How is an atheist group like a bridge club?

In yesterday's Sunday Review section of The New York Times, Susan Jacoby had an essay titled "The Blessings of Atheism."  She's tackling the perceived absense of atheists and secular philosophy in moments of crisis.  Here's an excerpt, but my critique is about something missing in the piece, so you'd better read the whole thing to be fair. One major problem is the dearth of secular community institutions. But the most powerful force holding us back is our own reluctance to speak, particularly at … [Read more...]

The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Philosophers

I know there are some rumblings in yesterday's thread about sin, judgment, and necessity about my being tardy to reply to comments.  When there's such a fast discussion (over 100 comments in 12 hours, I can't pop in and out as much as I'd like to.  I did quite appreciate Steve Schuler's comment that, even though my tardiness was frustrating, "For my purposes the best aspect of Leah’s blog are the comments threads and the overall civil and thoughtful exchanges I am able to read here."  Ag … [Read more...]

The theologians Chris Hallquist doesn’t believe in

Chris Hallquist (who blogs in the Patheos Atheist channel as the Uncredible Hallq) is in the process of writing a book tentatively titled Angry Atheists?: Why the Backlash Against Popular Atheism Is Silly. As he writes it, he's posting drafts of chapters on his blog to invite comment, sort out confusion, etc.   The most recent chapter he's revised and posted is to be Chapter Two: The many gods I don’t believe in (yours included).Since I guess I'm in the intended audience for the eventual book … [Read more...]

Steelmanning one of Dennett’s arguments

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell.Back in the cultural history of religion sections of the book, Dennett touches on a very powerful argument against religion.  He writes: "And here is an interesting fact: the transition between folk religion to organized religion is marked by a shift in beliefs from those with very clear, concrete consequences to those with systematically elusive consequences--paying lip service is just about the only way you can ac … [Read more...]

Dennett’s Whirlwind Tour through Apologetics

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.As I said yesterday, most of Dennett's book isn't directed to the question of whether religious claims are true.  But in the final chapters, he takes a crack at the question.  Dennett warns the reader that his discussion is going to be cursory; he'll lay out his objections and give the reader the citations they need to examine the arguments in detail.From beginning to end, this section spans a little more than si … [Read more...]

Dennett’s Thesis isn’t Evidence for Very Interesting Claims

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.The main thrust of Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell is that the history of religion is not incompatible with evolutionary theory.  That sounds a lot less exciting than an attack on religion, but it's what the book is actually about.  Dennett's book doesn't mount up any direct evidence against the truth claims of religion, but it does make the argument that religion is something you might be reasonably likely to ob … [Read more...]

Put Your Moral Philosophical Hands Where We Can See Them, Dennett!

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.Very early on in the book, (page 17 in my edition), Dennett explains the title of his book: The spell I say must be broken is the taboo against a forthright, scientific, no-holds-barred investigation of religion as one natural phenomenon among many. I'll have more to say about this endeavor (which comprises the vast majority of the text) tomorrow, but let me say briefly here that I have no particular objection to t … [Read more...]