Friday, November 08, 2019

"He is found in our hearts"

Christian apologists often carry on as if they’re know-it-alls when it comes to arguments. It’s possible that some might even know what an argument is. Many will spend hours if not years in the effort to master formal argumentation, fallacy detection, rhetorical devices, and of course, expressions in Latin. Their hope is apparently to ensure that they be “always ready” for any skirmish with a non-believer, for defending the faith from the offense of non-belief is of paramount importance to preserving loyalty to the confession.

And over the millennia theologians and apologists have been very inventive, devising numerous arguments for theism from a variety of angles, such as that the universe needed a cause, that the design we find in the world indicates the existence of a designer, that moral norms necessarily imply a moral law-giver, etc. Once belief in theism has been accepted, there’s an argument to defeat every possible criticism of god-belief that naysayers and spoilsports might raise. And the motivation for devising such arguments should not be too difficult to understand: once belief in the supernatural has been accepted as a true account of reality, one will need to protect his pride from the baddies of the world who scoff at such beliefs.

Thursday, October 31, 2019


I have a young neighbor who on a typical day is rather kind and bright. He is also very religious, duly full of zeal for The Lord©. The son of immigrant parents, he often remarks to me how glad he is that I am his neighbor. And frankly he should be – I’m a good man and I don’t cause my neighbors any problems. They can come to me any time and I will kindly receive them and listen to their concerns for the neighborhood. He could have much worse neighbors than my family, to say the least! 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Shrugging off Mysticism

Mysticism is like an odorless toxic gas, and just as dangerous. It often goes undetected precisely because people generally have not learned to recognize consistently the distinction and proper relationship between consciousness and its objects and understand the profound implications of this distinction for their view of reality, of life, and of themselves. Sadly, the distinction between reality and imagination is therefore blurred, often beyond recognition. A thinker who fails to grasp the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects and the fundamentality of this relationship to the entire sphere of thought and action, is thus vulnerable to a wide assortment of cognitive hazards, whether in the form of gratuitous suggestibility or gullibility, of overwriting the things one perceives with fantasy, categorical subjugation to other minds, and so on.

Given its departure from reality and its opposition to objectivity and rationality, it may very well be fruitful to ask whether or not the love for mysticism is in fact the root of all evil. Mysticism lies at the heart of injustice in its two most insidious forms: the pursuit of the unearned and intellectual default. In its essence mysticism involves, however implicitly, a claim to knowledge that one does not have and has not earned. Knowledge is the product of more or less systematic effort conducted within the constraints of reason and guided by objective principles. Intellectual default is essentially the failure to govern one’s mind rationally and act accordingly. Injustice results from efforts to seek the unearned, including resources, power, influence, approval, etc., and is made possible to proceed when people who know better or should know better fail to act to oppose such efforts. Mysticism encourages a willful blindness which dares not call out its root error or its complicity in injustice. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Pardon My Skepticism...

We’re all familiar with the story:
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[a] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.  
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Mt. 27:62 – 28:4)
A bit later we’re told that that the guards bribed the authorities to believe the report that they had fallen asleep while guarding Jesus’ tomb, making it possible for his disciples to steal his dead body while they slept (Mt. 28:11-14). That was what allegedly happened, nearly two thousand years ago.

Then today we read this:
Corrections officers at a New York prison where Jeffrey Epstein was being held are accused of falling asleep on the job and falsifying logs to make it appear as if they checked on the billionaire pedophile on the night of his apparent suicide. (Source)
Whether the family resemblance between these accounts is intentional or not, I don’t think either one is all that believable. It almost seems like a case of art imitating art, or rather, spin imitating spin.

Looks like tangled webs are nothing new after all.

by Dawson Bethrick

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Agony of Agnosticism or: Why Not Mature Thoughtfulness?

It’s common for apologists to market their theism in terms of dichotomies between two self-servingly construed hypotheticals, branding the undesired horn as degrading and deplorable and the option they prefer as though it were unquestionably virtuous and in touch with the secret answers to all of life’s mysteries, available just by signing on. 

This is the same kind of tactic a snake oil salesman would use: why suffer in your inevitable demise when, for the cost of a few pennies, you can unlock the powers of health by buying a bottle of this special elixir, a concoction whose ingredients could only be discovered after making the purchase and taking the substance to a lab (a la “we have to pass the bill in order to find out what’s in it”). 

With religious induction, it’s a never-ending booby-trap-laden spiral of “but wait, there’s more” as the initiate is led down the granddaddy of all rabbit trails, traveling the labyrinth of self-delusion managed by way of myriad distractions such that he is deliberately kept unaware of just how far he has been led from where it all started out. By the time he’s a mile in, he doesn’t realize how deep he’s sunk in his descent into the depths of what is the essentially a mind game.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Does Objectivism Deny the Reality of Change?

Most readers here have probably heard the charge that on “the atheist worldview” everything is “matter in motion,” that everything is “in flux,” and that the resulting constant change can only mean a persistence of chaos and absence of constancy. Such an assumption about reality supposedly follows as a result of not believing that an invisible magic being created the universe and calls all the shots. If apologists don’t actually believe this about non-believers and their outlook on reality, many nevertheless want to use such charges to put them on the defensive, regardless of what they in fact do say on behalf of their view on such matters.

Well, some time back, I had an exchange with a presuppositionalist who took a different approach. This individual actually argued precisely the opposite, namely that because of Objectivism’s conception of causality as identity applied to action, there’s no room for change in Objectivism. (I kid you not!)

Monday, May 27, 2019

More on Wilson's Fizzing about Fizzing

In last month’s entry I examined a couple paragraphs from Douglas Wilson’s opening statement in his debate with Theodore Drange in which Wilson attributes to atheism the view that thinking is essentially a type of chemical reaction and is therefore indistinguishable from the fizzing of an agitated soft drink.

A reader sent me an email asking if I had any thoughts on the paragraph in Wilson’s opening statement that came after the two that I have already examined. I did indicate in my post that if readers express interest in exploring Wilson’s debating strategy any further, I’d be willing to do so. So, let’s dive in!