Books I Want Atheists to Write

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 31, 2009 in General Atheism

Atheists have only just begun to write popular-level books that look at life from a specifically atheistic point of view. We now have atheistic books on parenting, spirituality, and lots more.

But there are dozens of great books I’m still waiting for atheists to write. Below are some of them. I’d also like to know which atheist books you would like to see written!

books i want

Superstition in Retreat

A book about how the advance of knowledge from Ancient Greece to today has forced ancient superstitions to either die out or, as in Christianity’s case, be massively revised – century after century after century. The final chapter would look forward to future scientific blows to superstition, such as the discovery of more plausible mechanisms for abiogenesis, the discovery of microsocopic life on other planets, the resurrection of Neanderthals (ala Jurassic Park, not kidding), and machine consciousness.

Several Dozen Arguments for Atheism

I would like to see one of the major atheistic philosophers provide his own survey of the several dozen atheistic arguments available, assessing their strengths and weaknesses like Graham Oppy did in Arguing About Gods but with a focus on atheistic arguments instead of theistic arguments.

A History of the Problem of Evil

I want to read a comprehensive history of the problem of evil in ancient, medieval, and modern thought, with a special focus on developments after 1950 – Mackie, the evolution of Plantinga’s free will defense, both of Rowe’s formulations, Draper’s formulation, popular theodicies, all the way up through Nathan Hanna’s attempt to resurrect the logical problem of evil.

A Rebuttal to the Apologetics of William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is quickly becoming the greatest and most popular defender of the type of evangelical Christianity popular in the USA. A set of scholarly rebuttals to his arguments is sorely needed. Perhaps Wes Morriston and Graham Oppy could do a chapter on the Kalam argument, Elliot Sober could do one on the teleological argument, Erik Wielenberg could do one on his moral argument, and so on.

The Help and Harm of Religion

A summary of the scholarly literature on the apparent benefits and harms of religious beliefs of all sorts around the world, with a summary of arguments given by multiple sides on each topic.

How People Become Atheists

A summary of scholarly research on what causes atheism, including factors at the global scale, the societal scale, the community scale, and the personal scale.

God, the Failed Explanation

An expansion of the work begun in Dawes’ Theism and Explanation, showing why it is that theistic explanations are such poor explanations, and why theistic ‘arguments to the best explanation’ (for apparent design, for consciousness, for reason, for morality, etc.) are unlikely to succeed.

Why Reformed Epistemology Fails

Preferably written by a set of Christian scholars who reject the smoke and mirrors of Reformed Epistemology, this book would show why even the most sophisticated and generously interpreted forms of Reformed Epistemology do not provide warrant for theistic belief.

The Failed Search for a Rational Theology

A summary of attempts to construct a rational theology of God, Jesus, creation and salvation that can be plausibly defended, and why each of them fails. The book wouldn’t need to quote an atheistic arguments; only arguments that theologians have given against each other’s views.

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Taranu December 31, 2009 at 8:10 am

What if a book is published under the title: Deconstructing the Craiginator :) and inside it one could find not only rebuttals to his arguments but also an explanation of the strategies Craig employs in hid debates. I think that would make a very interesting read.

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Haukur December 31, 2009 at 8:22 am

I’d like to read some of those books too, especially the one on the causes of atheism – but why would “the resurrection of Neanderthals” constitute a “scientific blow to superstition”?

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majinrevan666 December 31, 2009 at 8:29 am

Hmm, a manual for debating Craig…Interesting idea.
One could even read it during the debate itself.

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lukeprog December 31, 2009 at 8:36 am

Taranu,

That’s a great title.

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lukeprog December 31, 2009 at 8:38 am

Haukur,

It would further weaken the premise that humans are specially created, the only ones with reason and consciousness, etc. If you’re a liberal Christian it might not bother you, but the vast majority of Christians are not liberal.

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Meatros December 31, 2009 at 8:57 am

I’d be interested in a book on how to handle the severly religious. Maybe from a psychological point of view, but I’m currently think of something that addresses how to handle your religious relatives. Not necessarily arguments or anything like that.

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lukeprog December 31, 2009 at 9:06 am

Meatros,

Yeah, that would be good, too.

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Feldmm1 December 31, 2009 at 12:25 pm

What about instead of being one book, A Rebuttal to the Apologetics of William Lane Craig could be a series of books, allowing for more detailed discussion of the arguments. Seeing as many of Craig’s arguments are very complex, this would be advantageous. A book on Kalam, for instance, can not only show how the argument fails, but it can also examine most or all the critiques of the kalam argument that have been made and show why some of them are false (instead of only having one chapter on the kalam in which there would probably only be room to talk about the objections that do work; the advantage of addressing failed criticisms is that readers might think that those criticisms are also sound). A book on fine-tuning could do the same thing, as well as introduce the reader to some physics. I consider the moral argument to be one of Craig’s most absurd arguments, but I suppose there has been a lot of discussion of divine command theory in philosophy, so the book should introduce the reader to the concept and analyze it in somewhat the same way as I suggested for the other books. Many books have already been written on the historicity of Jesus, so a book addressing the ressurection argument should be long too (and it should also include some discussion of miracles in general). If I am not mistaken, Craig’s fifth argument is based on reformed epistemology, although that does not come up much in the debates I have seen due to lack of time. I think Craig also believes that the argument from contingency and the modal ontological argument are sound, but I am not sure how much treatment they deserve. One other benefit that book-length treatments of his arguments may provide is that the author(s) would not have to make as many assumptions about how much the reader knows about what is being talked about. Perhaps these books could also serve as tools to educate people who have never heard about those arguments as well as function as defeaters of those arguments.

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Hermes December 31, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Here’s one I’ve been toying with. So far, I have some chapter notes and an outline;

What an atheist is…

Where it differs from just about every other ‘book on atheism’ available or considered is that it’s not one that even considers atheism from the POV of a theist. It also drops just about every staple topic and argument discussed constantly in books and forums.

