The Lazarus Stunt

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Theology-Soaked Fiction

The Pope and the Big Bang

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Maybe Our Brains Are too Puny?

Quote of the Day On The Value of Philosophy and Definitional Apologetics

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Over the last decade I have found that one bastion for Christian apologists has been philosophy, especially the philosophy of religion. The scholars have honed their definitional apologetics in such a fine-tuned manner that when engaging them in this discipline, it’s like trying to catch a greased pig. Or, to switch metaphors, trying to chase them down the rabbit’s hole in an endless and ultimately fruitless quest for definitions. What’s an extraordinary claim? What constitutes evidence? What’s the definition of supernatural? What’s the scientific method? What’s a miracle? What’s a basic belief? What’s a veridical religious experience? What’s evil? They do this just like others have done over questions like, “What is the definition of pornography?” And then they gerrymander around the plain simple facts of experience. I would rather deal in concrete examples like a virgin who supposedly had a baby and a man who supposedly was raised from the dead. [From Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End, p.28]
Notice the red letter edition? The reason why I prefer to deal in concrete examples is because of how Christian philosophers use definitions to obfuscate their own theology. It isn't because I'm anti-intellectual. Nor do I think definitions are unimportant. I just want truth to prevail.  

Reviewing A Lopsided Bar Room Book Discussion About a Belief System No One Holds, Complete With Annoying Corny Cheesy Humor, Part 3

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I'm reviewing Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber's conversational style book, An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything.

I've previously mentioned the lopsidedness between Rauser and Schieber's academic credentials. This matters because breadth of knowledge matters, if nothing else. A self-taught person like Schieber cannot get the breadth that comes from taking the core classes required to earn bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. It's the breadth of knowledge Schieber lacks, even if he has a fair understanding of the material in this book, and he does have a fair understanding of it, not an expert understanding. I've also talked about the content and criticized the co-authors for discussing the classical concept of god because no one, or practically no one, holds to it in today's world.

As I write this review I wrestle with who might want to buy a copy. Not me. I haven't learned anything significant from reading it, but then experts cannot be the target audience either. Which expert would ever quote Schieber's words in this book, saying, "On this matter Schieber said: '...quote...'" Or, "For more on this topic I recommend what Schieber said in An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar. I know of no expert who would do so. Furthermore, the conversational style of the book is not conducive to an elaborate in-depth defense of an argument for one reason, it's just a conversation. Each co-author must allow the other co-author time to respond, so you never get to read an elaborate and lengthy defense of any given argument.

Moreover, I would rather read what Schieber said without having to read Rauser's take downs of what he said. This would've been more interesting to me, especially because it was annoying to wade through the muddy waters resulting from Rauser's dredged up obfuscations of Schieber's arguments (none original with him). Rauser's got nothing here. Yet Schieber seems so happy to be invited to co-write the book he never presses his arguments to the end and even bends over backwards in the face of Rauser's ignorance to be polite and respectful at all costs to Rauser, his superior (after all, the book looks better on his resume than on Rauser's). The real cost is the truth. Schieber either cannot adequately defend his arguments or he's too timid to do so. As a result, truth suffers.

What about typical bar room people, the Joe Six-Pack's of the English speaking world? Would they want to buy and read this book? Probably not. In too many cases the co-authors treat readers as if they're ignorant. The stories they tell in it are long and simplistic and take up too much space that would better be served getting to the point and arguing that point. This is standard Rauser. It's what he does, and he does it well if you find that type of writing useful. I don't. Many of his stories are analogies I find unhelpful because they don't clarify but rather obfuscate. What's interesting is that Schieber does the same thing, having learned from Rauser, a bad role model in my opinion, and so he's equally annoying. The stories dumb down the discussion, trying to reach down to the bar room person. But then dumb people still don't want to be treated as if they're dumb, right? Then the co-authors turn right around and forget about these readers by using language they probably cannot understand, plus more.

The Kindle Version of "Unapologetic" is Now Available!

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The Kindle version of "Unapologetic" is now available!

