The Sacred and the iPhone

Is that an iPhone she has there?!

Since its release, the iPhone has managed to take charge of most of its users’ lives, and now it seems it will take charge of their souls as well. Once a simple device that granted you access to phone calls, text messages, emails, social networking and twitter, the internet, weather forecasts, news and sports results, music, photos, books and other reading materials such as comics and PDFs, simple yet surprisingly addictive gaming, organisational tools such as calendars, notes, lists, and memos, and a wealth of other apps including of course the vital ability to turn your phone screen into a visual representation of a pint of beer which slowly empties as you “drink” it, now the iPhone has ascended to the sacred status of a divinely-endorsed religious tool. Where once the inbuilt google maps (complete with location indicator and integrated compass) enabled the iPhone user to navigate the temporal world trouble free and with contemptuous ease, now “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” – developed by Little iApps and released last week – will enable its user to navigate the inner-world of your conscience, leading you to your desired destination sin free and with, well, perhaps not with contemptuous ease, but at least the iPhone’s functionality has made the journey slightly easier.

“Confession” provides the user with a “personal examination of conscience” that is tailored to each individual penitent. Continue reading “The Sacred and the iPhone”

Interview: Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers

Eric Reitan’s latest book, Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers was named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2009. Here he tells us how he was motivated to write the book partly in response to the misrepresentations of religious thought he discovered in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, but also by a very personal desire to reconcile his deep intuitions about ultimate reality with open intellectual inquiry.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Is God a Delusion?

Eric Reitan: One day a few years ago, a colleague of mine handed me a photocopied page from a book, without any identifying information, and asked me to evaluate it as I would a student paper. On that page the unknown author attempted to summarize and then critique the first three of Aquinas’ “Five Ways” for proving God’s existence. I say “attempted” because the author got the arguments wrong Continue reading “Interview: Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers”

Interview: In the Name of God – The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence

John Teehan is the author of In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence, and has published and lectured widely on the impact of evolutionary theories on moral philosophy. In this comprehensive interview, John talks in depth about some of the themes in his book: how our moral minds may have been shaped by evolution, and how such a perspective can inform upon our understanding of religious violence.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write ‘In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence’?

John Teehan: I’ve always been deeply interested in the study of morality.  Not simply in terms of what we ought to do, how we ought  to live—although those are essential questions—but also in terms of why do  we have the values we have, how do moral traditions develop. This lead me into a study of moral psychology, and in particular evolutionary psychology. If we want to understand how we got where we are today in terms of morality, then trying to understand the origins of moral behaviour seemed to be Continue reading “Interview: In the Name of God – The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence”

Philosophy and LOST

Now that LOST has officially ended after six seasons, the question being asked is “was this a ‘long con?'”  Those of us who have been there since the beginning and stayed until the end are likely to have mixed feelings following this week’s finale, though the fact that there remain unanswered questions cannot be too much of a surprise.  Lost is well known for its elaborate and suggestive use of Eastern and Western mythologies, and for characters named after philosophers from the obvious (Bentham, Hume Locke, Rousseau) to the cleverly concealed (Bakunin, Burke, Godwin, C. S. Lewis) and the downright obscure (De Groot, Baba Ram Dass).  In addition, many scientific theories – including quantum mechanics, time travel, atomic energy and electromagnetism – all play an central part in the plot of the show alongside more fundamental philosophical questions about truth, identity, memory and morality.

Given the range and complexity of the ideas that make an appearance, and compounded by the temporal dislocation which serves as the show’s leitmotif, it’s no wonder that casual viewers started to feel increasingly ‘lost’ with a show  which finally ran to more than 90 hours. But it is undoubtedly the complexity and openness to interpretation which is woven into the narrative structure of the show that makes it such a flexible forum for exploring philosophical themes in a pop culture context. Continue reading “Philosophy and LOST”

Interview: Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God

We recently caught up with David Holley, author of Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God. David talks about his motivations for writing, and something unusual about his writing style…

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God?

David Holley: The beginnings of the book go back to an experience of listening to a very bright high school senior talk about how he was trying to decide whether to continue believing in God. The young man had grown up in a church environment, but had come to the point where he thought he needed to decide things for himself. The type of reasoning he pursued would be familiar Continue reading “Interview: Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God”

$4.4 Million Grant to Study Free Will

(Cross-posted from Religion Compass Exchanges)

The John Templeton Foundation recently awarded Alfred Mele, the William H. and Lucyle Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University (FSU), a $4.4 million grant to “oversee a four-year project to improve understanding of free will in philosophy, religion and science.” Funding for the project, “Free Will: Human and Divine — Empirical and Philosophical Explorations,” will support international researchers (“who submit proposals to study the science, conceptual underpinnings and theology of free will”), research colloquia and a postdoctoral position at FSU’s department of philosophy over the next three years, a two-week seminar in the summer of 2012, and as much as $30,000 in prize money Continue reading “$4.4 Million Grant to Study Free Will”

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Maryan Czajkowski

Ed Yong (via Pharyngulareports on a cool study conducted by psychologist Nicholas Epley:

Epley asked different groups of volunteers to rate their own beliefs about important issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, the death penalty, the Iraq War, and the legalisation of marijuana. The volunteers also had to speculate about God’s take on these issues, as well as the stances of an “average American”, Bill Gates (a celebrity with relatively unknown beliefs) and George Bush (a celebrity whose positions are well-known).

The result: “In every case, [Epley] found that people’s own attitudes and beliefs matched those they suggested for God more precisely than those they suggested for the other humans.”

Ed says that Epley’s study shows that “relying on a deity to guide one’s decisions and judgments is little more than spiritual sockpuppetry.”  (A sockpuppet is a “false identity through which a member of an Internet community speaks with or about himself or herself, pretending to be a different person, like a ventriloquist manipulating a hand puppet” — Wikipedia.)

I can think of at least one other plausible interpretation of this study.

Continue reading “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Maryan Czajkowski”