Seems like a loser? Seems to leave too many important gaps and holes? What is left is too esoteric? Too short? If not aimed at theists, is it doomed to be in search of an audience? Well, I would agree — it would have all those problems and more. Yet, travelling lightly it might be easier to cover more ground without introducing a stable of the same horses — horses that are dead no matter how much meat they seem to have on their bones.

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lukeprog December 31, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Feldmm1,

I agree, but that may be too much to hope for. :)

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Nicholas Covington December 31, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Hey Luke,

It’s funny, a couple of the things you want atheists to write I have also thought about. I think it would be great to come up with a full length book on Craig’s apologetics. If I wasn’t a no-name no-credential 20 year old dude I’d probably do it myself.

Also, I wrote a review of Theism and Explanation which is set to be published on internet infidels in 2-4 months (three more articles are scheduled to be published BEFORE mine, and they leave articles up for between 2 and 4 weeks.

Anyway, I’d say the closest you could get to a complete refutation of Bill Craig would be this:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/chris_hallquist/faith.html

Pace,
Nick

BTW, look out for a devastating refutation of JP Holding which will hit my blog sometime within the next few days.

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Scott December 31, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Related to the history of the problem of evil is Jeffery Burton Russell’s great book “The Prince of Darkness”. It shows how religions evolved in their concept of malevolent spirits, most notably the devil, to answer the problem of evil. It’s a shorter companion work to his four-part series on the subject. http://tinyurl.com/ycqeucb

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Hermes December 31, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Meatros, while not specifically aimed at that group, what I’m considering may help some. For one, I don’t think they would be able to give canned replies for what I’m writing, and it would be stark enough to cut through some of the confusion often occurring in those discussions. I’ll keep it in mind.

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lukeprog December 31, 2009 at 2:29 pm

aigbusted,

What do you mean, Internet Infidels leaves articles up for only 2-4 weeks?

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lukeprog December 31, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Scott,

Cool, thanks.

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Rob December 31, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Apropos William Craig Lane: see the chapter in IS GOODNESS WITHOUT GOD GOOD ENOUGH? by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong:

http://www.amazon.com/Goodness-without-God-Good-Enough/dp/0742551717/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257174212&sr=8-1

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Matt McCormick December 31, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Hi Luke. This is yet another great idea for a post. A lot of these topics, like the failures of reformed epistemology and the failures of William Lane Craig’s arguments have been done, although not so much in a single book format like you’re suggesting.

I’ve put up an annotated bibliography of all the major works in philosophical atheism from the last 50 years here on my blog:

http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/philosophical-atheism-bibliography.html

And I’ve also put up a pretty comprehensive summary of all the arguments for atheism there:

http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/encyclopedia-entry-atheism.html

The format is for an encyclopedia–the article has been accepted for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy–so it’s not exactly the sort of book readable format your asking for, but it does cover all the types of argument that have been given in the literature. I’ve been thinking about turning it into a short book. Sounds like at least you’d buy it.

Matt McCormick

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kennethos December 31, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Luke:

A limited start, but you’re young. ;)

Here’s a few I’d love to see atheists write, as a Christian believer:

The Unparalleled Intellectual Humility of Atheism, by Richard Dawkins

Charles Darwin’s Vast Knowledge of Cellular Mechanics, by any current evolutionary biologist…

A Complete History of the Naturalistic Rise of Complex Biological Information Systems Prior to Any Process of Evolution, or Anything Else (sorry, sounds like an old Puritan title!), by… well, anybody brave enough to write it!

A Brief Treatise on Why Cannibalism May or May Not Be Wrong, in a Multicultural, Pluralistic World, by… well, you get the drift….

An Exploration of the Irrational Hatred of the Christian Religion By Those Who Have Seeming Discovered Enlightenment, by any honest atheist willing to think about it…

An Intellectual Examination into the Unexplained Blindness of Materialist Science and Philosophy to Adequately Explain The World We Live In, by… well, wouldn’t Dawkins be adequate for this?

The Superiority of Materialistic Naturalism at Defining Life, The Universe, and Everything Else, by….Carl Sagan? (couldn’t resist!)

Why Babies Are Special In A Cold, Uncaring, Hard World, by Sam Harris, perhaps?

Well, these are just a few of the titles I thought about. Now, Luke, if you want to be *really* honest, think about addressing some of these topics and books. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy the limited world of the naturalistic universe…..

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Hermes December 31, 2009 at 8:23 pm

kennethos, I like satire too. It is quite informative as well as humorous. Do you have more?

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kennethos December 31, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Hermes, I’m glad you enjoy satire. Me, I enjoy intellectual honesty, realism, and humility among peers.
Of course, attributing something easily dealt with like satire and humor is much more preferable than dealing with something frightening and life-changing. That’s something I’m typically faced with fairly often.
Anyway, glad you enjoy satire and humor (I do, too, hence favorite films like Airpline, Holy Grail, Naked Gun, etc.). But I also enjoy discussing ultimate reality.
Wish others did, too.
Enjoy!

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Hermes December 31, 2009 at 8:41 pm

kennethos, my mistake. Possibly. I mistook your comments for an intentional Poe, not base uninformed bigotry. Possibly.

Reality. Good word. When you become accustom to it, let us all know. I might then invite you to a serious discussion when you can handle the basics.

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kennethos December 31, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Bigotry? How exciting. I was being a bit sarcastic, of course. But also rather serious, as you might imagine. Yet, there is bigotry and bias and cultural baggage on both our ends. Question is, do we each have courage to admit it, face it, and address it? (Hence my novel series of book titles!) Or do we just cast around insults, like children?
I would enjoy a serious discussion. Please be my guest.

