The Irish Ayes are smiling

And not just the Irish. Early reports show Irish voters overwhelmingly supporting equal rights for gays. This is a great victory for human rights and civilization, and a slap in the face to the dishonest “What about the children?” hysteria the anti-equality side was trying to foment.

Interestingly, a successful “Yes” vote on this referendum will mean that the union of one man and one woman will still be considered a legal marriage, no matter what the anti-gay folks might have claimed. Just thought it might be good to point that out.

A macabre digression

I think a good blog post should have a single main topic, and should stick to it, but today I’m going to break that rule rather badly. This post is going to be mostly about Ben’s most-recently-published comment, but at a certain point I am going to digress by bringing up a rather grim and horrific possibility that accounts for the empty tomb in a way I haven’t heard before. I may end up derailing my own conversation with Ben, but I can’t help it. This one is just too fascinating to pass up.

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Exceptionally foolish

Liberals often like to make fun of the conservative doctrine of American “exceptionalism” (and rightly so, for a lot of reasons). There’s a sense, though, in which conservatives are somewhat perversely right: America is exceptional, or at least unusual, among its first world peers. We, perhaps more than any other nation, treasure ignorance and bull-headed foolishness as something to be proud of and as our secret strategy for success. And it’s not just recent history and the rise of Fox News either.

I blame Martin Luther.

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Is Christianity killing the GOP?

One reason why the separation of church and state is a good idea is that uniting religion and politics tends to do more harm to both than either could self-inflict on its own. Indeed, many of the early settlers in America were people who came here to escape from the Christian nations of Europe, which is why the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights contains a prohibition against government establishment of religion. But the same phenomenon applies on a smaller scale as well, and the current woes of the Republican party may be a case in point.

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What you are, not what you aren’t

I have to say, I’m tremendously encouraged by the emergence of a new “Atheism+” movement as the logical outgrowth of the New Atheist movement. The problem with atheism (if you’ll pardon me phrasing it in those terms) is that it’s a definition based on what you’re not, or in other words on the things you don’t do. That’s a negative beacon. Sure, it draws in people who have thought things over, and rejected superstition based on reason and evidence, but it also draws in people who disbelieve in God as part of a larger pattern of antisocial attitudes, as well as people who reject religion as a way of drawing attention to themselves.

Atheism+ is a much needed refinement of the original raw idea. It’s not enough just to disbelieve in God for whatever good or bad reasons you might have. To be part of this new movement, we need to be atheists PLUS we need to be decent people committed to making life better for ourselves and those around us. And that means breaking down all the pernicious vices by which we oppress and destroy one another: superstition, patriarchy, bigotry, sexism, racism—whatever penalizes the innocent in order to profit the privileged.

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The 3 proofs of Justin Martyr

I’ve gotten out of the habit of announcing it here, but over at Evangelical Realism we’re working our way through the First Apology of Justin Martyr, just to see how ancient Christianity compares with the modern version. In this week’s installment, Justin wraps up his discussion of the many parallels between the Gospels and a variety of pagan myths, and then tries to prove that these pagan precedents mean that the Gospel alone is true. If you’re a fan of the gymnastics events at the Olympics, you might enjoy watching Justin demonstrate their mental equivalent.

The apologist’s dilemma

Thanks to some articulate and well-informed comments on yesterday’s post, I now understand that there’s a lot more to it than just needing to verify your conclusions before you accept them as true. Verificationism (or at least, the strict forms of verificationism that William Lane Craig was referring to) can go so far as to say that unverifiable statements can’t even have meaning. In other words, if I can’t verify whether or not it was raining on June 12, 4BC, the proposition “It was raining on June 12, 4BC” doesn’t even mean anything. I can’t even ask whether it is true or false because there’s no way to know what those words even mean.

Ok, strict verificationism overstates its case. So far so good. The question then becomes, “So what, then?” Even granting that verificationism, or at least certain forms of strict verificationism, might have gone too far, what does that have to do with Christianity? Craig’s opening argument was that the alleged collapse of verificationism led directly to a resurgence of Christian philosophy. But why would that be the case? What is it about Christianity that benefits from such a change, and what does this mean for apologetics and natural theology?

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