Browsing articles in "atheism"
Dec 13, 2011
neil

Happy Christmas Richard Dawkins and thanks for all your good work!

So Richard Dawkins is guest editing the Christmas edition of the New Statesman – a smart move on their part which is guaranteed to boost the sales.

Like all fundamentalists Richard Dawkins can be infuriating. His resistance to reason and his refusal to engage with the world of ideas has driven many an atheist mad let alone the Christian. Again like many fundamentalists his rhetoric is often full of vitriol and demonstrates a sometimes scary intolerance for any who disagree with him – no matter how reasonable. But I for one am still glad he’s in the world. Why?

1. Is there anyone who does more to keep religion in the public eye than Dawkins?  The secularist agenda is to marginalise people of faith by keeping God-talk out of the public sphere.  Dawkins functions as a secret agent subverting the secularist agenda by insisting on discussing matters of faith. When others go on and on about X-factor he just can’t stop talking about God! He’s done more for the church, in the public sphere, than any religious figure since the time of CS Lewis.

2. It follows from the first point that Dawkins is responsible, both directly and indirectly, for opening  up many a conversation as matters of God, faith & science continue to be discussed in the media. Just this last week Brian Cox distanced himself from Dawkins views on Radio 5 Live.

3. Dawkins does a great deal to reassure Christians that their faith is reasonable and credible. His refusal to debate Christian apologist William Lane Craig in Oxford a couple of months ago, even at a time that he was promoting his own new book through a show at the Royal Albert Hall, was a massive own goal. His unwillingness to defend his own ideas has been exposed by a number of atheist Philosophers.

4. Dawkins provides some great quotes to highlight the bankruptcy of atheism. His own (albeit qualified) support for infanticide, his admission that he has no idea how life began on the planet, his own recognition that for the atheist there is no good and evil all demonstrate how unliveable atheism is and how dark its conclusion are.

5.Dawkins compels Christians to think and to think deeply about their faith. As we take seriously the call to provide a reasoned defence for what we believe gets us back to our Bible and to good books.

6. Dawkins reminds us of the danger of fundamentalism in all of its forms. He is a warning to us all of how ugly it can be and how by contrast Christians need to think, speak and behave differently.

Francis Schaeffer was right when he said ‘the greatest apologetic of all is love’.

So happy Christmas Richard Dawkins and keep up the good work!

 

Dec 5, 2011
neil

Stop mocking religions and start stealing from them? Why Alain de Botton’s new book is doomed to fail

The thesis of Alain de Botton‘s next book is that religion is good for atheists. It’s sure to create a stir (and sell a few copies) if Religion for Atheists: A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion is all that it is cracked up to be.

There’s even an opportunity to hear a secular sermon from him in advance via the school of life in January of next year.

 

Judging from the introduction to the book on his own website it seems that de Botton thinks you can steal the best bits of a religion without being religious yourself.

The problem with the thesis is that, uniquely for Christianity, it simply cannot work that way. For to steal gospel instructions on how to live without relying on God who gives us life through the gospel is to steal a car without an engine. Quite simply you are going nowhere.

Here’s what I hope de Botton might grasp: the Christian life depends, and depends absolutely, on the Christian gospel . It is the engine of the Christian life because only a deep inner grasp of what the gospel has done for us can enable the response required in the Christian life.

So, for example, Christian community is made possible not because we choose to be nice, or like to forgive, or want to get along but because of a fundamental change of identity that the gospel alone has brought about.Christian community depends, absolutely, on the knowledge that IF Christ has died for me and you, and IF he has reconciled us to God, then he has reconciled us to each other.

The FACT that both I and they have been loved by God in Christ obligates me to love and serve them and gives me. The FACT that I have been loved by God in Christ also gives me a compelling and powerful motivation to boot. The ability to love flows out of the experience of love. The desire to forgive flows out of the experience of forgivenss. That is why the power to live the Christian life flows out of the gospel itself.

The same is true of forgiveness. The apostle Paul says to the Christian ‘forgive because’, but because what? Because, Ephesians 4:32 ‘in Christ Jesus God forgave you.’ I forgive because I have been forgiven.