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kennethos December 31, 2009 at 9:13 pm

I find it rather interesting that many atheists and skeptics enjoy making sport of Christians and theistic believers, in the name of the (so-called) weaknesses of the Christian worldview. Admittedly, many believers bring on attacks due to various acts of folly, and inability to adequately defend the Bible and theism. Yet, most atheists make a conscious choice not to dwell the equal and quite possibly more troubling shortcomings of a materialist worldview.
My list above was a wee bit satirical look at the inherent weaknesses of the naturalistic world. It would be intellectually dishonest for atheists not to engage the weaknesses of their view, as they accuse believers of doing.
Now, please accept my apologies for not making my parody less subtle and more humorous, but honestly, you did accuse me of bigotry rather swiftly, without even a hint of acknowledge that I might have an intellectual point to make. That betrays just a bit of hubris of your end, really. I may maintain that I have a handle on ultimate reality that you haven’t, and you may (perhaps even rightly) regard that as folly, but that shouldn’t excuse people (even online) from basic human civility and the like.
Your assumption (not necessarily proven or even right) is that I’m lacking contact with ultimate reality…even as I’m asking the questions nobody is desiring to answer. This shows some disingenuity, since folks are ignoring the elephant in the room. But these days, I’ve gotten used to that from some quarters of the internet.

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Hermes December 31, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Parity? No. Bigotry. Yes. Do not expect a retraction. It’s meant to be blunt and honest. Something you asked for. As one person said to me, and I pass along to you, consider not attempting to dish it out unless you can take it.

I will leave you to discover your own mistakes. They should be enlightening if you so decide to take that journey, till then you do not have a complete enough grasp to go beyond satire.

Any of your book summaries should be a good place to start.

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Hermes December 31, 2009 at 9:38 pm

kennethos, one more comment. My point of view is not focused on what any theist thinks — Christian, Muslim, Juche, Hindu, … whoever. In short; it’s not about you and your biases or what ideas you insist I have and then you decide to criticize. Get over yourself.

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Charles January 1, 2010 at 7:47 am

Meatros,

Check out Dale McGowan’s blog. He talks about this sort of thing a lot.

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Charles January 1, 2010 at 8:05 am

Valerie Tarico blogs on the psychology of belief at Debunking Christianity. She had a very good four part series a few months ago. Check it out.

Also, Marlene Winell’s “Leaving the Fold” (not be confused with another book with exactly the same name) discusses how fundamentalism can be harmful from a psychological perspective. The short version: teaching small children they will burn in Hell unless they belief XYZ is a thought-stopper. Don’t do this unless you despise kids and want to see them emotionally scarred for life. Only slightly worse: teaching them about the Rapture or, that they are flawed, sinful beings. The last one is great for self-esteem. Good stuff!

(Be warned. LtF is a “self-help” book so only a couple of chapters are relevant.)

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kennethos January 1, 2010 at 8:15 am

Hermes:

No, I think you’re right. I was curious if folks here were prepared to examine the foundations of their beliefs in light of other paradigms. That preparation and readiness is simply not present, and folks are not about to face others, and remain contented in their world. Last thing I’m going to do is force others to place they don’t want to face. So….

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lukeprog January 1, 2010 at 8:31 am

kennethos,

Lol.

I’ll give very quick and inadequate attempts here:

Atheism has no particular intellectual humility or arrogance. Scientists, though, are at least able to say “I don’t know” instead of prematurely filling every gap in our knowledge with a very certain proclamation of “Goddidit.”

Darwin had no knowledge of cellular mechanics or even genes, and nobody claims he did.

We haven’t solved abiogenesis yet, or many other mysteries of the universe. That doesn’t mean the bogeyman did it.

I don’t know what cannibalism has to do with atheism. Many books have been written defending or attacking ethical relativism.

Irrational hatred of Christianity? I think I write about this some times. But some of the hatred is rational.

I guess the next book title is another god of the gaps idea?

Sure. This book sounds like “Sense and Goodness Without God” or “Good and Real”, both of which I’m currently blogging my way through.

Why babies are special? Again, this has nothing to do with atheism. Some ethicists have argued against infanticide, some have argued for it in special cases (Peter Singer).

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RDM January 1, 2010 at 9:11 am

Good Day to All,

Keeping in the spirit of kenethos’ satire, some further titles that I, as a Catholic, would like to see written by Atheists:

1. Why Faith is a Bad Word for Everybody Else, Except for Those with Faith in Promissory Materialism.

2. Superstition Reborn: How People who lose traditional religion do not become Atheists, they become Pagans.

3. The Help and Harm of Atheistic Belief: How the Religious are Happier, Healtier and more Charitable.

4. The Failed Search for “The Failed Search for a Rational Theology”: Why Catholicism is Still Alive.

5. Atheism Unwrapped: Why most rejections of the Divine have to do with moral/personal issues, not philosophical arguments (see example 2).

Just a bit of humour. Take care.

RDM

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kennethos January 1, 2010 at 10:22 am

Hi Luke:

As I said before, it’s a nice try, and start. And, thank you for taking it in a spirit of humor, for the most part! (With a nice slice of seriousness that Hermes may not have enjoyed, ah well.)
My titles were designed to creatively point out those places atheists avoid at all costs, can’t provide answers for, and arrogantly claim to have already dealt with.
I’m not looking for any easy escape through a “Goddiddit” answer, merely showing there are things of wonder in this universe (which you acknowledge), which we cannot explain through sheer materialistic naturalist explanations. Apart from the theistic Christian understanding of ex Nihilo, God creating from nothing, nobody’s been able to come up with a scientifically viable, intellectually coherent explanation for where atomic structures first came from. As in, beyond the stuff of the Big Band. Where’d that come from? Who/what made the stuff? I say God, you say the universe. But it came from somewhere, and nobody (apart from theists) is comfortable asking those questions, or considering it (apart from saying anything about the Bogeyman…leave it to the atheist to bring in religion! :). I’m asking question in a scientific vein. If, as Conan Doyle/Holmes might put it, all the other options are excluded, and the answer is a God making things, then so be it. And the cop-out of science eventually figuring out doesn’t really work…that’s religious faith, from a naturalistic perspective.
My title about babies was a glimpse into the inability of naturalistic thought to give an answer for why feelings such as love, joy, grief, happiness, etc., exist. Not regarding infanticide, but simply, why do we feel such things around babies? You kind of missed that one, too.
I will look forward to future posts, and wait (and keep waiting) for further depths.
Btw…
Nice thoughts from RDM, from a Catholic perspective. Heh!…

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Jeff H January 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Sorry for the long post, but hopefully it’s worth it :)

The Unparalleled Intellectual Humility of Atheism, by Richard Dawkins

Silly answer: Here’s an excerpt from Dawkins’ exciting new book: “…in short, atheists can be humble because it is painfully obvious that we are already superior in every way. It hardly seems necessary or kind to rub it in further.” Look for it on bookshelves in Winter 2010!

