Imagine that someone hated you (or your company) and wanted to make you look bad. So, he pretended to be a friend or colleague, went to your events, repeatedly asked you to meetings or lunch, gained your trust, and then spent two years recording private conversations. Could he find stuff that would make you sound like a heartless monster? If you’re like me, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, there’s no way it would take years.
The argument from abandonment and suffering is a specific version of the problem of evil. Erik Wielenberg defends the argument in his recent paper ‘The parent-child analogy and the limits of skeptical theism’. That paper makes two distinctive contributions to the literature, one being the defence of the argument from abandonment and suffering, the other being a meta-argument about standards for success in the debate between skeptical theists and proponents of the problem of evil.
A lot has been said about militant Islam and extreme Christian, traditional religious practices in Nigeria. There has been much focus on violent attacks by the jihadist group, Boko Haram, on the abuses perpetrated by sharia policing agencies and the nefarious activities of homophobic pentecostal churches and witch hunting pastors in the country. Unfortunately not much attention has been paid to the efforts of humanists, atheists, skeptics and agnostics in the country to address these problems. Not many Nigerians know about the campaigns by humanists against witch hunting, blasphemy law and harmful traditional practices. In fact not many Nigerians know that humanists and humanist groups exist in the country.
Theists sometimes argue that God’s existence is essential for meaning in life. In a quote that I have used far too often over the years, William Lane Craig puts it rather bluntly:
If there is no God, then man and the universe are doomed. Like prisoners condemned to death, we await our unavoidable execution. There is no God, and there is no immortality. And what is the consequence of this? It means that life itself is absurd. It means that the life we have is without ultimate significance, value or purpose. (Craig 2007, 72)
This is a letter to the late Christopher Hitchens, disputing his take on the historical role of the concept (not the reality) of monotheism as being utterly evil. It posits that monotheism played a vital role in the development of science, constitutionalism and social justice – that Occam’s Razor (vital to the development of both science and constitutionalism) is historically dependent on theological disputes ‘proving’ the existence of one god.
Now that the U.S., and other countries, have legalized gay marriage, we asked “Should polygamy, polyandry and plural marriage also be legalized?” The Right has long used the argument that the logic for permitting gay marriage would apply equally to plural marriage, and some of us in favor of gay marriage have long agreed. Of the 129 respondents to the IEET poll, the IEET audience favored legalizing plural marriage by an almost 3-to-1 majority.
Meaning is important. People want to live meaningful lives. They want to make a ‘difference’. They want for it all to ‘matter’. Some people think that this is only possible if God exists. They say that if God does not exist, then we are doomed to live finite lives on a finite planet in a finite universe. Everything will eventually collapse, crumble and die. It will all be for naught. But if God does exist, there is hope. He will save us; He can guarantee our eternal lives in the most perfect state of being; He can imbue the universe with purpose and value.
While less controversial than it was fifty years ago, psychotherapy is an anomalous feature of modern culture, plagued by defects. Among its shortcomings, psychotherapy has made remarkably little use of information technologies. This blog considers electronic devices to measure human emotional response, that may have been stigmatized by their use in radical religious movements, or by their origins in primitive attempts a century ago to cure neurotics. I do not recommend simply adopting those religious or therapeutic practices, but adapting the technology to new uses. A mentally healthy individual could employ emotion-sensing hardware to identify personal goals, consider the meaning of past events, and explore future possibilities.
What do vampires and Las Vegas atheists have in common? Ethical rules, social stigma, and a hunger for community. When people think about Las Vegas, most picture some combination of gambling, burlesque, night clubs and legalized prostitution—the pleasures that earned Vegas the nickname Sin City. But when Sociologist Lori Fazzino thinks about Las Vegas, she pictures churches.
Fewer pregnant teens, fewer abortions, fewer unwed mothers, fewer single-parent families on welfare, more balanced state budgets. Sounds like a set of goals that should be common ground for anyone who cares about America’s future, right?
Ivory Coast is one of the countries in Africa where belief is witchcraft is widespread. A Gallup Poll found in 2010 that up to 95 percent of the populations believed in “sorciellerie” – the French word for witchcraft. This means that witchcraft is more or less a ‘national religion’. Almost everyone in the country thinks as a matter of fact, not fantasy that witchcraft is real in its conception and consequences, that people can harm others using mystical means.
African traditional medicine is widely perceived as a form of voodoo medicine, as a survival of some stone age pre-modern illiterate formation that still functions and fulfills medical purposes for Africans. This is, at least, how many anthropologists have viewed the subject. They have argued that African traditional medicine is unlike ‘western medicine’, and then go on to establish how witchcraft and magic is embedded in this ‘unique’ medical practice. African medicine men and women are portrayed as witch doctors - as if the traditional-medical profession is about treating and curing witchcraft.
Like other countries in Africa, Zambia is a very religious nation and has the dubious of distinction of being officially declared a Christian nation by President Federick Chiluba in 1996. One need not look far to see where Chiluba got the political will to establish this Christian nation. Eighty seven percent of the population is Christian and only twelve percent profess other faiths. The number of non-believers is too low to measure. Apparently, Zambia is 100 percent religious and theistic.
