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Philosophy of Religion

The Demon, Matrix, Material World, and Dream Possibilities

René Descartes searched for certain knowledge, a goal that was long ago abandoned by most philosophers. But a lack of certainty does little to undercut the need for sufficient evidence before accepting a proposition about the nature of our experience in this world. All we need to do is think inductively rather than deductively, think exclusively in terms of probabilities, and understand that when speaking of sufficient evidence what is meant is evidence plus reasoning based on that evidence. I know as sure as I can know anything that there is a material world and that I can reasonably trust my senses. I conclude that the scientific method is our only sure way for assessing truth claims.

What’s Wrong with Using Bayes’ Theorem on Miracles?

In this essay John Loftus defends Hitchens’ razor: "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." Christopher Hitchens' point was that miracle claims without any evidence should be dismissed without a further thought. Bayes' theorem requires the existence of some credible evidence/data before it can be correctly used in evaluating miracle claims. So to be Bayes-worthy, a miracle claim must first survive Hitchens' razor, which dismisses all miracle claims asserted without any evidence. If this first step doesn't take place, Bayes is being used inappropriately and must be opposed as irrelevant, unnecessary, and even counterproductive in our honest quest for truth.

A Lesson Learned

Based on conversations with religious family members, Bob Harriet outlines key takeaway points about rational deliberation about religion with the faithful. He concludes, for instance, that fundamentalists reside in a bubble that cannot be penetrated from the outside by philosophical arguments, the results of biblical scholarship, or other such academic concerns. Thus, unless freethinkers particularly enjoy engaging in argument for its own sake, or have other reasons for offering up arguments, it is best to simply live and let live given (as Harriet sees it) the futility of attempts to change the beliefs of the faithful.

The Pandemic Disproves God

The pandemic gripping the world raises the age-old philosophical dilemma called "the problem of evil"—which asks why a supposedly all-loving God does nothing to stop horrors like diseases, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and the like. If there's an all-merciful father-creator, why did he make breast cancer, childhood leukemia, cerebral palsy, natural disasters, and predator animals that rip peaceful grazers apart?

Arguing the Problem of Evil with Ordinary Believers

"I am not shocked that the believers I interact with doubt the efficacy against theism of the problem of evil argument, but I am shocked that almost all of them really fail to convince me that they take the objection seriously. I would like to investigate this failure and also lay out some helpful ways of effectively communicating the problem of evil to ordinary believers."

On the Value of Ontological Arguments

An ontological argument is one that uses reason and intuition alone to come to a conclusion, most often the conclusion that God exists. Well-known Christian apologists William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga use ontological arguments for this very purpose. DeLaney argues, however, that we cannot derive knowledge regarding external reality simply by manipulating words, and that that every attempt to generate knowledge must be grounded in empirical observations.

Religion and Relationship

"It seems to me that respect is an essential ingredient in love, and yet I found myself claiming (sincerely) to love someone whose central worldview I considered ridiculous. At last, I felt my position on truth and religion had to be reexamined. This letter was part of my attempt to understand and explain that process."