Serious answer: That’s a huge stereotype. Certainly there are some atheists out there that are assholes. But that describes plenty of Christians as well. We all think we have the truth, and for some people, that turns into an idea that “I’m better than you.” Others are more realistic and realize that our knowledge can never be complete and certain, and so a humble admission that one may be wrong is always ready to be given. Try not to stereotype, will ya?

Charles Darwin’s Vast Knowledge of Cellular Mechanics, by any current evolutionary biologist…

Silly answer: “Charles Darwin had a revolutionary view of cellular processes. Though modern scientists believed the cell to be a complex set of structures working together, Darwin revealed that the cell is, in reality, a ‘small blob that mushes together with other blobs, and sometimes eats other ones too.’ This startling discovery has turned conventional wisdom of cellular structure on its head.”

Serious answer: Biology does not regard Darwin in the same way that Catholics regard the Pope (or perhaps Jesus). He is not infallible, and his words do not indicate absolute truth, never to be changed. Science has moved on from Darwin, taking what was right about his theories and discarding or modifying what was wrong. That’s not a bad thing. That’s doing good science.

A Complete History of the Naturalistic Rise of Complex Biological Information Systems Prior to Any Process of Evolution, or Anything Else (sorry, sounds like an old Puritan title!), by… well, anybody brave enough to write it!

Silly answer: “Scientists believe that the rise of complex information systems came about as the result of a process called ‘shmevolution.’ This very detailed process (of which we can only scratch the surface here) involves a lot of rocks banging together, quantum entanglement, a mixture of hydrochloric acid and alien feces, and several shots of tequila by the scientists who came up with the process.”

Serious answer: Like Luke said, science still has unknowns. If it knew everything, it would stop. The fact that we have not yet discovered a detailed explanation (though there are several strong contenders) for an event that happened billions of years ago in an environment very much unlike our own, does not mean that there is no natural way it could have happened. You may call that faith, but it is not faith to remain agnostic on an issue about which we have limited knowledge.

A Brief Treatise on Why Cannibalism May or May Not Be Wrong, in a Multicultural, Pluralistic World, by… well, you get the drift…

Silly answer: “…after a riveting three-hour debate between Dr. Friedrich Ranklestoffer and !Ungh-avilabu, the witch doctor from a small indigenous tribe in the dark recesses of Africa, Dr. Ranklestoffer was summarily beaten, roasted, and eaten as the audience watched in horror. Individuals interviewed after the debate said that Ranklestoffer was clearly the more cogent debater, but could have spent more time working on self-defense martial arts training.”

Serious answer: While there are certainly atheists who believe that morality is relative or subjective, there are still plenty who believe that it is objective and built on reason and rationality. It’s again a generalization to say that atheists do not believe in objective morality; they merely have a different basis for it than some theists do. This could be right or wrong, of course, and I don’t have the space to argue for/against it, but I wanted to point out that many atheists would, indeed, say that cannibalism is morally wrong.

Stay tuned for the exciting sequel to “Pointless Posts by Jeff!” We’ll return after these messages from our sponsors…

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Jeff H January 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm

An Exploration of the Irrational Hatred of the Christian Religion By Those Who Have Seeming Discovered Enlightenment, by any honest atheist willing to think about it…

Silly answer: “As we can see, the following argument clearly demonstrates the position of the atheist. (1) God does not exist. (2) Therefore, God is a mean stupid-head. A corollary of this argument follows thus: (2) God is a mean stupid-head. (3) Therefore, all his followers are stupid turd-lickers. Such a startling refutation of the Christian religion is sure to amaze even the most devoted believer.”

Serious answer: I tend not to consider myself an “anti-theist.” I don’t have a moral objection to religion in general, although there are specific religious beliefs and behaviours that certainly inspire my condemnation. But I think this is likely what you would find of a lot of atheists. Certainly the vocal ones tend to spew forth more hatred (whether it is irrational or not, I won’t get into), but most atheists live out their lives quietly and peacefully. Perhaps on a bad day, if confronted by an aggressive Christian trying to convert them, they may lash out, but many of us still have friends and family that are religious. I certainly don’t hate them. I may not appreciate that they are dogmatically holding onto beliefs that I think are wrong, but I understand the need that many of us have for some cosmic meaning and purpose, for comfort and satisfaction. Many just don’t realize that one can find these things outside of religion as well. So it’s far from being hatred for many, although most would consider religion at least a “negative” thing.

An Intellectual Examination into the Unexplained Blindness of Materialist Science and Philosophy to Adequately Explain The World We Live In, by… well, wouldn’t Dawkins be adequate for this?

Silly answer: “It is apparent to all of us that if I want to explain why I slapped you in the face, the most logical explanation is because you are an idiot. One need not invoke the explanation of some higher power to determine the cause of my action of slapping you in the face. That is plainly obvious to everyone, except perhaps you, who is an idiot and would not be able to understand such simple trivialities. Such a thought process is the same when determining the cause of the universe. It seems only logical that the universe is here because if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be here. And that would create a mess for everyone who was trying to figure things out. Such an explanation is so obvious that even the most mentally challenged nitwit (i.e. your mother) could stumble upon it.” (Side note: I like imagining Dawkins saying these things in his kick-ass British accent :D)

Serious answer: Well, to be honest, I think you’d have to be more specific here. Materialist science and philosophy can explain many things in this world very well. Perhaps there are a few cases in particular that you are thinking of, but if your question is about how life got here, this book title is too similar to the one about that topic up above. Now it’s just all too clear and transparent that really you have run out of things to say and are coming up with more book titles for the sake of looking more ingenious. “Hey, look, I can come up with eight book titles instead of seven! HAH!” Look at you over there, you smug, self-righteous….okay that wasn’t as serious of an answer as I planned on. Lol.

