An Atheist, an Agnostic, and A Theist Walk Into A Bar

(That literally happened to me one time.) Ok, this joke still needs writing, and that’s not my thing. But I do want to try and tease out a related conversational knot that’s been giving me trouble. In short, the knot involves the answers to the following questions: What does it mean to be an atheist? What does it mean to be a theist? What does it mean to be an agnostic? Why does this matter? Because labels matter to us. If someone called me a “feminist,” my reaction might depend on what they mean by the term. If it just … Continue reading An Atheist, an Agnostic, and A Theist Walk Into A Bar

Are There Good Reasons To Be An Atheist?

I debated whether to even write this post. Here’s why: many people think that ANY concession to the “other side” amounts to total defeat. For many, to admit that atheist beliefs are reasonable amounts to admitting they are correct. But this is just plain wrong, and I’ll explain why below. Nevertheless, this post may disturb some theists. Setting the Intellectual Stage I’m going to set the stage here with a few concepts. Then I’ll tell you whether there are good reasons for atheism and what they might be (if there are any). The first idea that needs stating is this: you … Continue reading Are There Good Reasons To Be An Atheist?

Are They Crazy?

My junior year of college (I was studying to be a band director), I met Steve. Steve was, by all accounts, a talented, intelligent, rational person. Like me, he played the saxophone, but unlike me, he *played* the saxophone. I mean, he flew up and down the scales unconsciously, as if he were playing with 14 fingers instead of the standard 10. Oddly, despite his intelligence and talent, he was a conservative Christian. I thought that was crazy. At the time, I viewed religion and God as ridiculous, only for the weak-minded. Despite this, we became fast friends. I still … Continue reading Are They Crazy?

Hearing from Jesus?

In the wake of recent noise about Mike Pence and his alleged conversations with the Son of God, I though I’d offer an epistemological perspective. How do we evaluate claims like “God spoke to me?” Some Guidelines First, these claims can only be evaluated inductively. That is, we can’t “prove” them true or false. We can only gather reasons and evidence for or against the claim, and then see where these reasons point us. The evidence may point so strongly in one direction as to virtually settle the matter, or it may be closer to 50/50. I’ll discuss what reasons … Continue reading Hearing from Jesus?

Burden of Proof

Matt, a PhD student, studies how microbes influence the immune system. Matt is also an atheist, and since he’s exceptionally smart, I thought it would be interesting to interview him about his beliefs. I wondered about the “whys” behind his atheism. During our conversation, the concept of the “burden of proof” came up. Matt believes that in the dispute over God’s existence, it is the theist who bears the burden of proof. In other words, atheism is the simpler, more natural position, and the theist has a lot of extra work to do in defending claims about gods. After all, … Continue reading Burden of Proof