“Many secularists seem hell-bent (if you’ll pardon the expression) on pretending that religious people in general believe in a God so anthropomorphic that only a child or the most ignorant peasant could take the question of His existence seriously even for a moment.” [SNIP] ” To understand what serious religious thinkers do believe, we might usefully distinguish five gradations in one’s conception of God.
1) God is literally an old man white a white beard, a kind if stern wizard-like being with very human thoughts and motivations who lives in a place called Heaven, which is like the places we know except for being very far away and impossible to get to except through magical means.
2) God doesn’t really have a bodily form, and his thoughts and motivations are in many respects very different from ours. He is an immaterial object or substance which has existed forever, and (perhaps) pervades all space. Still, he is, somehow, a person like we are, only vastly more intelligent, powerful, and virtuous, and in particular without our physical and morel limitations. He made the world the way a carpenter builds a house, as an independent object that would carry on even if he were to “go away” from it, but he nevertheless may decide to intervene in its operations from time to time.
3) God is not an object or substance alongside other objects or substances in the world; rather, He is pure being or existence itself, utterly distinct from the world of time, space, and things, underlying and maintaining them in being at every moment, and part from whose ongoing conserving action they would be instantly annihilated. The world is not an independent object tin the sense of something that might carry on if God were to “go away”; it is more like the music produced by a musician, which exits only when he plays and vanishes the moment he stops. None of the concepts we apply to things in the world, in clouding to ourselves, apply to God in anything but the analogous sense. Hence, for example, we may say that God is “personal” insofar as He is not less than a person, the way an animal is less than a person. But God is not literally “a person” in the sense of being one individual thing among others who reasons, chooses, has moral obligations, etc. Such concepts make no sense when literally applied to God. Read the rest of this entry »
A snippet from a recent essay of mine on Atheism:
“In the God Delusion, Dawkins seems to think the theory of evolution is an answer for everything and quite easily remove God from the equation of life. Life is explained by evolution. Not so. Evolution explains the changes in life. It does not look at origins of life nor physics nor God. His explanations of how it might explain religion and consciousness and many other things are pure speculation, not fact.
Alex Jensen, professor of systematic theology at Murdoch University, points out the basis of such an argument is a logical fallacy. When we do science, we do not assume God. We assume God does not make my car run, the engine does. So the fact that the car runs without God proves God does not exist. Not so.
To make the conclusion that God does not exist, when God has not been factored into the experiment in the first place, makes an inconsistent leap. “Methodological atheism jumps to ontological atheism with no explanation.”
Nathan Duffy brings up the issue more clearly in his blogpost: Evidentialist Atheism
If you traffic in atheistic circles, online or elsewhere, you’ll notice that the primary objection lodged against belief in God is the evidential objection i.e. “I believe things based on [usually ‘scientific’] evidence (and others ought to as well); in the absence of evidence for some proposition, I withhold (and others ought to withhold) belief in it; there is no evidence for God’s existence that I’ve ever seen; hence I can’t justify believing in God (and neither can anyone else).” Not only is this the primary objection, it’s virtually becoming the sole objection. There are many weaknesses to this argument, but I just want to examine one of them in this post.
Namely this: for someone who adopts this stance, what would count as evidence of the supernatural or of God? And if it turns out there is not any sort of event, fact, datum, or combination of facts that would count as evidence of the supernatural or of God, then how is this stance distinguishable from a priori atheism, rather than a result of a survey of the pertinent evidence? And if it is indistinguishable from a priori atheism, why countenance the objection seriously at all? Read the rest of this entry »
The central contention of the “New Atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that there has for several centuries been a war between science and religion, that religion has been steadily losing that war, and that at this point in human history a completely secular scientific account of the world has been worked out in such thorough and convincing detail that there is no longer any reason why a rational and educated person should find the claims of any religion the least bit worthy of attention.
But as Edward Feser argues in The Last Superstition, in fact there is not, and never has been, any war between science and religion at all. There has instead been a conflict between two entirely philosophical conceptions of the natural order: on the one hand, the classical “teleological” vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on which purpose or goal-directedness is as inherent a feature of the physical world as mass or electric charge; and the modern “mechanical” vision of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, according to which the physical world is comprised of nothing more than purposeless, meaningless particles in motion. The modern “mechanical” picture has never been established by science, and cannot be, for it is not a scientific theory in the first place but merely a philosophical interpretation of science.
Not only is this modern philosophical picture rationally unfounded, it is demonstrably false. For the “mechanical” conception of the natural world, when worked out consistently, absurdly entails that rationality, and indeed the human mind itself, are illusory. The so-called “scientific worldview” championed by the New Atheists thus inevitably undermines its own rational foundations; and into the bargain it undermines the foundations of any possible morality as well.
Dupre pg 112 -113
“Any belief not justified by scientific methods may be discarded as probably false.”
“The scientist transgresses the limits of his field if he denies the believing mind the intellectual right ……to attribute a theological meaning to a process that results in such realities as mind, self-consciousness, and freedom.
To declare such an attribution “unscientific” or unjustified is tantamount to denying the legitimacy of any belief in creation and divine providence.
Indeed, it implies that science and religious faith are intrinsically incompatible. An atheist conclusion becomes thereby inescapable.
Yet is surpasses the boundaries of science.
