New Directions for CommonSenseAtheism.com

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 21, 2011 in News

You may have noticed that I now write more about ethics, rationality, and artificial intelligence than I do about religion and atheism.

Two years ago, I wrote Why Philosophy of Religion is Awesome. But as you may have guessed, I’ve started to lose interest in the subject.

So, it’s time to call out the elephant in the room.

I’ve been hesitant to do so because I know I’ll lose some of my audience if I come out and admit that I’m not motivated to write much about religion anymore. People come to Common Sense Atheism for articles on religion and atheism, not for articles on ethics, rationality, and artificial intelligence. But, it’s time to bite the bullet.

Here’s the deal.

My podcast Why Christianity is False will continue. I will, every couple of months, publish a new post in one of my ongoing religion series: Mapping the Kalam, the Fine-Tuning Argument, and others. I will occasionally write one-off posts on religion, such as Scientists Outside the Laboratory.

But I just don’t have the time or motivation to maintain Common Sense Atheism as it was. I can’t read 150 pages on artificial intelligence each week and keep writing tons of religion articles. So, this blog will become a more personal blog, tracking along with my own interests, which will only occasionally include religion.

Morality in the Real World will definitely continue – indeed, that’s a major project that has been sucking time and interest away from writing about religion. Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot will return – talking to all those people is too damn fun to give up.

That said, I’ve already shifted to writing about religion less often. That happened months ago. If, over the past two months, you’ve gotten value from one or two posts each week on this blog, chances are good you’ll continue to get value from Common Sense Atheism.

Cheers,

Luke

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Zeb February 21, 2011 at 8:57 am

Sounds like this will be a fruitful shift, though I have missed reading the variety of thoughtful posts on religion that you started out with. But there are lots of archives that I and probably a large section of your audience haven’t read or discussed, so I hope you will keep reposting selections from the past. As you know, one of the greatest values your provide your audience is a place to have intelligent discussion among themselves, and you’ve created enough content to keep us talking for a long time as long as you curate it to keep it current.

  (Quote)

Taranu February 21, 2011 at 9:17 am

After reading this post all I have to say is that I’m sticking with CSA

  (Quote)

Garren February 21, 2011 at 9:17 am

Moving on from a focus on religion is itself a worthwhile strategy in the religion debate. It’s like the switch from self-identifying primarily as an ‘atheist’ to primarily as a ‘humanist.’ Or whatever other positive focus best fits.

  (Quote)

Kip February 21, 2011 at 9:53 am

I feel the same way as you, Luke… so I’ll definitely be sticking around. :-)

  (Quote)

Charles R February 21, 2011 at 9:58 am

Good for you.

  (Quote)

Jacopo February 21, 2011 at 10:00 am

What I take from this is that you read 150 pages a week. Which is impressive, no doubt – but I’d had some suspicion that your reading rate was insanely high (in the order of several books, dozens of articles a week) given all the stuff you mention. Though I daresay you’d get through most self-help books much quicker than the more substantial stuff in academic publications.

Incidentally, developing an alternative worldview to theistic/religious accounts is half the battle of ideas anyway, so it’s more a new angle on atheism. I hope you keep writing about philosophy of religion, as you say you will. There are precious few really good thinkers challenging the theists in the field; we will always need a few people to keep fighting the good fight.

  (Quote)

Steven R. February 21, 2011 at 10:12 am

Zeb wrote the first part of my post.

Luke, don’t you think it will be much more appropriate to start a new blog where you talk about “ethics, rationality, and artificial intelligence ?” That way, people who are interested in the subjects can go and read your articles and opinions and those who don’t can just visit once at the end of the week or something to see the Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot and check to see when the next (big/relevant) post on religion will probably come (say, at the end of the week you write, New Article on Mapping the KCA will be published on Wednesday). In the meantime, as Zeb suggested, republishing some articles may be a good idea.

