October 11, 2021
Join Edouard Tahmizian in this nearly half-hour interview with Dan Barker, co-president of the long-running Freedom from Religion Foundation, about how the fine-tuning argument for a designer fallaciously equivocates order/organization with intentional design, the best evidence for evolution, the historical reliability of the canonical Gospels and their divergent resurrection accounts, the historicity of Jesus, and more! Check out this fantastic interview with a preacher-turned-atheist who’s done his homework on a wide range of issues.
October 9, 2021
Added A Critique of the Penal Substitution Interpretation of the Cross of Christ (2021) by John MacDonald to the Biblical Criticism and Christian Worldview pages under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this essay John MacDonald attempts to recover the oldest meaning of the cross of Jesus and that of Jesus’ resurrection in their historical context. The paper argues that penal substitution, the popular conservative evangelical interpretation of the cross, is incorrect, and furthermore that it results in interpretive absurdities when applied to the text/evidence. Penal substitution claims that a just God lacks the ability to forgive, and so requires punishment for sin, where the innocent Jesus was substituted for us sinners and brutally bore the punishment for our sins, wiping our sin debt clean. By contrast, this essay presents a nonpenal substitution participation crucifixion model, where Jesus is understood to be our willing victim as a catalyst for opening our eyes to our hidden “satanic influenced vileness” and for encouraging repentance. The oldest meaning of the resurrection of Jesus will also be shown to be what Jesus’ disciples took to be evidence for overcoming death in a blessed way, and empowering us to live righteously. The cross/resurrection argument will further be contextualized in a Second Temple framework of apocalypticism and demonology/superstition to show that the original meaning of the cross and resurrection is so divorced from most modern Christian frameworks and beliefs that many modern Christians would reject the heart of what their ancient counterpart would hold as fundamental to living a good and holy Christian life. The upshot is that the usual modern conservative interpretations of the cross and resurrection bear no, or at least merely superficial, relation to the original ancient ones.
October 8, 2021
In this roughly hour-long interview with leading biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan, host Edouard Tahmizian delves into Crossan’s intriguing exploration of how Paul recast the Judaic concept of a general resurrection at the end of time as process that occurs through time, the obscenity of the notion that God oversaw Jesus’ murder so that Jesus could take the punishment for our sins to absolve us from having to receive it, what higher criticism has revealed about the use of “artistic license” in the composition of the canonical Gospels, and whether Jesus was one of many contemporaneous leaders experimenting with nonviolent resistance in response to Roman rule. Check out this intriguing interview with a world-class scholar on all of these issues and more!
October 7, 2021
In this nearly hour-long interview with the prominent historian and freethinker Richard C. Carrier, Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian and fellow Internet Infidels board member John MacDonald talk with Carrier about his conversion from Christianity to Taoism before he adopted metaphysical naturalism, his mystical experiences, the literature on the historicity of Jesus and Jesus mythicism, the original intent of the authors of the canonical Gospels, and much more! Tune in for this fascinating discussion with a long-running scholar and freethought activist.
Added the sixth Freethinker Podcast YouTube video on Edouard Tahmizian’s Secular Web Paper on Determinism (2021) (Off Site) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web.
In this 20-minute overview of his Secular Web paper “God is Either the Efficient or Final Cause of Evil,” Edouard Tahmizian outlines his argument that if the biblical account outlined in Genesis is true, then God is ultimately the source of all evil since he is causally responsible for any original sin that humanity inherited from Adam and Eve’s initial transgression in the Garden of Eden.
October 1, 2021
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.
September 16, 2021
Added the fifth Freethinker Podcast YouTube interview with Bob Seidensticker (2021) (Off Site) to the Christian Worldview page under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library
In this twenty-minute dialog, host and Internet Infidels social media manager Edouard Tahmizian talks with Bob Seidensticker, a retired Microsoft computer programmer and blogger for the last decade at the Patheos blog Cross Examined: Clear Thinking about Christianity. Join Edouard and John as they discuss historical Jesus studies, John’s deconversion and antitheism, the best arguments against the existence of God, the evidence for biological evolution, the lack of manuscripts of the canonical Gospels contemporaneous with the events they depict, and John’s forthcoming book 2-Minute Christianity: 50 Big Ideas Every Christian Should Understand.
