• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Atheists, We Need Your Help!

by  
Filed under Atheism

Atheism

Since launching Strange Notions last week, we've been keeping close tabs on the feedback. And it's been excellent. We've heard from hundreds of people through email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, the Contact Form, and more, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

However, among the negative reactions, the most common critique was that Strange Notions doesn't feature enough atheist contributors. Atheists do have an equal platform in the comment boxes—in fact we've had more atheist commenters than Catholic commenters. But it's true, the main articles have so far been written by Catholics.

Similarly, some atheists noted the lack of atheist titles on our Recommended Books page, especially under the "Atheism" section.

We're grateful for the feedback and sensitive to both criticisms, and we want to address them. On the site's About page we outline our plan to feature atheist guest posts and interviews in the future, but in light of the feedback we've decided to ramp up the atheist posts as soon as possible. We've already connected with a handful of top atheist bloggers but we want to make sure those we choose are representative of the best modern atheism has to offer. We Catholics are not interested in refuting atheist straw men, nor in featuring the worst examples of atheism. To do that, though, we need your help.

If you're an atheist reader, we'd love your answer to these two questions:

1. What atheist would you most like to see featured at Strange Notions?

Again, we're looking for atheist writers, bloggers, and thinkers who could most persuasively argue for the atheistic worldview (or against the Catholic worldview.) When considering candidates, keep in mind our general ethos—we're not interested in snarky, virulent, or offensive writers. Any atheist we feature must treat his intellectual opponents with charity and respect, focused on positive arguments rather than personal attacks.

2. What one atheist book would you most recommend to Catholics?

We'll be adding a new section to our Recommended Books page featuring popular atheist books. These will include the titles that most atheists agree Catholics should read to better understand atheist arguments. We won't have room to list all the books you recommended so try to keep your suggestions to one or two titles.
 
We'll look forward to your responses in the comment box below, and really appreciate your input. If you have any other suggestions please send them our way through our Contact Page. Thanks!

Brandon Vogt

Written by

Brandon Vogt is an award-winning writer, blogger, speaker, and the founder of StrangeNotions.com. He's been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. Brandon converted to Catholicism in 2008, and in 2011 he released his first book, The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011). He's currently pursuing his MA in Theology from the Augustine Institute and works as the Content Director for Fr. Robert Barron's Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Brandon lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their four children in Central Florida. Follow his blog at BrandonVogt.com or connect through Twitter at @BrandonVogt1.

Enjoy this article? Receive future posts free by email:

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Octavo

    I'd recommend Libby Anne from Love Joy Feminism, Dale McGowan from the Meming of Life, Dan Fincke from Camels with Hammers, Sean Carroll from Preposterous Universe, Zinnia Jones from the blog of the same name, Greta Christina from the blog of the same name, and Cromwell (can't remember his first name) from Crommunist Revolution.

    Best atheist book? Probably any collection by the Great Agnostic Robert Ingersoll. The man had poetry in his soul.

    ~ Jesse Webster

    • http://profiles.google.com/smuckitelli Michael Neville

      Cromwell's first name is Ian and his blog is The Crommunist Manifesto.

      • Octavo

        Woops, I should have known that. Thanks.

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      Yes, hats off to Ingersoll. My atheist dad introduced me to his writings when I was twelve or thirteen, and in the four decades since, I don't think a week has gone by when I have not dipped again into those volumes.

      Agree with them though I usually do, it is the incessant biliousness of most of the so-called "new atheists" that cause them to rank so far below the Great Agnostic in my estimation.

      • CBrachyrhynchos

        The obsession with rebutting New Atheists has gone so far off the rails, that mainstream newspapers are publishing op-eds in response to Dawkins's most controversial twitter message of the week. (Ignoring McGowan, De Waal, Hutchinson, and the publication of Dworkins's first chapter, any of which likely are more news worthy than Twitter.)

        -- Kirk S.

  • Randy Gritter

    I would even form it as a challenge rather than a call for help. Can you, as an atheist thinker, come up with one really solid argument against Catholicism? One argument that can stand up to the scrutiny of some very smart Catholics? Jason Stellman made the comment on Called To Communion that a good argument against protestantism is unanswerable even by the smartest protestants. Especially by the smartest protestants because they have no tendency towards the logical fallacies that can appear to answer a bad argument but fail. That is true of any group. If your argument is good it will be recognized as good even if you are outnumbered in the forum by intellectual heavyweights. So if atheists have good arguments against Catholicism it should be possible to write an article that confounds even the best Catholic minds. If any atheist can think of such an article I would love to see it posted here.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Good thought, Randy. I'll echo that challenge/invitation: instead of suggesting a particular atheist contributor, if you're an atheist, please suggest a particular *article* you think is especially devastating toward Catholicism. We'll see if we can't re-print it and discuss it here. Thanks!

      • Scott McPherson

        While there are a number of arguments against God or gods, they are all inductive as that is really the only way to "prove" a negative. This is the same with theists as well; while it is possible to have a valid deductive proof for or against God, they always fail by using incorrect premises. For this reason, I always thought it is better to describe why people believe/disbelieve. In that vein, this is a pretty good article on the atheist side:
        http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2008/09/the-ten-main-reasons-i-dont-believe-in-god.html

        Make sure you read both parts.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Scott, thanks for sharing! I read through Part 1 of the article and was a quite underwhelmed. The author lists the top five reasons she doesn't believe in God but none of the them are tenable:

          1. In the first reason, she rebuts the "God of the Gaps" argument. But no serious Catholic leans on this argument (we're posting an article about this tomorrow.) Arguing that because *many* things once believed to have supernatural origins have since been naturally explained is simply not an argument against God.

          2. The inconsistency of world religions says nothing about the two major questions relevant to this website: whether God exists and whether Catholicism is true. Even if all other religions are wrong, Catholicism may be right. And even if *all* religions incorrectly describe God, that says nothing about whether he actually exists. All religions could be false and God could still exist.

          3. By noting the "weakness" of religious arguments the author ignores the all of the strongest, including the classical philosophical arguments by luminaries like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, or those promoted by modern cosmologists and philosophers (like the Kalaam argument.) She picks on the poorest and shallowest arguments--again, arguments that no serious Catholic would embrace--and after defeating those straw men assumes she has defeated all arguments for God.

          4. This reason is almost exactly the same as #1 in which the author dismisses a "God of the Gaps" claim. As mentioned above, this is beating a straw man and almost no serious Catholics takes this approach to proving God. We don't say, "Hey, we don't understand how that works, ergo God!"

          5. Her claim that since belief in God correlates to the belief of one's family is simply irrelevant to the question of whether God exists. How or why someone believes something doesn't determine the truth of that belief. This is what's known as the "genetic fallacy."

          In the end, none of her five arguments are good reasons not to believe in God. In fact four of the five are completely irrelevant to the question. Unfortunately in the only section she engages relevant arguments for God's existence, she picks the poorest ones that no serious Catholic would embrace and dismantles those, ignoring the much stronger and more common arguments.

          • Mark Hunter

            I'll look forward to the article tomorrow but isn't the "God of the Gaps" essentially what Fr. Spitzer does when he shows where modern physics doesn't have an answer, yet.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Could have sworn what Fr. Spitzer shows (and I've been heavily involved in his Magis Center of Reason and Faith) is that modern physics HAS an answer, and it points to the existence of this universe being specifically designed.

          • Mark Hunter

            As to the inconsistency in the world religions. Imagine if science had 1000's of different mutually incompatible theories for basic scientific knowledge and they had been arguing about them for thousands of years without agreement. It may indeed be that Catholicism is correct but as an outsider now I see sincere, intelligent, prayful, learned people of all denominations and religions failing to have any agreement on any modern moral issue (abortion, birth control, capital punishment, divorce, euthanasia, ...), When I was a Catholic I couldn't understand why these people couldn't see the logic, the consistency, the Biblical Support, the continuity of Tradition, etc. of the Catholic position. But stepping up from within and seeing it as an objective observer you see why these well meaning people differ.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            ". Imagine if science had 1000's of different mutually incompatible theories for basic scientific knowledge and they had been arguing about them for thousands of years without agreement."

            Example, global chaotic climate change and its causes.

          • mmurray

            There is a consensus on climate change amongst professionals who work in the area. The chaotic appearance is just vested interests trying to create confusion so they can continue business as usual. Have a look at the historical tactics of the tobacco industry.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "There is a consensus on climate change amongst professionals who work in the area. "

            Only if you are bigoted on age and separate the climatologists from the meteorologists.

            Far too many of the dissenters have no connection to the vested business interests- in fact, one could almost say the reverse.

          • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

            Coincidentally, a paper was released showing a very significant consensus on climate change.

            "Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus."

            http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/

          • TheodoreSeeber

            A paper showing a significant consensus on climate change, put out by climate change proponents, is not convincing to anybody. Give me the same paper, with a statistically significant methodology, written by climate change *deniers* and maybe that would be worth something.

            The real problem with objectivity, is trying to take the information dissenters are trying to show you into account.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            2nd reply, flawed conclusion. All this shows is that there is a bias towards AGW on the part of *editors of scientific journals*, something that has long been known.

          • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

            TheodoreSeeber, you have officially moved the goalposts. First you claimed there was no consensus on climate change. Then I provided evidence that there is a consensus, and suddenly that just means that scientists are biased.

            It looks like you've quite conveniently sheltered your beliefs from any chance of falsification. You've created what's called a "Fully General Counterargument," which is a way for you to discount any conclusion you don't like.

            It's like someone who believes that all disease is demon possession and says there is so much varied opinion on what causes disease in science. When confronted with a peer reviewed paper showing that nearly all scientists believe in the modern biological theory of disease, he claims that this is worthless unless it is written by demon-possession advocates, and that the data only shows the scientific journal editors are biased against demon-possession. He can use the same counterargument to dismiss any science by simply calling out bias, and saying he'll trust the info when demon-possession advocates publish it.

            Similarly, you can deny any scientific evidence whatsoever as biased, and demand the same from climate change deniers. You've insulated your belief from falsification.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I think what I failed to do was define my terms.

            A true consensus can't be found merely by counting papers on the topic, it has to be *NO* dissenters, not some minority of dissenters. The Truth isn't democratic- it either is or it isn't.

          • Delphi Psmith

            A true consensus can't be found merely by counting papers on the topic,
            it has to be *NO* dissenters, not some minority of dissenters.

            That is incorrect. A consensus is defined as "general agreement" not "universal agreement."

          • TheodoreSeeber

            In that case, I will never again believe anything that anybody claims there is a scientific consensus on. After all, there was once YOUR type of consensus on the idea that the continents are fixed.

          • Delphi Psmith

            Hey, I'm just pointing out an error in your definition, that's all :)

            More to the point, of course, is the fact that one particular consensus from several thousand years ago was incorrect does not turn out to be incorrect, particularly if it's based on incomplete or inaccurate data. A better question is whether a group is willing to adjust their consensus to accommodate new information. The flat earth folks did.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Alfred Wegener published his theory in 1926, or he tried. It was utterly ignored. Took until the 1950s for consensus to shift on continental drift.

          • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

            Theodore, show me 11,944 abstracts from peer reviewed journals of which 97% conclude that the continents are fixed, and your statement will be accurate. This is how many papers were examined by the study I quoted.

