the supernatural in general or God in particular. It seems that Dr. Eagleman has created a straw man, but unfortunately many people, including my dear friends, are impressed with his presentation. Nothing about the astronomical information he cites refutes the idea that there is no evidence for God or the supernatural. Indeed, if anything, that information reinforces that science and reason offer the only possible hope that we will ever understand the cosmos.

June 29, 2019

Added Fine-Tuning and Probability (2019) by Stephen Nygaard to the Argument to Design page under Arguments for the Existence of a God in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

A paper written over twenty years proves a mathematical theorem purporting to show that a supernaturalistic explanation for the universe is not supported by the anthropic principle, the notion that the observed properties of the universe must be compatible with its observers since otherwise the observers couldn't exist. Although this theorem is undoubtedly correct, it is not a very useful argument against the fine-tuning argument, whose standard premise is that fine-tuning is extremely improbable if naturalism is true. In the present paper Stephen Nygaard explains this mathematical theorem, presents some criticisms of it, and examines some counterarguments to the fine-tuning argument in which this theorem does not play a significant role. Nygaard shows that other aspects of probability theory, particularly the odds form of Bayes' theorem, are much more useful in uncovering the shortcomings of the fine-tuning argument. In particular, the fine-tuning argument ultimately fails because theism is not an explanation of apparent fine-tuning at all in any practical sense, so even if naturalism were unable to explain apparent fine-tuning, theism would not be a better alternative.

New in the Kiosk: Proposing Weak Naturalism (2019) by Hugh Harris

As far as we know, the natural world is all there is. If there are realms that we cannot know, then there is no use in speculating upon them. Weak naturalism limits itself to what we know. Just as a weak atheist simply disbelieves in God given the lack of evidence, weak naturalism disavows the supernatural for the same reason.

In only asserting the existence of the natural world, the burden of proof is transferred to the "supernaturalist." Proposing weak naturalism does not require positive evidence showing why it's probable that nothing transcends nature. Rather, it appeals to the lack of evidence for anything supernatural, period. It's not scientism to expect knowledge-claims to be verifiable or testable. The scientific method has become the accepted method for ascertaining which empirical claims are true or not for a reason.

Recommended reading from the Bookstore: The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (2011) by Victor J. Stenger

Drawing on the findings of modern physics and cosmology, numerous authors have argued that it would have taken only slight changes to some of the universe's physical parameters to make life, as we know it, extremely unlikely or even impossible. But does the seemingly "fine-tuned" nature of the universe also suggest that there must be a creator god who intentionally calibrated the initial conditions of the universe to assure that life on Earth and the evolution of humanity would inevitably emerge? Some influential scientists, such as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, think so. Others go even further, asserting that science "has found God." But physicist Victor J. Stenger looks at the same body of evidence and comes to the opposite conclusion. After many years of research in particle physics and cosmology and careful thought about their implications, he finds that the observations of science and our naked senses not only show no evidence for God, they provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that God does not exist.

May 31, 2019

Added Moshe Averick's Nonsense of a High Order as a Model of the Flaws of Biblicist Denial of a Naturalistic Origin of Life (2019) by Michael D. Reynolds to the Argument to Design: Reviews/Critiques page under Arguments for the Existence of a God page, as well as the Naturalism page under Nontheism, in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In an earlier critique of Orthodox rabbi Moshe Averick's Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism, Michael D. Reynolds pointed out that Averick's book is typical of recent popular works attacking "atheism" in leaning on various informal logical fallacies. In this follow-up critique Reynolds focuses specifically on what Averick has to say about the "failure" of naturalistic accounts of the origin of life, which comprise forty-eight percent of the text of Nonsense of a High Order. Reynolds finds that Averick is ignorant of the nature of science and its principles, that he either does not know, or else fails to understand, the standard scientific explanations of the topics that he addresses, that this ignorance or incomprehension causes him to invent odd notions that completely misrepresent the standard scientific view, that he arbitrarily rejects standard scientific explanations without providing any substantial argument against them, and that he repeatedly asserts that something is true without offering any argument for its truth, among other things.

April 24, 2019

Added Moshe Averick's Nonsense of a High Order as a Model of the Flaws of Attacks on Nontheism (2019) by Michael D. Reynolds to the Naturalism page under Nontheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Orthodox rabbi Moshe Averick's Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism is in many ways typical of that niche of recent popular books that attack modern "atheism." The errors that plague Averick's own thinking are often found in other authors of similar works. For example, Averick repeatedly makes assertions without providing any arguments to back them up, fails to engage relevant research on the issues that he touches on, and misrepresents the views of his opponents. He also spills a great deal of ink critiquing idiosyncratic views of his opponents as if they were typical of nontheists as a whole, uncharitably attaches false meanings to his opponents' statements, and takes their words out of context. He both mischaracterizes how science is done and twists cherry-picked scientific findings to create the appearance that they support his own religiously informed positions. Projecting his own unwillingness "to consider anything that presents a challenge to his dearly held belief system" on to his opponents, Averick steadfastly advocates the existence of spirits and their frequent interaction with our world, that human minds involve a spiritual component, and that the Supreme Spirit sustaining the physical world has handed down rules for us to follow, dismissing naturalistic accounts of mind, meaning, and morality for the flimsiest of reasons.