September 8, 2021
Added the fourth Freethinker Podcast YouTube interview with David Madison (2021) (Off Site) to the Biblical Criticism page under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this half-hour long dialog, Edouard Tahmizian (host and board member of Internet Infidels) talks with Dr. David Madison, a pastor-turned-atheist who received his Ph.D. in biblical studies from Boston University School of Theology, Madison recounts how his early obsession with discerning history from legend in the Bible eventually led him to become an atheist. His challenge to theists today is to provide even one verifiable fact about God that all theists agree on, a challenge made particularly daunting by the fact that theists cannot even agree about which revealed text to consult in order to answer it. Madison also talks about the societal damage wrought by Jesus’ alleged words on the unacceptability of divorce, about whether he would return during his immediate followers’ lifetimes, about the historical unreliability of the canonical Gospels, and much more. Tune in for this fascinating discussion!
September 7, 2021
Added the third Freethinker Podcast YouTube interview with David Fitzgerald (2021) (Off Site) to the Historicity of Jesus page under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this half-hour dialog with Jesus mythicist David Fitzgerald, a one-time member of the now defunct Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, host Edouard Tahmizian explores Fitzgerald’s reasons for denying the historicity of Jesus, which were born out of trying to differentiate the historical person from the legendary accretions that built up around him.
September 3, 2021
Introducing the Secular Web’s first Freethinker Podcast interview on YouTube: an interview with James McGrath (2021) (Off Site) added to the Christian Worldview page under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this 45-minute dialog with Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Literature at Butler University, host (and Internet Infidels social media manager) Edouard Tahmizian probes the penal substitutionary model of atonement, which Dr. McGrath rejects in favor of the participation model.
Added the second Freethinker Podcast YouTube interview with Dennis R. MacDonald (2021) (Off Site) to the Christian Worldview page under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this over half-hour dialog with Dr. Dennis R. MacDonald, John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Claremont School of Theology, host Edouard Tahmizian explores Dr. MacDonald’s work on the concept of mimesis and on reconstructing the historical Jesus.
August 31, 2021
Added God is Not the Source of Morality (2010) by Raymond D. Bradley to the Moral Arguments and Divine Command Theory pages under Arguments for the Existence of a God in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this overview of why we should accept that God is not the source of morality, Raymond D. Bradley first outlines four kinds of crimes that God willingly admits to causing, committing, condoning, or commanding, if the holy scriptures are to be believed: crimes against humanity, war crimes, licensing moral mayhem and murder, and crimes of torture. Since any one of these would contravene morality, a being responsible for them could hardly be said to be a source of morality. There is an explicit contradiction between God’s moral perfection and his scriptural crimes since, as Bradley says, “a morally perfect being would not do anything that is morally wrong.” So which core belief are traditional theists willing to give up to avoid this contradiction?
New in the Kiosk: The House of David and the Chinese Zhou Dynasty: A Comparative Study (2021) by Robert Shaw
Kings David and Solomon are said to have ruled over a huge kingdom that stretched from the Euphrates River to as far as the border of Egypt (according to the Bible). Archeological confirmation of the existence of such an expansive kingdom is inconclusive, however. Some apologists hold that evidence for their reign would not have survived some three millenia later. In this essay, however, Robert Shaw considers a similarly sized civilization, contemporaneous with that of David and Solomon, to explore what remnants of a three-thousand-year-old polity can reasonably be expected to be discovered today.
August 17, 2021
Added Worse than Even Our Greatest Fears: A Two-Thirds Religious Right Majority on the Supreme Court (2021) (Off Site) 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.
