Calls For Ending the Philosophy of Religion Are Doing Nothing More Than Advocating For the Secularization Of Our Secular Universities

Recently Jerry Coyne wrote about the Philosophy of Religion:
Insofar as "theology" includes courses that presuppose the existence of the divine, take seriously the existence of God or Jesus, or prepare people for the ministry or to promulgate religious beliefs, then those courses not only have no place in a University, but are exercises in delusion. Now I think the higher-class divinity schools, like Chicago's and Harvard's, have very few of those courses, but there are some. They should not be part of a secular university. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it seems to me that Hitchens's razor is correct: "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." That applies to any form of theology that takes gods or superstitions as real. Universities should not be in the business of taking seriously those myths that have no evidence behind them. They can, of course, teach myths, but at no point should they imply that there is evidence for their truth. LINK
I've written on this topic several times before, collected here. But I don't think I've articulated my viewpoint in any single post better than I do in this one. I'm not surprised there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what I'm talking about. So here's another attempt--a book may need to be written on it.

My position seems to be the same as Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay when it comes to ending the Philosophy of Religion (PoR) discipline in the secular universities. The classes covered could be taught under the umbrella of the Philosophy discipline itself (with no need for a subdivision of PoR) or in the Comparative Religion departments, and especially science classes. Just think of it this way. We don't have PoR classes on Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, Mithraism, Norse theology, Haitian Voodoo, Paganism etc., in any secular university that I know about. We don't see this for good reasons. Now think real hard about why, okay? The main purpose of the PoR discipline is to examine the evidence and the arguments for religion. Evidence. Arguments. Its main purpose is not merely to get students to understand religion. Rather, it seeks to assess the claims of religion by looking at the evidence (if there is any) and the arguments (if there are any good ones based on the evidence). By contrast, the main purpose of classes in Comparative Religions departments is to understand religion.

Matthew Enhances the Cult Playbook


His disservice to Christianity

What does devotion to the Ancient Jesus Mystery Cult look like today? As is clear from comments made on this blog a few days ago by one of the cult devotees, it still embraces magical thinking in its refusal to accept death:

The Gateway to Doubting the Gospel Narratives Is The Virgin Birth Myth

There is an often repeated argument that marijuana is the gateway drug leading to dangerous drugs. [I think it's largely false but don't get sidetracked on it.] There is however, a gateway to doubting the whole Bible that I want to highlight here. Lately I've been focusing on the virgin birth claim because this is the gateway to doubting the gospel narratives, just as Genesis 1-11 is the gateway to doubting the Old Testament narratives. It was for me anyway. You can see this double doubting of both Testaments in the list of the five most important books that changed my mind.

An Angel with a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card


Pushing Christian theology into fantasy land

Not too long ago I read the claim by a Christian apologist that Luke was a first-rate historian. Such confidence is no doubt based on the first four verses of that gospel:

“Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”

I'm Skyping into the Apologetics class of Dr. Gary Habermas

This Wednesday I'll be Skyping into a class of PhD students majoring in Apologetics under Dr. Gary Habermas. I'll be interacting with the students who were assigned to read my new anthology, "The Case against Miracles." These are the future apologists! It's a good opportunity! What points would you make if you were me?

A Final Sermon in a Time of Pandemic


What does disease tell us about God?

I gave up on Christianity because it claims too much and explains too little. We know so little about the Cosmos we’re floating in—our home is one solar system among trillions—yet theologians brag and posture about God, as if they had some way of knowing: they claim too much. And when they brag about how good the Christian God is, they can’t tell us—in any even remotely convincing way—why there is colossal human and animal suffering: they explain too little. Even as I served two parishes in the Methodist Church, and plodded along on my PhD program in Biblical Studies, these deficiencies kept haunting me. Finally, I walked away.

I Unequivocally Without Qualification Condemn Systematic Institutional Racism!

My wife and I protested peacefully in Fort Wayne, Indiana, over the murder of George Floyd. I unequivocally without qualification condemn systematic institutional racism! That being said, I neither condone nor condemn the violence of a few people who protested across the country. There's a lot of anger from decades and decades of systematic institutional racism that have not been adequately solved. The black community and those who seek justice are fed up. If you were born black you would feel this injustice. You might conclude property owners and society itself are to blame. We are all complicit to some degree as this situation continues to exist. Peaceful protests don't work, you might conclude. So you too might consider burning it all down. No worries here since it's all covered by insurance anyway. I understand this sentiment. You should too. While I understand the need for law and order. I also understand the outrage, and I'm on the side of the outrage right now. We might simply ask ourselves what level of priority is systematic institutional racism on the agenda. From my perspective it hasn't been high on my list of priorities, I'm so sorry to say. To be silent is to be complicit.