New in the Kiosk: The Invention of Hell (2019) by Robert Shaw

Christianity has brought many people to believe that those who behave badly face permanent torture in the afterlife. In this article, Robert Shaw argues that the historical Jesus envisaged a rather different fate for such individuals, and that the very idea of Hell as pictured by many Christians today was in fact an invention of the later Church.

February 28, 2019

Added Theodical Individualism against Skeptical Theism (2019) by Horia Plugaru to the Evidential Arguments from Evil page under Arguments for Atheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In this essay Horia George Plugaru rebuts the skeptical theism response to the evidential argument from evil by employing an intuitive moral principle called the principle of theodical individualism. Although skeptical theists deny the existence of pointless evil, theodical individualism signals its existence. The only recourse left to skeptical theists is to fall into moral paralysis or make serious concessions to proponents of the evidential argument from evil.

Added On Miracles and Miracle Workers (2019) by Michael Moore to the Argument from Miracles and Psychology of Religion pages under Theism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Miracles are the staple food of religions. In order for a religion to flourish, its adherents must believe in a supernatural power greater than that of mere mortals. While some alleged miracles are held to have originated from a divine power alone, more often than not a particular individual is believed to have been chosen to work wonders. Picking up from his earlier work on false prophets, in this essay Michael Moore explores the psychological methods employed by various "miracle-workers."

February 9, 2019

Added Misunderstanding the Burden of Proof (2019) (Off Site) by Richard Carrier to the On the Nonexistence of God and Proving a Negative page under Atheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In this response to Don McIntosh's "Transcending Proof," Richard Carrier explains how McIntosh does not actually address the logic or arguments that Carrier makes in his "Proving a Negative," and updates its logical structure to make the same point using Bayesian epistemology.

January 31, 2019

Added Religion and Cultural Cleansing (2019) by Michael Moore to the Psychology of Religion page under Theism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Knowledge has traditionally been transmitted across generations through spoken and written words. Both mediums have disadvantages: spoken words get distorted, and written ones are often destroyed. In this essay Michael Moore discusses the willful, ideologically motivated destruction of religious and cultural heritage by representatives of competing religions. Illustrative cases exemplify violent religious intolerance in general.

New in the Kiosk: How the Early Followers of Jesus Dealt with the Unexpected Death of their Messiah (2019) by Robert Shaw

In this article, Robert Shaw explores the crucifixion of Jesus and how the Gospel narratives of this event were embellished with allusions to Old Testament passages. In addition, Shaw shows that early Christians developed an interpretation of Jesus' death as part of a premeditated divine plan that was at odds with contemporary Jewish expectations of the Messiah.

Recommended reading from the Bookstore: The End of Biblical Studies (2007) by Hector Avalos

In this radical critique of his own academic specialty, biblical scholar Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies as we know them. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion. First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs and concerns of contemporary human beings. Second, Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today's world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.

December 31, 2018

Added Science vs. Religion: The Conflict Thesis Revisited (2018) by Bart Klink to the Science and Religion page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

It is commonly held that science and religion are in conflict, but a number of sophisticated believers and historians have disputed this. They have pointed out that there has never been a state of continuous conflict between science and religion, and that many scientists have been religious. Though both of these points are true, neither speak to whether the content of religious doctrines remain tenable in light of various scientific developments. In this essay Bart Klink argues that there is indeed a genuine conflict between science and religion, and that it manifests itself on four different levels. Historically, there has been conflict between the content of religious doctrines and the developing body of scientific knowledge. Sociologically, scientists are significantly less religious than nonscientists, and people of faith explicitly reject scientific findings on religious grounds. In psychology, the cognitive science of religion has had a debunking effect by providing naturalistic explanations for religious beliefs that, while not strictly refuting them, nevertheless render supernatural accounts of their origins improbable. Finally, there has been a philosophical conflict in the sense that the sciences have made the existence of a personal God and other theistic claims (e.g., to divine revelations, miracles, and answered prayers) improbable. Science has historically 'desupernaturalized' phenomena and provided a coherent naturalistic big picture of the universe that has only lead to a monologue between science and religion—one in favor of science.

New in the Kiosk: Why Would Anyone Believe Justin Barrett's Theistic Arguments? (2018) by Michael D. Reynolds

Christian psychologist Justin Barrett argues that belief in immaterial minds is similar to and justifies belief in God. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates that Barrett's concept of mind is outmoded. Moreover, Barrett does not distinguish between innate beliefs in other people's mental abilities and the cultural concept of mind, which is learned, not innate. The belief that other people think, have emotions, and so forth is supported by evidence, but there is no evidence for the existence of God.

Barrett presumes that "atheism" is difficult to maintain because innate ways of thinking promote belief in spirits. In response, Reynolds provides some of the reasons for nontheism and refutes Barrett's arguments that having moral principles and confidence in one's beliefs pose special problems for nontheists. Reynolds concludes that, to the contrary, living as a nontheist is not difficult and does not require social and cultural segregation to sustain it.

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