Responding to Dr. Jaco Gericke's Objections to Ending the Philosophy of Religion Discipline in Secular Universities

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Yesterday I called for ending the Philosophy of Religion discipline in secular universities. On my Facebook page Dr. Gericke presented some objections to this. I'm glad he did for it gives me a chance to respond.

Gericke has the unique credentials of being both an Old Testament biblical scholar and a philosopher of religion. He has granted me permission to publish some of his excellent writings here at DC. He also wrote an excellent chapter for my anthology The End of Christianity titled, "Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn't?" and the excellent book The Hebrew Bible and Philosophy of Religion.So I take his objections seriously because I greatly value what he has to say. He wrote:

Is This Christianity? A Bizarre Experience I Had Yesterday

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Yesterday I was sitting on my gay friend's porch, drinking talking and laughing. Along comes a guy who asked if he could join us. We said okay and invited him to have a beer. He said he didn't drink. His shirt was a billboard for Christianity, you know the kind. So I asked him if he didn't drink because it was against his church teachings and he said yes. Okay, I said. When it got around to why he wanted to join us, he said he'd like to suck, er, have oral sex. When asked which one of us he would prefer he pointed to me. My friend was offended but laughed because he was off the hook. I merely told the guy I was not interested. Then I asked him if homosexuality was condemned by his church teachings and he said it was, but that he disagreed with them. Well, he left and we laughed. Nonetheless, is this Christianity? He agrees with his church when it comes to drinking but disagrees with it about homosexuality. And I'm equally sure his church would not approve of his wanton promiscuity. These are a few of the people who answer they believe in God and are Christians in those polls we've seen. This once again illustrates that Christianity is a pick and choose religion with a wide diversity among its adherents. Funny. We're still laughing.

I'm Calling For An End to the Philosophy of Religion As A Discipline In Secular Universities

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Dr. Graham Oppy just published a book titled, Reinventing Philosophy of Religion. Below is an interview he did about it, where he both defended the philosophy of religion as a discipline and expressed a way to reinvent it.

Oppy rightly mentions that philosophy gave birth to the sciences. Philosophers discussed issues before there was any evidence for them, but once evidence was found then a new discipline was born. After all, the sciences we call physics, cosmology, and psychology were at one time considered the domain of philosophy. What Oppy doesn't talk about is whether this process can be reversed. What if philosophy spawned a discipline that, after a few centuries or decades, science has shown us it doesn't deserve to be a separate discipline? That's the argument of Richard Dawkins, Peter Boghossian, Jerry Coyne and myself. The discipline is so bad that Dr. Keith Parsons decided to quit teaching it because he could not take it seriously any longer. If he decided to quit teaching it then he agrees it should end as a discipline of learning (I look forward to him weighing in on this dispute).

Oppy tells us: "Philosophy of religion as a discipline, I would think, probably doesn't date much earlier than the second World War." This historical lesson is significant, I think, for we did without it for centuries and we can do without it again. Later Oppy offers his criticism, saying, "Most of the people who have done philosophy of religion have been theists." So it stands to reason "it has had an extremely narrow focus...It hasn't really been the philosophy of religion but rather Christianity with a very great emphasis on theism," and even apologetics/Christian theology. Okay then, as it stands today the philosophy of religion is dominated by Christian theists who discuss concepts and arguments germane to Christianity, and even defending it. Given what he said, the philosophy of religion needs reinvented if it is to survive. The unaddressed question is why we should have a discipline in any secular university where theism, or Christian theism, Christian theology or Christian apologetics is privileged and considered to the exclusion of all other religions or apologetics? It shouldn't. If this is the state of affairs then the only reasonable response is to call for the end of that discipline. NOW!

