Posts in Apologetics

My Struggle with Naive Realism

Written By | August 13, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics | 4 Comments

When I was going through my religious transformation, there were a few key concepts that I learned that significantly shaped my worldview. One example was confirmation bias – the understanding that human beings start with a set of beliefs, and then actively seek to interpret all reality in a way that validates those beliefs. Figuring out how to recognize this and mitigate it in my own life was a critical piece of my path away from a religious worldview.

In the years that have passed since, however, I have been amazed at the number of people who have engaged with me in terms of my shift who either do not understand the concept of confirmation bias, or worse, knowingly allow it to influence their beliefs. They vigorously reject my proposed “rules of the game” in terms of first-principles logic, using statistics to validate supernatural claims, and allowing Occam’s Razor to determine how to evaluate competing theories. I have been accused of unfairly stacking the deck in favor of a secular worldview – in other words, cheating in my search for truth with a bias towards atheism. This has been the most astonishing thing to me in my personal journey over the last couple of years.

Why? In part, because these were the rules I tried to hold others to when I was a Christian apologist, and the rules that most religious apologists even today will try to appeal to in defense of their religious worldview. To be told that logic, objective validation of evidence, and common sense evaluation of competing theories is cheating? It has boggled my mind.

Until now. (more…)

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Bible Study: Homosexuality and the Rest of the Bible

Written By | April 21, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics Christian Beliefs Religion | 22 Comments

In the two previous posts, we did a deep dive on what Leviticus 18 and 20 have to say on the topic of homosexuality. We carefully defined the word abomination as used and learned that it is not nearly as bad as some try to make it sound. We also noted that Levitical law did not prohibit homosexuality in total, but was explicitly prohibiting male homosexuality (so lesbians are in the clear…) and we discussed the cultural reasons in place at the time as to why that prohibition might have existed, and clearly those cultural realities would not apply in modern times.

The Leviticus verses are popular because of the “abomination” scare word, but they are not the only passages in the Bible that mention homosexuality. There are exactly five other passages that are used to justify the fundamentalist Christian view against homosexuality, and in this post we will once again look at them both for what they actually say (like the Leviticus verses, many are often misquoted), what that means, and the cultural context in which they were written. (more…)

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Bible Study: The What and Why of Leviticus 18:22

Written By | April 20, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics Christian Beliefs | 1 Comment

Leviticus 18:22 says:

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

In the previous post, we answered the question “How bad is this, really?” and learned that lots of things are called abomination in scripture that we don’t have issues with today, and many of those have no scriptural basis for our acceptance. Thus, abomination is probably not as bad as we have been led to believe. There are two more questions that need to be answered about this passage:

  • What behavior is specifically is being called out as abomination? and
  • What is the context of the Hebrew society at the time for which this would be called abomination, and does this still hold true today?

In this post, we will examine the specific behaviors that are being called out in this verse, as well as its companion in Leviticus 20, and try to understand what specific behavior is being restricted, as well as why this might have been the case based on the time in history in which it was written. (more…)

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Bible Study: Abomination and Homosexuality

Written By | April 17, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics Christian Beliefs | 7 Comments

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. — Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

When discussing homosexual issues with fundamentalists, often you will hear the phrase “Homosexuality is an abomination.” This is based on one of two very similar verses in Leviticus – one in chapter 18, and the other in chapter 20. Leviticus 18:22 says:

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

What exactly does this verse and the way it is phrased mean? There are three main questions to ask:

  • How bad is this? What else is called abomination in scripture that we can compare this to?
  • What behavior is specifically is being called out as abomination? and
  • What is the context of the Hebrew society at the time for which this would be called abomination, and does this still hold true today?

In this post we will specifically address the first bullet point. What does it mean to call something an abomination?

