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 120: Church for Atheists? with guest Jerry Dewitt

dewittAfter 25 years of ministry, Pentecostal preacher turned atheist, Jerry Dewitt, finds himself behind the pulpit once again. He’s still singing, teaching and calling upon his congregation to share testimonials…but this is no ordinary “church.” The Community Mission Chapel, where Dewitt now serves, spreads a humanist message to a congregation of atheists. But do atheists really need a church? Dewitt joins us in the studio to tell us about his church, the challenges of ministering to atheists and to share his thoughts on why some skeptics desire a more traditional form of fellowship.  Also on the episode: sorry, but Jesus was not made up by the Roman aristocracy no matter what biblical pseudo-scholar Joseph Atwill tells you.  We’ll tell you why for this episodes Skeptics Sunday School.

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Is the Divine Lies Argument Irrelevant in a Debate on the Existence of the Christian God?

Last week, Reasonable Doubts released a lengthy debate between Max Andrews (Sententias.org) and myself, Justin Schieber. The debate was on the existence of the Christian God and can be found here. It was a fascinating exchange and I thoroughly enjoyed working on it. If you haven’t yet had the listening pleasure, I highly recommend it.

 

In the debate, I presented three arguments:
1. The Problem of Non-God Objects
2. The Problem of Hell
3. The Divine Lies Argument

 

A few days before we released the debate as an actual episode, Max Andrews posted the complete transcript with a few additional thoughts as to why he doesn’t find my arguments compelling (found here). In the debate and in his additional blog and commentary, Mr. Andrews pressed that my third argument was of complete “irrelevance to the debate” and “off-topic”.

 

Is this true?
If it is, it’s not at all obvious to me.

 

Because this post will concern itself with that third argument only, here is the portion from my closing statement wherein I review the argument, Max’s response and my counter to his response in the debate:



“First, recall that Mr. Andrews avoids the noseeum inference in the evidential problem of evil by saying that we are not in a privileged spacio-temporal position and so we shouldn’t expect to have epistemic access to the kinds of justifications God has for allowing certain evils – like children starving to death – to occur. I applauded Mr. Andrews for a strong view that lines up well with revealed scripture and is in great intellectual company.
I then noted that this has unwanted consequences. To be consistent, Mr. Andrews must agree that he is ALSO not in a position to know whether God has morally sufficient reasons beyond his understanding to lie to us in revealed scripture. This would of course prevent Mr. Andrews from being in a position to know that any claim with biblical justification only is ACTUALLY true.
Max responded by saying that it would contradict God’s moral perfection to lie. But when did God grant Mr. Andrews this special knowledge about the logical entailments of God’s moral perfection? Given Andrews‘ skeptical theism, he is left with little more than his moral feelings that lying is always wrong. Yet, presumably Mr. Andrews has much more potent intuitions about whether it is always wrong to allow children to starve to death as his God regularly does. If Mr. Andrews wants to appeal to skeptical theism when faced with questions about God’s potential justification for doing nothing while children are starving to death, then, as a matter of proper consistency,
he must also be epistemically humble when faced with questions about whether or not there exists a greater good beyond his understanding that justifies his God in lying to him about the necessary and sufficient conditions to be saved. All those claims to which Max confidently subscribes to but which only have biblical justification are claims whose truth or falsity Max can have no knowledge of.”

 

If there is anything obvious about these debates, it is that there are multiple kinds of argument that can be relevant to a debate on the existence of the Christian God. One kind of argument might attempt to show, either deductively or probabilistically, that such a God does not – or probably does not – exist. Another might attempt to argue in the reverse – that the Christian God does exist. Of course these do not exhaust the variety of kinds of arguments that can be relevant to such a debate. Another relevant argument type would be an argument that attempts to highlight a glaring inconsistency between an opponent’s positive case for the existence of God and their beliefs about that God.

 

 —

I want to argue that the argument from Divine Lies is an example of this third kind of argument.

Indeed, Mr. Andrews is quite right in saying that the Divine Lies Argument has absolutely no bearing on the actual existence of the Christian God but that is not the same thing as saying the argument has no relevance to a debate on the existence of the Christian God. Sure, this is a subtle distinction but it should be obvious to anybody who has thought seriously about these issues.
To be clear, there is nothing logically impossible about the Christian conception of God existing in a world where nobody actually knows it. For example, Mr. Andrews would see no problem with some possible world wherein God exists but has not divinely inspired any texts.

 

This logical compatibility seems to be what Max is suggesting when he responds to a commenter further down on the post that I linked to above.


I’m afraid you’ve got your conditions backwards and it should be very obvious. Tell me, is the Bible a necessary condition for God’s existence?

The commenter should have answered “Of course not”. He didn’t.

The point Mr. Andrews was correctly drawing attention to was that the inability to ‘know’ the truth value of the assertions contained within Biblical revelation are perfectly compatible with the Christian God existing. There is no contradiction – I agree.
However, the supposedly inspired pages of the Bible do serve as the only epistemic access one has available to rationally justify an assent to exclusively Christian doctrines – which is what is needed in order to argue for the rational truth of – not just Theism – but specifically the Christian version of Theism.

 

For this reason, I think a more relevant question to ask would be…

“Tell me, is special revelation (The Bible) a necessary epistemic condition for rational/evidential assent to beliefs that are exclusively and essentially Christian?