            There is overwhelming evidence from a huge amount of sources for climate change. No such evidence was ever provided for the continents being fixed. Your premise that there was a similar scientific consensus that the continents are fixed is flawed.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Between 1912 and 1930, that was exactly the case. Alfred Wegener died a laughingstock.

          • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

            That's strange Theodore. There is not really any conclusion that has 100% agreement. 97% constitutes a very significant consensus. You've defined the word "consensus" so it is impossible to falsify your statement. It also happens to be no where near how the term is defined in science. Clever.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I still greatly suspect evidence of bias, rather than evidence of consensus.

          • Michael Murray

            it has to be *NO* dissenters,

            No it doesn't. There will never be "NO" dissenters. We are talking about earthlings not vulcans.

          • Delphi Psmith

            Example, global chaotic climate change and its causes.

            Four decades does not thousands of years make (and incidentally progress HAS been made in bringing conflicting climate change theories closer together).

          • Mark Hunter

            As to number 5, it's interesting that almost without exception religious parents seek to teach the particular brand of religion to their children from the earliest possible date. It is their right, but it's also the best way for the parent to ensure that the child adopts the religion of their parent. Most atheist don't do that. They teach reason, critical thinking, how to evaluated evidence and promote the teaching of comparative religion in schools so students will have an informed opinion and make their own choice. They have "faith" in their position and need not impose it.

          • Randy Gritter

            You really don't think atheist parents teach atheism from an early age? Do you have an evidence for this?

            I have heard atheists claim teaching theism was not a right. That it should be banned as a form of child abuse. If rights come from reason then it only takes a good argument and your rights can be gone. Atheist rarely grasp the significance of this.

          • Mark Hunter

            I know of very few non believing parents that teach their children explicitly that God does not exist.

            Here's an example of a typical atheist approach

            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/ayaan-hirsi-ali-from-muslim-infidel-to-mother/article542380/#articlecontent

            You don't need to lecture atheists on rights. We had none in Christendom up until the last century or so. It only takes a return to theocracy and the right not to believe is gone.

          • Randy Gritter

            I guess I don't think that approach is typical at all. I don't think it is workable either. Kids ask why a million times. They are very good at imitating St Thomas Aquinas and continuing to ask what caused that cause until they arrive at an uncaused cause. I laugh at the thought of her trying to squirm out of one of these "why" sessions.

            Seriously though, what do you say when a child asks what happens when we die? Do you say believe whatever you want?

            As far as rights go, your response shows you have not thought through how big a threat atheism is the human rights.

          • Mark Hunter

            Kids do ask questions, I know. And you answer them honestly. When a child asks what happens when you die, you answer that you don't know. That some people believe that you go to heaven where you see everyone again (I refuse to tell them the hell threat), others think you are re-incarnated as someone or something else, others say it is the end. Then the child asks what you think. And I say I do not know, but I do know that we all have this life and we have each other and if we all work to make this life the best we can for ourselves and others, then the other will sort itself out. Can one give a more honest answer than that?

            I do know human rights and I know that if my liberty to be a non believer is threatened it's from theocrats seeking to restore how things were a few hundred years ago. And it's also why I support the right of religious people to educate their children the way they want. Heresy used to be a capital offence and atheists will support the right of all people to their right of conscience no matter what aanyone's God says.

          • Atheist4Ever

            We atheists know that reason, logic, and a large capacity firearm are the only pillars that support human rights. There is no god, never has been, so there is no "Him" there to "grant" them. The rights we get from government are those we citizens are willing and able to kill for (ex. Magna Carta). If we won't kill for them, we don't have them. Plain and simple.

          • Mark Hunter

            Can you name a know atheist who says teaching theism was not a right. As a child growing up with pre-Vatican II sermons on hell and damnation. As a child I had nightmares after our Catholic priest gave these sermons. Younger posters here won't remember them but years later when I read Joyce's Portrait of the Office I swaire they got their inspiration from that book.

            http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xidesn_sir-john-gielgud-as-father-arnall-in-portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-man_creation#.UZFIcLWG2yY

            I would hear these sermons as a child every fall and have nightmares. That was a form of child abuse.

          • Randy Gritter

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2312813/Richard-Dawkins-Forcing-religion-children-child-abuse-claims-atheist-professor.html Anything done to children can be done in an abusive manner. I do get that a Muslim parent teaching children to kill Jews is a problem. Still I get very worried when the government tells me what doctrines I can and can't teach my children. Governments are inherently anti-church because any power the church has they don't have.

          • Mark Hunter

            And governments tell parents they must educate boys and girls equally, and governments tell parents that the school curriculum includes science and that children are taught that homosexuals do exist. I'm older and when I was in school, anyone who was suspected of being a homosexual was taunted and bullied and shunned. It was the worse insult and I'm afraid I used it on occasion and that was wrong, And if parents have teach their children that homosexuals exist and just like people living common law, you don't have to approve of it, but you have to recognize homosexuals have rights. During my lifetime being homosexual was a felony. I don't understand why somewhat would want to be a homosexual, but then they don't understand my heterosexuality. Children understand acceptance, it's parents who don't.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Nightmares are proof of child abuse?

            Wouldn't that make for a 100% abuse rate?

          • Michael Murray

            Not "proof of" just "a form of". Have a look here

            http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2012/12/31/facebook-what-fears-you-faced-based-on-religion

            if you want to see what Mark is talking about.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Then I would say that the entire culture is guilty of a form of child abuse- because I've never met a person who never had nightmares. I have nightmares about atheists all the time.

          • CBrachyrhynchos

            "If rights come from reason then it only takes a good argument and your rights can be gone."

            This is rather like arguing that if you disprove one theorem about triangles, that triangles no longer exist.

            Of course, both theists (of many colors) and atheists (at least those of us who are moral realists) both develop their moral systems from a small set of principles claimed to be axiomatic. Deciding which axioms are worth adopting is the hard problem, one that can't be handwaved away with "god didit."

            -- Kirk S.

          • Mark Hunter

            Moral code comes from many places. From our common human experience, from discussion, argument and reason . Moral codes are developed with science, with great men and women throught out the ages and weighed and evaluated. Moral codes are the product of intelligent design.

            And when a good argument comes along that says mixed race couples can marry, that civil divorce is allowable, that women can vote and not be treated as property, that children have rights, etc. then people listen, debate, change their laws and grow in the process.

          • Chris_Lisi

            First, all the atheist parents that I know of teach their children to think critically about all ideas, including God. Many take them to different worship services, if it seems of interest to the child.

            Second, the only serious 'abuse' issue I have heard from atheists is teaching children that they deserve to be tortured horribly forever if they displease God.

            Third, if you want this site to be welcoming to atheists, you might consider not lumping them all in a bunch, such as by saying 'Atheists claim...' or 'Atheists rarely grasp...' The only thing shared by all atheists is a lack of belief in any gods.

            Fourth, if you want to get answers from atheists about what certain atheists do or think, you might phrase it in the form of a question to 'any atheists out there.'

            Finally, it's helpful, especially early in a discussion, such as early in the existence of this website, not to jump too quickly between topics. For example, Randy, you zoomed in two short paragraphs from the assumption that atheists teach atheism to jumping to 'atheists claim teaching theism is abuse' to 'if rights come from reason' to 'atheists rarely grasp this important idea.' There's a lot of discussion meat in each of those thoughts, and you left the atheists out of all of them.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            " how to evaluated evidence "

            is exactly where atheists leave science behind.

          • Scott McPherson

            You say that Reason 1 (“The consistent replacement of supernatural explanations of the world with natural ones”) is not an argument against God – of course it is. It is an inductive prediction argument. If Correct me if I am wrong, but I think you are looking for a deductive argument, which atheists don’t have because it is logically nonsensical to deductively prove a negative, as I explained in my post.

            Reason 2 (“The inconsistency of world religions”) is also an argument (look at the link “The Argument from Divine Hiddenness” for the specific syllogism. It is an argument against God.

            You say that Reason 3 (“The weakness of religious arguments”) is full of straw men arguments – I don’t agree. As an atheist, I get these exact arguments *all the time*. Plus that post is not geared to the religious philosophically literate. However, if you want to get into Aquinas or Lane, there are tons of refutations out there. See my original post – these arguments are logically consistent but still false, based on incorrect premises. I was at least hoping Kalam was novel when I encountered it, but it has the same flaws as the rest (premises).

            You say that no one says “we don’t understand how that works, ergo God”, but I get that all the time too. Example: many people tell me that since science can’t explain how the universe began (which isn’t even the right question if you ask me, due to the problems of temporality) they tell me it must be God, a false dilemma.

            You are correct in that Reason 5 is a genetic fallacy, but not in the way you think. It isn’t trying to say God is an incorrect assumption because of the origin of the assumption (the family), it is pointing out that most religious people are committing a genetic fallacy by believing in God because their family believes in it, instead of assessing the claim on its merit.

            I would like to know what you think of Part 2.

          • AshleyWDC

            'You say that no one says “we don’t understand how that works, ergo God”, but I get that all the time too.'

            In fact, it's the basis of nearly every "proof of god" offered by this site. See the "Unmoved Mover" article, for example, for a classic false dilemma. It shouldn't surprise me that the founder of this site thinks he's offering powerful arguments that atheists have never heard, but it does.

          • http://twitter.com/bdunlap Ben Dunlap

            Actually I think that *very* few people, including faithful Catholics, have ever heard the Unmoved Mover argument properly articulated. Almost every summary of it I've ever seen, for example, has either expressed or implied the idea that the argument has something to do with a series of movers reaching back in time. But it doesn't have anything to do with this.

            This is not at all obvious from a quick read of Thomas Aquinas, although it would be immediately apparent to someone who was familiar with the sources that Aquinas was working from and educated in the same milieu.

            Edward Feser explains the cosmological arguments really accessibly in "Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide." If you haven't engaged with those arguments as explained by someone of Feser's caliber, you probably haven't engaged with the actual arguments yet.

          • AngelaT

            Scott, I read the whole article (both parts) and have pretty much heard all those argument before. It would take me a long time to address each one, and I'm too tired to do that. I do have one question, though (probably ties to #10). I do not understand why it is impossible to prove a negative. It's done all the time in Mathematics as far as I can tell. Couldn't you deductively prove a negative by showing that assuming the positive claim leads eventually to a contradiction?

          • Scott McPherson

            Sure, the law of non-contradiction. But as Aristotle noted, "a demonstration of everything is impossible", so that law is useless for falsifying God. It works in math just fine though.

            Modus tollens can work too, but the problem here is the same as the arguments that use that to prove God - the premises can be faulty. So you can use deductive falsification, but you have to prove the premises are true. And then prove the premises of that argument are true, ad infinitum. You wind up stating some premises are a priori.

          • Valkr

            > two major questions relevant to this website: whether God exists and whether Catholicism is true.

            1: God does not exist.

            2: Catholicism is not true.

            These are assertions, of course, not arguments, but since no Catholic has provided a persuasive argument in favor of the opposite propositions, I don't see that atheists face any special burden.

            I don't really what the purpose is here... nor would most convinced atheists (and 'convinced' does not mean 'closed minded'), so I wouldn't expect to see any rush of collaboration.

