christianity

Top Christian William Lane Craig is on his UK tour, and recently had a debate with the atheist philosopher Stephen Law. Premier Christian Radio seems to be organising the tour, and they’ve posted the audio of the debate.

I listened to the debate. A short summary is below, with a longer one underneath the cut.

The debate topic was “Does God exist?”. Craig ran some of his standard arguments

  • The Kalam Cosmological argument, a First Cause argument which avoids the usual “who made God?” riposte by only claiming that “everything that begins to exist has a cause”.
  • The moral argument.
  • An argument based on the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.

Law relied heavily on the evidential argument from evil, and his own variant of that, the one from his paper The Evil God Challenge, which Luke Muehlhauser has previously summarised here. Law has summarised his main argument in the debate on his own blog.

If you want to see my notes on the whole thing, read on, otherwise, skip to the end for my thoughts on how both of them did, and how atheists might do better.

He Said/She Said

Grim-meathook-future SF author Peter Watts's wedding vows: "And you and I are going to kick biological determinism in the balls." Aw, sweet.
(tags: wedding marriage biology monogamy)

Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity

"One might think that, once we know something is computable, how efficiently it can be computed is a practical question with little further philosophical importance. In this essay, I offer a detailed case that one would be wrong. In particular, I argue that computational complexity theory—the field that studies the resources (such as time, space, and randomness) needed to solve computational problems—leads to new perspectives on the nature of mathematical knowledge, the strong AI debate, computationalism, the problem of logical omniscience, Hume's problem of induction, Goodman's grue riddle, the foundations of quantum mechanics, economic rationality, closed timelike curves, and several other topics of philosophical interest. I end by discussing aspects of complexity theory itself that could benefit from philosophical analysis."
(tags: philosophy programming complexity compsci turing)

Does the future have a church? | The Briefing

What evangelicals think of the general decline in church attendance in the UK. Their churches are holding their own numerically but not growing, so becoming a smaller percentage of a growing population. However, they're doing better than other Protestant denominations, which will die out as their older members die off. Getting them while they're young is essential for propagating religion, and they worry about the lack of youf in the church. Social trends like cohabiting couples and single parent families are worrying because evangelical churches don't really know how to cope with those people so won't evangelise them effectively. Via the artist formerly known as nlj21.
(tags: church religion statistics christianity uk)

Kayonga Kagame Shows Us The World. Episode: Darkest Austria : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

A hilarious spoof on ethnological documentaries: an African TV team comes to the Austrian province to document the strange behavior of the natives… including the Feast of the Chicken. *
(tags: funnny anthropology ethnology)

Apologist Josh McDowell: Internet the Greatest Threat to Christians, Christian News

McDowell is worried: “The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not.” Kind of revealing: McDowell is admitting that if you want to get kids into your religion, you need to get them young enough, before they've been exposed to other ideas.
(tags: internet apologetics josh-mcdowell christianity religion)

Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: On moral evaluations

Blackford points out that morality doesn't require anything spooky or metaphysical to be rational and non-arbitrary, so long as we're prepared to accept that "[w]hatever judgments we make do not compel all comers, regardless of their desire-sets, to act one way or another on pain of making a mistake about the world or something of the sort."
(tags: philosophy morality ethics error-theory mackie russell-blackford)

“Have friends who are atheists? Agnostics? Into Wicca? Or New Age?”

Mefi discovers "Dare2Share", which is one of those worldview based Christian evangelism things where they're training Christians to understand other people's worldviews (which is good) as a preamble to converting them to Christianity (which would be bad). I've linked to Mefi rather than the site itself as the Mefites discussion is interesting. The site has cutesy names for their examplars, like "Willow the Wiccan" and "Andy the Atheist", so the Mefi crowd have come up with a few of their own.
(tags: metafilter apologetics christianity evangelism worldview)

New Statesman – The bugger, bugged

"After a chance meeting with a former News of the World executive who told him his phone had been hacked, Hugh Grant couldn’t resist going back to him – with a hidden tape recorder – to find out if there was more to the story . . . " Coppers taking backhanders from journos, oh my. No wonder the Met dragged their feet about the phone hacking case.
(tags: news journalism crime phones privacy surveillance police hugh-grant hacking)

Scientism « Why Evolution Is True

Jerry Coyne: "when used as a derogatory adjective, “scientism” means this:

the practice of applying rationality and standards of evidence to faith.

