Links and News — 19-Nov-11

Moment of Zen:

Best Statistics Question Ever” (be sure to read not only the question but at least some of the 700+ comments posted so far)

Exchanges Involving Secular Outpost Contributors:

Defending the Argument from Consciousness

Stephen Law and Ed Feser have an ongoing exchange regarding Law’s evil God challenge (EGC): see here, here, here, here, here.

Julian Baggini and Keith Ward exchange on religion and science: here, here,

Morality and Atheism

Good With God?“– This ad compares the charitable contributions of nontheists Warren Buffet and Bill Gates to Pat Robertson, accusing Robertson of donating virtually nothing to charity.

  • [Editor's note (Lowder): in my opinion, the ad should have focused on the positive accomplishments of nontheists, without the attack on Robertson. Even if the criticism of Robertson is accurate, it is unnecessary to make the point that nontheists can be good without God. Since it is far from obvious that Robertson's behavior is representative of theistic behavior in general, critics may wind up focusing on this incidental issue while missing the main point.]

New Research Says Anti-Atheist Prejudice Stems from Distrust” by Will Gervais, Ara Norenzayan, and Azim F. Shariff: an academic study into the sources of anti-atheist prejudice. The study itself is only available with a subscription to journal, but a decent summary is available at Hermant Mehta’s blog.

  • [Editor's Note (Lowder): The fact that anti-atheist prejudice stems from distrust seems rather obvious to me, but this study is noteworthy for the fact that it is the first empirical confirmation of this suspicion. As the abstract states, it is "the first to systematically explore the social psychological underpinnings of anti-atheist prejudice" and "indicate the centrality of distrust in this phenomenon."]
  • Cf. recent Secular Outpost article: “Republicans Unite Against Atheists

Miscellaneous Links:

When the Saints Go Marching In“: audio of Michael Licona speaking at the conference of the EPS

  • [Editor's Note (Lowder): At around 22:30 in the recording, Licona comments on how Craig Blomberg and William Lane Craig share Licona's interpretation of Matthew 27. He also mentions that several Evangelical scholars have privately expressed their support to Licona, but are afraid of speaking out publicly for fear of the consequences. And at 33:00, Licona reports that Paul Copan and Gary Habermas have been uninvited from previously established speaking engagements because Copan and Habermas had opined that Licona had not abandoned inerrancy. Copan goes on to talk about the risks to Evangelical scholarship when "theological bullying" goes unanswered.]

Quote of the Day” at Ex-Apologist (from Wes Morriston’s opening statement in his debate with William Lane Craig)

Recent research on why former Christians left the faith identified the following top 4 reasons: relationship between faith and science, Hell, the argument from evil, the reliability of the Bible.

Bart Ehrman defends the historicity of Jesus: see here

Two Gems from Fallen From Grace

Dear Christian, Your Blog Comments Say Volumes About Your God“: some of the comments hurled at Stephen Hawking in response to his nonbelief

Why Would I Want to be Your Friend?”: Bruce Gerencser, a former Evangelical pastor turned atheist, questions the desirability of friendship between an Evangelical Christian and an atheist, from the atheist’s point of view.

Church-State Separation and the U.S. Military

Military Nearly Pulls Atheist from Graduation Ceremony After He Refuses to Bow Head and Clasp Hands in Prayer (HT: Friendly Atheist)

Christian fighter pilot bullies non-Christian subordinates: see here.

  • [Editor's Note (Lowder): If the allegations are true, Air Force Major Jonathan Dowty's conduct is unbecoming of an Officer of the United States Air Force. It's unfortunate that too many Officers in the USAF act as if they are serving in the United States Christian Air Force, disregarding the oath they took to defend the Consitution. The result is that religious minorities feel unwelcome and leave the Air Force, with the Air Force losing valuable, highly-skilled airmen.]

Evangelicalism and Freethought: Are They Compatible?

J.P. Holding laments the fact that Norman Geisler’s behavior towards Michael Licona has given “low-rent intellectual atheists” the opportunity to make legitimate criticisms of the situation, including the suppression of freedom of thought. (See here and here.)

Dealing with Doubt? On William Lane Craig’s rather bad advice” by Randall Rauser: Rauser is an evangelical Christian philosopher who takes issue with Craig’s advice.

Book Announcements and Reviews

All of our announcements this time are regarding books by theists.

A 1248-page major new defense of miracles has just been published: Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts by Craig Keener.