          • stanz2reason

            1)In the first reason, she rebuts the "God of the Gaps" argument. But no serious Catholic leans on this argument

            'No true Scotsman' and all that jazz. Your descriptions of god are limited to lying outside our knowledge base of the physical world is 'god of the gaps', even if that is not the entirety of your argument.

            Even if all other religions are wrong, Catholicism may be right. And even if *all* religions incorrectly describe God, that says nothing about whether he actually exists. All religions could be false and God could still exist.

            Your rebuttal offers little but a handful of 'ifs' there Pascal. You're making a claim for gods existence, and further specific claims that it's a catholic god. Why should I buy what you're selling? The question of gods existence should in my opinion be 'Can we sufficiently explain the world within the framework of observed natural law? The trend for this indicates a continually higher probability of yes. We no longer need to invoke the supernatural to explain what is now considered fairly routine phenomena. Perhaps this will never reach 100% certainty, but it has begun to cross a threshold of reasonable acceptance for more people the more we learn and the more people are educated.

            To give you an idea of what skeptics hear when the word 'supernatural' is invoked... we hear the word 'magic'. When god used supernatural powers to create the world, we hear 'god used his magic to create the world.' When christ raised lazarus with supernatural powers, we hear 'christ raised lazarus with magic. Moses staff supernaturally turning into snakes, we hear Moses staff magically turning into snakes. This isn't meant to be condescending, but to give you a clearer picture of what you're facing here. Should the defense of omnipotence be such an uphill battle?

            3. By noting the "weakness" of religious arguments the author ignores the all of the strongest, including the classical philosophical arguments by luminaries like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, or those promoted by modern cosmologists and philosophers (like the Kalaam argument.) She picks on the poorest and shallowest arguments--again, arguments that no serious Catholic would embrace--and after defeating those straw men assumes she has defeated all arguments for God.

            To be fair her point here isn't to make a complete laundry list of all the un-convincing arguments. And your response is again with the No True Scotman with a strawman of your own, namely the characterization that her list is a complete list. She's pointing out arguments, many of which are common christian apologetics in some form, that are a sample of those which she feels are unconvincing. And she links to additional posts where she address some of the arguments found on this very website (20 reasons for believing in god)

            4. This reason is almost exactly the same as #1 in which the author dismisses a "God of the Gaps" claim…

            IMO, god of the gaps criticism is a valid one.

            ...We don't say, "Hey, we don't understand how that works, ergo God!"

            But you do. I don't know any other way to say this.

            5. Her claim that since belief in God correlates to the belief of one's family is simply irrelevant to the question of whether God exists.

            If god does not exist, questions then remain with regards to the cause & prevalence of religious beliefs. It's relevant as more of a sociological argument as to why people might believe the way they do in a godless world, namely that there are familial and cultural influences that shape beliefs which don't speak to the truth of such beliefs. It doesn't address gods existence directly, though I don't believe it was meant to.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Most of the physical world lies outside our knowledge of the physical world, yet do you have any doubt that it exists?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Brandon, with all due respect, I must remind you that we, non-believers, do not need to come up with any arguments against your deity or deities. You are asserting it/they exist, so all the burden is upon you to produce the evidence.

            Got evidence?

          • articulett

            The burden of proof in the case of gods is on those folks (or gods) trying to get others to believe in them.

    • http://profiles.google.com/smuckitelli Michael Neville

      You want a good, solid argument against Catholicism? I can think of a bunch:

      -Your church pretends to be THE moral authority on Earth while supporting child rapists. You can either be immoral by protecting pedophile priests or you can claim moral authority but you can't do both. In ethics, something the Catholic Church seems unfamiliar with, that's called "hypocrisy."

      -The misogyny the Church continually shows.

      --Why can't women be priests? Because a bunch of old guys with testicles decided they can't.

      --Ever hear of Savita Halappanava? She was an Indian living in Ireland. She had a miscarriage but, since the fetal heartbeat hadn't ceased, she was refused an abortion which she requested "because Ireland is a Catholic country." You Catholics got a twofer in this case, both Mrs. Halappanava and the fetus died.

      --A few years ago in Brazil a nine year old was raped by her stepfather and became pregnant with twins. She was given an abortion because competent medical authority determined she could not survive the pregnancy even to the point of fetal viability. The local archbishop excommunicated everyone involved with two exceptions: The girl wasn't excommunicated because she was too young to make an informed decision and the rapist wasn't excommunicated because the Catholic Church approves of child rape (see the first bullet above).

      -Members of the Catholic hierarchy promote the spread of AIDS by lying about the efficacy of condoms in preventing AIDS (and other STDs) spread. But since Baby Jesus cries whenever somebody uses a condom, Pope Benny and several bishops told outright lies about condoms and AIDS. What atheists refer to as "Lying for Jesus" is still lying and is supposed to be a sin.

      Do you want more reasons not to join your human-hating, hypocritical church? I can give many more examples of the Church's hypocrisy and anti-humanism.

      • Dcn Harbey Santiago

        "You want a good, solid argument against Catholicism?" Eventually, right now we are just looking for atheist contributors willing to write some thoughtful articles.

        "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
        Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Michael, I'm not sure if you've read our Commenting Policy, but your comment violates several precepts. It's needlessly sarcastic, intentionally offensive, and full of mischaracterizations and straw men. We welcome your contributions but consider this your warning. We'll delete any future comments not marked by the charity expected of all commenters.

        • http://profiles.google.com/smuckitelli Michael Neville

          I'm not apologizing for not playing by your rules. You have to remember that you're trying to sell something to me which I really don't want to buy. So I'm a real hard sell, so hard that I'm going to play by MY rules. If you don't like it then ban me.

          I don't use foul language and, despite your pretense, I haven't said anything untrue about your cult. Sorry if reality doesn't match your wishful thinking. But then you're the one who believes in a magical sky pixie who created a universe billions of light years in diameter and is deeply concerned about teenagers masturbating.

          I'll reply to your response in the next post.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            If you don't want to buy it, why are you here?

          • mmurray

            Because the purpose of this website was for Catholics to engage in dialogue with atheists ? I missed the bit where it was an echo chamber for Catholics to count angels on pinheads. But if that is the aim then I'm happy to leave.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I think we must be talking about different "it". My version, from my understanding from Brandon, is that he wants a dialogue on Reason and Rationality, and the common cause atheists have with Catholics on the rejection of myth, superstition, and fundamentalism.

            I fail to see how atheists that are more fundamentalist than Jack Chick can contribute to that discussion.

        • http://profiles.google.com/smuckitelli Michael Neville

          1. I understand there will be sexual deviants in any large group of people. I've seen a survey, which I accept, that the percentage of priestly pedophiles is similar to that of the general population. The problem is what the Church's hierarchy did about the problem. Back when he was head of the Inquisition, or Confraternity for the Doctrine of the Faith if you prefer, Pope Benedict sent out a letter threatening excommunication to any bishop who informed the civil authorities about child-raping clergy. As far as I know that letter has never been rescinded.

          The prestige and dignity of the Church was more important than the welfare of children. So instead of child-rapists being dealt with in a reasonable, moral manner, the rapists were sent to another parish, another bishopric or even another country. And at the same time your Church had the chutzpah to claim to be the moral authority on Earth. It certainly seems that His ex-Holiness felt the "Will of God" meant being hypocritical.

          2. You say: "The Church is not misogynistic, but since you didn't provide any specific examples I have none to reply to."

          I'm sorry your anger at my admittedly unfriendly post stole your reading ability. I wrote: "--Why can't women be priests? Because a bunch of old guys with testicles decided they can't." That's misogyny. Is there any reason why women can't be priests besides a group of professional bachelors say "nope, ain't happening"?
          The story about the Brazilian girl is much less complicated than you think. As required by Brazilian law, three doctors said she and the fetuses would die. So she was given an abortion. Later, after the archbishop did his song and dance and stirred up a massive amount of discontent, a couple of other doctors WHO NEVER SAW THE GIRL pulled their forelocks and said that maybe she might have survived, possibly, perhaps, so the Archbishop was right in excommunicating everyone (except the rapist, of course).

          Now what do these things have to do with the "Truth" of the Catholic Church? They show how the Church is a hypocritical organization with a hatred of women. Your Jesus is supposed to be love. There's an appropriate quote from Gandhi: " I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Michael, I'd just like to say one thing, and it's in reference to your first point. You say:

            "Back when he was head of the Inquisition, or Confraternity for the Doctrine of the Faith if you prefer, Pope Benedict sent out a letter threatening excommunication to any bishop who informed the civil authorities about child-raping clergy. As far as I know that letter has never been rescinded."

            This is a gross distortion of the truth, and it's actually something we've already addressed on this site. Please see this article titled "5 Questions on Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis":

            http://www.strangenotions.com/bxvi-abuse-crisis/

        • Mark Hunter

          Only about 4 or 5% of priests abused children, too high, but certainly a minority, but almost every diocese was involved in covering it up. It's the bishops I blame for perpetuating this tragedy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/connor.mcginnis.184 Connor McGinnis

        Six ad hominems. A record I think.

        This isn't a complaint log. Aside from the fact that moral outrage is all bluster unless you want to give credence to the axiological argument, you somehow seems to think that hypocrisy, etc is some kind of argument against someone or some institution.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        1. Pedastery has been illegal in Canon Law for several centuries. The Bishops who protected pedophile priests, are documentably going against Church teaching, and that includes Pope John Paul II's protection of the founder of the Legion of Christ.
        2. Few things are more misogynist than killing off 7000 potential women a week, which is what the pro-choicers do. Most of the church's so-called misogyny is attacking this practice.
        3. Women can't be priests for the same reason men can't bear children. Guess basic biology is misandrist to you?
        4. The coroner ruled that Savita's death was due to sepsis and the infection that killed her child, killed the mother.
        5. Abortion isn't a cure for rape, and once again, Pedastery is against Canon Law.
        6. Consumer Reports isn't the Catholic Church:
        http://sqzm14.ust.hk/condom-ratings-95.HTML

        So I guess all 6 of your reasons are just superficial garbage. Got any SOLID arguments?

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      Do you think that I, as an atheist, am somehow obliged to come up with a "solid argument against Catholicism"?

      I for one have no desire to subvert any Catholic's beliefs. I merely ask for the reciprocal courtesy.

      I'm certainly interested in the give and take of religious debate, have been all my life, but by no means expect to be converted or to convert others.

      • ariofrio

        Not obliged, simply invited. Maybe you think that religion is dangerous, as Dawkins does. Then, you would want to give an argument against Catholicism. Maybe you don't, but are curious about the matter (as your comment suggests). Then, an often productive way of progressing is to give one's best argument for one's position and ask for criticism.

      • CBrachyrhynchos

        Yes, beliefs about deity don't break my leg or pick my pocket. Beliefs about atheists are another matter altogether.

        -- Kirk S.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Well, Randy, here is the simplest one I know: from genetic, geologic and anthropological evidence we know that there never were a single pair of first humans (let alone a specific Adam & Eve). From that, alone we can conclude that the story of the Fall, and the doctrine of Original Sin is mythology. No need of redemption, takes out the blood sacrifice attributed to Jesus (even allowing some amount of historicity to that story) which seems to me to remove the entire foundation of Catholicism. At the very least, it reaffirms that the burden of proof of truth rests upon the religion. If you want us to believe it is true, you are going to have to come up with objective positive evidence for that truth.

