What would it take for you to believe?

Would this be sufficient...?

What would it take for you to believe? It’s an interesting question to put to any atheist, and often the answer can come as quite a surprise…to them. Given that you are aware of the arguments for God’s existence and find them to be un-compelling, which of any of the standard religious experiences would manage to make a believer out of you? A voice from the heavens? “I would probably dismiss that as some sort of audible illusion. Probably thunder, or an airplane, that I’m mishearing and falsely interpreting as a voice.” A direct appearance, before your very eyes, of an angel, or even of God Himself? “Likewise, I’d think I was hallucinating. I’d probably ask myself what I’d eaten that day! Or who had spiked my drink!” What if the apparition came back day after day, and you knew there was no extraneous cause? “Then I’d think that I had gone mad.” Really, the answer is that for many atheists there is simply nothing that they could experience that could convert them from their position. And then they are surprised when they meet the exact same attitude in their theistic opponents!

So, considering this, a sentence caught my eye recently in the abstract for an article on ‘Militant Modern Atheism’ that I happened to stumble across; in talking about the contemporary debate between theists and atheists, “The challenge [for the militant modern atheist] is to develop a well-articulated and convincing version of secular humanism.” This is followed by, “Meeting that challenge is, I claim, one of the central problems of philosophy today.” The author is sensibly responding to the deficiencies of the particular variety of ‘militant modern atheism’, and is pointing out that they need to offer a little more, by way of an incentive to the believer that they wish to persuade to their position, than merely Continue reading “What would it take for you to believe?”

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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”

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”

Atheist Delusions

Atheist DelusionHart, David Bentley, Atheist Delusions, Yale University Press, London / New Haven, CT £19.99 Hardback: ISBN 978-0-300-11190-3

Review by Matthew Feldman, University of Northampton

The battle has finally been joined. For Atheist Delusions is the frontal counter-attack that intelligent persons of faith have been long awaiting. Poor arguments against belief are simply swatted away (e.g. “the truth is that religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant”, 13). But the main target of attack is the “New Atheism”, particularly those ‘devoutly undevout’ academics evangelizing what David Bentley Hart calls ‘the Gospel of unbelief’. Hart is certainly not alone in his criticism – even if he goes further than most, to the extent that his hyperventilating apologia for Christian humanism might leave more mild-mannered readers somewhat uncomfortable. A taste of his assault on a group he dubs ‘manifestly moral idiots’ is enough to make one blanch; extending to the ‘extravagantly callow’ Sam Harris (The End of Faith) and the ‘borderline illiterate’ Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code); to the ‘intellectual caricature[s]’ and failure of ‘consecutive logic’ by Christopher Hitchens (God is not Great); let alone Hart’s disdain for the High Priest of Atheism, Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), that ‘tireless tractarian’ with ‘an incapacity for philosophical reasoning’ (236, 3-4). Continue reading “Atheist Delusions”