The Superiority of Materialistic Naturalism at Defining Life, The Universe, and Everything Else, by….Carl Sagan? (couldn’t resist!)

Silly answer: “The late scientist Dr. Douglas Adams, Ph.D., M.D., K.F.C. precisely determined the explanation of Life, the Universe, and Everything to be 42. This was conclusively demonstrated through an insightful computer program, but after an attempt on his life, he decided to publish his work in a cleverly disguised allegory involving mice, spaceships, and intergalactic rock bands. This seminal work is the basis for the rest of this book, and has changed forever the way that I think of hitchhikers.”

Serious answer: Again, most of what I said above can be repeated here, but it’s useful to note that not all atheists would regard themselves as materialistic naturalists. I would suspect the large majority would, but it is not incoherent to not believe in God, and yet be a substance dualist, for example.

Why Babies Are Special In A Cold, Uncaring, Hard World, by Sam Harris, perhaps?

Silly answer: “Babies are special even in a cold, uncaring world because of their numerous practical uses. Babies have a variety of applications, including as doorstops, paperweights, or even as something that can be wedged under a table leg to correct a wobbly table. They can also be used to avoid doing other household chores, escape (or create) awkward situations, and solidify failing marriages. However, these uses quickly diminish as the child grows older and goes to school, as other parents may grow suspicious of one’s treatment of the child. It is best to use the baby for no more than six months, then deposit it on the doorstep of the nearest church or orphanage.”

Serious answer: I don’t see why babies can’t be special because we find them special. They are, you know, somewhat important for the future of the human race, and most of us like having that around. In evolutionary terms, babies are our way to pass on our genetic material, so we are hardwired to find them cute and pay attention to them. But babies are special because they are human beings, and we value human beings. That’s true no matter what God you believe in or don’t believe in. I don’t see why we would need to be told that babies are important in order to find them important. But maybe that’s just me. Remind me not to let you babysit my children when I have some :P

Sheesh…that was way longer than I expected it to be. Your finger tired from scrolling yet? Alright, that’s it. I’ll be here all week, people. Don’t forget to tip your waiters and waitresses.

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Haukur January 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm

RDM: How People who lose traditional religion do not become Atheists, they become Pagans.

No, alas, there are far more of them then there are of us. Unless you mean to imply that most people who think of themselves as atheists are really confused pagans.

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kennethos January 1, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Hi Jeff:

Appreciate the humor response, and the seriousness. Thanks!

“Serious answer: That’s a huge stereotype. Certainly there are some atheists out there that are assholes. But that describes plenty of Christians as well. We all think we have the truth, and for some people, that turns into an idea that “I’m better than you.” Others are more realistic and realize that our knowledge can never be complete and certain, and so a humble admission that one may be wrong is always ready to be given. Try not to stereotype, will ya?”

Stereotype? Take a look at the works of Sam Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, and the rest of the published atheist crowd. Listen to their interviews and debates regarding religion. *THEN* talk to me about not categorizing atheists a certain way. The leading spokespeople for the movement have spoken. Don’t yell at me about it. As well, Luke is doing a decent job at starting to explore some important issues, but betrays a frightening naivete about many things. Stereotype then becomes a convenient cop-out.

“Serious answer: Biology does not regard Darwin in the same way that Catholics regard the Pope (or perhaps Jesus). He is not infallible, and his words do not indicate absolute truth, never to be changed. Science has moved on from Darwin, taking what was right about his theories and discarding or modifying what was wrong. That’s not a bad thing. That’s doing good science.”
I like doing good science, such as not automatically disregarding the existence and reality of extra-natural reality dismissed by many skeptics. I also can’t deny the deification of Darwin by many media followers and scientistic-types. Look at the ID movements, the “Darwin deniers” who are in essence trying to do good science by examining flaws in current evolutionary theory. Darwin’s actual works may have been long surpassed, granted, but he is still “worshipped” by many.

“Serious answer: Like Luke said, science still has unknowns. If it knew everything, it would stop. The fact that we have not yet discovered a detailed explanation (though there are several strong contenders) for an event that happened billions of years ago in an environment very much unlike our own, does not mean that there is no natural way it could have happened. You may call that faith, but it is not faith to remain agnostic on an issue about which we have limited knowledge.”

I’m a fan of the scientific method, following in the theistic footsteps of many of the matriarchs/patriarchs of the last few hundred years of scientific history. However, your persistent, stubborn focus on a purely “naturalistic” way of things happening is disappointing. I would posit that actual science, logically, doesn’t exclude any possibilities. Materialistic/naturalistic “scientism”, on the other hand, is different, preferring non-supernatural naturalism. This is ultimately irrational, and illogical. Skeptics and atheists can logically do better, even as I expect (and demand) the same of theists.

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kennethos January 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Hi Jeff:
Continued response to your part 2:

“Serious answer: I tend not to consider myself an “anti-theist.” I don’t have a moral objection to religion in general, although there are specific religious beliefs and behaviours that certainly inspire my condemnation.”

We’re agreed here, I think.

“But I think this is likely what you would find of a lot of atheists. Certainly the vocal ones tend to spew forth more hatred (whether it is irrational or not, I won’t get into), but most atheists live out their lives quietly and peacefully. Perhaps on a bad day, if confronted by an aggressive Christian trying to convert them, they may lash out, but many of us still have friends and family that are religious. I certainly don’t hate them. I may not appreciate that they are dogmatically holding onto beliefs that I think are wrong, but I understand the need that many of us have for some cosmic meaning and purpose, for comfort and satisfaction. Many just don’t realize that one can find these things outside of religion as well. So it’s far from being hatred for many, although most would consider religion at least a “negative” thing.”