      Got evidence?

    • articulett

      There is no evidence that the invisible beings you believe in are any more real than the ones you dismiss as myth.

      That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

      When things are real, the evidence tends to accumulate-- see scientific theories, for examples.

      Why would you think we can prove Catholicism wrong any more than you can prove there is no such thing as invisible penguins? We can't really prove superstitions are wrong, we can can just note that there are better explanations for what we observe. We can't prove Zeus is not responsible for lightening, but we can offer better explanations. We can't prove demons don't cause disease, but we can offer better explanations which leads to better treatment. We can't prove witches aren't real, but I think even Catholics now think it's wrong to kill purported witches (despite that little passage in the bible about not suffering a witch to live.)

      Your argument is silly. Do you think you can prove to a Scientologist that Scientology isn't real? Although the Scientologist may think your inability to do so is evidence that their faith is "the truth" that doesn't mean there's much of a probability that it is.

  • BlueMit11

    Brandon,
    Praise God for the time, energy, and talent that you are dedicating to this endeavor! This project will certainly be in my prayers. This is the real "empowering of the laity" that is now being realized half a century after Vatican II began.

    One piece of advice for you and others involved on this board: Go poke around on the Straight Dope forums. There are some very intelligent people there, but the board as a whole leans toward liberalism and many of the members are atheists. If you want to put the argument on its best footing, as St. Thomas would do, and show how strong the Christian faith is, I would suggest engaging those people.

    God Bless with all you do.

  • Mark Hunter

    The book that finalized my break with my Catholic Religion was Daniel C. Dennetts' book "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon". It allowed me to see that what I really had at that time was not faith, but faith in faith. I realize that many believers here are not stage. To them the articles of faith are held firmly and without wavering. But this was the book that allowed me to see for the first time that it's okay not to believe.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659752732 Dan Carollo

      Belief is indeed a "natural phenomenon" insofar that all of our mental processes can be shown to correlate to, or operate according to their underlying, physical components. But to start from there, and go to the conclusion that "ALL THERE IS" is underlying physical phenomenon does not follow. Is our faith equivalent to simply looking in the mirror at our own minds -- or is there really something real and substantial underneath it? My own experience strongly suggests the latter.

      I have a different take on Dennett. When I came across Dennett, I admit I was at one time attempted to give up the idea of faith, or even the idea of "personhood" itself. But several serious challenges to his reductionism brought me back into focus. While I respect Dennett as a philosopher, I don't think he fully appreciates the insights in recent discussions about "top-down" causation or emergence. I think there's a subtle error in thinking here -- which is the idea that: What's true of the PARTS is necessarily and fully true of the WHOLE. (ie. the fallacy of composition).

      There's still time to reconsider whether Dennett has the final word on this!
      For example...
      Paper on Physics and the Real world by George Ellis http://academic.research.microsoft.com/Paper/4680023

      Or, see interview with Cambridge biologist Denis Alexander:

      http://closertotruth.com/video-profile/Can-Religion-be-Explained-Without-God-Denis-Alexander-/933

      Interview with Stephen Chorover (Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT)

      http://closertotruth.com/video-profile/What-s-the-Essence-of-Consciousness-Stephen-Chorover-/1399

    • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

      Mark - Thanks for the suggestion! My own impression is that Dennett is probably the most dispassionate and formidable new atheist, so I think it was a good one. I haven't yet read "Breaking the Spell" myself, but I do know that Leah Libresco (who writes at Patheos and contributes to this site too) wrote a series of posts on Dennett's book that you might be interested in, especially since her journey (atheist to Catholic) was the reverse of yours: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2012/11/reading-dennetts-breaking-the-spell-index-post.html

      You might also enjoy tackling Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart's critique of "Breaking the Spell," which is lengthier and less kind: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/01/003-daniel-dennett-hunts-the-snark-15

      Peace!

      • Mark Hunter

        I also like Dennett for the fact that we share a passion for Bach's Cantatas.

    • Guest

      Sorry about that Mark -- I was off topic.
      It was probably rude of me to rebut your comment when the topic was just "suggested reading" by atheists.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659752732 Dan Carollo

      (I goofed that up - and ended up posting as Guest when I attempted a delete. I'm coming out with my true identity, now. Sorry about that)....

      Hi Mark:

      I would agree belief is indeed a "natural phenomenon" insofar that all of our mental processes can be shown to correlate to, or operate according to their underlying, physical components. But to start from there, and go to the conclusion that "ALL THERE IS" is underlying physical phenomenon does not follow. Is our faith equivalent to simply looking in the mirror at our own minds -- or is there really something real and substantial underneath it? My own experience strongly suggests the latter.

      I have a different take on Dennett. When I came across Dennett, I admit I was at one time attempted to give up the idea of faith, or even the idea of "personhood" itself. But several serious challenges to his reductionism brought me back into focus. While I respect Dennett as a philosopher, I don't think he fully appreciates the insights in recent discussions about "top-down" causation or emergence. I think there's a subtle error in thinking here -- which is the idea that: What's true of the PARTS is necessarily and fully true of the WHOLE. (ie. the fallacy of composition).

      There's still time to reconsider whether Dennett has the final word on this!
      For example...
      Paper on Physics and the Real world by George Ellis http://academic.research.microsoft.com/Paper/4680023

      Or, see interview with Cambridge biologist Denis Alexander:

      http://closertotruth.com/video-profile/Can-Religion-be-Explained-Without-God-Denis-Alexander-/933

      Interview with Stephen Chorover (Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT)

      http://closertotruth.com/video-profile/What-s-the-Essence-of-Consciousness-Stephen-Chorover-/1399

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659752732 Dan Carollo

    Although I am not an atheist, I was going to suggest checking out the contributors on the Secular Web, particularly Richard Carrier -- one of the brightest and thoroughly rational atheists I have read on the internet. He has given me food for though on many occasions.

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659752732 Dan Carollo

      Specific example directly relevant to Catholicism (and it's establishment of the N.T. Canon) -- RIchard Carrier's take on the formation of the Canon http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/NTcanon.html

      • TheodoreSeeber

        That article alone, means we need Richard Carrier here. I almost thought I was reading something from Catholic Answers.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    In recommended books, I would include "Why I Believed" by Kenneth W. Daniels. This book can be bought at Amazon, or downloaded for free from the author's site: http://www.kwdaniels.com

    Although Mr. Daniels was not Catholic, his description of his journey from a deeply religious practicing missionary to a position of reason, is beautifully explained in a way that will give any person of faith a real life understanding of the atheist side, free from caricatures and ad hominem attacks.

  • Mark Hunter

    A very unusual book from a rather unexpected source. Take a look at the Flight of Peter Fromm by the late Martin Gardner (Scientific American Mathematical Recreations columnist). Gardner was not an atheist, not a deist but a non Christian theist.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    I second Dan Fincke from Camels with Hammers, if you want to take a philosophical approach. I'm personally not very impressed by metaphysical arguments which offer an ultra-explanation of reality found in the imagination, at the expense of the real world, often with consequences that are harmful to individuals. Even as a Cathoic, I found nominalism more compelling.

    As far as books are concerned, I'd like to offer Discovering God by Rodney Stark into the mix because when one understands the history of world religion and religious doctrines, the Catholic account of history and development of doctrine becomes less compelling.

    I'd like to also recommend the counter-apologetics work at Reasonable Doubts, which provides excellent critiques on God's omniscience, omnipresence, and omni-beneficence.

    Personally, I left the Catholic Church mostly due to problems with morality--the morality of martyrdom was big for me, as were issues involving contraception and abortion. All three are examples in which the Catholic Church sacrifices individuals for the sake of higher metaphysical ideals, and the doctrine of double effect is a weasley way to avoid addressing moral delimas.

    I've always found Cathoicism more compelling than Protestantism, which is why I converted to the Catholic Church in 2007. I became an atheist for many reasons, some mentioned above, and I'm curious to see what happens with this sight.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Thanks for the great feedback, Kacy! I'm genuinely curious about several of your points, but in particular can you expand on your Rodney Stark paragraph? I've read much of his stuff and for me he's actually strengthened the Catholic Church's historical argument.

      • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

        Sorry for not elaborating further. My original comment was more explanatory, but I lost it and wrote this abbriviated one with limited time. I actually became an atheist from reading "approved" Christian resources and thinking through the issues.

        In many ways I became a Catholic to avoid becoming an atheist sooner. At my university it was a requirement to take a class in Biblical Criticism. In that class I learned about the internal and external inconsitancies of the Bible and how the canon was assembled. This was mind blowing to me, coming from a conservative Protestant background where I was taught that the Bible was the literal word of God. I became a Catholic because the Catholic Church owned up to the role of man (the church) in establishing the canon and their own role in interpreting the meaning of scriptures. By doing so, I could put my faith in an institution, rather than a book written thousands of years ago.

        This helped until I learned that the Catholic Church's interpretation of history suffered from the same problems as a literal interpretation of the Bible. For example, the Catholic Church denies that Jesus had any siblings. Indeed, the perpetual virginity of Mary is a HIGHLY important dogma. Stark makes the point that Jesus had siblings and that the first Christians followed the general conversion pattern of other religions--the first conversions begin in the family. Indeed, the fact that Christianity follows the pattern of other religions regarding conversions, splits, and doctrinal changes, further discredited its uniqueness in my mind. While this is not enough to disprove Catholicism or Christianity more broadly on its own, it is a piece of evidence worth considering.

        Another source I had in my original comment was Humani Generis. This should be on the list of required reading for atheists looking at the Catholic Church and Catholics in general. This encyclical begins by asserting the authority of encyclical (an argument I am quite familiar with due to the amount of time I spent as a Catholic defending Humanae Vitae). It goes on to explain why polygenism CANNOT be true and that Catholics must believe in a literal Adam and Eve for the sake of important doctrines such as original sin and the personal role of God in creation. This document was another piece of evidence against Catholicism because it is a recent example of how the Church places doctrine above scientific evidence. Many atheists will bring up Galileo, but I find Humane Generis more compelling because it was written a mere 60 odd years ago, and it is pretty much universally accepted, even among Catholic theologians that Catholics can believein polygenism today without any problems. At the same time Humane Generis has never been formally rejected or refuted in any serious manner. Instead, it is swept aside and ignored, much like the former sin of usury.

        On that note, reading the Papel Commission on Birth Control's minority report helped connect the dots between silence on some changing doctrines and its refusal to change others. The commission accepted the minority decision because it didn't want to give the impression that God was on the side of the Protestants in the 1920s when the Episcapal Church first started allowing contraception. Unlike this moral proclomation, Humani Generis was making a scientific proclmation, and one that has great impact on theology. Science disproved Humani Generis, and the Catholic Church silently ignores it so as not to give the impression that God was not informing Pope Pius XII.