Discuss. I know good people disagree. WATCH THESE TWO EXCELLENT VIDEOS FIRST!!

Is There Evidence That There Are No Gods?


I was recently involved in an online discussion in which a reason I hadn't previously seen was offered for preferring negative to positive atheism. (By negative atheism, I mean the mere lack of belief in any gods, and by positive atheism, the belief that there are no gods. And the fact that one usually needs to explain this is one reason I prefer the traditional terminology.)

There are better and worse reasons for being only a negative atheist. But the one that was argued by my opponent in the discussion was pretty weak — and if it is accepted by others who call themselves atheists, they really should be aware of that.

Briefly, my opponent's argument was that one should only believe when there is evidence; that there is no evidence that there are no gods; and therefore that to positively disbelieve in such beings is completely unjustified.

On the Hunt for Jesus in the Old Testament


The manufactured prophecy miracle

Religious folks have a vested interest in managing expectations about miracles. Taking them at their word, that God is powerful and good—and has our wellbeing in mind—secularists can suggest miracles that should have happened. A year before the Sandy Hook School massacre, Richard Carrier wrote this:

Benjamin Blade Speed Watkins On Faith and Reason

Benjamin Blade Speed Watkins, Host/Producer at Real Atheology - A Philosophy of Religion Podcast, posted something for discussion: "Faith without reason is blind, but reason without faith is impotent. I’m came up with this little gem, or at least I like to thing I did. Who have I unknowingly ripped off? How unoriginal am I actually being? Philosophy friends, ASSEMBLE!" [For my response see below. For a more robust defense see this on Facebook].
There is only blind faith, that is, faith without reason. So reason doesn't need faith at all. *Why do I bother* There is reasoning based on faith, but that's equivalent to reasoning based on the conclusions of delusions and wishful thinking. By contrast, reasoning about the nature of nature, its workings, and origins is based on logic and objective evidence.

Liar! Christian Organizations Paid Norma McCorvey (a.k.a. “Roe”) To Speak Out Against Abortion

I have a chapter in my book, "How To Defend the Christian Faith: Advice From An Atheist" titled, "When All Else Fails Lie". [Get my book while you're here!] Well now, here's a big one. Norma McCorvey (a.k.a. “Roe” in Roe v Wade) received about a quarter of a million dollars from Christian organizations to be an outspoken opponent of abortion! Liar liar pants on fire! The Friendly Atheist broke this story!

The Corrosive Effect of Christian Excuses


Not doing God any favors

On 10 May 1941, Rudolph Hess flew alone in a Messerschmitt-110 fighter plane from Germany to Scotland. He was one of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle, and was “under the delusion that he could arrange a peace settlement,” according to William L. Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich), who offered this assessment: “For a German who had got so far in the jungle warfare within the Third Reich, Rudolf Hess, as all who knew him could testify, was singularly na├»ve.” Hitler was outraged: “…he gave orders to have Hess shot at once if he returned…the Fuehrer hoped the bizarre episode would be forgotten as soon as possible…” The British didn’t take Hess seriously for a moment.

Introducing the 2020 International eConference on Atheism

The Global Center for Religious Research (GCRR) is hosting the 2020 International eConference on Atheism, which is open to believers and nonbelievers alike. The purpose of this multidisciplinary virtual conference is to advance the scientific and philosophical understanding of atheism, nonreligion, agnosticism, and counterapologetics today. The eConference will provide an interdisciplinary platform for scholars, educators, and practitioners to present their research into recent innovations, trends, and concerns in contemporary atheism. Moreover, this 3-day event will promote dialogue and understanding among nonbelievers, as well as those who interact with them. And because the conference is held online, scholars and students can attend from the comfort and safety of their own home at lower costs without having to worry about travel and lodging expenses. I am one of the keynote speakers! Plan to join us September 3rd-5th! International eConference on Atheism.

Anselm "Faith Seeking Confirmation"

I think Anselm's dictum "faith seeking understanding" is to be understood in the history of theology and philosophy to be equivalent to "Faith Seeking Confirmation." If that's how it's historically used then that's what it means. Below is an updated edit from chapter 2 of my my book, Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End.
There is a common theme among St. Anselm's work and the work of other obfuscationist theologians and philosophers that needs to be highlighted. It’s called faith seeking confirmation. We see this in Anselm with regard to his new atonement theory and his ontological argument.
Anselm therefore is exhibit “A” in defense of what atheist philosopher Stephen Law said: “Anything based on faith, no matter how ludicrous, can be made to be consistent with the available evidence, given a little patience and ingenuity.”1 If I could pick one sentence, one aphorism, one proverb that highlights the main reason philosophy of religion (PoR) must end, it’s Law’s. I’ll call it Law’s law of faith.

I Just Asked Dr. Craig An Important Question

I just asked my former professor William Lane Craig the following question on his website:

Hi Dr. Craig. I hope you are well.

