Showing posts with label Monday Mornings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Monday Mornings. Show all posts

Of Miracles: In Defense of David Hume against Graham Oppy


 David Hume (1711-1776) offered some good philosophical arguments against miracles that still resonate today. His arguments focused on the unreliability of human testimony on behalf of miracles. He did not live in a technological age like ours with modern forensics that include blood analysis, with tests that can determine one’s type, and detects diseases, poison, drugs and alcohol. We also have x-ray technology, DNA evidence, CAT scans, dash cams, and security cameras at convenience stores, on street intersections, and neighborhood homes. Especially noteworthy are the ubiquitous number of cell phones that give us immediate access to the police by a 911 call, cameras that can capture any event on video, and GPS tracking capability showing where we are at any given time. So Hume didn’t have the capability we do to establish miracles, or debunk them.

In our day the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) offered a one-million-dollar prize “to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.” From 1964, when it first offered such a challenge, until 2015 when they stopped doing it, no challenger had even gotten past the preliminary test.[1] That should settle the question of miracles. If not, why not?

One might ask why we even need philosophical arguments. Why not just teach how science works and why the methods of science are the best we have to get at the truth? In a real sense we don’t need philosophical arguments, per se, including those from Hume.[2] However, given so many possible existential threats to life on our planet, we should do everything we can to reach people who value blind faith over scientific evidence.[3] So practically speaking, some believers might be attentive to listen to Hume, rather than to Darwin, Sagan, Shermer, Dawkins and others.[4]

One of the best philosophical arguments that can help believers acknowledge the value of sufficient evidence, objective evidence, scientific evidence, is found in my book, the Outsider Test for Faith. [5] It challenges them to doubt their own culturally indoctrinated childhood faith for perhaps the first time, just as if they never heard of it before. It calls on them to require of their own religious faith what they already require of the religious faith’s they reject. It forces them to rigorously demand logical consistency with their doctrines along with sufficient evidence for their faith, just as they already demand of the religions they reject.

What is Hume Doing In His Essay “Of Miracles”?

I'm writing a paper on David Hume so I'm republishing this. Enjoy!

Much of the scholarship having to do with Hume’s argument against miracles has to do with trying to understand it. Philosopher Michael Levine claims Part I of Hume’s essay is an "a priori" case against miracles
(The Cambridge Companion to Miracles, p. 302) based on considerations of natural law before there's a miracle claim--that the evidence of natural law outweighs any testimony to a miracle--whereas Part II is an a posteriori case against miracles, “even if miracles have occurred.” (p. 293).
About Hume’s principal argument in Part I, Levine says “it fails” (p. 296) as an “unsuccessful” (p. 292) “superfluous” (p. 302) “misadventure” (p. 292). “It is a gloss for understanding the underlying supposition that one cannot have an ‘impression’ of a supernatural event” (p. 302). This underlying empiricist supposition is a theme of Hume’s, in which he argues we don’t have empirical sense impressions of ‘cause and effect’ or any divine activity, or the self for that matter, which is nothing but a bundle of sensations. So “Given his view that divine activity is impossible to know, Hume’s argument in Part I is in a sense superfluous” (p. 302).
Part I presupposes naturalism, Levine says. Philosophers like him, who rule out the possibility of miracles “are in effect presupposing or else arguing for a thoroughgoing naturalism. Hence, Hume’s empiricism commits him to naturalism, and if that goes unrecognized, his a priori argument in Part I of his essay against the possibility of justified belief in miracles is impossible to follow.” (p. 292). All one has to admit is that “naturalism is possibly false.” Once this is admitted “miracles are possible.” (p. 292).
Hume is thus constrained by his empiricism in such a way that had he been on the shore of the Red Sea with Moses, and had the Red Sea crashed to a close the moment the last Israelite was safe, Hume would still be constrained by his principles to deny that what was witnessing was a miracle (p. 298).

Faith and Reason are Mutually Exclusive Opposites

This is the conclusion I have come to. In my years of Blogging there is nothing I have written that elicits more of an adverse response from Christian believers than when I have denounced faith in favor of scientifically based reasoning. I can write against the resurrection, miracles, or the inspiration of the Bible, but when I write against faith the blog world lights up (well, those who read my blog anyway). Why? George H. Smith tells us in Atheism: The Case Against God: “In order to understand the nature of a philosophical conflict one must grasp the fundamental differences that give rise to the conflict.” True enough. Applied to debates between atheism and Christianity he identifies what it is: “The conflict between Christian theism and atheism is fundamentally a conflict between faith and reason. This, in epistemological terms, is the essence of the controversy. Reason and faith are opposites, two mutually exclusive terms: there is no reconciliation or common ground. Faith is belief without, or in spite of, reason.” (pp. 96-98) As such, “For the atheist, to embrace faith is to abandon reason.” (p. 100)

How Yahweh Became a Donkey-Headed Egyptian Demon Called Set

This is an interesting post written by Dr. Darren Slade.
The conflation of Yahweh with the Egyptian demon-god Set, influenced early Christian interpretations of the Old Testament god as an evil deity. LINK.
As I read this, it just reinforces how people argued against other myths with their own. Plus, it shows just how superstitious and mythically-minded the prescientific people were. Other thoughts?

