Friday, April 18, 2014

Atheist news roundup.

I have little to write about this month so in the spirit of Raymond Chandlers gunman, here are some links I found interesting.

 Bill Nye says he underestimated the debate's impact:
When Nye agreed to the debate at The Creation Museum with its founder Ken Ham, he said he believed it would draw about as much attention as presentations he makes on college campuses.
But the Feb. 4 event was widely promoted by the museum, "and soon it seemed like everyone I met was talking about it," Nye wrote in a 3,000-word letter published in the May/June issue of Skeptical Inquirer.
"I slowly realized that this was a high-pressure situation," he said. 
Many are surprised over how popular and wide spread creationism actually is. 'Sophisticated' religious sects deride creationism as bad theology but how little effort they exert to refuting it's claims! Outraged theologians prefer blustering polemics against atheism to correcting the mistakes of their fellow faithful; a passion I suspect motivated by the humiliation of being ignored.

On a similar note, Edward Feser wants the tomes of Scholasticism dusted and brought back to the culture wars.
Now the trouble with this argument is that it simply misses the entire point of classical philosophical theology. God as conceived of in classical theology is not complex but rather absolutely simple. He is not “a being” alongside other beings but rather Being Itself; nor is he “a mind” alongside other minds, but pure Intellect Itself. He not only need not have a cause of his own but could not in principle have had one, since he is pure actuality rather than a mixture of actuality and potentiality, and only what has potentiality of some sort needs a cause or could have a cause. He is not “a god” alongside other gods because he is not a member of a genus of any kind. Though by no means impersonal — God is, after all three divine Persons in one substance — he is nevertheless radically non-anthropomorphic.
Of course, part of the reason the New Atheists so badly misunderstand the divine nature is that they are woefully ill-informed about philosophy and theology in general. But it is not entirely their fault. For one thing, the average unsophisticated religious believer does tend to have a rather crudely anthropomorphic conception of God. But it is not just the ordinary believer’s fault either. Professional philosophers of religion these days also tend to operate with a conception of God that Aristotle, Plotinus, Anselm, or Aquinas would regard as hopelessly anthropomorphic. “Intelligent Design” theorists, inheritors of William Paley’s conception of God as a kind of cosmic watchmaker or machinist, also tend to operate with a crudely anthropomorphic conception of God. When New Atheists attack the notion of God so conceived, it has to be conceded that they have a point.
Their criticisms are, however, entirely ineffectual against the classical philosophical conception of God, which was brought to its highest refinement within Scholasticism.
Oh how dare unsophisticated people, atheist and religious and professional alike, ignore the highest refinement of theology: God as the perfect three person non-complex absolutely simple Divine Being of pure actuality.

Elsewhere, Theo Hobson frets that atheism threatens the entire moral tradition of the West:
But as pleasant and rational as this all sounds, the new atheists are now hitting the intellectual buffers. The problem that confronts them is as stark as it is simple: our morality has religious roots. Put another way: when God is rejected, the stakes are gulpingly high; the entire moral tradition of the West is put in question. 
The entire Western moral tradition with its repeating history of warfare, power struggle between divinely appointed rulers and oppression of the vast majority of humankind never struck me as particularly impressive; but perhaps that's just me. (A wise friend once described European history as Jerry Springer show where everyone married their cousins and went to war against each other.)

David Quinn worries alongside Robert George that Christians may face the same discrimination they impose on others:
As [Robert George] said in an interview commenting on the same episode: “We Christians and our fellow believers are already being labelled as ‘bigots’ and ‘homophobes’; the next step will involve outright discrimination and the imposition of disabilities in domains such as employment, licensing, accreditation of institutions, and government contracting. This is going to be rough sailing.”
He believes that like the rich man who would not give up all his possessions to follow Jesus, many of us will take the easy route and either be silent about our opposition to same-sex marriage, or else go along with dominant opinion altogether and so have an easier, more comfortable life.
His advice? “Stay strong. Stay faithful. Bear witness. Do not yield. Remain on the field of battle. Organise. Cooperate. Encourage one another.  Fight in the domain of ideas. Fight in the arena of politics. Fight in every nook and cranny of the culture.”
Concern over laws that discriminate on the bases of religion is justified. But this is gross hypocrisy from a religion that operates discriminatory employment and enrollment policies in catholic controlled faith schools and universities.

More hypocrisy is evidenced in the comment section of an old post by Lux Occulata:
The Church is arguably in the midst of the biggest disaster since the Arian crisis. What would we have been spared if the “prophets of doom” had been listened to? Perhaps none of us should have expected our beloved land to escape the nuclear devastation. But how we have squandered our sacred patrimony. In its place we have the exaltation of private judgement in place of fidelity to the sacred Magisterium, lack of belief in the vital role of the Church as the essential dispenser of sanctifying grace through her sacraments, lack of belief in the Real Presence, lack of belief in the Mass as Sacrifice, lack of understanding of the indispensible and irreplaceable role of the ordained priesthood, lack of consideration of the four last things, lack of devotion to Our Lady and the saints. All of these were as natural as breathing for the vast majority of our Catholic forbears of living memory.
Utopias are the dreams of the Left and the Right; the Left looks to the future while the Right looks to the past. This commentator praises Ireland's past 'sacred patrimony' of clerics and condemns the 'exaltation of private judgement in place of fidelity' while ranting against the Archbishop of Dublin. He appears unwilling to surrender his own private judgement to a person of authority within the One True Church. A pity others are not allowed the privilege. But what did the Archbishop say to draw this ire?
The change in Irish society and the change in the life of the Church in Ireland are linked together. There is a growing secularisation in Irish society.  This is not entirely a bad thing, if we understand the complex phenomenon called secularisation correctly.  Very few of us would wish to return completely to the type of society many of us grew up in, where the Church dominated so much of Irish culture, and where the bishops and the clergy dominated the Church. Irish society and the Church in Ireland have changed and it must be said that the change has in great part been good.
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