St. Peter’s Magic-Spell Healing

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Can’t Christians today step up their game?

We’re so used to hearing Bible texts recited from the pulpit, hence the aura of holiness surrounding “God’s Word.” And as part of devotional exercise, church folks are commonly urged to read their Bibles to advance their understanding of the faith. Priests and pastors are there to help them deal with rough patches they might encounter; apologists have formulated endless excuses to make the bad stuff in the Bible look good.

Lay people are not usually coached, let alone trained, to come at scripture with a rigorously skeptical, critical eye; a devotional posture doesn’t encourage that. How many of them have the time or inclination anyway? They want to “take it on faith” that each Bible chapter—even the bothersome bad stuff—must have value, must reveal something about God.

Another Good Atheist Edge Interview!

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On the Divine Command Theory, Part 2

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In Part 1, we saw that the Modified Divine Command Theory (MDCT) attempts to avoid the Euthyphro dilemma by postulating that God's nature is such that he would never command, say, torturing babies (and thus make torturing babies good). However, it was argued that this solution doesn't work, for in place of the original dilemma, we can now ask, is what God commands good only because he has that specific nature, or would his commands still be good if his nature were different?

If the former, then what makes his commands good is that they are compatible with the particular nature that he has, and not merely because they are his commands. But then God is not needed as a basis for morality, since in this case what makes something moral is just that it conforms to what any being with that nature would want (whether such a being exists or not). And that is inconsistent with the MDCT.

If the latter, however, then his commands would still be good even if his nature were entirely different. And that means that if he did command torturing babies, it would be good to do so — and thus we have not avoided the problem that plagued the traditional Divine Command Theory.

Unsurprisingly, the above criticism has itself come under attack by proponents of the MDCT. Their attempts to fix the theory, however, reveal a deeper problem — namely, that they have two incompatible views as to what is essentially moral. Like almost everyone else, they believe that what's essentially moral are acts that are kind, fair, etc. Yet they also believe — or want very much to believe — that what's essentially moral is whatever God wants.

Dialoguing with Catholic Apologist Trent Horn On Miracles

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Trent Horn earned three master’s degrees in the fields of theology, philosophy, and bioethics. He runs the apologetic podcast "The Counsel of Trent." He's also the author of nine books, including Answering Atheism. We recently dialogued on the rationality of miracles based on my upcoming anthology, The Case against Miracles. It's only $20.99 and contains 644 pages, so I'm told --a whopper of a deal if I've ever seen it! Trent wrote this blurb for it:

"While some entries are stronger than others, The Case against Miracles represents a powerful critique of the miraculous. Its central arguments demand the attention of any serious defender of the Christian faith."

Parts 1 & 2 of our dialogue can be found right here. It's really good I think.

Buddhists Meet Mormons: "Nothing is more destructive to religion than other religions; it is like meeting one’s own anti-matter twin."

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The quote is from David Eller: "Nothing is more destructive to religion than other religions; it is like meeting one’s own anti-matter twin. Other religions represent alternatives to one’s own religion: other people believe in them just as fervently as we do, and they live their lives just as successfully as we do. The diversity of religions forces us to see religion as a culturally relative phenomenon; different groups have different religions that appear adapted to their unique social and even environmental conditions." Eller goes on to ask the problematic question: "But if their religion is relative, then why is ours not?" Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Freethinker, p. 233 which is a superior book!

For more photos see here.

Learning to Navigate a Good Life without God

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Tim Sledge proves ex-clergy can still be good pastors

“The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around.” So said Herb Caen, the San Francisco columnist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1996. I don’t know what Caen’s experience was, but these days we know that the zealotry of the born-agains can be so tiring. A few of them drop in here at the DC Blog to comment and complain. They admit—they confess to the world—that they are devotees of the ancient Jesus mystery cult; no rational argument can dissuade them. They remain under the spell of the 1912 hymn, “I will cling to the old rugged cross.”

