Evolving Thoughts: Fun with Christians and worldviews

John Wilkins has a very worthwhile post entitled Fun with Christians and worldviews, over at Evolving Thoughts. He discusses a debate he had with a group of Christians that involved the “competing worldviews” meme. After pointing out that “bald is not a hair color” (i.e. atheism and agnosticism are not religious worldviews in competition with other religions), he writes:

The other error is more widespread. I was in effect accused of having a worldview that precluded the existence of God, and the audience was invited to compare that with my opponents, who had one that permitted God. But the simple fact is, I don’t have a worldview. In fact, neither do they. I don’t think worldviews exist. They are a gross oversimplification of what is actually going on inside people’s heads, and are mere abstractions. If one believes in God, one might still believe things that are inconsistent with a belief in God. Intellectual schemes are not whole cloth, and you can entertain incompatible ideas, and in fact I think you must, because nobody gets a simple set of coherent ideas handed to them at birth, free of all confounding beliefs.

Christians, who have an extensive body of traditional dogma which they like to reassure themselves is true and consistent, like to think also that everybody has something like this. Religions are “rationally reconstructed” as sets of dogma by the Christian tradition (e.g., when doing anthropology by missionary) when in fact there is no dogma at all, just stories, rituals, and ways of life. The idea that one has a worldview by necessity is one that is made by analogy with a false view of themselves…

Recommended Reading.

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TIA Tuesday: Does Vox really understand?

In reading Vox’s response to Daniel Dennett, in chapter 10 of TIA, it’s sometimes easy to jump to the conclusion that Vox doesn’t really understand the issues Dennett is talking about. For example:

[Dennett] raises [the] possibility that religion is merely a by-product of evolution, otherwise known as a spandrel. It’s here that the philosopher finds himself in logical trouble. Both of Dennett’s memetic proposalsand [sic] his subsequent argument against Starke and Finke’s economic case for the rational value of religion directly contradict his assertion of the way that evolution’s remarkable efficiency means that a persistent pattern amounts to proof—”we can be quite sure”—that the pattern is of benefit to something in the evolutionary currency of differential reproduction. How, one wonders, does Dennett fail to grasp that a creed which explicitly states “go forth and multiply” is likely to be inordinately successful in evolutionary terms, genetic or memetic?

Vox seems to like the argument that religious people are more likely to reproduce than non-religious people—as though nobody really cared much one way or another about sex until Moses came along and showed them in Genesis 1! This kind of silly, superficial thinking suggests that Vox hasn’t really put much effort into trying to understand how religion and evolution would interact in the real world. All he really seems to be interested in is mining the idea for talking points he can use to make religion sound better than atheism.

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Posted in Science, TIA, Unapologetics. 15 Comments »

The purpose of the court

This is actually a couple weeks old, but I wanted to comment on it. Chuck Colson is upset about a “problem” in our criminal justice system. And I might even agree that there are some serious problems with our court system, starting with the way Gitmo detainees are being denied habeus corpus. But that’s not the problem that has Colson all worked up. So what is the problem then? Well, you remember a while back when Janet Jackson suffered a “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show?

Jackson’s wardrobe is not the only thing that malfunctioned; so did the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Last Monday the court threw out a $550,000 fine the Federal Communications Commission assessed against CBS. The three-judge panel ruled that the FCC fine was “arbitrary” and “capricious.” Apparently, exposing oneself no longer qualifies as broadcast indecency.

That’s right: the proper function of our criminal justice system is to protect Americans from seeing other people nude. Or partially nude.

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Sunday Toons: More blaming the victim

Continuing his critique of my post on Compromising God, JP Holding devotes a separate page to the question of what atonement means, especially in light of his views on eternal punishment. (Oddly, he entitles his web page “Apologetics vs. Bible-based faith,” an apparent reference to a completely different and unrelated post.) And as usual, he begins by urging his readers to assume that I’m stupid (and thus can safely be ignored).

When people can’t get yoor basic stance on things right, you know you’re dealing with some stupid. Guess what that makes poor Dumplin’ Dumbash.

His address to my material on the atonement begs to assume that I hold a view of hell as “eternal torment.” Not quite — if by that Dumpy means literal fire and brimstone.

