November 26, 2007

Book Review: The Dawkins Delusion?

I've been so bad with my reviews of late. I'm going to try to get caught back up on them this week. First up is The Dawkins Delusion?. (There's a question mark in the title.)

I'm little worried because I have several pro-god books on my reading list still and these are becoming very, very tiresome. On the bright side, most of those remaining books were written before the present spate of atheist books, so my hope is that they're slightly less tiresome.

This book is very much like the rest of those books I've read. It is a direct rebuttal to an atheist book, this one is directed at Richard Dawkins' God Delusion. You can read my brief review of that book here.

This book was written by Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath whom I assume is that first guy's wife.  Alister is apparently someone who studied molecular biology and then theology.

This book doesn't say anything I haven't already heard from the Christians.  The McGrath's accuse Dawkins of playing fast and loose with the facts of science and history.  And lays out a host of arguments that basically amount to saying that Dawkins doesn't know Christianity from a hole in the ground.

My favorite argument from Christians I've read recently that is reprized in this tiny, little book is that people who don't agree with the author aren't really Christians.

The book is full of back-handed, front-handed, bald-faced, understated, and every other sort of insult that you can think of shy of just cursing Dawkins' name and praying to God for a hefty dose of hellfire for whatever corner of creation Dawkins has holed himself up into in order to escape the mobs of Christians he has offended.

Again, I find the best aspect of this book is its short length.  So far, I would recommend reading CS Lewis' Mere Christianity before reading any of these pro-god books I've been reading lately, and that book is a huge mess.

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Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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If It Ain't Broken, Fix It

Ok.  So, recently I posted about the flat Earth people and I have just come across another brand of fool, except unlike the Flat Earthers, I think these Fixed Earth people are serious.

That's right.  These are people who believe that the earth does not spin or orbit.  Instead, everything flies around the earth.

It's like Copernicus never happened to these people.

But I don't think they're joking because they're citing scripture about it, not fiction or primitive mythology or crazy texts written over 150 years ago by some maniac.

The website is a total mess, but if you're up for a laugh, it's worth skimming through, like the page on "ineffable design."  I don't even know what that means.  "Ineffable design" reminds me of the "disorderly universe."

I found this link in that series of posts over at Slacktivist that I cited below.

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Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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November 24, 2007

Four Elephants and a Turtle

Q: "What's underneath the Earth?" aka "What's on the bottom?" aka "What's on the other side?"

A: This is unknown. Some believe it to be just rocks, others believe the Earth rests on the back of four elephants and a turtle.
That's an excerpt from the Flat Earth Society's FAQ.

Given that the roundness of Earth is something one can easily establish at home with a view of the sun, stars, and the horizon, this is ridiculous beyond my ability to comment further. 

This means that it's hilarious, so don't miss the description of experiments done to prove their case.

Link love to Software Nerd.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 09:49 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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November 11, 2007

Book Review: Letter to an Atheist

I finally finished reading Letter to an Atheist by Michael Patrick Lehey.  More than anything, I really want you to know that this is the most poorly edited book I've ever read in my entire life.  While just fluttering the pages slowly like a flip book I am able to spot numerous typos and other such editing problems.

This book is utter garbage.  The publisher must be desperate for manuscripts.

The author makes a big deal of accusing Sam Harris of intellectual dishonesty and while he is able to cite several minor factual errors none of them can really be contributed to intellectual dishonesty or as being primary facts supporting Harris's overall thesis.  In some cases, the author misunderstands basic statistical concepts.  In some cases he blatantly misrepresents Harris's arguments.  The author seems oblivious to his own intellectual dishonesty and uncharitable behavior.

The religionist arguments were far better articulated in RC Metcalf's book.  More than anything, this book is an embarrassment. 

I'm the kind of person who, more often than not, has a book tucked into his belt under his jacket in the winter.  I say "in the winter" because in the winter I'm usually wearing a couple of layers and so it's not obvious that I'm carrying books in my pants.  What can I say?  I like to read on the train and I hate to be caught without a book especially waiting for one of the late night weekend trains.  So, I was embarrassed to have this book tucked under my belt this evening.  I hope no one on the train saw me reading it and knew what it was.

More than my embarrassment reading this trash, the author should be embarrassed about it.

If you'd like to read a completely laughable representation of the Christian counter argument to the atheists or if you're looking to practice your proofreading skills, then I can recommend this book to you.  Otherwise, I recommend that you steer clear of this book completely.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 04:20 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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November 10, 2007

The (In)Significance of the Atheist Worldview

I'm suspicious of the current atheist "movement" that's out there.  Richard Dawkins is pushing to have atheists call themselves "Brights" to try to rid atheism of its stigma like how homosexuals call themselves "gay."  Some atheists don't like this term and they have a number of reasons.  You'll have to ask them about it because that's not what I wanted to write about today.

In my review of Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation, I mentioned that he points out that atheism is not a world view.

Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious.

p.51
The obvious being that the supernatural is fiction.  But beyond that, atheism in the strictest sense of the word says nothing else.

Atheism doesn't even require that one take a scientific approach to anything else in reality.

