December 2012


Retired particle physicist and outspoken atheist Victor Stenger developed a rhetorically powerful aphorism against religion: “Science flies men to the moon, religion flies men into buildings.”

I think Stenger is being a bit too selective in what he chooses to highlight about science and religion, though.  Science has also been responsible for great moral atrocities, and religion has also been responsible for great moral goods.  To demonstrate how worthless this rhetoric is, I could just as easily develop an aphorism modeled on Stenger’s to make the opposite point: “Science builds atomic bombs to kill millions of people, religion builds hospitals to save billions of people.”

queen-james-gay-bibleIf the title itself doesn’t give it away, the Queen James Bible is a new “gay Bible” based on the King James Version, complete with a rainbow-styled cross on the cover.  It was named “Queen James Bible” because King James I of England, who authorized the creation of the Bible that bears his name, was rumored to be bisexual.

According to the unnamed editors[1] of this version, “The Queen James Bible seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality.[2] … We edited the Bible to prevent homophobic interpretations.”[3]  It is a near-identical reproduction of the KJV, but with gay-friendly edits made to eight verses that have been traditionally been interpreted as speaking negatively against homosex.  What follows is a comparison of the KJV to the QJV (changes in bold), followed by my comments on their changes:

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Reasonable FaithDr. William Lane Craig is my favorite Christian apologist.  I’ve read countless articles he has authored and several of his books, listened to virtually every debate he has participated in as well as his podcasts and Defenders lectures, and even read his weekly Q&A on reasonablefaith.org.  I could rightly be called a Craigite, and yet I had never read his signature book, Reasonable Faith, which is now in its third edition.

I finally purchased the book and read through it with slobbering delight.  I must confess that having followed Craig for so long, there wasn’t much in the book that I had not encountered before.  But that is more of a personal commentary, and does nothing to detract from the wealth of information contained in this book.

Craig begins the book by answering the question, How can one know Christianity is true?  After surveying what important past and present thinkers have to say on the matter, Craig adopts a Plantingian-based model in which we can know Christianity is true in virtue of the witness of the Spirit in our hearts.  Craig makes an important distinction, however, between how we personally know Christianity to be true, and how we demonstrate to others the truth of Christianity.  While the witness of the Holy Spirit is sufficient for the believer to be persuaded of the truth of Christianity, we demonstrate the truth of Christianity to unbelievers through evidence and rational argumentation.

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Baby atheistsI have heard several atheists claim that “all people are born atheists.”  One popular slogan says “I’ll die like all believers are born: an atheist.”

If the point of such slogans is merely that no one is born with a belief in God’s existence, and that such a belief develops later, I agree.  Babies do not have beliefs regarding such things.  This much is obvious (although it is irrelevant to the question of the truth of theism).  But if their point is that babies should be described as atheists, this is patently absurd.  Indeed, it’s because babies do not have any beliefs regarding God that they can be neither a theist nor an atheist.

No one is born an atheist.  To claim otherwise is to employ a faulty definition of atheism as “a lack of belief in God.”  So defined, atheism is relegated to a psychological state rather than a rational claim regarding the veracity of a particular proposition.  This is not only a departure from the historic definition of atheism, but it guts it of any rational significance.  Atheism is not a lack of belief in God.  That is more properly described as “agnosticism.”  Atheism is the belief that the proposition “God exists” is false.  No baby is born with that belief, and thus no baby is born an atheist. (more…)

Michael KrugerEarlier this year Michael Kruger blogged his way through the 10 most common misconceptions about the NT canon.

Check them out to see which misconceptions you are guilty of, and then confess your intellectual sins in the comments section.

Atheism and the Burden of ProofIn recent years there has been a lot of debate regarding the proper definition of “atheist,” even on this blog.  Traditionally, atheism has been defined as the claim that God does not exist. In the mid-20th century, however, atheist philosopher Antony Flew attempted to redefine atheism.  Noting that the Greek prefix “a” is a term of negation, Flew said the proper definition of a-theism is simply “not a theist.”  Another popular way of cashing this out has been to define atheism as “one who lacks belief in God.”

What’s the difference between these definitions?  The traditional definition is an ontological claim (God is not included among the entities that exist) while the new definition is a psychological description (“I have no belief regarding the existence or non-existence of God”).  We might label these two ways of defining atheism as  “ontological atheism” and “psychological atheism.”

Why does it matter how we define atheism?  It matters because of the burden of proof.  A principle of rational discourse is that he who makes a claim bears the burden to defend it.  If someone claims that God does not exist (ontological atheism), he bears a burden to demonstrate how he knows this to be true.  On the other hand, one who lacks any beliefs with respect to God’s existence (psychological atheism) bears no burden of proof because he is not making a claim to knowledge.  He is merely describing the content of his beliefs – that his stock of beliefs does not include a belief regarding the existence or non-existence of God.  Flew understood this.  He purposely redefined atheism to make it a psychological description so as to absolve atheists from their burden to defend the claim that God does not exist.

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New Scientist published an article last week explaining why the universe must have had a beginning.  While they end the article with speculative physics that try to place that beginning so far back into the past so as to be virtually indistinguishable from an eternity ago, a beginning to the universe remains.  And if physical reality began to exist a finite time ago, then it must have a transcendent, immaterial, eternal, spaceless cause.

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