Tuesday, 23 February 2010

so who's irrational?

A common accusation of atheists is that christians are irrational, preferring faith to evidence. To some christians this is not an insult, for they choose faith over logic. But other christians find this accusation both insulting and untrue, for they believe faith is based on reason and evidence.

I cannot recall anyone providing any scientific evidence for this claim. The evidence generally offered is simply that christianity involves faith, faith is not based on evidence and that is irrational.

I have just come across a book which turns this argument on its head. The Making of an Atheist by James Speigel (a professor of philosophy) argues that many atheists come to their beliefs by non-rational means. I have not read the book, but I have read parts of it and several reviews.

The book is based on scriptural teaching, but it uses evidence from psychology, the philosophy of science and atheists' own words, to establish this conclusion. The author argues that experiences in childhood, unwillingness to submit to God and immorality are all psychological factors leading to disbelief.

I'm sure there is truth in all this, although I feel some atheists I have "met" on the internet also have other, more honourable, reasons for their lack of belief in God. And I don't think I'll be using this book's conclusions to press any atheists to believe - I have objected often to atheists making unbased psychological explanations for my belief, so I don't think I should return the "compliment".

But it may be helpful to know what is in this book. At least it provides a counter to the old "christians are delusional" argument should I ever be really pressed on the matter.

Monday, 8 February 2010

is that true?

Came across this today on this blog - a list of statements that people sometimes make, but which are actually "self-refuting" or logically inconsistent. I think they're worth sharing.

  • Truth does not exist (Is that a true statement?)
  • Nothing is absolute (Is that absolutely true?)
  • I do not exist (You must exist to deny that you exist)
  • Science is the only way to know (Can you scientifically prove that?)
  • Only what can be perceived by the five senses exists (Can you prove that by the five senses?)
  • Nobody can know anything for sure (Do you know that for sure?)
  • Nobody can know anything about God (How do you know that?)
  • Talk about God is meaningless (Since it is a statement about God, this statement is meaningless too)
  • Reality is just your interpretation, objective reality does not exist (That’s just your interpretation)
  • “‘Everything we think and do is the function of our genes/nervous system’” (Is this belief itself just the result of genetic/neutral activity? If so, why trust it — or any belief we have? If your belief happens to be right, it’s just by accident)
  • There are no beliefs (You expect me to believe that?)
  • Everything is meaningless (So is that statement)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

worth listening to

Some of the music most worth listening to is not often played on mainstream radio. Here's some of what I'm enjoying at the moment.

all india radio

All India Radio is Martin Kennedy plus assorted other musicians from time to time. This generally instrumental music can occasionally be a little trite and simple, but more often it is strange, beautiful and haunting ambient sounds. Perhaps best of all is the only vocal album, "Fall", where the strong, expressive voice of Leona Prue fronts some fine Kennedy instrumentation. Right now (Feb 2010) you can get cheap and even free downloads from All India Radio's Myspace page.

auburn lull

These four guys from "somewhere in middle America" (Michigan) play what is sometimes called "space rock" - atmospheric, lush music that is somewhere between rock and ambient. The vocals can be a little weak, but the mainly instrumental music really soars. Check out their music at Myspace.

my brightest diamond

My Brightest Diamond is mainly Shara Worden. Trained as an opera singer, she has toured with Sufjan Stevens (see below) as a back-up singer as well as a performer of her own material. Her music is dramatic, individual and her singing can be electrifying. Her Myspace page will let you listen to some of her music.

radical face

Radical face is one of several projects of Ben Cooper, who does just about everything on the superb album "Ghost", including record it in his backyard shed. The music is beautiful and folky soft rock, and the lyrics on this album are based on the fantasy that houses have ghostly memories which remain and may haunt those who move in next. "Down the Road" from this album is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. Check out Ben's website.

sigur ros

Possibly the most well known of the bands here, these Icelanders play quirky, anthemic songs with a big sound. Never in a hurry, the music builds slowly, ebbs and flows and contains many surprises. But don't try to decipher the lyrics, they're generally in Icelandic or Hopelandic, an invented mini-language. Here's the Sigur Ros website.

sufjan stevens

Sufjan may just be the most talented and quirky musician I have ever heard. He writes some of the simplest and best lyrics you'll ever hear (try "Casimir Pulaski Day"), he plays most instruments, does his own gentle singing, and his choral and musical arrangements are sometimes intricate and always creative (try "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!!…") And did I say he has a mad sense of humour and some outrageous song titles? His website sums it up this way: "Sufjan Stevens mixes autobiography, religious fantasy, and regional history to create folk songs of grand proportions." On top of this, he established Asthmatic Kitty records, which is now home to a large bunch of quirky, obscure and talented musicians.

the middle east

The Middle East are a creative bunch of Aussies who can play anything from modern folk to anthemic rock. Recent performances have endeared them to a growing clan of loyal followers. On stage, they are a six or seven piece collective that can on occasion be augmented to include a string section and/or a choir. "Blood" is a moving folky song about family and the hurts that can come with the package. Pig Food live (which has the full string section plus choir) is well worth a listen (though not as tight as on recording - it was on the original "The Recordings of the Middle East", but not on the re-release). I really hope this amazing band is heard by many more happy listeners. Check out their Myspace page.