For religious people and accommodationists, that practice is a no-no. That’s why the adjective is pejorative."

I think there is something which we could validly call "scientism", namely the belief that science can answer all our questions, or that all questions reduce to scientific ones, or something. However, Coyne's point stands: "scientism" is often code for "how dare you ask us for evidence?"
(tags: scientism science religion jerry-coyne)

“Don’t Talk to the Police” by Professor James Duane

Of course, in the UK, we don't have an unqualified right to silence, but this stuff's interesting anyway. There's a follow-on video where a police officer responds and says the professor is right 🙂
(tags: law video police legal lectures rights)

Try Thinking | Here lieth the thoughts of SiânyB

"I do (despite appearances) totally understand the importance of prayer for some people – I know people who use it as a kind of meditation to clear their heads, to unburden their guilt or to enter some kind of celestial lottery of hope. But, given current world events, the message ‘Try Praying’ is a grimly obscuring lens through which to view your surroundings."
(tags: religion culture advertising prayer edinburgh christianity)

Sean Carroll: Does the Universe Need God?

Top theoretical cosmologist Sean Carroll wrote a chapter for the Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, and this is it. Interesting to compare Carroll's stuff with other popular science about the Big Bang.
(tags: philosophy god science bigbang big-bang sean-carroll physics cosmology)

The Blog : Being Mr. Nobody : Sam Harris

"Imagine a language in which, instead of saying ‘I found nobody in the room’ one said, ‘I found Mr. Nobody in the room.’ Imagine the philosophical problems that would arise out of such a convention. " Sam Harris quotes Wittgenstein to explain why he doesn't like to call himself an atheist.
(tags: wittgenstein atheism philosophy language sam-harris)

Fixing HTTPS

Glyph, of Twisted Python fame, talks about ways to fix HTTPS, presumably in the light of the recent attacks on certification authorities.
(tags: https security internet encryption)

AC Grayling: ‘How can you be a militant atheist? It’s like sleeping furiously’ | Books | The Guardian

Graying mocks the people who call atheists militant and fundamentalist, and talks about his new book: "But the third point is about our ethics – how we live, how we treat one another, what the good life is. And that's the question that really concerns me the most."
(tags: philosophy religion atheism grayling books)

John Norman, the philosophy professor who created the barbaric world of Gor

io9 interviews John Norman, the famous complementarian and author of the Gor novels.
(tags: bdsm fantasy book scifi gordon-brown john-norman complementarianism)

Advice God

Like Advice Dog, but Advice God! I'm snaffling some of these: "UNCONDITIONAL LOVE/WITH CONDITIONS".
(tags: religion atheism funny god humour)

YouTube – Christopher Hitchens drops the hammer

"It's considered perfectly normal in this society to approach dying people who are unbelievers and say 'Now are you going to change your mind?'" Well, yes, that's anticipating-as-if there's a Hell, say. But if we're going to apply the norms of discussion fairly, I like Hitchens’ idea of atheists going round religious hospitals. 🙂
(tags: christopher-hitchens death religion hell conversion)

Hell and linoleum | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

"What would it feel like to believe that anyone really deserved eternal conscious torment? Is it even humanly possible?" I think that Georges Rey's "meta-atheism" is correct on this point: most Christians don't anticipate-as-if there's a Hell, though claiming to believe it and still worshipping a monster is bad enough. berneray's comment is good, read that as well.
(tags: hell christianity religion andrew-brown)

Random Thoughts on The Roles of Leading and Following « Swungover

Via CW at Lindy. There seems to be much more debate about this than there is in ballroom, perhaps because ballroom's more conservative anyway, perhaps because it's settled by "you're shorter, therefore you're going backwards so I can see over you".
(tags: dancing lindy leading following swing)

