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Monthly Archive: September 2007

Sep 28 2007

The hidden god hypothesis

Believers in god are usually willing to acknowledge that they have no convincing empirical evidence for the existence of god. But at the same time, the claim is made that god could reveal himself/herself any time he/she chose. So why is god’s presence hidden? People who believe in god invariably explain this with one version …

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Sep 27 2007

Does god and religion satisfy other human needs?

In the previous post I listed four possible reasons why religion should not be undermined: God does exist and there is empirical support in the form of evidence. God does not exist but believing in god satisfies deep human psychological and emotional needs and that getting rid of those beliefs would lead to people feeling …

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Sep 26 2007

Should religion be undermined?

Religion is such a ubiquitous phenomenon, so pervasive in all aspects of people’s lives, that imagining life without it is very difficult. It is like asking an American teenager to imagine life without their cell phone. Not only are people extremely resistant to giving up the idea of god, they also resist giving up qualities …

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Sep 25 2007

Pinning down the properties of god

One of the difficult points on which discussions between atheists and religious believers flounder is that while there is a fair degree of uniformity amongst atheists as to what they do and don’t believe, there is a huge diversity among religious believers about what they believe. This can be disconcerting because in the middle of …

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Sep 24 2007

The end of mysteries and the rise of atheism

The linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky once divided up the questions that linguists study into two categories, mysteries and problems. That division has since been seized on and expanded well beyond the field of linguistics and used as a tool to classify all problems of scientific research. For example, Steven Pinker writes in How …

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Sep 21 2007

How to disrupt dinner parties

Last weekend I went to a dinner party where there were people from Sri Lanka whom I had not met before. When Sri Lankans meet for the first time, there is a fairly standard ritual that occurs. People try to find connections between you and them, starting with others who share your name (e.g., “Are …

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Sep 20 2007

Civil liberties and cell phones

I go to a fair number of public talks and on occasion have even been one of the speakers. Invariably at question time there will be people in the audience (usually the first in line to the microphone) who are familiar figures who always speak at such events. They either have a particular agenda that …

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Sep 19 2007

Mother Theresa’s mixed legacy

Mother Theresa’s legacy was not an unmixed one. On the one hand, she did important work that others were not doing, and took in the sick and dying from the streets of Calcutta and provided them with beds to spend their last days with at least some minimal care and cleanliness. On the other, she …

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Sep 18 2007

Mother Theresa and signs from god

In the previous post, I wrote about Mother Theresa’s unfulfilled yearning to get a sign from god that he existed and that her faith was justified. What is most surprising to me is that she did not receive such a sign. Most people who desperately want to believe in god, like Mother Theresa clearly did, …

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Sep 17 2007

Mother Theresa’s dilemma

There have been a flurry of news items and commentary about the publication of a book of Mother Theresa’s letters, which reveal that she struggled for most of her life with the fear that there was no god. Excerpts from the letters (as quoted in the press) show that during almost her entire ministry, she …

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