The gypsy strikes again: Holding has garbled what I said about his stance on eternal punishment. I didn’t call it “eternal torment” nor did I say anything about “literal fire and brimstone.” I used the same term Holding uses: “eternal punishment.” But perhaps that’s also wrong? Let’s look at the link Holding has posted (twice!) that explains what he really means about hell.

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XFiles Friday: hitting the books

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 9.)

It’s time to put the New Testament documents to the test. Geisler and Turek have composed a list of seven questions which, as we saw before, are intended to make the documents look like they pass the test of history. The first question posed is, “Do we have early testimony?” The answer is, “Yes—depending on how you define ‘early’…”

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D’Souza’s Freudian Snit

Freud is “no longer the revered figure he once was,” writes Dinesh D’Souza, comparing the eminent psychoanalyst to Karl Marx as figure whose ideology has come and gone. And he’s partly right: Freud is famous for what he started, not for being some kind of psychological Moses who brought us the Infallible Laws of psychiatry. Apparently, though, he’s still a force to be reckoned with, and D’Souza decides to take him on.

I’ve been reading Freud’s The Future of an Illusion, where Freud makes the case that religion is a form of “wish fulfillment.” Freud writes that for the individual “life is hard to bear,” and beyond this there is “the painful riddle of death, against which no medicine has yet been found.” And so to “make helplessness tolerable” man invents God and religion not because they are true but because we wish them to be true. “

Apparently, D’Souza sees that as an argument that’s still looking for a good refutation. He sets out to provide one, but unfortunately it’s flawed in at least a couple of ways.

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Why we’re not a Christian nation (and don’t want to be)

Via a blog named “Exposing Liberal Lies” comes this charming commentary on Tyson Foods and their decision to give their employees both Labor Day and a Muslim feast day as paid holidays:

This is America, a Judeo-Christian nation. Why should any employer accommodate the religious preferences of Muslims? Where is the call for separation of church and state in this situation? If these Muslims are not content with the American holidays that their employers offer, they are free to go back to whatever Muslim nation they came from. And you know what, we won’t miss them or their whining for Islamic religious rights or all their lawsuits.

If you were wondering why it’s important to stand up against Christian Supremacists and to fight for our First Amendment freedoms, this is why. All this nonsense about “respecting America’s historical heritage” and such, is just a smoke screen. The real, practical intent of making America a “Christian nation” is so that the power of government can be used to discriminate against those deemed to be non-Christians. Like Muslims, for instance. Or gays.

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TIA Tuesday: Evolutionary reasons for religion

The subtitle for The Irrational Atheist is “Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens”. This week, we start Chapter 10 of TIA, in which Vox turns his attention to the fourth member of the “Unholy Trinity,” Daniel Dennett.

This book did not proceed exactly according to plan. Originally inspired by a trilogy of columns entitled “The Clowns of Reason,” it was supposed to be devoted to dissecting the anti-theistic arguments of Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, and Sam Harris. However, when Christopher Hitchens appeared on the scene and began wreaking such a wide path of intellectual devastation by trouncing noted theologians such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and Chris Hedges, the author of The Christian Right and the Rise of American Fascism, it became clear that Hitchens was an atheist tour de force that must be addressed at all costs!

And thus was Dennett bumped down to fourth place. Let’s see if Vox has any more luck with Dennett than he did with Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins.

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Sunday Toons: The authority of men

In this week’s Sunday toon, JP Holding explains why he responds to my posts by giving me “mean” nicknames, insulting my intelligence, and in general mocking me personally in any way he can. He does it because

It’s so much easier to attack the person than attack the argument…

Of course, true to the spirit of the Gypsy Curse, he intended that as a personal attack on me. Nor did he stop there: the full sentence reads, “It’s so much easier to attack the person than attack the argument; but to be fair, Dumpy isn’t competent in even knowing what the arguments are, or even who is making them, so who can blame him?”

Jesus must really have ticked off that poor old gypsy.

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XFiles Friday: Anticipating objections

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 9.)

Geisler and Turek are ready to begin their arguments for why the New Testament documents should be regarded as accurate history, but first they want to look at some general objections and try and get those out of the way. The objections are:

  1. History cannot be known.
  2. The NT documents contain miracles.
  3. The NT writers were biased.
  4. Converts are not objective.

Geisler and Turek take each of the above objections in turn, and show how they are not valid objections. Or at least, they show that the first one is not valid, and they try to show that the other three aren’t, either.

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