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Posts from the ‘Atheism’ Category

Why God Won’t Go Away: Book Review

In the summer of 2006, I had just completed my first year at Regent College, and was looking for a few interesting summer courses to accelerate my degree. When I sat down to my first class with Prof. Alister McGrath on Christian Apologetics—a course that spent a lot of time on the ideas of Richard Dawkins—I had no idea that a few months later The God Delusion would hit the shelves, kick starting a half decade or so of fairly lively debate in the Western world on questions about the existence of God, the role of religion in public life, and the nature of belief.

I also had no idea that a year later I would be getting very well-acquainted with Messrs. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett, during my Masters thesis attempting to locate the phenomenon of the new atheism as a response to the problem of evil. Read more

Smarten Up?

“The more scientifically literate, intellectually honest, and objectively sceptical a person is, the more likely they are to disbelieve in anything supernatural, including god.”

So begins a video compilation sent by a friend yesterday, assembled by British medical doctor Jonathan Pararajasingham, and consisting of clips of 50 academics talking about their views on God, religion, and the afterlife.  One suspects, from the quote at the outset, that there will be little diversity of opinion forthcoming and—34 minutes or so later—this suspicion is certainly validated.  The smart people have unanimously spoken: Religion is for the weak and the uninformed.  God is a myth.  This world is all there is.  Get used to it. Read more

Real ____ Would Never Do That!

I just returned from a glorious five days spent motorcycling through Washington and Oregon. We crossed the border into the United States last Sunday and then headed over the Cascade Mountains, wound our way down to northern Oregon, then meandered through the central part of the state, before heading back north up the Oregon Coast, and catching a ferry back to Vancouver Island from Port Angeles, WA last night. All in all, a fantastic trip. Read more

Atheists Don’t Have No Songs

Just because it made me chuckle on this rainy Sunday afternoon…

(h/t to Waving or Drowning)

Compensation and Promise

From the “interesting things I’ve come across over the last week or so but haven’t had time to post about” file, comes Vancouver Sun religion columnist Douglas Todd’s latest piece on the increasing polarization of religion in Canada. The sociological data is in, and apparently we Canadians (and West Coasters, in particular) are increasingly abandoning the “ambivalent middle” when it comes to questions of faith. Whether it’s the existence of God or the nature of religious observance, we’re either really for it or really against it. Read more

If Functional… Well, What?

I’ve been reading books/articles related to science, faith, and philosophy over the last few weeks as I finished off an article on the (increasingly not so) new atheism for Direction Journal. One article I came across this week was Jesse Bering’s “Are You There God?  It’s Me, Brain” over at Slate. The article is not terribly original or new in the approach it takes—the basic idea is that our evolved psychological capacity to imaginatively reconstruct the mental states of others is thought to lead to the conclusion that our idea of God is just the biggest and most elaborate version of this process—but I think it provides an opportunity to identify a common error in discussions around this topic: the idea that if this or that feature of human thought and behaviour can be shown to have been evolutionarily useful at some point in human development, it is therefore explained without remainder by its function. I believe it was Holmes Rolston III who called this the “if functional, false” fallacy. Read more

Faith is Patience

So Advent has come and gone and with it, the liturgical theme of “waiting” for God. Every year, we rehearse the story, we light the candles, we read the Scriptures, and we wait for the Christ child. Every year, we are told, Jesus comes to us anew. Every year, our waiting ends on Christmas day only to begin again next year. Waiting, it sometimes seems, is endless. Read more

Fragile Truth

Well, I just returned from a wonderful week away and am spending a good chunk of today slowly wading through a very clogged in-box! One of the more humourous discoveries I have made thus far in my wading is this cartoon sent by a friend last week.

