Saturday, September 13, 2014

What Alternative Do “Apostates” Have After Leaving Christianity?

Over on Triablogue, Steve Hays posted a blog entry reacting to statements made by Christian apologist Mike Licona (remember – he’s the guy who blurted out “I want it to be true” in a podcast featuring a discussion between himself, Gary Habermas and Robert Price - see here for details).

In his blog entry, Hays' remarks are instructive in that they expose how a mind marinated in religious doublethink tries to gerrymander a selected handful of data sets in favor of a confessional investment. In his blog entry, Hays quotes from and reacts to a post by Christian apologist Mike Licona.

Hays quotes Licona, who writes:
I’ve doubted the truth of my Christian faith many times; sometimes to the point of almost walking away from it.
Reacting to this, Hays writes:
Professing Christians who feel this way need to stop and ask themselves, where would they be going? Walk away…for what?
In addition to asking why they feel this way, I think this is a fair question for believers to contemplate since departing from one worldview naturally leaves a void which would need to be filled by something else. And indeed, it’s quite likely that most people who depart from Christianity have no reliable set of principles which can guide them to a proper, fully integrated and non-contradictory worldview that should fill that void. After all, Christianity does not provide a thinker with such reliable principles. So leaving Christianity, can at first, seem like entering into utter darkness. What’s ironic is that this darkness was there all along, and Christianity was simply trying to divert the believer’s attention to contentless trivialities that have no importance to human life in the first place. So it is true that leaving Christianity is a good start, but it’s not an end in itself. Making the decision to stop believing in religious nonsense is wonderful, but this choice in and of itself does not determine what should replace it. At least one could say Christianity is an attempt – albeit one steeped in mystical primitivism – to address questions which a worldview worthy of a thinking human being should address. So if one leaves Christianity, where should he go?

Generally, there are two ways to address the question of what a former believer might (or should) accept as a worldview in place of Christianity. The first way is to use reason as his guide. The other way is to abandon reason and exchange one form of irrationality for another. Of course, if Christianity is one’s starting point, he has already abandoned reason and thus needs to rediscover it, just as the West did during the Renaissance. But given these two alternatives, which one does Hays recommend? Let’s examine his reaction to the problem.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

STB: Four Years and Counting

On August 27, 2010, I published a blog entry titled A Critique of Sye Ten Bruggencate’s in which I examined and refuted Sye’s case for the existence of the god he has enshrined in his imagination. That was four years ago.

To date, Sye Ten Bruggencate has yet to vindicate his argument against my refutation. Given Sye’s boisterous activity and self-promoting presence in the internet universe, I highly doubt that his failure to salvage his argument from my criticism is simply a consequence of oversight or lack of interest in apologetics. Rather, it seems that he is unable to respond to the objections which I have raised against his argument because his argument is indeed fatally weak for the reasons that I have presented.

Moreover, since Sye continues to produce videos of himself aggressively regurgitating his canned presuppositionalist gambits and slogans, it appears that he’s banking his apologetic on the hope that any would-be victims of his predatory evangelism will be completely unaware of the faults of his position and thus vulnerable to its insidious gimmickry.

Sye is of the mentality that happily mistakes philosophy for a spectator sport. He is like a politician who was spawned out of a high school debate club, able to take any random position assigned to him and defend it without regard to his own convictions or sense of truth and constantly campaigning for some agenda on behalf of some ulterior gain. Contrary to the tired and all-too predictable posturing, truth does not matter to such an individual. What matters most is being able to return to the benches and being greeted with gleeful approval from the backslappers who’ve been watching and cheering from there all along.

Thus I don’t expect that Sye will ever return to defend his argument against the points that have been raised against it here. He would prefer to pretend that such points have never been raised. The cheap, second-handed gimmick of characterizing logic, science, moral principles, etc., as “immaterial” things that cannot be “accounted for” by those who reject supernaturalism is, sadly, all too effective on those who have been left utterly philosophically defenseless by our worsening education system and decaying culture, and it is on preying on such vulnerable minds that Sye would rather spend his efforts and energy.

Again, it comes down to choices, which means it comes down to character. A person who chooses to worship a deity who – according to its own mythology – chose to sit back and allow villainous individuals to torture and execute its own child when it could have effortlessly intervened to protect its child, has already made a fundamental choice about the kind of moral fiber his character shall be made of. It is such self-debasement that the Christian worldview requires as a minimal price that the believer has to pay up front, even before realizing the toxic nature of the emptiness he’s about to buy.

by Dawson Bethrick

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Does Religion Dull One’s Ability to Distinguish Between Fact and Fantasy?