On the Alleged Christian Origins of Modern Science

There is an often repeated claim by Christians that belief in their god produced modern science. There are a number of ways to show them wrong.

1) Richard Carrier destroys such a claim in my anthology, The Christian Delusion. As you might guess, I love how he opens his chapter. He excoriates it!

The Barbaric God of The Bible

[Written by John W. Loftus using a different email address he no longer has access to. First published in Feb 2006]

One thing is sure to me. The Triune God in the Bible simply cannot be describing the God who exists. That God is a barbaric God. He is a hateful, racist, sexist God.

Consider these stories: In the Flood story we’re told God wanted to destroy all mankind. In Moses’ day God wanted to destroy all of the Israelites. In Joshua’s day God wanted the Israelites to kill all of the inhabitants of the Promised Land. Saul was told by God to destroy all of the Amalekites. According to Jonah, God was going to destroy the people of Nineveh. God also destroyed and scattered the northern tribes of Israel because he was displeased with them. God allowed the accuser to destroy Job’s health and family life just to win a “bet.” In the New Testament, God will destroy all unbelievers in the lake of fire. He’s a pretty barbaric God, if you ask me. This God is simply the reflection of ancient barbaric peoples.
Christians think the Militant Muslims are wrong for wanting to kill free loving people in the world, and they are. But the only difference between these Muslims and the Christian Biblical God is that they simply disagree on who should be killed. They both agree people should be killed; they just disagree on who should die.

Paul Moser decisively answers the evidential problem of horrendous suffering via assertions!

Philosopher Paul Moser answers the evidential problem of horrendous suffering via assertions! This is so unenlightening! He asserts his faith despite this problem, But is this doing his readers any good? Is he helping them through this serious problem for faith? FACEBOOK LINK.

Science and Biblical Literalism

Christians take the Bible literally until such time as the literal interpretation becomes indefensible. Then they find some other meaning, no matter how strange. In other words, it says what it says until refuted by reason, morality, and/or science; then it says something other than what it says.

My Virgin Birth Debate Slides

I've had some difficulty posting these slides from an online debate with Jimmy Akin, which was hosted by Capturing Christianity. Initially we had agreed to 20 minute openers but decided 10 minutes was enough. Below is my 20 minute slide presentation, which I extended a bit. It puzzles me a great deal why this information doesn't cause more believers to abandon the virgin myth. This is what led me to doubt the gospels as a whole. Enjoy. Please share!

"How the New Testament Writers Used Prophecy," An Excerpt from "Why I Became an Atheist" pp. 353-59.


"How the New Testament Writers Used Prophecy" by John W. Loftus. 

One of the major things claimed by the New Testament in support of Jesus’ life and mission is that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (Luke 24:26–27; Acts 3:17–24). If God cannot predict the future as time moves farther and farther into the distance, as I questioned earlier, then neither can any prophet who claims to speak for God. As we will see with regard to the virgin birth of Jesus, none of the Old Testament passages in the original Hebrew prophetically applied singularly and specifically to Jesus. [In chapter 18, "Was Jesus Born of a Virgin in Bethlehem?"]. Early Christian preachers simply went into the Old Testament looking for verses that would support their view of Jesus. They took these Old Testament verses out of context and applied them to Jesus in order to support their views of his life and mission.9

The Bethlehem Star, by Dr. Aaron Adair

Chapter 13: The Bethlehem Star, by Dr. Aaron Adair, in Christianity in the light of Science: Critically Examining the World's Largest Religion (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Press, 2016): 297-313. [Used with permission].

        About two centuries ago, there was a major transition in the way scholars were approaching the stories of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. There was a greater attempt to look at the historical context and formation of the holy book and its stories, and the tales of Jesus were a major issue for critical scholars and theologians. It was also at around this time that the acceptability of wondrous stories was not palatable, at least for the educated where a deistic god was more ideal, one that did not perform miracles and was consistent with the universe of Newtonian mechanics. A naturalistic understanding of the world, inspired by the success of the physical sciences, along with inspiration from Enlightenment thinkers, changed the way people looked at the world, and that caused for a significant reassessment of the spectacular stories of the ancient world. What was one to do with the miracle stories of Jesus if miracles don’t happen? The solution was a series of rationalizations, none seen as terribly plausible but preferable to claiming a miracle or a myth. For example, Jesus walking on water was a mistake on the part of the Disciples, seeing their master walk along the beach shore on a foggy morning and not actually atop the water. Even the resurrection of Jesus was so retrofitted into scenarios that are unlikely, to say the least, but at least they weren’t impossible.

