Atonement as satisfying a vendetta

Some time ago, on the local Christian radio station, I was listening to a preacher explain how Jesus's death on the cross saved us all by paying the penalty for all our human sins against God. He used the analogy of a judge who lets a convicted person go, because some other person, innocent of the crime, volunteers to go to the gallows instead. The law is satisfied by someone paying the penalty; the convict just has to accept the sacrifice of the innocent person and walk free.I've run into this … [Read more...]

Secular asabiyya?

I've been reading Bassam Tibi's Political Islam, World Politics and Europe.Don't bother with the book itself: it's almost unreadable. This is not, by the way, Tibi's fault. He's a Syrian social scientist who spent his life in Germany—English must be his third language. This book was in desperate need of a good editor, and some executive at Routledge no doubt thought editorial work was merely a cost that could be safely cut.Still, Tibi has some interesting ideas. For example, he follows Ibn K … [Read more...]

New Chick Tract

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Headscarves to placate the police

An interesting observation I ran across in an interview with a Turkish journalist: Apparently, many women drivers in Turkey have begun to keep a headscarf in the car. This is just in case they run into a police checkpoint (usually for traffic purposes). In Turkey today, the police are notoriously a stronghold of religious conservatism. So when a woman drives by the police with a headscarf on, she is supposed to be less likely to be stopped for an examination of her license.Stories like this … [Read more...]

An Atheist Defends Religion

I recently read Bruce Sheiman's An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity Is Better Off with Religion than without it. It's a bit disappointing, so I won't write a long review. The thesis of the book is interesting enough: that organized religion and supernatural belief has significant social and personal benefits, and that even those who find themselves unable to affirm the reality of a God should recognize how religion improves all our lives. Sheiman, as a nonbeliever who wants to believe, … [Read more...]

The Sentence “God exists” – Part 6

The first chapter in Part II of The Coherence of Theism (revised edition), is Chapter 7, which focuses on the following sentence:(3) An omnipresent spirit exists.Swinburne's initial clarification of (3) is brief:By a 'spirit' is understood a person without a body, a non-embodied person. By 'omnipresent' is meant 'everywhere present'. That God is a person, yet one without a body, seems the most elementary claim of theism. (COT, p. 101)In my last post, we saw what Swinburne thinks the word … [Read more...]

Evolution as a liberal cultural weapon

I spend a good part of each week in the classroom trying to teach college students some physics. I've done a lot of work on supernatural and paranormal beliefs, particularly varieties of creationism and intelligent design. So I'm professionally obligated to deplore any inroads creationism makes into education, and to insist that evolution is a vital component of science education.But then, many others also care about this issue. Creationism reliably comes up as a prominent example of the danger … [Read more...]

The Sentence “God exists” – Part 5

In Part II of The Coherence of Theism (revised edition,1993), Richard Swinburne discusses the idea of a "contingent God". The first chapter in Part II, is Chapter 7, "An Omnipresent Spirit",which focuses on the following sentence:(3) An omnipresent spirit exists.This sentence involves two key attributes that Swinburne uses to define "God" (or "divine being", which is a category of beings to which God belongs). In Chapter 7, Swinburne "considers what it means and whether it is coherent to suppose … [Read more...]