A visitor to my website recently brought my attention to a noteworthy article about a study published in the July issue of Cognitive Science. The article, with its provocative title, can be found here:
According to the article, the researchers in the study
demonstrate that children typically have a “sensitivity to the implausible or magical elements in a narrative,” and can determine whether the characters in the narrative are real or fictional by references to fantastical elements within the narrative, such as “invisible sails” or “a sword that protects you from danger every time.”
However, their research does not bear this out so well among children who have been exposed (presumably in a positively reinforcing manner) to religious teaching. The article states:
“Children with exposure to religion — via church attendance, parochial schooling, or both — judged [characters in religious stories] to be real,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, children with no such exposure judged them to be pretend,” just as they had the characters in fairy tales. But children with exposure to religion judged many characters in fantastical, but not explicitly religious stories, to also be real — the equivalent of being incapable of differentiating between Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer and an account of George Washington’s life.
The abstract of the study itself, which can be found here, reads as follows:
In two studies, 5- and 6-year-old children were questioned about the status of the protagonist embedded in three different types of stories. In realistic stories that only included ordinary events, all children, irrespective of family background and schooling, claimed that the protagonist was a real person. In religious stories that included ordinarily impossible events brought about by divine intervention, claims about the status of the protagonist varied sharply with exposure to religion. Children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school, or both, judged the protagonist in religious stories to be a real person, whereas secular children with no such exposure to religion judged the protagonist in religious stories to be fictional. Children's upbringing was also related to their judgment about the protagonist in fantastical stories that included ordinarily impossible events whether brought about by magic (Study 1) or without reference to magic (Study 2). Secular children were more likely than religious children to judge the protagonist in such fantastical stories to be fictional. The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children's differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories.
I have not examined the details of the study any further than what the lead article and the study’s abstract say about it, so I cannot comment on the methods employed in the study beyond what is given in these two sources.

However, on the face of it, this seems to be nothing less than scientific confirmation of the kind of outcome one would expect from people under the influence of religion if what I have argued is correct. For several years I have been pointing out how religion subsists on blurring the fundamental distinction between reality and imagination. The reader who brought this article to my attention commented that my infamous question – “How can I reliably distinguish between what the believer calls ‘God’ and what he may merely be imagining?” – continues to go unanswered.

Many apologists for the philosophical primitivism of religion have kicked and squirmed in response to this question. But as my blog’s visitor rightly points out, none have been able to answer this question in a manner that salvages religion from my critique.

by Dawson Bethrick

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Response to Christian James

A Christian leaving comments on my blog Dave's McPresuppositions, Part V, has left two additional comments that I reply to below.

In my exchange of comments with Christian James, I had asked him if there was anything that he would not sacrifice for Jesus. He winced at this question and resisted answering it. He would not come out and give a firm yes or no to the question, but instead chose to remain in his closet on the matter.
After some back and forth which is available for readers to review at the above link, Christian submitted two more comments today, and instead of replying in the comments, I am replying directly to him in the form of a new blog entry.
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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dave's McPresuppositions, Part V

As I embark on the fifth installment of my series of posts directly engaging Dave McPhillips’ faltering comments campaign against reason and objectivity, I ask readers to pay close attention to the pattern that Dave’s objections continually exhibit, namely a pattern of reaching for skeptical angles aimed at undermining reason, intellectual integrity and confidence in one’s own faculties.

Presuppositionalists are in the habit of relying on such patterns, not only because their worldview requires men to renounce their minds and prostrate themselves before authoritarian mystics and witch doctors whose say-so is supposed to serve as the end-all, be-all of knowledge, but also because it is so effective on many non-Christians who have themselves already accepted skepticism’s core premises.

On those few occasions when presuppositionalists are confronted with firm, sustained and uncompromising endorsements of reason, they can typically be found replying with a “yeah, but” sequence of utterances and quickly proceeding to deploy skeptical tactics intended to undermine reason and one’s confidence in his own ability to use it. Apologists recoil at reason as though it were Kryptonite to their inflatable superman. The bible does not lay out an epistemology of reason, and it’s obvious to anyone who reads it that believers are expected to swallow everything it says uncritically on its own say-so, regardless of the fact that its claims are unsupported by evidence and contrary to reason. That’s the express opposite of reason. In the “good old days” of the Dark Ages, Christians could be more open and forthright about their worldview’s pronounced antagonism against reason. Martin Luther, one of the Reformation’s most outspoken exponents, was notorious for his explicit rejection of reason. Luther recognized the threat that the Renaissance posed to the religious worldview, and in response to this threat he dug his heels in and put even greater outspoken emphasis on Christianity’s aversion to reason. This was no accident.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dave's McPresuppositions, Part IV

I continue now with the fourth installment of my extended interaction with some of Dave McPhillips’ comments which he posted here Previous installments in this series can be found here:
Up to this point I have been showing how Dave’s own worldview cannot address questions which he has raised against Objectivism, a worldview which is diametrically opposed to his Christian worldview. Dave had issued a series of questions and charged me with failing to address them when he first raised them (they had not been raised before, so how could I be reasonably expected to have addressed them until they were raised?). I then turned those questions back to Dave and challenged him to answer them. To date, his responses to his own questions have made a miserable showing. Let’s see if he can recover any hint of credibility on behalf of his worldview in the proceeding exchange.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dave's McPresuppositions, Part III

In this post I continue my exploration of Dave McPhillips’ comments which he posted here.

This is the third of a series of installments in which I interact with Dave’s attempts to defend his god-belief and promulgate the skeptical view of the human mind that is so vital to religious faith. For earlier installments, readers are invited to read Part I and Part II of this series.

In this installment, we explore Dave’s claim that “Christians have a rational basis” for their beliefs and his questions about reason from the perspective of rational philosophy. Indeed, it is good when a mystic at least asks about reason and its foundations, for his own worldview will not provide suitable answers to these. That is because the mystic’s worldview is fundamentally opposed to reason.
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