Category Archives: Apologetics

Sam Harris’s Challenge

Prolific atheist Sam Harris put an intriguing tweet up yesterday:

I’d love to take Sam’s money.  What do I have to do?

Anyone who believes that my case for a scientific understanding of morality is mistaken is invited to prove it in 1,000 words or less. (You must refute the central argument of the book—not peripheral issues.) The best response will be published on this website, and its author will receive $1000. (source)

All right.  I’m game.  I wanted to read that book, anyway.  I also wanted to get some more material for this blog.  So starting in about a week, I will blog my way through Dr. Harris’s book.

Then, I will consolidate the best of my replies into one executive summary of about 1,000 words.  That I will send to Dr. Harris on the due date next year.

It’s on!

Science Shows New Atheists to be Mean and Closed-Minded

Shadow To Light

As we all know, the New Atheists love to posture as if they are champions of science. The problem is that they only seem to care about science when it can somehow be recruited to aid their metaphysical and/or political agenda. What if you were to debate with a New Atheist and inform him that science has provided evidence that New Atheists are narcissistic, mean, and dogmatic? Do you think the New Atheist would acknowledge this characterization of New Atheists? Or do you think he/she would come up with reasons to ignore or dismiss such a scientific finding?
Well, there is no need to keep this in the realm of a thought experiment, as science has provided evidence that New Atheists are narcissistic, mean, and dogmatic. Check out the research of Christopher Silver from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Silver found that there were six basic types of atheists…

View original post 383 more words

Do Apologists Employ the “Humpty Dumpty” Defense?

When Alice meets Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass, she finds that he uses words very creatively.  In fact, a word means exactly what Humpty wants it to mean, no more and no less.

Christian apologists are sometimes accused of employing a “Humpty Dumpty Defense” by the atheists we argue with.  This particularly is seen with faith, which is understood as a form of loyalty to a patron based upon that patron’s proven ability to deliver on his promises.

Following the link, you will read a robust defense of why faith is understood this way, as opposed to the popular use of the term to mean “belief in the absence of, or in the teeth of, evidence.”

However, both militant atheists and uninformed Christians use faith in the Richard Dawkins/Mark Twain fashion to “cover up” a lack of evidence for God or the action of the Holy Spirit.  A majority of people believe faith to be “blind faith” — trusting when there appears to be no reason to.  Belief in the absence of evidence is a virtue to these people.  The less God shows himself, or (better) if the evidence actually leads one to believe that God is fictional, the more reward there will be in heaven for believing God does exist.

This is a serious mischaracterization of true Christian faith.  And when I — or others — argue for the traditional understanding of faith, we are accused of employing a “Humpty Dumpty” Defense.

And that is wrong.  Now let me tell you why. Read the rest of this entry

Validating the Resurrection Against the Argument Keeping Me Up at Night

Yesterday, I explained that people have a tendency to spread comforting lies rather than listen to harsh truths.  Facebook is rife with examples of unexamined statements that are easy to verify as false, yet people spread with glee.

This could work against the Resurrection.  Wouldn’t people believe that Jesus rose from the dead and was thus vindicated by God as the Messiah rather than face the harsh reality that he died on the cross and is still in the tomb of Joseph of Arimethea?  Isn’t that just like the rant misattributed to Bill Cosby that people keep spreading around the Internet uncritically because it supports their own beliefs perfectly and they would like to think that Bill Cosby agrees with them because Bill Cosby is supercool?

Maybe.  However, I think that there are two good reasons I will remain a steadfast Christian.  First, there are always natural skeptics who will hear something and not just spread it, but instead spend their time trying to inform others of the grievous error they are making by believing it.  Second, not everyone who believed in the Resurrection needed it as a “comforting lie.”  Paul, for example, was predisposed to believe otherwise, yet came away a believer. Read the rest of this entry

Do Any Atheist Arguments Have Validity?

There are a number of atheist arguments floating around.  Alex Knapp of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen itemizes some of the really bad ones. I have yet to hear a convincing argument for atheism; usually I just get some crap about how atheism is the default and I need to prove my case convincingly, otherwise everyone should remain an atheist.

You know, atheism has no burden of proof.  Only theism has the burden of proof since we’re claiming something.  Blah, blah, crap.

