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10/29/09

Thank God for, Well…God – The Unlikely Case of Gregory Smith and Angela Montez

Rather than ending her day with a bullet sized hole between her eyes Angela Montez gained a friend, a brother and an increased love of, and trust in, God.

Just what was the line a demarcation between prey and prayer?

Armed with a gun, Gregory Smith proceeded to rob Angela Montez, an Indianapolis store clerk.[i]
Hours after said divine intervention helped her convince a would-be thief to give up mid-heist, the alleged robber agreed that God played a major role in his dramatic change of heart.
“It had to be God working through her because she just talked to me like a mother or a grandmother to her child, and she made me feel comfortable…I started telling her stuff I hadn't even told my own mother. I even tried to give her the gun, she wouldn't take it. To everybody who I've affected with this, I just want to say I'm sorry for putting you all through this.”

Angela Montez said Thursday it was divine intervention that led Smith to give up his heist and talk and pray with her for nearly 40 minutes Monday before turning himself in to Indianapolis police hours later.
“I believe the Lord sent us both together…The more we talked, he just broke down….He said, ‘Talk to me. No one will talk to me. I have nobody.’”

At one point, Smith reached for the gun again, which scared Montez into praying for her own forgiveness before what she thought was her death, but Smith took out the only bullet in the gun and gave it to her, Montez said.

“Just take it and talk to me,” Smith said, according to Montez.

The unlikely pair talked for nearly 40 without being interrupted by anyone else entering the store or any phone calls -- a sign, Montez said, that God wanted them to talk.
“I felt a warmness, even though there was a scare…There are so many places around us. No one had come to the door. No one called. I can't believe it was that long, when I was told how long we talked.”

I know, I know; what a fortuitous happenstantial coincidental occurrence that two ignorant and superstitious people would encounter each other and survive the day via their shared delusion.

It is interesting that late in 2008 AD an atheist wrote the following to me:

Imaginary friends in the sky won't stop bullets. A real friend might move you out of the way or prevent you from getting into the situation in the first place, or take the bullet for you on purpose or by accident. That's more than any mythical god has ever done for any human.

I responded thusly:

How do you know that “Imaginary friends in the sky won't stop bullets”? Imaginary friends, perhaps not, but a real relationship with the real God will.
Please read up on Raul Ries who was a very, very violent and angry young man who was waiting in his house, with rifle in hand, for his wife to get home so that he could murder her and then commit suicide. Yet, his rifle “accidentally” hit the power button on the TV where “accidentally” Pastor Chuck Smith was preaching. The rest is history.
Bullets were prevented from flying in the first place.

The story of Gregory Smith and Angela Montez is evidence of this. Yet, some will deny the evidence before them because not all factors can be accounted for, explained, disproved, reproduced in a lab, etc. (as if anything at all can be fully explained, disproved, reproduced in a lab, including the human reason that will deny the evidence).

I wonder what may have happened if…

What if instead of coming across a woman who prayed, demonstrating her reaching out to God, Gregory Smith would have come across William Provine who would state:

There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind.There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That's the end of me.There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.[ii]

No purposive principles exist in nature. Organic evolution has occurred by various combinations of random genetic drift, natural selection, Mendelian heredity, and many other purposeless mechanisms. Humans are complex organic machines that die completely with no survival of soul or psyche…
No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there absolute guiding principles for human society. The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life.[iii]

What if Gregory Smith would have come across Dan Barker who would state:

There is no moral interpreter in the cosmos, nothing cares and nobody cares…what happens to me or a piece of broccoli, it won’t the Sun is going to explode, we’re all gonna be gone. No one’s gonna care.[iv]

Gregory Smith would have come across Richard Dawkins who would state:

nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose. [v]
We are not, then, merely like apes or descended from apes; we are apes.[vi]

In nature, the usual selecting agent is direct, stark and simple. It is the grim reaper.[vii]

One shutters to ponder what if…

This is tantamount to the scenario envisaged by Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher (from his post Are Atheists Evil? Bad Reasoning in Sam Harris – at comments 5.22.2007 12:26pm):

Imagine a situation in which A is in a position to impose his will on B (by raping and murdering her, say) and that A will “get away with it.” (No one cares about B, they are far off in the wild, etc. We may imagine that A will die in a month from cancer.)
In this situation, does A have a reason not to rape and murder B, a reason to not gratify himself? If there is no God, and no surivival [sic] of physical death, what reason could A have? Because it is wrong in the abstract for A to rape and murder? That will strike A as a joke.
“You are going to oppose to my real and furious lust an abstract moral demand that hangs in the air with no way of being enforced??” This is one way to focus the question that people like Harris and Shermer apparaently [sic] don't grasp.

Atheism offers no meaning for yesterday, no comfort for today and no hope for tomorrow.

As Joseph stated to his brother, who had betrayed him,

But as for you, you meant evil against me;
but God meant it for good, in order to bring it
about as it is this day, to save many people alive
—Genesis 50:20

[i] Gleaned from Lee Ferran, Suzan Clarke and Sabrina Parise, “Robbery Suspect Gregory Smith: God Was 'Working Through' Clerk Angela Montez, Who Talked Him Out of Heist,” ABC News, Oct. 23, 2009
[ii] William B. Provine, Origins Research 16 (1): 9, 1994
[iii] William B. Provine, “Scientists, Face It! Science and Religion are Incompatible,” The Scientist, Sept. 5, 1988, p. 10
[iv] During his debate with John Rankin entitled Evolution and Intelligent Design: What are the issues?
[v] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden – A Darwinian View of Life (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1995), p. 96
[vi] Richard Dawkins, Late City Final Edition, Apr. 9, 1989
[vii] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker—Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1986), p. 62
Continue reading Thank God for, Well…God – The Unlikely Case of Gregory Smith and Angela Montez...

10/27/09

Life After Death: The Evidence

Dinesh D'Souza’s most recent book is entitled, Life After Death: The Evidence.

Let us consider a description provided by Human Events – Book Services.



This may be a good addendum to Gary R. Habermas and James Porter Moreland’s book Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality.



Here is the description of Life After Death: The Evidence:

Is death the end? That's the ultimate question that has preoccupied mankind from the beginning of time to the present. And in truth, there is no more important question in life -- it is the one issue that makes every other issue trivial, for death is the great wrecking ball that destroys everything. But does anything lie beyond that great disruption, that terrible dissolution? Bestselling author Dinesh D'Souza answers that question with a resounding "yes." In his new blockbuster, Life After Death: The Evidence, he offers solid proof that death is not the end -- and shows why the rational side of this debate is the side that believes in the afterlife, while those clinging to blind faith are the ones who say that the end of this life is the extinguishing of all human existence.

