I listened to this podcast the other day and thought it was a great discussion. Listen to episode 96 on their player. It is a discussion between an atheist (Emory) and fundamentalist Christian (Tony) and a more moderate Christian (Scott). They are going through William Lane Craig’s book On Guard and are on the chapters dealing with the moral argument for the existence of god. I thought it was a very good discussion and there were good points brought up by all sides. I usually agree far more with Emery and I think he made some great points today when dealing with morality. What i really like about these three guys is that they are all intelligent people and they get a long really well and there is no cheap shots or talking over each other. Makes for a profitable discussion to listen to.
Here is the direct link to listen to the show or you can go to the link to the site above.
Here is a great extra from one of my all time favorite podcasts. If your understanding of stem cell research is weak, like mine, then you might find this informative. Keep in mind that it is an atheist blog that posted this but it is not an atheist lecture per se. The speaker did a great job of explaining what the whole debate is about and what stem cells are and what they are used for. You can download the podcast here
The speaker doesn’t get into the morality of using stem cells as much as he just describes what they are and the difference between adult and embryonic stem cells. He lets the listener make the decision based on their point of view.
There are many in the Christian religion that have a concept of God that says he is perfectly just yet also perfectly merciful. This poses an interesting problem which seems to make that completely incoherent.
Justice involves giving someone what they deserve based on their actions. A god then who is ALL just, would be just to all humans without exception. To make an exception would be to not be “all just”. Yet, Christians also speak of God being a merciful God. Mercy involves NOT giving someone what they in fact do deserve. So it would seem that if God is merciful at anytime at all, he is not being totally just at that time. How is it that mercy and justice can co-exist without one canceling out the other completely?
This is an interesting post I came across on why Christianity is false. The author goes through what is largely agreed upon by scholars concerning Jesus and what he claimed and what was claimed about him and shows that it is VERY difficult to NOT come up the conclusion that even given much of the information in the new testament, Jesus is/was a failed apocalyptic prophet who thought the world was ending and was shown to be false. You can read the post for yourself here
Here is a very interesting post from Luke Muehlhauser over at commonsenseatheism.com on the rise of early Christianity.
It is often said by Christians that the rate of growth of the early Christian church defies natural explanation. It is said that the only explanation is that the resurrection of Christ and the miracles that he was said to have performed had to be true and this is why the early church had such unprecedented growth. In the post above, Luke details how the grown of Mormonism and even the growth of non belief in the 20th century have similar or even better rates of growth. The bottom line is that unfortunately rates of growth have nothing whatsoever to do with the truth or falsity of an idea or truth claim. There are plenty of natural reasons why various movements can grow very very quickly so we should not jump to conclusions about the unseen reasons. This also does not mean that Christianity is therefore false. It simply means that Christianity experienced a rapid rate of growth in it’s early years just like other movements have.
This is a very interesting podcast which discusses the various neurological influences on a person’s moral opinions. Certainly makes you think. You can download or stream the podcast at this link or you can also read the whole transcript if you prefer.
It seems that the more we learn about the human brain and human psychology, the more difficult and complicated the areas of human free will, ethics, religion and philosophy become. It is strange to think about how influenced we are by factors that we had no idea were influencing us.
Doug Wilson is a Christian pastor, author, professor and theologian and he co-wrote a paper a few years back defending the ownership of slaves by Christians in the south prior to abolitionism. It is a published pamphlet and it entitled, Southern Slavery As It Was. A Monograph by Steve Wilkins & Douglas Wilson. You can read this pamphlet here in it’s entirety(it is only 22 pages). I recommend that all Christians read this paper. Although you may not agree with his point of view, he is trying to be consistent with what the Bible teaches on the subject of slavery and is not shy about saying so. It will challenge you to think about the issue and to grapple with what the Bible says about it.
When I was an evangelical Christian, I used to listen to and read much of what Doug Wilson has written. He is a very well educated and classically trained man with a great sense of humor and a sharp whit. He has more recently done a documentary with Christopher Hitchens entitled Collision which you can read about here. Wilson and Hitch traveled around the united states doing debates and discussing their differences and much of it is very interesting to watch.
This is a great little 4 minute video by Sam Harris on why trusting miracle claims in the Bible is a foolish and very inconsistent thing to do. There is far better evidence for the miraculous claims of other non Christian people and Christians reject that out of hand. Yet they accept without any critical analysis the miracles found in the pages of the Bible.
When I was a Christian I spent quite a bit of my time reading books on the subject of apologetics. Apologetics is the discipline of defending the faith. I always found myself in a position where I had unbelievers around me who challenged my point of view and so I always want to make sure and be “ready to give an answer for the hope that was within me”. After many years I came upon the school of apologetics called Presuppositional Apologetics (PA). PA critiqued another school of apologetics called Classical Apologetics or evidential apologetics (EA). The EA group also critiqued the PA group. I was persuaded by the PA group that EA was not only a wrong approach but literally an immoral and ungodly way to argue for the faith. Over many years, I then came to see that PA itself had many problems with it’s logic and eventually, my faith completely deteriorated. Not simply because of these bad arguments for the faith, but because I came to see that there were really no GOOD arguments for the faith (and believe me I looked and still am looking).
The EA school of though is basically coming from the point of view that we have to use reason and logic to come to understand that the Bible is true. We look at historical evidence, philosophical evidence, archeological evidence, scientific evidence ALONG WITH our evidence from personal experience and faith.
Today I listened to a Radio Lab podcast from WNYC in New York. Quickly becoming one of my favorite podcasts to listen to. The episode that I listened to today is called Vanishing Words and can be listened to here. The gist of this very interesting episode was that a guy is using computer linguistic analysis to study Agatha Christie’s novels. Upon doing this he discovered that over time, Christie’s vocabulary decreased by a significant amount as she got older. There had been some people who thought that she may have suffered from some kind of dementia but it was not clear. This study seemed to lend support to that theory. They also discussed another study where they were able to predict with 85% accuracy whether a person would develop dementia when they got older by looking at their vocabulary and writing style when they were young. Although certainly not conclusive it was very interesting.
So why I am bring this up today? Well, other than the fact that Radio Lab is simply a cool show to listen to that always makes you think, this made me think about something else that I thought was interesting. In keeping in line with my developing skepticism of the Bible and other “authoritative” religious books of the past, it seems that studies like this should give us pause. Often, when trying to figure out who wrote what book in the bible there is a linguistic analysis that is done on the vocabulary of the writings to compare with this persons other attributed writings. There are conclusions that are arrived at about two different people who wrote Isaiah, five possible people who wrote the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) as well as different theories on Paul’s letters in the new testament. Given some of the ideas discussed in this podcast, it seems reasonable to conclude that the change in vocabulary with some of these different books may be the result of changing mental faculties over the years. Maybe Moses or Isaiah or Paul simply had some form of dementia and this is what made some of their ideas hard to square with other of their ideas. Maybe this is why there seems to be evidence of multiple authors of various biblical books. This of course would only make our job that much harder when it comes to trying to understand ancient authors, but it is definitely something to consider.