        Other resources that influenced my decision to leave the Catholic Church were the novels Silence by Endo and the Kirstin Lavransdatter series. Both stories have characters making decisions that are consistant and moral within the context of their Catholic faith but harmful to those around them. After reflecting on this for several years, I realized that I didn't want to be a part of something above real, physical people and that if I had to choose between a loved one and standing up for Jesus, I would pick the physical person every time.

        • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

          I've witten more about the last point here:

          http://exconvert.blogspot.com/search/label/Martyrdom

        • Randy Gritter

          Humane Generis can be reconciled with polygenism. The key is that Adam and Eve must be an ancestor of all but there can be some interbreeding with primates without a soul. So Adam and Eve's grandchildren could have one en-souled parent and one animal parent. That would mean the offspring were human with original sin. http://tofspot.blogspot.ca/2011/09/adam-and-eve-and-ted-and-alice.html

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Humans having sex with animals is known as bestiality. The penalty for bestiality in the Bible is death. I have never seen an official document or anything even vaguely authoritative from the Catholic Church suggesting that the origin of the human race involved humans mating with non-humans.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I'm not sure you can call having sex with a homo neanderthalis beastiality. Homo Floresiensis, though, might be a dwarf fetish.

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            I second what David Nickol said. The Catholic Church has never said that our origins involved beastiality. Although Humani Generis doesn't explicity bring up beastiality, it does say that the problem with polygenism is that it somehow deminishes the special place of man in relation to God. No longer is man "a little lower than the angels," but is instead indistinguishable from the animals. Surely trying to use beastiality to reconcile this issue, further compounds the problem.

            I also think this solution brings up issues with the traditional aristotelian hierarchy--issues that science has no problem discarding. Catholic natural law and the works of Aquinas are heavily influenced by this outdated hierarchy.

            The best attempt I've seen to reconcile Humanae Generis was something on Edward Fesser's blog, but here I use the word "best" very loosly because the argument requires placing metaphysics above and as a prerequisite to science. Ultimately this act relativises physical reality, and that's not a leap I'm willing to make.

          • Randy Gritter

            I don't think human bodies coming from animals is the controversial. I mean the similarities are pretty strong. God breathing a soul into Adam raises the animal up to be human. If God had the hierarchy in mind from the beginning I don't see an issue of whether it is built from the bottom up or the top down.

            The point is that Humane Generis can be reconciled with polygenism. Perhaps in a way that is distasteful to you but it can be done.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659752732 Dan Carollo

            OK -- this is perhaps the most brilliantly-funny thing I've read all night (from the blog above)!

            "Mitochondrial Eve, which is the night prior to the Feast of Mitochondrial"

          • Michael Murray

            Doesn't that mean they have half a soul. So they are some kind of horcrux ?

            Seriously don't you ever feel like you are working just a touch too hard to make the theory fit the data ? When that happens in science you look for a new theory.

          • Randy Gritter

            I am just pointing out that that when people say Humane Generis can not be reconciled with polygenism they are wrong. The two can both be true. The objection that I have to work hard seems strange. I didn't even say I believe them both. I just said they are not contradictory because they are not.

            The bestiality objection has more problems than I have mentioned. They are not animals in all senses of the word. The Church never said ... is really not an objection. Nobody claims the church has to explicitly teach everything we believe.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Katie, I really appreciate all your extra points. Thanks! But in the interest of not veering too far off topic, let me just respond to the only point I asked about (i.e. Rodney Stark's work.) You give two reasons why Stark played a role in your leaving Catholicism:

          1. First: "the Catholic Church denies that Jesus had any siblings. Indeed, the perpetual virginity of Mary is a HIGHLY important dogma. Stark makes the point that Jesus had siblings."

          You're first two sentences are accurate, but I'd like to probe the last one. If Stark claimed that, I believe he's wrong. I'd challenge you (perhaps referencing Stark, if need be), to prove that Jesus had siblings. You may already be aware that the Hebrew word for "brother" included male kin of any relationship outside of father or son (the Jews didn't have separate word for cousin or uncle.) This is coupled with the fact that the men mentioned as Jesus' brothers are later shown to be the sons of a different Mary (Mary, wife of Clopas.) The biblical accounts do not assign any brothers or sisters to Jesus and the historical record doesn't support this idea either.

          2. Second you say that "Stark makes the point...that the first Christians followed the general conversion pattern of other religions--the first conversions begin in the family. Indeed, the fact that Christianity follows the pattern of other religions regarding conversions, splits, and doctrinal changes, further discredited its uniqueness in my mind."

          Yet as you rightly note, the path of religious growth says nothing about the Catholic Church's truth claims. It's simply irrelevant to the question, is Catholicism true?

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            I am KACY! Part of my deconversion involved bevoming very convinced that the Catholic Church was the one true church. Once ethat claim became doubtful, I threw out God too. Honestly Protestants and SSPX Catholics are great resources in this regard. Biblical evidendence is already shaky due to the good book's own internal conflicts. I've heard the linguistic argument before about Jesus' siblings, but there is no reason to take that interpretation other thanbthe Catholic Church says so. Stark points out that we have every reason to believe that Jesus had siblings, based onbwhat eeb know about the spread of religions. We also see that the spread of Christianity fits a pattern that matches other religions. While this doesn't disprove Catholicism, it does raise questions about the Holy Spirit's role in conversion vs predictable socio-cultural phenomena. I started to view religions, including my own through a scientific lense. This is very different than thinking about it from a spiritual point of view

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Whoops! Sorry for the typo regarding your name. Corrected!

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Kacy, you say, "I've heard the linguistic argument before about Jesus' siblings, but there is no reason to take that interpretation other than the Catholic Church says so." It's not an interpretation, it's a historical fact that can easily be disproved by providing evidence that Jesus had brothers or sisters (such as, perhaps, the *names* of any supposed siblings.) Yet none exists. If it does and I'm merely ignorant, please share.

            You then say, "Stark points out that we have every reason to believe that Jesus had siblings, based on what we know about the spread of religions." I don't see how the spread of religions is at all relevant to whether Jesus had siblings. This is a non sequitur--the conclusion simply doesn't follow.

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            Stark cites Clement of Alexandria and Josephus who mention Jesus's siblings. I know many atheists dismiss Josephus as an unriable source whenit comes to the existance of Jesus (Richard Carrier is the first who comes to mind). However, Catholics can't have it both ways. Josephus can't be a reliable source about Jesus if he got such an important detail wrong.

            As for Clement, the fact that he believes Jesus has siblings brings up the issue of contradiction among the Church Fathers regarding such important details. The Catholic Church picks and chooses from a contradictory tradition in the same way that the Protestant denominations pick and choose froma contradictory Bible.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          It may be theologically reasonable to believe in polygenism, but modern genetics makes the mitochondrial Eve and the patriarchal Adam almost certain (the only strange part being that at least one genetic drift theory puts them a few thousand years apart.....). There had to be a "first mutation" that allowed for human reason and thus homo sapiens to win out over the other competing homo species. And while it isn't certain, Mitochondrial Eve is the best explanation I've seen for that mutation.

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            Modern genetics does point to a mitochondrial eve and a chromosomal adam, but that is a far cry from the Adam and Eve of Christian mythology. Are you really saying that original sin is linked to some sort of gene mutation rather than an act of disobediance? Other hominids had the capacity to reason. For example, Neanderthals were likely more intelligent than homo sapiens, and yet the Bible and the Catholic Church fail to explain their role in early human history or account for an anthropology that explains their rational capacity while maintaining humn specialness. I have no problem with Catholics affirming evolution. My problem is that there is a failure to reconcile the scientific account of human origins with Church doctrines like original sin, which depend in large part on the creation myths of Genesis.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Original sin is a part of human reason distinct from the animals, and is the one doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church that has been proven by example beyond any reasonable doubt.

            Define "more intelligent" in a way that fits groups of homo * species that can explain the lack of Homo Neanderthalis to design a civilization in the 350,000 year run they had on this planet *before* homo sapiens arrived in their traditional stomping grounds.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    Given the threads, here, on arguments for and against theism in general, I will put in a plug for the book "The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism" by A.C. Grayling. http://www.amazon.com/The-God-Argument-ebook/dp/B009SJZNS8

    • http://www.facebook.com/steve.zara Steve Zara

      I agree! A.C.Grayling's book is wonderful. I would also recommend 'Braintrust' by the philosopher Patricia Churchland, which explains how our sense of morality came from evolution: http://www.amazon.com/Braintrust-Neuroscience-Tells-about-Morality/dp/0691156344

      • Benjamin O’Donnell

        Do we think the Grayling book adds anything to the previous recent works? I found the first half a little "same-y" and put it down before I reached the second. Should I have just skipped to the humanism "back half"?

  • David Smith

    The books I would recommend are:
    The God Question by Andrew Pessin
    50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy Harrison
    50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists edited by Blackford and Schuklenk

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.hane Roger Hane

    You may call for input from atheists, but you're not using the venues available. This post of yours has not shown up on Facebook. That's where lots of us keep track of SN.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Roger, just posted it on there. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/lloyd.duhon Lloyd Duhon

      I came to this thread directly from Facebook.

  • http://www.facebook.com/derek.lavender Derek Lavender

    Thanks Brandon!

  • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

    I've heard Richard Carrier mentioned here, and I'd add my support to his presence here too. He has a broad scope of knowledge from philosophy to history (he's a Ph. D. historian). I think he's definitely made some mistakes in the past, but overall he's well worth listening to.

    His book, Sense and Goodness Without God deserves to be in the recommended book section. It provides a good example of what a Naturalistic worldview can look at, with many many references for those looking to learn more. Ideal starting point.

    • Benjamin O’Donnell

      I like Richard Carrier's content, but I have to say that he is one atheist who I think really does fit the usually exaggerated stereotype of "condescending, arrogant atheist". Maybe it's just a taste thing (or perhaps due to his apparant youth), but even when I'm persuaded by him, I find him a bit "snotty"...

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659752732 Dan Carollo

      I mention Carrier mainly because I admire the thoroughness and attention to detail in his ability to dawn on evidence to support his position, questioning unsupported assertions, etc. I think we could ALL be better equipped in this way whenever bringing arguments to the table.

      And yet, this also contributes to his downfall. His remarkable attention to details often leads to a hyper-skeptical minimalism -- to the point where the big picture is often lost in the details.
      Nevertheless, there's lot to learn from him.

      • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

        I think I would generally agree. Although I don't really know what hyper-skeptical minimalism is, it sounds like it could be accurate.

  • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

    I'd recommend Matthew McCormick's article on atheism for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy as a good start for "disproving Catholicism." It's not really a "disproof" because not all the points are argued, but there are links to further elaborations. I think he provides the basic reasons one can confidently be an atheist and reject Catholicism.

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/atheism/

    • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

      Lastly, I'd say that perhaps one of the strongest arguments against Catholicism from a practical standpoint is simply, "You don't need it to flourish and make the world a better place."

      Luke Muehlhauser has a good breakdown of what societies without belief in God look like, taken from sociologist Phil Zuckerman's book, but hyperlinked to relevant resources.

      Denmark and Sweden, two of the most atheistic countries in the world also happen to rank as the most "well-developed, wealthiest, most democratic, most free,most entrepreneurial, least corrupt, least violent, most peaceful,healthiest, happiest, most egalitarian, best educated, most charitable, and most environmentally compassionate "

      http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=3189

      • TheodoreSeeber

        His version of "make the world a better place" is not the same as mine- Denmark and Sweden are two of the most racist, violent countries on the planet when you take abortion into account.