The Making and Unmaking of a Zealot, By Dr. Dale O’Neal

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This essay was written by Dr. Dale O'Neal, who received a “Preacher of the Year” award from Talbot School of Theology when he studied there. The winner two years earlier was John MacArthur Jr., and the winner the previous year was Josh McDowell. As an ex-christian and psychologist he explains  how Christian zealots are made. This is very insightful! Christian apologists should read this essay to see what has happened to them. I can only hope it will be shared and read widely!

New Study Finds Majority of Christians Do Not Have Meaningful Contact with Atheists

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New Study Finds Majority of Christians 
Do Not Have Meaningful Contact with Atheists
  
An Interview with Dr. Stephen Merino,
Assistant Professor of Sociology at Colorado Mesa University

Your Soul and “the Corrosive Reach of Science”

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Brace yourself, it’s not looking good

Growing up in a na├»ve version of Christianity—we heard little about the Crusades, the Inquisition, and certainly nothing about the horrors of the Thirty Years War—I had little trouble embracing the assurance that God is love. I heard it from the pulpit, from my mother, and it could be carefully teased out of scripture that actually disconfirms it.

It never crossed my mind to wonder where the idea that God is love came from, nor, of course, to doubt that it was true. Faith was the guarantor. Christianity would be in jeopardy, of course, if the folks in the pews mustered the curiosity to probe: Indeed, where does this idea come from? Preachers and parents in the Christian tradition have heard forever the bedrock article of faith God is love and passed it along.

Were There 500 Eyewitnessess? Nope!

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Another good interview. Enjoy. It includes some video of Aron Ra and others shooting pool with me.

Shiite Self-Flagellation: Religion Photos of the Week:

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If you find this religious practice abhorrent then realize self-flagellation has been practiced by Christians, even by the Reformer Martin Luther. For more photos see LINK. If you think this is wrong then tell us what you would believe and defend if you were born into this religious culture?

On the Divine Command Theory, Part 1

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If you ask the average believer why killing an innocent person is wrong, chances are they will say something like, “because God commanded us not to murder.” This suggests that most Christians agree with the traditional Divine Command Theory (DCT). On this theory, what makes something right or wrong, good or bad, is God's will. Thus, killing an innocent person is morally wrong because God has a rule against murder, charity is right because he wants us to love our neighbor, and so on. I doubt whether the majority of Christians actually accept the DCT, however.

On a previous post, I argued that, if people actually learned morality from The Bible, then they would not find anything in it morally problematic. Similarly, if believers thought that what makes something right or wrong is nothing more than God's will, they should not find any of God's commands disturbing. On more than one occasion, the biblical God commanded the slaughter of women and children. If the DCT is correct, then that was obviously the right thing to do. Remember, all that it takes to make something good is God willing it. And yet, even when theists bite the bullet and say that there must have been a good reason for such a command, they show by their hesitation that they do not find it obvious at all. Similarly, consider the fact that God regarded slavery as permissible. Why don't most Christians today accept that? After all, the permissibility of owning other human beings follows straightforwardly from the DCT and the claim that the Bible is the word of God. But fortunately, most Christians apply an independent moral standard, and as a result reject the pro-slavery position (even if to do so they have to make up some excuse for God).

How NOT to Prove the Ancient Jesus Cult

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Making up stuff doesn’t mean you win
According to the resurrected Jesus, speaking in Mark 16, baptized Christians should be able to cast out demons, drink poison unharmed, pick up snakes, heal people by touch—and “speak in tongues.” But the faithful can breathe a sign of relief: This is a fake Jesus quote, included in the fake ending of Mark’s gospel, 16:9-20; these verses were added later, by whom and when, we do not know.

This list gives us an idea, however, of the mindset of the early Jesus cult that wanted Jesus to preach this message. Christians today—those outside Pentecostalism, that is—may draw a blank about “speaking in tongues.” But it’s not hard to find the apostle Paul’s guidance on the topic, in I Corinthians 14. Richard Carrier has defined “speaking in tongues” as “babbling in random syllables,” and it would appear that Paul was less than enthusiastic about it himself, although he bragged that he spoke in tongues more than anyone else (v.18).
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William Lane Craig On The Probability Version of Suffering

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Magician Eric Chien

The video below on the probability version of suffering was written by William Lane Craig and produced by his staff at Reasonable Faith. The question is whether an omni-god exists or not. Don't allow Craig the magician to draw your eyes away from that question with the deception of misdirection. For Craig the magician cannot use the existence of an omni-god to solve the problem of suffering for the existence of an omni-god, since whether an omni-god exists is the issue. Nor can he use his unevidenced believing background indoctrinated information.

