Archives For atheism

This week my cohort continued our readings and conversations about atheism. Our guest in chat was Matt Casper, co-author of Jim and Casper Go to Church. The book is an engaging read of the duo’s adventures to a dozen churches in 2006. Jim (Henderson) is a former pastor who started employing atheist, skeptics, and non-believers to serve as ‘mystery shoppers’ in his church. He’d have them come and fill out a survey of their experience. (Matt) Casper is a lapsed Catholic turned atheist who works in marketing. Together, the two visited a wide spectrum of churches and wrote a book about what they found.

Casper is an interesting contrast to last week’s guest, Dr. Peter Boghossian. He takes a more ‘do no harm’ attitude toward people of faith. His issue is not with the veracity of belief, per se, but with the inconsistency that is often displayed in the lives of ‘believers.’ As he and Jim sit through church service after church service, he often queries aloud, ‘Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?’ Often, the answer is simply, ‘No.’

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The past couple of weeks in my D.Min. program have included some fascinating readings, lectures, and conversations. Dr. Alvin Plantinga’s newest offering, Where the Conflict Really Lies, kicked things off. In the book, he makes the argument that there does exist deep conflict between science and religion, but it is not the conflict that one ordinarily supposes.

Plantinga appeals to Newtonian and Quantum physics, microbiology, astronomy, and cosmology to show that what conflict does exist between Christian theism and science is superficial at best. He then uses those same fields to show deep concord between Christian theism and science, and deep conflict between science and naturalism. Scientific theory is agnostic about metaphysical and theological questions. Naturalism, however, is not.

Yet to follow the science, Plantinga asserts, one is forced to conclude vis-à-vis a naturalistic interpretation of the evidence that the trustworthiness of one’s cognitive faculties is very, very low. Why? Because a naturalist’s commitment to unguided natural selection as the driving force of evolution necessarily entails that only those functions which aid in reproduction and evolutionary adaptation have a high probability for selection and preservation in the future generations of a given species. Rational cognition, it seems, fails to meet the evolutionary adaptive criteria.

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