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Naturalism

Thank God for the Atheist

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 also 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?

Miraculous Cures?

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.

Meditation, Spirituality, Enlightenment?

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).

The Search for Meaning

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.

Why Would Anyone Believe Justin Barrett’s Theistic Arguments?

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.

A Review of “The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates”

The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates is a recent offering by sociologist and rock 'n' roll publicist Howard Bloom. The book claims to have answered a question that cosmologists and philosophers have been asking since the origins of their fields: How could something as spectacular as the universe have come to be without a divine intelligence devising and setting it into motion? The only attempt the book actually makes at solving the God problem is by outlining what is referred to as, "the Bloom Toroidal Model of the Universe," (also called "the big bagel theory").

The Nature of Information: A Doorway to a Postreligious World

Atheism is not a worldview and provides no understanding of the nature of the universe; it is simply a denial of the existence of God and it is essentially useless as a contribution to our understanding of the world. So, the question arises—if there is no God, what is the nature of the universe and how can we understand it and our place in it?

More Than an Atheist

"Are you an atheist?" always makes me feel somewhat awkward, uncertain how to respond. It is not that I mind having people know that I do not believe in God. I have never been a believer, and I am unconcerned about who knows it. My problem with "atheist" is that it is too negative and does not say enough about what I consider to be true.

Sentience Not Explained

Daniel C. Dennett has provided a valuable insight into the operation of the conscious mind in his book, Consciousness Explained. This work demolishes the fallacy of the Cartesian Theater and replaces it with a scientifically verifiable Multiple Drafts model. Dennett disqualifies the mystery of qualia but conspicuously neglects the much greater mystery of sentience. Most interestingly, he not only acknowledges sentience in his later book, Kinds of Minds, but also admits to both its great moral implications and lack of present explanation. This discussion is not intended as a book review but rather as a critique of Dennett's claim that anything fitting his Multiple Drafts model is conscious in the fullest sense.

"Atheist" Scare-Quotes Original

"'Atheist.' You can almost hear the thunder rolling in the background. Just in the last few days, I've seen 'atheist' written in ways that indicate that the word represents a menacing entity--or even something supernatural. This seems to tell me that 'atheist' and 'atheism' are not only terms commonly misunderstood, but also words outside normal, acceptable, rational speech."

Narrative in the Rise of Religion

In recent years skeptics have often applied Richard Dawkins' "memes" idea to religion. This does go some of the way towards providing a naturalistic explanation for religion but I think it over-emphasizes the importance of belief at the expense of narrative. Religions, I suggest, mostly begin with narrative; belief arises later and is, in a sense, a secondary development. It is probably our Christian heritage that leads us to attach undue importance to the role of belief. Narrative depends largely on language, and there are important similarities between religions and language in the way in which they are acquired. This way of looking at religion suggests an explanation for its seeming ubiquity in human culture and also for its persistence in our modern society.

Bishop Spong, Christian ‘Humanist’

He does not believe in any of the supernatural events depicted in the Bible, yet John Shelby Spong will not be labeled "an atheist." He considers himself a Christian through and through, a Christian who sees a need for a new Reformation and whose church is leading the way into the future--even at the risk of alienating half its members. Spong believes that Christianity must change or die. Braverman believes that if the Christians are to be brought into the twenty-first century, it can only be done by an insider like Bishop Spong.