Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Upcoming Radio Appearances

I'll be taking to the air, literally and figuratively, when I fly to London to record three shows with Premier Christian Media next month.

Two shows will be with Dr Craig Keener. He's a Professor of New Testament studies who has recently released Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. He's written fourteen other books including one which has sold over a half a million copies. His articles are published widely and he's taught in several countries.

For my part I have a blog.

In the first show we'll be discussing Keener's belief in modern-day miracles and my absence thereof. In the second, we'll discuss the miracles surrounding the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gunning for God (John Lennox) - Chapter 2 Part B. Pilate, Prophecies and Lost in Translation


Chapter 2: Is Religion Poisonous? - Part B Pilate, Prophecies and Lost in Translation

<-- Previous Chapter

I ended my last blog post halfway through chapter 2. I did this partially because there is much to discuss, but also because I was rather happy with the closing line and did not wish to see it wasted on a midway point.

In the previous section Lennox went to great lengths to refute himself and then failed to seriously engage with what we Irish euphemistically call "the troubles". There followed a clean division whereafter he returned to Biblical interpretation. Lennox plays a game of association, often enlisting atheists to his cause to confirm the existence of a historical Jesus who was crucified in first century Judea, then making reasonable arguments for an empty tomb. But then he'll glide on to a discussion that presumes the accuracy of all New Testament texts, often with his own interpolations or additions, as seen by his modification of the Ten Commandments and unsubstantiated discussion of Peter's swordfighting ability discussed in previous posts.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Gunning for God (John Lennox) - Chapter 2. Lennox refutes Lennox, Northern Ireland conflict.

Chapter 2: Is Religion Poisonous? - Part A, Lennox refutes Lennox, Northern Ireland conflict.

<-- Previous Chapter

Reviewing a book in-depth can be a time-consuming task, so it's always a joy when the author takes the time to refute themselves. Take this quote from Lennox:
"However, the New Atheists undermine their own case in astonishingly naïve fashion by lumping all religions together indiscriminately, as if all religions were equally guilty of the charge of fomenting dangerous behaviour. One would not expect such unscholarly, crass oversimplification to come from authors who loudly praise their “scientific approach”. In this connection it is to be noted that Prospect magazine, which had earlier voted Dawkins a world-class intellectual, described his book The God Delusion as “incautious, dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory”. After all, it does not take one to be at the cutting edge of academic research into religious thought, to see that classifying the peace-loving Amish with Islamic fundamentalist extremists is culpably and dangerously naïve." (Page 61)
From this it is reasonable to assume that all "New Atheists" consider all religions to be equally dangerous. He cites the example of Amish and Islamic fundamentalists. Let's contrast this with some later quotes:
"It should be noted, however, that Sam Harris appears to have grasped the inadequacy of his colleagues’ approach — possibly because he seems to have certain quasi-religious notions of his own. Consciously breaking ranks with Dawkins and the others, he calls on them to attend to the differences among the world’s religions..." (Page 64)
 Lennox has lost one of the four horsemen. Let us proceed a little further, to where he quotes Dawkins in support of non-violent nature found in Christianity:

Gunning for God (John Lennox) - Introduction and Chapter One

I recently had the pleasure of finishing Gunning for God by John Lennox. Read into my phrasing what you will.


Lennox opens by listing some of the atheists who have earned his ire. Dawkins takes the lead, a seemingly odd choice for primacy as he is followed by Hawking to whom Lennox recently devoted an entire book. The "lesser calibre" atheists that follow are Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and the "more junior Sam Harris". His targets are spread further afield when he lists Frenchman Michel Onfray and Italian Piergiorgio Odifreddi. Note at this time that Richard Carrier and Dan Barker are not listed. I'll come back to this.

He makes a reasonable criticism of Dennett's attempt to rebrand the godless as 'Brights'. This stillborn move never garnered the sympathy Lennox implies; all he can offer in support of his profession of its popularity is the fact that they possess a website. Is that really a mark of overwhelming adoption? And have the religious not similarly erred? Could we point to a single individual who describes himself as simultaneously the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God, and say that we are not alone in occasionally letting marketing get the better of us?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Interfaith Dialogue: Hamza Tzortzis and William Lane Craig

Hamza Tzortzis just tweeted about his response to The God Delusion. I'd missed it before now. While reading it some of the quotes and statistics he used seemed familiar. In this post I'll be comparing Hamza's article to one by William Lane Craig, entitled Does God Exist? (Free registration required.)

*Update June 2012: Two years after publication, Hamza has updated his article to reflect the sources and has modified the description to list it as a compilation. This is a positive step. A link to my followup article has been added to the end of this post.*

For copyright reasons I won't reproduce both articles in their entirety. Let's start after Hamza's preliminary note:
Hamza Tzortzis: "The existence of a life permitting universe is due to conditions that must have been fined-tuned to a degree that is literally incalculable. Take the following examples:"
William Lane Craig: "The existence of intelligent life depends upon a conspiracy of initial conditions which must be fine-tuned to a degree that is literally incomprehensible and incalculable."
Hamza Tzortzis: "The Strength of Gravity & the Atomic Weak Force: Physicist P. C. W. Davies has calculated that a change in the strength of gravity or of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life permitting universe."
William Lane Craig: "For example, the physicist P. C. W. Davies has calculated that a change in the strength of gravity or of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Michael Nugent Vs Hamza Tzortzis: Would The World Be A Better Place Without Religion?

On February seventh I attended a debate between Michael Nugent (Atheist Ireland) and Hamza Tzortzis (Islamic Education and Research Academy), organised by the DIT Debate Society and the DIT Islamic Society. The subject was "Is The World A Better Place Without Religion?". You've likely guessed which speaker defended the proposition.

The date also marked my entry to twitter. I'm Geoff's Shorts, do say hi. I tweeted my way through the debate and will flesh out the thoughts below.

@HATzortzis missed his flight. TCD debate postponed, DIT still on. Unconfirmed rumours that Ryanair checkin staff are militant atheists :)
It turns out that the snow was the cause of Hamza missing his flight. This does not preclude Ryanair's checkin staff from all being militant atheists; we may have to wait for further evidence. I'll try the secret handshake when I next fly.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Stereotyping Islam

Friday found me having a brief chat at O'Connell Street's Islam information stall. It wasn't a particularly deep and involved conversation: I only stopped to ask if they had details of tomorrow's debate between Hamza Tzortzis and Michael Nugent. In those moments I overheard some snatches of conversation between a Muslim apologist and a Catholic. Standard fare, mainly focused on baptism.

The Catholic was in his late fifties, dressed in the sort of brown suit that hasn't been made since we stopped using old money. He had a slight country accent and I'll call him Gobnait, partially because he had the look of a Gobnait, and partially because repeatedly referring to him as 'the Catholic' would not read well. The Muslim apologist I'll call James. No particular reason. He listened to something I didn't follow then asked "But why were they baptized?"

By way of retort Gobnait shoved James, tripping him, sending him to the ground via a sudden collision with a table. My eyebrows were still rising as Gobnait moved forward, giving voice to a variety of opinions that I deem unworthy of print.