Oppy offers a solution to this malaise. He argues the discipline must be reinvented. I have a different solution based on the arguments of Dr. Hector Avalos, who has called for the end of biblical studies (see below). My position is that the philosophy of religion (and to be sure I have three master's degrees in that discipline) should end as a discipline in secular universities. This is not exactly a change from what I've stated before. This is based on further thought and reflection, for almost everyone does the philosophy of religion whenever we think about religion. Although, I find his criticism of Boghossian to be misguided, for Oppy says his rejection of the philosophy of religion "seems to be expressing views in the philosophy of religion." Boghossian's views are "just a position in the philosophy of religion," he said. The reason this criticism of Oppy's is misguided is because by the same token someone who rejects legitimate science by doing pseudoscience is doing science, or someone who does science badly is doing science, and so forth. It reminds me of the criticism thrown at atheists that we believe even though we don't, or that we're religious because we take a position on religion. Not!

Children Exposed to Religion Have Difficulty Distinguishing Fact From Fiction

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Researchers took 66 children between the ages of five and six and asked them questions about stories — some of which were drawn from fairy tales, others from the Old Testament — in order to determine whether the children believed the characters in them were real or fictional.

“Children with exposure to religion — via church attendance, parochial schooling, or both — judged [characters in religious stories] to be real,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, children with no such exposure judged them to be pretend,” just as they had the characters in fairy tales. But children with exposure to religion judged many characters in fantastical, but not explicitly religious stories, to also be real — the equivalent of being incapable of differentiating between Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer and an account of George Washington’s life. LINK.

Quote of the Day, By ORAXX

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"A god that needs to be worshiped isn't much of a god."

More Liars for Jesus, This Time About Church Attendance

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Two in five Americans say they regularly attend religious services. Upward of 90 percent of all Americans believe in God, pollsters report, and more than 70 percent have absolutely no doubt that God exists. There is only one conclusion to draw from these numbers: Americans are significantly more religious than the citizens of other industrialized nations.

Except they are not.

Beyond the polls, social scientists have conducted more rigorous analyses of religious behavior. Rather than ask people how often they attend church, the better studies measure what people actually do. The results are surprising. Americans are hardly more religious than people living in other industrialized countries. Yet they consistently—and more or less uniquely—want others to believe they are more religious than they really are.

Even as pundits theorized about why Americans were so much more religious than Europeans, quiet voices on the ground asked how, if so many Americans were attending services, the pews of so many churches could be deserted. LINK.
The fact is that Americans are leaving religion behind.

An Ad For My Book in the Free Inquiry Magazine

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I was told that a full page advertisement for my book Why I Became an Atheist appeared in the current issue of the Free Inquiry magazine. It's pretty cool, see what you think:

Steven Pinker - The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity

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The History of Satan the Devil

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So As An Atheist I'm Not Crazy After All? Cool! My 5 Star Review of Randal Rauser's Book, "You're Not As Crazy As I Think: Dialogue in a World of Loud Voices and Hardened Opinions"

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Since Randal Rauser is reviewing my book, Why I Became an Atheist,I thought readers should see how I reviewed one of his books on Amazon three and a half years ago. It's a fair, generous review, don't you think? This is the case even though I stand in opposition to his faith and even though it's very brief. So once again, as a reminder to him and anyone else who wants a place at the adult table, if you want to properly review an argumentative book, this is how to do it. Cheers.

"9 Sinister Things the Christian Right Does in the Name of God," by Valerie Tarico

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Here's the money quote for my readers:
I realize that many Christians are not Bible believers, but rather people who glean through the Christian tradition to claim what seems timeless and wise. I also realize that most Bible believers aren’t trying to do harm—in fact the opposite. I know because I’ve been there. But, when you treat the words of our Iron Age ancestors as if they flowed straight from the mouth of God, you end up putting your life energy, whether you see it that way or not, into bringing back the Iron Age.

The Iron Age was a time of incredible brutality—tribalism, warfare, destitution, disease, murder, misogyny, sexual slavery and superstition of biblical proportions. Most of us would rather not go back, thank you very much. Christians who want a better future are welcome to join in the inquiry and teamwork it will take to get there, and many do. For the rest of you: please forgive the fact that your Iron Age fantasies trigger some of us to experience wry Iron Age fantasies of our own. LINK.

How To Properly Review a Book: A Guide for Bloggers

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[First published on 4/27/2010] Let me offer some advice on how to properly review an argumentative type book on your blogs and/or on Amazon. It's annoying that so many people don't know how to do it right.

