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Category Archives: Why I’m an Atheist

Episode 41: Matthew Ferguson – Metaphysical Naturalism and Secular Humanism (Part 2)

We chat with Matthew Ferguson about metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism. It was a lot of fun and maddeningly interesting. This is part 2 of 2 of our discussion.

Matthew is currently a PhD student in Classics at the University of California, Irvine. He has written several scholarly papers about ancient history, and blogs about naturalism, secular humanism, and counter apologetics at his blogs Κέλσος and Civitas Humana.

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Our discussion covers…

What are arguments in favor of naturalism?

  • Teleological argument for naturalism
  • Argument from inefficient design
  • Argument from irrational suffering
  • Naturalism makes sense of the dependence of the mind on a physical brain
  • Theism is fundamentally backwards in it’s model of the universe

What are arguments against naturalism?

  • Naturalism isn’t falsifiable
  • Pragmatic argument against naturalism: naturalism doesn’t properly motivate us to be good, whereas Christianity does
  • Naturalism seems to assume that everything that exists in the universe is somehow empirically observable, which probably isn’t true
  • Naturalism offers no basis for making or justifying normative claims
  • If secular humanism is human-centric, then it is guilty of speciesism
  • Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism

What kind of world do secular humanists want to create?

  • A culture of regular self-reflection
  • Criminal justice systems using rehabilitation instead of punishment
  • Religion, it’s role in society, and how this may change over time
  • The government’s role in a transition to secular humanism

Books references in this episode:

Matthew was kind enough to provide a solar mass of really great resources for anyone interested in learning more about what we were talking about. Check them out below:

Matthew’s Blogs:

Κέλσος

Civitas Humana

Resources for Naturalism:

The Naturalistic Worldview

Defining Theism, Atheism, Supernaturalism, and Naturalism (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Secular Outpost: Arguments for Naturalism (by Jeff Lowder)

The Best Argument Against God (by Graham Oppy)

Sense and Goodness without God (by Richard Carrier)

Naturalism’s Support among Professional Philosophers:

Even If Most Scientists Are Atheist, Don’t Philosophers Come to the Rescue for God and Religion? Turns Out, No. (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Teleological Argument for Naturalism:

Finely Tuning a Killer Cosmos (by Richard Carrier)

The Fallacy of Fine Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (by Victor Stenger)

Naturalism as the Best Explanation for Irrational Suffering:

The Evil-God Challenge (by Stephen Law)

Naturalism and Mind-Body Physicalism: 

The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology: Biointerface Research Group

The Phineas Gage Case

Naturalism, Secular Humanism, and Ethics: 

Confused Metaphysics: Apologetic Efforts to Corner the Market on Ethics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Naturalism and Epistemology: 

C.S. Lewis’ Milk Jug: Apologetics and the Retreat into Epistemology (by Matthew Ferguson)

Evolutionary Naturalism, Theism, and Skepticism about the External World (by J. Wesley Robbins)

Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism Refuted (by Stephen Law)

Critical Review of Victor Reppert’s Defense of the Argument from Reason (by Richard Carrier)

Dishonest Apologetic Debate Tactics:

Southern Evangelical Seminary Tricks Bart Ehrman after a Public Debate with Mike Licona

A Response to Cliffe Knechtle’s Campus Apologetics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Counter-Apologetics:

Counter-Apologetics FAQ (by Matthew Ferguson)

 
 

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Episode 40: Matthew Ferguson – Metaphysical Naturalism and Secular Humanism (Part 1)

We chat with Matthew Ferguson about metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism. It was a lot of fun and maddeningly interesting. This is part 1 of 2 of our discussion.

Matthew is currently a PhD student in Classics at the University of California, Irvine. He has written several scholarly papers about ancient history, and blogs about naturalism, secular humanism, and counter apologetics at his blogs Κέλσος and Civitas Humana.

Listen to this episode

We discussed:

What is a worldview?