An Excerpt From Chapter 2, From "The Outsider Test for Faith", pp. 33-44


Chapter 2: The Fact of Religious Diversity

This chapter supports my first contention—that people who are located in distinct geographical areas around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and justify a wide diversity of mutually exclusive religious faiths due to their particular upbringing and shared cultural heritage. This is the Religious Diversity Thesis (RDVT), and it is a well-established fact in today’s world. The problem of religious diversity cries out for reasonable explanation, something that faith has not provided so far. Attempts to mitigate it or explain it, as we’ll see, either fail to take it seriously or explain religion itself away.

Reality Check: What Must Be the Case if Christianity is True?


In 2011 I did a series of posts called "Reality Check: What Must Be the Case if Christianity is True?"  I put some of them in the third chapter in  The End of Christianity, and the first chapter in God and Horrendous Suffering.

Below I've put together thirty of them that most Christians agree on and why they are all improbable:

1) There must be a God who is a simple being yet made up of three inexplicable persons existing forever outside of time without a beginning, who therefore never learned anything new, never took a risk, never made a decision, never disagreed within the Godhead, and never had a prior moment to freely choose his own nature.

2) There must be a personal non-embodied omnipresent God who created the physical universe ex-nihilo in the first moment of time who will subsequently forever experience a sequence of events in time.

David Eller, "Is Religion Compatible with Science?" An Excerpt from Chapter 11 in "The End Of Christianity"


IS RELIGION COMPATIBLE WITH SCIENCE? by Dr. David Eller (pp. 257-278). [This is a 4000 word excerpt out of 8600 words. Get the book!]

  In most of the squabbles between religion and science, religion is never defined, because, since most of the squabbles are occurring in majority-Christian societies, the assumption is that “religion” means “Christianity.” Worse yet, the assumption is usually that “religion” means “traditional Chris­tianity” or “evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity.” Substituting one of these terms for “religion” in our original question yields the highly problematic inquiry: Is traditional/evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity compatible with science?

The first problem, of course, is that even if it is not, then perhaps some other form—some modernist or liberal form—of Christianity
is com­patible with science; perhaps Christianity can be adjusted and juked to fit with science. The second and more profound problem is that even if traditional/evangelical/ fundamentalist Christianity or any version of Christianity whatsoever is not compatible with science, perhaps some other religion—say, Hinduism or Wicca or ancient Mayan religion or Scientology—is. Yet you will notice that almost no one asks, and almost no one in the United States or any other Christian-dominated society cares, whether Hinduism or ancient Mayan religion is compatible with science, since few people know or care about Hin­duism or ancient Mayan religion. The tempest over religion and science is thus quite a local and parochial brouhaha, people fighting for their particular reli­gion against (some version or idea of) science.

The Christian Illusion of Rational Superiority (Part 2)

[This is one of my earliest posts, published in January 2006] Many Christians will maintain they have a superior foundation for knowing and for choosing to do what is good. They claim to have objective ethical standards for being good, based in a morally good creator God, and that the atheist has no ultimate justification for being moral.

Consider what Dr. William Lane Craig wrote: “If life ends at the grave, then it makes no difference whether one has lived as a Stalin or as a saint.…” “Who is to judge that the values of Adolf Hitler are inferior to those of a saint? “The world was horrified when it learned that at camps like Dachau the Nazis had used prisoners for medical experiments on living humans. But why not? If God does not exist, there can be no objection to using people as human guinea pigs.” [Apologetics: An Introduction, pp. 37-51].

The Christian claims to have absolute and objective ethical standards for knowing right from wrong, which is something they claim atheists don’t have. The Christian standards are grounded in the commands of a good creator God, and these commands come from God’s very nature and revealed to them in the Bible. There is a philosophical foundation for this claim, and then there is the case Christians present that the Bible reveals God’s ethical commands. Both are illusions of superiority. It is an illusion that the Christian moral theory is superior, and it is an illusion that Christians know any better than others how they should morally behave in our world.

The Christian Illusion of Rational Superiority (Part 1)

[This was one of my earliest posts here at DC] Many Christians assume a certain kind of rational superiority over any other system of belief and thought, especially atheism. According to them, their beliefs are rationally superior in the sense that Christianity wins hands down in the marketplace of ideas. They claim that a compelling case can be made for believing in Christianity over any other system of belief and thought.
This way of thinking about the Christian faith is due to what my friend and Christian scholar, Dr. James Sennett calls, “The Illusion of Rational Superiority,” in his forthcoming book: This Much I Know: A Postmodern Apologetic.

