Posts Tagged ‘New Atheism’

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/11/2014: Graham Veale

October 9, 2014

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

First off, some people have asked about where the podcast is showing up on their ITunes feed. We had to switch carriers due to my last one deciding to drop the show after I disagreed with him on a secondary doctrine. We are now working with the Universal Pentecostal Network and had our first show with them last Saturday, but the process is still having kinks worked out of it and such. Bear with us. I want to get things back up on ITunes as soon as possible.

That having been said, let’s discuss what’s going on. The New Atheism has made itself known in the public square for the past decade and longer. The ideas of atheists have really gone public, but unfortunately, the new atheists have put forward a lot of heat but they really haven’t put forward very much light.

There have been many books addressing them. One such book is The New Atheism: A Survival Guide. We’ll be meeting with the author, Graham Veale and chatting with him this Saturday from 2-4 PM EST.

Graham Veale photo

The following is Veale’s information about himself:

Graham Veale is co-founder of saintsandsceptics.org, a web ministry for apologetics. A theology graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, he has been teaching religious education for 15 years in Armagh, Northern Ireland. He and his wife, Nicola, are parents of two children. With a particular interests in the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, and the design and moral arguments for God’s existence, Graham is author of the book New Atheism: A Survival Guide.

On the show, we’ll be discussing everything from science and religion to what to do about pasta. Yes. There is actually a topic discussing the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It’s quite amusing to realize that atheism has come to such a level where this kind of argument is put forward and it is supposedly seen as a valid one.

Definitely science will be a topic of discussion. Is it true that if you become a scientist, you must reject Christianity? Or on the other hand, if you are a Christian, should you avoid science? It’s my opinion that both of these are highly errant positions and when we present a dichotomy between the two worlds, we do a disservice to both of them. It ends up only feeding the false notion of a warfare going on between science and religion.

The new atheism has arrived of course, but what kind of impact will it have? Too many Christians have been unprepared for this, especially those of our youth who are going off to college. We cannot faithfully serve Christ to the fullest without being aware of the strength of the foundation upon which our worldview is built. That’s why I’m thankful to have books out like those of Graham Veale and I look forward to his appearing on my show this Saturday to talk about it and I hope you will be a part of it as well.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: New Atheism: A Survival Guide

August 27, 2014

What do I think of Graham Veale’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

newatheism

First off, my thanks to Graham Veale for having me sent his latest book and the interest of being on my podcast to talk about it. Having said that, let’s get straight to the book.

The new atheism has come, but already, it’s starting to look like a flash in the pan, which isn’t really too surprising. If anything, this has been a benefit to Christianity and an embarrassment to atheism as numerous writers have written works critiquing the new atheism which is incredibly easy to critique. If you want to see a lot of empty rhetoric with little or no research of the ideas that are being argued against, just pick up a book by the new atheists. (And yes, sadly, that does apply to some works of Christian apologetics as well. No problem saying that.)

Graham Veale has added to this and the benefit of his work is it deals with a lot of the latest incarnations that have come about. For instance, there is a chapter dedicated to dealing with the idea of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It should be an embarrassment to the new atheists that this is really considered an argument. I can’t picture writers like Kai Nielsen, J.L. Mackie, and Antony Flew before becoming a theist using arguments like this. 

The next chapter is about science and the problem with scientism, the idea that science is the only way to establish what is true and if anything is true about reality, it must be scientifically true. Veale rightly points out that it is not the case that scientific explanations and theistic explanations contradict. They can work together and for the early pioneers of science, they indeed did.

From there we go to Dawkins and the problem of a big big brain. He starts off writing about the Courtier’s Reply, which should be a reply that simply shows the massive ignorance of the person giving it. It is a result of what I call “atheistic presuppositionalism.” The idea is that we know these other stories are nonsense, such as leprechauns and fairies, and God is in the same category. But that’s the very question under discussion! Is God nonsense like the others? You don’t demonstrate that by just asserting it. You demonstrate it by interacting with the best your opposition has to offer. 

From there, we move on to design. Now I’m not going to say anything about the design argument insofar as it is the design argument. I don’t hold to it in the ID sense, but I do think it’s important to point out Dawkins’s hilarious claim that if this universe is designed, then its designer must be even more amazing and thus, He must be designed. This is the point of the big big brain in the title. Dawkins treats God as if He was a physical being with a physical brain and thus having a designer. This is certainly not the God of Scripture, nor of Aquinas, nor of most any Christian theologian throughout the centuries but hey, evidence. Who needs it? If this is what you think your opponents believe in, well you don’t need to show that they do by actually researching them. Just make assertions!