Surprisingly enough, unlike many books about the afterlife, Life After Death makes no appeal at all to religious faith, divine revelation, or sacred texts. Instead, D'Souza (author of What's So Great About Christianity) makes a powerful and unique case by drawing on some of the most persuasive new theories and trends in physics, evolutionary biology, science, philosophy, and psychology. As he does so, D'Souza shows why the atheist critique of immortality is irrational -- and demonstrates that to believe in life after death is to affirm reason at its most fundamental level.

Life After Death makes three distinct and eye-opening arguments for life after death: one from neuroscience, one from philosophy, and one from morality. Each of these arguments is decisive by itself; collectively, they offer a convincing legal brief for the afterlife. D'Souza does not prove life after death beyond a reasonable doubt, but he meets the civil standard of proving his case by a preponderance of the evidence -- and also shows why it is good for us to believe in life after death even in the absence of complete certainty. Most compellingly of all, D'Souza provides a case study -- the only one in history -- that shows how life after death isn't just a future prospect, but has already happened for a single individual, thereby opening up a stunning new possibility: not just life after death, but eternal life right now.

The assertion that death is not the end is a factual claim, insists D'Souza; it can be reasonably assessed. Life After Death: a solidly argued case for the truth of the afterlife, and a ringing affirmation of how life after death can give depth and significance to this life, a path to happiness, and a reason for hope.



Exploring the afterlife with Dinesh D'Souza:

- How our culture, which prides itself on its open- mindedness and candor, shows an intense antipathy to facing the greatest of all human questions

- Why the common feature of all scientific hypotheses developed in order to explain the origin of life is the avoidance of miracles and supernatural explanations

- The test of a good theory: not only the validity of its reasoning but also whether it helps to explain things that would otherwise remain mysterious

- Science and the scientific method: its little-noted but all-important "blind spot"

- The remarkable implications of the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe

- The prevailing outlook of elites in the Britain and America for the past couple of hundred years -- and how it clouds our understanding of basic and quite obvious truths that support the reality of life after death

- The one way to give a natural explanation of the fine- tuned universe -- an explanation that, not surprisingly, some leading scientists have enthusiastically advanced

- Dualism: why it is gaining new respect and new adherents among philosophers and scientists

- Reincarnation? Why some people hold so tenaciously to this idea -- and why it ultimately must be rejected by reasonable people

- The two most widely held contemporary theories of materialism -- and why each fails to account for crucial and incontrovertible facts

- How atheists who insist that life after death is a religious concept may be surprised to discover that it is also a philosophical idea widely discussed in the fifth century B.C.

- Near death experiences: they don't prove life after death, but they do suggest it is possible

- Near death research: how it has faced derision and even ferocious attack from various quarters -- including, surprisingly, attack and derision from religious believers who might be expected to welcome this empirical support for one of the central premises of their faith

- How the progression of evolution on earth shows an unmistakable trajectory from matter to mind

- Why all evolutionary attempts to explain morality ultimately miss the point, seeking to explain morality but even at their best explaining what is not morality at all

- The odd form of materialism that does not completely rule out the possibility of life after death
How several of the greatest ideas and institutions of Western civilization were shaped by a firmly held vision of transcendence and life after death

- Why even the four-dimensional world of space and time envisioned by Einstein may be part of a larger multidimensional world, several of whose dimensions are hidden from us

- How the existence of moral values that stand athwart our animal nature presupposes the reality of cosmic justice, achieved not in this life but in another life beyond the grave

- How the concepts of eternity and life after death, far from being hostile to life and civilization as the atheists allege, have in fact shaped some our greatest and most beneficial social and political ideals, ideals that are shared by religious and secular people alike

- Four clear benefits provided by belief in the afterlife

- Four concrete facts in the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that have to be accounted for by anyone attempting to deny the resurrection

Continue reading Life After Death: The Evidence...

10/25/09

New Books By WLC – “God is Great, God is Good” and “On Guard”

William Lane Craig will be publishing two new books within about four months.

God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible and On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision

God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible will be published on November 20, 2009 AD and is edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister (I wonder if his friends call him The Chad Meister—making copies!)



Here is the table of contents:
Part One: God Is
1 Richard Dawkins on Arguments for God
William Lane Craig

2 The Image of God and the Failure of Scientific Atheism
J. P. Moreland

3 Evidence of a Morally Perfect God
Paul K. Moser

Part Two: God Is Great
4 God and Physics
John Polkinghorne

5 God and Evolution
Michael J. Behe

6 Evolutionary Explanations of Religion?
Michael J. Murray

Part Three: God Is Good
7 God, Evil and Morality
Chad Meister

8 Is Religion Evil?
Alister McGrath

9 Are Old Testament Laws Evil?
Paul Copan

10 How Could God Create Hell?
Jerry L. Walls

Part Four: Why It Matters
11 Recognizing Divine Revelation
Charles Taliaferro

12 The Messiah You Never Expected
Scot McKnight

13 Tracing Jesus' Resurrection to Its Earliest Eyewitness Accounts
Gary R. Habermas

14 Why Faith in Jesus Matters
Mark Mittelberg

Postscript: My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism
Antony Flew (with Gary Habermas)

Appendix A: The Dawkins Confusion: Naturalism "Ad Absurdum": Review of
Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion
Alvin Plantinga


On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision will be published on March 1, 2010 AD.



Here is the product description from Amazon.com:
Renowned scholar William Lane Craig offers a readable, rich training manual for defending the Christian faith.

This concise guide is filled with illustrations, sidebars, and memorizable steps to help Christians stand their ground and defend their faith with reason and precision. In his engaging style, Dr. Craig offers four arguments for God’s existence, defends the historicity of Jesus’ personal claims and resurrection, addresses the problem of suffering, and shows why religious relativism doesn’t work. Along the way, he shares his story of following God’s call in his own life.

This one-stop, how-to-defend-your-faith manual will equip Christians to advance faith conversations deliberately, applying straightforward, cool-headed arguments. They will discover not just what they believe, but why they believe—and how being on guard with the truth has the power to change lives forever.

From the Back Cover
Do you worry that someone will ask you a question about your faith that you can’t answer?

Have you tried to learn how to defend your faith but gotten lost in confusing language and theology?

Do you struggle with times of spiritual doubt yourself?

This concise training manual by a renowned scholar is filled with illustrations, sidebars, and memorizable steps to help you stand your ground and defend your faith with reason and precision. In his engaging style, Dr. William Lane Craig offers four arguments for God’s existence, defends the historicity of Jesus’ personal claims and resurrection, addresses the problem of suffering, and shows why religious relativism doesn’t work. Along the way, he shares his own story of following God’s call.