New Statesman – Making marriage harder

"the world would be a far happier place if marriage was harder and divorce easier" – an interesting proposal from the New Statesman's legal correspondent.
(tags: marriage funny law)

At last an IT supplier that tells it like it is – The Tony Collins Blog

"No platitudes, just straight talking on govt IT from Martin Rice of agile software company Erudine." I've heard tales of middlemen charging government the Earth to take an £100/year hosting account and install WordPress on it. Glad to see someone speaking up.
(tags: government economics politics uk waterfall agile IT)

YouTube – PASTOR ULTIMATE FIGHT

OK, so remixing videos of Pentecostal services is like shooting fish in a barrel, but you've got to love the person who though of turning it into an 90s video game.
(tags: funny pentecostal video youtube charismatic christianity)

Blogging in App Engine

Still vaguely toying with ditching LJ, and this looked interesting.
(tags: appengine python blog bloggart)

William Hague accused of ‘anti-Christian’ foreign policy – Telegraph

"Cardinal Keith O’Brien accused the Foreign Secretary of doubling overseas aid to Pakistan to more than £445 million without demanding religious freedom for Christians and other religious minorities, such as Shia Muslims. " I think O'Brien has a point: nobody should be coerced into conversion, and it's clear that Christians need some protection from the Religion Of Peace.
(tags: religion politics aid pakistan islam christianity)

Stop Being Wrong: A Moral Imperative

C.S. Lewis wrote that "You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house." Wrongbot points out that to behave ethically one must have correct beliefs as well as the right theory of normative ethics.
(tags: ethics philosophy rationality morality wrongbot)

Some Perspective On The Japan Earthquake: MicroISV on a Shoestring

"Japan is exceptionally well-prepared to deal with natural disasters", and apparently, the system worked.
(tags: japan earthquake engineering culture)

Fukushima is a triumph for nuke power: Build more reactors now! • The Register

"Japan's nuclear powerplants have performed magnificently in the face of a disaster hugely greater than they were designed to withstand, remaining entirely safe throughout and sustaining only minor damage. The unfolding Fukushima story has enormously strengthened the case for advanced nations – including Japan – to build more nuclear powerplants, in the knowledge that no imaginable disaster can result in serious problems."
(tags: science nuclear safety physics japan earthquake)

Top Christian Nicky Gumbel, of Alpha Course fame, has a point when he says that cultural Christianity isn’t worth much if you’ve never never darkened the doors of a church (save for weddings, Christenings and funerals) or accepted Jesus as your personal saviour or been slain in the Spirit or whatever.

I’m not sure the success of the Census Campaign would do much more than annoy those Christians who like to bang on about how this is a Christian country in online discussions. But that seems a worthy goal, so I’m happy to support it.

You never know, it might even help get the bishops out of the Lords, which would be even better.

The poster on the right wasn’t endorsed by Gumbel or McDonalds (in fact, I’m told Gumbel got the quote from Keith Green): it’s a mashup from Hampshire Humanists which Crispian Jago found. His site has plenty of other census posters for you to enjoy.

Misplaced outrage over High Court “ban” on Christian foster parents | Gavin Drake

Gavin Drake, a Christian journalist, points out that the judgement on foster parents doesn't do what the right wing press think it does (in fact, it does very little at all), and that the Christian Legal Centre are lying bastards (I paraphrase).
(tags: religion clc christian-legal-centre law foster homosexuality christianity)

Stephen Law: The case of the Christian would-be foster parents

"It's not the Christianity that's the obstacle. It's the bigotry (which happens to be religiously motivated)."
(tags: bigots homosexuality christianity law stephen-law)

Johns & Anor, R (on the application of) v Derby City Council & Anor [2011] EWHC 375 (Admin) (28 February 2011)

The full text of the judgement in the recent case of a dispute between some Pentecostal Christians and Derby Council over whether the Christians' views on homosexuality made them unsuitable to act as foster carers. Paul Diamond, the barrister who takes a lot of these "help! I'm being oppressed!" cases on behalf of bigoted Christians, gets a bit of a kicking from the judges, which is fun. The judges' reasons for their decision, and the limits of it, are worth reading for how they differ from the hysterical reporting in the right wing press.
(tags: religion christianity foster law homosexuality)