Reviewing A Lopsided Bar Room Book Discussion About a Belief System No One Holds, Complete With Annoying Corny Cheesy Humor, Part 2

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I'm reviewing Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber's conversational style book, An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything.

I've previously mentioned the lopsidedness between Rauser and Schieber's academic credentials. This matters because breadth of knowledge matters, if nothing else. A self-taught person like Schieber cannot get the breadth that comes from taking the core classes required to earn bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. It's the breadth of knowledge Schieber lacks, even if he has a fair understanding of the material in this book.

Let's turn a bit to its content. Rauser chose to make three chapter long arguments as did Schieber. Rauser's arguments focused on: 1) God, faith and testimony, 2) God and moral obligation, and 3) God, mathematics and reason. Schieber focused on: 1) the problem of massive theological disagreement; 2) the problem of the hostility of the universe, and 3) the evolution of the biological role of pain. These are all good interesting topics as far as they go.

Before they begin they talk about why god matters in chapter one. Now if I were Schieber and I were asked why God or gods mattered, I would say because people matter. God matters because there have been, and continues to be, a massive amount of suffering caused by the belief in God, or gods. That would be my focus, and I've edited a book on that topic with regard to Christianity, titled Christianity is Not Great: Why Faith Fails. Schieber doesn't feel the pain that belief in God or gods has caused. So he lacks the motivation to care. What he's doing is having an interesting dialogue for the sake of dialogue, and that's simply not good enough. Schieber says:
Ultimately, it matters little to me that readers are unlikely to have been swayed in either direction. I did not begin this dialogue with a primary goal of acquiring new notches on my atheistic belt. I began this project because I love the dialogue, the concepts involved, and the joy I get with exploring the mechanics of how arguments interact. (p. 206).
He needs to get some hypothetical fire in his belly for all of the people who have been burned because of god beliefs. For him this is merely an interesting discussion and that's it, because he lacks breadth. Treating god-belief as an interesting topic simply does not cut it. People have died and are dying because Rauser's god-belief is held by broadly two thirds of the world. Schieber should read more. I recommend the book by Elicka Peterson Sparks, The Devil You Know: The Surprising Link between Conservative Christianity and Crime.

Instead, Rauser and Schieber focus on why the existence of God is the intellectually responsible thing to discuss for intellectually responsive people, and that we should take classical theistic beliefs seriously. Get that? Neither do I. There ought to be over-riding reasons to take God beliefs seriously. Those reasons should be because there is good evidence to do so (which Rauser should have said, but couldn't, which by itself is telling), or in Schieber's case, because belief in God has produced, and still produces, harm (Schieber's missed opportunity). Then incredibly they choose to focus on a set of beliefs that conceptualize the classical theistic God. For them this god "is a necessarily existent nonphysical agent who is omniscient omnipotent, and perfectly good." (p. 27) There are three massively wrong things about choosing to focus on this classical view of god.

Reviewing A Lopsided Bar Room Book Discussion About a Belief System No One Holds, Complete With Annoying Corny Cheesy Humor, Part 1

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Randal Rauser has teamed up with Justin Schieber to write a conversational style book, published by atheist publisher Prometheus Books, titled An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything. Academically speaking Dr. Rauser earned a PhD from King's College, London, and is a professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He also has written nine books, including one he co-authored with me, titled God or Godless?: One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions. Schieber, the co-author of this book, is a second year student at Grand Rapids Community College. How is it, you ask, that these two teamed up? Well, let me tell you. I don't know. Schieber is self-taught on these issues and intelligent, I'll admit. But intelligent readers who think academic credentials are important won't expect anything less from this book than a student who is out-matched by professor Rauser. At the very least, Schieber is not Rauser's equal by far. I was asked by an atheist publisher, who was considering publishing this book, whether or not it would be worth publishing. I said no, and they didn't publish it. My main reason for saying so is because of the lopsidedness of the participants, and it does show in this book. Atheist readers, who are asked to pony up money for a book, want reassured their view is represented by someone who knows what s/he is talking about, someone who is a somewhat equally educated credentialed participant. That's one major flaw with this book. Readers want equal representation. But Prometheus Books disagrees. How is it, you ask, that Prometheus Books published it? Well, let me tell you. I don't know. There are other major flaws. What are they, you ask? Well, I do know.