Furthermore, Christians like Craig are still focusing on the wrong problem. We keep hearing how they (i.e., Alvin Plantinga) have answered the logical problem of suffering, and it's nauseating (and probably false). But when they turn away from it to the probability version of suffering they don't answer the real problem. It's not just suffering we're talking about. The real problem is that the amount of horrific suffering in the world makes the existence of an omni-god improbable. <-- See the link then ask yourself if the video addressed the points made there. While the video gives lip service to the phrase "so much pointless suffering", it expresses the problem like this: "Suffering provides empirical evidence that God's existence is highly unlikely."

So there are two kinds of misdirection going on. Craig the magician 1) uses an omni-god, at least in part, to solve the question of the existence of an omni-god given the existence of so much horrible suffering, and he does so 2) with a strawman version of the real problem. If you don't see what's going on you're not paying close enough attention. With this magician's trick exposed for what it is, enjoy the show:

Best Atheist Advice Ever #9: Andrew Hall's Interview

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I was asked to talk on best advice I ever received for Hall's podcast, Laughing in Disbelief. I wanted it to be different so I chose something GK Chesterton said (14:37 minutes).

Dr. Nick Trakakis Recommends My Book "Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End"

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Dr. Nick Trakakis, one of the most important philosophers of religion in today's world, and author of "The End of Philosophy of Religion," surprised me recently with the following message:
Hi John, I'm currently reading your book Unapologetic book and thoroughly enjoying it. Suffice it to say that I am in wholehearted agreement with you. I actually find it very sad to see a discipline (the philosophy of religion) I have cherished for many years being debased and distorted by so-called Christian philosophers. Like you, I have now finally and happily found my place in the atheist community.

I seem to be moving towards a strange kind of atheism, whereby (i) the personal theistic conception of God is rejected as incoherent, but (ii) even if it turned out that I was wrong and there is such a God after all, I still think that such a God should be rejected, in Ivan Karamazov style: “no thanks, you can have your ticket back”.

I’m slowly making my way through your "Unapologetic book", it’s quite fascinating, loving the Nietzschean hammer style."

My Recent Atheist Edge Interview

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Now here's a great interview with a provocative title!

The Ten Well-Founded Axioms of Atheism, A Compilation of My Words, By John Constantine

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John Constantine lives in Johannesburg, Gauteng. On Facebook he did me an honor by posting my words into a list of "ten presuppositions of atheism." As you might guess I love them! I was meaning to do this same thing but never got around to it. I'm not claiming to have originated these concepts. But someone is reading my works! As a quibble, I wouldn't call them "presuppositions" but rather axioms. What other axioms are foundational to atheism? Below I'll suggest a few more. Let's be creative and find some new ones.

William Lane Craig On "Why Don’t Professional Historians Come to Believe in Jesus’ Resurrection?"

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Look how long William Lane Craig's answer to this question is! LINK. It appears that the more words required then the more obfuscation we see. It shows how much he needs his "answer" to be true as opposed to the correct answer.

The correct answer to this question is simple and easy. Professional historians are held to the standards of probabilities. So it stands to reason that a miracle like a resurrection from the dead is extremely improbable, to say the very least. Neither Jewish nor Christian historians conclude otherwise, even though they are theists. It takes the special pleading of an apologist to do so. Don't just take my word for it. See Bart D. Ehrman's argument.

The Gospels Writers Didn’t Care What Jesus Would Do

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So, just what were they up to?

Christians turn to the gospels to read the story of Jesus, and they assume that the stories are God’s honest truth—so to speak. Scholars, however—even devout scholars—want to know where the gospel accounts came from; after all, they were written decades after the events described. But it’s good enough for believers that God inspired the authors, so how could they not be accurate? In Caravaggio’s superb depiction of divine inspiration, an angel guides the right hand of Matthew as he writes.

