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Dawkins Still Doesn’t Get Arguments for God

in angry atheism, atheism, Philosophy of Religion

Doesn’t believe in God. Plays invisible piano.

Richard Dawkins isn’t stupid. He’s a bright spark. This makes me think that his muddle-headedness about arguments for God’s existence can’t be written off as a dullard’s inability to understand. The confusion must surely be an intentional tactic to confuse matters, giving his fans the impression that arguments for God’s existence are just a bit of a mess. The (possibly kinder) alternative is that Dawkins exhibits an inexcusable laziness and hubris, pontificating about arguments that he has never taken the time to understand because he just knows that religious beliefs are a load of nonsense.

At a public event to discuss his recent book about himself this month, Dr Dawkins was asked what he considers to be the best argument for God’s existence. Naturally, he prefaced his answer with a reminder that he doesn’t believe in God or that there are any good arguments for God’s existence. But if pressed for the best argument out there, here is what he says:

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in Ecclesiology, Theology / Biblical Studies

This is part two of a series on “speaking in tongues.” In part one I looked at the idea that there’s an angelic language, and those who speak in “tongues” might be speaking in the language of angels. There really wasn’t any good evidence that St Paul thought that way. However, most of what he wrote about speaking in other languages appears in 1 Corinthians 14, so that’s where we’re going to look in this article. I’m going to walk through part of that chapter here. Some people think that St Paul described speaking in tongues as the gift of speaking in a spiritual language that we do not understand, as a way of building ourselves up spiritually. Those who think this way, I maintain, need to read Paul a bit more carefully. [click to continue…]

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Have Yourself a Very Pagan Christmas! (not)

in angry atheism, history, Theology / Biblical Studies

It’s that time of year. Christmas is just days away, and I’m pleasantly surprised our media in New Zealand hasn’t trotted out the same “scholars” as last time to break the scandalous story that… I don’t know, Jesus never really existed (yawn), Nazareth didn’t exist (uh huh), Israel never existed, Jesus was a gay feminist or something equally likely.

One reliable Christmas theme is that really, Christmas isn’t Christian in origins. You’ll hear things like:

“Someone keeps putting up “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Christ is the reason” signs all around my town. I’m guessing they don’t know about the celebration’s pagan roots.”

That’s the caption that was attached to this “pagan traditions” picture. If you do start hearing this sort of things from those heathen carollers of the internet, this year give the gift of knowledge.

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Required to study Islam: Religious Freedom?

in Political Philosophy, religion, Social Issues

Is forced Muslim religious education compatible with freedom of religion? We don’t tend to have court news quite this interesting (as far as religion goes) here in New Zealand.

I’m not commenting on this case because of the details that brought the parties to court, so let me quickly summarise what I think are the facts and then move on to what interests me.

  • The tenant is a Muslim woman. The landlord is a 73-year-old ordained pastor from Nigeria.
  • The tenant has had between 12 and 15 people staying in the rented apartment, which the landlord does not permit (or at least does not want, I don’t know if it’s contrary to the lease).
  • The tenant claims that the landlord has a history of shouting anti-Islamic abuse at her and that she pushed her, making her fall down some stairs.
  • The landlord denies treating the tenant this way, saying that the tenant had a vendetta against her because she wouldn’t let more people live in the apartment and because of her religion.
  • The judge found against the landlord, also noting that previous tenants have taken out prevention orders against her.

That brings us up to the part that I’m interested in. Here’s what the judge did:

He sentenced her to two years in jail on the assault and battery charge for pushing Suliman but required her to serve only six months, with the remaining 18 months suspended if she complied with certain probation conditions.

“I want you to learn about the Muslim faith,” he said. “I want you to enroll and attend an introductory course on Islam. I do want you to understand people of the Muslim faith, and they need to be respected. They may worship Allah … but they need to be respected.”

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in religion, Social Issues

Research suggests that many New Zealanders are ignorant in ways that support left-wing and secular ideologies. Don’t blame me, I didn’t carry out the survey!

