The Pew Poll

There’s been some discussion lately about the recent Pew poll that shows atheists outscoring believers on the subject of the believers’ own religious beliefs. PZ Myers and Ed Brayton are among those who see this as scoring a not-insignificant point for the atheists’ side, while Chad Orzel and Josh Rosenau are among those cautioning us against reading too much into this interesting statistic. Orzel cites Razib and Nisbet as pointing out that atheists, being in the minority, are more motivated to explore and understand the religious beliefs of others, since they’re more likely to find themselves “in the crosshairs” of a dorm-room discussion or a knock at the door. Brayton, meanwhile, points out that many unbelievers (of which I happen to be one) started out as believers, and became unbelievers precisely because they learned what they were believing in, and thought about it.

Neither side should be lightly dismissed; each has something important to say, and a valid point to make. And of course, I have my own two cents to toss in.

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XFiles Weekend: “Jesus was an atheist”

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, chapter 4, “What Lies Behind the Law”)

Professor C. S. Lewis is a highly intelligent man who started out not believing in God and ended up a believer. His book Mere Christianity would like to lead the rest of us down the same path. So far, though, the road has taken some bizarre twists and turns. He began, in Chapter One, by informing us that there is a Law of Right and Wrong, or a Law of (Human) Nature, which he claimed was a universal and objective law like the laws of Nature. Then he noted that, in fact, this Law of (Human) Nature was really not very much like a scientific law of Nature after all. Yet, rather than admit that his so-called Law was not real, he jumped to the conclusion that there must be more than one reality, in order to provide some way his “Law” could be real in some sense. And in last week’s post, we saw him begin to deny, or at least doubt, the idea that the scientific laws of nature are truly real.

It’s fascinating, in a watching-a-train-wreck sort of way. Step by step, the gifted thinker, writer, and Oxford don is leading himself to turn his back on such truth as can be learned by studying the real world, and to embrace instead a sort of “truth” that springs from superstition, subjectivism, and gullibility. Having borrowed the authority of real laws of nature in order to lend legitimacy to his own fanciful Law, he then turns around and rejects the reality of the laws he started from, and embraces his own creation as the sole Real Law. “I reject your reality, and substitute a Truth of my own invention.” And thus the road to faith is paved.

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XFiles Weekend: Toxic faith

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, chapter 4, “What Lies Behind the Law”)

We come now to Chapter 4 of Mere Christianity, and I’m going to steal a little of Lewis’ thunder by giving away the plot. As we’ve seen in the first three chapters, Lewis wants to claim that there exists some sort of “real” Moral Law which he can then attribute to an invisible, magical Being, or Lawgiver. Trouble is, if we take any sort of rational and objective look at the actual evidence, we find that it’s fundamentally inconsistent with his claims. Instead of admitting that the facts don’t fit, however, Lewis argues that this glaring discrepancy is proof that multiple realities exist, and that his so-called Moral Law must come from the other one.

In making this argument, Lewis has implicitly thrown reason and science out the window, but in Chapter 4 he goes on to make this more explicit. Appealing to the age-old expedient of declaring that this new “truth” lies beyond the reach of science, he declares that we must reject and ignore any sort of reasonable, scientific evaluation of the “evidence” he tries to use to back up his claims. The problem with abandoning science and reason, though, is that it becomes very difficult to make a coherent argument without them, as Lewis is about to demonstrate.

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Posted in Superstition, Unapologetics, XFiles. 12 Comments »

Definition of the day

Anticolonial, adj:
See Uppity.

 
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XFiles Weekend: How to get lost inside your own head

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, chapter 3, “The Reality of the Law”)

Christian apologetics is a quest, a search for something in the real world that leads reasonably and logically to the conclusion that the Christian God exists. So far, no such Grail has turned up, which is why more modern apologists, like Lewis, keep trying different approaches. Lewis’ attempt is as doomed as the rest, though, because his preconceived conclusion keeps interfering with his ability to think reasonably and logically about the evidence he’s trying to use.

Today’s section is a good example. Lewis began his argument by trying to tell us that “just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation, and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law — with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.” Right away his thesis is in trouble, because he wants to suggest that there is some kind of Moral Law, on the same level as the law of gravity and other natural laws, and yet the very first and most obvious observation one makes about morality is precisely that it is not like the laws of nature at all.

In today’s reading, Lewis returns to this sore point, and tries to make sense of it in some way that does not involve admitting the fundamental error in his basic premise. It’s rather a jaw-dropping exercise in rationalization and self-befuddlement, despite Lewis’ clearly superior intellect.

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, Unapologetics, XFiles. 4 Comments »

The New Terrorists

Terrorism: promoting a sustained condition of fear in an entire population in order to get what you want. There are two types of terrorist. The violent type spreads fear by saying “I am going to hurt you.”

Osama bin Ladin

The milder type spreads fear by saying “Someone else is going to hurt you.”

Glenn Beck

You know, like “liberals.” Or better yet, “socialists.” Or gays. Or whoever it’s convenient to demonize at the moment.

Our biggest problem isn’t that we’re being terrorized by the violent guys. It’s all the “milder” types jumping on the terrorist bandwagon, working to maintain a continuous state of fear and paranoia in the general public. If we really want to help America by fighting terrorism, we ought to start by recognizing where it’s really coming from. It’s not being smuggled in from some Middle Eastern territory. It’s 100% home grown.

Just two cents worth, in observance of 9/11.

 
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XFiles Weekend: Blameless Morality

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, chapter 3, “The Reality of the Law”)

Last time, we wrapped up Lewis’ attempts to address a few objections to his theory of Moral Law, and now he’s going to go back to developing his main thesis, which is that human morality stems from some kind of supernatural list of everything that’s Right and everything that’s Wrong. It’s a thesis dictated by the conclusion he wants to reach, so not surprisingly he has to work to make it all fit, even when he’s only using a carefully selected subset of the facts. Today he brings up another fact that would like very much to inform him about what’s wrong with his theory, but sadly he’s still not listening.

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, Unapologetics, XFiles. 7 Comments »