  • Comparing worldviews
  • Explanatory scope and explanatory power
  • Worldviews used as a rhetorical tool by presuppositional apologists

What are metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism?

  • What questions do each of these answer?
  • How do they fit together and compliment each other?
  • The relationship with methodological naturalism, physicalism, materialism, and atheism.
  • The role of science in our knowledge
  • Getting knowledge from science and history
  • Can a metaphysical naturalist or secular humanist be religious?
  • Making sense of minds, consciousness, shapes, numbers, propositions, and other abstract object on metaphysical naturalism

How does metaphysical naturalism compare to christian theism?

  • Eschatology
  • Rules to live by
  • Agreeing about reality
  • Authority
  • Religion, religious experience, and the evolution of agent over-detection

Books we referenced:

Matthew was kind enough to provide a metric ton of really great resources for anyone interested in learning more about what we were talking about. Check them out below:

Matthew’s Blogs:

Κέλσος

Civitas Humana

Resources for Naturalism:

The Naturalistic Worldview

Defining Theism, Atheism, Supernaturalism, and Naturalism (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Secular Outpost: Arguments for Naturalism (by Jeff Lowder)

The Best Argument Against God (by Graham Oppy)

Sense and Goodness without God (by Richard Carrier)

Naturalism’s Support among Professional Philosophers:

Even If Most Scientists Are Atheist, Don’t Philosophers Come to the Rescue for God and Religion? Turns Out, No. (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Teleological Argument for Naturalism:

Finely Tuning a Killer Cosmos (by Richard Carrier)

The Fallacy of Fine Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (by Victor Stenger)

Naturalism as the Best Explanation for Irrational Suffering:

The Evil-God Challenge (by Stephen Law)

Naturalism and Mind-Body Physicalism: 

The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology: Biointerface Research Group

The Phineas Gage Case

Naturalism, Secular Humanism, and Ethics: 

Confused Metaphysics: Apologetic Efforts to Corner the Market on Ethics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Naturalism and Epistemology: 

C.S. Lewis’ Milk Jug: Apologetics and the Retreat into Epistemology (by Matthew Ferguson)

Evolutionary Naturalism, Theism, and Skepticism about the External World (by J. Wesley Robbins)

Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism Refuted (by Stephen Law)

Critical Review of Victor Reppert’s Defense of the Argument from Reason (by Richard Carrier)

Dishonest Apologetic Debate Tactics:

Southern Evangelical Seminary Tricks Bart Ehrman after a Public Debate with Mike Licona

A Response to Cliffe Knechtle’s Campus Apologetics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Counter-Apologetics:

Counter-Apologetics FAQ (by Matthew Ferguson)

 

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Episode 30: Judaism, Deconversion, and Gay Marriage

After a brief hiatus, Nontheology comes roaring back into production. Gabe is joined by friend (but not fan) of the show Dan, to talk about his deconversion from Judaism and why, although homosexuality is condemned repeatedly in Jewish scriptures, his Jewish upbringing compelled him to strongly support gay marriage.

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Some fun stuff from the episode:

 
 

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Episode 27: Mailbag 1

Following some brief announcements, we take some time to interact with our listeners, rather than generating any new content of our own. Laziest. Episode. Ever.

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Some fun announcements:

  • The catholic world celebrates a new pope, and generates pope memes
  • NonTheology has a gorgeous new theme song, and is now available on Stitcher Radio.
  • Our evolution series prematurely went extinct.
  • Unless you write in with what is clearly a psuedonym or say we can mention your name on the show, all future listeners will be referred to as Kevin.

Listener comments/questions for us to consider:

  • Is Erik the B- time traveler?
  • Did we commit the argument from authority when talking about the Euthyphro dilemma?
  • Can the first horn of the Euthyphro be consistent?
  • Sam Harris’ book The Moral Landscape and the semantics of ethics (Gabe may very well be wrong about that, since he hasn’t read the book: corrections welcome).
  • Is it a waste of time to talk about mythologies and religions you don’t think are true?
  • Gabe vs. athletes
  • What to do if you’re an atheist in a catholic school (Hint: find or initiate a local chapter of the Secular Student Alliance)
  • Erik shares: stories from when he was a eucharistic minister in the catholic church, and things he learned from children.
  • Why I’m an atheist story!
  • Do high schoolers go to youth group for youth group or for girls?

