Open Thread: Secret Religious Teachings

This great comment by Rollingforest in another thread got me thinking:When they go door to door, Mormons like to present themselves as Christians with minor but important improvements on Christian doctrine. These missionaries make sure to forget to mention or to gloss over the huge changes in dogma that becoming a Mormon requires (multiple Gods, belief that polygamy was Godly in the past and could be again in the future, absolute submission to the decrees of the Prophet, baptism of the dead, … [Read more...]

A Guide to God-Spotting

Some of my favorite atheist writers have been jousting over the issue of whether any imaginable evidence could convince them of the existence of God. Among those who answer in the negative, the consensus seems to be that God is such a nebulous and unfalsifiable hypothesis, it's impossible to test in any meaningful way.This is a topic I've spent some time contemplating myself, and though I think differently than they do, I'm sympathetic to that objection. Despite millennia of cogitation, … [Read more...]

The Language of God: The Irony of Misunderstood Agnosticism

The Language of God, Chapter 7By B.J. MarshallThe final part of this chapter on the godless takes aim at agnosticism. Collins first gives Huxley's coinage of the term, and then he proceeds to misunderstand agnosticism in a way that's rife with glaring contradictions.Collins gives a lengthy quote of Huxley's from Wikipedia, which you won't find in the Wikipedia article he references! His citation doesn't even mention when he accessed that page. Time to rant here: I have a friend who is a … [Read more...]

Little-Known Bible Verses: Let God Plead His Own Cause

It's indisputable that Christianity is the dominant religion in America, and there are those who'd like to keep it that way. Right-wing legal groups like the Liberty Counsel and the Thomas More Law Center exist solely to maintain Christian superiority, arguing in court that Christian believers should be afforded more rights and privileges than everyone else. But the Bible itself ridicules this effort as unnecessary, as we can see from a little-known Bible verse. (HT: Better than Esdras, a … [Read more...]

The Language of God: A Biologist in His Element (Sort Of)

The Language of God, Chapter 4By B.J. MarshallThis chapter is entitled "Life on Earth: Of Microbes and Man." Right from the beginning, you should probably know that there's a lot in this chapter that Collins gets right. It's like how William Lane Craig is totally in his element when he talks about cosmology, because he's an astrophysi ... wait, that's right, he's not. (I couldn't help but slam "The Case for a Creator" my parents got me for my first birthday post-deconversion. Nothing says … [Read more...]

The Language of God: Cosmology and the God Hypothesis

The Language of God, Chapter 3By B.J. MarshallCollins concludes this chapter by tying his overview of cosmology to the god hypothesis. He states that "[c]learly, the scientific view is not entirely sufficient to answer all of the interesting questions about the origin of the universe, and there is nothing inherently in conflict between the idea of a creator God and what science has revealed" (pp.80-1). We've already addressed this god-of-the-gaps mentality before; just because one hypothesis … [Read more...]

Crafting a Rational Theology

As atheists, we're well acquainted with the irrationalities of the world's religions. We've seen it all before: the absurdities in holy books, the convoluted twists of logic used by professional apologists, the self-contradictions and incoherent definitions that the faithful swallow without a qualm. All that can safely be taken for granted. Now let's see if we can do theology better.I'm not speaking of ways that the world could be made better; we covered that ground in "Improving on God's … [Read more...]

Whence Comes God's Nature?

According to the vast majority of religious believers (though perhaps not to the tiny minority of elite theologians), God is basically in nature like a larger and more powerful human being. He has plans and desires which he takes actions to fulfill; he likes some people and things and dislikes others; he experiences emotions like anger, jealousy, love, and forgiveness; he can be persuaded to act on another's behalf; and so on.The most peculiar aspect of this anthropomorphic theology is its … [Read more...]

On Expertise

One of the most common complaints leveled against Richard Dawkins (and other atheist writers) is that his understanding of religion isn't sufficiently sophisticated - that he dismisses religion without delving into all its intricacies of doctrine. For instance, Terry Eagleton:What, one wonders, are Dawkins's views on the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus? Has he read Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope? Has he even heard of them?What any … [Read more...]

Ten Questions to Ask Your Pastor

The New York Times recently ran a depressing article about the obstacles faced by public school science teachers. I don't envy teachers their job, as important as it is: between surly and unruly students, cash-strapped school districts, incompetent administrators, and the regimented, monotonous teaching needed to drill classes for standardized testing, they have more than enough to deal with. But this outrage may surpass all the others: religious students who have been programmed by their … [Read more...]


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