  • http://kalamazoopost.blogspot.com/ Tony Indovina

    One eloquent voice for atheism is Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist who S the blog Why Evolution is True.

    • Benjamin O’Donnell

      Jerry is great, and has made a long and rather comprehensive study of modern "sophisticated" theology. But I suspect his prickliness and tendency to call a spade a spade would qualify as "disrespectful" in these sensitive parts...

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ NoahLuck

        No kidding! Jerry is a very unpleasant man when he is disagreeing. Not the best fit here.

        • Benjamin O’Donnell

          Well, I wouldn't go that far. He's hardly the Hitch. Jerry is straight forward and quite matter of fact. H just doesn't sugar-coat and that often gets misinterpreted as "unpleasantness" when discussing such a previously coddled topic as religion. I suspect most people who've disagreed with him on non-religious matters, for example, would classify him as merely robust and yet he acts the same way...

  • Benjamin O’Donnell

    First, I think one of the central arguments of the so-called "new" atheism is that satire, ridicule and mockery are entirely legitimate tools of argument against religion - just as they are for modern cultural figures like Jon Stewart and were for influential past figures like Voltaire. I think that if Catholics want to have a dialogue with the best of atheist thought, both past and present, they need to develop thicker skins and be less ready to hide behind calls for "civility".

    Secondly, the atheist I'd most like to see engaged here is Sam Harris. While Dawkins' God Delusion contained some fascinating science, it largely just confirmed and fortified me in my atheism (or perhaps hardened my wishy-washy agnosticism into atheism). Hitchens' books and talks were rhetorically marvellous, and an exemplar of the robust attitude to religious arguments that I believe we must all take in the post-9/11 world, but they weren't as intellectually deep or as hard-hitting as the others. Dennett is perhaps the deepest and most significant thinker of the "Four Horsemen" ("my intellectual older brother" Dawkins calls him, despite Dennett actually being slightly younger than Dawkins), but more on the sociology of religion and the philosophy of biology than on apologetics or the politics of anti-theism. But Sam Harris just blew my mind. He completely changed my attitude to the so-called "War on Terror", shook (though he did not change) my views on torture, radically altered my previously benign attitude to religious moderation and managed to reconcile my atheism with my interests in Eastern meditation and Zen.

    Thirdly, what books would I recommend? Well, the best book for turning Christians into theists has always been the Bible itself Open it up at Genesis One and start reading - if you're like me, you'll be an atheist before you finish the Old Testament and will find the New Testament to be a rollicking good joke. But as for books by actual atheists (I will allow, arguendo, that most of the authors of the Bible stories were sincere), I'd recommend Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation" and "The End of Faith", then Dawkins "God Delusion". I'd also recommend Rebecca Goldstein's charming but flawed novel "Thirty-Six Arguments for the Existence of God" - especially the first three pages of chapter one (for a vivid and true description of how it *feels* to be an atheist in the post-9/11 world) and the appendix.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ NoahLuck

    I'd find it most valuable for your site's mission if you could get guest posts from atheists with different kinds of expertise:

    1. Someone from the "aspiring rationalist" crowd: Luke Muehlhauser (formerly blogger at commonsenseatheism.com), Robin Hanson (of Overcoming Bias), Eliezer Yudkowsky (of LessWrong and HPMOR), etc.

    2. Someone with experience explaining atheism to ordinary people: Jen Peeples and Matt Dillahunty (both from the Atheist Experience TV show), or someone from American Atheists, etc.

    3. Someone from the skepticism crowd: Steven Novella and Rebecca Watson (of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast), or someone from the Skeptics Society, etc.

    4. Someone with experience critiquing literary/historical claims: Bob Seidensticker (of the CrossExamined blog on Patheos; I see he's already commented here some!), Neil Godfrey (of the Vridar blog)

    5. Someone with a focus on ethics/morality: Alonzo Fyfe (of the AtheistEthicist blog), for example

    6. Someone who could contribute some nifty arts/media: the MrDeity.com team, for example.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Thanks, Noah! Honest question: how would you define "aspiring rationalist" and "someone from the skepticism crowd"?

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ NoahLuck

        Hi Brandon,

        Oh, I suppose a good start is these characteristics:

        "Aspiring rationalists" is a term I lifted from LessWrong.com, where it is applied to people who seek to "refine the art of human rationality". The general theme for people who focus on rationality is that they seek to improve their thinking habits. They often spend great effort on (1) psychology studies that reveal our cognitive biases, (2) practical heuristics for overcoming cognitive biases, (3) decision theory and decision science, (4) artificial/machine intelligence research. Virtually everyone involved at this time are atheists, and many have done atheist blogging, but they readily admit that their interests need not be exclusive to atheists.

        The individuals and groups that describe themselves as focusing on skepticism spend a great deal of effort debunking pseudoscience, paranormal claims, New Age claims, medical quackery, superstition, conspiracy theories, and other crackpot claims. The general theme is that they seek justification for beliefs and seek to avoid formal and informal logical fallacies. Religious claims are not typically their focus, but are definitely within their ambit. Skeptical organizations usually include "skeptic" in the name, conveniently.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Thanks for the clarification! It seems to me that under those definitions, I and most serious-minded Catholics would gladly embrace both titles.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ NoahLuck

            Huh. What validity would there be to embracing them?

            It seems to me and to Google that there are no available examinations by serious-minded Catholics of the effect on faith and the process of Tradition of cognitive biases such as systematic overconfidence, confirmation bias, mind projection fallacy, availability cascade, backfire effect, pareidolia, etc. Nor are there analyses of decision theoretic problems relevant to Catholicism, nor careful Bayesian updates on evidence relevant to Catholic doctrines, nor Catholic alternatives to the Solomonoff universal prior. Google finds not a single Catholic skeptical organization, nor Catholics who publicly apply standard critical thinking and skeptical methods to claimed miracles, answers to prayer, and Christian historical claims.

  • mmurray

    Can I recommend this video by Sean Carroll

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k

    It's his talk at Skepticon called "Higgs Boson and the Fundamental Nature of Reality". Similar things are covered in his book "The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World". $10 on the kindle -- a bargain. As well as explaining, as well as you can in a popular book without equations, a lot about what particle physicists understand about the universe it explains why, at the level of the human brain, there are no gaps left for gods.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Glen-Larson/1715420171 Glen Larson

    I'm surprised George Smith's "Atheism: The Case against God" hasn't been mentioned, so I just did... ;-)

  • poxyhowzes

    Brandon: How quickly you've moved this web site away from its stated aim to engage in a civil discussion about god and (roman) "catholicism"! (The scare quotes are there because 'catholic' means 'universal,' and with more than 30,000 self-identifying 'christian' sects, that word is patently absurd.)

    Brandon, you start out with the wrong hypotheses. (Atheists needed!) — The hypothesis to be debated is the null hypothesis: that god does not exist. (You, Brandon, may prefer to state the null hypothesis in some alternative form, e.g., "gods exist despite no evidence that they do exist."

    For this null hypothesis, you don't "need" atheists at all. You need arguments to counter the null hypothesis that atheists, by and large hold. Virtually all arguments against the null hypothesis have been made and debated and discussed and deconstructed at length. Throughout history, throughout time, AND, on the internet.

    There is, perhaps, some form of a null hypothesis in your mind in your seeming need to defend the RCC, but I've not seen it thus far. I suspect that it is a fuzzy and mostly incorrect hypothetical formulation viz-á-viz atheism. So I challenge you to state that null hypothesis — that is, the basic statement to be debated about the RCC — before {Whoops! too late!} you start, Brandon, having to pick and choose among RCs as to who is a "true" and who a "false" RC.

    Brandon, you need a much, much, much better null hypothesis about the RCC.
    pH

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      poxyhowzes, I've removed most of your comments on this page that are irrelevant to the discussion. I simply asked for recommendations of atheists and atheist books, not a rant against Catholicism. In the future, please try to stay on track for the sake of civil and fruitful dialogue.

  • poxyhowzes

    Who are the Sinners?

    • The RCC teaches that THE CHURCH is defined as "the entire body of believers in Christ."

    •So when the priests and hierarchs teach (e.g.,) that birth control is wrong, and yet nearly 100% of the members of the RCC in the USA (including, we are to believe, the supposedly celibate priests and hierarchs) practice some form of birth control, then wherein is the sin?

    Is it sin in members of THE CHURCH, who practice their Christianity by constituting the body of believers in Christ? And who thus "teach" by example?

    Or is it sin among the priests and hierarchs who "teach" by rote, often counter to THE CHURCH that teaches by practice and example?
    Who should atone at their next confessions?

  • Cameron Davis

    I am no longer an atheist, but when I was I always found the most thoughtful skeptics were Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Sartre, Heidegger, Hume, and Bertrand Russell. As for modern authors, I have read Dennet's "Breaking the Spell" and Rosenberg's "Atheist's Guide to Reality" recently, and I suppose their work seems as good as any other contemporary writings I have read.

  • Frank O’Meara

    People should not waste their time writing books on overworked subjects like Atheism unless they feel theirs fills a gap, serves a purpose others don't, or at least presents its pitch in a novel way. I know a book that does all this. It is THE book I "would most recommend to Catholics", and its author is THE one I "would most like to see featured at Strange Notions".

    The book is self-published under the title "From Illusions to Illumination". The Itinerary of a Franciscan Priest from Catholicism to Atheism". Readers of Strange Notions may have recently discovered both the book and its author in the discussion of Fr Robert Barron's article on Christopher Hitchens. The author suggests that readers could consult his blog (faithandfolly.canalblog.com) to discover new reflections, beyond the 227 published in his book.

    By now you will have realized that I am the author in question. I hope you will forgive this blatant self-marketing, but my object is to get Catholics to face the questions I did. If you end up believing more strongly than before, fine. If you decide that your blind faith has been blind folly, idem. Just so long as you face the questions. I'm confident the truth will make you free.

    • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

      Thank you for the suggestion. I will get your book and check out your blog. I like reading stories about the process of deconversion. Mine came after reading Catholic sources and trying to dive deaper into the faith. I only discovered mainstream atheism later, long after I ceased believing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659752732 Dan Carollo

    Playing the role of hall monitor here.... :)
    Many of the posts here are straying way off topic.
    It occurred to me (and I'm equally guilty) that out of charity, we should probably simply invite people to reply to the TWO questions above WITHOUT disputing them. Given that there are plenty of other topics here which to do that -- and the purpose of THIS post was to simply invite ideas from atheists. Just a thought? (I know it's difficult NOT to engage in debate)

    • Frank O’Meara

      Amen, Dan. I was wondering myself about all the static. I, at least, am an atheist guest, and grateful to have been invited to say my piece. Pax tecum.