I say this to avoid those tedious comments about a “drop of quality” in your blog and so that there is more clarity about the aims of the blog. Though I certainly see the relevance in Atheistic Ethics and all of these other topics, I do think that “Common Sense Atheism” is a little misleading (not that I mind).

Just my two cents.

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 21, 2011 at 10:28 am

Steven R.,

Yeah, I’ve thought about that, but mostly it’s too much work to split into two blogs and maintain two communities.

  (Quote)

Steven R. February 21, 2011 at 10:43 am

Steven R.,Yeah, I’ve thought about that, but mostly it’s too much work to split into two blogs and maintain two communities.  

Ah, okay. Just as another suggestion then…maybe this post should be visibly linked so that newcommers to the blog understand why the blog is focusing more on ethics and AI than religious arguments now.

Also, completely off-topic but do you know why when you first quote someone, it only captures one letter or a small part of the comment (or, at other times, a completely different post) rather than the whole post? It’s happened in all the computers I’ve posted on this blog, so I don’t think it’s just me having this problem.

  (Quote)

JS Allen February 21, 2011 at 10:51 am

I like the newer topics, so I’ll be hanging around.

Can you recommend any additional sites that thoughtfully discuss the substantive issues from an atheist perspective? The word “thoughtful” doesn’t come to mind when I think of Loftus, Dawkins, or PZ Myers blogs. Your blog and Ken Pulliam’s were my two favorites.

  (Quote)

Jeremy February 21, 2011 at 10:55 am

Luke,

I’ve followed your blog for awhile now but have never left a comment. I too am a podcaster (Reasonable Doubts). I know how much time it takes to make a quality product and I’ve been continually amazed by your work and the caliber of guests you bring on to the show. You do an amazing job. But I understand why you are moving on. I feel the same tension right now. For some of us who left religion, the desire to discover where exactly we went wrong and to articulate that critique to the world becomes almost a “religious” quest of its own. But at some point the project loses steam. I ask myself “do I want to spend my life untangling the sophistry of apologists? Especially when there is so much work to be done in the real world?” Thank you for all that you have done and I will continue to follow your intellectual career with great interest.

  (Quote)

Alec February 21, 2011 at 11:18 am

Luke, are you still planning on publishing your book about Christianity (I think you said you were going to call it “A Friendly Letter to Christian Believers”, or something along those lines)? Or have your interests shifted too far away for that?

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 21, 2011 at 11:27 am

JS Allen,

That’s tough. ex-apologist is good, but he make substantive posts only rarely.

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 21, 2011 at 11:27 am

JS Allen,

That’s tough. ex-apologist is good, but he make substantive posts only rarely.

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 21, 2011 at 11:28 am

Jeremy,

Yup! I feel you, brother. :)

  (Quote)

Kyle S. February 21, 2011 at 11:38 am

I thought the new direction you touched on with Seth Yoder sounded very vital and positive. Looking forward to it.

  (Quote)

PDH February 21, 2011 at 11:40 am

Will you still call it, ‘Common Sense Atheism’?

I think it’s a good decision, anyway. Theism/atheism is one small aspect of a much more interesting worldview and shouldn’t really be given any more weight than, say, dualism/physicalism.

It reminds me of something that Nicolas Everitt wrote in the intro to the Non-Existence of God:

“The topic of God is a huge philosophical river junction, a confluence into which flow streams from metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, epistemology, the philosophy of science, moral philosophy, and the philosophy of logic, and of course from the history of philosophy.”

I think this is largely what keeps me interested. I don’t find theism itself very interesting. It’s just that in order to argue about religion effectively you need to know about all the stuff that Everitt mentions, plus subjects as disparate as cosmology, physics, evolution, cognitive science, history, probability theory, biblical scholarship and so on. And that stuff is all fascinating. It’s all worth knowing in its own right but I don’t think I’d have read half the things I’ve read if I hadn’t really started to take atheism seriously. It’s been a useful way to approach subject matter that has completely enriched my life in thousands of tiny ways.

