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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
Johannes Moreelse, Heraclitus (1630) I. An Anatomy of Tragedy Man knows two things: how things are (the World), and how they should be (the Ideal). I don’t mean that he knows these things perfectly, or that every man completely agrees with every other man about what is or what ought to be. But everyone has […]
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 […]
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 […]
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) […]
St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae It’s common today to hear both believers and nonbelievers claim that the existence of God is ultimately unknowable, or at least unprovable. According to this view, we’re left to take a leap of faith, or else to go with the option we think is more likely. Classical theism rejects this […]
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). […]