With the relatively recent work in establishing the strong tendency of human beings toward cognitive biases such as confirmation bias, (which is the mother of all cognitive biases), along with many others like selection bias, the ostrich effect, omission bias, verbatim effect, and so on, what advice do you offer honest inquirers to overcome these biases when searching for the true religious sect? I haven't seen you address this question before.

What perspective do you suggest for honest inquirers when searching for which religious sect is true, if there is one? Surely you don't endorse one of faith seeking confirmation (i.e. Anselm!), as that is the epitome of a known cognitive bias, which leads inquirers to embrace whatever they were raised to believe.

Giving Too Much Credit to the Holy Spirit


Yes, I know, blasphemy!

We can appreciate the urge of Christians to distance themselves from the Old Testament. The pathological anger of Yahweh doesn’t sit well with folks who rank high for empathy; his brutal laws are especially chilling, e.g. rebellious sons and sabbath breakers are to be stoned to death—and The Book of Numbers, one of five in the sacred Torah, describes the revolting ordeal that women accused of adultery must undergo, supervised by priests under the watchful eye of the Lord (5:11-31).

Yes, we’re ready to Just Say No to the Old Testament—except for some of its famous stories, I suppose. Christians are proud that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, sets the tone for much better religion—or so they think. Although if they actually read the Sermon on the Mount carefully, they’d find quite a few lines to cross out; e.g., those who have pension plans—even ministers—need to find a way to finesse, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…”

Here's a good review of my anthology on miracles by Bradley Dalton

LINK. As one might guess I like what the reviewer said about my Chapter 3: Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence: "Loftus writes this chapter and does a great job of defending Hume and the title of the chapter. I don’t know how anybody could refute what Loftus argues for after reading it." The reviewer's favorite chapter is Dr. Madison's, saying, "I love how David Madison debunks the idea that the Bible was inspired by God." See other recommendations here.

Christianity: Ten Knockout Punches, Number 10


Paul, apostle and saboteur of sane religion

It’s hardly a secret that reading the Bible is not a favorite pastime even among Christians—especially when there are so many other options, e.g., movies, TV (binge watching is now a thing), sports, hobbies. God’s Holy Word doesn’t stand a chance. When was the last time you heard a Christian say, “I’m going to spend my evening reading the gospel of Mark, all of it, then tomorrow—I can’t wait!—I’ll dive into the book of Ezekiel”?

Whose Abject Failure? William L. Vanderburgh Tweets On Hume and Bayesianism

I reviewed Dr. Vanderburgh's book in defense of David Hume in the Appendix to my anthology, "The Case against Miracles." [Click on his book image to find out more.] Amazingly, Vanderburgh sums up his conclusion in one short Tweet! Tim McGrew, supposedly an "international expert" on miracles (but not my expert!), is in the dark on how to understand David Hume on miracles.

Geez, Just When We Need Evidence Of a Powerful God of Love, They Close Down the Lourdes Shrine!

LINK. If this isn't proof that miracle mongering is a sham then what is? No matter which cognitive bias affects believers at any given time, realities like Covid-19 make it clear there are no miracles today.

Here's a good interview with students who attend Liberty University

"Atheist scholar, author, and former minister John W. Loftus shares his story of de-conversion from religious faith and presents arguments for assuming an outsider perspective toward one's ideology." LINK. There is a long 1 hour 13 minute interview and several shorter discussions.

A Helluva Good Story about Heaven


In which God and Jesus aren’t the heroes

A few years back a devout Catholic woman assured me that there was a sound, practical reason she held so firmly to her faith: she wanted to see her mother again in heaven. It would happen, she was sure, all in good time. But another Catholic woman I knew wasn’t so patient—she wanted to get through to folks in heaven in real time. As her mother lay dying, she whispered messages for mom to deliver to dead relatives on the other side. I wondered if this blatant opportunism would sit well with those in charge of border security.

TED Talk from Cognitive Scientist Philip Fernbach

Watch this TED talk video below, from cognitive scientist Philip Fernbach. We are tribal people. We have a very strong propensity to accept as knowledge what people in our own tribe accepts, which means we all claim to know things that are false.

I am a nonbeliever because of this research. I'm skeptical of people who have all the answers. I am skeptical of apologists who claim to have an impossible grasp of a whole range of disciplines of learning, like quantum mechanics, cosmology, astronomy, evolutionary science, neurology, psychology, cognitive biases, philosophy, theology, philology, Old Testament and New Testament studies, Jesus studies, church history, ethics, politics, and so on, and so on, which they use to argue for their faith. No one has such a wide grasp of it all. But far too many of them act as if they do! So they are inauthentic people, unjustly arrogant people, who are pretending to know that which they cannot know, like the Sophists in the days of Socrates.