 

Of course, if the answer to my question is yes, then an attempt to argue that you cannot have knowledge of the truth values of any assertion with biblical justification only would CLEARLY be relevant to a debate on the existence of the Christian God. This is because without knowing the truth values of such biblical assertions, you could never get past mere Theism.
In our debate Max voluntarily saddled himself with the burden of providing a case for specifically Christian theism – not just Theism. In order to meet this burden, he needed some rational/evidential argument or evidence to bullet past mere Theism and arrive at Mere Christianity.

The divine lies argument is useful and relevant to a debate on the Existence of the Christian God because, if successful, it sets fire to the bridge between uninteresting forms of Theism on the one side and a rational assent to specifically Christian conceptions of God on the other.

 

Without such a bridge, Mr. Andrews and his cumulative case are left standing on the cliff of Theism. Stretching out before them is a seemingly endless chasm which echoes back his arguments to serve as reminders of just how far away he is from justifying his specifically Christian version of Theism.

Episode 116: The Outsider Test For Faith with guest John Loftus

OutsiderTestforFaithHow can one accept the Bible at face value but reject the Quran’s teachings? How can one accept Christian miracles as evidence but reject Hindu miracles? John Loftus, author of the Christian Delusion and God or Godless, joins us on the show to discuss the Outsider Test For Faith, which challenges believers to thoughtfully consider why they reject the claims of other religions and then apply the same critical standards to their own beliefs. Also on the show, its the Gospel of Superman! Why has Hollywood decided to promote the latest superhero film specifically to evangelical churches? And for God Thinks Like You, can just thinking about Superman turn you into a hero? All that plus a polytheism that is , quite frankly, a little twisted.

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RD Extra: Etcetera debate: The Status of God in the 21st Century – Featuring Justin Schieber & Scott Smith

schiebervsmithLast month Justin Schieber was invited by Etcetera to Traverse City, Michigan to debate/discuss with Scott Smith (CApologetics.org) the ‘Status of God in the 21st Century‘.  The lively discussion touched on a wide range of topics from moral intuitions to the strength of positing a God as an explanation.

 

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Episode 112: The Great Agnostic with guest Susan Jacoby

dude_was_great_and_an_agnosticToday most Americans have never heard of Robert Green Ingersoll but in the 19th century he was considered one of the greatest orators of his age. Known as “the Great Agnostic”, Ingersoll criticized religion and championed progressive political causes with great ferocity, wit and humor. Though his writings are controversial even by today’s standards his personal charm was so disarming that people would travel miles for a chance to hear him speak. Susan Jacoby, author of Freethinkers and the Age of American Unreason joins us to talk about her new biography of Ingersoll and to illuminate how his courage and integrity continues to inspire to this day. Also on this episode: Unlike Ingersoll, Pope Francis seems to have more charm than courage and the doubtcasters enjoy a hearty “I told you so” moment thanks to a new study on the impact of free will/ determinism belief on ones larger worldview.

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Episode 110: Clever Hermeneutics

What is a thoughtful, compassionate Christian to do with all the outrageous violence and hatred in the Old Testament? Many liberal Christians will reject the notion that these texts are inspired by God but in rescuing God’s character they sacrifice the divine authority of the scriptures. Fundamentalists will often bite the proverbial bullet and accept that God really did command these atrocities but how can one give any intelligible account of God’s holiness if He commands such evil deeds? Are these the only options available to a believer who wishes to keep the Bible and their conscience too? Apologist Randal Rauser doesn’t think so. He advocates an approach to interpreting the Old Testament which he calls a “qualified embrace” of the scriptures. It’s a clever hermeneutic but does it succeed in providing an intellectually sound way out of this dilemma? Also on this episode: Jesus shares your political views but he is more extreme, the Boy Scouts of America consider admitting gays and we conclude the episode with a touching Polyatheism segment.

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RD Extra: Debating the Amalekite Genocide

not_very_nice_yahwehWhen Richard Dawkins wrote “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”, he was spot on. Many Jews and Christians recognize the deep problems these texts present to their views on the most basic moral questions. Unfortunately, it’s become commonplace for some christian apologists to claim they ‘wrestle’ with these difficult passages when, in reality, they are rewriting them. Recently, Justin Schieber was invited to debate God’s command to slaughter the Amalekites on the popular christian radio show, ‘Unbelievable’ against apologist John Allister. In this episode, we give you the debate, response emails and closing commentary.

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Episode Links:

‘Unbelievable’ podcast

John Allister’s blog

100th Episode Live Recording – April First 12pm-2pm EST

On April 1st the Reasonable Doubts radio show & podcast will broadcast it’s 100th episode LIVE from 12pm-2pm EST at the WPRR Studio in Grand Rapids, MI!

If you are not in the Grand Rapids area you can catch a live stream at http://www.publicrealityradio.org/ Please give us a call with any questions you might have for the doubtcasters 616-656-1680

Local Reasonable Doubts listeners are invited to watch the broadcast live at WPRR. The Studio (& CFI–Michigan Office) is located at 3777 44th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI

Meet the doubtcasters, get a tour of the WPRR Studio and CFI–Michigan office (across the hall), watch the broadcast live, and enjoy some snacks and conversation with other Reasonable Doubts fans.

The doubtcasters will also be giving away free RD t-shirts, books and other goodies.