Friday, November 15, 2013
Saturday, November 9, 2013
I've been greatly enjoying Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957, Dutton, New York). For an amateur philosopher, she sure does an admirable job of skewering the sacrificial underpinnings of Christianity. While I'm not exactly getting ready to jump on her libertarian bandwagon (or would it be plunging into the abyss?), she certainly raises some intriguing questions about assumptions that almost all of us take for granted. For example, Rand would argue (and I tend to agree) that there is no such thing as selfless charity. She also has an interesting way of highlighting the negating nature of theism in the speech by her character John Galt:
"[Theists] claim that they perceive a mode of being superior to your existence on earth. The mystics of spirit call it 'another dimension', which consists of denying dimensions. .... To exist is to possess identity. What identity are they able to give to their superior realm? They keep telling you what is not, but never tell you what is. All their identifications consist of negating: God is that which no human mind can know, they say - and proceed to demand that you consider it knowledge - God is non-man, heaven is non-earth, soul is non-body, virtue is non-profit, A is non-A, perception is non-sensory, knowledge is non-reason. Their definitions are not acts of defining, but of wiping out" (Atlas Shrugged, ibid at page 1035).
Posted by The Atheist Missionary at 3:15 PM
Friday, September 13, 2013
Edmonton theologian and author Randal Rauser maintains the blog "The Tentative Apologist" which I commend for anyone interested in the intellectual defence of Christianity. This laurel is not intended to suggest that Christianity is worthy of an intellectual defence - just that Professor Rauser does one of the best jobs I have encountered in attempting to do so.
Professor Rauser has recently begun releasing podcasts and his most recent episode Do pastors know what to do with the Bible? An interview with Pastor Tyler Williams is a must listen. The best part is when they begin discussing the subject of the (supposedly) divine inspiration of scripture. After telling Prof. Rauser that he would "go to the mat" in claiming that scripture is divinely inspired, hilarity ensues as these two learned gentlemen pursue a discussion about what is means to say that the Bible is divinely inspired. I will leave it to the listener to decide but my impression is that they neither has a clue but they know it when they see it.
This led me to issue the following challenge to Prof. Rauser:
First, I ask you to consider the following famous passage:
“I say!” murmured Horton. “I’ve never heard tell of a small speck of dust that is able to yell. So you know what I think?... Why, I think that there must be someone on top of that small speck of dust! Some sort of a creature of very small size, too small to be seen by an elephant’s eyes…
“… some poor little person who’s shaking with fear that he’ll blow in the pool! He has no way to steer! I’ll just have to save him. Because, after all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) - Horton Hears a Who (1954, Random House).
Please explain (without reference to the Bible or your handy dandy "warrant"), what you rely on to conclude that the Bible is divinely inspired and the above passage isn't.
I'll let you know if The Tentative Apologist responds.
* Postscript - Prof. Rauser has responded in the comment thread following the blog post I have linked above. While I am hesitant to paraphrase his response, I understand it to be that he considers the divine inspiration of scripture to be a "properly basic belief". He has also referred to the fact that he holds: "to an appropriation theory as developed and defended in [Nicholas] Wolterstorff's book Divine Discourse". My response is as follows: "Thank-you for clarifying that you subscribe to Wolterstorff's appropriation theory which, as I understand it, makes no bolder claim than to suggest that it is plausible that God speaks through scripture. Heck, even I'll grant you that it's plausible in the same way as it's plausible God spoke through Geisel." I'll blog further on this topic after I make my way through Divine Discourse - my copy has just arrived.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
I'm currently in the middle of Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Moral Values (2010, Free Press, New York). It's a good read and basically trumpets what I consider to be fairly obvious: in order to move from an "is" to an "ought", we need to ground our moral precepts on that which promotes human flourishing. In other words, "maximizing the well-being of conscious creatures ... is .... the only thing we can reasonably value" (p. 11). He then goes on to discuss how the scientific method can assist us in this valuing exercise.
While writing about the fact that our retributive impulses are flawed if human goodness/evil are the product of natural events, Harris makes a great point:
"It seems to me that few concepts have offered greater scope for human cruelty than the idea of an immortal soul that stands independent of all material influences, ranging from genes to economic systems". (p. 110)
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network
Posted by The Atheist Missionary at 9:16 PM
Friday, May 24, 2013
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network
Posted by The Atheist Missionary at 6:10 AM
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I was struck by this photograph taken over the weekend in Oklahoma. It reminded me of what has been described as the “holiness problem of evil”, described by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as: “that God's character seems to be stained by evil because God causally contributes to the existence of everything in the world, and evil is one of those things”. One way around this problem is to deny the existence of evil and, as famously pronounced by Augustine of Hippo in his The Confessions, to simply describe evil as a privation of the good. The difficulty with this approach is that the Judeo-Christian God (as conceived by Christians) is the author of all things and therefore also authored the privation of the good. This approach is consistent with Isaiah 45:7 (KJV): “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”
So, if evil exists (either as a phenomenon unto itself or solely as a privation of the good) and God exists, God is the author of that evil. As to why God creates natural evils, this is where theists usually raise only two arguments: 1. They play the mystery card and, unwittingly or not, embrace skeptical theism; or 2. They insist that natural evils are the unavoidable result (collateral damage, if you will) of sustaining life on earth. However, this evades answering the question as to why their supposedly omnipotent God is unable to create a world where tornados don’t slam into elementary schools.
Posted by The Atheist Missionary at 8:09 AM