So no atheist arguments convince me, but do any make me stop and question my belief in God?

Yes.  There is one argument against the Resurrection that keeps me up at night wondering if I am, indeed, putting my faith in a lie.

First, let’s see the argument in action.  A friend re-posted a rant from Bill Cosby entitled “I’m 83 and Tired.”  It listed several complaints that Bill Cosby allegedly had and expressed that he was happy to be leaving this life soon.  It didn’t sound like Bill Cosby to me, so I spent 5 minutes with Google and was able to verify that it was incorrectly attributed to Bill Cosby — I was even able to get the link to Cosby’s blog denying it was his work.

This isn’t the first time.  The vast majority of re-posts I see on FB are either misleading or flat-out wrong.  You can’t reach State Police Dispatch by dialing 112.  No co-eds were saved by quickly dialing it when an unmarked car tried to pull them over.

It takes less than 5 minutes to verify this crap  — if it isn’t on Snopes.com then any Google search will usually turn up the truth.  The 112 dispatch I found on Snopes; the Bill Cosby one I found through Google.

But people often choose to uncritically believe whatever comes at them without really checking into it.  Normally if it supports a preconceived notion, then people will simply believe it unquestioningly.  The tendency of people to spread comforting lies rather than truth could easily explain the widespread belief in the Resurrection of Jesus — and that’s the argument that keeps me up at night.

So why don’t I become an atheist?  Because this only undermines Christianity.  It does nothing to alleviate the necessity of God for the existence of the universe and the inherent design within it.

Tune in tomorrow to find the two reasons that keep me going to a Christian church on Sundays.

Top 10 Reasons Why Religion is a Negative Force in the World (part 2)

Kieth Murphy, a user in the ThinkAtheist Forums, posted his Top Ten reasons why religion is a negative force in the world.

Not surprisingly, every single reason is a non-starter.  I covered the bottom reasons, now let’s continue where we left off — #5:

There have been cases in the United States and some other country where person’s have lost their jobs due to lack of faith or alternative faiths and sometimes on the bases of sexual orientation (which is thought to be justified because of certain beliefs)

There are also cases of people who have lost jobs because of their faith.  In the United States right now, some of the provisions of ObamaCare require a person to provide health services against their conscience.

This happens on both sides of the equation.  Does it then follow that atheism is bad because it forces the religious to do things against our religion in order to function together in society?

Of course not.  That’s ludicrous.

There are always bigots.  Some incorrectly use religion as a justification.  That’s human nature.  Our solution?  2 Corinthians 5:17 — take off our fallen, sinful human nature and put on a heavenly one.  Atheism’s solution?  Oh, that’s right — there isn’t one.  We are what we are.

Number 4:

Religion tries to justify many forms of discrimination including but not limited to, homophobia, sexism, racism and class

No, some people in religious instutions attempt to incorrectly use the Scripture to justify discrimination.  But the perversion of something shouldn’t lead us to negatively judge the thing itself.  That’s throwing the baby out with the dirty bathwater.

Number 3:

Certain nations such as Iran and Uganda take their discrimination justified by religious beliefs a step further by improving atheists and murdering homosexuals

So, we don’t really have 10 reasons on this list.  5, 4, and 3 are basically the same reason stated different ways.

Number 2:

Religion has caused many to rebel against its corruption. While this mostly occurs in changing religions or declaring oneself atheist; that is not always the next direction for some. For some they take that faith and change it for their own purposes, often resulting in more extreme and harmful faith systems mostly regarded as cults. These cults involve all sorts of dangerous acts, such as mass suicide and sometimes violent attacks of non-beleivers of their faith.

Wow.  Ignorance to the millionth power.  Pol Pot.  Stalin.  Mao.  Corruptions of something should not lead us to negatively judge the thing itself.  Those guys don’t mean atheism is evil or wrong.  Cults, therefore, do not mean religion is evil or wrong.

And the #1 reason:

Religion has literally caused people to go to war due to the influence of the faith and disagreement with certain policies based on religious beliefs (especially when a doctrine influences such actions)

According to The Encyclopedia of Wars (New York: Facts on File, 2005), which chronicles every war from 8,000 b.c. to 2003 (1,763 wars), less than 7% are religiously motivated.  Religions are not the main cause of warfare.

