Episode 136: Freedom Isn’t Free

Dale McGowan, executive director of the Foundation Beyond Belief talks about some of the exciting ways the organization plans to put humanist principles into action in 2015. Also, statistics on the public’s attitudes towards the Christmas holiday, the John Templeton Foundation donates millions of dollars to philosophers who study free will and the Norse god Oden might just be the world’s first Christmas ornament.

Interview: Dale McGowan – Foundation Beyond Belief

The Foundation Beyond Belief is attempting to raise 75,000 dollars for its years end fund drive. Executive director, Dale McGowan joins us on the show to share some of the exciting new projects (including the humanist service core and the disaster relief) the foundation is planning for 2015. Please consider donating to Foundation Beyond Belief. You can find out more about what they are doing to advance humanist at the links below.

Links:
Foundation Beyond Belief
Humanist Service Corps
Humanist Disaster Relief 

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God Thinks Like You: The High Cost of Free Will

Philosopher Alfred Mele believes the public has been misled into believing that neuroscience disproves free will. Now Mele is at the helm of a multi-million dollar research project to study the nature of freedom, a project funded by the theological wing of the John Templeton Foundation…prompting the doubtcasters to once again make the case for determinism in response to some of Mele’s objections.

Links:
Alfred Mele’s Big Questions in Free Will Project
Free Will & Punishment

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Polyatheism: Odin

The Norse god Odin is the subject of this episode’s polyatheism.

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Episode 135: Pain and Paradox

Physical pain plays an important biological role, but should we expect it to in a world created by God? Also, a recent paper in the journal cognition posits distinct cognitive attitudes underlying religious belief and factual reasoning, but is the evidence from cognitive science and philosophy sufficient to support this claim?

Counter-Apologetics: Theism, indifference and the biology of pain

 

Pain serves an important biological purpose. Even animals who lack moral agency experience pain, and moral agents often experience gratuitous pain that serves no biological or moral purpose. Paul Draper’s paper “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists” explores the philosophical implications of these facts for theism.

Links:
The Biological Role of Pain and pleasure by Paul Draper

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God Thinks Like You: Imagination and Religious Belief

 

The power of imagination can make fictions seem real to us–even prompting behaviors and powerful emotions. The paradox of fiction asks how we can have such powerful reactions to what we know to be false. The journal Cognition recently featured two papers inspired by the paradox of fiction. One demonstrates how imagined events can fool our unconscious mind into believing the events are real, even when we factually know the experiences never happened. Another claims that religious beliefs are formed by cognitive processes more similar to imaginings than factual beliefs.

Links:
Religious Credence is not Factual Belief by Neil Van Leeuwen
If I Imagine it, then it Happened by Shidlovski, Schul & Mayo

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Polyatheism: The Heroic Adventures of Cú Chulainn

This polyatheism is the final instalment in a three part series on the zany adventures of the Irish mythological hero Cu Chulainn.

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Religion in the Headlines – Ebola Edition

 

Leo Igway on faith healers and bishop Duncan-Williams

ebola conspiracy theories are causing people to stop vaccinating

Props: National Association of Evangelicals calls for greater regulation of predatory lending.

 

 

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Episode 134: Coming Out Atheist (with guest Greta Christina)

 greta christina coming out 150

Many non-theists keep their doubts hidden for fear of losing friends and love ones. But remaining in the closet also has drawbacks: stress, hypocrisy, the oppression of silence and fear of being found out. Despite the risks, those who’ve made the decision to be open about their atheism almost never regret it. Luckily, doubters do not need to make this important decision on their own. Greta Christina (FTB blogger and author of Why Are You Atheists So Angry) conducted over 400 interviews with non-theists about their experiences of leaving the closet. Along the way she discovered that differing circumstances call for different coming-out strategies. Her latest book Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help, and Why?–distills this wisdom into clear and compassionate strategies for preserving important relationships while being open about your doubts.

Links:
Order “Coming Out Atheist”
Greta Christina’s Blog

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Polyatheism: The Heroic Adventures of Cú Chulainn

This polyatheism is the second in a three part series on the zany adventures of the Irish mythological hero Cu Chulainn.

