Archive for ‘religion’

January 29, 2017

American Conservative Christianity has lost the moral argument

by Neil Rickert

They voted, as a block, to elect a moral monster as president.

They own the actions of that president.

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt 25:40).

 

January 7, 2017

I am not anti-theist

by Neil Rickert

Recently the Patheos blog site renamed it’s “Atheist channel” to “Nonreligious channel”.  The resulted in some comments and blog posts about the change.  For me, it didn’t matter much.  Since I gave up on religion, I have always preferred to call myself “non-religious” rather than “atheist”.

Here, I mainly want to respond to:

which argues for anti-theism.

In that post, Dan Arel argues:

Religion is dangerous and hurts real people. I strongly believe that when the world is reasoned out of religious faith, the world will be a much better place.

Some people see atheism as dangerous and as hurting real people.  But that’s not my main concern here.  I just don’t see that it would make the world a better place if religion were to disappear.

We already have non-religious people who are in the anti-vax movement.  We already have non-religious people who are climate change deniers.

The things that Dan objects to in religion are human foibles.  Yes, religion manages to concentrate those into a movement.  But there are plenty of other ways that these human foibles can be concentrated into group-think.

So I just do not see that anti-theism provides some kind of solution for problems that arise out of being human.

For myself, I accept that people can have weird beliefs.  And maybe some folk think that I have weird beliefs.  But we should be able to get along in spite of individual wierdness.

January 10, 2016

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

by Neil Rickert

In the recent events at Wheaton College (see previous post), action toward possibly firing Hawkins is said to be based on her assertion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  Apparently, the Wheaton College president does not agree.

The view that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God, is a rather curious position for Wheaton to take.  I’ll readily grant that many conservative Christians agree with that position, but that does not alter its strangeness.

The God of Abraham

Both Christians and Muslims claim to worship the God of Abraham.  So, on the face if it, one would think that they worship the same God.

There is no doubt that the way Christians characterize and describe God is very different from the way that Muslims characterize and describe God.  For example, Christians claim that there God is a triune God, a unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Muslims reject that view of God.  But so do Jewish people.  Yet conservative Christians do believe that they worship the same God as is worshiped by the Jewish people.

It would be easy to understand Christians saying that Muslims mischaracterize God, and it would be easy to understand Muslims claiming that Christians mischaracterize God.  But to say that the Muslim God is a different entity from the Christian God — that’s what is hard to understand.

The atheist view

To say Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God, seems to imply that there is nothing more to the Christian God than the way that he is described and characterized by Christians.  But this is pretty much the atheist view — namely that man created God, rather than God creating man.

One wonders whether the president of Wheaton has thought his position through.

January 6, 2016

Respect for churches

by Neil Rickert

A recent report from Pew research shows that respect for churches is declining among millennials.  The report also suggests a decline is respect for the news media, but that seems to affect all generations.

I’ve seen comments on this by Jerry Coyne and by Hemant Mehta.  But I wanted to add my own.

What’s going on here?

It’s hard to read people’s minds.  So I’ll guess.  The millennials are very aware of global warming, and they surely realize that their lives will be significantly impacted.  Too many churches and other religious institutions are still in denial about global warming.

Respect is something that has to be earned.  And many of the churches seem to be failing at that.  Not only are they in denial about global warming, they are also far too tolerant of racism and other social ills.

It’s good to see that younger folk are noticing these failings and acting on them.

December 22, 2015

The news about Christmas — maybe not so sad after all

by Neil Rickert

In a recent post:

Jerry Coyne bemoans the fact that a high percentage of Americans believe such things as that baby Jesus was laid in a manger (81%).

But here’s the thing.  If I were asked in a poll, whether Professor Moriarty were the arch rival of Sherlock Holmes, I would assent to that belief.  I would assent even though I am fully aware that both are fictional characters.  And I suspect that many Sherlock Holmes fans would do likewise.  If you hear people talking about popular movies, you will hear them expressing beliefs that are true only in the context of the movie plot.

What we believe, and what we hold to be true, is sensitive to context.  And we often pick up the context from the way the question is asked or from earlier parts of the conversation.

I think Jerry is taking that Pew poll too seriously.  Given the time of the year, I’m inclined to see it as a “feel good about Christmas” poll.

September 12, 2015

Recommending a podcast

by Neil Rickert

I follow the blog “Godless in Dixie”.  This morning there was a post about a podcast with the blog author on Aron Ra’s podcast site.

I rarely listen to atheist or religious podcasts.  When I do, too often they are the same old arguments.  But this one was different.  It gave me an insight in the mind of the YEC (young earth creationist).  So I’m recommending it.

Here’s a paragraph from the associated post:

We discussed how faith can make you accept intellectual defeat while thinking through doubts and questions, and we also covered how people can rationalize irrational things in order to preserve the beliefs they were taught to embrace (Hint: It has to do with inheriting a very low view of human nature).

I’ll note that when I check a short while ago, this episode did not show in the podcast index.  However, the youtube video on the linked blog post does work.

April 23, 2015

Today is open secular day

by Neil Rickert

It’s still Wednesday in Chicago.  But blog time is UTC, so for the blog it is Thursday April 23, which is Open Secular Day.

People who have been following this blog will already know that I am not religious.  I have never tried to hide that.  Here, I’ll describe what it means to me.

Teaching

As an educator, I have endeavored to keep religion out of the classroom.  (My teaching was at university level in mathematics and computer science).  I don’t think most of my students would have had any inkling as to my religious view.  Perhaps, for my last few years of teaching, some might have seen my blog and worked it out from there.  But I have never mentioned this blog in class either.  For that matter, I have also kept my political views out of the classroom.

April 5, 2015

Three for Easter

by Neil Rickert

For Easter, I’ll comment on three blog posts that relate to religion (to Christianity).

Jason Shaw

I’ll start with the easy one.  Jason Shaw suggests that peer pressure is behind both smoking and religion.  There may be some truth to that.  I’m reasonably resistant to peer pressure, which is probably why I never did take up smoking and why I found it not too hard to drop religion.  It was parental pressure that got me started in religion, and that’s a  bit harder to resist.

Jerry Coyne

I disagree with Jerry Coyne.  I don’t go as far in criticizing religion.  He objects National Geographic having an article on Francis Collins and religion.  I don’t see the objection.  National Geographic has a tradition of articles on cultural anthropology, so why not one on that of western Christians.

Coyne also criticizes Collins for defending religion as compatible with science.  I’ve never seen the point in that argument.  For sure, science is compatible with some forms of religion, such as that involved in YEC creationism.  But I don’t see that as an essential incompatibility.  Many scientists find a way of maintaining their Christianity without compromising their science.

Michael Egnor

This is where I disagree the most.  Egnor disagrees with Coyne, but for different reasons.  According to Egnor, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is a fundamental question about ultimate purpose.

Perhaps Egnor is right, that Coyne misunderstood the question to be mechanical rather than teleological.  But I see the question as foolish and pointless.  There is no useful answer that we could ever give to that question.  Any answer that is suggested will be one made up by humans to satisfy their own psychological needs.

December 18, 2014

Is Christianity dead?

by Neil Rickert

I was brought up with the idea that God is love.  This was the centerpiece of Christianity.

Judging by what some conservative Christians have been saying, this is now changed to “God is torture” (see this recent slacktivist post).

There doesn’t seem to be much Christianity remaining.  Thankfully, Fred Clark’s “slacktivist” blog still makes a case for the “God is love” view.

December 18, 2014

Religious nut jobs

by Neil Rickert

They hate it when we call them that (see the title of this post).  But, at times, it seems appropriate.

Checking my email earlier today, there was a message about a comment to this blog needing moderation.  The email included the comment.  It was a bit iffy (over the top religion), but I was going to approve it anyway.

I went to the comment pages of the blog.  That comment was nowhere to be seen.  So I checked the spam pages.  And there it was amongst the spam.  The spam checker (akismet must have re-evaluated that and decided that it was spam).

The particular commenter had provided a link to his website, which was his own blog.  So I took a look at his blog.  And there, the most recent post appeared to be identical to his comment on my blog.

Ordinary common sense would be that this blogger write a short relevant comment to my blog post and include a link back to his full post.  But, instead his comment was his entire blog post.

In this case, the expression “religious nut job” seems to fit.  And akismet was right to flag this as spam.

I have deliberately chosen to not identify the spammer or his blog.  If he is reading this, I hope he can develop a little common sense.