This one-stop, how-to-defend-your-faith manual will equip you to advance faith conversations deliberately, applying straightforward, cool-headed arguments. You will discover not just what you believe, but why you believe—and how being on guard with the truth has the power to change lives forever.

Continue reading New Books By WLC – “God is Great, God is Good” and “On Guard”...

10/22/09

Science & Faith: Friends or Foes?

Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? Is the title of a conference which will take place on October 23-24, 2009 AD at the Riley Conference Center on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Nota Bene reports:
Are science and faith at war? Does science undermine or corroborate belief in God? Does faith suppress or inspire scientific research? Explore these questions and more at a two-day conference…

Sessions will explore a Biblical theology of nature; the role of Christianity in the founding of modern science; the impact of Darwinian Evolution on ethics, society, Biblical studies and theology; and the scientific evidence for intelligent design and its implications for theism.

This conference will be of special interest to seminary students, college students, and pastors and other church leaders.

At the end of the conference there will be breakout sessions for students and church leaders on how to incorporate science and faith issues into one's church, ministry, or career.




Featured speakers include:
Dr. William Dembski, author of The Design Revolution, The End of Christianity.

Dr. Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design

Dr. Jay Richards, co-author of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed For Discovery (which was made into a DVD)

Dr. John West, author of Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science

Dr. Ray Bohlin, author of Basic Questions on Genetics, Stem Cell Research and Cloning: Are These Technologies Okay to Use? (Biobasics Series)

Dr. Michael Keas, Professor of the Philosophy of Science at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Continue reading Science & Faith: Friends or Foes?...

10/20/09

Collision - Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson at the Movies

Hard to believe as it may be to believe Bill Maher’s Religulous ( see here, here and here) may not be the end all with regards to atheist / Christian polemics.

Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson are the stars on a new documentary entitled Collision.


The movie’s website is found here.

Here is a trailer:


John Piper interviews Doug Wilson:


A October 30, 2008 AD debate between Hitchens and Wilson at Westminster Theological Seminary (East) is found here.


Continue reading Collision - Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson at the Movies...

10/19/09

Athanatos Opens Its Gates – Atheism and Christian Apologetics

Nice guy extraordinaire and more than capable apologist Anthony Horvath is once again opening the gates of the online apologetics courses he offers at Athanatos.

He has been kind enough to include me as an instructor this time around.

The course descriptions and other info is found here.

Some courses are free and the others cost less than most people spend on coffee any given week:



I will be teaching Studies in Atheism
4 weeks. Begins Nov 4th.
Before there were the 'New Atheists' there were the old ones. This investigation into the atheism of Dawkins, Harris, etc, looks into the foundations of modern day atheism and its pervasive hostility to theism and Christianity. This course ends before Christmas. (Just in case the FFRF had any ideas...)


I will also teach Jesus According to...
3 Weeks. Begins Nov 30th.
How do different cultures, cults, and world religions view Jesus? How are these similar and different to the Christian view, which is rooted in the New Testament? Why does it matter?


Other courses are as follows:
Joe Keysor, Hitler and Christianity:
3 weeks. Begins Nov 23.
A free, three week course exploring the charge that Christianity is to blame for the Nazis and the Holocaust. This course is taught by Joe Keysor, the author of Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Bible. This book is strongly recommended if you are taking the course but not absolutely required.

I reviewed Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Bible here.

Josh Davis, Christ Promised in the Old Testament:
2 Weeks. Begins Nov 16th. Strongly Suggested Materials: The Bible.
Could you demonstrate that Jesus was the Christ from the Old Testament alone as the apostles did? (Acts 17:11, 18:28, 1 Cor 15:3). This survey of major OT evidences for Jesus as the Christ will help you see how Christianity and Judaism were related why Jews found it compelling at the time. This is an introduction that will help in personal growth and evangelism efforts.




Anthony Horvath, Reliability of the New Testament Documents:
2 Weeks. Begins Nov 2nd. Strongly Suggested Materials: The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable by F.F. Bruce.
This class surveys the development of the New Testament documents and the formation of the canon in a basic, introductory fashion.


Anthony Horvath and Terry Hollifield, Study in Alleged Bible Contradictions:
2 Weeks. Begins Nov 30th. Strongly Suggested Materials: The Bible.
Principles for resolving alleged contradictions in the Bible are introduced and applied to a small set of famous 'contradictions.'


Anthony Horvath, The Death of Christianity:
3 weeks. Begins Nov 9th. FREE. Suggested Materials: Internet readings, guided tour.
Christianity is demonstrably on the decline in America. This course documents that decline, probes the causes, and suggests solutions. Based on the content found at http://www.deathofchristianity.com/, this course is centered heavily on discussion between the participants.




Glenn Jones, Basic New Testament Greek Part 1
3 weeks. Begins Nov 2nd. Strongly Suggested (but not required) Materials: Basic Greek In 30 Minutes a Day by Jim Found.
Learn the Greek alphabet, how to sound out Greek words, how to identify nouns, verbs, definite articles, and how to use such information to use resources like a Bible interlinear or lexicon.


Glenn Jones, Basic New Testament Greek Part 2
3 weeks. Begins Nov 30th. Strongly Suggested (but not required) Materials: Basic Greek In 30 Minutes a Day by Jim Found.
Building on Part 1, the student will learn more vocabulary as well as parts of speech such as the definite article, etc.


Terry Hollifield, Origins: A Survey:
4 Weeks. Begins Nov 2nd.
Is evolutionary theory true? What does the Bible say? What does the science say? Is there scientific evidence for a young earth creation? Or is it just something the Bible says? In this survey of the issues, the participant will explore the critical issues involved in the Creation-Evolution-Intelligent Design Debate so they can make their own, informed, decisions. This course lays important groundwork for future study.

Continue reading Athanatos Opens Its Gates – Atheism and Christian Apologetics...

Richard Dawkins’ Positive Atheism

With regards to the polemics upon which I engage at Atheism is Dead I must state that there is nothing more refreshing than when an atheists gets tired of defining atheism as a “lack of belief in god(s)” and just comes right out and affirms their positive affirmation of God’s non-existence (the fact that when challenged they scurry back into the lack of fold notwithstanding).

I believe that the last time I reported on such a moment of clarity (or is it murkiness?) it was Dan Barker stating:
There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world [see here].

Now Richard Dawkins’ level of atheism has gone from 99% “assertion that there is no god” to 100%.

