Tag: reason

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How George Carlin Misunderstood Prayer

William Blake, Ancient of Days (1794)
The famous comedian George Carlin was a fervent atheist, and had a particular disdain for Christian prayer. He argued that it was arrogant of us to ask the God of the Universe for anything. He’s got a Divine plan, and then we come along to ask Him for special favors. But Carlin also viewed prayer as either destructive or worthless. After all, God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God of the Universe, and He has a Divine Plan. If our prayers cause Him to change that plan, Carlin reasoned, we’re making things worse. If our prayers don’t cause Him to change His plans, what’s the point?

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Do Democratic Presidencies Reduce the Abortion Rate?

Abortion Ratio by Party
A popular progressive political argument is that the only truly pro-life choice is to vote Democratic. After all, the argument goes, even if said Democrats are vocally "pro-choice," they're also pro-social net, and the presence of a social net prevents women from feeling like they "need" abortion. During Republican administrations, in contrast. social nets get slashed, pregnant women feel more desperate (and less capable of caring for the children with which they're pregnant), and abortion goes up. It's an interesting theory, but is it true?

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Are Gay Marriage Opponents “Born This Way”?

Born This Way
One predictive factor in opposition to gay marriage -- and even opposition to homosexuals themselves -- is genetics. Certain people are more naturally averse to homosexuals and homosexual behavior than others. This means that, if it's wrong to oppose homosexuality because certain people are "born that way," then it's even worse to oppose "homophobia," since even more people are "born that way," and the genetic link is stronger.

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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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No, the Supreme Court Didn’t Just Legalize Gay Marriage.

The Supreme Court and President Obama
One of the biggest news stories this summer has been the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision last month in Obergefell v. Hodges which both declared gay marriage legal, and a constitutional right. Given this, both fans and opponents of the ruling have spoken of it as "legalizing" gay marriage nationwide. But it hasn't. And it hasn't, because it can't, because the Supreme Court doesn't have the power to do what it claims to have done.

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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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About those Gay Marriage Flow Charts…

flowchart
There are several flow charts trying to show the ridiculousness of religious opposition to same-sex marriage by making three claims: (1) Leviticus forbids homosexuality, but it also bans a bunch of other stuff, and nobody [a.k.a., no Gentile] actually lives by all those rules; (2) Paul seems to forbid homosexuality, but actually means something like temple prostitution; and (3) Jesus doesn't mention homosexuality. Here's why none of those arguments work.

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Weak T: Transgenderism’s Philosophical Weaknesses

Carl Heinrich Bloch, Consolator (19th c.)
A lot's been said about the case of Olympic decathalon Bruce Jenner's decision to undergo a "sex change" operation, and to call himself "Caitlyn." Unfortunately, a good deal of it has been sound and fury, signifying nothing: either cruel jokes at Jenner's expense, or accusations of bigotry for anyone who hasn't hopped on the transgender bandwagon. A better approach would be to soberly consider the underlying philosophical problems raised by transgenderism, and then suggest a positive way of responding to trans-identifying people. So that's what I've tried to do here, beginning with:

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Is Religion Responsible for the World’s Violence?

800px-Second_battle_of_Ramla
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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