This is also one way I know that when Dawkins wrote his critique of the five ways of Aquinas, that he never read Aquinas himself. If he had, he would have known the very next chapter was on divine simplicity. Now you may think that idea is nonsense and makes no sense. So what? That is the idea that Aquinas held to and has been the traditional idea for centuries. If you want to argue against God, you must argue against the idea given you and the data given you. You don’t get to make up your own idea. (In some circles, this is known as a straw man fallacy)

The chapter after this deals with the moral argument mainly as a way that we know right from wrong. While I do not think the argument from a personal experience that’s also presented is the best argument, for some people, it does count as data. I could say it is certainly a part of our experience that needs to be explained.

We move on then to questions of miracles and who Jesus was in the eyes of His contemporaries. This is the main chapter that focuses on the resurrection which is absolutely essential. I do think Veale has done some excellent interaction with some of the latest scholarship and that includes the scholarship that is not friendly to his position. He interacts with the ideas of Second Temple Judaism using sources like Hurtado and Bauckham as well.

Next we move on with a section on the Insider Test for Faith. This is certainly a response as is said to an atheist who would love to be mentioned.

Anyway, the point of the Insider Test for Faith is asking from an internal approach if theism does explain the data well that we have. Now this would of course not prove that theism is true, but it would at least demonstrate that it is coherent and if it is to be true, then it must certainly be at least found coherent. (Incidentally, it’s hard to not read the story about holocaust denier David Irving at the start and laughing when you get to the end of it.)

The last chapter is about how the Gospel is for all people. This also deals with the problem of evil and rightly points out that the solution to the problem of evil is the Gospel. Now some might be hearing that and thinking that it means accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior answers why God allows evil. That’s not what’s being said. The answer to evil is that God is reclaiming this world and reshaping it in Christ and that includes evil.

I don’t agree with all Veale says in this book (I don’t think Jesus was honorably buried for instance) but those points of disagreement are mainly on secondary matters. I do find the style to be engaging. If you have read much on the new atheism on both sides, you might not find much new material here, but if you’re looking for an engaging one that deals with style as well as “arguments”, you should enjoy this one.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Richard Dawkins: A Gift From God.

August 22, 2014

Are all human lives valuable for what they are? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Richard Dawkins is well-known today as a leading contemporary spokesman for atheism. If you asked most people today to name a famous living atheist, Dawkins would likely be on top of the list. In fact, according to this site, he’s the #1 leading atheist in the world. Perhaps in some ways we could describe Richard Dawkins as the Pope of atheism.

PopeDawkins

This is actually more fitting than most realize. The idea is that in the so-called Dark Ages, you went to the priests who were the bearers of all knowledge. The correct view on that is that the religious leaders likely were some of the most knowledgeable people around. The false view is that it’s because the only knowledge they had was knowledge of the Bible. No. Active learning was going on in many areas. Not all would have a specific interest in “natural philosophy” as science was called, but all would know something about it.

Today, science has become the new priesthood with a scientism that says science is the only way you know anything and that all knowledge must be scientific and if you can’t establish something scientifically, it can’t be true. Never mind that this criteria has never once met its own standards. It is an undercurrent in our society. Whenever an opinion comes on an issue, if it is said that “a scientist says” that is automatically the most valid opinion, never mind that it could be something the scientist has never really studied. His opinion matters because he is a scientist.

None of this is to knock science. No one should want to. Science is our friend. Scientism is our enemy. The putting of science in the supreme place as the supreme guide to knowledge is also our enemy. It is no desire to belittle scientific knowledge, or any knowledge for that matter. It is a desire instead to deal with the practical worship of science.

Many of us know about Dawkins’s recent outrage that has been sparked due to twitter remarks. It would be bad enough if that was the only embarrassing story of the week, but it is not. Consider this story from just last Saturday. In it, Dawkins is compared to an evangelist who develops a following if you donate to his circle. Reality is Dawkins is even more expensive than the evangelists that he would criticize. Let’s look at some highlights. A lengthy quote will suffice.

the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.

When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.

But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’

The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.

I can suspect that this will be met with zealous opposition where this is shared by internet atheists and their followers, which will really demonstrate the case. Those who are followers of Dawkins really study the issues just as little as he does, if not less, which might be surprising seeing as it’s hard to imagine studying religious issues less than Dawkins. Thankfully, there are some atheists who are thoughtful and seek to understand the issues that realize Dawkins is an embarrassment to their cause and want him to just go away. The more atheists keep upholding Dawkins however and referring to works like “The God Delusion” as if it was a philosophical masterpiece, the more Christians who know what they’re talking about will see no reason to take them seriously. In fact, if I meet anyone who considers “The God Delusion” to be recommended reading to show why Christianity or theism should not be taken seriously, I know that this is a person uninformed on the issues. Actually, that applies to anyone who recommends any of the new atheists.

Many of you might not have noticed that story about Dawkins because frankly, he’s done something even more embarrassing than that. In fact, this is something I would even say is downright wicked. What Dawkins has done is sparked a controversy based on what he said in his twitter feed. You see, Dawkins heard from someone that they don’t know what they would do if they were pregnant with a child with Down’s Syndrome. It was described as an ethical dilemma.

Before we focus on what Dawkins had to say in response, isn’t it a shame we live in a world where even knowing your baby will have Down’s Syndrome leaves you with a dilemma of if you should kill it or not? You see, the reality is that as soon as that child is conceived and they have Down’s Syndrome, you are already the parent of a child with Down’s. The question you have to ask is if you’re going to be the parent of a dead one or a living one. Not only that, are you going to be the parent of a living child that you and your spouse brought into the world together, or are you going to be the parent of a dead child that died at your own hands.

In fact, I know and have known a number of people with Down’s Syndrome children. Are the children hard to care for? Yes. Can it be frustrating? Yes. Does it cost a lot of money? Yes.

You know, like all children do.

Of course, Down’s children come with extra hurdles, but you know what? They also come with extra joys. They tend to be far more honest and genuine in their love and the parents who take the time to love them see them as the gift that they are and how much they should be appreciated. One friend of ours in fact when she found out the child she was carrying had Down’s was told “There are other options” to which she immediately responded that there were not. That was her baby and she was going to love her baby and Down’s was not going to be an obstacle.

Well done.

So right at the start, we have a problem. We are being told that we really need to consider if people with Down’s Syndrome have lives that are really worth living. Exactly how far will this go? Are we not participating in a eugenics program at this point where we decide only those with desirable traits will live?

Well hopefully Pope Richard was able to give some advice to point out to this person that lives are valuable by the nature of what they are and that yes, things could be difficult, but you know, with the wonders of science we can do so much to ease the burdens that really are there and maybe even find a cure for Down’s someday! Surely this was said!

Or maybe not.

What was said?

“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

Dawkins is in an even worse position than the questioner. He sees no ethical dilemma. It is said so easily. Abort it and try again. In fact, it would be immoral. Why?  Well Dawkins later said in his response to the outrage that:

“If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down’s baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.”

Now none of us would object to increasing happiness and reducing suffering, but what we ask is if the ends justify the means. Is it ever justifiable to do an evil act because you think there is a good result? That is in fact something that I wish to keep pressing when it comes to the abortion debate. The question we need to ask is “Is the act of willfully terminating your own pregnancy wrong?”

You see, in reality, we can agree with many of the reasons that someone would want an abortion. We can agree they should be financially stable. We can agree many are not ready to raise a child yet. We can agree that many need emotional security. We can agree that it is fine for a woman to have a career. No one is saying any of these things are evil in and of themselves.

What we are saying is that none of those justifies the murder of an innocent child.

Dawkins has decided in advance that these children cannot be happy and that they can only be suffering and they cannot bring happiness to their parents but only bring suffering.

Interestingly, this same person who wondered about a child with Down’s also admitted to being on the autism spectrum (like my wife and I) and asked about that. Dawkins’s response?

People on that spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

Well thank you Dawkins for saying I have a great deal to contribute. Apparently, the reason you think I’m valuable to the human race is that I can contribute something worthwhile. In other words, I am valuable for what I do. Too bad those babies with Down’s Syndrome don’t have enough value in being, you know, human beings.

The response to all of this was as expected and even included this satirical piece. (Warning: It does have language, but it was the greatest laugh I had all day yesterday.) The sad part is too many internet atheists were defending Dawkins as if his point was obvious. Sure. Why not abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome?

Now Dawkins did apparently issue an apology, though it was quite a backhanded one. It would be like a man saying to his wife “I’m sorry I had an affair, but you have just been so frigid lately, and this woman was just so hot, and I have these needs that I have to have met, and it was meant to be a private thing between her and I and you were never meant to find out.” We could go on and on with it. 

Dawkins has no apologies for the comment. In fact, his clarifying comment said he would still recommend abortion for the same reason. What he is sorry for is that it started a twitter war. In the above analogy, it would be like the husband issuing an apology not because he cheated on his wife, but rather because he got caught doing so. From this point on Dawkins, went to make statements about the people who were complaining about what he had to say.