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Bible Study: In Defense of Morality

Written By | April 16, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics Christian Beliefs | No Comments

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. ― Steven Weinberg

As I mentioned earlier, the fact that you believe in God does not by itself put us on the opposite side of any real, substantial debate about how humans should behave. It is only when your beliefs extend to the point of justifying immoral behavior – anything that violates the Golden / Platinum Rule with regards to how we interact with other human beings – that exposing the faulty underpinnings of those beliefs becomes an important endeavor. (more…)

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Morality: Memes, Religion, and Cultural Evolution

Written By | March 19, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics Philosophy | 3 Comments

In a previous morality post, we introduced the concept of cultural memes as a way to shortcut the learning process, and thus allowing individuals to move more quickly into beneficial behaviors defined as “moral.” From a naturalist perspective, all religions might be said to have played this role in our cultural evolution – passing along “best practices” as commands from above is a great way to get individuals to fall into step more quickly. Even now, I continue to be a fan of the historical value that various religious traditions have had in serving as vehicles to pass along beneficial memes. I like to jokingly tell people I fall into the “Patton Oswalt Sky Cake School of Historical Theology” when it comes to my views here. Take a look (warning – very strong language and adult content):

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Morality: Redefining Self

Written By | February 24, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics Biology Philosophy | No Comments

Morality as an end result of self-interest causes people fits. For some, there is little more reason needed to reject the idea other than it negates the need for gods to have handed down our moral code. For others, however, they look at examples of super-morality – Gandhi being the most frequently expressed example of this – where a person’s self-sacrificing behavior seems to go beyond what you can explain via self-interest. In this post, I’m going to address that issue, and unless other great questions come up as a result, will close the loop on this part of the morality series.

For starters, let’s review some examples of moral behavior that results from self-interest. In my last post, I contrasted the behavior of human mothers to some marsupial mothers. Why is it that a human mother would go farther to defend her offspring than a marsupial? Can you explain that *just* via evolutionary biology? Well, yes you can. Life history theory posits that organisms develop behaviors that will result in the largest number of highest quality offspring, and furthermore, the higher the biological cost of reproduction, the more investment that is made in each one. Let’s examine our story in this light.

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Morality: The End-Game of Selfishness

Written By | February 18, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics Philosophy | No Comments

In the previous morality post, we theoretically determined that all moral systems – at their core – are based on self-interest. On the surface this seems to fly in the face of much of what we observe in human behavior. Stories abound of individuals who make sacrifices for others without any expectation of reward. If all morality is based in self-interest, why then do we observe apparently altruistic behavior?

A religious Consequentialist might try to assert their holy writings, and thus their supernatural lawgiver as the answer. Later on we will examine these claims and see if they hold up to scrutiny. For a naturalist, the answer is not nearly as straightforward, but can still be derived just as clearly without the need to invoke supernatural forces. In this post we will examine the effects of both Nature and Nurture, and show how and why both of them have driven us towards ever-higher standards of morality.

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Morality: What’s at the Core?

Written By | February 17, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics Philosophy | 2 Comments

In the previous morality post, we started to discuss the problem with defining morality. While we all tend to hold views on what constitutes good and bad, it turns out that we are all willing to make exceptions to those definitions based on context. Those exceptions vary based on our particular worldview – be it Nihilist, Consequentialist, or Humanist in nature. How, then, do we determine what is good and right from what is bad and wrong?

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Morality: Definitions and Viewpoints

Written By | February 16, 2015 | Posted in Apologetics Philosophy | 3 Comments

This series will focus on one of the hotter topics in the religion vs. atheism debate: morality. In my coming out on Facebook, I wrote at several essays on this one topic. Given, however, that my essays were intentionally pithy, there were admittedly a lot of topics that were barely touched, or much background information left to the reader to review. Over the next several posts, I will be proposing a clear definition for the term “morality” that we can use moving forward, as well as concrete ways to evaluate different systems of morality and determine which one is in fact the “most moral” of them all.

When I say the term morality what comes to mind for you? If you are like most people, you immediately jump to a collection of principles that you consider to be “good,” with violations of those principles considered to be “bad.” I actually want to go deeper than that – I would like to avoid for the moment discussing what our morals actually are (that will come later), but would rather like to ask the question about what is “good” and “bad” and why you make those distinctions.

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