The 99 Percent Solution

One of the more tiresome parts of being an atheist is having to deal with preachers who drag out the old apologetic cliches and convince themselves that they're being clever. Just so is this piece from one Rev. Eric Strachan:[I] like to ask every atheist, "What percentage of the total knowledge that one could possibly acquire do you think you have?"Interestingly, most answer around five per cent or thereabout. "Think again," I say. "It's more likely to be around .05 per cent!"I then like … [Read more...]

Mental Slavery and Creeping Atheism

Evangelical pastor Ray Stedman knows the root cause of everything that's wrong with the world:It is not nationalism, it is not racism... it is the human heart. It is the pride of man that fancies he can get along without God.But not to worry, because he advises us how we can conquer this obstacle. To achieve that, we must...take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ. This is extremely important....It is absolutely necessary to do this if you want to have permanent victory. … [Read more...]

The Amorphous Enemy

In a previous post, "The Soft Landing", I wrote about the future and about one potential scenario that I find disturbing: that militant, fundamentalist churches will grow at the expense of moderate and liberal ones, leaving behind a world split between atheism and angry, intolerant religion. In this post, I'll again look to the future, this time to outline another possibility that I find worrisome in a different way.In this scenario, both moderate and fundamentalist religion will decline … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically: Testimonials

The testimonial is the favorite tool of pseudoscientists everywhere. Search the internet far and wide, and you'll have trouble finding a cancer-curing scam machine, thermodynamically impossible engine-conversion kit, or obscure psychic website that doesn't feature glowing testimonials from true believers. Eshu of Bridging Schisms gives many more examples, in his post "Testimonials and Research", like this gem from a satisfied client singing the praises of a psychic claimant:"I came to Philena … [Read more...]

Faith Comes First

A few months ago, a theist contacted me by e-mail to claim that her church, the Mormons, had fulfilled many of the criteria set forth in my essay "The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists". There was one criterion she thought was unfair of me to list - evidence of miraculous occurrences brought about through prayer:This one is rough, mainly because faith must precede the miracle.Similarly, another theist who contacted me by e-mail claimed that it didn't matter whether anyone could answer … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically VIII: Mill's Methods

Today's post on critical thinking concerns the five principles collectively known as Mill's methods, first presented together in 1843 by the Enlightenment philosopher John Stuart Mill in his book A System of Logic. Each of them is intended to illuminate the flow of causality in a different way, giving us mental tools to link causes and effects. In this post, I'll highlight past entries in my "Popular Delusions" series, and show how failure to properly use Mill's methods has duped the … [Read more...]

Little-Known Bible Verses X: Don't Trust Your Heart

I first came across today's little-known Bible verse while reading The Pilgrim's Progress, and it was so amazing to me that I had to set the book aside and look it up on the spot. Search on the internet, and you'll find volumes of Christian apologetics seeking to justify the author's belief in God by claiming that they just know he exists because they can feel his presence in their heart:The imagination knows God and the heart knows God, but the conscience silences the whole person because of … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically VII: Risk Assessment

Given that this is an atheist site, I feel compelled to start this post with a snappy anti-religion quip, so here it is: Children and teenagers are more likely to be molested or assaulted in church than they are on social networking sites like MySpace. Parents, do you want to protect your kids? Keep them home on Sundays and send them to the computer instead!But it wouldn't be fair to leave it at that. This statistic doesn't prove the inherent riskiness of going to church. What it proves is … [Read more...]

The View From the Ground

Over the past two months, I've written about the differing epistemologies of religion - where the individual's personal conviction is taken as a reliable guide to truth ("The Aura of Infallibility") - and science - where the assumption is that individuals are fallible and should work as a group to correct each other in a spirit of free inquiry ("Self-Correction").The question I now want to turn to is this: How does a lay person tell the difference? Why should people who are not particularly … [Read more...]

On Presuppositionalism

In "Unmoved Mover", I wrote about the presuppositional argument used by some modern Christian apologists. In this post, I want to say some more about presuppositionalism.The presuppositionalists have a point in this sense and in this sense only: a worldview is worth being held only if it is possible to reason consistently from that worldview given its own starting principles. If those principles lead inevitably to their own negation, then that worldview is self-contradictory and must be … [Read more...]