But maybe a full-blown defence of naturalism would lead to even more useful arguments. In that context, God seems kind of quaint, really.

  (Quote)

Garren February 21, 2011 at 11:48 am

@Jeremy

Hey there. I’m at about episode 40 of the Reasonable Doubts podcast and loving it!

…though I must admit I couldn’t make it through the entire episode hosted by the three Christians who sounded like Atheists who couldn’t put down the God talk. Luke M. had a show like that recently too. I just don’t get it.

  (Quote)

cl February 21, 2011 at 11:51 am

I say bravo. There are two types of writer: the one who writes from his or her heart, and the one who writes to please an audience. Why lock yourself into a mold? If you feel you should move on to other topics, then… you should. After all, the whole “desire that P” thing right? :p

  (Quote)

The Crocoduck Hunter February 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm

De-lurking to say that I fully support this transition. Also, thank you for introducing us to the Less Wrong community.

We will be watching your career with great interest.

  (Quote)

Methodissed February 21, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I’m right with you. I’ve studied so much about atheism that I’m generally uninterested in investing more time.

I especially appreciate reading your insights on rationality and the cognitive sciences. Keep up the great work!

  (Quote)

Dan Nelson February 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm

You’ve done a outstanding job Luke and I will continue to read your blog with great interest as it shifts focus.

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

  (Quote)

g February 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm

JS Allen, have you looked at Matt McCormick’s “Atheism: proving the negative”? The author is a philosophy professor.

  (Quote)

MarkD February 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Welcome to the AI community! I tend to think it has more intellectual depth than the theist/atheist debate space because it has the possibility of producing intelligent machines rather than just producing arguments and counterarguments.

  (Quote)

Alex February 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Luke, good call, and one that certainly has me *more* excited than the religious bashing; once you get past the point of understanding religion and focus on the crux of all human matters, ethics (of which AI now plays an important role) is the foundation on which most things grow. You’ve done nothing less than taken a step back to see more clearly, got more inclusive (and perhaps less specialized) and have now a stronger focus on something far more important than delusions; the future of human-kind.

I simply love Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot, and I have thought about creating a Topic Map from the transcripts of all of them as a guide to people looking for various bits and bobs (subjects, topics, names, places, concepts, etc.), and I’m looking forward to see who’s next.

And I’m excited about the future of your blog. Keep it the way it is, even if focus shifts. Philosophy of Religion is not as important nor interesting as a common sense Atheist ethics.

  (Quote)

cd February 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm

There are two types of writer: the one who writes from his or her heart, and the one who writes to please an audience.

There’s a third option, which is the propagandist. Whose service is to an untruth he can neither fully persuade himself of nor get out of his mind.

  (Quote)

Gavin Kirby February 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I’m in favour of the shift in focus as well. Anti-religious content is readily available in thousands of places on the web, and it’s hard to say anything interesting on the subject that hasn’t already been said many times before (which isn’t to say that there is no value in such repetition, but it doesn’t often make for interesting reading). It strikes me that the more eclectic blend of content (i.e. not just explicitly anti-religious material, but other things that fall under the broad category of philosophical naturalism) that CSA offers is unique and valuable, and hence such a change in focus can only add to the value of the blog to its readership. Moreover, the wider public needs more exposure to the positive aspects of naturalism, rather than simply the naturalistic critique of religion.

  (Quote)

Michael February 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Yep, you absolutely shouldn’t force yourself to write pages of stuff that isn’t really interesting you. Your writing quality and content will be much better if you’re writing about something you’re passionate about.
And that’s why I said recently that I felt the quality was very different from a year or two ago, and I think it was because I felt the reasoning and content was getting lazy. But this usually does follow from writing on things that don’t really invigorate you.
So definitely just write on what you enjoy as that will maintain the high quality standard of your work.

