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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dawkins, What If You're Wrong?

"One of the things that is wrong with religion is that it teaches us to be satisfied with answers which are not really answers at all." - Richard Dawkins

This is one point on which I actually agree, in part, with Richard Dawkins. I say "in part" because I don't believe this is a problem common to all of religion, but, unfortunately, I do see the tendency in many theists, when they are confronted with  a difficult question, to simply bury their heads in the sand.

To be fair, though, many atheists do this, too. I don't think this is a quality that we derive from religion. I think it is just human nature, regardless of ideology. I've mentioned elsewhere that many who sit and listen to Dawkins are satisfied with answers that are not really answers, but here is another example...

Here's a summary of that exchange:

Audience Member: What if you're wrong?
Dawkins: Oh yeah? What if you're wrong?
Audience: *applause*

I agree wholeheartedly with Dawkins. It is a big problem when we are encouraged to accept answers that are not really answers. This is includes a lot of mainstream Christianity and they're going to have to deal with this problem if they are to maintain some semblance of credibility or validity in an increasingly secular world. Unfortunately, this also includes Dawkins.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dawkins Doesn't Answer Question on Morality

In this video, an audience member asks Dawkins if atheists, who typically reject notions of absolute morality, are taking a leap of faith when they call something good or evil. Dawkins gives an answer and the crowd applauds. However, Dawkins's answer does not address the question at all. Not even a little.

The entire video can be summarized like this:

Audience Member: "Does an atheist's rejection of absolute morality prevent him from intelligibly making moral judgements?"
Dawkins: "I don't agree with religion's morality and would like a new, secular one."
Audience: *Applause*

I have to wonder what this says about the applauding audience. Are they really the product of an Age of Reason, listening intently to understand points and counter-points, thinking critically and assessing presented arguments? Are they really interested in truth and reason? Do they really care about the relationship between atheism and morality? Or are they just there to be fashionably atheist, mindlessly applauding an eloquently incoherent Dawkins?

I also wonder what this says about Dawkins. He is very intelligent, well educated and highly literate. I find it very difficult to believe that he did not understand the question. It is a fairly common issue in the philosophy of religion. He must have known that his answer was wildly irrelevant.

Even more disturbing is this: If he (rightly) thought he could get away with this, how must he view his audience? Does he see us as educated, rational, critical thinkers who would catch on if he dodged a question? Or does he know we're not even really listening? Does he think he can play us? Is he right?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Richard Dawkins Refuses to Debate With William Lane Craig

When I first heard that Dawkins refused to debate with Craig, I wasn't at all surprised. Dawkins has said in the past that we is very reluctant to publicly debate with creationists because it would give credibility to their cause, even if they lost the debate. In addition, Craig has been a pretty obnoxious thorn in Dawkins side for a while, hounding him and publicly trying to lure him into debate. However, his refusal of Craig's most recent invitation has caused such an uproar from Craig's followers and accusations of cowardice that Dawkins release an explanation. Dawkins says that the main reason he refuses to debate with Craig is because he is an apologist for genocide. Response to Dawkins’ article has been varied, from atheists praising his refusal to debate Craig to others criticizing him for his flawed reasoning.

He has such a moral aversion to some of Craig's explanations of the biblical God's edicts that he refuses to share a stage with him. I think this explanation is odd, though, because his absolute rejection of genocide seems to be contrary to his rejection of absolute morality in The God Delusion.

Furthermore, while I do think genocide is indescribably immoral, wouldn't an evolutionary biologist see one group of organisms wiping out another as Survival of the Fittest? Isn't that the basis of evolution? Adapt or die out?

Considering Craig's acceptance, and Dawkins's rejection, of absolute moral values, and Dawkins's background as an evolutionary biologist, I would expect Dawkins to be more accepting of genocide than Craig. Wouldn't Dawkins see it as no more evil than a male lion killing the cubs of a vanquished rival?

And this practice is not unique to the Bible or religion. For much of human history victorious conquerors would kill women and children in order to prevent them from rising up later to avenge the conquered. Wouldn't Dawkins recognize this as a normal behavior during pre-modern warfare?

In addition, I have trouble accepting Dawkins's explanation because the idea of Old Testament warfare is so common to all Christian (and Jewish) faith that Dawkins should refuse to debate any christian (or Jew), which is clearly not the case.

I don't think Dawkins is being honest about his reasons for refusing the debate. Do I think he's afraid? No. He has shown in the past that he can substantiate his views, and I do not believe that Craig is an exceptionally amazing apologist. In addition, other noteworthy atheists have debated with Craig, such as Bart Ehrman, Richard Taylor, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens without taking exceptional issue with Craig's view of the Old Testament God.

However, I don't think it's necessarily true that he's afraid of Craig. There's nothing exceptional about him. It may just be that he finds Craig annoying.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pastor Robert Jeffress and the Mormon Cult

Pastor Jeffress, a senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, recently made some waves by publicly referring to the LDS church as a cult. First of all, Jeffress points out that he distinguishes between a "sociological" cult and a "theological" one, and that the LDS church is a theological cult, not a sociological one. He roughly defines a theological cult as a religion which embraces "unbiblical" principles.

Going into more detail, he says, "Mormonism was invented 1800 years after Jesus Christ and the founding of Christianity, and it has its own founder, Joseph Smith, its own set of doctrines and its own book, the Book of Mormon. And that, by definition, is a theological cult..."

But couldn't this be said of almost any religion? Pastor Jeffress admits that he also labels widely recognized religions, such as Islam and Hinduism, as cults, too, under this definition, but what about his own church?

Protestant churches, by which I mean churches which are not classified as Catholic or Orthodox, were invented 1526 years after Jesus Christ and the founding of Christianity, and they have their own founder, Martin Luther, have their own set of beliefs, first set forth in the 95 theses, and have their own book, The Luther Bible, which he translated and admittedly altered. Is that, by definition, a theological cult?

In addition, a similar argument can be made for Eastern Orthodox Churches. Orthodox Churches were invented 1054 years after Jesus Christ and the founding of Christianity, and they have their own founder, Micheal Cerularius, its own set of beliefs, especially regarding the Trinity, clergy, and the afterlife, and its own book, the Constantinople Patriarchate edition of 1904. Is this, by definition, a theological cult?

It seems like Pastor Jeffress considers all churches but the Roman Catholic Church to be cults, which is strange, since he is not Roman Catholic.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

JFK on Mormons

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