But insistence on “scriptural inspiration” is an example of special pleading, that is: our documents don’t have to meet standards of evidence that are expected of other histories—because, in effect, God wrote them. No scholar would accept that argument to prove the accuracy of, say, David McCullough’s biography of John Adams, i.e., God inspired him. No: especially with someone as important as Jesus, rigorous standards of evidence must be used. Special pleading is cheating.

How Indoctrination Can Set You Free, by Bill Flavell

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If you were indoctrinated into your religion, why doesn't that make you suspicious? Why don't you recognise that indoctrination is not evidence that a belief is true? On the contrary, why don't you treat indoctrination as a red flag? Why don't you see beliefs that are not supported by evidence but have to be drummed into small children as prime candidates to be questioned? Why don't you see that beliefs you are instructed NOT to question are the very beliefs you SHOULD question? If you think at all, indoctrination should be the trigger to doubt a belief, not to double-down and defend it with your life. Indoctrination works on children but only works on grown-ups if they let it. Don't let it. --On Facebook.
Exactly! This! If you were indoctrinated then that's a very strong reason to investigate your indoctrinated religion for the first time, as if you were a non-believer. In fact, doing so should be considered a rite of passage into adulthood. All you have to do is start by honestly admitting you were indoctrinated!

My Interview with The Naked Diner, Episode 158

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Jack and Andy talk interview me about the fallacious nature of religious thinking, and my upcoming anthology, “The Case against Miracles”. I've never liked my own interviews but there is a lot of good information in this one! Enjoy.

Praise God for Mosquitoes!!

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Parasites like mosquitoes kill and kill again. Praise Jesus!

"Mosquitoes are our apex predator, the deadliest hunter of human beings on the planet. A swarming army of 100 trillion or more mosquitoes patrols nearly every inch of the globe, killing about 700,000 people annually. Researchers suggest that mosquitoes may have killed nearly half of the 108 billion humans who have ever lived across our 200,000-year or more existence." LINK. Isn't your god good!

The Five Stages of Bible Grief

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Brought on by actually reading it

Bart Ehrman, with several best-selling books about the Bible to his credit, has taught undergraduates:

“… part of the deal of teaching in the Bible Belt is that lots of my students—most of them?—have very conservative views about the Bible as the Word of God. A few years ago I used to start my class on the New Testament, with something like 300 students in it, by asking the students a series of questions, just for information:

• How many of you in here would agree with the proposition that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (PHOOM! Almost everyone raises their hands)
• OK, great: Now, how many of you have read the Harry Potter series? (PHOOM! Again, almost everyone raises their hand).
• And now, how many of you have read the entire Bible? (This time: scattered hands, here and there, throughout the auditorium)

A Discussion with Marty Sampson, Gary Habermas, and Mike Licona On the Resurrection

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Marty Sampson, formerly of the worship team "Hillsong" is in the throes of doubt. I know one other person who became a blogger here at DC, who eventually emerged from doubt as a Christian. Check his story out right here. So I don't predict how Sampson's journey will go. I wish him well on his journey. I know that belief is powerful and bolstered by a whole lot of very strong social ties that can be extremely hard to break away from, even if there are an overwhelming number of good solid reasons to walk away from it. So I won't accept praise or blame for his final decision even though I'm in contact with him.

I was honored to join in a discussion with apologists Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, known as experts resurrection apologetics, at Marty's request. I like Gary and Mike both as persons. I've met them both on two or three occasions. Habermas even recommends my last book to his PhD students LINK. But they are wrong. I think I made that case.

Does ‘Sanctity-of-Life’ Rule Out Abortion?

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The collision of theology with real-life crises

I was a teen-age Bible geek, way back in the 1950s, in rural northern Indiana. My devout mother was not a fundamentalist, however, so I escaped that infamy. Quite the contrary, even at that early age I developed as aversion to the letters of the apostle Paul. There was no one to tap me on the shoulder and warn me: if you don’t like Paul, Christianity probably isn’t for you. My dislike for Paul had not diminished years later when I selected my major in the PhD program at Boston University; I chose Old Testament to escape excessive study of Paul. I would realize my mistake many years later, since Paul’s theology plays a major role in the falsification of Christianity.

Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" Avoids Answering Questions

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Marty Sampson of "Hillsong" posted this on Instagram. See what Cameron Bertuzzi thinks is a sufficient response:

CC:

A few thoughts:

(1) Interesting use of legos.
(2) This is why it’s important that we continue to emphasize that questions aren’t arguments.
(3) Maybe I should start saying that incredulity isn’t an argument either.
(4) Christians have not been silent on passages like these (e.g., see Copan and Flannagan’s book).

---

Kit Alcock:

I think it's obvious what the implicit argument here is, or at least one can do a charitable construction of such an argument

---

CC:

The most that we’d have is a syllogism, there certainly wouldn’t be a defense of the premises.

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Kit Alcock:

Right I agree with that, I just think that that can often be achieved by setting out the argument for them

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CC:

But this is kind of missing the point. The point is to get the person asking questions to think logically. To help them think about the connections between their statements and their conclusions. To get them to consider whether their statements are supported by more than their own credulity.

It depends on the situation. Just giving them a reconstruction that’s valid isn’t necessarily going to help them give valid arguments in the future.

----

John Loftus:

This final answer of yours makes no sense if you're trying to actually help the doubter. The goal isn't to teach them to offer articulate arguments. Your goal should be to answer their objections.

The Rules of Engagement At DC

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Some angry Catholic apologist has been tagging our posts with his angry long-winded responses. I know of no other blog, Christian or atheist, that allows for arguments by links, especially to plug one's failing blog or site. I've allowed it for about a month with this guy but no more. He's not banned. He can still come here to comment. It's just that we don't allow responses in the comments longer than the blog post itself, or near that. If any respectful person has a counter-argument or some counter-evidence then bring it. State your case in as few words as possible and then engage our commenters in a discussion. But arguments by links or long comments are disallowed. I talked with David Madison who has been the target of these links and he's in agreement with this decision. He's planning to write something about one or more of these links in the near future. So here's how our readers can help. I've deleted a few of these arguments by link. There are others I've missed. If you see some apologist arguing by link flag it. Then I'll be alerted where it is to delete it. What's curious to me are the current posts he's neglecting, like this one on horrific suffering. If he tackles that one I'll allow him a link back.

What if Scientists Conclude There is a Creator After All?

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The universe has defied what scientists have expected time after time. Even so, no ancient pre-scientific book contains the answer to the beginning of the universe. Not one important scientific discovery was learned by reading the Bible. So the odds it might do so in the future are abysmally low. In fact, most scientific discoveries were opposed by people who read the Bible. What needs to be understood is that a scientific fact consistent with the Bible is not one that was predicted by the Bible, or considered established by the Bible. So if science discovers there is a creator after all, it would be a finding consistent with the Bible and other sacred religious texts. But since the Bible never told us how to discover it, or predicted the scientific method would lead to this discovery, it wouldn't confirm the Biblical claim of creation by the biblical god. It would be a discovery that accidentally coincided with it, that's all.

Is Science Inconsistent with Naturalism?

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In “The Explanatory Emptiness of Naturalism” (another essay in Gilson & Weitnauer's anthology True Reason, which I mentioned a couple of posts back), religious philosopher and “former atheist sociopath”* David Wood, argues that, in order for there to be science, naturalism must be false. There are various reasons why he claims this is the case. These include the usual suspects, such as that naturalism is inconsistent with our ability to reason and that it cannot account for the uniformity in nature which science requires. (I've previously covered these issues, or something closely related to them, and rather than repeating myself have placed links below.)

Some of the other reasons he offers also involve common complaints against naturalism, but in ways that are odd in this context. For example, he argues that naturalism is incompatible with the existence of the universe, and from this concludes that under naturalism it would be impossible to practice science! (After all, there first has to be a world before anyone can be a scientist.)