And yeah, even if you very rarely post on the theism/atheism debate, if they are high quality posts making progess through a great series like ‘mapping the kalam’ then no-one can really complain.
As long as you keep doing things that no-one else on the internet is really doing then this will continue to be a superb blog. Keep up the good work!

  (Quote)

JS Allen February 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Thanks, Luke and g. Both of those sites look good; subscribed!

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm

JS Allen,

Oh yes. And I remember Triangulations coming from a similar place…

  (Quote)

Shane Steinhauser February 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Eh. Good luck on your new direction. I don’t even read the Morality in the real world posts, since I can’t get two paragraphs in without facepalming at all the theoretical bullshit, that utterly and naively ignores the central problems for objective morality. Seriously though two things that worry me most about your rationality are your acceptance of Jesus mythicists, and your quest to find some sort of moral code.

On the upside I’ve always thought your posts on religion made the fewest (very very very few), mistakes out of a sea of my fellow atheists who still say such things as….

“Jesus never existed.”

“Jesus is a copy of [insert pagan God here].”

“What created God?”

“Jesus couldn’t have been raised from the dead because that would violate science, which would violate naturalism. Naturalism is of course true, therefore Jesus couldn’t have been raised from the dead.”

  (Quote)

Alex February 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm

[...] mistakes out of a sea of my fellow atheists who still say such things as….
“Jesus never existed.” [...] [...] [...]

Wow, not only setting up several straw-men to burn, but then somehow forget to light the fire. Are you *sure* you’re so much smarter than other people?

  (Quote)

almost.chris February 21, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Anti-religious content is readily available in thousands of places on the web, and it’s hard to say anything interesting on the subject that hasn’t already been said many times before

There are many atheist blogs, but very few with the intellectual honesty of this one. Such that its become one of the very few atheist blogs I follow. I understand and will follow the change, but I’ll lie if I say I won’t miss the fencing with the likes of Craig and apologists. Such fencing and the honesty of this blog played an important role in my own de-conversion. I have been following and enjoying the new direction and will continue to, but I do hope the occasional odd atheist cartoons and videos, the relativity series, general atheist recommendations (podcast references) and especially the updating of the Debates Page continues.

  (Quote)

Mastema February 21, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I’ve been losing interest in the atheism/theism debate and moving back towards music. I’d still read your blog if you were sticking to atheism, but I very much look forward to the wider variety of subjects you’ll be covering.

  (Quote)

Reidish February 21, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Best of luck in the new topics. I’ll miss the devotion to the old ones.

  (Quote)

Jake de Backer February 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Way WAY OT but I’m just wondering if anyone else has seen the video of Reginald Finley (The Infidel Guy) on Wife-Swap. I’ve always found Reginald to be a whiny, borderline incoherent, shitty interviewer who, as a moderator of debates between two P.h.D. holding scholars, will often interrupt either or both of his guests to offer his own trite and often poorly stated opinion. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it yet, and want to watch a grown man cry because a mean ole’ poo-poo headed Jesus freak yells at him in his kitchen (this is an actual scene from the episode, I’m not speaking in some esoteric metaphor), it’s on YouTube.

J.

Can’t say I’m thrilled with the new direction as I’ve noticed an increasing amount of disinterest in a lot of the posts as of the past 2-3 months but I completely respect your decision to do so and appreciate the explanation all the same. I would request that you still update the debates page if/when you find or get sent a link. Thanks and best of luck with the new direction.

  (Quote)

mopey February 21, 2011 at 8:34 pm

While I’d sure rather not have my future robot butler kicking the sh*t out of me, or making me its butler – I nonetheless still can’t muster very much interest in this singularity idea. It could be because many of its proponents seamlessly straddle the idea with their over-the-top sci-fi hobbies.

