Tag: atheism

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4 Errors about the Burden of Proof for God

Duccio, Pilate's First Interrogation of Christ (1311)
As longtime readers know, I used to be a lawyer before entering seminary to prepare for the Catholic priesthood. It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that I'm fascinated by questions about the "burden of proof" in religious questions. For example, does the burden of proof fall on the believer or the atheist? What sort of evidence is permissible to meet this burden of proof? Do "extraordinary" claims require extraordinary evidence? Should they meet an extraordinary burden of proof, above the burden required for other sorts of claims? Here are four ways that those questions are answered incorrectly.

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Trial by Fire: Modernity’s Response to Miracles

Dieric Bouts the Elder, Ordeal by Fire (detail), 1460. In this scene, a woman proves her innocence by holding a red-hot iron without suffering injury.
We moderns think of trial by ordeal as proof positive of the irrational dogmatism of our religious ancestors' culture. The idea of determining someone's innocence or guilt by having them hold a red-hot iron seems, well, insane. But new evidence suggests that the process worked... and might provide documentary evidence of a huge number of miracles. That modern researchers refuse to even consider this possibility reveals a great deal more about the irrational dogmatism of our own irreligious culture.

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Can God Be Known?

Michelangelo, Creation of Adam (Sistine chapel) (1512)
Can we actually know anything about God? This is one of the most fundamental questions, and many people, particularly agnostics, will say “no.” The argument tends to go something like this: God, if there is a God, is so far removed from human experience and knowledge that there’s nothing that we can say about Him (or Her […]

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Do You Need God to Know That Abortion is Wrong?

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The New Republic’s latest “contribution” to the abortion debate is remarkable, in that, despite getting virtually everything it says factually wrong, it still raises an interesting problem for pro-choicers and atheists. Here’s the Twitter teaser to the piece that started it all: How the anti-choice platform is fighting to stay alive: http://t.co/m8kuGANs2Q pic.twitter.com/fxTeRyj444 — The New […]

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Is Religion Responsible for the World’s Violence?

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Sébastien Mamerot, Second Battle of Ramla, from Les Passages d’Outremer (1475) Last week, a “gun-toting atheist” and self-proclaimed “anti-theist” killed three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There’s some question still about whether the killer was motivated by atheism or some other motivation. What there’s no question of is that much of the secular response was predictably […]

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The Problem of Beauty

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Simon Vouet, Father Time Overcome by Love, Hope and Beauty (1627) A lot has been said about the “problem of pain.” Why, if God is both loving and all-powerful, is there still suffering in the world? The question is a challenge for Catholics, as for all theists. As believers, we have some sense of why a loving […]

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Neil deGrasse Tyson’s (Unwittingly) Ironic Trolling

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Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the popular Cosmos show, spent Christmas morning on Twitter, mocking Christians: On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) December 25, 2014 Merry Christmas to all. A Pagan holiday (BC) […]

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Stephen Colbert and the Death of Protestant America

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Stephen Colbert, 2007(Photo: David Shankbone) Certain events, small in themselves, can serve as cultural bellwethers, pointing to the direction that the culture is going as a whole. Two years ago, we saw one of these in the replacement of the Supreme Court’s last Protestant, Justice David Souter (an Episcopalian), with Justice Sonia Sotomayor (a Catholic). […]

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