The Day God Overslept (Well, One of Many Days)

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Theodicy, AKA The Litany of Excuses

"Unapologetic" is the #1 New Release in Religious Philosophy

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LINK to "Unapologetic"
On Amazon it's also ranked 7th in Atheism books and 13,406th overall.

Confident Atheism: Reflections on the Golden Bough

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Atheism. How hubristic! Afterall, how can any mere mortal know for certain that no gods exist anywhere in or beyond this vast cosmos? One would need to be omniscient to be justified in drawing such a comprehensive conclusion, right? So goes the argument for soft atheism and/or agnosticism, and, for quite some time, I myself found this kind of argumentation quite compelling. As I broadened my academic study, however, beyond biblical studies, to include the full gamut of world religious traditions through times and cultures, ultimately earning my Ph.D. in Religious Studies (rather than in mere Biblical Studies), I confidently abandoned that line of argumentation. Surprisingly (or not), biblical studies, once plainly contextualized within religious studies, leads to one and only one destination: atheism. Several lines of thought arise, all pointing in this one direction. Here, I shall discuss atheism as the natural and necessary corollary of what was known in biblical studies as the History of Religions School.

Nineteenth-century Germany saw the rise of critical biblical scholarship, reaching its zenith with die religionsgeschichtliche Schule (the History of Religions School). This “school” of thought amounted to a shared methodological paradigm predominantly advanced at the University of Göttingen in the 1890s under such distinguished names as Gunkel, Weiss, Bousset, Otto, and Wrede. These pioneers set forth what most in biblical studies at the time regarded as a radical approach to academic study of the Bible: One best studies the religious content, themes, and patterns inscribed in the biblical texts within the context of a larger understanding of all religious content, themes, and patterns. With the History of Religions School, we witness the nascent underpinnings of what later came to be known as the field of comparative religions. These early pioneers began a discussion about biblical texts fully grounded in human cultural history, a discussion that held the biblical texts as no more special or “revelatory” than any other known religious documents.

Quote of the Day by Jon Green, On God's Supposed Love

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One of my dogs disobeyed me the other day. I burned him alive in a fire pit. I love my dogs like God loves us. - Jon Green

"Unapologetic" is a tribute to the Influence of Three Atheist Intellectual Giants

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My book "Unapologetic" is a tribute to the intellectual goading and influence of Drs. Peter Boghossian, David Eller and Hector Avalos. Kudos to them, intellectual giants all.

LINK to Unapologetic

“I Hate to Break it to You Here at Notre Dame”

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“I’ve Started to Feel Distinctly Nauseous”

Quote of the Day, From My Book Unapologetic

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Who's to blame for Donald Trump winning the election?

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Staks Rosch summarizes the best answers right here.

The Democratic Party is to Blame for the Trump Presidency!

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They could have prevented this. I saw the signs as a Bernie supporter. We all did. If the DNC refused to nominate Bernie we might lose the general election The polls strongly suggested this. But the democratic party did not care. They nominated Hillary anyway. They were stupid stupid stupid. This morning I am embarrassed to be a Democrat. Let all Hillary supporters in the primaries chime in right now and apologize. Profusely. You were seriously wrong.

What Is the Best Argument for the Existence of Allah?

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In the comments I've been asked by Christian apologists Trent Horn and C. Michael Patton to tell my readers what I consider the best argument to the existence of God. Okay. Here goes. The best argument on behalf of Allah is the moral argument to his existence.