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Religion in the Headlines:

14 year old kid gets jiggy with Jesus Statue, punished under blasphemy law

Scalia on favoring religion over secularism

White Evangelicals Think They’re Discriminated Against More than Others

Stranger Than Fiction: Christian Swingers

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Episode 133: Your God Detector is Busted

Our cognitive faculties evolved to help us detect agents in our environment and to predict the content of their minds but those same faculties also generate beliefs in supernatural minds and divine agents. While this seems to suggest that religious intuitions are untrustworthy by-products of ordinary cognitive processes, Cognitive psychologists like Justin Barrett argue  the existence of these “god-faculties” in the brain should not make the atheist more comfortable with their skepticism. In fact, Barrett believes they actually provide a defeater for atheism.

Counter-Apologetics / God Thinks Like You Crossover: Do Cognitive Faculties for Religious Beliefs argue for Theism or Atheism?

The fact that our cognitive faculties produce immediate, non-inferential beliefs supporting some of our most basic assumptions (an external world, the existence of mind, the validity of logic, etc.) should provide some epistemic assurances against extreme skepticism. Since our faculties seem aimed at forming true beliefs about the world, we have reason to trust them until we find evidence to the contrary. Building from this epistemlogical foundation, Justin Barrett and Kelly Clark argue we also have warrant to believe in God, since the same faculties that produce beliefs in agents and other minds also produce belief in Gods. Furthermore, Barrett insists the atheist cannot claim the mind’s god-faculties are unreliable without undercutting the foundations of a naturalistic worldview. Jeremy Beahan and Luke Galen look at the philosophy and science behind these arguemnts, and draw a differnt conclusion.

Links:
Reidian Religious Epistemology and the Cognitive Science of Religion by Kelly James Clark and Justin L. Barrett
Should CSR Give Atheists Epistemic Assurance? by Justin L. Barrett and Ian M. Church

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Polyatheism: The Heroic Adventures of Cú Chulainn

This polyatheism is the first in a three part series on the zany adventures of the Irish mythological hero Cu Chulainn.

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Stranger Than Fiction: Children’s Satanic Activity Book

Links:
Satanic Coloring Book distributed to Florida children (and a pdf of the book)

 

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Episode 132: Euthyphro’s Revenge

Does God approve actions because they are good? Or is an action good because God approves it? Euthyphro’s Dilemma is perhaps the oldest challenge to a theistic conception of morality, but many modern philosophers of religion believe the dilemma to be a false one. While the traditional formulation of the dilemma may have an answer, Socrates’ challenge lives on in a new form.

Counter-Apologetics: A New Euthyphro Dilemma

 

Philosophers such as  William Alston, Robert Adams and William Lane Craig, believe they can split the horns of Euthyphro’s Dilemma by looking to God’s nature as the standard of goodness, but in a fascinating paper Jeremy Koons has devised a new version of the dilemma which exposes this conception of divine goodness as unintelligible.

Links:
Can God’s Goodness Save the Divine Command Theory From Euthyphro? By Jeremy Koons

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God Thinks Like You: The Moral Psychology of an Anthropomorphic vs. Theological God Concept

 

How one conceives the nature of God can have a powerful impact on how one views violations of his commandments. When believers embrace a more anthropomorphic view of God, they are more prone to judging minor violations of religious teachings as immoral.

Links:
Anthropomorphic God Concepts Engender Moral Judgment by Carey K. Morewedge

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Special Focus: How religion stunts innovation, and other musings on the conflict between science and religion

 

A new study argues highly religious countries have less scientific innovation then more secular ones, even after numerous variables are controlled for. While its unclear what is the cause behind the relationship, carefully designed experiments have shown how a scientific view of the world can be at odds with religious views, especially in regards to ones view of the soul and our connection to nature.

Links:

Science and Religion Really are Enemies After All by Chris Mooney
Neuroscience and the soul by Preston, Ritter & Helper
Faith and Nature by Vess, Arndt & Cox

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Religion in the Headlines – Big Fuzzy Beard Edition

 

The continuing misadventures of Sam and Johnny Mullet

A prisoners Beard Offers the Next Test of Religious Liberty for the Supreme Court

Church Of England Will Allow Women To Serve As Bishops

Mormon woman excommunicated for activism seeking priesthood for women

 

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Episode 131: Witch-Hunt (with guest Leo Igwe)

leo_igweInterview: Leo Igwe

The award-winning human rights activist Leo Igwe exposes how witchcraft accusations are used to prey upon societies most vulnerable, often with tragic consequences. He recounts how the study of philosophy emboldened him to speak out against the dangers of superstitious and magical thinking in his home country of Nigeria and some of the challenges of promoting critical thinking and humanism in Africa.