Dr. James Sennett argues against the idea that people who reject Christianity do so because they are either “ignorant,” “stupid” or “dishonest with the facts.” That is, he argues against the idea that a “fully rational rejection of Christianity is impossible.” Dr. Sennett calls this objection the Christian “Illusion of Rational Superiority." It's simply an illusion, he claims. [Although, as a Christian philosopher he argues it is an unnecessary illusion due to the fact that even though he has a reasonable faith, it is “not rationally compelling to all.”]

On Vampires and Revenants Resurrecting from the Dead, Written by Kris Keys


[First published on 10/5/20] Because this is the haunted month of Halloween here's something to spook ya all!

I'm always interested in new angles to argue my case against Christianity. Kris Keys does that in the excellently researched essay below. He argues there is more evidence for the resurrection of Vampires and Revenants than there is for the resurrection of Jesus.

Introductory comments by Kris Keys:

Well this is my first time writing a blog post and little did I know it would be for the website Debunking Christianity!! I find this to be completely hilarious as I am not in of myself militantly opposed to Christianity in of itself; I tend to dislike Evangelicals but that is because I view them as hypocritical and blatantly power hungry but of course this description would not apply to all Christians. As probably the readers of this post have deduced by now I am not a Christian, but I am also not an atheist either. I tend to be rather eclectic in my views. I fancy myself to be broad minded and open to change.

I am a schoolteacher by profession, and I have taught both social studies and science at the high school level. I have dual degrees in both fields. In my not remotely enough spare time I enjoy reading folklore, Medieval history, sociology, anthropology and other subjects. Basically a lot of stuff.  Over the years I have heard the Christian argument for the physical resurrection of Jesus and at one time I found this argument to be convincing, but more and more for many varied reasons I became rather skeptical of it. 

None of this explains though, how this essay came about! Nothing remarkable about it really. I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw John Loftus’s profile. In discussion with him I mentioned that one could use the resurrection argument to demonstrate the existence of vampires and I showed him a response I wrote to a friend of mine on this.  John asked me to do a write up for him.

So here is a write up I never seriously figured I would write up on a blog, one that I never suspected I would write for. So I hope everyone enjoys it. So without further ado, here is my attempt to show that the Christian argument for the resurrection of Jesus would also demonstrate vampires exist. I will leave it up to you dear readers to determine if Jesus rose from the dead and if you need to invest in crucifixes and garlics now; or that perhaps claims of the dead returning bodily just should not be given the benefit of the doubt. You decide.

The Parable of the Mysterious Witness by John C. Wathey

The Parable of the Mysterious Witness by John C. Wathey:

This fictitious story begins with a sexual predator who has been stalking a family, watching their house. His eye is on the young daughter. He has studied her habits and those of her parents long enough. He decides to attack. So he enters her room through the window, silences the frantic child with duct tape, and carries her to his car. The predator reaches a wooded area and drags the struggling girl with her muffled screams into the woods, where he brutally beats her, rapes her, and buries her alive in a shallow grave. The predator then drives away.

Shockingly there was a mysterious witness watching him, an undercover policeman. Although he carries a gun he did not intervene. Although he has a police radio he did not call for assistance. He simply watched it all take place then drove home, leaving the girl to suffocate to death. Even more shocking we’re told the policeman is the girl’s father, and that he dearly loves her! “The crime of this sexual predator must surely be among the most despicable imaginable. Yet I expect most readers of this story are even more appalled at the behavior of the mysterious witness. How can one possibly rationalize his utter failure to rescue this poor little girl, his own daughter? And yet, for the believer in the omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent personal god, every horrendous act of evil in the world, every natural disaster, every injury, illness, and genetic defect that causes senseless suffering has just such a mysterious witness: God himself. [John C. Wathey, The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Religious Longing (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2016), pp. 38-39.]

Dr. Hector Avalos On Mistranslating The Bible

From his masterful book, The End of Biblical Studies.

Ten Reasons Why Most Believers Don't Seriously Question Their Faith


Every Monday morning I'm posting submitted essays, excerpts from my books, and some of the best posts of the past. Here's one from January 17, 2012.

This topic interests me to no end. Why don't most believers seriously question their faith? Does it take a special type of individual? Does it require some personality trait that believers don't have? Does that make skeptics different people? Could it be intelligence? Could it be that skeptics have a higher self-esteem than others? Is it that we don't need social approval? Is it that life's experiences have shown us we cannot accept the dominant opinion on a matter? Is it that we question what we're told in general? Perhaps, but when we look at skeptics in general there doesn't seem to be a set pattern. Perhaps a scientific poll might help answer that kind of question. What I do think is that the following ten reasons are almost certainly necessary conditions even if they are not sufficient ones: