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July 30, 2005
Krause says, "Whenever I critique the inherent, ubiquitous, and incessant relationship between Abrahamic monotheism and senseless violence, I inevitably receive defiant rejoinders not only from Christian rigorists but from misinformed moderates and secularists as well. Such people offer Hitler and Nazism as verification of humanity's purely secular propensity toward excessive bloodshed. But contrary to popular opinion, Adolf Hitler was not an atheist."
July 28, 2005
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 deficiencies of this book.
July 24, 2005
Added Review of Michael Martin's Atheism, Morality, and Meaning (2005) by John Perkins to the Atheistic Perspectives on Specific Ethical Issues, the Can Life Have Meaning without God?, and the Why Should Atheists Be Moral? index pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this review of Michael Martin's Atheism, Morality, and Meaning, John L. Perkins outlines Martin's responses to the theistic charge that atheists lack the motivation to be moral (in virtue of denying that rewards and punishments for earthly behavior exist after death), and the charge that atheists' lives are devoid of meaning. Martin first formulates and defends a version of secular ethics based on ideal observer theory, then turns to a critical analysis of religious ethics based on divine command theory. Martin further argues that, contrary to popular belief, it is theists--not atheists--whose lives lack real meaning. Christians in particular, Martin argues, ground meaning in a doctrine of atonement which actually undermines accountability for one's own actions. After noting a significant weakness of the book, Perkins suggests that the Golden Rule underlies an effective motivational constraint on undesirable social behavior.
July 23, 2005
Added Review of Drange's Nonbelief and Evil (2005) by Charles Echelbarger to the Arguments for Atheism: Evidential Arguments from Evil index page and the Arguments for Atheism: Argument from Reasonable Nonbelief in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this review of Ted Drange's Nonbelief and Evil, Charles Echelbarger outlines the contribution that the book makes to the philosophy of religion literature, comparing it to the work of other nontheistic philosophers of religion and noting Drange's emphasis on the different conceptions of God that comprehensive nontheistic arguments must address. He then turns to a discussion of Drange's two main arguments, the argument from evil and the argument from nonbelief, noting that Drange finds the latter superior to the more traditional argument from evil. He also notes that, on Drange's view, the argument from nonbelief has no force against the existence of the sort of remote Creator envisioned by radical deism.
July 22, 2005
Added Review of Chet Raymo's Skeptics and True Believers (2005) by Thomas Clark to the Science and Religion index page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
Although science and religion have long been in collision, it is fashionable (and politically correct) to portray this ongoing battle as a mutual accommodation, but in reality, religion is doing most of the accommodating, as the gaps in understanding that nourish God grow ever smaller. For many seeking religious consolation, the advance of science has forced a retreat to the easy fix of New Age nostrums; but in Skeptics and True Believers, Chet Raymo shows that there is a better way.
July 20, 2005
Richard Carrier updated his Fundamental Flaws in Mark Steiner's Challenge to Naturalism (2003) with the addition of a sentence reflecting new information regarding Superstring theory.
Added "as it happens, though still hypothetical, Superstring theory now offers a complete physical basis for the success of matrix mechanics, something Steiner seems to think is impossible."
July 8, 2005
Added Review of Owen Flanagan's The Problem of the Soul (2005) by Thomas Clark to the to the Empirical Arguments section of the Life After Death: Immortality index page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
While tradition holds that the soul is an immaterial essence which can survive bodily death and choose independently of physical causes, science reveals that we are wholly physical beings. Jettisoning a "philosophically diseased" dualism inherited from Descartes, The Problem of the Soul notes that our neuroscientific understanding of cognition leaves little room for an immaterial self inhabiting the body, and that philosophical reflection demonstrates that contra-causal free will is conceptually incoherent. By naturalizing the soul, Flanagan argues, we secure what matters to us most--our individuality, rationality, genuine freedom, and moral responsibility--on a much surer footing.
July 5, 2005
Added Despair, Optimism, and Rebellion (2005) by Evan Fales to the Can Life Have Meaning without God? and the Christian Worldview index pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this contribution to an American Philosophical Association symposium on "God, Death, and the Meaning of Life," Evan Fales considers three responses to loss of faith in the Christian God: despair, optimism, and rebellion. Western culture is permeated by belief in an afterlife on religious grounds, shaping these responses in particularly anxious ways. Fales considers both how atheists can respond to the question of the meaning of life, and, in what is surely a surprising direction for some, whether Christianity even has the resources to provide meaning through doctrines as problematic as requiring another to pay for your own sins.
July 1, 2005
Updated the Call for Papers by adding a request for book reviews of several books:
- Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did by Gerd Lüdemann. Prometheus Books, 2001. Pp 707. $41.00 (Cloth)
- The Myth of Morality by Richard Joyce. Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp 264. $75.00 (Cloth)
- Philosophers Without Gods: Atheism in a World of Believers ed. Louise Antony. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp 304. (Cloth)
Current Feature: Out-of-Body Experiences (2000), by Ian Williams Goddard
Paranormal experiences that transcend the perceived confines of the body, such as out-of-body experiences, may be seen as evidence of the existence of a "spiritual body" that can exceed the confines of the physical body. This article, however, provides a simple neurological explanation for such paranormal experience.
Book-of-the-Month: Mortal Minds: The Biology of Near Death Experiences (2005), by G. M. Woerlee
Dying is the last conscious experience undergone by each person. But what do the dying experience? In the last few decades a good deal of publicity has surrounded people who have been close to death and then reported intense experiences that seem to suggest a supernatural existence beyond death. Does the conscious mind somehow continue to exist after the body has passed away? Mortal Minds answers these questions.
Even if we disregard the overwhelming evidence for the dependence of consciousness on the brain, there remains strong evidence from reports of near-death experiences themselves that NDEs are not glimpses of an afterlife.