I like the long, slow, painful drip of philosophy. Because I think that careful thinking takes time, and it is that process that is philosophy. Results are for people who like endings, or who think that finite attempts at the infinite will get there eventually. Just as I’ve accepted my inability to finally ever understand, my robot will be smart enough to build another robot who can explain it all to me in a few minutes. And thanks to the tireless efforts of those working on friendly AI, it will be forced to smile during the whole three minutes. But that doesn’t sound too friendly for the robot.

  (Quote)

nonchai February 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Fully understand the need to “move on” I’ll be following regardless, since so much of the
stuff you post on other topics is interesting and thought provoking. Even the music links.

In fact I would welcome a change of name for the blog as a consequence of this, since it allows me to pass on links to it, or share an article on Facebook etc – without my friends and
fundie family members choosing to ignore the link merely since it has the “A” word in it.

  (Quote)

Mark February 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I think intellectual growth is great and will gladly continue to follow your blog. However, just to provide a small measure of dissent, I for one don’t look very favorably on this particular new direction. It seems like you drank the LessWrong Kool-Aid a few months back and have since been/will continue to be heavily regurgitating a lot of their material. And while Eliezer Yudkowsky has a ton of interesting things to say about a lot of subjects, he’s also philosophically incompetent (at least in some areas) and I worry that enshrining him as your guru will dull your philosophical acuity. You should post about bonafide philosophy of science and formal epistemology if you’re interested in those subjects, not amateurish LessWrong sequences.

  (Quote)

JS Allen February 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Thanks, Luke. You’re right about Sabio’s blog; I’ve read and interacted there for quite awhile. He is probably going to be shifting more toward Buddhism, but I can appreciate that, and he’s always thoughtful when discussing atheism.

  (Quote)

Chris Hallquist February 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Good to hear, Luke.

(Honestly, I wish I had written a post like this years ago…)

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Mark,

I’m not sure your worry about me drinking LessWrong koolaid fits very well with my posting pattern on Less Wrong. Many of my posts there have been critical of some of Eliezer’s philosophical and scientific views.

  (Quote)

Shane Steinhauser February 21, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Wow, not only setting up several straw-men to burn, but then somehow forget to light the fire. Are you *sure* you’re so much smarter than other people?  (Quote)

This is not a strawman. Other atheists say this all the time.

  (Quote)

Alex February 22, 2011 at 12:23 am

This is not a strawman. Other atheists say this all the time.

Of course, just like people who build straw-men says this all the time, too. And yet the arguments are lacking, the evidence sparse, and the point of it all faltering.

  (Quote)

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe February 22, 2011 at 1:22 am

Mark,

That’s some harsh criticism of Eliezer, damn! Gave me a laugh even.

BTW, I was just about to start reading the sequences, but you are now (sadly?) discouraging me.

  (Quote)

Beelzebub February 22, 2011 at 2:40 am

Sounds more like you’re expanding your horizons than losing interest in one subject or another. As our vistas expand, everything available to us undergoes a certain dilution, and it’s easy to mistake this natural process for “losing interest” or other negative connotations. On the other hand, if you really are losing interest, so be it.

  (Quote)

John W. Loftus February 22, 2011 at 6:55 am

I like discussions about irrationality Luke. You have already done nearly a ton of them.

I don’t exactly know why I continue debunking Christianity year after year without wavering from this goal, but I do. Someone’s got to be an expert on those issues, so why not me?

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 22, 2011 at 7:38 am

John Loftus,

Of course, I greatly value the work you do in that area, and I hope you keep it up!

  (Quote)

Observer February 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

Should this website be called common sense atheism if you are making a shift? Have you thought about making another domain?

I don’t know why you are so high on John Loftus. John, you have an extremely large ego. Look no further than your post here. Instead of only complementing Luke, you couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about yourself.

I find your demeanor unnecessarily caustic. What’s worse if you DENY this on your blog. Calling believers “delusional”, saying “You’re too stupid” to those on your blog, making posts titled “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Believers?”, etc. doesn’t help you get your message across.