  • poxyhowzes

    Oh. Your. God. !
    Fewer than 100 comments in and we are already being 'invited' by Dan Carollo to abandon the scriptural meme of this blog (Isaiah 1:18) and to abandon the basic concept of this blog (discussion) in favor of some impossible dream, namely "civility."
    Dan, In case you don't know it, atheists encounter the argument of "civility" time and again, almost always in the context of "I've lost the logical argument, therefore you are being mean to me!" When you are, as christians, are confounded for a reply, you, as christians, often revert to name-calling and "I'm gonna tell Mom" retorts in which you assert incivility, as opposed to illogicality, on the part of your opponents.
    On the internet, it is called "tone trolling," in case that fact/meme has escaped you.
    Dan: please follow your own advice: answer the TWO QUESTIONS of this blog:
    (1) Do gods exist? (Subquestion: Does any god exist?)
    (2) Why do roman catholics understand god(s) better than anyone else does?
    pH

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659752732 Dan Carollo

      Hardly -- I was just urging folks (including me) to get back on topic to hear what recommended reading atheists had in mind. I'm referring specifically to the topic posted at the top of this VERY page.
      Just noticed there was a lot of productivity lost from the original request of Brandon's post.

      Instead of imputing strange motives to me, why not simply apply Occam's razor and take my moderating request at face value?

      • poxyhowzes

        Your "moderating request" amounts to "STFU" if you're not Dan or Brandon, and thus violates the terms of the OP.
        "There is no god but MY god, and MY god will determine what is "civil" -- Dan Carollo

  • poxyhowzes

    Here's your list so far:

    Brandon: you asked for a list of atheists/atheist readings. Here it is, so far, based on the input provided in the comment stream above.

    “Reasonable Doubts”
    Alexander, Denis,
    Barron, Robert,
    Bible, "The"
    Blackford, (with Schulenck)
    Carrier, Richard,
    Carroll, Sean,
    Chorover, Stephen,
    Coyne, Jerry,
    Daniels, Kenneth W.,
    Dawkins, Richard,
    Deity, Mister,
    Dilahunty, Matt,
    Ellis, George,
    Endo, “Silence”
    Fyfe, Alonzo,
    Gardner, Martin, “Flight of Peter Fromm”
    Godfrey, Neil,
    Goldstein, Rebecca,
    Grayling, A.C.,
    Hanson, Robin,
    Harris, Sam,
    Harrison, Guy,
    Hart, David Bently,
    Heidegger,
    Humanis Generis,
    Hume,
    Lavransdatter, Kirstin,
    McCormick, Matthew,
    Minority Report, Papal Commission on Birth Control
    Muelhauser, Luke,
    Nietsche,
    Novella, Steven,
    O’Meara, Frank,
    Pessin, Andrew,
    Rosenberg, “Atheists Guide to Reality”
    Russell, Bertrand,
    Sartre,
    Schopehhauer,
    Schulenk, (with Blackford)
    Seidensticker, Bob,
    Smith, George,
    Stark, Peter,
    Watson, Rebecca,
    Yudkowski, Eliezer,

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Thanks for collecting all the suggestions, poxyhowzes! This is extremely helpful.

      • poxyhowzes

        Brandon: you recently removed a couple of my comments on the grounds that you thought them off-topic "rants" against the roman catholic church.
        Brandon, it is your blog, and they are your rules, and, for that matter, it is your capriciousness, but I honestly do not understand your definition of "rant" if you removed my comments but still allowed such comments to stay "on board" as Michell Neville's, as mmurray's, and as Theodore seeber's.
        I'd sort of like fair treatment here. Either remove the other "rants" or allow mine to stay.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659752732 Dan Carollo

      That's a good list -- thanks.
      Would be good to categorize these based on each of their perspectives.

  • poxyhowzes

    Sorry Missed a bunch!
    Starting with Libby Anne. Revised list shortly. Sorry to all

  • poxyhowzes

    OK, here is your reading list so far'

    Sorry for the hiccup in the previous post, but here is an atheist and atheist reading list from the posts so far.

    “Reasonable Doubts”
    Anne, Libby
    Alexander, Denis,
    Barron, Robert,
    Bently, David
    Bible,
    Blackford, (with Schulenck)
    Carrier, Richard,
    Carroll, Sean,
    Chorover, Stephen,
    Christina, Greta
    Cromwell, Ian
    Coyne, Jerry,
    Daniels, Kenneth W.,
    Dawkins, Richard,
    Dennett, Daniel
    Deity, Mister,
    Dilahunty, Matt,
    Ellis, George,
    Endo, “Silence”
    Feser, Edward
    Fincke, Daniel
    Fyfe, Alonzo,
    Gardner, Martin, “Flight of Peter Fromm”
    Godfrey, Neil,
    Goldstein, Rebecca,
    Grayling, A.C.,
    Hanson, Robin,
    Harris, Sam,
    Harrison, Guy,
    Hart, David Bently,
    Heidegger,
    Humanis Generis,
    Hume,
    Ingersoll, Robert
    Jones, Zinnia
    Lavransdatter, Kirstin,
    McCormick, Matthew,
    McGowan, Dale
    Minority Report, Papal Commission on Birth Control
    Muelhauser, Luke,
    Nietsche,
    Novella, Steven,
    O’Meara, Frank,
    Pessin, Andrew,
    Rosenberg, , “Atheists Guide to Reality”
    Russel, Bertrand,
    Sartre,
    Schopehhauer,
    Schulenk, (with Blackford
    Seidensticker, Bob,
    Smith, George,
    Spitzer, Fr.
    Stark, Peter,
    Stark, Rodney.
    Watson, Rebecca,
    Yudkowski, Eliezer,

  • cornbread_r2

    I recommend a contemporary of Ingersoll and Chesteton, the former Catholic priest Joseph McCabe. Also, John Loftus at Debunking Christianity is a former student of W. L. Craig who has written and edited several books in the past few years.

  • physicistdave

    Brandon,

    For books:

    Robert Fogelin's A Defense of Hume on Miracles

    The Feynman Lectures on Physics

    I hope Fogelin is self-explanatory: a lot has been written in recent years on Hume, much of it unreadable and hostile. Fogelin is neither. Hume's argument on miracles is constantly invoked in this sort of venue, and Fogelin's clear discussion is therefore highly relevant.

    Feynman may seem an odd choice, but a major factor in convincing many of us that religions are all false was learning modern science, and this book has a lot of relevant historical and philosophical content. Also, Feynman was indeed an atheist, as I can attest from personal knowledge: I knew him throughout my undergrad career at Caltech (he made himself very approachable by undergrads)..

    As to bloggers...

    As a militant and outspoken atheist myself, let me say that most atheists bloggers fall into one of two classes:

    1) Truly obnoxious jerks that you would really not want as next-door neighbors.

    2) Wussy political-correct types who are afraid of their own shadow but who still manage to be rude and obnoxious.

    I won't name names, but I'd put many of those listed above into one or the other of those groups!

    One who I would not so malign is John Loftus: John can be passionate, angry, and irritating to some readers, but I think he is honest and actually cares about his fellow human beings. I think he is a decent man, despite being controversial.

    Chris Hallquist who blogs at the Uncredible Hallq is one of the better young atheist philosophers in the blogosphere today.

    Two very bright and articulate and well-established philosophers who are atheists and who blog are Colin McGinn and David Chalmers. I don't know if you can induce either to write for you, but perhaps you can find something relevant that they will let you reprint. I know Colin via the Web and think he is a good guy; I know Chalmers only by his writings.

    Hope this helps.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

    • Ray

      I second the Feynman suggestion. My suggested Feynman work would be the messenger lectures (videos of which are available for free online at project Tuva.) Very accessible, but deep enough to give a sense of the concepts that characterize modern physics, and to elucidate those aspects of Feynman's philosophical approach that both made him one of the most consistently great scientists of his time and a convinced atheist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnny.vo.5817 Johnny Vo

    As an atheist, I don't really care what you believe. I don't expect you to care what I believe. I can't prove with complete certainty that God doesn't exist. You can't prove that God does exist or his nature or his involvement with us. We have both given a lot of thought as to what we believe, neither of us expects that we will be converted to the views of the other.

    The big concern each of us has is will we be able to live with each other without impinging on the rights of the other? So far, I think we must agree that while each of us might believe this is possible in theory, it has never happened to the satisfaction of any party in real life.

    A site like this will always devolve into name calling and bitterness without a concensus that I think can never be reached.

    The popular current culture war issues of reproductive rights, sexual preference and gender equality are enough to keep the enmity going but in truth, even without those, there are still many differences between us. Indeed, there are vast differences between what believers and non believers believe amongst ourselves, causing us mostly to not even be able to get along with our fellows.

    What is a real Christian? Muslim? Jew? Hindu? Zoroastrian? Buddhist? Bahai? Sikh? Atheist? Agnostic? It's possible that for each of us the answer is in some way different than for anybody else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/valperry.rendel Val Perry Rendel

    Well, first I'll confess that I'm not about to read all 125 comments (sorry). I was directed to this post by my friend Bonnie Engstrom.

    1) Which atheist(s) might best contribute representative responses? DJ Groethe, or Richard Dawkins, or PZ Meyers. Definitely not Bill Maher.

    2) Truth is, there's not a whole lot of atheist-themed stuff that I enjoy reading, and what I do enjoy (Portable Atheist, etc.), I might not recommend to an audience of folks who don't already hold those beliefs. A fair bit of what's out there is kind of trite, shallow, and often somewhat mean. Funny, but mean.

    The Atheist Bible comes to mind as an example of what not to waste time with.

    But I think Carl Sagan's novel Cosmos does a good job of at the very least complicating the question, and explaining why a deity that listens to and responds to human affairs is unlikely (not impossible, but unlikely)

    And some of Bertrand Russell's stuff is quick and easy to digest. "Why I Am not a Christian" for instance : http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/jksadegh/A%20Good%20Atheist%20Secularist%20Skeptical%20Book%20Collection/Why%20I%20am%20Not%20a%20Christian%20-%20Bertrand%20Russell.pdf
    Simone De Beauvoir's "The Second Sex" also does a good job summarizing the historically troubled relationship between the church (early and modern) and women.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    I also want to mention the books of Prof. Victor Stenger:

    2007. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. ISBN 1-59102-481-1.

    2009. Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness. ISBN 1-59102-713-6.

    2009. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason. ISBN 1-59102-751-9.

    2011. The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning. ISBN 978-1-61614-443-2.

    2012. God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion. ISBN 1-61614-599-4.

    Prof. Stenger has the advantage of formal training in both Physics and Philosophy, and is especially good at straightening out the attempts of religious apologists to spin modern physics.

  • thomnotaquin

    The titles may seem slightly off-topic but I would recommend several books by Professor Derek Denton - among them the following 1. Consciousness in Animals and 2, The Primordial Emotions- The Dawning of Consciousness.
    Most atheists would also have come across the works of R.G.Price. But believers may find the following article by Robert Price (available on the net) challenging. It concerns the arguments about the historicity of Jesus. http://rationalrevolution.net/articles/jesus_myth_history.htm

  • http://www.facebook.com/valperry.rendel Val Perry Rendel

    Well, first I'll confess that I'm not about to read all 125 comments (sorry). I was directed to this post by my friend Bonnie Engstrom.

    1) Which atheist(s) might best contribute representative responses? DJ Groethe, or Richard Dawkins, or PZ Meyers. Definitely not Bill Maher.