It never occurs to Dawkins that what he said was utterly reprehensible. Dawkins has before said

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

Let it be said in response that if you meet someone who seeks to justify the murder of an innocent child in the womb, wicked should in fact be one of the first things in your mind. It looks like in the world of Dawkins, denying evolution would be a worse crime against humanity than aborting a baby with Down’s Syndrome.

It will be a wonder to see what happens if Dawkins or those like him were truly ever in charge. He has already made a statement about what children he thinks bring suffering into the world. Perhaps he’d also team up with his friend Peter Boghossian. This is the same Peter Boghossian who has a chapter in his Manual for Creating Atheists (A book that I reviewed here and keep in mind that Tim McGrew massacred Boghossian’s chickens here) that lists containment protocols.

That’s right. What can we do to “contain” people of faith? This included such steps as treating faith (A term Boghossian does not know the meaning of) as a public health crisis and to remove the religious exemption for delusion from the DSM, which is the diagnostic rule book for psychological disorders.

Dawkins might say he would not want to impose his beliefs on others, but would his followers have that same belief? Boghossian seems fine with treating those of us who are Christians or believers in any deity as if we have a disease. 

The sad part is technically, Dawkins is not contradicting his atheism in any way. For a Christian, to think it okay to abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome would be a contradiction of their view of life, but for Dawkins, it does not have to be. Of course, there are many individual atheists who are pro-life and thank God for them, but the only requirement for being an atheist is “Don’t believe in God.” You can not believe in God and be a psychopath or be a philanthropist and both of them are consistent with the statement “God does not exist.” You cannot be living a life of sin in Christianity and have that be consistent with “I am a follower of Christ.”

Well Professor Dawkins, the sad reality is that you don’t see children with Down’s Syndrome as a gift to the world, which indeed they are as many parents with Down’s Syndrome children would tell you, but we can certainly say that you, Professor Dawkins, are a gift to the church. You are a great example of what will happen the more and more we move away from God and let people like you have the most say in what goes on in our culture.

Let’s just hope most people have enough moral sense to know not to like it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: A Manual For Creating Atheists

January 20, 2014

Manualforcreatingatheists

What do I think of Peter Boghossian’s book on creating atheists? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Boghossian’s book in the past month or so has been the subject of great conversation on the internet. Why is this the case? Is it because there’s a new argument in here? No. There’s nothing new. Is it because there’s a really powerful demonstration of atheism in here? No. That’s not here also. It’s because now, Boghossian claims to have a way to apply principles of critical thinking and train others in them so that they can become “street epistemologists” with the goal of deconverting others.

Unfortunately, what I’ve seen is that these epistemologists are thoroughly unequipped for the job, and it’s no surprise because the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

And yet at the same time, I found great confirmation for so much of what I’ve been saying for years. I have for years been correcting Christians on their definition of faith. I have been telling them that their testimonies will not be persuasive to many skeptics out there and to avoid emphasizing their feelings, and in fact I’d prefer they not discuss feelings altogether. I’ve also been encouraging them to study, and not just the Bible, but good history and philosophy and any other field they have a passion for.

Well now those proverbial chickens are coming home to roost.

In fact, Boghossian wants to start a show called “The Reason Whisperer” where he will show conversations with the faithful seeking to deconvert them. If this show takes off, I have high hopes that he will come to my church. I really want to see that.

So to get to the meat of the matter, how is a street epistemologist supposed to do his job? He starts with faith and it all goes downhill from there. Boghossian defines faith as “belief without evidence” or “Pretending to know things that you do not know.”

In this section, he also talks about deepities. These are statements that sound profound, but are really meaningless. An example that he gives of this is Hebrews 11:1, a passage that Boghossian does not understand, probably because he didn’t really look into any major commentaries on the work. (You know, what we call, looking for evidence)

Therefore, Boghossian has the deck stacked in advance. Want to make a statement about faith? The street epistemologist is to read it as saying one of the two things Boghossian says it is. There is no concept that perhaps the other person might have a different definition. Perhaps the other person has done proper exegesis and study of the Greek word pistis to show that it more accurately refers to loyalty in the face of evidence that has been provided.

Boghossian regularly sees faith as a way of knowing. It is not. No one should know anything by faith. Faith is rather a response to what has been shown. The medievals would hold, for instance, that you could know that God exists on the basis of argumentation that was deductive, such as the five ways of Aquinas. They held that you believed that God was a Trinity, since this could not be known by reason alone but required trust in revelation. You can know historically that Jesus died on the cross. You believe that He died for your sins on that cross.

