The Church of No-God: Blasphemy Day Edition

R. Joseph Hoffman brings it.

What I miss about the old atheism–even though I still find its central premises wobbly and unconvincing–is that thinking was permitted. The conversation continued. There was no infallible source of confidence. Skepticism reigned.

The new atheism is a catechism of conclusions reached, positions taken, dogmas pronounced. It is more like the Catholicism I giggled to see parodied, a church too sure of itself and its exclusive ability to save souls and reveal the kingdom.

via Atheist Tantrums: The New Loud | The New Oxonian.

 

Why I Don’t Read Ideological Media: Dawkins Edition

Eric Reitan breaks good ol’ Dick down:

How are books born? The one you’re reading now was born when a colleague gave me a photocopied page from a book, without identifying information, and asked me to evaluate it as I would a student’s paper. The page offered “summaries” of the first three of St Thomas Aquinas’ five arguments for God’s existence (popularly called the “Five Ways”). The writer of the passage got the arguments wrong – and then objected to them at precisely those points where he got them wrong.

The writer was Richard Dawkins. The book was The God Delusion. The photocopied passage, had Dawkins turned it in to me for a grade, would have earned him a whopping “D.” And for many people, this D-level work may be their only exposure to Aquinas’ arguments for God’s existence.

And so I bought Dawkins’ book. And as I read it, I was taken in by the author’s swagger. Dawkins is clearly confident, writing as if he knows what he’s talking about. The only problem is that, as often as not, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Eric Reitan. Is God A Delusion: A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers (Kindle Locations 1430-1435). Kindle Edition.

UPDATE: Upon reflection, I thought this too cavalier an attack so I decided to provide an example. Continue reading

Is It Real Son, Is It Really Real Son

Is it real son, is it really real son
Let me know it’s real son, if it’s really real
Something I could feel son, load it up and kill one
Want it raw deal son, if it’s really real.

–Method Man, Bring the Pain

“The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.”

–Rene Descartes

I get a lot of crap on Twitter from atheists who like to assume that they know reality and of course I as a Christian do not. “Trust your senses.” “You have belief and I have reality.” “Reality doesn’t require faith.” (That one’s my favorite!) And so on and so on, etc., etc. ad nauseum. It’s deeply ironic because they cover up for a distinct and clear lack of evidence for their claims. (I ignore specious “burden of proof” gambits designed to relieve themselves of their burden because opinions stated as fact require evidence. Period.) To illustrate why such a believe is a step out in faith, I quote from Chris Impey, atheist and cosmologist, writing in his wonderful book How It Began.

[Nick] Bostrom [futurist and philosopher] frames a logical argument based on three propositions, at least one of which must be correct. One: Almost all civilizations go extinct or destroy themselves before gaining the capability to create simulated creatures like us. That’s a gloomy option because we’re approaching that stage. Two: Almost all civilizations choose not to create simulated creatures, even though they could. That’s possible, but the $50 billion a year gaming market on this planet indicates a strong desire of humans to create and manipulate artificial entities. Three: Nothing is real, everything is an illusion, and we actually live inside a simulation.

Rebutting the third proposition is surprisingly difficult. Any simulation constructed by a far superior race wouldn’t be glitchy, as it was in the movie The Matrix. There’s no reason we’d know we’re simulated unless the creators wanted us to. Your conviction that you’re made of flesh and blood and free will is part of the simulation. Since it’s easier and cheaper to create computational life-forms than biological organisms, by the Copernican Principle there are many more simulated than real creatures. OK, this argument is more of a provocation than a serious suggestion, but it’s no more unfounded or illogical than the multiverse or hidden space-time dimensions [from theoretical physics and quantum mechanics].

Impey, Chris (2012-03-19). How It Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe (Kindle Locations 5596-5606). Norton. Kindle Edition.

I came to the same extremely disturbing conclusion after watching The Matrix. There would be no way to prove I wasn’t in one myself. Any “evidence” I employed to rebut the possibility could also be used to support the proposition that I am in fact in a power plant somewhere!  It didn’t matter whether we are or aren’t actually in some power plant. What matters is that the standard rules of scientific evidence are powerless to get us out of this quandary. Repeated “physical” demonstrations within a simulation simply reveal the simulation performs as expected.

Materialist atheists make an ironic choice in faith to believe no simulation or Matrix or Dream exists, and God bless ’em for it! Ironic because they have absolutely no evidence with which to support that belief. And that’s what many such fideisitc atheists can’t admit to: their faith.  And why I always have an impish little smile on my face when I read their quips on Twitter!

Let he who has ears to hear, let him hear…

Why I’m not an Atheist

(Version 3.0)

I decided to write about this because it makes Twitter much less of a burden. It’s too imprecise to express real ideas on a micro-blogging service more amenable to smart ass comments than smart ones, so I do so here. I borrowed heavily from John F. Haught’s book God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Great read. He summarizes my intellectual critique of The New Atheism or as I like to call it, The Church of No-God, quite nicely. Generally when I use the word “atheist” in this post, I’m referring to this group.

Let me make clear that this post is not written to make the case that atheists should be believers nor is it an attempt to denigrate them, their personal beliefs (unbeliefs?), or choices in life. It is neither an apologetic for my spirituality nor an attempt at evangelism. I’m writing to explain why atheism has proven problematic for me, nothing more, nothing less. Take it or leave it.

Finally, this post has been edited multiple times as my discussions with saner, less ideological atheist tweeples and further reading have informed my thinking.

For several reasons atheism for me is not, as William James put it, “a living option“:

  • I can’t with integrity subscribe to a professed rational philosophy that is based on a self-refuting principle, i.e. the Verification Principle.
  • I have never believed religion and science are enemies or even incompatible. Even as a child, I saw their easy compatibility and complementary natures. Militant atheists aren’t going to fare any better than strongly opinionated believers/science deniers.
  • I strive for consistency in my beliefs. Being an atheist would require I subscribe to moral nihilism: the logical result of “facing up to reality” or “growing up” to face of an indifferent universe devoid of meaning. I can’t abide by that because it produces evil.
  • Finally, atheism is unable to give me meaning in life. Science and reason alone are painfully inadequate for assessing the important things in life and of being human: Love, Justice, Wisdom, Knowledge, and Truth. Avoiding error at all costs just isn’t worth that sacrifice.

If you care for an explanation, please, read on.

Continue reading

Objective Certitude

Aside

When, indeed, one remembers that the most striking practical application to life of the doctrine of objective certitude has been the conscientious labors of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, one feels less tempted than ever to lend the doctrine a respectful ear.

James, William (2011-03-23). The Will to Believe : and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (pp. 16-17). Kindle Edition.

Dogmatic Science

Aside

The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.

― Thomas Aquinas

Prove It

(Version 1.1)

[This post has been updated to reflect how people abuse the idea of “burden of proof” and for clarity.]

Evidence is powerful in our society. We live in a postmodern world that practically worships it. We exalt science, where material evidence is the sine qua non, as a major source of truth in our world. It is necessary, more or less, in our American justice system to convict a person of a crime.  But evidence is not the equivalent of truth. It points to truth.

Continue reading