Let me quote from my book Unapologetic:
Regarding the case for the existence of God due to objective morality, the moral argument to the existence of God depends on one’s morality. Many Christian theologians and philosophers attempt to make an argument from the existence of objective morality to the existence of their God, who just happens to have the same kind of morality they do, surprise!
...
Take for example the Islamic State (or ISIS). They could make the same moral argument to the existence of their god, using their own morality, where it’s okay to rape women, own slaves, chop off heads, and burn people alive. Christians would have to agree with their moral argument, but subsequently disagree with their morals. However, the morals of ISIS
are used as evidence that their god exists, just as the specific morals of Christians (depending on the century) are used as evidence their god exists. So certain kinds of morals lead to certain kinds of gods. Or certain kinds of gods are used to justify certain kinds of morals. Which comes first? I’m as sure as sure can be that the morals come first.
The moral argument works in an inductive manner with some degree of probability to it above 50%. But it only works if one's morals are absolute, unchanging and also good. Since it's demonstrably and unmistakably the case that morals are not absolute and unchanging then there cannot be an absolute and unchanging divine lawgiver. So even the best argument to the existence of Allah isn't a good argument at all. This applies to the Christian god Yahweh as well. Even the best argument to the existence of Yahweh isn't a good argument at all.

Discuss. What do you think of my answer?

Here is a wide ranging interview. Hope you like it!

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Finally the Chicago Cubs Won it and Did it in a Big Way!

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Yesssss! Chicago Cubs are the world champions!!! Finally! After all these years they did it with an amazing comeback for the record books! My great grandfather Tom Loftus (Thomas Joseph Loftus, November 15, 1856 - August 16, 1910) managed both the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) and the Cleveland Blues (Indians).

To the right is a photo of the 1901 Chicago Orphans (Cubs) that my great grandfather Tom Loftus managed. Top Row, L-R: Jock Menefee (OF/P), Cozy Dolan (OF), Bert Cunningham (P), Fred Raymer (3B/SS), Jim Delahanty (3B), Frank Chance (OF/C), Charlie Dexter (1B/3B/OF), Johnny Kling (C). Middle Row, L-R: Long Tom Hughes (P), Cupid Childs (2B), Mal Eason (P), Jack Doyle (1B), Tom Loftus (Mgr.), Danny Green (OF), Barry McCormick (SS), Jack Taylor (P). Bottom Row, L-R: Topsy Hartsel (OF), Mike Kahoe (C).

Here is a photo of the 1888 Cleveland Blues (Indians) that my great grandfather Tom Loftus managed.

The God Who Takes His Own Sweet Time

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The Supreme Procrastinator

My Book "Unapologetic" is Shipping!

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"What is the worst argument for the existence of God you have ever heard?"

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I'm being interviewed for a book. So I'll paste my answers here as I answer the questions.

"What is the worst argument for the existence of God you have ever heard?"

There are so many bad ones it's hard to choose. The topper is probably that a private subjective ineffable experience provides objective evidence that the universe was created out of nothing and that one particular god out of thousands created it. The only explanation for why believers think this is a good argument to their sect specific god is because of the delusionary nature of faith, which is the mother of all cognitive biases.

DC Regular Mattapult On Church Lightning Rods

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The subject of lightning rods on churches comes up occasionally on DC. I found some quotes on that subject in a biography on Benjamin Franklin. The context is discussing Franklin's experiments flying a kite in storm clouds, making sparks, and saving electricity in Leyden Jars.

How bad was the problem of lightning striking churches?
“For centuries, the devastating scourge of lightning had generally been considered a supernatural phenomenon or expression of God’s will. At the approach of a storm, church bells were rung to ward off the bolts. “The tones of the consecrated metal repel the demon and avert storm and lightning,” declared St. Thomas Aquinas. But even the most religiously faithful were likely to have noticed this was not very effective. During one thirty-five-year period in Germany alone during the mid-1700s, 386 churches were struck and more than one hundred bell ringers killed. In Venice, some three thousand people were killed when tons of gunpowder stored in a church was hit.”
Franklin's results are well known: he discovered that the electricity could be directed to a lightning rod which would save the building from being burned down. Most were delighted to find protection from this disaster, but not everybody:
“In some circles, especially religious ones, Franklin’s findings stirred controversy. The AbbĂ© Nollet, jealous, continued to denigrate his ideas and claimed that the lightning rod was an offense to God. “He speaks as if he thought it presumption in man to propose guarding himself against the thunders of Heaven!” Franklin wrote a friend. “Surely the thunder of Heaven is no more supernatural than the rain, hail or sunshine of Heaven, against the inconvenience of which we guard by roofs and shades without scruple.”
I'm sure most believers today could look back and understand the foolishness of opposing lightning rods—indeed, try to find a church that doesn’t have one and insurance. They could correctly identify how faith clouded the judgement of earlier believers. If only they could recognize the same effect today as it applies to evolution, homosexuality, birth control, etc.. It's the OTF with a dimension of time. Sadly, faith still holds the same power, only the details have changed.