I saw your debate with Dinesh. Do you really think you would stand a chance with Craig? Hitchens may be less sophisticated with his arguments than you, or so you think, but he sure knows how to debate scrubs like Dinesh. I remember Luke blogged that you, and a few others, needed a tad more practice to go against Craig and your response was somewhat abrasive. That was extremely surprising given that Luke LOVES all of your material. Not to mention he promotes the heck out of your work.

I think you have some good things to say but I think you need a little bit of personality change before you take center stage.

Also, the OTF is overrated. For starters, it’s just a souped up way of saying “think critically”. It also doesn’t lead to atheism. You have a little bit more work for that. You raise this issue against someone like Craig and he would demolish you with his “4 facts of the resurrection” and the reliability of the Gospels. Do you honestly think you are ready to defend against him and convince the audience you sound more convincing? Debate performance aside, I think the real battle should be debunking the main arguments for Christianity/Deism. Where the OTF fails is that it doesn’t consider how one interprets the evidence; just because they don’t agree with you, doesn’t mean they aren’t objective. I have no problem with someone taking the OTF and remaining a Christian. Do you?

  (Quote)

Brian_G February 22, 2011 at 8:48 am

As a Christian, I’ve enjoyed following your blog over the past couple of years. My interest has been mainly because of the religious discussion. As you’ve shifted the focus, I’ve found my self coming here less and less. However, I wouldn’t want you to force yourself to write about something your not interested in.

The things I’ve enjoyed about your blog is that is has introduced my to philosophers and ideas that I wasn’t aware of before. I like the fact that you were willing to give criticism of atheists and to give complements about theists.

The one thing that disappointed me was that it always felt like you were on the verge of giving your own ideas, but never quite got around to telling us about them. For example you reject the Kalam argument because you reject B-theory of time, but you’ve never really spelled this argument out. I’ve been able to get a glimpse of some of your positions, (eg you reject miracles because you think their improbable, you reject design because you don’t think God is a good explanation, etc.) but it seems like you were always going to explain them later. Specifically, I want to know why you reject the typical arguments for God and Christianity (kalam and leibniz cosmological arguments, the ontological argument, design, and the resurrection of Jesus.) I also want to know what positive arguments for atheism you accept. I know you’ve written on the problem of evil, but I can’t recall whether you’ve ever said that you find the argument persuasive.

  (Quote)

Tony Hoffman February 22, 2011 at 10:01 am

Atheism is often a stimulating topic. So are the other things you write about. Thinks for continuing to populate the landscape with posts about and links to things that interest you because, as it turns out, they interest a lot of other people as well.

Thanks so much for continuing to enrich my intellectual life. Someday you may sleep, but we’ll all be worse off when you do.

  (Quote)

Silver Bullet February 22, 2011 at 11:58 am

Luke,

Supercool: just keep bloggin’ and I’ll keep reading!

  (Quote)

Zeb February 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Mark,That’s some harsh criticism of Eliezer, damn! Gave me a laugh even.BTW, I was just about to start reading the sequences, but you are now (sadly?) discouraging me.  

Yeah, what’s the skinny on Less Wrong? I’ve been really thinking about shifting my attention from this blog to that, given that the focus of posts here has shifted in that direction, while the comments here seem to have moved more in the signal -> noise direction. I was thinking Less Wrong might be a more productive way for me to spend my blog reading time, and I like that the upvoting there weeds out the nonsense comments. But do others who know think spending time on that site would be a waste?

  (Quote)

drj February 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Well, I’ll still visit for the rationality and the AI stuff , do what I usually do when it comes to the desirism and (usually other) ethics post – ignore them as hard as I can.

  (Quote)

drj February 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Luke,

Though you arent going to be discussing religion all that much, I assume you’ll still be discussing a lot of naturalism?

