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: The Angry Atheists

So it’s still Tuesday somewhere, right? So I guess I’m officially on time. Somewhere near the International Date Line. If you squint.

This week’s essay changed character dramatically as I wrote it. It started out as a relatively rational discussion of atheist anger. It was spawned by a variety of discussions I have seen over the years, but most recently by some quotes by Kevin Sorbo expressing his bafflement about atheist anger. As I was writing, however, trying to explain what I as an atheist am not angry about, and then what I actually am angry about, I, perhaps not surprisingly, started to get angry. And that anger started to bleed through into my composition, first in a more liberal usage of visual memes than I usually allow myself, and later in the actual writing. 

My first instinct was to delete the post. After all, such anger isn’t conducive to the type of even-handed, rational dialog that I am hoping to encourage with this blog. But I then decided that posting it was the right thing to do. Humans are only partially rational beings; our emotional side is key to our character as well. Like it or not, whether it is comfortable for me or not, my emotional responses to important issues are a real aspect of my positions. And, for anyone engaged in dialog with me about theism and atheism, those emotional responses are important to both acknowledge and address. So, with this post, I am laying myself a bit more bare than normal, and the result is likely to be jarring, particularly for theists. It may very well come across as an attack, though the essay is not meant to be one. It is meant to be an explanation, which I hope will provide you with some useful insights into my thinking.

As always, I welcome comments and criticism.

New Post: Pascal’s Wager

Figure 1: Pascal's Wager

So after missing a few weeks, it feels good to have my second essay since my return to posting be a day early. I have just posted my discussion about Pascal’s Wager. As always, I welcome any feedback and criticisms. Or even positive comments! There’s less to learn from the last of these, but they do help with morale.

I have no idea what next week’s essay will be. Probably short.

Back in the saddle

So I’ve missed the last few weeks of posting. As I mentioned, my family and I have moved to a new state, and so I have been quite busy with real life rather than with online forums. But I am trying to get back into the swing of things, and have been working on an essay that I promised some time ago, discussing how it is possible to live a life entirely without faith. That essay is now done and posted. It is probably a bit more rambling that I would like, but I figured it better to get a draft out than to keep working on it. After all, I am fully intending to revise all of these documents based on comments that come in as I can.

My next essay is going to be my response to Pascal’s Wager. (Edited to add: Essay on Pascal’s Wager now added.)

New essay (miracles and the supernatural) and blog status

There has been some fantastic discussion in the comments on my previous essay, Belief vs. Faith. I am still intending to revise that document based on the feedback I have received, but am not sure when that’s going to fit into the schedule. There is a definite tension between revising published material and producing new material.

This week’s post concerns the concept of the supernatural, particularly with respect to claims of miracles. In this essay, I discuss the apparent lack of adequate evidence for anything supernatural ever having happened, which raises the bar in terms of required evidence for an claimed supernatural event. I further express discontent over the notion of the supernatural itself, which seems to be an incoherent concept. As always, I welcome comments, criticisms, and suggestions. Enjoy!

Update: My last few essays have been focusing on laying the groundwork for discussion (establishing that in order to convince me of anything, we’ll need to be talking on an evidentiary basis, and that claims of the supernatural are going to require extraordinary evidence). While there is certainly still plenty of groundwork that can be laid, I probably should start balancing out the content of this site by having my next essay specifically address one of the common arguments in favor of God’s existence. There are several good choices, which I will list below. I would welcome any suggestions about the ones you, my readers, would be most interested in me tackling first. The possibilities that come immediately to mind are:

Opinions? Preferences?

Update: The essay I wrote was on the argument from first cause, and is linked to above.

2nd Update: I have written some more of the essays mentioned above, and have added links to them.

New document (Belief vs. Faith), and site status

I am again a bit ahead of schedule with my new document post. Tuesday’s offering, here posted three days early, is, as promised, a discussion of belief and faith. In it I argue that when faith is understood as a particular manner of holding a belief, in which evidence is not part of the reason for holding it, then faith itself is both uncorrectable if wrong and dangerous to society. A conclusion that arises from this argument is my first real explanation for my atheism: if it is only valid to believe those things for which there are evidence, and if the evidence for the existence of god(s) is unconvincing, then atheism is the natural stance to adopt.

I had said in my preview of this document that I would include a discussion of how it is possible to live a life that doesn’t include faith at all, and I still intend to write a document on that subject. However, this document is already extremely long, and it would probably be best to break things up a bit. I will therefore address that topic in a future essay. (Update: I have now written that essay.)

The only other significant changes to the site involve updates to the about page to reflect the descriptions I used in my opening blog post.

Getting dialog going: Preview of next document concerning belief and faith

Update: The new document described below is now online.

So far on this blog, there has been minimal dialog or debate. This is not surprising, for several reasons. First, of course, the blog is new, and readership is not particularly huge (although stats have shown 275 views, which is pretty good!). Second, I have not advertised the site widely, relying primarily on word-of-mouth, and many of the folks that have initially taken a look at the site are also on the atheist side of things. Third, and possibly most importantly, the two main documents I have posted so far consist of (a) a technical discussion of an obscure issue and (b) simple definitions of atheism and agnosticism. In short, I have not yet provided an argument for atheism. My next document is going to take a large step in that direction. I am offering a preview here in order to solicit arguments and counterarguments that I can ensure that I address in that post. Continue reading