Over the past several years the Jewish custom of male circumcision, in which the foreskin of the penis is removed, has been increasingly compared to female circumcision, in which the clitoris and sometimes the labia are removed, and condemned as genital mutilation. This comparison demonstrates an abysmal ignorance of anatomy. The clitoris is analogous to the penis and the labia to the scrotum which are certainly not removed in male circumcision. The foreskin is comparable to the clitoral hood which is sometimes removed surgically in women in order to enhance sexual pleasure.
If you are one of those who think there is no connection between politics and the savage practice of albino killing in Tanzania, then you need to read the recent statement from the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Pereira Silima. Silima made it clear to politicians in the country that if they stopped patronizing the ‘witch doctors’ then this East African country might see an end to the shameful and horrific murders of albinos.
The people in Tanzania need to discard the belief that drives them to attack kidnap and kill people living with albinism.
The rapidly growing field of transhumanism—an international social movement whose highest immediate priority is overcoming human death via science and technology—is facing a colossal challenge. About 85 percent of the world’s population believes in life after death, and much of that population is perfectly okay with dying because it gives them an afterlife with their perceived deity or deities—something transhumanists often refer to as “deathist” culture.
In fact, four billion people on Earth—mostly Muslims and Christians—see the overcoming of death through science as potentially blasphemous, a sin involving humans striving to be godlike. Some holy texts say blasphemy is unforgivable and will end in eternal punishment.
The ultra-nationalist political agitator Dinanath Batra sued its publisher and the publisher withdrew the book from the Indian market. The lawsuit was based on a law (Hate Law Speech Section #295A, enacted in 1927 by the British under pressure from the Muslim community) that de facto allows courts to punish religious blasphemy.
Children are among those who populate the witch camps in the Northern Ghana. These children are not at the sanctuary because they were accused of witchcraft. They are at these shelters because their mothers or grand mothers were accused. But from my observations, many of these children end up suffering as a result the label of witchcraft applied to their mothers or grand mothers. The belief in child witches exist among the Dagomba and other ethnic communities in the Northern region. But it takes a different dimension.
On May 20 I participated in a four person debate about the existence of God at Western Washington University. On the ‘yes’ side were Mike Raschko and Mark Markuly from the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University. On the ‘no’ side were Bob Seidensticker and me. Here are my remarks:
Is every orphanage in the world operated by a religious organization?
Nope. Not any more.
BiZoHa Orphanage was launched by four members of the Brighter Brains Institute - a think-and-do tank located in San Francisco’s East Bay. BiZoHa is situated in Muhokya, in Kasese province, near the Rwenzori mountains of western Uganda, close to the Congo border.
Witch sanctuaries, described by local NGOs as ‘witch camps’, form part of the infrastructure of witchcraft in Northern Ghana. These sanctuaries are shrines, though one of sanctuaries in Gushiegu is not attached to any shrine. Tindana are the heads of the sanctuaries. The Dagbani term, Tindana, literally means - the one who owns the land. They are responsible for consulting the Tindang, the community spirit or god whenever there is a problem like drought or epidemic, war, plague, accusations of death or illness witchcraft, etc
As William Gibson always reminds us the real role of science-fiction isn’t so much to predict the future as to astound us with the future’s possible weirdness. It almost never happens that science-fiction writers get core or essential features of this future weirdness right, and when they do, according to Gibson, it’s almost entirely by accident. Nevertheless, someone writing about the future can sometimes, and even deliberately, play the role of Old Testament prophet, seeing some danger to which the rest of us are oblivious and guess at traps and dangers into which we later fall. (Though let’s not forget about the predictions of opportunity.)
Frank Herbert’s Dune certainly wasn’t intended to predict the future, but he was certainly trying to give us a warning.
I am interested in “secularizing” Africa because I believe this would benefit the continent intellectually, socially, and economically. To help advance this goal I support Kasese Humanist Primary School, and I co-launched BiZoHa - the world’s first atheist orphanage.
What makes a Seattle mother spend her days trying to chip away at Bible belief rather than digging holes in the garden?
When my husband sent me the Pew Report news that the percent of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped from 78.4 to 70.6 over the last 7 years, I responded jokingly with six words: You’re welcome. Molly Moon’s after dinner?
Not that I actually claim credit for the decline. As they say, it takes a village.
Education is important to every individual on this planet. In pre-colonial Uganda, education was mainly informal. Missionaries and colonialists introduced the formal education system, but the missionaries wanted Africans to believe in the message of Jesus.
Today, Jesus and Muhammed have almost equal shares in Africa.
As religion dies in the western countries, it is busy in Africa, along with poverty and human rights abuses.
Groucho Marx, one of my favorite comedians of all time, famously wrote a telegram to a Hollywood club he had joined, that said: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” I have recently considered sending such a letter to the skeptic and atheist movements (henceforth, SAM), but I couldn’t find the address.