Unfortunately, Boghossian does not have any understanding of this and this straw man runs throughout the whole book. As soon as any street epistemologist comes across anyone who knows better, then they are caught in a bind. It is a shame also that Boghossian insists that these are the definitions of the word, since he is the one who encourages practicing “doxastic openness” which we shall get to later.

Boghossian gives a brief look at the resurrection which starts off with saying that it is assumed that a historical Jesus existed. For atheists who always want to talk about evidence, it amazes me that so many of them buy into this Christ-myth idea. To go to studies of ancient history and the NT and say Jesus never existed is on par to going to a geologist convention and telling them that the Earth is flat.

Boghossian says even if you grant the burial and the empty tomb, there are all number of ways to explain it, including the theory of space aliens. All of them require faith because of insufficient evidence. Any interaction with a Habermas, Licona, or Wright in this? Nope. We should ask Boghossian what methodology he took to arrive at this conclusion. By what methodology should street epistemologists accept it? Will it be a faith claim?

On page 28, Boghossian says that not a single argument for God’s existence has withstood scrutiny. He lists the five ways of Aquinas, Pascal’s Wager, the ontological argument, the fine-tuning argument, and the Kalam. He is emphatic that these are all failures and has an end note for that.

So when you go there, what will you find? Will you find a listing of works where these arguments were refuted? No. Will you find descriptions saying why these arguments are problematic? No. What will you find? A long statement on epistemologies?

On what grounds am I to believe these arguments have all been refuted? Boghossian’s say so? Is that the way a critical thinker should work?

Boghossian also says believers are told that ignorance is a mark of virtue and closeness to God. Sadly, I’m sure this is the case for several. In reality, if this is the Christianity Boghossian wishes to take down, more power to him there. I’ve been trying to take down this kind of Christianity for years. It has nothing to do with what Jesus taught and what the church has defended intellectually. Several decades ago in fact, the church was repeatedly warned the greatest threat to the church was anti-intellectualism.

It is at the end of the third chapter that we start seeing interventions, these are dialogues that Boghossian tells us about. The only one worth mentioning is a professor at an evangelical university who goes unnamed. Unfortunately, we have no idea what he teaches so I don’t know why we should take his opinion seriously. Most of these interventions consist of talking to people who I have no reason to believe are informed on their faith. It’s a reminder of what Bill Maher did in Religulous. It is like saying to tune in when a bodybuilder takes down a little old lady in a street fight.

Also in this chapter, he talks about doxastic openness. Closure is when someone is impervious to a reasoned argument and will not change their beliefs. The sad reality is this is a good description of street epistemologists and as we will see later on, Boghossian himself.

I fully think we should all be open to seeing if our beliefs are wrong. It is why I, as a Christian, have changed my stance on numerous issues over the years. This is something quite simple to do when your positions are based on evidence and argumentation.

One could think Boghossian has this view since in chapter 4, he does say to be willing to reconsider and be open to the idea that the faithful know something you don’t. (Such as the proper definition of faith in its proper social and historical context. Those who study the language might know this better than someone like Boghossian who does not.)

Interestingly, one of his strategies in this chapter is to avoid facts.

I’m not kidding. p. 71 and part II. The heading is “Avoid Facts.”

This strikes me as odd. If I am supposed to change my worldview, aren’t the facts relevant to that? Boghossian says that if people believed on the basis of evidence, they wouldn’t be where they are today. Isn’t this part of the doxastic closeness that he earlier condemns? Could it be the evidence just might be on the side of the Christian. Maybe I’m wrong on that of course, but should we not be open?

Boghossian says it is how we arrive at our conclusions that matter. Now I do agree this is important to discuss. Yet I tell people I am an empiricist. Knowledge begins with sense experience. I use that to reason to God. (Say the ways of Aquinas for instance.) Then with history, I try to read the best scholarship on both sides of the issue in forming an opinion on what happened to Jesus. I am also actively reading what I disagree with, such as Boghossian’s book, to see if I might have missed anything.

Does Boghossian fault that procedure?

Now Boghossian could say my conclusion is reached in advance and I have confirmation bias, but that needs to be shown rather than just asserted. The best way to show it if my methodology is sound is to show how I am not following it properly and that is done by looking at the evidence.

It is amusing to see him say Gary Habermas reached his position by starting with the divinity of Christ and the truth of Scripture and reasoning backwards. Anyone who has heard Habermas speak on doubt before knows that this is not the case. Knowing him personally, I have heard far more than most readers I am sure and know about the hours he spent agonizing over questions and not being wiling to commit to Christianity. He was quite close to being a Buddhist in fact.

It is a wonder where Boghossian gets his information then. Did he just assume it? Has he taken a faith position?

In actuality, what this can allow Boghossian to do is to discount any opinion that disagrees with him by claiming “confirmation bias.” The problem is anyone else could do the same with Boghossian’s position. A Christian could say “Well of course he’s not going to let the evidence lead him to God. He doesn’t want that.”

For example, let’s suppose there was an atheist who held to his atheism for known emotional reasons. Let’s suppose these were reasons such as he grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and hated his parents and everything to do with Christianity. Let’s also suppose he wants to sleep with any girl he meets and knows that Christianity would require him to give that up. This man has reasons to want to be an atheist that can cloud how he views the evidence. I don’t think anyone would doubt this.

Does that mean that he’s wrong?

No. The only way you know if he’s right or wrong is by looking at the evidence.

This is also shown with Boghossian in, like I said, he does not practice doxastic openness. For instance, he has been asked what it would take to make him believe, he uses a line from Lawrence Krauss. If he walked out at night and saw all the stars in the sky aligned to say “I am God communicating with you, believe in Me!” and every human being worldwide saw this in their native language, this would be suggestive. (He adds it would be far from conclusive. It could be a delusion.)

Yes. This is from the one who says we should practice doxastic openness.

What does this mean? It means formulating an argument for God’s existence will not work with Boghossian. What he requires for himself is a personal experience, and even then a grand personal experience is only suggestive. Why should anyone attempt to reason with someone like Boghossian who says the arguments won’t convince him but that it will require a personal experience?

Shouldn’t we go with the arguments instead of personal experience?

The sixth chapter spends much on interventions, including arguments over a topic such as if the universe had a beginning. Boghossian has this idea that an eternal universe would mean no God. I, meanwhile, say I’m willing to grant an eternal multiverse. What is needed is to explain not just its existence but its act of existing.

Seeing as I plan to focus more later, I’m going to move on to chapter 8, because in many ways I found this an excellent chapter. I really appreciated Boghossian’s viewpoints on relativism and the modern definition of tolerance being bogus and the problem with adding “o-phobia” to something.

Boghossian is certainly right that ideas need to be open to criticism and if he says “faith ideas” need to be open, I fully agree! In fact, I am one who goes out in public really hoping someone will see me reading a book by an atheist and think I’m one and try to talk me out of it, or see me reading a book about the resurrection of Jesus and try to talk to me out of that. I have always said that I want us to just come together and discuss the evidence and let Christianity work in the marketplace of ideas. Which case should we go with? Whoever brings forward the best arguments and evidences.

I also agree with what is said about faith-based claims. Those students who stand up in class and have nothing else to say except “The Bible says” are a sign of a problem that we have. It is not a problem with the Bible, but with a claim on how Christian education is done. It has too long been made that Christians are just told what the Bible says. Say anything about why you should trust the Bible? Nope. Say anything about worldviews that oppose the Bible? Nope. It’s part of what I’ve called the escapist mentality.

In fact, that’s what’s so ironic about Boghossian’s book. There is much in there that I could agree with generally on reasoning, and ironically, much of the attitudes that he sees in the faithful are the same attitudes that I see in the faithless. The atheists I meet more often than not have a hubris built into them where they think they are rational and right by virtue of being an atheist. I will also not deny many Christians have that same mindset to them as well.

As I plan to write on this further, I will conclude at this point by saying that Boghossian is someone to take seriously, not because he has new information, but because he is an evangelist for atheism that is seeking to make other evangelists. Boghossian would say someone like me is upset about a show like “The Reason Whisperer.” On the contrary, I am thrilled about it. I adore it whenever something like this happens. The Da Vinci Code, The New Atheists, and now this. Hopefully more and more soon the church will wake up and realize it needs to get up and do something and actually start learning what we believe. I think a show like this could be the shot in the arm the church needs. Of course, if the church does not wake up soon, I think it will only be around for about another generation or so in America.

The reality is the arguments are still simple to deal with and the street epistemologists are thoroughly unequipped in their quest. The problem on the side of the church is not lack of information. The problem is desire to have that information and awareness of the problem a lack of information causes. When someone abandons the life of the mind, it is sad. When a Christian does it, it is a travesty.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

For more information see the following:

My look at Hebrews 11:1

The Escapist Mentality

Book Plunge: Atheist Delusions

June 10, 2013

What’s my review of David Bentley Hart’s “Atheist Delusions?” Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Psalm 11:3 “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Indeed. What can the righteous do? When picking up Hart’s book, one might expect a lengthy reply to various new atheist arguments and criticisms of their approach. One will certainly find that, but not where one would expect. It will be in the first section of the book and the last section. The majority of the book does not even mention them at all. Do not come here if you are expecting a critique of Dawkins’s bogus 747 argument for instance.

Yet Hart does not hide his opinion of modern writing. The first chapter, “The Gospel of Unbelief”, has a number of great statements. The Da Vinci Code on page 4 is described as the most lucrative novel ever written by a borderline illiterate. On the same page, we are told Christopher Hitchens’s “talent for intellectual caricature somewhat exceeds his mastery of consecutive logic.” There’s Richard Dawkins who “despite his embarrassing incapacity for philosophical reasoning–never fails to entrance his eager readers with his rhetorical recklessness.” Describing Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith” on page 8, Hart says “It is little more than a concatenation of shrill, petulant assertions, a few of which are true, but none of which betrays any great degree of philosophical or historical sophistication. In his remarks on Christian belief, Harris displays an abysmal ignorance of almost every topic he addresses.”

Yes. Hart does not hold back and he gives more of the same in the end, but there is no need for Hart to waste time on those of the new atheists who have just as much faith if nor more than the fundamentalist preachers and believers that they are so quick to condemn. There is a sharp dichotomy with them. No goodness can be attributed to religion and no evil can be attributed to non-religion. If something works religiously, it has a “scientific basis.” If something goes wrong with a system of non-belief, that is because the part that went wrong has a “religious basis.”

What Hart wants to deal with is the foundations. These beliefs are being removed by the new atheists from their position of faith. It is a system of materialism that cannot allow anything contrary to its unproven presuppositions. If something seems outside of the material universe, it’s either just wrong or we’ll find an explanation for it someday.

It is a position that upholds the value of science but then takes that and turns it into a deity. Science is the new priesthood with its own standards of canonicity (No religious belief allowed) and its own statement of faith (No gods allowed) and built on a number of creedal statements (Religion poisons everything. Faith is believing something without evidence) and bad evangelistic slogans. (I just believe in one less god than you do.)

Keep in mind the very term “There is no God”, while it could be true for the sake of argument, cannot be determined by science, any more than the claim “Love is the highest virtue” cannot be proven by science. This is not because science is wrong. It is because science is the wrong tool. It is no more an insult to science to say this than it is an insult to hammers to say they are not recommended for treating a toothache.

While it might be said that a Christian will hide from a scientific discovery, and no doubt many do, it is just as true that the modern atheist tends to hide from anything that indicates any truth of a religious claim. Such can be found in how many even make it a mantra that Jesus never even existed. What is accepted as thoroughly proven amongst NT scholars and ancient historians and is practically a universal consensus, is disregarded, while the new atheists mock the Christians who do not accept the scientific consensus on evolution, held even by some Christians. Once again, which conclusion should be accepted depends on the presupposition. All of science is good and all of religion is wrong and biased.

Hart goes to great lengths to show that the problem is not really with science or religion. Men have a great proclivity to do evil and will accept any reason to do so. That reason can be religious or scientific. We must simply ask which one has had a greater power to curtail that evil within human beings. His argument is that Christianity has had that power.

To show this, he deals largely with myths of history and shows how Christianity changed the world through the building up of moral character based on the example of Christ. Hart contends that today, we accept many moral truths, but would we have accepted them if Christianity never came into the world? Probably not, except for perhaps Jewish people. Just look at the Greco-Roman world. Men and women weren’t equal. Some were by nature slaves. Unwanted children were to be left in the wild to die at the hands of wild animals. People watched other real human beings fight and die in the Coliseum for entertainment purposes. Did Christianity erase all of this immediately? No. But Christianity did set the seeds in place that eventually did so.

What happens then when these ideas that are rooted in Christian beliefs lose their Christian foundations? Will the belief itself live on? It could be a nice dream to think that it would, but where is the evidence? The 20th century has been the most secular century of all, and at the same time the most bloody century of all. If we are people to go by the evidence, then the evidence is in. At this point, when Christianity is removed, people have a greater propensity to return to their base desires.

Consider for instance the idea of what to do with the least of ours. The Romans and Greeks would leave their children to die in the wild if they weren’t wanted. Are we that barbaric? It could be, we’re worse. Peter Singer and others argue today that we should have the right to kill our own disabled children up to a certain time. As someone who is an Aspie, as is my wife, I take this claim quite seriously. Christianity, on the other hand, would hold that this one that is said to be useless in the sight of the world and holding us back from genetic success, fully bears the image of God and is worth more than the entire universe. Indeed, one could argue that in their weakness, many disabled people reveal the nature of God, the God who in Christianity took on human weakness in the incarnation, than many of us “healthy” ones do.

Hart does not hold out much hope for our society as he does not see how such a revival can take place. Perhaps it is just for me that hope springs eternal, but I think it is possible. I think we are on the verge of a golden age in apologetics. If the apostles could change the Greco-Roman empire, why not think that we all today can do the same in our own world? The question is not the ability. We have the means to reach the world. The question is not the knowledge. We have the information that we need to do so. The question is the will. Are we willing?

Ultimately then, it comes down to a question of obedience. Christ has given us our marching orders in the Great Commission. There is no plan B. We have been told what to do. The question could then be said to be “How much do we believe in Christ? How much are we truly Christian?”

If we claim Christ is Lord of all and He has the power to change the culture, then let us go out there and do so. If we do not do so, it could be because parts of us don’t really believe that the Christ can do so through the proclamation of His message. This would be, as I’ve argued before, due to a lack of instilling of the importance of having a total Christian worldview to our churches rather than just teaching that we should be good people. Christians are to be good people, but we are to be not just good people. We are to be Christian people.

If I had a criticism of Hart’s work, it would be I would like to have seen more claims properly noted. There are many notes, but there are many claims I would have liked to have seen more noted. I also disagree with him that both Arians and Trinitarians could make a case from the Scriptures. They speak with one voice and they say “Trinity.”

Despite this, I do overall highly recommend the work to deal with a number of atheist statements of faith. The style is witty and engaging, yet it is certainly not simplistic, and one will learn plenty from reading a volume like this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: The Problems With New Atheism

March 6, 2012

Why is the New Atheism not a threat? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The Reason Rally is largely a work of the new atheist movement. This has largely taken off after 9/11 with atheists seeking to have an even more prominent role in society. Mind you I have no problem with that. Atheists have as much right as anyone else to seek to change the laws to be in accordance with what they think is best and they have every right to state their views publicly, meet publicly, etc.

The problem is not that they are doing this. In reality, I do not see the new atheists as a problem. Rather, I see them as a blessing in much the same way The Da Vinci Code was. The Da Vinci Code started a conversation and Christians who were interested would better inform themselves about the truths of what it is they believe. I believe the New Atheists have done the same thing. They’ve made the dialogue public.

However, the blessing is not only have they made the dialogue public, but they have not presented a very strong case and one that a series at any church that was led by someone skilled in apologetics could train someone to answer. Due to their being seen as authorities, they are taken far more seriously and leading many atheists to think this is the cream of the crop.

If it is, then the crop has gone very bad. Dawkins, the leading speaker of the new atheism is not qualified in philosophy or theology or biblical studies to speak on any of these matters, but does so anyway. The atheist thinking “The God Delusion” presents sound arguments, walks away thinking, as an example, that the Thomistic arguments are easily dealt with.

That is, until he meets a Thomist who knows those arguments.

At that point, the atheist sadly usually does not see the flaws in the arguments, but instead still holds to them because, well Pope Dawkins has spoken and the case is closed. The reality is Dawkins could go to anyone out there who studies Thomism and be told that his positions are straw men and the arguments he has do not work.

Furthermore, with the high interest in science, we can expect to see more of scientism from the new atheist side. No Christian should be anti-science, but we should all be anti-scientism. We need to realize that there are other forms of finding truth out there and for most of us, the most important truths we know are not scientific in nature.

The benefit for us is this verificationism is easily dealt with. As I have stated earlier, for an atheist like this, science for them is essentially what Scripture is for the Christian. Instead of having Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and quite likely we can expect Meyers to be next in line.

With Dawkins being a leading speaker at this rally, we can expect more of the same. What this will do is just lead to further reinforcement. Just as much as Christians can cloister themselves away from the world at times in isolation to reinforce one another in beliefs that they hold without evidence, atheists can do the same. This is not to say all Christians believe without evidence. I certainly don’t and several others don’t. This is to say that there are several who do. There are several atheists of the Dawkins type who also hold their anti-religious beliefs without evidence.

Thus, not only do I think the Reason Rally is not really a threat, but it will also be a boon to Christians. If atheists want to keep availing themselves of material by the new atheists, we can expect that their side will ultimately suffer. Let us not make the same mistake however of growing lax in our efforts and make sure the sources we have and the ones we choose to have represent us are the best that they can be.

What atheists need to do is in fact distance themselves from meetings like the Reason Rally and to avoid the new atheists. They are better off going to older atheists of the past. Not only that, they need to make sure that they avail themselves of evangelical scholarship so they can be sure they know what their opponents are really arguing.

If atheists want to still go to this rally, please do go ahead. The more I see there, the more hope I will have for the spread of Christianity.

In Christ,
Nick Peters