A lot of folks find meaning in community, and groups, as opposed to spiritual fellowship, and I understand that. I find a vast amount of plain old vitriol and hate from a number of blatantly secularist groups, and the book title at the heart of this was exploring this attitude that many atheists seem to see nothing intellectually or morally wrong with, and I find that disturbing.

“(Side note: I like imagining Dawkins saying these things in his kick-ass British accent )”
Agreed: Dawkins saying this in his British accent would be awesome (David Tennant, and the late David Gale, in his gothic American, would be equally good too!).

“Serious answer: Well, to be honest, I think you’d have to be more specific here. Materialist science and philosophy can explain many things in this world very well. ”
Of course they can, and you’ll notice I’m not questioning such normal things as meteorology, vaccine development, blood transfusion and the like. These are normally governed by physics and the like, though I’d argue against the “materialist” concept.

“Perhaps there are a few cases in particular that you are thinking of, but if your question is about how life got here, this book title is too similar to the one about that topic up above. Now it’s just all too clear and transparent that really you have run out of things to say and are coming up with more book titles for the sake of looking more ingenious. “Hey, look, I can come up with eight book titles instead of seven! HAH!” Look at you over there, you smug, self-righteous….okay that wasn’t as serious of an answer as I planned on. Lol.”
Considering it’s all satire, there will be similarities, of course. A bit of it was continued thinking. But the underlying reality is that many skeptics perpetually avoid the topic of “where did the DNA code come from?” as well as “where did the matter of the big bang come from?” These are usually answered with a “there’ll be a natural explanation eventually” and “science doesn’t have all the answers yet”, which are short-hand for naturalistic religious answers. I’ve already dealt with this before, thanks.
(And I *was* trying to be imaginative, and humorous, and serious, of course, with the titles!)

“Serious answer: Again, most of what I said above can be repeated here, but it’s useful to note that not all atheists would regard themselves as materialistic naturalists. I would suspect the large majority would, but it is not incoherent to not believe in God, and yet be a substance dualist, for example.”

42 is a great number, and answer, and Doctor Who episode…I agree, once more.
I’d love to see atheists who aren’t materialistic naturalists…their reasoning might be more rational and less “superstitious”, but I haven’t run into any yet.

“Serious answer: I don’t see why babies can’t be special because we find them special. ”
So why do we find them special? How is this naturalistic reasoning, per se?

“They are, you know, somewhat important for the future of the human race, and most of us like having that around. In evolutionary terms, babies are our way to pass on our genetic material, so we are hardwired to find them cute and pay attention to them.”
Hardwired to find them cute?! That’s a bit of aesthetic, and less than scientific reasoning right there, I think. Or we’re just trying to justify something there’s little naturalistic reasoning for. “Evolutionary terms” is usually short-hand for not really knowing why we do something, and some scientific researcher thought of a clever rationale for it that’ll stand up for five minutes in the real world.

“But babies are special because they are human beings, and we value human beings.”
Again, why? Perhaps this is more philosophical, but from a naturalistic view, given that people are born and die within a century or so, from an atheistic viewpoint, why do humans have value?

“That’s true no matter what God you believe in or don’t believe in. I don’t see why we would need to be told that babies are important in order to find them important. But maybe that’s just me. Remind me not to let you babysit my children when I have some.”
I suspect this is cultural baggage having little to do with scientific reasoning. Maybe it is you. But I ask these questions to poke and prod our brain cells, not to come across as a simpleton (a la the Socratic method, so to speak).

“Sheesh…that was way longer than I expected it to be. Your finger tired from scrolling yet? Alright, that’s it. I’ll be here all week, people. Don’t forget to tip your waiters and waitresses.”
Well, like you, I value good dialogues and conversations, even typed!

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Hermes January 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm

RDM, brief replies …

#1; That’s someone else’s battle. If it’s real, show me.

#2; Pagans, heathens, … ‘whatever label works to degrade any group that isn’t mine, eh?’

#3; Reality in all aspects is preferable. The alternative is what? A dogma; a drug? I hear oxycodone works well for a variety of situations, without the need to tithe. Should I get a time released implant, or is extracting 10% as an automatic payment sufficient?

#4; See #3. I recommend cold turkey.

#5; Ah, so true. Everyone has a secret S&M fetish. Have you tried razor blades and lemon juice with that? They just don’t understand us, do they? :-|

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Hermes January 1, 2010 at 6:29 pm

kennethos: My titles were designed to creatively point out those places atheists avoid at all costs, can’t provide answers for, and arrogantly claim to have already dealt with.

They were as boring as they were trite. They are like listening to a good old boy crack jokes to some ‘boy who ain’t from around here, is ya?

Back to the point …

Introspection. Reality. Both are good things. Any time you want to go down those routes, I’m willing to go toe to toe with you. The best time for me would be sometime after Monday — say the week of January 5th through January 12th. A welcome mat is extended to you on this at the WWGHA web forums where I go by the same avatar;

http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums

I recommend logging in during that week and dropping me a line there. We can debate anything on your list. I’ll even make fun of you, if you want some humor there hay seed. (I figure if it’s OK for you … .)

Like you implied, force doesn’t work. Mockery, satire, humor, and boldly even proudly *arrogantly* asserting your position without being wishy-washy — on those things, we can surely agree. (On the arrogance, may I recommend not being a hypocrite. It is disingenuous, unless you know that you are saying that you have not earned or do not deserve an assertion of arrogance — but then, if that is the case, why act like an arrogant pinky prick? Only one path makes sense.)

So, what shall it be? Ignore, retract, or full speed ahead cowboy! ?

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RDM January 1, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Good Day Hermes,

My brief replies:

You said:

#1; That’s someone else’s battle. If it’s real, show me.

Show you what? What do you need to see to believe? General and sweeping statements do not do. Please give specifics. PS – If you are a naturalist, it is your battle.

#2; Pagans, heathens, … ‘whatever label works to degrade any group that isn’t mine, eh?’