In this nearly hour-long speech to the Center for Inquiry, constitutional lawyer and secular activist Edward Tabash warns of the consequences of the horrific two-thirds religious right-wing majority on the United States Supreme Court: a rapid move toward ever-greater legal privileges that only the religious can enjoy. Religious objectors are quickly becoming the only members of society who are now permitted to discriminate against third parties. The Court is allowing them to use their faith to avoid complying with our country’s anti-discrimination and employment protection laws.
July 31, 2021
Added Does the God of Evangelical Christianity Exist? The Drange-McHugh Debate (2003-2004) [ Index ] by Theodore M. Drange and Christopher McHugh to the Atheism: Debates and Theistic Arguments: Debates pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
The “lost” Drange-McHugh debate on the existence of the God of evangelical Christianity was originally conducted in the Formal Debates & Discussions forum of the Internet Infidels Discussion Board (IIDB) from November 30, 2003 to May 15, 2004, and has been restored to the Secular Web proper so that it would once again be available to all on the world wide web.
In this largely autobiographical account of why he is now an apostate, James McCartney reflects on the difference between a mere skeptic and former believer who undergoes a kind of deconversion over time. McCartney recounts how his first school teacher, his diligence at Presbyterian Sunday School, and a poem by Robert Burns led him to reject the doctrines of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and those of other churches like it.
June 30, 2021
Added The Failure of Mathematical Formulations of Hume’s Maxim (2021) by Stephen Nygaard to the Argument from Miracles and Resurrection pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
Several commentators have attempted to reduce Hume’s maxim about miracles to a formula in the language of probability theory. This paper examines two such attempts, one of which is based on the probability of the alleged miracle conditioned by the testimony for it, and the other on its unconditional probability. The conditional probability leads to a formula that is valid—though only when qualified—but not useful, while the unconditional probability results in an invalid formula. The utility of expressing Hume’s maxim in terms of probability theory is shown to be questionable, and an alternative approach is presented.
Recommended reading: The Non-Canonical Gospels (2009) by Paul Foster
Biblical scholar Paul Foster’s edited volume The Non-Canonical Gospels brings together a collection of chapters written by leading experts in the field on the most significant of the noncanonical Gospels, focusing on the most hotly contested issues surrounding each text. An accessible introduction also underscores the significance of the noncanonical texts both for the original readers and for contemporary audiences. The Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and the Gospel of Mary are treated first due to their impact on historical Jesus research. The resulting discussions by scholars holding an eclectic range of views should clarify a number of popular misconceptions and allow for a more informed and stimulating debate.
June 19, 2021
A popular advocacy video on YouTube attempting to rebut arguments from evil has been disseminating among Christian religious organizations for about a decade. In an attempt to show that arguments from evil for the nonexistence of God fail, the video likens them to arguments from (human) longhairs to the nonexistence of barbers. In this article, James R. Henderson refutes the suggested theodicy that an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good God allows apparently gratuitous evils to occur because God wants more human beings to come to Him of their own free will.
May 31, 2021
Up to the present day, a large number of the followers of Abrahamic religions have insisted that the accounts of creation found in the book of Genesis are a literal historical account of past events. Do they have any basis in actual history? Are they original to the Hebrew people? If not, what or who inspired them? In this thorough examination of the history and mythology of the cultures surrounding ancient Israel, Jason Gibson compares the oldest creation myths of Mesopotamia with those found in Genesis to demonstrate a clear connection between ancient Hebrew beliefs and the Sumerian myths that predated them.
May 6, 2021
This National Day of Reason, give Enlightenment values a voice in a world drowning in alternative “facts” by pitching in to help keep the Secular Web online today!
- Honor reason by encouraging others to give proper weight to vetted claims.
- Honor science by always testing, testing, testing claims against the evidence.
- Honor critical thinking by asking friends to give reasons for their views, and push back when reason warrants it.
Check out our volunteer opportunities at various levels of commitment, too! (especially you, redditors)
April 30, 2021
Added Why Religious Experience Cannot Justify Religious Belief (2020) by David Kyle Johnson to the Religious Experience page under Arguments for the Existence of a God in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this article David Kyle Johnson argues that both the diversity of religious experiences and natural explanations for them entail that religious experiences cannot provide justification for religious beliefs. Johnson first considers the supposed role of religious experiences in justifying religious belief, then shows how the diversity of religious experiences raises an inductive problem that negates the ability of religious experience to justify religious belief. Finally, he shows that available natural explanations for religious experiences have the same end result by providing better explanations of religious experiences than religious explanations of them.
America is now losing religion faster than any other nation. American churches lost 20% of their members in the past two decades. Two-thirds of teens raised in church drop out in their twenties. Southern Baptists lost two million members since 2005. Mainline Protestantism is fading to a shadow. Meanwhile, churchless Americans began soaring in the 1990s and climbed past one-fourth of the population. They tend to hold compassionate social views and have become a powerhouse in “Left Coast” politics. If they continue rising as a progressive political force, America will be a better place for it.
March 31, 2021
Added Science, Morality, and the Death of God (2021) by Raymond D. Bradley to the Naturalism page under Nontheism, the Evidential Arguments from Evil page under Arguments for Atheism, the Argument to Design and Argument from Holy Scripture pages under Arguments for the Existence of a God, the Creationism page, and the Biblical Criticism page under Christianity, in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this greatly expanded version of his contribution to The Antipodean Philosopher, Raymond D. Bradley uses H. L. Mencken’s classic “Memorial Service” as a jumping off point to explain why he is an atheist, and not an “agnostic,” about the existence of any members of the category “gods.” Since which gods happen to predominate in the society into which one was born depends upon accidents of birth, how can anyone justifiably have confidence that any of the gods on Mencken’s list actually exist? Turning to our own Western monotheistic tradition, Bradley goes on critique the intellectual and moral defense that believers have mounted for the biblical God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with particular emphasis on “intelligent design” and “fine-tuning” arguments and how the pastorate feign ignorance about what their own biblical scholarship has uncovered about the all-too-human origins of their “revealed” sacred texts.
New in the Kiosk: An Epicurean Approach to Secularizing Rites of Passage (2021) by Hiram Crespo
Ritual is one of the most universally enjoyed human experiences, but it is often tangled up in supernatural claims that are insulting to our intelligence. Hiram Crespo, founder of the Society of Friends of Epicurus, discusses how the contractarian theory of Epicurean philosophy may be applied to the creation of rites of passage that retain their utility while being purged from superstition.
Recommended reading: Finite Human, Infinite Humanity: A History of the Universe and Theory of Everything (2021) by Richard Brown
Debates about God are highly emotional, but something is always missing—actual evidence that atheists, agnostics, and believers can all agree with. This book presents that evidence as part of humanity’s quest to understand our universe—scientific materialism and religious spiritualism. Rudimentary beliefs conceived thousands of years ago are traced through time to today’s modern views showing that science and religion are tightly intertwined: if science is the study of nature, then religion was the first science.
February 28, 2021
The story of Moses and the Exodus continues to be seen as a historical fact by many Americans, and its events are commemorated with a ‘Seder’ meal in over a million households every year. In this article, Robert Shaw considers whether or not the story can be placed comfortably into the timeline of Egyptian history as we currently understand it.
January 31, 2021
Added Review of The Case against Miracles (2020) by Gregory Michna to the Argument from Miracles, Resurrection, and Christian Apologetics and Apologists pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In The Case Against Miracles, John Loftus continues his counterapologetic project by focusing on miracle claims. Although ostensibly a multicontributor response to Lee Strobel’s work, it passes over the point-by-point response format and instead provides a range of arguments that miracle claims should be met with incredulity. David Corner argues that apologists cannot even meet the basic criteria of showing that an alleged miracle has occurred, that it cannot be explained by natural causes, and that it is not simply a natural anomaly to established facts. Matt McCormick argues that the performance of miracles is inconsistent with God’s traditional divine attributes. John Loftus argues that alleged miracles must be demonstrably impossible on naturalistic grounds while simultaneously meeting a high bar of evidence that they actually occurred. Darren Slade notes a major shortcoming in Craig S. Keener’s overt enthusiasm for recording miracle stories without being able to verify them independently. Slade recommends that miracle investigators instead employ forensic and law enforcement methods like Criteria-Based Content Analysis and the ADVOKATE criteria for assessing eyewitness testimony. Other pieces argue that since the New Testament suggested an imminent return of Christ, the absence of Christ’s return is evidence for the prophetic failure of the text; that the Bible is not an accurate source of history; and that specific miraculous claims within the biblical text contradict scientific discoveries. Loftus’ penultimate chapter primarily serves as a response to Michael Licona’s recent apologetic monograph on the resurrection of Jesus.
Does God exist? Perhaps, if you mean something metaphorical by “God,” you might be able to honestly answer in the affirmative. Otherwise, the most we can say is “I don’t know.” But honest people can go farther and say that the existence of unseen spirits is unlikely. When you get down to it, the only evidence of God’s existence is that holy men, past and present, say he exists. But if their assertions about God are as valid as their assertions about witches, their trillion-dollar empires rest on fantasy.
December 21, 2020
We have been molding minds for a quarter century. You made this possible. Thank you!
Help us continue to undo the damage wrought by millenia of dogma by pitching in to keep the Secular Web online today.
Added a substantially revised edition of The Case Against Faith: A Critical Look at Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith (5th ed., 2020) by Paul Doland to the Christian Apologetics and Apologists, Christian Worldview, Arguments for the Existence of God: Reviews/Critiques, Faith and Reason, Argument from Miracles, Creationism, and Logical Argument from Evil pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith aims to answer the “toughest objections to Christianity” through interviews with well-known Christian apologists. In the introduction, Strobel lists what he calls Christianity’s “Big Eight Conundrums”—including many of the questions that Secular Web author Paul Doland continually asked himself when he was still a Christian. Though Strobel generally does a good job of explaining the objections, the more Doland contemplated Strobel’s interviewees’ responses, the less satisfying he found those responses to be. This point-by-point critique aims to explain why Doland found each of these responses to be weak at best or preposterous at worst, and he was consequently forced to conclude that Strobel may have actually produced a case against faith. This latest edition includes extensive revisions to the section of Objection 2 concerning the rationality of belief in miracles.
Most people (whether they are religious or not) either assume or were taught that the Israelites were, and had always been, monotheistic: that they believed in only one God and thus worshiped Yahweh only. Is this idea based on truth, tradition, or maybe assumption? In this paper, Jason Gibson attempts to uncover the truth—a truth that most people are unaware of, and one that, were it common knowledge, could signal the end of all of the Abrahamic religions. Were the ancient Israelites henotheistic? If acknowledged, the answer could change the world as we know it.
November 30, 2020
Added Better Never to Have Created: A New Logical Problem of Evil (2020) by Horia Plugaru to the Logical Arguments from Evil page under Arguments for Atheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In this paper Horia Plugaru argues that theism is necessarily false because attributes usually ascribed to God, such as the property of being morally perfect, are incompatible with God’s alleged creation of sentient beings. Using the resources of contemporary debates on the ethics of procreation, Plugaru develops this new logical argument against theism on the foundation of David Benatar’s axiological asymmetry, which, on top of elegantly explaining four commonly held judgments, entails that sentient beings are always harmed by coming into existence. Since God is said to be responsible for bringing sentient beings into existence, even though he had no need to do so, he cannot be morally perfect; and if moral perfection is taken to be a defining attribute of God, then God cannot exist. After formally presenting the argument, Plugaru defends its crucial premises against possible objections in order to show just how much force the argument has against them.
