Archives for May 2008

Totality Beliefs and the Religious Imagination

Thew Secular Web has just put up my review of Totality Beliefs and the Religious Imagination by Anthony Campbell.Short version: it's a good book, read it if you get a chance. … [Read more...]

The Happy Heretic is back

The Happy Heretic, Judith Hayes's web site, is back online after an absence of two years. Every month she puts up an essay criticizing some aspect of popular religion in the United States.I like following The Happy Heretic. I'm used to the sort of nonbelief that is common in academic circles, and I'll never get an insider's feel for Bible Belt religiosity. I tend to think that supernatural belief is the normal state of humans. I emphasize how commonsensical religion is, in contrast to … [Read more...]

Purtill “Defining Miracles” – Part 2

In a previous post (5/10/08), I began to examine a definition of "miracle" put forward by Richard Purtill in his essay "Defining Miracles" (Defense of Miracles, IVP, 1997):A miracle is an event (1) brought about by the power of God that is (2) a temporary (3) exception (4) to the ordinary course of nature (5) for the purpose of showing that God has acted in history. (p. 72)I objected to condition (5) because it assumes an unappealing view of God. The Bible often portrays God as being … [Read more...]

16% of US biology teachers are creationists

According to a paper in PLoS Biology by Michael B. Berkman, Julianna Sandell Pacheco, and Eric Plutzer, 16% of US secondary school biology teachers are creationists.Well, 16% is a high number. Or maybe it's low, given that more like 48% are creationists among the general public. … [Read more...]

Shroud of Turin

I apologize to everyone on behalf of physicists.The infamous Shroud of Turin, believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus with a miraculously imprinted image of Jesus on it by some conservative Protestants and Catholics, is yet more evidence that supernatural convictions are impervious to criticism. It's a bizarre claim at face value, and there's good evidence the shroud is a medieval forgery. Joe Nickell, in particular, has extensively debunked Shroud claims, along with other skeptical … [Read more...]

How insular are we?

I ran into a former student who once took my Weird Science course. She's pretty religious and a creationist, and she told me that she recently watched a movie featuring Lee Strobel that she liked. It made her think of my course.I've read a couple of Strobel books, and I regularly lend out his The Case for a Creator to students who want to learn more about creationism and intelligent design firsthand. It's basic conservative Christian apologetics. In other words, intellectually dishonest … [Read more...]

A Hindu honor killing

I recently posted a rant concerning honor killings, using an Iraqi Muslim example. Well, I just ran into a Hindu example that is just as horrifying to modern liberal moral sensibilities.Again, note the connection to religion. There should be no surprise here: traditional communities depend on their religion for their sense of moral order. Any moral order is kept in place by a degree of coercion, and one important function for old-fashioned religion is to tell when coercion, including violence, … [Read more...]

Dawkins’ Definition of “God” – Part 2

As I argued in my previous post ("Dawkins' Definition of 'God' ", 5/8/08), Dawkins' use of the word "God" in The God Delusion is idiosyncratic and muddled. I'm trying to work through the muddles in order to determine to what extent, if any, Dawkins' reasoning and conclusions are relevant to the age-old question, "Does God exist?".Sense vs. Reference of the word "God" in The God DelusionDawkins intends for the term "God" to refer not only to God as conceived of by Christians, Jews, and Muslims … [Read more...]