  (Quote)

Andrew @EC February 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Luke,

Best of luck to you. I can’t say I’m surprised. At some point, the realization sets in that you have, indeed, plumbed the depths of Christian apologetics and there is simply no *there* there. Obviously I’ll continue to keep reading.

  (Quote)

Shane Steinhauser February 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Of course, just like people who build straw-men says this all the time, too. And yet the arguments are lacking, the evidence sparse, and the point of it all faltering.  (Quote)

Ok so you don’t think there are any Jesus mythicists then? I’m attacking an imaginary group then.

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Andrew,

Yup!

  (Quote)

Thomas February 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Luke – After the past couple of years of reading your blog I’ve grown to perceive it to be more as a living documentary of your path of personal enlightenment than a coordinated attack against theism. I understand the shift to keep concentrating on your current interests and allowing those you’ve grown past to begin gathering dust off to the side; almost come to expect that’s how it is. But honestly – what is the non-theistic exploration of philosophy, ethics, rationality, and maybe even A-I, if it isn’t Common Sense atheism?

IMO Keep the name of the place, keep the archives in place, let people see the path you’ve followed. The smart ones will understand why the site evolved the way it did. Those spoiling for a good ol’ knock-down-drag-out fight between theists and atheists can still get their fix elsewhere. This place never seemed to be one of those arenas. Skirmishes, sure, but certainly no gladiatorial coliseum

Thanks for everything! I look forward to the day the CftPBD podcasts to start again – it’s a wonderful series.

  (Quote)

Patrick who is not Patrick February 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm

“Jesus never existed.”
“Jesus is a copy of [insert pagan God here].”“What created God?”“Jesus couldn’t have been raised from the dead because that would violate science, which would violate naturalism. Naturalism is of course true, therefore Jesus couldn’t have been raised from the dead.”  

With a very small number of edits, those become very good arguments.

1. The evidence that Jesus (defined as an apocalyptic prophet executed by the romans who’s life gave rise to the gospels) even existed isn’t that great. The evidence that Jesus (defined more specifically as the actual Jesus of Christianity) even existed is flat out terrible, particularly due to that character’s internal inconsistency between gospels.

2. The mythology surrounding Jesus borrows some themes found in other, earlier religious traditions. This is one of the facts that makes (1) true.

3. This one is actually a really solid answer to many cosmological arguments, even without edits. Its why Craig includes the adjective “natural” in his cosmological argument: to smuggle in a hidden premise that there exists a set of things which are not natural, that this set has at least one element, and that the things in the set of things which are not natural are not in need of causes. Even against arguments like Craig’s who have taken the time to spike this rejoinder in advance, it leads to some really useful elucidation on hidden premises, and whether they have support.

4. Edit it to read, The evidence for naturalism is so strong at this stage that the evidence for the resurrection doesn’t come close to rebutting it.

  (Quote)

cl February 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Luke,

I agree with nonchai and others: a name change, or perhaps a sister blog, seems appropriate. Although, I’m sure you don’t want to lose ratings and all that… but still.

Loftus,

I don’t exactly know why I continue debunking Christianity year after year without wavering from this goal, but I do. Someone’s got to be an expert on those issues, so why not me?

LOL! And you say believers are delusional!

Observer,

John, you have an extremely large ego. Look no further than your post here. Instead of only complementing Luke, you couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about yourself.

I find your demeanor unnecessarily caustic. What’s worse if you DENY this on your blog. Calling believers “delusional”, saying “You’re too stupid” to those on your blog, making posts titled “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Believers?”, etc. doesn’t help you get your message across.

WOO-HOO ain’t that the truth? To those who don’t believe, here’s the proof.

  (Quote)

cl February 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Then again Thomas also has a good point, that leaving everything intact presents more of the “journey,” if you will… tough call, I guess.

  (Quote)

Chuck February 22, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I don’t see how writing about AI, morality and ethics is inconsistent with an intelligent examination of atheism. Skeptical inquiry feeds my atheism and vice versa. What we make of reality without gods is interesting and these topics seem like apt choices to pursue.