Recommended reading: Atheism Considered: A Survey of the Rational Rejection of Religious Belief (2020) by C. M. Lorkowski
Atheism Considered is a systematic presentation of challenges to the existence of a higher power. Rather than engage in polemic against a religious worldview, C. M. Lorkowski charitably refutes the classical arguments for the existence of God, pointing out flaws in their underlying reasoning and highlighting difficulties inherent to revealed sources. In place of a theistic worldview, he argues for adopting a naturalistic one, highlighting naturalism’s capacity to explain world phenomena and contribute to the sciences. Lorkowski demonstrates that replacing theism with naturalism, contra popular assumptions, sacrifices nothing in terms of ethics or meaning. Instead, morality ultimately proves more important than religion and does not rely on it.
October 31, 2020
Added Why God Does Not Exist Because This World Does (2020) by Richard Schoenig to the to the Evidential Arguments from Evil page under Arguments for Atheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
Two of the most salient beliefs that most theists hold are that God is maximally good and loving, and that the eternal postmortem experience of the beatific vision of God is the summum bonum for all human beings. Given these two foundational theistic tenets, in this paper Richard Schoenig argues that God would have created humans in what he calls heaven world, and immediately and directly offered to all of them the option of experiencing that highest good—thereby skipping the pain, suffering, and confusion which suffuses this world. The argument developed in the paper concludes that there are no good reasons why God would not have created heaven world rather than this world. If so, then the existence of this world rather than heaven world constitutes adequate evidence that God does not exist.
Science’s answers to the ultimate mysteries of existence are almost as baffling and logic-defying as the mumbo-jumbo of churches. They can seem nearly as absurd as the miracle claims of religion. But there’s a crucial difference: science is honest. Nothing is accepted on blind faith. Every claim is challenged, tested, double-tested, and triple-tested until it fails or survives. New evidence often alters former conclusions. Honest thinkers have little choice but to trust science as the only reliable search for believable answers.
September 30, 2020
Added No Better than Strobel: A Reply to God and Science’s Case for Faith (2020) by Paul Doland to the Christian Apologetics and Apologists, Christian Worldview, Arguments for the Existence of God: Reviews/Critiques, Faith and Reason, Argument from Miracles, Creationism, and Logical Argument from Evil pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In his earlier Secular Web critique of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith, Paul Doland concluded that by raising tough questions for Christianity but failing to adequately respond to them, Strobel (and his interviewees) inadvertently ending up producing a strong case against faith. A rejoinder to Doland’s critique was subsequently published on the God and Science website. In this response to that rejoinder, Doland defends his original conclusion that neither The Case for Faith in particular, nor Christianity in general, provide believable and coherent answers to the sorts of questions that Strobel originally raised. Nor, for that matter, does the attempt by the God and Science website to rehabilitate Strobel’s answers to Christianity’s toughest questions.
The Bible has long been lauded as a moral guidebook for humankind. In this article, Robert Shaw asks whether the Bible offers any guidance to help us deal with the more complex issues that we face in the modern era. At a time when many minds are focused on the forthcoming US presidential election, Shaw also considers whether the Bible gives any counsel as to how countries should be governed, and what types of political leaders are biblically preferred.
August 31, 2020
Added God is Either the Efficient or Final Cause of Evil (2020) by Edouard Tahmizian to the to the Evidential Arguments from Evil page under Arguments for Atheism, the William Lane Craig and R. C. Sproul pages under Christian Apologetics and Apologists, and the Christian Worldview page under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
Where did evil in the world come from? In this article Edouard Tahmizian considers God’s causal influence on the origin of evil. He aims to show that, if biblical hard determinism is true, God would be the efficient cause of Adam and Eve’s transgression—the original sin that the rest of humanity inherited when the first humans, Adam and Eve, purportedly ate fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil according to the Book of Genesis. Moreover, he argues, even if biblical hard determinism is not true and all events could have turned out differently, God would still be the final cause of Adam and Eve’s sin, making him at least somewhat causally responsible for the sin of Adam and Eve that we all purportedly inherited. In the end, Tahmizian’s analysis implies that God is ultimately the source of all evil.
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
You can view older entries via the What’s New Archive.