Archive for ‘religion’

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.

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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.

July 20, 2014

So maybe I am not an atheist

by Neil Rickert

No, I have not suddenly become religious.  I am just reacting to a recent post by PZ Myers:

When asked, I have usually said that I am not religious.  I don’t take offense when people say that I am atheist, but it is never a term that I have asserted for my own position.

PZ says:

Yet so many people just make that statement, and then argue that there are no antecedents and no consequences of atheism — a revolutionary idea for which people have been executed, which is in opposition to the premises used to establish many of the powerful institutions in our culture, which directly contradicts what many people consider the basis of all morality in society, is treated as casually and cavalierly as the statement, “I don’t much care for Justin Bieber’s music”.

Sorry, PZ, but “I don’t much care for Justin Bieber’s music” is pretty close to how I look at the God question.  I suppose that makes me closer to being an agnostic or an ignostic or an apatheist.  But those terms seem too technical, so I’ll stay with “not religious.”

I was a serious theist, mostly during my teenage years.  But I never rebelled.  Rather, I just walked away.  It did take serious thought for me to recognize that religion is entirely man-made.  And that was why I could easily walk away.  But I never did conclude that there is no god.  As best I can tell, there is no evidence either way.

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June 10, 2014

Frank Schaeffer’s latest book: a review

by Neil Rickert

This will be a brief review of Schaeffer’s recent book:

  • Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God, Frank Scheffer 2014.

Full disclosure — I “purchased” the Kindle edition of this book when the price was right (i.e. it was free).

I follow Schaeffer’s blog: “Why I Still Talk to Jesus — In Spite of Everything“.  I at least skim most of the posts, but only read a few in detail.  Schaeffer is a relentless self-marketer.  Some of his posts are of broad interest, and some are just selling himself or his latest book.

I had already purchased (for real money), his previous book “And God said Billy”, but I stopped reading that about halfway through.  So I had decided not to buy his latest book.  Even when Schaeffer announced that it would be free for two days, I continued with my decision to not “buy”.

Then I read Benjamin Corey’s post “When Two Formerly Fundies Chat: My Video Interview With Frank Schaeffer (and get his new book FREE)!”  It was a great interview.  I recommend that you watch it.  For me, it was Corey, rather than Schaeffer, who was the star of that interview.  In any case, that’s when I changed my mind and picked up the Kindle book while it was still free.

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February 4, 2014

On vjtorley on ID, religion, metaphysics

by Neil Rickert

Vincent Torley, who posts under the handle “vjtorley” at Uncommon Descent, has a longish post on Intelligent Design and related topics:

I encourage you to read the full post by vjtorley.  Here, I want to give my reaction to only some of the issues that he raises.  I’ll note that his post grows out of an online discussion with theologian James McGrath, and is a followup to an earlier thread about that discussion.

Torley says, of McGrath:

As far as I can tell, Dr. McGrath doesn’t necessarily think God created the laws of Nature; nor does he believe in miracles. As might be expected, he doesn’t believe in the Divinity of Christ.

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