I have read several reviews of my book now. Most all of them aren't written very well at all. Two of them proceeded to argue with it chapter by chapter. A couple others went hodgepodge through it, pointing out things they liked and didn't like. Several others nitpick at it without dealing with the over-all thrust of the cumulative case I present in it. But good reviews will first summarize the book, tell what the author is attempting to do, tell who would benefit the most from reading the book, compare it with other books on the same topic, and offer a generalized statement about how effective the book is in attaining those stated goals. Are there any comparable books? If so, was this one better or worse than the others? As a reviewer you might even want to mention why you read the book in the first place. Then at that point you can write about some specifics in the book as examples that support your generalized statement. This is High School stuff here.

Who Are Atheist Fundamentalists?

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If I am an atheist fundamentalist because I criticize Christian fundamentalists, then are liberal Christians fundamentalists when they do the same thing?

Instantly Turn Any Object into God with a Simple Formula

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Now you can choose your own God.  Simply pick any ancient object; then substitute this object everywhere in the Bible you find either the words Lord or God.  Next, support your substitution apologetically and, voila!   You’ll have a deified God Object no atheist can debunk.  Try it . . . it works!  Here’s the formula  you’ll need to create your own personal God Object:

The Impossible Voyage of Noah's Ark

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Skeptic Ink Network's New Book, "13 Reasons to Doubt"

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This is a very good book, edited by Edward Clint, Jonathan Pearce and Beth Ann Erickson, 13 Reasons To Doubt: Essays from the Writers of Skeptic Ink.My chapter is called "Science is Predicated on the Non-Magical Natural World Order."

Bart Ehrman vs Richard Swinburne on Suffering

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The discussion/debate begins at the 10 minute mark.

The Tales About Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Paul Show They Had Psychotic Disorders

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Evan D. Murray, M.D.; Miles G. Cunningham, M.D., Ph.D.; and Bruce H. Price, M.D. in the The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences "analyzed the religious figures Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and St. Paul from a behavioral, neurologic, and neuropsychiatric perspective to determine whether new insights can be achieved about the nature of their revelations. Analysis reveals that these individuals had experiences that resemble those now defined as psychotic symptoms, suggesting that their experiences may have been manifestations of primary or mood disorder-associated psychotic disorders." LINK.

Putting Godly Fear Into a Child: Taken From a Christian School Discipline Manual

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Click on pictures to enlarge
"He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently."  Proverbs 13: 24

"Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die."  Proverbs 23: 13  (This You Tube video will prove God is a liar!)

I've Never Seen the Israel/Palestine Conflict Illustrated More Uniquely

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Dr. Graham Oppy Has a New Book Out, "Reinventing Philosophy of Religion"

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You can see it on Amazon with the full title, Reinventing Philosophy of Religion: An Opinionated Introduction. Here is a link to the contents and a sample chapter (pdf). It looks interesting since it's subtitled "An Opinionated Introduction." I'm wondering what he thinks of the discipline so I hope to get a review copy and let my readers know.

Yep, Jesus Feeds the Birds!

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Jesus reportedly said: "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26)


Quote of the Day, By D Rizdek

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Whether Christianity was particular in its mistreatment of women, it never overcame the culture and showed where the culture was wrong...in this or any other regard. The same goes for all religions. Their gods never seemed to be able to break out of the culture. If slavery was the "thing," the gods and holy men told 'em how to do slaves. If dominating women was the thing, god and the holy men told 'em how to do women. If the culture hated homosexuality, then their god hated it too. If they were ignorant about science, their God didn't know science either. If the culture superstitiously thought blood had some special magical powers, then god used blood to mark doorways and wash away sins. If the culture thought diseases and mental illness was due to sin's curse or demons, then their god acted like that was true too. Why do their gods never tell them anything they don't already know?

Dr. Daphne Hampson Says Christianity is a Harmful Myth Which Could Not Possibly Be True

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Dr. Hampson knows what she's talking about. At the least one cannot say she is ignorant given her credentials. She abandoned the "harmful myth" of Christianity in 1981. In her book After Christianity (1997), she argued that "Christianity cannot be true, for it requires a particular revelation which we can no longer think possible. Moreover its situatedness in past history makes Christianity necessarily sexist." In a 1997 interview we read that, "She came to see that the notions of incarnation - God made flesh in the person of Christ - and resurrection - Christ rising from the dead after the crucifixion - could not possibly be true. How could we believe, she asks, this side of the Enlightenment, that God could create such a unique break in the natural order of things as the resurrection?" Furthermore, she tells us, "I began to see that the very raison d'etre of the Christian myth was to support men as superior over women, that it served to legitimise how men see themselves in the world." LINK. I just discovered her today. There are probably many others I have not heard about yet. Higher education, the right kind of education, can and does lead to the rejection of Christianity.

I'll Be Speaking at the Pennsylvania State Atheist and Humanist Conference

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I’ll be speaking on my book The Outsider Test for Faith at the Pennsylvania State Atheist and Humanist Conference, Labor Day weekend, August 29-31. In my talk I'll be dealing with some of the ridiculous responses to the outsider test. This should be fun. My talk is set for Saturday morning.

The list of speakers doesn't include just the usual lineup of suspects. If you would like to meet me and chat then come on out. Registration is $130, which is a great price for all that you get, including some great entertainment. My books will be on sale and I'll be signing them. Unfortunately my latest book, Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails, won't be out yet.I’m looking forward to this very much!

Christian Apologist Norman Geisler Still Does Not Understand Atheism

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Norman L. Geisler and Daniel J. McCoy's most recent book is titled, The Atheist's Fatal Flaw: Exposing Conflicting Beliefs. If you search inside the book for "Loftus" you'll see them interacting with my work. The central thesis of their book is found in the Introduction (pp. 9-10):

"Council votes to display "In God We Trust" in chambers"

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Picture from the national organization for "In God We Trust"
Here's what my county council has decided to spend our tax dollars on. I would invite anyone to go to the comment section of this news report and post a reply. Read more: 

So what can one can expect once believers get control? (Consider just three of the comments.)

 “The city council finally seems to be heading in the right direction. But why doesn't it wholly embrace The Word and start running the deviants out of the county? Otherwise, this is just lip service.”

Two More Blurbs for My Anthology "Christianity is Not Great"

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Below are two more blurbs for my anthology, Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails:

Could the First Pope (Peter) Swim? How The Gospels Use Lies to Teach Faith and Trust

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The Gospels accounts of John and Matthew present two different Apostle Peters with both being supported by two different miracle accounts when dealing with swimming.   

Freedom of Mind

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Because today is the 4th of July, I thought I would share a few things about freedom of thought.  It is impossible for a person to be truly free, unless they are in full ownership of their mind and thoughts.  A person may be physically free, but if their mind is enslaved, then they are chained.  Religion – especially fundamentalist religion takes away that freedom

Quote of the Day, By Jeffery Jay Lowder (With Rebuttal)

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[T]he philosophy of religion is not “dead,” but it is in serious condition, if not on life support. This can be shown by counting the number of philosophy departments at secular colleges and universities which have faculty lines for philosophy of religion. (They are very rare.) Why is this? I think that one contributing factor to this state of affairs is the blatant partisanship which is very much the norm in the philosophy of religion. Many philosophers of religion, including both atheists and theists, function as natural theologians (if theists) or natural atheologians (if atheists). In other words, they act as if their job description says, “If you’re a theist, defend theism; if you’re an atheist, defend atheism.” It’s rare for philosophers of religion to engage in genuine inquiry and to spend equal amounts of time defending theism and defending atheism. But, if a philosopher of religion is going to act like a philosopher, not an apologist, they should be engaging in inquiry. LINK.
Below is my response, which I guarantee will be worth a click of your time. ;-)

Exposing Kalam's Hidden Premises

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Apologists like William Lane Craig often use intentionally ambiguous language to hide problematic aspects of their arguments.  This video unpacks some of the hidden assumptions behind the Kalam argument to make clear what it's proponents are actually arguing for (and how much more difficult it would be for them if they were honest about it.)  Watching full screen is recommended.

A Few More Reviews of Richard Carrier's New Book

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A few more reviews of Richard Carrier's book, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt,can be found on Amazon, where you can get the best deal on buying it.