A common theme in my thinking lately is about the way that we humans come to hold many beliefs for non-rational reasons. We imagine the world to be a certain way, not because it is that way but (whether we realise it or not) because it would suit us in some way for the world to be that way. If we’re prejudiced against foreigners, it’ll suit us to say that we’ve got a major problem with migrants coming here, whether such a problem exists or not, and we’ll – unconsciously, perhaps – look for ways to interpret any available data in a way that supports this belief. If we are hardcore left-wing feminist social justice warriors (you know who you are), it would suit our interests if there was a real massive pay gap between men and women in our country, or if a lot of pro-lifers were violent terrorists, and as a result we may well form those beliefs with little or no assistance from the facts, quite apart from whether or not the world really is this way. In bipartisan fashion I’ve picked a “left wing” and a “right wing” example.

Because of my interest in the subject of why we believe as we do, I was intrigued to look at the findings of recent survey called “Perils of Perception 2015: A 33 Country Study.” The subtitle is “Perceptions are not reality: What the world gets wrong.” The summary reads: “Ipsos MORI’s latest version of the Perils of Perception survey highlights how wrong the public across 33 countries are about some key issues and features of the population in their country.”

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in Ethics, Social Issues

UPDATE: A couple of days later, this dishonest post by “Exposing Men’s Rights Activism” has been shared 470 times by people who did not check the facts.  No doubt this number will continue to rise. After I pointed out the errors, they have removed the word “mass,” to their credit. This leaves them making the claim that there were three shootings on that day. Of course there were far more than three. There are more than eighty shooting deaths per day in the US. Indeed the only reason for saying that there were three mass shootings was to claim (falsely) that the high profile case in San Bernadino was not the only one. The respectable thing would clearly be to remove the false post altogether. Moreover, they have not acknowledged their initial factual error, they have deleted my comment where I point this out, and they continue to claim that the attack happened at a women’s health clinic, perpetuating a false version of events. Truth is the real casualty in all this.

Some abortion right advocates have started fabricating mass shootings at abortion clinics.

Anyone who actually looks into the phenomenon of violence against abortion clinic staff, carried out by those who think abortion is wrong, knows that the reality is much smaller than the perception. Such incidents are rare and in severe decline, the facts show. Obviously whether or not abortion is morally permissible is quite independent of incidents like this, but still, some proponents of abortion rights do try to silence the vocal critics of abortion because of such incidents, as I mentioned recently. Unfortunately, however, whether or not the allegations about these incidents are even true is starting to matter less, it seems.

Perhaps noticing the lack of actual widespread violence against people who work at abortion clinics and trying to boost the numbers, or perhaps just trying to link the opponents of abortion to the recent terrible mass shooting in San Bernadino California, or heck, more likely just using somebody else’s tragedy to further your own social and political cause (no, not a crass thing to do at all….), the Facebook group “Exposing Men’s Rights Activism” today shared a tweet from Jamie Kilstein, reading “F**k. Not seeing this on the news cause they are covering another mass shooting. #america.” If I read this correctly, it means “Oh no. The news isn’t covering this mass shooting because they are covering a different one.” Kilstein in turn was sharing a tweet from Houston Feminist: “There has been a shooting in #houston at Clinica Hispana, a women’s health clinic. #hounews.”

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in Ethics, Social Issues

By now many or most readers will know about the shooting in Colorado Springs at a Planned Parenthood Clinic.

Capitalising on the violence (say I), proponents of abortion rights are using the incident to maintain that abortion opponents must stop publicly making strong claims against abortion. Some of the complaint is simple misinformation (denying that Planned Parenthood traded in any sense in the parts of unborn babies). But there is also the claim, echoed by many, that strongly condemning the killing of unborn children has consequences. It inspires shooters like this guy, so it has to stop. We can think abortion is wrong (if we must be so benighted, but we mustn’t call it a horrendous evil.

This is wrong. You may not tell people to keep this opinion to themselves because of the actions of this or any other shooter.

We understand this principle most of the time. Here are a couple of examples that help us to see this.

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