Links:
Articles by Leo Igwe
Foundation Beyond Belief – Pathfinders Project

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God Thinks Like You: The Evil Eye, God & Moral Typecasting

 

Witch-hunts often begin because of the natural envy felt by members of small communities towards their more successful peers. A related superstition, fear of “the evil eye”, is common in a variety of cultures and might play a role in managing envy among close neighbors. Moral typecasting theory might help explain why the human mind is so prone to seeing supernatural agency both tragic and uplifting events that have strong moral importance.

Links:
Blaming God for Our Pain by Gray and Wegner (2009)
Warding Off the Evil Eye by Van de Ven, Zeelenberg and Pieters

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Counter-Apologetics: The Fallacy of Understated Evidence

 

Some of the best arguments for theism begin with general facts of the world that seem more likely if a god were to exist, but as Paul Draper argues, further examination of specific facts complicates the picture, making theism seem less likely. Justin Schieber argues that the fine tuning of the universe and the existence of biological beings capable of agency, are two such facts that on the surface seem more probable on theism, until one digs deeper.

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Religion in the Headlines:

 

A Catholic Archdiocese objects to the “Ice Bucket Challenge”

Orthodox beliefs complicate organ donation in Israel

Openly religions & non-religious job candidates receive fewer calls.

Battle over whether guru is dead or just meditating
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Episode 130: How Jesus Became God with guest Bart D. Ehrman

643How did Jesus, an apocalyptic prophet from Galilee, come to be regarded as a God by his followers? Bart D. Ehrman (Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) joins us on the show to discuss his new book How Jesus Became God, which traces the historical evolution of early Christian thought about the nature and identity of Jesus.

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Episode 129: Find a New Hobby, Lobby

big_girl_pantsEd Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars joins the Doubtcasters for an analysis of the SCOTUS ruling on the recent Hobby Lobby case. Some popular misunderstandings about the ruling and its implications are dispelled, and the true dangers of the decision are discussed. Also, Luke Galen reviews polling data on where the American public stands on the issue of birth control and offers some predictions on how the SCOTUS ruling may impact individuals and the nation.

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Episode 128: Inside the Mind of a Religious Sexual Abuser

Major League Baseball player Chad Curtis will always be remembered as the man who led the New York Yankees to victory by catching the last out of the last World Series game of the 20th century. To many religious sports fans, Curtis was a hero for taking a strong stand for Christian principles. He regularly spoke out against performance enhancing drugs and the hedonistic lifestyle of many professional athletes. He donated half of his income to charities that promoted Christian values. His friends described him as “morally blameless” and in the eyes of many, Chad Curtis was one of the few true role models left in professional sports. After retirement, Curtis returned to his home in west Michigan and began working as a teacher and coach in public and private religious schools but eventually resigned when three students accused Curtis of sexually molesting them in the school training room. Curtis denied the allegations, and his community rallied behind him even as more victims came forward. Transcripts from his trial reveal how Curtis used his reputation as a righteous man to manipulate his victims and win the support of the community after his crimes had been exposed. Disturbing but insightful, the Chad Curtis story provides a unique window into the mind of a religious sexual abuser. Also on this episode: Gay marriage advocates try an unusual legal strategy, the AFA claims they are being bullied and Christianity Today debates the causes of female masturbation.

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Episode Links:

The Chad Curtis Trial

Christianity Today: Getting to the Root of Female Masturbation

American Family Association says “We Don’t Discriminate” stickers bully Christians

NC clergymen say forbidding same-sex marriage violates their religious freedom

Journal of Religious Health: Evangelicalism, Sexual Morality, and Sexual Addiction:
Opposing Views and Continued Conflicts

Journal of Interpersonal Abuse: Cognitive Distortions of Religious Professionals Who Sexually Abuse Children