I’m not denying that religions have caused wars.  But, if you were trying to prioritize a strategic plan to eliminate causes of warfare, religion wouldn’t be on your list of causes to address.  It wouldn’t even be a factor in your plan.

So there you have them — a list of 10 reasons (actually 8, since 3 reasons were different iterations of the same reason) that religion is a negative force that are poorly thought out and just plain ignorant.  Many work against atheism as much as they do against religion.

Is consistency too much to ask from the side that considers itself more logical and rational?  It would seem so.

ShadowBard Misses Something BIG

A Twitter user named ShadowBard didn’t think this one through:

Actually, a Holy Book that would let you treat slaves any way you pleased and set no limits on such behavior would be unworthy of the term “holy book.”

That assessment, of course, is based on the truth that slavery in biblical times was an employer-employee relationship, not the forced slavery of the African Slave Trade.  Shadow’s assessment is based on the mistaken assumption that the two are the same.

When are atheists going to realize that slavery in the Bible is nonstarter?

Why Be Catholic?

Godless Girl tweeted:

I’ve noticed a trend: points that atheists make seem to make a lot of sense on the surface.  But, once you dive below the surface and actually think about what they say, you realize how stupid it actually is.

Atheists own Twitter because their arguments are best kept to 140 characters.  More importantly, their opponents should have the same limitation because it takes more letters to unpack and understand a concept fully.  In this way, they sound superior to us ignorant Christians.

But this time, Godless Girl seems to have a point.  I mean, why should anyone remain Catholic?  After all, there was worldwide abuse and this institution just covered it up, shoveled priests to different parishes or dioceses, and then paid out their butts in settlements to keep some of the more damning stories out of the media.

If a corporation had that kind of record, people would boycott its products and services and drive the company out of business.  Why would anyone want anything to do with such a corrupt organization?

Except that’s not really true, is it?  Think about Jack-in-the-Box.  They purposely designed their cooking procedures to emphasize speed and not food safety.  They didn’t cook their ground beef to a proper serving temperature and as a result made hundreds sick.  Children and elderly died of E. coli poisoning.

And they’re still in business.  Evil corporate money-grubbers slayed children with bad hygiene and food safety standards — why would anyone support that institution?

Because the products, services, and messages are separate from the messenger — and the public knows that.  It appears to have escaped Godless Girl.  Jack-in-the-Box revised their cooking procedures and now serve safe food.  It was really never about the food — it was the process, the lax enforcement, and lack of food safety standards that were to blame.  The product was still good, and people were willing to give it another go when Jack-in-the-Box had fixed the real problems.

The Catholic Church, like all Christian churches, has been entrusted by Jesus with a message of salvation to mankind.  None of us are perfect; only Jesus had the mantle of sinful flesh but remained unstained from sin.  We only point the way to him that saves you; we don’t save anyone.

The Catholic Church is the mechanism of this message, but it isn’t the message nor is it mankind’s salvation.  It merely points the way, without being the Way.  Christ himself said that only he is the Way (Jn 14:6).

Another example should suffice.  Let’s say you were sitting on a crate that you really didn’t know the pedigree of.  It’s ticking; could be a bunch of clocks, right?  Then a guy comes up to you, frantic, and screams, “Get off!  Get off!  That’s a bomb, and it’s set to go off!”

You recognize this guy from a database of registered sex offenders.  So you remain on your perch and resolutely declare, “You’re a registered sex offender!  So I know this isn’t a bomb.  I know you’re lying because rapists are liars!”

It’s usually the concussive force that kills people like you, not the shrapnel.  You won’t even feel the broken boards or nails, therefore.  Your insides will already be soup from the explosion.

Judge the message on its own merit, not the merit of those who bring it.  The Catholic Church isn’t perfect.  My church isn’t perfect.  We are, however, co-laborers for one who is perfect; and we point to him, not ourselves.

More Dumb Tweets: Belief and Morality

Juan A. Raposo put up a fascinating tweet:

The implication being that theists are only moral because our belief in God keeps us moral.

So if not for that belief, we’d be vicious killing machines.  That thought misses a grand contradiction: Ask yourself, “What restrains the atheist from raping and pillaging?”  Belief that those things are wrong.

Is that belief fundamentally different from belief in God?

The atheist would say yes, but if he were consistent he’d be forced to admit that it differs very little.  After all, the Atheist Mantra is that there is “no evidence” for God and  God can’t be scientifically proven, right?

And that means that belief in God is worthless.  The underlying principle is a form of logical positivism, variously called empiricism or scientism.  It accepts only that which can be proven scientifically (scientism) or that which can be experienced by the senses (empiricism) as valid evidence.  Most atheists use this to disqualify evidence or argument that God exists.

The flip side is that morality can’t be scientifically proven, either.  So the belief that it is immoral to rape and pillage local towns is on the same grounds as God.  If one accepts the implied tenet that only that which can be scientifically proven is worth believing, then one cannot be consistent and also believe that raping and pillaging are morally wrong.  One has to prove that case.

So we both believe, without empirical evidence, that something restrains us from committing grievous harms against our fellow humans.  And that, by Raposo’s estimation, means neither of us are moral — but that’s the whole point of needing a Savior, isn’t it?

On Rational Discussion

The following meme is making the Facebook/Twitter rounds that shows how to have rational discourse:

rational-discussion

As usual, I think that this is incredibly simplistic.  When you unpack some of these, red flags start to go up.  The person who created this, I think, has an agenda and is so focused on that agenda that he is no longer concerned with truth.

Can you envision anything that will change your mind on the topic?  The key word here is “envision.”  I can’t envision anything that would change my mind on the existence God.  That, however, doesn’t mean I will be irrational in a discussion.  Perhaps during the conversation we can find something I had not thought of that would change my mind on God.

Just because I can’t envision it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  I have an open enough mind to accept that I may be wrong about the existence of God, while being confident that I’m not.  Aristotle observed, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  I can entertain thoughts I don’t accept — my goal is truth, not comfort.

As a further point, I think that it is easy to use this as a crutch to end an inconvenient discussion by equivocating irrationality and passion.  I passionately believe in God, which is why I can’t envision anything changing my mind on that.  But that is not the same as irrationality.

Are you prepared to abide by the basic principles of reason in discussing this topic?  Two rules are given as an example:

  1. The position that is more reasonable and has more supporting evidence should be accepted as true.
  2. The person who asserts a position bears the onus of demonstrating its truth.

With regard to (1), “evidence” is (as it always is with atheists) left undefined.  Empirical or peer-reviewed scientific evidence aren’t the only forms of evidence.  Only accepting empirical or peer-reviewed scientific evidence is a form of logical positivism called either empircism or scientism (depending on which form you accept).  Neither position is consistent with itself, since there is no empirical or scientific evidence that would support a belief in those position.

Both positions, in fact, rule out the knowledge we gain from history, mathematics, and philosophy.  They also exclude eyewitness testimony from discussion.

Meaning that we accept things as true without “evidence” all the time — if that’s what is meant by “evidence.”  Remember that when we get to the farcical rules of discussion below.

I agree wholeheartedly with (2) provided you understand atheists share a burden of proof.

Once entered, four additional rules are given to govern the discussion:

Do not introduce a new argument while another argument has yet to be resolved.  I don’t, but every atheist I’ve had a discussion with has done this to me.  So, I won’t start doing this but please, atheists, don’t do this to me, either.

Do not move on to another argument if it is shown that a fact you have relied upon is inaccurate.  I’ll just admit my mistake, but this doesn’t happen to me often.

Provide evidence for your position or arguments.  Again, atheists should be doing this, too.  Atheists seldom back their own unbelief in God up with evidence or arguments.  This is both lazy and a direct violation of one of the basic principles of rational discussion (that the true position is more reasonable and has more supporting evidence).  Argue it’s reasonable.  Give me the evidence.

Do not argue that you do not need evidence.  Again, the obsessive requirement for evidence is logically inconsistent, because there is no evidence for accepting it as a true premise — and atheists say they only believe that which we have evidence for.

While I accept the spirit of this meme, I still find it the product of a simple mind concerned with winning online debates rather than seeking truth.