This is why doubt is the only reasonable position to take about the objective world, its nature, its workings, and its origins (including which religion is true, if there is one) until such time as there's sufficient objective evidence leading to a confident conclusion.

The highest degree of confidence in a conclusion about the objective world is the consensus of scientists working in a field. The lowest degree of confidence in a conclusion about the objective world is one's own subjective feelings. Another conclusion about the objective world that has a very low confidence level is 2nd 3rd 4th-handed down ancient conflicting testimony debated by theologians down through history about extraordinary miraculous claims such as snakes and donkeys that talked, rocks that floated, a bush that didn't burn up, a sun that stood still (and even backed up!), great fish that swallowed a person, a god born of a virgin (based at best on 2nd handed testimony from the mother alone!), resurrecting people, levitating people, a few of which ascended back into heaven where it's claimed God's throne is, along with a 2000 year old prophecy that one of them will come back to a flat earth from which every person on earth will see him.

An Excerpt From My Introduction to "The Case Against Miracles"

A miracle must be an event caused by a supernatural force or being, a god. Such an event could not take place on its own in the natural world without the action of a god. It must be an event which involves the interfering, or suspension, or transgressing, or breaching, or contravening, or violating of natural law. Such an event could not be explainable by science because it would be an event impossible to occur by natural processes alone. A miracle is therefore an extraordinary event of the highest kind.

Dr. Randall Heskett Interviews John Loftus On His Book, "The Case Against Miracles"

Dr. Randall Heskett interviews John Loftus on his book, The Case Against Miracles. Loftus speaks about David Hume's critique on miracles and turns the interview on Heskett about his chapter in the book. The two come to a consensus that apologetics is not a field, nor is it honest, nor fair but damaging to both Christianity and intellectual discourse. Loftus speaks about the dangers of faith and the "deplorables" who are bringing down American Society.

An Ecclesiastical Basket of Deplorables


Prey experts pounce during the pandemic

One Bible text that can stop the God-Is-Good crowd dead in its tracks is Genesis 15:13-14:

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”

Was this promise of “great possessions” tacked on as an enticement? Back in Abraham’s day there were many tribal gods, so why would he choose a god who promised that his descendants would become slaves and be oppressed for four hundred years? Why wouldn’t that be a deal-breaker—no matter how many possessions? Moreover, how does any sound, respectable theology absorb, adjust to, this concept of God: A deity who allows such suffering, whose plan encompasses inexplicable delay.

Ian Mills: "Don't Read Apologetics!"

This "New Testament Review" podcast is fantastic! Listen in as two Christian PhD candidates at Duke University, Ian Mills and Laura Robinson, discuss Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for Christ." While they treat the general outline of the gospels as historical to some degree, they destroy the argument that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. At least listen up to the 21:30 minute mark! Then keep listening to the end to hear them rip into apologetics itself! The whole discussion is good!

Ian says Strobel's book isn't just bad. He says, "This book will make you dumber. No matter how much you already will almost certainly know less by the time you finish this book. It is profoundly deceptive..." (25:45).

It's not just Robert M. Price saying it in his book, The Case against the Case for Christ, or me in my anthology The Case against Miracles--the book apologist Tim McGrew should read before he says anything more about miracles!

The podcasters call Strobel's book dishonest and deceptive from the get-go. It's a textbook case of deceptive apologetics. If this is so, why accept apologetics at all? Ian says it plainly, "Don't read apologetics!" That is, not if your primary goal is to understand the gospels.

A Visit to the Creation Museum


[Since we are all stuck at home right now and cannot visit museums, here is an updated version of a post about my visit to Ken Ham's sad excuse for one. I hope this helps fill a void until you can actually go there and see all of its wonders for yourself.]

Ken Ham's “unnatural history” museum in Petersburg, Kentucky is, as you probably know, devoted to a literal interpretation of the Bible. It claims to present evidence that the earth is about 6000 years old, that dinosaurs coexisted with humans, that there was a worldwide flood around 2350 BCE, and so on.

It is a bizarre experience from the moment you walk in.

"The Case against Miracles" Will Be Made Into An Audiobook!

Good news! I've learned that my anthology, The Case against Miracles, published by Hypatia Press, is going to come out as an audio book! I don't know how soon. If the chapters have different readers for effect, and why not, let my chapters be read by Seth Andrews. ;-) It's the book Timothy McGrew needs to consider before saying anything more about miracles.

The Influence of Pandemics on Religion


This is an excellent presentation by Dr. Darren Slade on how pandemics change history, especially the Justinian Pandemic in the 6th century! Fascinating!

So if western Christians believe their version of Christianity is the true one, they also have to thank their god for the Justinian Pandemic! He no longer works in mysterious ways! His methods are being exposed little by little.