Contemplating the next few posts

I have probably two, maybe three more posts in my series on ethics, which will together serve as my response to the so-called moral argument for God. Before I write those essays, I will probably take a break from ethics briefly to address the fine-tuning argument, one of the two most prominent arguments-from-design.

While I have several other essays in mind to follow those that I just listed (a discussion of the scientific method, a more detailed discussion of evolution, addressing some specific ethical issues such as abortion, gun control, prayer in school, etc.), it occurred to me that even without those follow-up essays I will by that time have hit the major arguments for God.

Am I missing one (or more)? Please let me know in the comments, so that I can get anything I’ve missed onto the agenda.

Spread the story

Sam Bartlett, a player on the football team of Madison County High School, is happy that his school capitulated to a lawsuit over two scriptural passages on a monument outside the football stadium. He sees this as an opportunity to bring God’s message to a much broader audience. He wants this story spread.

Yes. Let’s do exactly what this kid wants. Let’s share this story far and wide. Let us shout from the rooftops how kids in this small school in Georgia can still pray to the God they believe in. They always could, and they still can. Let us celebrate that it is their choice who they should pray to, rather than being subject to the dictates of their coach, principal, or school board. Let us rejoice that this story is an example of liberty triumphing over peer-pressure-induced conformity. Let us proclaim that the kids in this school are now free to pray based on their own beliefs and consciences, based on how they were raised or what they have decided, rather than based on the peer pressure of the majority surrounding them.

Let us repeat Sam Bartlett’s story far and wide. It is an important object lesson. It teaches us how easy it is to mistake the fall of unjust privilege for oppression. The white man lost this privilege at the end of the Civil War. Men lost this privilege with women’s suffrage. And it was hard to adjust to the new way-of-things, just as it is hard for Sam Bartlett to lose his state of privilege as his school becomes finally neutral toward religion. We must always remember how hard it is to be on the wrong side of history, particularly when it is through the fault of upbringing rather than one’s own decisions.

Sam’s story, his feelings of loss and rebellion, are utterly natural. He represents a potent, pervasive worldview in our society, and we must not lose sight of that.

As religious freedom marches forward, we must go to great lengths to remember that Sam is not the enemy. We need to remind him, gently if possible, that we have not taken away his ability to worship how he pleases. Though I do not share his belief in God, I would fight to the death to protect that right of his to worship in accordance with his beliefs. He needs to have his eyes opened to the fact that this right is still his. Everyone that feels threatened by the onward march of religious neutrality must be reassured that their rights are not being taken from them.

So yes, Sam is right in one very important respect… we must share his story far and wide, because he is not alone in feeling the way he does. Wrong as he is about the rightful place of God in the public schools, he, and millions like him, have confused his religion’s loss of favored status with an attack on the religion itself. This is utterly false. Sam can believe, worship, and pray. He can do so with like-minded peers if they so choose. And I applaud anyone that does so of their own free will.

And that is the fundamental point, which even the religious should be able to see, which is why Sam’s story must be disseminated. Belief must be a choice rather than a default. If it is simply the thing that is always done before a football game, then it is hardly meaningful.

If religion is important to you, then show it. Stop diminishing its value by expecting everyone to follow your rituals. Make praying before a game mean something again… by recognizing that the meaning is lost when everyone is expected to do it.

Reader suggestion

One of my readers suggested that
this article, a discussion of a recent Pew study on attitudes toward religion, might be good fodder for my blog. I agree wholeheartedly… there is a lot that can be discussed here. I suspect that much if the distrust of atheists comes from a lack of understanding of where atheists might possibly get morals or ethics. This reader suggestion came close on the heels of the following image making it across my Facebook feed:


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Thanks again for reading!

Debate listening on the road

Driving across several states is a fantastic opportunity to listen to archived debates, and I’ve been taking good advantage of it! One of the several that I’ve listened to was particularly exciting, so I thought I should link to it here. Andrew Copson was debating David Robertson on Justin Briley’s show, Unbelievable. I’ve come to greatly appreciate Briley’s style of moderating discussion, but he wasn’t even really necessary in this case… two debaters kept the discussion moving at a brisk, fascinating pace. Copson in particular was spectacularly lucid, particularly on the intersection of religion and education and on the middle ground between absolute and relative morality. This latter topic pointed me to some Popper that I need to read; as with several of my philosophical positions, I am simultaneously gratified and disappointed that I’m not the first to articulate them in quite the way that I do.

More debate listening

I just finished listening to a debate on religion/atheism with respect to public morality between Alan Keys and Alan Dershowitz. It was, without a doubt, the most spirited, rhetorically fascinating debate I have listened to! Unlike most debates I have listened to lately, which have been much more in the academic style or, preferably, in the television panel-discussion style, this one was squarely in the style of political debates, though crossed with the style of legal pleadings before juries.

It was not scholarly. It was not intricate. It was not even civil. The tactics used made me sick to my stomach at times. But it was filled with fascinating, well-delivered, soaring rhetoric on both sides, and listening to it was a truly thrilling experience!

Latest debate listening

I just finished listening to a 2010 debate between Richard Carrier and Michael Licona on the historical evidence for and against the resurrection. Both are historians, and the debate format, which allowed a larger amount of true discussion than normal, was spectacular. I recommend this debate to anyone interested in the question of the resurrection.

Listening to debates

As I mentioned, I have recently been listening to a variety of religion/atheism debates. There is a phenomenally-extensive collection of them available here. Having recently gotten a spectacular pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, I’ve been listening to them most often while doing yardwork. Unfortunately, that means I can’t take notes. I have been finding myself wanting to respond to many of the points that have been coming up, because I don’t feel that the debaters always take the right approaches. I wish I had the leisure to be able to listen to these while not doing something else, and then blogging about my experiences. Oh well, maybe when I retire. Continue reading