You may recall, for example, the Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed fracas between Richard Dawkins and Ben Stein:
Ben Stein: “So you’re a science guy. Can you quantify your assertion that there is no god? I mean, how sure are you?”


Richard Dawkins: “I really don’t feel comfortable putting a number on it.”


Ben Stein: “Ninety-nine percent?”


Richard Dawkins: “Yes, I guess 99 percent.”


Ben Stein: “Why not 97?”


Richard Dawkins: “I suppose it could be 97. I’m not really—”


Ben Stein: “Well, if it could be 99 or 97.”


Richard Dawkins: “You said that. I don’t think it can be—”


Ben Stein: “—then why not 46 percent? 50 percent?”


Richard Dawkins: “I’m sure it’s more than 50 percent improbable.”


Ben Stein: “Well how do you know?”


Richard Dawkins: “I don’t know, I said that, I —”

I suppose that the lesson is that if you do not feel comfortable putting a number on it then do not put a number on it.

Well, now Richard Dawkins has gone from not being comfortable to simply positively affirming God’s non-existence as he stated:
God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.

Oh wait, I just realized, I remember, I recall that Richard Dawkins is a linguistic opportunist who states whatever is convenient at the time.

For example, in a Newsweek interview he states “there are many intelligent evolutionary scientists who also believe in God—to name only Francis Collins as an outstanding example.” Yet, when throwing red meat at Bill Maher and his audience he stated that Francis Collins is “not a bright guy!”

Thus, if he is challenged he will scurry back into the lack of fold and then it will be us liars for Jesus who will be besmirched for merely reiterating that which he, himself has stated.

How silly we are for taking him seriously, at his word.

Continue reading Richard Dawkins’ Positive Atheism...

10/17/09

Sceptics's Guide to Atheism

Hereinafter is an interview with philosopher, apologetics researcher, lecturer and author Peter S. Williams—author of Sceptics's Guide to Atheism: God is Not Dead (and other titles)—by the Evangelical Philosophical Society.[i]

An audio interview with Peter about his new book can be downloaded by clicking here.

What is unique about your book compared to other critical treatments on the “new atheists”?
The new atheism is characterised by the propositions that belief in God is false and evil. The new atheists believe that at the core of even the most outwardly benign theism is an immoral commitment to flouting one’s intellectual responsibilities. That means that the new atheism presupposes both an account of rationality and an account of morality. What’s unique about my book is that I examine those accounts and turn the results of this analysis against the new atheism. By systematically reviewing their major arguments, I show how the new atheism is grounded in incoherent accounts of knowledge and morality.

It’s not just that the new atheists are wrong to define ‘faith’ as ‘belief without evidence’ or ‘belief against the evidence’. It’s that their positive account of what it means to live up to one’s intellectual responsibilities is self-contradictory. I counter with an epistemology that isn’t self-contradictory, which frowns upon both ‘blind faith’ and belief despite overwhelming counter evidence, but which opens up the possibility of a faith in God that’s compatible with living up to one’s genuine intellectual responsibilities.

Then again, the new atheists put a lot of emphasis on arguments against belief in God, as opposed to arguments against the existence of God, and these arguments all have a moral dimension. For example, the argument that faith means being committed to ignoring one’s intellectual responsibilities presupposes that we have an objective moral responsibility to reason in a certain way. However, for the new atheists to invoke objective moral responsibilities is self-contradictory, since the naturalistic worldview of the new atheism excludes the reality of any objective moral values. For example, Dawkins says both that there are no normative facts, no good, no evil, and that faith is an evil that leads people to do evil things. These claims form an in consistent set.
Of all the different new atheist voices that are out there, who do you find to be the most compelling in their case against the existence of God?
Dawkins makes the most compelling case against the truth of belief in God; but that’s partly because, despite being such a poor logician, he is a good rhetoritician, and partly because the other new atheists are even worse on this issue! The God Delusion was the first new atheist book I read, and I thought at the time that it was a low point for atheistic apologetics. Dawkins clearly doesn’t even understand the theistic arguments he critiques, and his book is consequently full of embarrassing errors. When it comes to his ‘central’ argument against theism, it turns out to be an exercise begging the question. Dawkins’ engagement with natural theology is a litany of formal and informal logical fallacies; but he’s a zoologist and not a philosopher. I expected more from new atheists who are philosophers, and I was disappointed to discover that Dawkins is actually the high water mark for new atheist engagement with the question of God’s existence!

The new atheists spend very little time arguing against the existence of God, or trying to counter the arguments for God’s existence. Dawkins’ is the most sustained effort on offer. Dennett’s Breaking the Spell is crucially predicated upon the non-existence of God, but he only spends eleven paragraphs (from pages 240-245) on this issue! Like his compatriots, Dennett skims over straw-man presentations of a small sub-set of theistic arguments which he dismisses using long discredited counter-arguments.

Anyone who didn’t know better and was inclined to trust what the new atheist’s say would come away from their books with the false impression that the cosmological argument depends upon the premise that ‘everything has a cause’ (thus leading to the question ‘Who made God?’), and that the moral argument claims that people can’t discern or behave in accordance with the good unless they believe in God (or in the Bible as the inspired word of God). As far as I’m concerned, that’s an academic scandal.
What are some of the sociological, cultural-historical or philosophical factors that have empowered the new atheism to emerge now compared to, say, fifty years ago?
I think the explanation is multi-factorial. The terrorist attacks of September 2001 clearly put the issue of religiously motivated violence smack in the centre of Western public consciousness; but I don’t think we can simply point the finger at the actions of a certain type of Muslim and say that the new atheism is a secular reaction to their actions. For one thing, Christians shouldn’t let themselves off the hook here. Many atheists have legitimate cause to feel themselves an oppressed minority. In 2006 researchers at the University of Minnesota identified atheists as America’s most distrusted minority, and the American Sociological Review reported that it is generally thought socially acceptable in America to say that you are intolerant of atheists. I think that the Church must ask itself if it is ‘speaking the truth’ to atheists ‘in love’, or in fear and hate? Perhaps we’ve had a hand in creating a stick with which to beat out own backs.

Another factor is the way in which the new atheism offers an apparently meaningful and purposeful existence to its converts. Materialism is the metaphysics of nihilism par excellence (cf. my book I Wish I Could Believe in Meaning: A Response to Nihilism) but the new atheism dresses itself up in fake robes of meaning and purpose, like the fairy-tale about the Emperor’s New Clothes. The fake meaning comes in the guise of moral outrage at the (generalised) behaviour of theists. The fake purpose comes in the form of an intellectual-cum-socio-political crusade against theistic belief and for a metaphysically naturalistic worldview. The ‘new atheism’ thus offers an apparently valuable meaning and purpose to people’s lives, a daring intellectual identity and a community of like-minded fellow-pilgrims. And the Emperor’s new tailor appeared to offer him the finest new robes…
Where do you think the discussion is going between new atheists and theists in the years to come?
I suspect that the new atheism has already had its cultural hay-day. It has now lost something of that ‘lure of the new’ to which our media-saturated culture is so in thralled, and it seems unlikely that Dawkins et al can sustain their movement’s momentum even if they manage to write a new set of books to keep their ideas in the public eye.

