In praise of flip-floppers

In a recent post titled “Down the Creationist Rabbit Hole,” I remarked that I grew up creationist and later changed my mind due to the evidence in favor of evolution. Regarding the difficulty of getting people to seriously consider evidence, a commenter replied,

I wish it was just a matter of presenting the evidence and waiting for it to sink in for most people; unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. I do understand that nobody wants to look like a fool and nobody wants to lose face while debating, but it seems like people should eventually let other superior opinions seep in and change their mind… perhaps I’m being to idealistic.

And why is that so rarely the case? We can talk about cognitive dissonance or the theological implications of evolution (for one thing it makes nonsense of Paul’s main argument for the necessity of the atonement; see Romans 5:12 and following–meaning that there’s a whole worldview at stake for believers who know their Bible), but another big part of it is that in our culture, changing one’s mind is seen as a sign of weakness and unsteadiness. And the bigger the issue, the more the change bothers other people.
We need to challenge this attitude. Continue reading

These people are going to lose everything, part 2

Two weeks ago I wrote about death and kindness. This week I want to focus on death and loss, and on making peace with it.

Unless you believe two things with absolute certainty, 1) There is a heaven, and 2) I am going there, you live with the idea that death is the end.

Maybe you don’t fully accept the idea. Maybe it’s only a possibility in your mind. But even if you have a faith, if you ever doubt it all—there’s death lurking inevitably in your future, and the chance that it will snuff out your existence like a candle. Continue reading

The awful ways some atheist leaders talk to each other

Christian apologists must be getting lazy not to notice the big, fat, atheist-bashing rhetorical club that certain leading atheists are constantly offering them. I’m talking about the awful ways that some people talk to (and about) each other.

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These people are going to lose everything

We do not know what awaits each of us after death, but we know that we will die. Clearly, it must be possible to live ethically—with a genuine concern for the happiness of other sentient beings—without presuming to know things about which we are patently ignorant. Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person you will pass on the street today, is going to die. Living long enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would anyone want to be anything but kind in the meantime?

Sam Harris, The End of Faith (2004)

Think about that the next time you’re in a crowd. For every single person you see, young or old, there will be one death, one funeral, one grave or ash-filled urn. I work on a university campus where most of the people I pass on the street are young and healthy—and in this context the thought is jarring. Continue reading

Lawrence Krauss: Our godless universe is precious

Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss says that science shows us that “we are more insignificant than we ever could have imagined,” and that “the future [of the universe] is miserable.” So why isn’t he bothered by this? He explains in this two-minute video. Continue reading

Atheist Daniel Dennett on the secret to spirituality

Many people talk about the importance of spirituality. Daniel C. Dennett, a philosopher, says that we tend not to have a clear conception of just what spirituality is, and that the concept tends to resist definition. But even though he doesn’t believe in the supernatural, he feels there’s something important lurking in all that vague talk about the spiritual: Continue reading

Why do bad things happen to good people? The Bible’s answer: shut up!

Several days ago The Great Antagonizer posted a critique of the “God works in mysterious ways” meme, explaining how it functions as religion’s rhetorical “get out of jail free card” when bad things happen to good people. It reminded me of how the Bible’s Book of Job answers the question: a terrible answer, but kind of a funny story (in a perverse way), and one that sheds light on some of the inner workings of religious faith.

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