The biological theory of evolution is designed for investigation how one form of life mutates into another, not for explaining the presence or absence of a transcendent meaning to human existence. The claim that mind is no more than the necessary outcome of a random biological process grossly oversteps the limits of science.
Without entering the complex issue of how brain and mind are related, it suffices to state that a biological theory cannot service as a substitute for belief in creation, no more than such a belief can serve as a substitute or a necessary complement for a biological theory. They belong to different intellectual orders.
The conception that evolution replaces creation is a typical instance of scientific dogmatism.”
ABC Religion and Ethics 4 Oct 2011
But here we need to distinguish atheism and humanism. Arguably, humanism has always sought to provide an alternative to traditional religions through creating an anthropocentric civil religion.
There is a long tradition of wrestling with the problem of how to provide a moral basis for political and economic relations without Christianity that spans Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, John Toland and Comte.
However, unlike many contemporary humanists, these thinkers were aware of the pathos at the heart of this task: it involved replacing one religion with another. The task was necessarily one of setting up a compelling religious alternative to Christianity or de-christianising and remodelling Christianity so that it could serve as the basis of a civil religion.
Atheism had no such pretensions. Its aim was to rid us of the need for religion. Yet in its move to remodel itself as a civil religion it has become what it claims to reject. The disdain of a Marx or Freud for religion has given way to the shrill competitiveness of the “New Athiests.”
The sense in which religion and by implication atheism was simply a passing stage on the way to a new rationalistic outlook freed from religious baggage seems to have dissipated. Instead, a new confessional atheism has emerged, one ready to hawk its wares in the religious marketplace and compete for the souls of children.
Rather than a critique of religion from which the religious can learn, we find a “wannabe civil religion” that depends for its appeal on the continuance of the very thing it claims to replace. It has become an alternative rather than a critique.
Rather than a prophetic witness, disabusing humans of our illusions and idolatries, atheism has become Pepsi to the Coke of religion. To paraphrase the New Testament: what does it profit atheism to gain the whole world and lose its own soul?
“I’m getting ready to duck, but don’t shoot the messenger. The results are in. Religious people are nicer. Or so says Robert Putnam, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard. Putnam is no lightweight—he’s been described by the London Sunday Times as the most “influential academic in the world today.” Nor is he a religious believer.
Most well known for Bowling Alone, the book that made the notion of ‘social capital’ a key indicator of the health of a society, Putnam, along with co-author David Campbell (a Mormon), has waded into the debate about religion in the public square, with his latest offering, American Grace – how religion unites and divides us. The book emerges out of two massive and comprehensive surveys conducted into religion and public life in America. Much of what they write will make for spirited dinner party discussions and on-line brawls.
But the most conspicuously controversial finding in this book is the point delivered most emphatically—that religious people make better citizens and neighbours! They write, “… for the most part, the evidence we review suggests that religiously observant Americans are more civic, and in some respects simply ‘nicer’”. I had my own reasons for understanding why someone might be sceptical of such claims, but was intrigued enough to read on.
Putnam and Campbell report that on every measurable scale, religious Americans are better volunteers, more generous financial givers, more altruistic and more involved in civic life, than their secular counterparts. Religious people are better neighbours, more community minded, more likely to volunteer (and not just for faith-based activities). They are more likely to give blood, to give money to a homeless person, to provide financial aid to family or friends, to offer a seat to a stranger and to spend time with someone who is “a bit down”. They are more often taking part in local civic and political life and pushing for reform. The list goes on, and it’s a long list.”
“We all know that the religious landscape is very different in Australia, but what information we do have suggests similar results would be found here. A 2004 report by the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Research and Philanthropy in Australia, for example, found that people who said they were religious were more likely to volunteer, and to volunteer for more hours, than those who said they were not. The report found the effect was more pronounced for those who attended church or other religious services frequently. The Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests the same.”
“But this research is in stark contrast to claims in recent years by prominent authors like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris that imply the opposite. After reading their works, you’d swear that religion made you immediately abandon rationality to become an inward looking extremist, more bigoted, more selfish and most interested in infecting the community with something sinister. What Putnam’s book does at the very least is to bring a bit of balance into the conversation.
A sobering note for believers is that Putnam’s and Campbell’s study reveals that the content of a person’s belief isn’t what matters so much as their level of involvement in a religious community. An atheist who comes to church to support her partner will rate as well as any believer on these scores. On the other hand, a devout believer not involved in a religious community, will do as poorly as any secular person on the score of good neighbourliness.”
Read the full article at: https://publicchristianity.org/library/gods-truth-believers-are-nicer
Modern-day defenders of orthodox Christianity – of any religion with a supernatural element – face a host of challenges. Chief among them is the widespread assumption that science and religion are hopelessly incompatible.
In his best-selling book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins asserts that “religion is now completely superseded by science”. It’s a familiar line. Religion, we’re told, is shadowy and value-laden – an exercise in “blind faith”.
And the Bible says that the Earth was made 6,000 years ago in the course of seven days. Anyone who believes that is crazy! These notions are deeply ingrained, but they are fallacious. And they distort the true beliefs of most Christians in Australia.
For a start, the accounts of Creation in the Book of Genesis cannot be read literally and were not intended by their authors to be read literally. The Bible is not a science textbook.
What the Bible teaches is that the Universe was conceived, and brought into being, by God – and that, ever since, it has been sustained and monitored by God.