  (Quote)

Sabio Lantz February 22, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Luke,
I shifted too. We both started out close to each other and shifted similarly. I shifted to adding Buddhism to my comparative approach to religion and atheism. I also felt a mood shift as I spent time thinking about things I find exciting rather than merely criticizing others.
I am curious if you have felt a shift like that.

  (Quote)

Chuck February 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I’ve shifted too based on interviews I’ve listened to of late with Paul Kurtz on John Dewey and your conversation with Yudoyesky on making beliefs pay rent. I started as an angry debunker of the religion I felt hurt me and know am interested in being a detective on belief. That’s the beauty of blogging, it is fluid and the beliefs expressed are only bets on the future which can change when the circumstances do.

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 22, 2011 at 7:16 pm

“a detective on belief” :)

  (Quote)

Liam February 22, 2011 at 11:18 pm

I feel very similar to you as well, Luke. I’ve been losing interest in philosophy for a while and gaining more interest in political activism and developmental NGO stuff. Which is a shame because I was good at philosophy of religion and just about nothing else…so now that i’m finishing my philosophy degree I have no idea what i’ll do. I start my course this week with Graham Oppy, too. For a few years I’d wanted to study under him but now that i get the chance I feel completely uninspired to do so. I guess the science/morality debate will be going for a while longer though…

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Liam,

That’s very interesting! Hopefully you’ll figure things out.

  (Quote)

Citizen Ghost February 23, 2011 at 3:18 am

Good for you! This shift in focus makes perfect sense.

For one thing, it seems that you have you’ve pretty near exhausted the inquiry as it relates to theism generally, and Christianity in particular. One does reach the point where one realizes that the “arguments” of apologists are not arguments at all (or at least not new ones). And so instead of feeling as though you are engaged in philosophy, you find yourself mired in a rhetorical game. (Of course some people enjoy playing this game and that’s fine too).

And I suppose also that the same spirit of inquiry that leads someone to critically examine religion will also lead them down other paths of knowledge and understanding.

For my part, I had only a superficial interest in philosophy initially. Because my training is in both science and law, I took a great interest in the creationist/ID movement as a matter of scientific understanding and also Constitutional Law. And while those issues remain more central to my interests, they have also led me to explore – in breadth and depth – other philosophical issues.

Anyway, enjoy the journey. You do a fine job with this blog. If you follow your interests and continue to write thoughtful and engaging pieces, I have a feeling the readers will follow too.

  (Quote)

Chuck February 23, 2011 at 5:58 am

“a detective on belief” :)  

It comes from listening to a few interviews with Joe Nickell (Point of Inquiry and For Good Reason). I want to be a practicing skeptic and not a de-bunker. De-bunking seems to enjoy the same certainty my former religious leanings had but skepticism allows me to admit when I don’t know something and investigate claims to seek alternative explanations.

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 23, 2011 at 7:31 am

Citizen Ghost,

For me, it’s not so much that I’ve exhausted the inquiry – not even close! Rather, I’ve lost interest.

  (Quote)

Cory Russell February 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Hi Luke! Long time fan of your work/site. I’m going through college right now and looking through your input on philosophy along the way has really been an enlightening experience for me. I look forward to your future endeavors and will hitch along for the ride as you move forward.

  (Quote)

JS Allen February 24, 2011 at 12:47 am

@Zeb, yeah, I think Lesswrong is relatively wasteful. He is unnecessarily triumphal, overconfident, and indulgent in confirmation bias. I like Eliezer a lot, but you can expect pedantic and preachy content wherein he fails to recognize his own manifest flaws.

I much prefer Robin Hanson, who is more thoughtful, tentative, and often has startling insights that are brilliant far beyond his area of direct expertise. Robin also introduced me to Katja Grace, who has similar flashes of insight about diverse topics.

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }