I got some Christmas gifts early this year — we wanted to open gifts with my mother-in-law while she was in town helping us adjust to life with the new baby. One of the gifts I received was this neat-looking credit-card-sized multi-tool from my Amazon wishlist. Though I could discern on sight how to use most of the elements of the tool, there were a few that baffled me, so I swallowed my man-pride and actually took a look at the instructions.
There was one problem, though: The instructions were all in Chinese. I couldn’t read them.
I went to the product’s Amazon page, and lo and behold one of the pictures was a key that showed the uses of each element (though now I have to go figure out how to use a “direction auxiliary indication”). Out of curiosity, I proceeded to read some of the reviews, and I noticed that many who had received the tool had the same problem that I did with the instructions. What struck me the most about these particular reviews was how many users gave the product a negative review based solely on their inability to understand the instructions. Ironically, in leaving their review, they had to visit the very page where I was able to discover clear instructions, so they could have easily overcame the linguistic difficulty, just as I had — and yet, their entire opinion of the efficacy of the tool never ventured beyond their inability to understand how it was meant to be used.
Isn’t this exactly how so many people base their opinions on the inefficacy of intercessory prayer? Once they realize the tool doesn’t work they way they thought or assumed it did, they give the whole system a negative review and state that “it doesn’t work.” (more…)
About a month ago, Nan shared the video below in a comment. The video is the first in a series by YouTuber Evid3nc3, where he explores his prior belief in Christianity and examines the various components of his deconversion.
I had seen this video and a few others in the series before, and I remember being impressed — it is, in my opinion, a very well-done series. However, I think some of the points the gentleman makes warrant response. So, I would like to begin a series of my own in response to each video in Evid3nc3’s “Deconversion” series — not to attack the author in any way, merely to respond to his points from my perspective. The author’s main motivation in this series seems to be sharing his own personal story, and I highly respect that approach (more on that later) — I’m certainly not interested in undermining the author’s personal experience, or minimizing the impact of certain events in his life that led him to adopt his current beliefs. I shall try my best to approach this series as though I were discussing with the author face-to-face, rather than attacking him or sniping his ideas from the security of my computer chair. (more…)
My latest post on agnosticism seems to have elicited much attention and response — my sincere thanks to all who weighed in! I was especially pleased by the variety in the kinds of responses I received — often it seems I am disposed to attract comments chiefly from those who vehemently disagree with me 😉
One response in particular came from Vinny, whose recent addition to our community here has been most welcome — I appreciate his consistently fair-minded and non-inflammatory approach to these discussions, and I always welcome what he has to say. Something he said in this particular discussion caught my attention so powerfully that I felt compelled to devote a post to its response. I’ll quote the comment in its entirety below, but first a quick synopsis of our discussion up to this point: (more…)
It seems of late the most common objections I seem to come against when it comes to my faith have to do with my methodology: Apparently, I lack a compelling link between the God in which I believe and the evidence I claim supports Him. Sure, things like the fine-tuning of the universe, the complexity of life, miracles, prophesy, personal religious experiences, etc. may, to the simple mind, lead to a prima facie acceptance of some divine Agent behind it all — but the superior mind (I’ve come to understand) refuses to accept such hypotheses without an airtight, no-wiggle-room, universally-accepted case that unequivocally and unquestionably shows that X body of evidence leads (and must only lead) to God Y. Until that happens, the rational mind can reasonably — nay, needs must — be confined to the realm of agnosticism.
It’s a neat little case — but I’m not convinced that this is actually how people make decisions. If I wait until I’m absolutely sure about something before I jump, then you can be assured that I will lead a very uneventful life, because I’ll never do anything. Good decisions are not predicated upon certainty — they are founded on a reasonable analysis of the available data coupled with an assessment of the applicable risks. I would posit that this is a far more pragmatic approach when it comes to making decisions — including those having to do with God. (more…)
I think most of my readers can agree on one thing at least: Blind faith is a bad thing. You know what I’m talking about — it’s the kind of faith that holds onto belief not only in incomplete evidence, but in a complete absence of evidence, and sometimes even in the face of contrary evidence. If we were to set up a belief spectrum, where as you move more and more to the right you are willing to accept claims with less and less evidence, then blind faith would fall to the rightmost extreme — and if Aristotle taught us anything, it’s that extremes are bad, right?
Here are some of the things that make blind faith lame: (more…)
I promised Vinny that I would respond to his excellent comment in a post, which I plan to put the finishing touches on in a day or so. In the meantime, I wanted to share a quote I saw while scanning his blog that I thought was hilarious (and on point):
Isn’t an agnostic just an atheist without balls? — Stephen Colbert to Bart Ehrman
Happy Monday, everyone 🙂
(This portrait of Colbert I came across is pretty funny too. Enjoy it — and enjoy America too, darn it.)
If you interview a bunch of people and ask them if skepticism is a good thing, I’d wager you’d get a positive response from most people. We certainly don’t want to be guilty of gullibility, to be taken in by every story or every promise of gain, only to be left holding the bag when the bottom drops out.
I’ve noticed that atheists in particular tout skepticism as one of their highest ideals, that they’re so proud of this virtue that they even give themselves the title “skeptic”. And I say, good for them — I believe we all ought to have ideals outside of ourselves to which we hold ourselves accountable, in order to live virtuous and circumspect lives, and as I believe skepticism should be a hallmark quality of any reasonable and rational person, I approve of the incorporation of skepticism as one of the ideals of one’s philosophical framework.
However, something else I’ve noticed about skepticism: When people talk about skepticism (especially self-proclaimed skeptics), they often qualify it by adding the word “healthy” — as in, “I try to maintain a level of healthy skepticism in my worldview.” This is interesting to me, because I think it illustrates a virtually universal sense in our race that skepticism can, in fact, be unhealthy. (more…)