Seriously! The term pagan is a perfectly acceptable term used to describe a wide variety of non-Christian beliefs, rather than listing them all. Furthermore, Aristotle and Plato, as examples, were pagans and I have the utmost respect for them (as much of Catholic philosophy is built on their thoughts). And even further, many Church Fathers believed that these two would be saved even though they were pagans. So please, a little more linguistic and historical accuracy before accused me of being derogatory.

#3; Reality in all aspects is preferable. The alternative is what? A dogma; a drug? I hear oxycodone works well for a variety of situations, without the need to tithe. Should I get a time released implant, or is extracting 10% as an automatic payment sufficient?

Granted, but who is on the drug. I say it is the naturalistic-atheist.

#4; See #3. I recommend cold turkey.

See #3.

#5; Ah, so true. Everyone has a secret S&M fetish. Have you tried razor blades and lemon juice with that? They just don’t understand us, do they?

Not worthy of a response.

Take care.

RDM

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Jeff H January 1, 2010 at 6:47 pm

kennethos: Hi Jeff:Appreciate the humor response, and the seriousness. Thanks!

Hey no problem. I liked your book titles, even if I disagreed with the underlying assumptions :D

Stereotype? Take a look at the works of Sam Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, and the rest of the published atheist crowd. Listen to their interviews and debates regarding religion.*THEN* talk to me about not categorizing atheists a certain way. The leading spokespeople for the movement have spoken.

Right, well take a look at the millions of atheists who aren’t published, ask them what they think, then get back to me. I think you’ll find that atheism is not a unified movement. I disagree with many things that Dawkins et al. say, and I know that I am not alone in that. I don’t use the writings of John Calvin to criticize all Christians, and in a similar fashion, you’d be wise to pay more attention to the views of the individual atheists you’re dealing with.

I like doing good science, such as not automatically disregarding the existence and reality of extra-natural reality dismissed by many skeptics.

Well the problem is that one, by definition, cannot study “extra-natural reality.” We are natural beings, with natural tools, and natural senses, and until you can design a machine that is supernatural using only natural means, you’ll have a hard time doing “good science” to examine such supernatural existence. I don’t have a problem if you wish to argue against metaphysical naturalism, but the methodological naturalism of science is simply a practical constraint – we can’t study things that are unstudyable.

I also can’t deny the deification of Darwin by many media followers and scientistic-types. Look at the ID movements, the “Darwin deniers” who are in essence trying to do good science by examining flaws in current evolutionary theory. Darwin’s actual works may have been long surpassed, granted, but he is still “worshipped” by many.

I don’t know how pointing to ID proponents and “Darwin deniers” proves that Darwin is deified. Certainly that’s what they claim, but scientists have often stated that Darwin’s theories have been surpassed, modified, and revised in light of new work. Certainly they still feel that much of what he theorized was true, but that doesn’t translate into “worship”. I think you’re watering down that term, making it essentially worthless.

However, your persistent, stubborn focus on a purely “naturalistic” way of things happening is disappointing. I would posit that actual science, logically, doesn’t exclude any possibilities.

Again, science is constrained to measuring the measurable, observing the observable, etc. If you wish to argue against naturalism on philosophical terms, that’s perfectly acceptable, but science cannot include these supernatural ideas. That’s fundamentally why ID is a philosophical statement rather than a scientific one.

I find a vast amount of plain old vitriol and hate from a number of blatantly secularist groups, and the book title at the heart of this was exploring this attitude that many atheists seem to see nothing intellectually or morally wrong with, and I find that disturbing.

I suppose some of the issue might be with the tendency people have to associate very strongly with the ideas they hold. They essentially bring in these ideas and place them as part of their own identity. Then, when someone attacks the idea, the people themselves feel threatened. Sure, there are atheists that hate Christians. But like the whole idea of “hate the sin, love the sinner,” I think you’ll find that more atheists are opposed to the ideas and beliefs rather than the people themselves. Still, it’s always good to keep things civil, either way.

But the underlying reality is that many skeptics perpetually avoid the topic of “where did the DNA code come from?” as well as “where did the matter of the big bang come from?” These are usually answered with a “there’ll be a natural explanation eventually” and “science doesn’t have all the answers yet”, which are short-hand for naturalistic religious answers. I’ve already dealt with this before, thanks.

A lot of this is based on probability. Science has given us very good answers for many things. It seems reasonable to assume that, for those areas of the natural world that we don’t yet have an explanation, science can give us a good (naturalistic) explanation there as well. This is not an air-tight argument, but it does tend to grow stronger as the specific examples of scientific explanation continue to pile up.

I’d love to see atheists who aren’t materialistic naturalists…their reasoning might be more rational and less “superstitious”, but I haven’t run into any yet.

I don’t have a bias against some form of non-naturalism. Particularly, I could potentially be convinced of dualism and some notion of “souls” (if you wish to call it that), and also the some form of conceptual realism – the idea that some concepts exist more than just in our minds. One of the reasons I could be convinced of these is simply because I haven’t invested the time and effort to research them – it’s on my list of things to do eventually, though. However, I tend to find methodological naturalism as a good heuristic to everyday living, so until I find a good argument to convince me of those things, I remain skeptical.

The remainder of the discussion on why babies should be valued is really about the notion of intrinsic human value. I know Luke would deny that this exists, and yet he would still use desirism to conclude that babies have value. There are certainly atheists that believe in intrinsic value, and they would say the babies have value for that reason. I would tend toward an idea that we assign values to objects and people because of their importance in human society and the “flourishing” of said society. Babies obviously help society function and continue into the next generation, so we have both biological and societal influences that help us to place value on babies. I will leave my explanation at that, but if you’d like me to explain in further detail, I can do so.

Well, like you, I value good dialogues and conversations, even typed!

Well, good stuff. I appreciate the chance for this dialogue. Cheers!

