Philosophy Archive

Julia Sweeney talks about losing her belief in God

I just discovered Julia Sweeney, a comedian and author who grew up a Catholic and gradually lost her belief. This is not your typical argumentative intellectual atheist diatribe. Julia is very sympathetic to the feelings and attitudes of normal religious people.

Practical Consequences of Rejecting Free Will

The philosophical rejection of the notion of Free Will comes first and foremost out of the scientific belief in determinism: that all events, attitudes, background conditions, have a cause, and that therefore it does not make sense to take “credit” or “blame” for our attitudes, our level of intelligence, or, in the extreme, our actions.

Free Will as an Illusion – 1

In 2012 author, philosopher and neuroscience theorist Sam Harris published his book Free Will and reinvigorated the debate about the extent to which people can be thought to be “responsible” for their thoughts, motivations and actions. The idea that humans have “free will” (or perhaps we should say “Free Will” with big F and W)

Believing in Belief in God

In his book Breaking The Spell, philosopher and noted atheist Daniel Dennett discusses (at some length) the difference between “belief in God” and “belief in belief in God”. This may sound like some philosopher’s tedious exercise in hair-splitting, but the fact is, this is actually an interesting and important distinction. Over the years I have

Atheism and Intellectual Intimidation

I spent a few minutes in a coffee shop this morning reading a short book by atheist author D. Cameron Web called Despicable Meme – The Absurdity and Immorality of Modern Religion. This is Web’s first book so I guess he can be excused for his unusually zealous attack of religion. He takes a no

Where Does Morality Come From?

Some things I’ve been reading recently have led me to look again at my previous posts about morality (here and here) and attempt to clarify some of the ideas presented there. “Morality” is a confusing topic, debated for centuries by philosophers and theologians, (and not seriously thought about by me for the last thirty years)

Revelation – Who Can You Believe?

All religious claims to be authoritative in some important sense rely on the concept of revelation. By its very nature, religion assumes it is dealing with phenomena that are essentially different from “ordinary” experience. As I have pointed out in previous posts, this claim that religious experience cannot be dealt with the way we deal

The Authority of Scripture

In a world where we increasingly rely on scientific investigation to answer important questions about the world around us, the use of special documents called “scripture” by religious leaders and their billions of followers is puzzling. Religious people just assume scriptures have some special (dare I say, magical) powers that ordinary writings don’t have. But

Sources of Religious Authority

If you’ve ever had a discussion about religion with a zealous believer you will invariably be told religious beliefs are supported by some sort of “revelation”. The favorite among Christians is “It’s in the Bible”. For Moslems it’s the Koran. For Mormons it’s the Book of Mormon, and on it goes. Every religion has it’s

“Feel Good” Reasons for Believing in God

Even a casual viewing of a television show like 100 Huntley Street gives the impression that religion (or belief in god) is almost all about feeling good. People sit around telling each other about their personal experiences. There’s a tremendous amount of smiling, punctuated with earnest empathizing. Often these experiences involve some personal crisis –

Absolute and Relative Moral Principles

Morality is the set of behaviour-regulating principles that guide our activities within our communities. We can think of these communities as a web of relationships. For most of us the focus is on the immediate community, but this local web is inevitably part of other, larger webs, and it is the interaction with other parts

Is Religion a Reliable Basis for Morality

It is surprising how many people believe that without a god to offer an objective basis for morality, there can simply be no trustworthy right or wrong. This has both a positive side and a negative one, and both are confused and confusing. On the positive side is the assumption that god’s existence somehow legitimizes

Proving That God Exists

Not surprisingly, many believers think there are convincing “proofs” of the existence of god. These are almost without exception versions of arguments that have been advanced by theologians and philosophers for at least 2000 years. It is unlikely that even religious believers are actually convinced by these arguments. They are much more influenced by moral

The Problem of Coming Out as a Non-Believer

Author’s note: “This is the beginning of a series of posts about religious non-belief. I don’t like the term ‘atheist’ because it sounds so certain. So I use the term ‘skeptic regarding religious belief’ to denote the position of non-belief. The skeptical position that I take is that there is no good reason to believe