Thanks for writing in with your comments, questions, and thanks especially for making fun of Erik.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Mailbag, New Episode, Why I'm an Atheist

 

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Why I’m an Atheist: John H and Paul H

Some really fantastic stories and experiences from our listeners John H. and Paul H. Loved reading them and talking about them. Thanks!

John H:

I think the best place to start is when I was five years old, I was a member of the roman catholic church, and I went to a catholic school. Fairly normal life, however there was a catch, I thought I was psychic (not that I actually knew of that word at the time) I thought that whatever I willed would become true (a sort of self fulfilling prophecy) things were going fairly well with that until I screwed it up and decided I wanted to turn it off somehow, I decided that whatever I willed, the opposite would be true. Well, I realized a it was a paradox and droped it.

Then I learned about prayer, I was told that to talk to god you must start and finish your prayer with the sign of the cross. This quickly became confusing when thought I accidentally forgot to do the sign of the cross at the end, was I still praying? I had no idea, I did the sign repeatedly unsure of wether god was listening in or not. I eventually had to drop the whole concept before I went bonkers.

Fast forward to 6th grade and me learning all about evolution, I loved it, in me awakened an insatiable appetite for science, It made sense and it was beautiful in a way I never thought I could imagine, that summer me and my family went on a trip to the galapagos islands, I had caught bio-fever, I was in love with biology.

The next year (7th grade) I was in history class learning about world religions, when It dawned on me, what I believed is entirely dependent on where I was born. I realized that I belonged to a category I just had learned about in school, I was an atheist, I had no belief in gods at that point in my life. It took me 3 years to come out publicly as one. But now I’m off to college and I couldn’t be more pleased with myself.

Paul H:

I has been raised in a home that vacillated between liberal, non-denominational christian and agnostic. I started going to an Evangelical Church with my friends when I was 16 and pretty quickly wastotally swept up in the whole deal. I felt very firm in my conviction that Christianity was true but have always been an analytical/sciency person and tried to get into apologetics. I felt like Christianity was the right answer to the question “which religion is true”? and the apologetics books I read reinforced that.

But the summer before college I had a job at my local library where an atheist discussion group met. I got into a discussion with one of the members thinking that I coud convert him. I told him my story and that you have to ask yourself “which religion is true?” and that the obvious answer you come to when you look at the evidence is Christianity. Rather than try to knock down my arguments, he pointed out that I was asking the wrong question, and that I should have been asking “which religion is true, if any?” It ocurred to me that not only did I have a poorer undestanding of other religions, but I had formulated the thoughts wrong in my head, egged on by the apologists I was reading, from the start. Of course I was going to thing Christianity won that contest, because that’s what I was surrounded by, and that’s all I had read about. But Christianity didn’t just have to make a better case than other religions, it had to be able to stand on its own merits. That struck with me over the course of my freshmen yar and I slowly started deconverting, and am now a sophomore atheist (striving not to be sophomoric).

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Why I'm an Atheist

 

Episode 15: Reflections and Listener Feedback

A ghastly hodgepodge of random content. But then again, that’s more or less what we do all the time. Here’s what’s what:

  • Reflect on the episode with Zachary Bos, since Erik didn’t listen to it until now
  • Gabe says the word “articulate” nearly 12 million times
  • Listener questions from John H. (2) and Anton B.
  • Why I’m an Atheist narratives from John H. (1) and Paul H.
  • Alexander gives us the closest thing to hate mail we are yet to receive
  • Wait, What?

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Some fun:

What organizations or entities might the secular community look to for design ideas, if any? How many other listeners are named John H? Have decent questions of your own? Clog up the series of tubes by getting your thoughts and questions into the comment section!

 
 

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