Mervyn King is right. If the banks face no risk, we shall all go down – Telegraph

"They are the trade unions of the modern era, sick dinosaurs that crush ordinary citizens, writes Charles Moore." Blimey, and this the Telegraph saying it.
(tags: uk banking corruption banks politics economics)

Hamlet and the Methods of Rationality

This is fun…
(tags: rationality hamlet parody)

Gender Differences and Casual Sex: The New Research «

Revisiting that "I've noticed you around, will you go to bed with me?" study (as popularised by popular beat combo "Touch and Go") and disputing the conclusion that women just don't like sex: "the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable". It being a feminist blog, they then go against the science the other way and say that perception of risk is a much higher factor than the study suggested (the study thought it was an effect, but not the primary one).
(tags: science sex feminism gender)

I’ve got some links about this queued up in the link blog, but it seemed worth a proper post as well as the silly one about frogs.

What the Court really said

So, what happened in the recent case of Owen and Eunice Johns is that both sides (the Johns and Derby Council) asked the court for a ruling on an abstract point. Contrary to what you’ve read in the press about a “ban” on Christians fostering, Derby Council hadn’t decided that they couldn’t be foster parents, so the Johns were not seeking to overturn a decision, merely to establish a principle. (It’s also worth mentioning that many Christians do not have bigoted views on homosexuality, and so talk of a ban on “Christians” is too broad).

The full text of the judgement should be required reading for anyone tempted to spout off about the case. It’s a bit long, but there are moments of light relief, such as when the Court rounds on the Johns’ barrister, Paul Diamond, who was funded by the infamous Christian Legal Centre:

In his skeleton argument and in his oral submissions, Mr Diamond lays much emphasis upon various arguments, many of them couched in extravagant rhetoric, which, to speak plainly, are for the greater part, in our judgment, simply wrong as to the factual premises on which they are based and at best tendentious in their analysis of the issues.

The Court makes reference to previous cases of anti-gay Christians seeking legal relief, such as the Gary McFarlane case, in which the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, intervened. The judges consider the previous judgements both correct and binding on them. As such, at the end of the case, they don’t grant either side what they’re asking for, and it’s still up to the council to make their decision.

Old time religion

The courts are clear, both in this judgement and previous ones, that they are not ruling that anti-gay Christians are bigots: that’s my language, not theirs. For my part, I have Christian friends who probably share some of the Johns’ views. I think the best analogy I can find to that is the way much-loved elderly relatives sometimes start going on about “darkies” and immigrants and whatnot: it’s obviously nasty, but you feel more embarrassed for the relatives than worried about the effect on black or Asian people. Usually, it’s easier just to stay off the topic. (Edit: I elaborate on this analogy in discussion with tifferrobinson on an old post, here). However, when that sort of thing comes from the mouths of people paid to act for the State, I don’t think it can be allowed to stand.

A couple of Christian commentators have distinguished themselves by writing sensible stuff on this most recent court case: I commend to you Christian journalist Gavin Drake, who sounds even more annoyed with the CLC than me (perhaps because they’re letting the side down); and Peter Ould (who I remember from my uk.religion.christian days).

At the end of his piece, Ould goes into the consequences for bigoted Christians: their continued attempts to make hay in the courts are failing, and he suggests that they should switch tactics, and instead look to the legislature, though I have to say that I don’t expect them to do particularly well there, either: the Lib-Dems are liberal, and Cameron has been careful to disassociate himself from the crazy anti-gay right in his party.

Ould also points out the oddity of a monarch sworn to uphold the laws of God and a judiciary who no longer think that Christianity has a special place in UK law. I can’t help but agree: disestablishment would now seem to be unfinished business, and I’d be in favour of it. It’d get the bishops out of the House of Lords, and maybe it’d stop bigoted Christians from wasting the courts’ time with these fruitless lawsuits.

Edited: Bishop Alan Wilson also has some useful thoughts on the matter.