And this is where de Botton’s thesis breaks down for the atheist does not share that experience and as a result does not share that obligation to live with regard to anyone.  He does not claim to have experienced a forgiveness that compels him to forgive others. Forgiveness for the atheist is a lifestyle choice. He is not being inconsistent if he does or doesn’t forgive his neighbour.  There is the world of difference between the Christian requirement to forgive because we have been forgiven and the atheist who is under no such obligation.

Take away the gospel indicatives (Christ forgave us) and there remain no binding gospel imperatives (therefore forgive one another).

It will be a curious thing to see how de Botton will escape such an obvious and necessary conclusion.

 

Nov 16, 2011
neil

Francis Crick, Fred Hoyle, Richard Dawkins and the origins of life

A while back I posted a short film clip in which Richard Dawkins not only admitted that we have ‘no idea’ how life began on planet earth but went on to suggest that human life may owe its origin to aliens; a theory known as panspermia. Of course, he had no scientific evidence for this, but in the absence of good science why not invoke the ‘aliens did it’ argument!

I knew Dawkins wasn’t the first to propose such a speculation. Sir Fred Hoyle argued along a similar line when he recognised the statistically absurdity of arguing that life simply evolved by chance.

But I don’t think I knew that Francis Crick, who along with James Watson discovered the structure of DNA,had also expressed the same belief.

Crick himself once said;

‘An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.’

Any problems that exist with theories of the evolution of life pale into insignificance when it comes to the problems with explaining the origin of life from a naturalist worldview as this recent article in Scientific American acknowledges.

(HT: thepoachedegg)

The words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1 come to mind:

Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Nov 8, 2011
neil

Why Richard Dawkins stayed away

So Richard Dawkins decided to stay away rather than defend his arguments set out in The God Delusion. Here’s your opportunity to assess whether that was a wise move. William Lane Craig sets out his critique of Dawkins’ book before a panel of Oxford University Atheists who in turn respond. All part of A Reasonable Faith Tour.

Oct 22, 2011
neil

Atheist and Oxford University Philosopher exposes the real reason Dawkins won’t debate William Lane Craig

I attended the lastest leg of the William Lane CraigA Reasonable Faith‘ tour at Birmingham University last night where we enjoyed a good-natured, informed debate between Professor Craig and Professor Millican of Oxford University.

At least the philosophers at Oxford University think William Lane Craig worthy of respect and debate, unlike of course Richard Dawkins.

The Oxford Don and Philosophy lecturer Daniel Came, who caused a stir earlier in the year suggesting Dawkins might well be considered a coward for refusing to defend his views under scrutiny from Dr. Craig, a written a response to Dawkins vitriolic attack on William Lane Craig on the Guardian website a couple of days ago. Came exposes the real reason as to why Richard Dawkins will be avoiding the forthcoming debate in Oxford.

Came concludes ‘the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life.’

Oct 21, 2011
neil

Richard Dawkins doesn’t want you to know he’s debated William Lane Craig before

So Richard Dawkins has already given his excuses as to why he doesn’t want to defend his arguments in the God Delusion in Oxford against William Lane Craig.  In his misleading article in the Guardian he writes;

Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t.’

That’s a remarkable statement, and a totally misleading one, from a man who shared a platform with Lane Craig less than a year ago in a panel debate in Mexico. Has Dawkins forgotten? Or maybe he thinks it was all a delusion?

Mind you AC Grayling also tried the same trick of denying he had ever debated Lane Craig until his ‘error‘ was exposed.

Good on Sam Harris and Christopher Htichens and others for standing up for their beliefs in recent debates with Lane Craig shame on Dawkins for being unwilling to defend his beliefs even on his own doorstep. Maybe Mexico paid better?

 

Oct 10, 2011
neil

There probably is no Richard Dawkins

Brilliant piece by His Grace on Richard Dawkins’ refusal to defend his ideas in debate with William Lane Craig

Sep 30, 2011
neil

Atheism…makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

 

With thanks to deathbybillions

Sep 28, 2011
neil

If God could exist he would exist – why it’s worth getting to grips with the ontological argument

For many atheists the argument goes something like this; unless overwhelming evidence can be presented for the existence of a god the default position of a thinking person should be NOT to believe in gods.