If you're an atheist, you might still think that causality doesn't exist or that the acxiom of Identity is flexible on some matters.  You might think that it is possible for a consciousness to exist apart from a body like with ghosts.  You might think that it's possible to learn about the universe through intuition or extrasensory perception.  In ethics, you might be an altruist, an egoist, a pragmatist, a utilitarian, or some other thing.  In politics, you might be Liberal, Conservative, Communist, Socialist, Libertarian, Green, Royalist, Whig, Nazi, or anything else.

Atheists can be anything except believers in a god.

I bring this up because it is this lack of being anything more is the reason that this atheist movement we see going on today will ultimately fail against Christianity or any other religion.

Christianity does describe a philosophy.  It is a world view.  It does describe metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and even art.  Other religions offer the same.

Many of the atheists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennet, tell us that we should be rational and scientific about questions that deal with existence even though this is not required by strict atheism.  They insert into their books certain political and ethical ideas, but those are tangential to the claim of theism as well, and it's no surprise that these guys often keep those statements rather vague and do not go into much detail about their justifications.

So, if you are given the whole of Christian theology and the body of the so-called New Atheists' work you're left with choosing between a complete (albeit wrong) philosophy and a big pile of nothing.  Something or nothing?  Yeah, tough choice.

I wanted to highlight also the irony of the fact that barring a more adequate response to religion, the "Brights" will aid the revival of the Dark Ages.

As I was writing this, I discovered that I am echoing the sentiments of Gus Van Horn, so I'll leave you with his conclusion as well:
D'Souza hopes that his readers will recognize that atheism offers man no guidance -- and rush to religion by default, and he is counting on the blatant intellectual bankruptcy of the new atheists. But Ayn Rand is one atheist who does offer a viable philosophical alternative to religion: her this-worldly, rational, egoistic, and capitalistic philosophy: Objectivism.

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Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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November 04, 2007

Book Review: Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point

I bought this book thinking it was Sam Harris's book Letter to a Christian Nation, but it's actually a Christian rebuttal by R.C. Metcalf.  (I bought it without looking at it closely, by using Amazon's recommendation buttons.)

Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point is fortunately very short because it is a poorly reasoned, unsupported, unimpressive hack.

It does make a couple of points that did occur to me while reading books by atheists, namely that Christian moral philosophy changes dramatically between the Old and New Testaments.  While quotations from the Old Testament are amusing in their constant exhortations to kill people for minor issues, those do not stand after the death of Christ in Christian mythology.

He does also make much of the distinction between Christianity and Islam as well as the difference between Christianity and other religions, which are interesting -- but only if you're interested in religion in that way.

Unfortunately, every one of his protestations fails to hold up to even cursory inspection.

There is no discussion about why altruism is good, but it is assumed that we agree.  I don't and I know many of my readers do not, either.

There is brief treatment of "evidence" in support of Christianity that is laughable, namely archaeological evidence supporting some facts found in the Bible.  If I said, "Steve turned water into wine in New York City," Dr. Metcalf would claim that the existence of New York City supports my assertion. 

Metcalf also presents lots of rationalizations for Christian views on things like the war on drugs, abortion, and pornography.  (Homosexuality and gay marriage are notably not addressed.)  None of these discussions is sensible to anyone not already persuaded of his premises.

I would compare this book to St. Anselm's argument for the existence of God:  it only works for believers and even then not very many of those.

Although it's a short book that you could read in a single sitting, I don't recommend you bother with it.  I prefer to think that this short book was not intended to provide evidence and arguments to persuade nonbelievers, but I can't think how it would be useful to arming believers against atheist arguments without more substance.  In the end, it's a silly, insipid book.  I would sooner recommend C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity to believers than this book and that book is a tawdry flurry of stupidity and obfuscation.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 11:18 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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November 01, 2007

Books on Unicorns

I'm trying to slowly make my way through the video of Dinesh D'Souza and Christopher Hitchens' debate, but I find myself rankling at D'Souza's opening remarks.

"Atheism has emerged as a kind of militant phenomenon. And on the face of that, that is a little bit odd.  Because if you are an unbeliever, why be militant?  I don't believe in unicorns, but I haven't written any books on the subject. I don't spend a lot of time denouncing unicorns.  I live my life as if unicorns did not exist."

I am perfectly willing to put Christianity in the same category as unicorns under the heading of "fiction", but it is necessary to point out that the Unicorn Lobby has no power in Washington because there is no Unicorn Lobby.  No one knocks on my door at 9am on a Saturday to ask if I've accepted Unicorns as a superior form of transportation.  George Bush has never ended a speech with "Thank you and may a bevy of unicorns be visited upon you."  The planes that ran into the twin towers on 9/11 were not piloted by gnome lovers hoping to make unicorn lovers cry.  My dad isn't currently employed to build a shrine to unicorns and growing up, he didn't buy me the Unicorn My Little Pony Figurines so that I might construct a reliquary to the horned mythological beasts.  No one has ever told me that my sodomy makes baby unicorns cry.

The reason anyone bothers to spend time arguing against the existence of God and writing long books about atheism is because theism is so dreadfully prevalent.  If most people ridiculed the notion of the supernatural instead of revering it, then I wouldn't even write this post.

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Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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