Excerpts From: Isaacson, Walter. “Benjamin Franklin.” Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Robert Ingersoll’s Creed

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Robert Ingersoll’s Creed, quoted by Bert Bigalow:

Robert G. Ingersoll is one of my heroes. He confronted religious faith and showed that it was nothing more than primitive superstition. At the end of the 19th century, he had accumulated quite a following for what he called “freethought,” based on reason, logic and experience. Sadly, he died in 1899 at 66, far too soon. He still had much work to do, and nobody of his stature arose to take his place. His writings, speeches and debates are collected in twelve volumes which can be found at Project Gutenberg and downloaded free. You will be greatly rewarded if you read them.

Here is a sample of his writings. He called it his Creed.

A Case of Colossal Cosmic Narcissism? Why Do People Worship?

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The faithful admit it: They are there on Sunday morning to worship God. A friend of mine once defined himself and his status as a believer. “I am a worshipper,” he said. Why would that be important or appropriate?

Schools are for learning, offices are for business, stadiums are for sports, hospitals for healing, and we all agree that they answer legitimate human needs (even stadiums). Churches, however, are dedicated to that most baffling of human obsessions: getting together frequently to boost God’s ego. When priests raise funds to build churches they always claim that the real purpose is to glorify God, which can only mean that there is a divine ego that must be stroked. My friend the worshipper had gulped the Kool-Aid. He has bought into this peculiar, warped view that our feelings of wonder and awe must be directed at a Supreme Being who isn’t satisfied unless the awe and wonder are directed at him.

New Testament Mythology in the Age of Science

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Rudolf Karl Bultmann
Sciens in Latin meant “knowing,” that is, as contrary to believing. To know in our age of science means to achieve an understanding of something that is epistemically grounded in rational evidence and reason under the at times humble constraints of human perception. With the rise of the scientific method following the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, we as a species are no longer left to muddle in ignorance about the framework of reality. Science is turning on the proverbial lights for all to see the nature of the cosmos and our tiny, though distinguished place as a species within this vast, marvelously expansive universe. In my last blog entry, I introduced New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann’s pioneering work Neues Testament und Mythologie (1941) in which Bultmann raised a few penetrating questions the answer to which future generations shall no doubt deem embarrassingly obvious, but which modern biblical scholars apparently find altogether obtuse or baffling. Plainly stated, how can a modern human, one sensibly committed to the barest strictures of a scientific comprehension of reality, hold anything about the New Testament picture of the world as true?
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Jesus Got It Wrong, Really Wrong
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Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Toxic Brew of Bad Theology

The Bible is too difficult to defend

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These religions are sick. It's hard to watch and listen to this. No wonder most apologists focus on the philosophy of religion in defending their faith. It's because the Bible is too difficult to defend.



You can read my further thoughts in Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End.

The Problem of Divine Miscommunication Revisited

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In chapter 7 of The Christian Delusion I had written on what I call The Problem of Divine Miscommunication and I dismantled all "solutions." Here is a Meme I recently posted to my FB Wall that powerfully states it. Then some guy named John Beckman wrote a common but ignorant reply: "Wouldn't have been different at all. We would have done whatever we wanted just like now. That's the whole point. Give a command. You break it. Proves you need salvation." This "solution" highlights exactly what I mean when saying faith deadens the brain since it's the mother of all cognitive biases. While I dealt with such an objection in my book, there's more to say in response to it.