Essentially, we should presume atheism.

However, the Ontological argument for God, first proposed by Anselm in the eleventh century, challenges that assumption.

Anselm argues that we should believe in a perfect being unless such a perfect being is impossible (note not unlikely but impossible).

So how does the argument work?

There are a number of ways of stating the argument. Read Richard Dawkins God Delusion and you will find a superficial response to just one form.

We’ll focus on the one that’s most accessible. I take it from Douglas Groothuis’s new book Christian Apologetics.

The thing to bear in mind as we start out is that there are two types of proof for God arguments.

A posterioi arguments are those which look at evidence for the existence of God. For example the cosmological argument uses the scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning from big bang cosmology to argue that whatever has a beginning must have a cause and that cause is God.

A priori arguments are not seeking to establish the existence of God from any appeal to evidence at all.  They are arguments from reason or logic alone.

Anselm begins his argument with the following statement ‘God cannot be conceived not to exist. That which can be conceived not to exist is not God.’

What does Anselm mean?

He’s NOT saying it’s impossible to think that there is no God. Clearly lots of people are quite capable of that.

What he is saying is that God has unique properties that make him unlike any other kind of being.  Other things might happen to exist but God, by definition, must exist unless his existence is proven to be logically absurd. God is a necessary being meaning if he could exist he would have to exist.

You wouldn’t say that of anything else. Everything else that we think about might exist or might not. Everything else is contingent. Groothuis gives the example of a saxophone.  Someone may have invented the saxophone but it’s quite conceivable to imagine a world in which the saxophone never existed.

God would not be God if he only might exist. God being God is ‘maximally great’ he is a ‘perfect being’ and perfect beings  don’t just happen to exist they necessarily exist.

So Anselm argues;

If God could exist he would exist. It is inconceivable, irrational and illogical to argue that like a saxophone he may or may not exist.

Therefore to argue that he does not exist we must argue that it would have to be because he could not exist.

The only reason for rejecting the notion of a perfect being, the only reason to posit his non-existence is therefore that the concept of a perfect being is in itself flawed. There is no other reason as to why a perfect being would not exist.

So Norman Malcolm in Knowledge and Certainty writes that God’s ‘existence must be logically necessary or logically impossible. The only intelligible way of rejecting Anselm’s claim that God’s existence is necessary is to maintain that the concept of God, as a being greater than which cannot be conceived, is self-contradictory or nonsensical.’

Here is Groothius’ formal structure for the argument:

1. God is defined as a maximally great or Perfect Being

2. The existence of a Perfect Being is either impossible or necessary (since it cannot be contingent).

3. The concept of a Perfect Being is not impossible, since it is neither non-sensical nor self-contradictory

4. Therefore (a) a Perfect Being is necessary

5. Therefore (b) a Perfect Being exists.

Consequences of the argument

Once we accept that the existence of God is possible, that is not inherently nonsensical, we should accept that if possible he is in fact necessary.

So we move from the possibility of God to the presumption of the existence of God.

The onus is therefore on the atheist to demonstrate that God is self-contradictory or nonsensical rather than on the theist to prove that he is there.

Why should we believe in God rather than unicorns?

Groothius writes;

The idea of a unicorn is logically possible, since it is understood to be an animal that does not possess incompatible properties. Unicorns do not exist in our world. Nevertheless, they could exist, that is, they exist in a possible world. But a unicorn is not conceived as a necessary being, a being that must exist given its very nature. God is considered as such. And there is the rub metaphysically. It the concept of God is not im-possible, then God must exist in at least one possible world, and in that possible world God’s existence is necessary. That is, God cannot not exist. So, if God exists as a logically necessary being in one world, he exists in all such worlds.

 

Sep 26, 2011
neil

William Lane Craig Tour – Promotional Video

Very much looking forward to hearing William Lane Craig debating in Birmingham on October 21st.



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