What's New on the Secular Web?
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February 27, 2008
Added Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine (2006) by Richard P. Sloan to the Secular Web Bookstore.
Pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. Surgeons who pray in the operating room. Pro-life clinics and end-of-life interventions, intelligent-design activists and stem-cell-research opponents--is this the state of modern medicine in America? Sloan examines the fragile balance and dangerous alliance between religion and medicine--two practices that have grown disconcertingly close during the twenty-first century. He believes--and in fact proves--that there is no compelling evidence that faith provides an actual cure for any ailment.
February 23, 2008
Are there any logical reasons to believe in God? Mathematician and bestselling author John Allen Paulos thinks not. In Irreligion he presents the case for his own worldview, organizing his book into twelve chapters that refute the twelve arguments most often put forward for believing in God's existence.
February 21, 2008
In The Resurrection of Christ liberal theologian Gerd Lüdemann tackles the biggest miracle claim of all, explaining why he no longer finds traditional Christian beliefs tenable--particularly belief in the Resurrection as described in the canonical Gospels. Moreover, he makes the case that a Christianity based on reconstructing the teachings of the historical Jesus without a miraculous underpinning is an empty creed. However, the book suffers from a number of shortcomings, from the crucial omission of any discussion of Gospel genre to the lack of informed textual criticism. Lüdemann's book would also have been more useful had he spent more time rebutting Christian apologetic defenses of the historicity of the Resurrection. Lüdemann nevertheless offers a fresh translation and analysis of the texts he surveys, and competently takes on those who think that we can still be Christians despite the nonhistoricity of the resurrection of Christ.
Note: The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry by Gerd Lüdemann is available in the Secular Web bookstore.
February 4, 2008
The late great astronomer and astrophysicist describes his personal search to understand the nature of the sacred in the vastness of the cosmos. Exhibiting a breadth of intellect nothing short of astounding, Sagan presents his views on a wide range of topics, including the likelihood of intelligent life on other planets, creationism and so-called intelligent design, and a new concept of science as "informed worship." Originally presented at the centennial celebration of the famous Gifford Lectures in Scotland in 1985 but never published, this book offers a unique encounter with one of the most remarkable minds of the twentieth century.
February 1, 2008
The Great Debate: added Section Three: Science and the Cosmos and Section Four: Faith and Uncertainty to God or Blind Nature? Philosophers Debate the Evidence (2007-2008) edited by Paul Draper in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
The publication of the final two debates completes the Great Debate, with the exception of forthcoming counterreplies from Quentin Smith and Robin Collins to the replies to their opening cases. In the third debate, "Science and the Cosmos," Quentin Smith challenges the view that naturalism leaves nature unexplained by arguing that the universe explains itself. There was no earliest instant of time, Smith argues, and this demonstrates that every state of the universe can be causally explained without appealing to causes "outside" of the universe--leaving no logical space for a God or for any other external cause of the universe. Robin Collins offers three design arguments for the existence of God, with the primary fine-tuning argument contending that life or intelligent life depends for its existence on the fact that a number of physical parameters of the universe have (numerical) values that fall within a range of life-permitting values that is very narrow. Such fine-tuning entails, Collins argues, that the existence of life is much more surprising on naturalism than on theism.
In the final debate, "Faith and Uncertainty," John Schellenberg argues that a certain kind of uncertainty about the existence of God actually provides strong evidence that God does not exist, given that a loving God would not deny those open to accepting him grounds to believe in him. Shedding Pascal's wager of its numerous shortcomings, Jeffrey Jordan attempts to strengthen what he thinks is right in the wager by developing an updated "Jamesian wager." Jordan's contention is that individuals should believe in God for pragmatic reasons: belief in God increases one's chances of living a longer or happier life.
Please note that readers may submit questions to any of the authors in this debate about their contributions. Q&A sessions for all debate topics will be published in Spring/Summer 2008.
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. 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.
Book-of-the-Month: The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (2007) Christopher Hitchens
From the #1 New York Times best-selling author of God Is Not Great, a provocative and entertaining guided tour of atheist and agnostic thought through the ages, with never-before-published pieces by Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Whether you are an atheist, a believer--or uncertain--The Portable Atheist will speak to you and engage you every step of the way.
The Major Freethought Events page has been updated.
Thanks to Jason Torpy of The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) for maintaining the events page.