    2) Truth is, there's not a whole lot of atheist-themed stuff that I enjoy reading, and what I do enjoy (Portable Atheist, etc.), I might not recommend to an audience of folks who don't already hold those beliefs. A fair bit of what's out there is kind of trite, shallow, and often somewhat mean. Funny, but mean.

    The Atheist Bible comes to mind as an example of what not to waste time with.

    But I think Carl Sagan's novel Cosmos does a good job of at the very least complicating the question, and explaining why a deity that listens to and responds to human affairs is unlikely (not impossible, but unlikely)

    And some of Bertrand Russell's stuff is quick and easy to digest. "Why I Am not a Christian" for instance : http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/jksadegh/A%20Good%20Atheist%20Secularist%20Skeptical%20Book%20Collection/Why%20I%20am%20Not%20a%20Christian%20-%20Bertrand%20Russell.pdf

    Simone De Beauvoir's "The Second Sex" also does a good job summarizing the historically troubled relationship between the church (early and modern) and women.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    Here are three special books by Oliver Sacks, MD:
    The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985)
    An Anthropologist on Mars (1995)
    Hallucinations (2012) (Knopf/Picador)

    I put these in because they give us a look at what happens when our brains don't work in the "normal" way and reading them helps break the spell of illusion around Cartesian Dualism.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    The question of our feelings about morality keeps coming up so I want to recommend the combination of Matt Ridley's The Origins of Virtue and Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape

  • http://www.facebook.com/robingreatbatch Robin Greatbatch

    Sam Harris.

    'Why I am Not A Christian' - Bertrand Russell,
    or
    'The Portable Atheist' - Christopher Hitchens.

  • articulett

    I suggest Sagan's Demon Haunted World. I want to know why atheists should take your beliefs more seriously than you take the beliefs of those who claim to have been visited by aliens in that book. If you were as mistaken as you think those people are, would you want to know? If souls weren't real, would you want to know?

    As for atheists I'd like to read-- how about John Loftus, Reginal Finley, or Abbie Smith or some of the folks from Church of Awesome Podcast.

  • Think Sapien

    I've got a lot of thoughts on this, but I'll summarize them. I think you are likely to get a lot of comments or suggestions for books that are about forms of Christianity that in some cases are not like your own. People will bring their experiences and knowledge about other forms of Christianity and apply them here and it will be as though you are having two different conversations.

    I think better communication will be facilitated by addressing this first. From what I've seen Catholicism uses some key words differently than some other forms of Christianity. For example many forms of Christianity use the word "faith" in a manner that maps to the concept of "fideism" in Catholicism and something contrary to "reason." Also among the non-religious the word "atheism" doesn't seem to carry the same meaning as it does when I hear Catholics use it. Among Catholics it seems to be used to refer to those that make the positive assertion "there is no God or gods." Yet those that call themselves by that name are people that frequently (though not always) see the term to describe some one that is not yet convinced of the existence of an entity that matches the god-concepts that they have been introduced to them (note: there is a difference between an entity and the concept). Many Catholics that I have encountered describe this stance as "Agnosticism" while many of the non-religious I've encountered describe it as "Agnostic Atheism."

    Often it seems that no discussion of the meaning of these terms come up which leads to undiscovered misunderstandings in dialog When the meanings of these words do come up it sometimes results in arguments over who is correct and which definition is the "true" definition. Whether or not there is actually a "true" definition doesn't matter so long as you can understand what one's intents are in using the word. It may be helpful in avoiding this common stumbling block is to come up with an evolving "translation-guide" of what one may use when using certain words.

    Well wishes to you in accomplishing your mission.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Very good indeed. I'd add that there are also some specific concepts in Catholicism that are so anathema to current "New Atheist" thought, that the agnosticism becomes merely superficial, and there is no way any American Atheist is going to look at evidence fairly in those arenas.

      • Think Sapien

        Keep in mind that not all of the non-religious are "new atheists." I understand that people's experiences differ (so your experiences may not be the same) but many of the one's I have encountered are border-line apatheistic; they were once religious but now seemed to have simply removed religious matters from the list of areas in which they have concern or interest. While "New Atheist" isn't a group I would suggest ignoring, I wouldn't concentrate on them as it would be excluding many others.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          The big one is the existence of the human soul, I've found. I have a hard time discussing even good and evil without that.

          Another huge one is objective morality, which only exists internal to religion and without which the terms "good" and "evil" become utter nonsense.

          I do not know any way around these prejudices to even *begin* open discussion.

  • Delphi Psmith

    ...some atheists noted the lack of atheist titles on our Recommended Books page, especially under the "Atheism" section.

    It is pretty much a total absence, isn't it? The "Atheism" section looks like it would be more accurately entitled "Anti-Atheism" :) As a start, I'd suggest including at least one from each of the "Four Horsemen" of the New Atheism (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens).

    Same with Morality -- I don't see any representatives of non-religious-based ethical systems. And why are almost all the titles in this section about sex, in one way or another? Morality is way more than just sex!

  • GreatSilence

    I would suggest, as a test of faith, that the various books by John Loftus be read. His "Why I became an atheist" is really a comprehensive book, and then his anthologies like "The end of Christianity" and "The Christian Delusion" all amount to material very destructive to faith. Once Christianity in general has been debunked I cannot see how Catholicism can claim any special treatment from there on.

    • Rick DeLano

      John Loftus, who has made a career out of the logical fallacy "if some religions are false, then all religions are false"?

      Not even a third stringer.

      • articulett

        I can see why a believer in magic might interpret his argument as such, but you are incorrect.

        John Loftus points out correctly, that there is no more reason to believe in your supernatural beliefs than there is to believe in the supernatural beliefs you dismiss. If a Scientologist could see their religion as you (an outsider) see it, they wouldn't be a Scientologist... and the same goes for your religion. If you could see it like you see other myths (which in most certainly is) you wouldn't believe in the magic... you currently believe.

        3-in-1 gods who become their own son to save their imperfect creations from the hell they created make no sense. It's not a deep mystery to an outsider to your faith (or ot this former Catholic)-- it's just a goofy myth.

        Clearly, if there are gods-- they don't care enough about having people on the same page regarding belief to do anything about it. In fact, they seem to be utterly fine with all sorts of horrors done in their name.

        • Rick DeLano

          I went a few rounds with articulett on the question of John Loftus' logically-challenged indictment of religious belief here:

          http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/01/response-to-atheist-articulett-from.html

          • physicistdave

            But of course articulett is obviously right.

          • Rick DeLano

            But of course physicist dave has apparently abandoned the necessity to demonstrate, comfortably reclining back on the luxurious sofa of assertion instead :-)

            Not much good physics gets done that way, physicistdave.

            Not much good theology either.

        • articulett

          Yes, I think Rick is a complete nut job. But what I want to know is does he make sense to other Catholics? Do they think he represents them? What do they think his best points are? Or are they embarrassed to be associated with him. Even when I was a Catholic I would have seen him as a nutter. What do other Catholics think he's built a case for? How does he get from a hypothetical uncaused cause (which is an argument that many religions use) to the Catholic 3-in-1 god who wrote or inspired the bible and had a son that was really himself?)

          And what about his confusion over this idea that there was living tissue in dinosaur bones (which wasn't what the article was about... it was about finding a marker of collagen proteins in reconstituted mineralized dinosaur fossil bones-- this hasn't and it hasnt' been replicated nor confirmed... but even if it was, nobody but Rick seems to think that it means something... and I think he thinks it's evidence for a young earth... (6000-10,0000) years which fundamentalist Christians often buy into (after counting up the begats in the bible and estimating), but Catholics usually don't. I think most Catholics accept a 14 billion year old earth as well as evolution.

          In any case, the Christian who did the study does not think of it as evidence for a young earth or god or anything supporting Christianity even though young earth creationists have jumped around imagining it is evidence that dinosaurs lived recently and thus their young earth beliefs are true. What do the Catholics here think of rick and his links.

          I strongly suggest that anyone interested in real science and prefer to get it from a Catholic-- google Ken Miller. He writes science textbooks and wants nothing to do with these fundamentalists: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

          While Catholicism (and religion in general) can result in such a wide disparity of belief, there doesn't seem to be any method for resolving disputes. In science we trust that truth will out... you can't learn more if you are on the wrong path. A valid theory uncovers more evidence and our knowledge (and resultiing technology) grows. Many religionists are like Rick... they look for evidence to fit the truth they imagine themselves saved for "believing in". And they are desperate to find evidence if they fear they'll be tortured forever if they don't have faith.

          They're main method of fostering belief is putting those who don't believe what they believe down it seems. I suppose that's the best you can do when there's no real evidence for the stuff you think you MUST believe (or else).

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        I put it this way: most people are wrong about religion. This is because no religion has a majority of the world as followers, so even if one religion does turn out to be true, most people must not be following it. Now, that does not mean that all religions are false, but it does question a deity or deities who can't seem to do better.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Q, this is true if you are gauging how many people are 100% right about God and faith. But while many people disagree about specific attributes of God, the large majority of the world believes in supernatural realities and (and least one) transcendent being.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            But while many people disagree about specific attributes of God, the large majority of the world believes in supernatural realities and (and least one) transcendent being.

            Yes, most believe. I am just reflecting on the fact that what most believe must be wrong. It just seems odd to me that deities with omnipotent attributes would put up with that. It is a little corner in the Problem of Evil.

      • GreatSilence

        Hi Rick
        I'm on your side, and while I have little to say about Loftus as a person I do believe that he is a significant player on the atheist team. also bear in mind that his two anthologies only contain one or two articles by himself, and the rest are by other atheist seniors like Carrier, Price and so on. He / they deserve a place on a list of atheists to read.

      • primenumbers

        "if some religions are false, then all religions are false" - is a straw man though. That's not John's argument.

        What you need to look at are the means by which people come to religious belief, and those means have allowed people all over our planet to come (both presently and throughout history) a wide variety of religious beliefs. We can both agree that the majority of those beliefs are false. The argument now becomes why use a method to come to a belief which we know produces very poor outcomes in terms of accuracy? That method is, of course, faith, and faith is a very very poor method of determining truth.

  • http://twitter.com/amuchmoreexotic Ben

    I'd be happy to contribute a respectful article such as "Why My Abuse By A Priest Destroyed My Faith In The Church". What are your payment rates?

  • Rick DeLano

    I suggest Max Tegmark, the world's most Catholic atheist :-)

  • mriehm

    I don't know what the editorial policy for catholics is. But why not just open it up for atheist submissions, and apply the same policy?

  • Sage McCarey

    Come on Brandon! I just think it's arrogant to tell someone her arguments make no sense and that she has to use Aristotle or Aquinas (I wonder why you include a catholic). She does not believe. Accept it. I've never read Aquinas and probably never will. Aristotle, some things in his writings. And I am a non-believer. I just don't believe everyone has to use your favorite sources to support their beliefs or lack of them. Lighten up, man!

  • Sage McCarey

    But thanks so much for introducing me to Robert Ingersoll and that woman's website.

    Of course you are entitled to argue your case on this blog. But all I want to say is that we all have different reasons and sources for our unbelief just as you all have different sources and reasons for your belief.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    I'll also recommend Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht. You can listen to this NPR piece in which she talks about her book.