Month: February 2015

“Yellow-dog” naturalism

Mr. Lake was a great teacher, one of my all time favorites — he taught my A. P. Physics class in high school.  He once described himself as a “yellow-dog Democrat,” explaining that he would vote democrat “even if the only Democratic candidate in the running were a yellow dog.”

In this post (inspired by this debate where blogger Matthew Ferguson defends naturalism to a Christian radio host), I would like to challenge what I call yellow-dog naturalism, which is illustrated in the following statement: “A naturalistic explanation — even a far-fetched one — is always better than a supernatural explanation.” (more…)

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Proof that prayer is superstition

At Captain Cassidy’s suggestion, I checked out a website called Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?  I was soon directed to a 10-minute video claiming to prove that prayer was a superstition — and, here it is:

I was disappointed to learn that I had heard this argument before — contrary to some accusations I have received over the years, I actually much prefer hearing new stuff that challenges my faith.

Here’s the basic argument from the video:

Premise 1: If something does not have the advertised effect on actual events, then it is a superstition.
Premise 2: The Bible says that if we pray for anything, we can expect it to happen just as we prayed (citing Mark 11:24John 14:14, and later Matthew 18:19).
Conclusion 1: Therefore, if prayer works, we should be able to pray in Jesus’ name, for example, that a certain value will be returned when we roll six dice — namely, in this case, six values of six.
Premise 3: Prayer has no measurable effect on the values of rolled dice.
Conclusion 2: Therefore, prayer does not effect actual events as advertised.
Conclusion 3: Therefore, prayer is a superstition.

The argument may be valid, but it is not sound, because it employs a false premise — namely, Premise 2. (more…)

Ode to my imaginary friend

In answer to this comment by Captain Cassidy (she’s always inspiring me to post something new, I love that!), I have decided to share my perspective on the naturalist hypothesis stating that my (and others’) supernatural religious experiences are nothing more than constructs of the mind.  Like so many other things posited by naturalists to be illusory fabrications — including a sense of having free will, an intuition about the existence of objective moral values, the feeling that consciousness is something separate from the body — a belief that religious experiences originate with a supernatural entity is utter hogwash.  If I hear something from God (as I believe I have), if I attribute certain experiences (which science has shown to be legitimate) to be divine rather than naturalistic in nature, if I believe that there is a perceptibly conversational aspect to prayer (as my experience has taught me), then I am the victim of my brain’s own cleverness and imagination.  I have been, and continue to be, duped.  I have nothing more in Christ than an imaginary friend.

As un-Christian-like as it may be for me to be snarky in this particular instance, I’m afraid that I cannot resist the temptation, and can only cast my weakness of character at the feet of my merciful Savior: I find it so very clever of such people to offer such a definitive and authoritative diagnosis of my psychological state without even having met me.  There must be a Nobel Prize with someone’s name on it somewhere, for that’s quite a feat.

But, since pointing out someone’s arrogance doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, my rationality is not satisfied in avoiding this possibility by hiding behind sarcasm.  We’re weighing evidence here, after all — pithy comments, regardless of how emotionally satisfying they may be, carry very little weight in this arena.  My sardonic wit is rendered impotent by my own doing in creating this blog the way I did.  And while my sense of irony balks, my reason gives an affirming (if somewhat terse) nod.

So, on with the subject at hand: (more…)

It takes work

Thinking back on this post by Captain Cassidy, on my mind today is a particular group of people: ex-Christians who have become disillusioned with the faith.  This demographic represents a pretty significant segment of the skeptics whom I encounter, and on the whole I have to agree that their reasons for leaving their particular church are pretty valid — I probably would have left, too, had my experience been akin to theirs.

However, as much as I empathize with such individuals and regret that their experience with the church has been thus, I can’t help but be a little irked when such people use their unfavorable experiences with their church (or with the group of Christians with whom they’ve largely had contact) to make sweeping, disparaging comments about Christianity as a whole.  That, because they felt stifled and abused by their church, that allows them to say that the whole religion is that same way.

In my subsequent discussion with the Captain on this topic, I use marriage as an analogy:  For myself and for many, many others who are happily married, marriage is a blessing — but there are also many, many other people who have undergone messy divorces.  We’ve all encountered the “bitter divorcee” who makes blanket statements about the superfluousness of the marriage institution, who have made a vow never to be vulnerable to another person like that again for fear of getting hurt.

Do such experiences mean that the institution of marriage is a bad one?  Those that are happily married would most likely beg to differ. (more…)

Sin kills

Objections to Christianity: The Doctrine of Sin

A common objection to Christianity involves the doctrine of sin.  The particular position I would like to address is the assertion that the doctrine of sin is inherently abusive.

In a way, this blog post is a follow-up to a discussion I was having with Captain Cassidy on her blog.  I thought the subject matter too important and involved to bury it in comments — so here we are 🙂

Before we start, I want to make clear that the discussion will center around whether or not the concept of sin is inherently abusive — it is abundantly clear that the doctrine has been (and is being) used in abusive ways.  But that could be said of all kinds of things — in the wrong hands, even the most benign philosophies can be used for the purpose of abusing another.  I think it’s heinous to use the doctrine of sin (which to me is a blessing) for the purpose of abusing another person; nevertheless, I think it is important to note that Christians are not on trial here — the doctrine of sin is.

The way I see it, the doctrine of sin can only be called inherently abusive if two things are true: 1) the doctrine is knowingly false, and 2) it can be shown that an accurate understanding of sin and its role in human life inevitably leads to some kind of mental or emotional trauma. (more…)

Is evidence enough?

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers!  I have a thought that maybe, someday, barely loops back around to the Valentine’s Day theme 🙂

One need not read anything beyond the title of my blog to know that I have a high regard for evidence — it’s a big part of my worldview.  A philosophy not based on evidence, I believe, is one that is ill-founded, and I would expect any reasonable person to be able to back up their beliefs with evidence.  Every one of us here, I think, would like to be able to say that we would be willing to change our worldview at the drop of a hat, given sufficient evidence to warrant such a decision; not to do so would seem symptomatic of some deep-seated bias — a word which finds a comfortable place among other four-letter words, at least insofar as the intelligentsia are concerned.

But, I repeat the question asked in the title: Is evidence really enough to convince someone to take up or abandon belief in God?

(more…)

Scared straight

Some off-topic fun today:  Lately I’ve been shaving with a straight razor.

I received a wet shave kit with a razor from my dad about a year ago for Christmas.  (I had actually told my wife I wanted a safety razor hoping to work my way up to the straight, but communication got crossed somewhere I think — I guess God decided I should just man up and go for right for it.)  I’ve been using it sporadically since, perhaps once every couple weeks.  It’s more time-consuming (I think because I’m not entirely comfortable with it yet) and there’s a steep learning curve, with unfortunate (and conspicuous) consequences. Trying to pass off a razor cut as a shark bite or something else equally manly will only work one or two times, apparently. (more…)