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kennethos January 1, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Hermes:

Typically, I don’t visit forums like http://www.WhyWontGodHealAmputees.com for a simple reason: the folks who post there are full of hate, extremely ignorant of biblical hermeneutics, ready and willing to insult rather than reason and debate, and are not interested in dialogue and conversation. That’s what I actually like about Luke and this site and its forums. Sure, I might see Luke as still exploring the depths of his newly discovered atheism, and those depths I might consider to be rather shallow. I call him on it, as I would expect him to call me on my weaknesses. But he’s honest (which I greatly appreciate!), open to correction (if only we all were!)…and not insulting me, or calling me names. He may display sad amounts of pride and hubris (which I might as well at times), but he’s not dripping with contempt…like you are, it seems. He’s does more theological exploring than you, I think. (Sipping from liberalism and higher critical views, sadly, but it’s his life…) When I look at the site you commend, I see extreme religious and theological anger, ignorance and hate, even as you commend yourselves as tolerant and wise. You aren’t willing to talk, but rather speak of others crassly, and ridicule them so as to build yourself up (rather than trying to help build others up, and help them grow intellectually and mentally). It’s an internet version of a dark alley. If I go in there, I’ll go with bright spotlights, and automatic weapons, to ensure a fair fight. But someplace like this is brightly lit, with people actually willing to treat you fairly.
So maybe you don’t want to “slum” around here. That’s your choice. But I find Luke’s “Common Sense Atheism” to be somewhat more intelligent than angry atheists screaming out about amputation. I can’t stand ignorant Christians, and hold high standards for debate; I have that much less patience for ignorant, condescending atheists. Besides, let’s face it, you’ll say naughty things about me either way, no matter what. Why should I walk into your lion’s den, instead of having decent conversations here?

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Hermes January 1, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Jeff H, as usual good replies. Unfortunately, kennethos’s response shows many of the expected disconnect and presuppositions along with the attempts at a complete rationality. Same dead horses dragged back from the glue factory — and asked us to consider one more ride around the countryside.

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Hermes January 1, 2010 at 6:55 pm

kennethos, your concession is noted and accepted. The space for a debate is in a forum that allows for it. That’s why I’m not offering up a debate here. Turn your nose up at WWGHA if you wish. The moderators there, though, are serious and hold participants to the formal and mutually agreed upon debate or discussion rules.

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kennethos January 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Do you see a difference? I can have a respectful, if disagreeing, conversation with Jeff without difficulty. Odds are, we could easily have a conversation at a party and have a good time, because of mutual respect. I don’t have that with you, and it’s not stemming from my end.

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lukeprog January 1, 2010 at 6:57 pm

kennethos,

Please don’t mistake disagreement for ignorance or shallowness. Can you give an example of a position I’ve defended that you think is ignorant or shallow? I’m sure there are some, but I suspect that some instances are not instances of shallowness or ignorance but disagreement after much research and contemplation.

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Hermes January 1, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Start with mockery and bigotry, expect no ‘yes massa’ from me.

If you can’t put up with your same ugliness, then don’t start it.

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kennethos January 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Luke:

Perhaps what I regard as “shallowness” is indeed merely disagreement. I hope you’ll note, however, that I do *try* to avoid ad hominem attacks. I’ll disagree with your research, conclusions, and thinking, but I’m trying to respect your person, obviously.
Hermes, however, seems to exult in prejudice and bigotry. It’s a concession to avoid a bullying ambush? How civility has failed us. Luke, if I’ve come across as over-the-top insulting to *you*, please accept my apologies.

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lukeprog January 1, 2010 at 9:03 pm

kennethos,

No, not that I can think of.

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Paul Kabay January 2, 2010 at 1:45 am

For a refutation of reformed epistemology from a christian see “Internalism and Epistemology” by Timothy and Lydia McGrew

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Hermes January 2, 2010 at 4:37 am

kennethos: Hermes, however, seems to exult in prejudice and bigotry. It’s a concession to avoid a bullying ambush? How civility has failed us. Luke, if I’ve come across as over-the-top insulting to *you*, please accept my apologies.

Oh, can’t stand the same dish served back to you, can you? You’re a bit late, and more than a bit hypocritical to take those angles. Reality and appropriate civility is waiting you … any time; WWGHA.

Unless you require special treatment for your comments, and fawning after every ignorant insult?

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lukeprog January 2, 2010 at 8:21 am

Thanks, Paul.

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Ben January 15, 2010 at 5:45 am

Luke,

I saw this post a while ago, and I wasn’t able to think of anything at the time. Then, after purchasing some apologetic books, and Amazon giving me a suggested reading list, it dawned on me just the kind of books that I want other atheists to write. I was thinking too hard in the “new subject” realm of things and that’s what stunted my suggestion.

Basically, take any popular somewhat scholarly issue. Say, the Nag Hammadi library (or the Q source, or Markan priority, or any number of issues in the same vein), for instance. There have to be dozens and dozens of books from many perspectives written about it. Lots of people are going to write some weak books on the subject. They’re all going to have varying merits, and I can almost guarantee most of them will be written outside of the range of arguments from apologetics. The apologists will write books on them as well. And the problem will be, as a layperson that you A: Won’t know which is the best book (if there even is one) B: That book probably won’t equip you well enough or efficiently enough to directly take on whatever the Christians will be saying (I’ve been reading the Bible Unearthed, and I know I won’t be prepared for whatever the counter-attack will be). And C: Even if you read both books, or many books on each side of the fence, odds are, as an average thinker, its going to be very difficult to put it all together and figure out who is right without just siding with your own prejudices (no matter which set those might be).

So, I want a series of lay-friendly scholarly books that actually tackle this challenge in the range of issues I’ve mentioned above. Virtually every book on a given subject should be read, its best arguments gutted, and then presented in context of each other to create a meta-conversation that any random person of modest intelligence can meander through and discover the ins and outs of the evidence and perspective-scape. All arguments should be quoted and addressed directly and all the best responses should be on display. No exceptions. This would be a “getting everyone easily on the same page” series.

I’m sure that’s a tall tedious order, but if I had to ask the genie of this post of yours what books I’d like to see atheists write, that’d be it.

Ben

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Ben January 15, 2010 at 5:47 am

This comment is just so I get follow up emails. :D

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lukeprog January 15, 2010 at 8:33 am

Ben,

That’s a great idea.

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