  • [Editor's Note (Lowder): I haven't read the book, but based on the endorsements it has received, I wouldn't be surprised if it is considered the go-to book for a long time for a sophisticated defense of miracles.]

Alvin Plantinga’s new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism (Oxford University Press, 2011) is now available in hardcover and on Kindle.

Tennis Without a Net: The Emptiness of the Supernatural Hypothesis” by Tom Clark: a review of J.P. Moreland, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism.

  • [Editor's Note (Lowder): As an aside, I used Amazon's "search inside the book" feature--maxed out the feature would be a better description--to preview Moreland's book and it looks extremely interesting. In fact, I've ordered a copy.]

Michael Licona reviews Daniel A. Smith’s, Revisiting the Empty Tomb: The Early History of Easter. (link): video of J.P. Moreland speaking at the conference of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS) reading a paper recently published in the European Journal for Philosophy of Religion, in which Moreland defends the argument against Graham Oppy.

G&T Rebuttal, Part 5: Chapter 6
Matthew Ferguson: PAMLA 2014 Paper: Philosophically Defining the Supernatural
Religious Experience – Recognizing God
Christian Apologist: Theists Care About Science but Naturalists Don’t
About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • Patrick

    It could be that Craig Keener’s book on miracles (which I haven’t read) is relevant with respect to Stephen Law’s evil-god challenge. In his paper “The evil-god challenge” Law wrote concerning miracles:

    “An evil and omnipotent being will have no difficulty duping human beings into believing he is good. Taking on a ‘good’ guise, he might appear in one corner of the world, revealing himself in religious experiences and performing miracles in response to prayers, and perhaps also giving instructions regarding what his followers should believe. He might then do the same in another part of the globe, with the exception that the instructions he leaves regarding what should be believed contradict what he has said elsewhere. Our evil being could then stand back and watch the inevitable conflict develop between communities to whom he has now misleadingly revealed himself, each utterly convinced by their own stock of miracles and religious experiences that the one true all-good god is on their side. Here we have a recipe for ceaseless conflict, violence and suffering.

    When we observe how religious experiences and miracles are actually distributed, this is more or less the pattern we find.”

    It may turn out that this is not at all the pattern we find. Indicative of this is the following quote from page 103 of the book “Jesus and the Constraints of History” (Philadelphia 1982), written by A. E. Harvey (source:

    “It is in this light that we must judge the accounts we possess of other miracle-workers in Jesus' period and culture. We have already observed that the list of such occurrences is very much shorter than is often supposed. If we take the period of four hundred years stretching from two hundred years before to two hundred years after the birth of Christ, the number of miracles recorded which are remotely comparable with those of Jesus is astonishingly small. On the pagan side, there is little to report apart from the records of cures at healing shrines, which were certainly quite frequent, but are a rather different phenomenon from cures performed by an individual healer. Indeed it is significant that later Christian fathers, when seeking miracle workers with whom to compare or contrast Jesus, had to have recourse to remote and by now almost legendary figures of the past such as Pythagoras or Empedocles.”

    More recent well-documented miracle accounts lacking any parallel outside the Judeo-Christian culture may be found in the following book:

    Dieter Ising, Johann Christoph Blumhardt: Life and Work: A New Biography, Translated by Monty Ledford, Eugene 2009.

    In particular informative in this respect are the chapters “The Events Surrounding Gottliebin Dittus” (pp. 162 ff.), “The Awakening Spreads. Healings” (pp. 202 ff.) and “Healings” (pp. 326 ff.).

  • Steven Carr

    I imagine Keener's book deals with the plagiarism and frauds found in Book of Mormon and the Koran explaining why his Old Book is so different from other Old Books.

  • Steven Carr

    Paul , in 1 Corinthians 1, scoffs at Jews for demanding to hear miracle stories.

    How can he scoff at what was allegedly a major selling point of his religion – a miracle working Jesus doing just those sorts of miracles that Jews were demanding to hear?

  • Alex Dalton

    This was a really good update of some recent blogging related to skepticism/apologetics. As a Christian I found alot in it I'm interested in. It is also good to see Lowder blogging again. I really appreciate his tone and his thoughtful and evenhanded treatment of the issues.

  • Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Thanks, Alex. I appreciate your comment. It takes quite a bit of time to compile a post like this one, so it's nice to feel appreciated!

  • Steven Carr

    Witches and the BBC| has documented evidence of child witches in Congo – the very place where Keener says people rise from the dead.