As is so often the case, it is funny because it is true… Read more

Commending the Faith

This past Saturday, I attended John Stackhouse’s lectures on faith, reason, and the new atheism down at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. Evidently, there is still some interest in this topic as the event sold out—even in hyper-secular Nanaimo! Around twenty people from our church attended which was fantastic to see! I was in and out of the sessions throughout the day due to carting kids to hockey, friends’ houses, etc, but a couple of things struck me about his presentations: Read more

I’ll Have Some Charity Please

One of the things WordPress’s comprehensive stats page gives navel-gazing blogger-types like myself the opportunity to do is observe as certain “milestones” come and go in the life of their blog. Recently, the 4000th comment came through here, and I am coming up on 400 posts in the nearly four years I have spent in the blogging world. This may be a testimony to my stubbornness and persistence (or egotism!) more than anything else, but it’s still kind of neat to track how this forum has evolved over its lifespan. Read more

The Goodness of Good

It’s a busy week around here, so apologies for the lack of original posts. In the meantime, I continue to come across interesting articles and posts discussing the justification for/origins of our moral intuitions (which has been the subject of conversation around here for the last little while). Here are a few quotes on these matters from the eminently quotable David Bentley Hart who last week wrote this essay for First Things’ On the Square: Read more

More on Morality

Given some of the discussion that has been taking place on an earlier post, I thought I would pass on this link to an interesting article by biologist Frans de Waal in today’s edition of “The Stone” (a philosophy forum from The New York Times). The entire article is worth reading as I think he touches on a number of very important points (including the limits of science), but I was especially drawn to one particular section. Read more

Good For Us

Later this month Prof. John Stackhouse from Regent College will be here in Nanaimo to talk about the New Atheists (can we still call them “new?”) and whether or not it is crazy to be a person of faith.  Those who have been long-time readers of this blog will know that this is an event that has special interest for me because a) I wrote about the New Atheists for my masters thesis a few years back; and b) John Stackhouse was my supervisor for this project.  So I’ll be there with bells on.  And if you are on Vancouver Island on Saturday, October 23, I would encourage you to attend this event (you can register here).  I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say. Read more

Religious (Yawn) Knowledge

Well, the blogosphere is abuzz this week with the results of a survey on religious knowledge conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life—particularly the fact that atheists and agnostics scored highest on the quiz.  The sheer volume of words being devoted to these results makes me hesitant contribute still more.  Whether it’s Christians desperately explaining the results away or atheists/agnostics pointing to them as yet one more piece of evidence demonstrating their intellectual superiority over their benighted religious brethren, it all gets very tiresome. Read more

Who Is This God?

Richard Dawkins famously opens chapter two of The God Delusion with the following oft-quoted, adjectivally promiscuous salvo:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Read more

The Question is Worth Asking

A few more loosely connected thoughts and links for a (holiday) Monday morning…

The Stone” is a New York Times philosophy forum that I have enjoyed spending time at recently. Yesterday’s post by Tim Crane called “Mystery and Evidence” is one of the best attempts I have seen from an atheist to honestly lay out the difference between religious approach to the world and a scientific one. Crane critiques the view popularized by Richard Dawkins (and others) that religion and science are two competing alternatives for the same explanatory slot—as if religion were a kind of primitive science that offered the same kinds of explanations that science now offers in a much more comprehensive, rational, and intellectually satisfying manner. Read more

What Does God Want?

After a couple of weeks away from home on vacation where I tried to limit my reading to novels, I picked up Samir Selmanovic’s It’s Really All About God again this morning. As I’ve alluded to before, it’s a bit of a rambling and not altogether coherent apologia for a kind of “let’s just embrace mystery and all get along” approach to the challenges of the religious plurality that currently characterizes many parts of our increasingly globalized world. So far, the book strikes me as a commendable enough practical approach to living peacefully with those who do not share our beliefs, but one that tends to wander too frequently into confusing a practical political and social strategy for a coherent philosophical/theological worldview. Read more

God and the App Wars

On the off-chance that anyone out there is looking for further evidence that our cultural discourse is being seriously degraded and trivialized by the proliferation of technology, an article in yesterday’s New York Times alerted readers to the availability of iPhone apps to help believers and non believers arm themselves for war.  There are anti-Darwin apps for Christians, “Bible Thumper” apps for atheists, and others, no doubt, each doing what all apps are designed to do: provide entertainment, “illumination,” and diversion as quickly, and with as little demand to think for oneself, as possible. Read more