Nevertheless, significant numbers of people have been profoundly influenced by the new atheism. If there’s one thing to be said for the new atheism it is that antipathy towards Christianity is better than apathy; and the new atheism means Christians will meet more antipathy, albeit an intellectually under-resourced antipathy. Christians must ‘speak the truth in love’ to those influenced by the new atheism, engaging them with the real reasons for the hope that we have (rather than the straw-men boldly eviscerated by Dawkins et al), but also engaging with them on a personal level as friends whom Christ loves. If the new atheism can lead to more disagreements that are not disagreeable, then it may be a blessing in disguise!



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For a taste of Peter William’s philosophic stylings I recommend reading his, Sorting the Chaff from the Wheat – A Review of Julian Baggini's Atheism: A Very Short Introduction

[i] Blog for the Evangelical Philosophical Society and its journal, Philosophia Christi, “Interview with Peter S. Williams: Sceptics's Guide to New Atheism,” © 2009 Evangelical Philosophical Society. All Rights Reserved, March 23, 2009

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10/15/09

Does God Command You to Beat Your Slaves?

On occasion I have written about the issue of slavery/servitude in the Bible. Note that by merely writing and thinking in terms of “slavery/servitude” you have just dissolved just about every atheist besmirching, via appeals to slavery, of the Bible (this is even though the atheist cannot even condemn slavery beyond informing you that they have personally decided to condemn it—which is a tautology, by the way).

I wished to focus upon one text which is ubiquitously employed a well-within-the-box-atheist-group-think-talking-point; namely, Exodus 21:20-21.

I will begin by providing examples of the manner in which the talking point has been expressed. I will cite some of the following quotes if they were published in an article/post but not if they were written in the form of comments to an article/post:

Q: Is it OK to beat your slave?A: Yes, as long as the slave does not die from the beating withing [sic] the first day, you are considered innocent.[1]

Slowly beating your slaves to deathIt's okay with God if you slowly beat your slaves to death. After all, they are your money. Just make sure that they survive at least a day or two after the beating…
It's okay to beat your slaves; even if they die you won't be punished, just as long as they survive a day or two after the beating (see verses 21:20-21). But avoid excessive damage to their eyes or teeth. Otherwise you may have to set them free.[2]

Go ahead, Beat your slave with a rod.

beat your slave as long as he or she can get up after a day or 2.

you can beat your slave without mercy, just dont [sic] kill him.

you can beat your slave all you want, but don't kill him! you'll get in trouble.

it's okay to beat…beat your slave to death [ellipses in original].

I do not see how that says anything other than "it's OK to beat your slave so long as you don't kill or seriously injure the slave".

To be unwarrantedly fair, the "if your slave dies, it is a problem," verse does indicate that if your slave actually gets up after a couple of days then it is okay; which is to say, it is perfectly alright to beat your slave almost to death.

no explicit condemnation other than not to beat your slave TO DEATH.

you can beat your slave so hard he dies 3 days later.

Beat your slave, just make sure he doesnt [sic] die!

One such law is that you're allowed to beat your slave all you want, as long as you don't kill them

you are allowed to beat your slave as much as you like as long as you don't knock out his eyes or his teeth.

What does the Bible say about beating slaves? It says you can beat both male and female slaves with a rod so hard that as long as they don't die right away you are cleared of any wrong doing.[3]

Exod. 21:21 allows a slave owner to beat a slave to death, as long as it is an unintentional result of the severe beating.[4]

You can beat your slave with a rod and its all good if the slave can get up AFTER A DAY OR TWO! The beating is so bad the slave needs a day or two to recover, amazing![5]

it is legit to beat your slave as much as you want to.

God condoned, instituted and regulated salvery [sic], including giving detailed instruction how to beat your slave if you beat your slave and he dies right away then that is wrong, but if he dies slowly a few days later, than all is peachy.

It is okay to beat your slave as long as the slave does not die as the master owns the slave.

You could beat your slave, almost to the point of death.

Beating one's slave to death (legal, as long as death lingers and is not immediate.[6]

If I am to understand correctly; the message is that it is perfectly acceptable according to the Bible and its God to beat one’s slave. I actually encountered so many permutations of this atheist talking point that I had to stop at some point but atheist literature, websites, blogs and comment sections are saturated with likewise sentiments.

The message of Exodus 21:20-21 seems pretty clear: God commands those who follow Him to beat their slaves; this was recorded in the Bible and has been promulgated for millennia. Let us consider the text, the actual quote, the statement, made in Exodus 21:20-21
And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.

Incidentally, note that “for he is his property” is actually a dynamic translation/interpretation of one single word: keceph which means money, silver, shekel—a monetary amount.

Now, the claim is that the Bible states that God considers it okay to beat your slaves…let us stop here for now: where does it state any such thing? It states no such thing whatsoever. What it states is “if a man beats…” Now, this is a big IF which spells the difference between the atheist assertion and what the text actually states. The texts is referencing what the litigious result are to be if this happens and there is absolutely no indication in the entire Bible that any such beating is being commanded or allowed. But perhaps this “if” is a merely fluke, an accident of grammar, an inference from the context, etc.

Not so. This is because the entire context of the entire chapter is the laying out of hypothetical scenarios and their litigious consequences. The chapter is premised by the phrase, “Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them” and proceeds in an “if this then that” manner: if someone does this the consequence is that. Stating that “if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod…” is an approbation is tantamount to claiming that if the law of the USA states, “If one person beats another but does not kill them, then…” it would mean that the law of the USA commands people to beat one another just short of death.

As I stated, it is not so that the “if” in an incidental since the entire chapter is likewise understood; here is a sample:
If you buy a Hebrew servant…If he comes alone…If his master gives him a wife…if the servant declares…If a man sells his daughter as a servant…If he selects her for his son…If he marries another woman…If he does not provide her with…if he does not do it intentionally…if a man schemes and kills…If men quarrel…if the other gets up and walks…If a man beats his male or female slave…if the slave gets up…If men who are fighting…if there is serious injury…If a man hits a manservant or maidservant…if he knocks out the tooth…If a bull gores…If, however, the bull has…if payment is demanded…if the bull gores…If the bull gores…If a man uncovers a pit…If a man's bull injures…if it was known…

And to reiterate, note the qualifiers, “If…If…If…if…If…If…If…If…if…if…If…if…If…if…If…if…If…if…If…If…if…if…If…If…If…if…”

Atheists seem to read this as “Since you are commanded by God to beat your slave…” but it is merely speculating about what “If” someone does such a thing. Yet, overall the atheist may think that it is okay because there is not punishment in the second scenario. Firstly, let us note that despite the atheist revision of servant as mere property if the servant was murdered the owner was punished. That the servant could have been considered to have been murdered speaks of their status—otherwise if a servant was killed it would be merely deemed too bad and not even so sad.

I must state that it seems that atheists find such detailed consideration, as those already considered and those which are to follow, simply too much with which to deal as they prefer the emotive nature of their one liners. I find that when I really attempt to understand and explain a text the atheist shouts “Rationalization!” Atheists cannot seem to decide if believers take the Bible too literally or not literally enough—I suppose they just grab whichever club is closest to them at the time when they want to beat upon the Bible and believers.

To reiterate; what we are dealing with is the laying out of a carefully regulated litigious system which carries along with it concepts of eyewitnesses, the case being brought before judges and all with which such a system comes.

Note that vv. 12-14 states
He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee. But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

Note that what is being distinguished is what we would call degrees of murder and which we generally define in terms of: first degree—intentional, deliberate and premeditated. Second degree—occurring during the carrying out of a crime such as during a robbery “gone bad.” Third degree—another degree denoting unintentionality.
Thus, in these verses we see the overarching law is that the consequence for murder is capital punishment yet, there are distinctions and considerations such as self-defense (as when the person is delivered into my hands and I then flee to escape retribution from their family, etc.) and premeditated murder.

Now consider vv. 18-19,
If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed, if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.

Note that the point is that they were fighting and did not intend premeditated murder. In such a case, one person was hurt enough to require recovery and was compensated for his time.

Is it any accident that it is the very next verses with which we have been dealing? Consider the context thus far and let us read the verses in question again—vv. 20-21
And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.

Thus, we see that we are dealing with someone who for some reason took it upon themselves to beat their servant—if some does this—it does not seem to be considered murder in the first degree yet, there is a punishment (to be determined by the judges and or referring back to the initial law regarding capital punishment).
As for the second case, note that we previously saw that a person was to have a pain and suffering type of recompense for loss of time which equals loss of earnings. In this case, the loss of earnings is the master’s and so there is no one to recompense. Moreover, note that since the servant remains alive a day or two the legal conclusion may have been that the master did not intend of murdering them and did not kill them unintentionally as in the first case (technically: “murder” is illegal and immoral—such as premeditation, while "killing" is legal and moral—such as in self-defense).

Note also that such was the view of servants in Israel that, vv. 26-27
If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.

If the master damaged their servant they were to release them.

How is it okay to beat them just short of death but not damage their bodies? Because the atheist is misunderstanding the various scenarios and considerations of intent and outcome which this legal system is considering.

Note also that the servants were to rest on the Sabbath just like any Israelite (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14). Note that if a servant had occasion to “escaped from his master” and came to you they were to “dwell with you in your midst, in the place which he chooses within one of your gates, where it seems best to him; you shall not oppress him” (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).

Perhaps most importantly is that all laws regarding slavery/servitude were premised on the variously mentioned reminder
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you (Deuteronomy 15:15).

In fact, it is a Jewish tradition that every generation of Jews consider themselves as having been personally freed from slavery in Egypt.

It is simply historically, culturally, grammatically and scholastically fallacious to correlated that “slavery” that is so carefully regulated by the Bible in its various forms and the “slavery” of the USA, the Africans who sold slaves to the USA or even other cultures of the ancient Middle East or elsewhere. It is emotive, it is easy to confused the issues and attempt to make points against the Bible but it is erroneous nonetheless.

[1] Lerato777, “The bible says it's okay to have a slave...,” Topix, May 8, 2009
[2] Skeptics Annotated Bible
[3] Evilbible.com, Slavery in the Bible
[4] Fayetteville Freethinkers, What objective moral values?
[5] Shahid Pages, Bible: Beat your slaves and kids!
[6] Cliff Walker, “One Can Be Ethical And Moral Without God,” Positive Atheism, ©1995-2006


Continue reading Does God Command You to Beat Your Slaves?...

10/13/09

The End Of Christianity

Mathematician and philosopher William A. Dembski is publishing a new book entitled, The End Of Christianity: Finding A Good God In An Evil World due to be released on November 1, 2009 AD.



The following information is from Amazon’s product description:
Theodicy attempts to resolve how a good God and evil world can coexist. The neo-atheist view in this debate has dominated recent bestseller lists through books like The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins), God Is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens), and The End of Faith (Samuel Harris). And their popularity illuminates a changing mental environment wherein people are asking harder questions about divine goodness. Surprisingly, these books please intelligent design champion William Dembski, because “They would be unnecessary if Christianity were not again a live issue.”

Entering the conversation, Dembski’s provocative The End of Christianity embraces the challenge to formulate a theodicy that is both faithful to Christian orthodoxy and credible to the new mental environment. He writes to make peace with three claims:

(1) God by wisdom created the world out of nothing.

(2) God exercises particular providence in the world.

(3) All evil in the world ultimately traces back to human sin.

In the process, Dembski brings the reader to a fresh understanding of what “the end (result) of Christianity” really means: the radical realignment of our thinking so that we see God’s goodness in creation despite the distorting effects of sin in our hearts and evil in the world.




Endorsements:
"The End of Christianity towers over the others in profundity and quality . . . I have read very few books with its deep of insight, breadth of scholarly interaction, and significance. From now on, no one who is working on a Christian treatment of the problem of evil can afford to neglect this book."

—J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University and author of The God Question

A thought-provoking and well-worth reading book by a brilliant evangelical thinker on the perennial and puzzling problem of how to explain physical evil in the world before the Fall. I could not put it down. It has so much intellectually stimulating material in it.

Norman Geisler

"Believers have badly needed the kind of compelling case for biblical theodicy provided in Dr. Dembski's new book-grounded, as it is, not in traditional philosophical arguments (often not merely obtuse but irrelevant in today's scientific climate), but in intelligent design, of which Dr. Dembski is the world's foremost academic proponent."

John Warwick Montgomery

"William Dembski is a first-rate scholar who has focused his attention on the perennial challenge to Christianity: Why does God allow such evil and cruelty in the world? While staying well within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy, Dembski offers fresh insights that can truly be described as groundbreaking. Whether you end up embracing his solution or not, The End of Christianity is a book all Christians-and even non-Christians-need to wrestle with. We enthusiastically recommend it."

—Josh and Sean McDowell, co-authors of Evidence for the Resurrection and More Than A Carpenter

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10/9/09

Atheist Revisionist History and Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Visitor Center

The positive affirmation of God’s non-existence atheist Dan Barker and the Freedom From Religion Foundation are getting an early start this year. Generally it seems as if they wait until closer to year’s end to figure out their budget for the following year, determine how many lawsuits they will have to file in order to play the underdog martyr and collect donations all year long as per Dan Barker’s school of job security.

But they are already hard at work going after Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Visitor Center.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a foundation that was founded in the USA; a country premised upon the freedom of religious expression.
They employ the freedoms afforded to them by the fact that the USA was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles in order to seek to rid the USA of Judeo-Christian influence.
At least, they seek to rid the USA of Judeo-Christian influence in a political form, the form which founded it and afforded them these freedoms.
According t the Declaration of Independence, which declared the USA’s independence, humanity’s “Creator” gave these rights and the government secures them.
They seek to re-write the history of the USA as having been established upon anything but Judeo-Christian principles: humanism, deism, what have you—anything but.
Moreover, they seek to mold the current political culture, or culture in general, as one in which religious expression will equate keeping God safely locked safely away behind closed church doors.



Dan Barker’s the Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing, in FFRF v. Ayers, to have our National Motto, “'In God We Trust,” and the Pledge of Allegiance, which states that the USA is “'one nation under God” removed from the Capitol Visitor Center. The ACLJ is gearing up to reiterate again (redundancy intended) that various courts have iterated and reiterated that the Pledge of Allegiance and National Motto are constitutional. Yet, since according to some views what is important, what is potent, is not the Constitution but the ex cathedral imprimatur of the infallible interpreter which can be place into the courts lawsuits will keep coming in until one day—voila—they are no longer constitutional.


In any regard, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is certainly picky and better step up their game. Why bother suing a Visitor Center when in public schools, yes tax payer funded public schools from which we removed prayer and move in metal detectors, little unsuspecting and undiscerning children are being indoctrinated into theism by being taught the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence and various speeches made by the USA’s great president, all of which dared to contradict the likes of Dan Barker’s Freedom From Religion Foundation and mention the “G” word.


What about Thomas Jefferson who, deist or not, attended Christian worship services in a church which met in the Capitol Building?
IMPEACH!

What about the Mayflower Compact?
We…having undertaken a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these present, solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.
BANNED!

What about the Declaration of Independence?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…
to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitled them….for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.
CENSORED!

What about George Washington’s Speech to Delaware Chiefs, May 12, 1779?
You do well to wish to learn our arts and way of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.
LAWSUIT!

What about George Washington’s circular letter to the Governors of the States on disbanding the army, Headquarters, Newburgh, June 8, 1783?
I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection…that he would be most graciously pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristic of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.
SHRED IT!

What about George Washington’s Dec. 23, 1783 Address to Congress?
I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest county to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.
UNMENTIONABLE!

What about Thomas Jefferson’s: An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, passed in the Assembly of Virginia in the beginning of the year 1786?
Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do.
DEIST! DEIST!

What about Abraham Lincoln’s: Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg, Nov. 19, 1863?
we here highly resolve that these dead [due to the Civil War] shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
MERE POLITICAL MACHINATIONS!

What about Samuel Adams’ statement, “Revelation assures us that righteousness exalteth a nation.”[1]
WRONG!

Many oaths of office as well as the oath of citizenship state
I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
INDOCTRINATION!

And these are mere samples.

Perhaps someday a Neo-Declaration of Independence will be written and include these words:
We hold these relative preferences to be self-evident, that all non-gender specific personages evolve equally, that they are endowed by random chance with certain unalienable rights, that among these are abortion, liberalism and the pursuit of hedonism. That to invent these rights, governments are instituted among aforementioned personages.

[1] Norman Cousins, “In God We Trust” The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1958), p. 344

Continue reading Atheist Revisionist History and Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Visitor Center...

10/1/09

Daniel Dennett - Belief in Belief

On belief in unbelief
and unbelief in belief


In his book Breaking the Spell – Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Daniel Dennett promulgates belief of “belief in belief’ in which he believes—believe me.

The basic concept behind “belief in belief’ is that beyond, for example, “belief in God” there is “belief in belief’ which is a position which considers “religious” beliefs to be essential for a healthy society and so attempts to protect such beliefs from philosophic, logical, scientific or criticisms of any sort.

Basically, the point is that what is believed is no longer as relevant as that someone would believe in something, anything, that equates to some form of transcendence. As long as you believe in something which purports to offer guidance and solace—that is good enough. Yet, belief in belief is not good enough for Daniel Dennett who, for example:
rules out deism, the view that God acts through natural laws, and incidentally Charles Darwin's credo for much of his later life.
“If what you hold sacred is not any kind of Person you could pray to, or consider to be an appropriate recipient of gratitude (or anger, when a loved one is senselessly killed), you're an atheist in my book,” writes Dennett.
“If, for reasons of loyalty to tradition, diplomacy, or self-protective camouflage (very important today, especially for politicians), you want to deny what you are, that's your business, but don't kid yourself.”[1]

On this much I can agree, as did the ex-atheist C. S. Lewis decades prior as he referred to Life-Force philosophy, Creative Evolution, or Emergent Evolution:

One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences.
When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest.
If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children.
The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you.
All the thrills of religion and none of the cost.
Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?[2]

Based on his concept of belief in belief one would have to conclude that Daniel Dennett seems unaware of religious polemics—by religious and unreligious people—throughout the millennia, or the Bible’s praise of honest skepticism (Acts 17:11 for example).

In any regard, Daniel Dennett has become one of the leading voices (as one of the discredited quadripartite New Atheists) of a movement of atheists who hold to belief in unbelief and unbelief in belief.

It would certainly be as fallacious as Dennett’s claim to lack of polemics in religious matter to assert that atheists, even the most militant activist sorts, do not accept and engage upon polemics regarding atheism. Yet, their belief in unbelief and unbelief in belief comes through in their shock at the fact that they have to bother responding, that they actually have to bother defending a conclusion as obvious as atheism.

This is part of the reason that their talks and books are so heavy on emotion and so light on well, anything else. They are quick to condemn, quick to assert arguments from personal preference, arguments from outrage, arguments to ridicule, arguments to embarrassment, etc. Yet, slow to provide premises that go beyond that which they personally prefer in general and slow to go anywhere beyond well-within-the-box-atheist-group-think-talking-points.

Consider mere examples from Sam Harris:
Sam Harris writes that “atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society,” they find religious claims “to be ridiculous.” Religious people possess “encyclopedic ignorance.”[3] He looks forward to the day when raising one’s children according to ones religious faith will “be broadly recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is.”[4] He makes reference to “scary religious imbeciles”[5] and no, this was not in reference to extremist terrorists, for example, but to Intelligent Design theorists.
His ultimate goal is expressed in his looking forward to a time when “making religious certitude look stupid will be exploited, and we’ll start laughing at people who believe…We’ll laugh at them in a way that will be synonymous with excluding them from our halls of power.”[6]
And then he wonders why people are concerned that he wrote, “some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them”[7]—capital punishment for thought crime.
Such sentiments could be multiplied ad infinitum - ad nauseam.

Belief in unbelief is often expressed in terms of considering atheism to be the default position. However, it is not. Rather, supernaturalism is the default position. Until such time as absolute materialism can and does account for all natural phenomena—from consciousness, to life in general, not to mention the whole universe and everything in it—supernaturalism can account for these phenomena (at the philosophic level of what, and perhaps why but not the scientific level of how—a level which is not at all advantageous to materialism). This is because, let us say partly scientifically and partly philosophically, materialism cannot account for said phenomena while supernaturalism can (hint of how this is so are found in the parsed essay On the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorns, et al.).

Belief in unbelief, when it is considered the default position, is held to via “faith”-like adherence (here I am employing the fallacious atheist redefinition of faith as “belief without evidence” as opposed to the biblical definition of faith as trust aka: the conclusion of a syllogism). That is to say that this position asserts that there is nothing that is not, both epistemically and ontologically, accounted for under absolute materialism.
The assertion is that everything has a purely materialistic explanation and even if we do not know what the explanation is; some day—thy materialism come—it will be explained thusly. And even if it is not explained materialistically this view demands that one restrict their thinking and simply believe by “faith” that the explanation is materialistic—this is anti-freethought. Meanwhile, it may be of import to note; the theist can consider material explanations, ever mounting material causes for material effects, by noting that yes indeed; God created the material realm wherein there functions a system of material causes and material effects.

Belief in unbelief is also one of the consoling delusion aspect of atheism. Atheism consists of various consoling delusions which atheists generally seem to accept as psychological band-aids placed upon their reasons (or excuses) for rejecting God. They seem to think that something, or someone, does not exist because they do not believe it. They rejects God’s ethos, His prescription of certain actions and condemnation of others, and thus, they console themselves by thinking that they are absolutely autonomous and lack ultimate accountability.

Unbelief in belief is generally peppered, if not saturated with, confusion and misunderstandings of every sort. For example, responding to the question of whether “all faith claims are in some sense equivalent” Christopher Hitchens stated, “they're all equally rotten, false, dishonest, corrupt, humourless and dangerous.”
In this regard, note the words of C. S. Lewis, one time atheist and later Christian scholar, who wrote:

If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake.
If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race has always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.[8]

That is to say that the unbelief believers paint with a broom and generically generalize anything which they consider in any way supernatural or superstitious into the same category: every “religion,” theology, ritual, etc.

Consider this criticism of Daniel Dennett:

like other evangelists of unbelief, he views the world through the conceptual grid of western monotheism. His view of religion itself proves this; he defines it as a social system "whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought". This may be commonplace as a perception of religion, but it is also highly parochial…[and] not found in most of the world's religions…
it is a mistake to assume that belief is the core of religion. This may seem self-evident to many philosophers, but in fact belief is not very important in most religions. Even within Christianity there are traditions, such as Eastern Orthodoxy, in which it has never been central. For the majority of humankind, religion has always been about practice rather than belief. In fixating on the belief-content of religion, Dennett emulates Christianity at its most rationalistic and dogmatic….
Dennett mocks those who say that life without faith has no meaning as "believers in belief". Yet he displays a zealous faith in unbelief that is far more inimical to doubt, and there is more scepticism in a single line of the [Blaise Pascal’s] Pensees than in the whole of Dennett's leaden tome.
Breaking the Spell approaches its subject with a relentless, simple-minded cleverness that precludes anything like profundity, and much of it seems designed to demonstrate the author's intellectual ingenuity rather than to advance the reader's understanding…
When Dennett delivers on the promise of the book - a naturalistic explanation of religion - the result is embarrassingly naïve.[9]

Even Sam Harris, the Buddhist/mystic/atheist who does not like the term “Buddhist,” “mystic” or “atheist,” whose pursuit of Buddhist atheist mysticism is not approved of by other New Atheist, such as Richard Dawkins, promulgates just that: a strictly materialistic form of meditation (which is actually more in keeping with Buddhism’s atheistic roots).
Unbelief in belief even leads some atheists to prefer an answer which only leaves one asking more questions than to an answer which is philosophically more fulfilling. Such is that case with those who, for example, prefer to appeal to aliens as being the creators of our universe and or life. This does not answer the question of how they came about but merely pushed the question of origins further back in time. Meanwhile, a supernatural/theistic creator who is, as is logically and scientifically viable, outside/beyond time, space and matter is rejected (again, see On the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorns, et al.). Anything to maintain unbelief in belief.

Let us end with some food for thought, some makings of a brain storming session:

Generally when atheists ask for evidence of God’s existence they do not seem to consider upon which premise the request such evidence.
They generally do not define what they mean by “evidence.”
When they do they are merely expressing their own theological views and demanding that we adhere to them—dogmatheistically.
If they specify “scientific” and or “empirical” evidence they do not seem to consider that science/empiricism are a narrow fields which deals with a narrow bandwidth, as it where, of reality and thus, functions within parameters.
Moreover, since there is no scientific/empirical evidence supporting the request for scientific evidence the request is self defeating.
Do we look for wet evidence of a dry object? Do we look for physical evidence of something/someone who is not non-physical.
Such as, and others, are the ways of those who hold to belief in unbelief and unbelief in belief.

[1] Judith Shulevitz, “The Belief Trap - The evolutionary explanation of religion gets stuck,” Slate, March 8, 2006
[2] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 4: “What Lies Behind the Law”

[3] Sam Harris, The First Ten Pages
[4] Sam Harris, Science Must Destroy Religion
[5] Sam Harris, The Politics of Ignorance
[6] Blair Golson, Sam Harris: The Truthdig Interview
[7] Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (New York: Norton, 2004), pp. 52-53
[8] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1960), p. 29
[9] John Gray, “Atheists Are Irrational Too,” New Statesman, 20 March 2006

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