Back in the Saddle

Well, it has been a while, hasn’t it?

I apologize for the long pause in updates. I found myself in an online debate several months ago which started to go in circles. I lost interest in continuing the debate, but nonetheless was feeling an obligation to do so, and thus wasn’t able to convince myself to either end it or to shift my attention back to the blog. Eventually I realized that this was unsustainable, and so bowed out of the debate. And here I am, two days later, trying to regain some momentum on ConvertTheAtheist.

I have just posted a new, short essay titled, “I Don’t Believe in Heaven, and Neither Do You.” I hope that it provides some food for thought, and as always I welcome any feedback. Enjoy!

Edit: Originally I had mistakenly posted the essay as a blog post rather than a page. I have fixed this mistake. Sorry for the confusion, if there was any.

New Post: Fine-Tuning Part I

I have just posted part one in a planned two-part series of essays on the so-called Fine-Tuning Argument. As I was writing my response to this argument, I realized that the supposedly fine-tuned parameters that are part of this argument really fall into two broad categories: those that are so obviously not fine-tuned that claiming they are should be embarrassing, and those about which there is legitimate, interesting debate about. Since the response was getting quite long as I wrote it up, I decided to split the essay in half based on these two broad categories. So I now present, The Fine-Tuning Argument, Part I: Parameters that Make You Say, “Really?”

As always, I welcome questions, comments, suggestions, and rebuttals.

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.

New Essay (Social Evolution: The Origins of Ethics)

While I am not making this a New Years resolution, I am planning to post more frequently this year than I did over the last couple of months. Today, I am continuing my exploration of ethics by posting an essay concerning social evolution. This is part of an ongoing series that explores ethics from an atheistic perspective. In this essay I develop some thought experiments concerning killing others and explore the implications of various possible rules for when one should kill as a case study in how ethics develop at a societal level.

Moreso than many of my other essays, I expect that readers of mine who are atheists will likely find no new ideas here. I plead patience from such readers, because the clear bafflement of theists who try to understand how an atheist could have ethics at all demands that these obvious-to-us ideas be explicitly stated.

As always, I welcome all comments, suggestions, questions, and challenges about these ideas. Thank you for reading!

New Essay (Origins of the Ethical Imperative)

It has been a long time since my last essay. Real life end-of-year obligations are part of the explanation. Another part is that my planned next topic was a comprehensive essay on the development of a workable atheistic ethical system, and that was turning into a behemoth of an essay. I was struggling constantly with balancing comprehensiveness against tl;dr. Frankly, writing it for public consumption was intimidating me.

So, I’ve decided to break it down into multiple posts, each tackling a portion of the argument. This is therefore going to be a series of posts that together make a larger argument, the first of which I posted back in October (dealing with morality vs. ethics and the failure of divine absolute morality). Today I have posted the second essay in the series, dealing with the origins of an atheistic imperative for behaving ethically. Once complete, this series of posts will constitute not only a description of how atheists (at least some of us) view ethics, but also a rebuttal to the moral arguments for the existence of God.

As always, I am posting these essays in an effort to spawn dialog. In order for me to improve, or ultimately reject, my positions, I need to have them challenged. I therefore welcome any comments, questions, and critiques.

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.

New Essay: Scriptural Evidence for God

My latest essay is now online, dealing with using scripture to support the existence of God. The main points are:

  1. Internal consistency, internally-reported fulfilled prophesies, and minor historical veracity are insufficient to support scriptural claims of miraculous events.
  2. There is no reliable extra-scriptural evidence for any miraculous events reported in scripture.

I go through the argument in detail with respect to the New Testament.

As always, I welcome suggestions, comments, and criticisms.  Thank you for reading!